Tuesday, August 29, 2017

August 29th - more plants

Today, I planted the rest of the plants that I got from Gerber's yesterday. In this front bed, just behind and to the side of the hydrangea, I put Solomon's Seal. This is a plant that grew well in my Halifax shady garden, and it is quite charming. It also spreads but is not invasive. It grows branching stems each spring from which hang creamy bell-like flowers.

I encountered more of the plastic sheeting that seems to underlie this entire bed. I simply cut it out where I was digging and will tackle it as I come across it.

And I met with a builder today who is going to construct a deck over most of this front bed. It will extend the front porch and provide a wonderful place to sit when it is hot as this is shady for most of the day.

Next I planted three astilbes in the bed where there are four others. Two of these are white and one is pink. I want this entire section to be astilbes and sweet woodruff. It receives only an hour or two or morning light and the rest of the day, it is in filtered shade. They should do well in this location.

This is a photo of the sad looking hydrangea at the corner of the house. It looks as if someone tried to train it into a tree, but half of it appears to be dead. I had cut it back last fall, taking out all the branches that seemed lifeless. And it has put out a surprising number of blooms. From the many videos on hydrangeas that I have been watching, this is characteristic of panicle hydrangeas, they bloom on new wood.

So I am going to give this plant a second chance. I was going to dig it out, but I will prune it back hard in about a month, and see if it generates new growth next spring. If not, this is the plant that I took the cuttings from and they seem to be doing fine. So it the original plant succumbs, I will plant one of its babies in its place.

I don't know what type of hydrangea this is, but the flowers turn tan colour instead of pink. That should provide some clue to its species. Back to the hydrangea videos. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

August 28th, more hydrangea

The weather is very gardening-friendly, not so hot and sunny as last week. The temperatures are perfect for mucking around in the garden. Today I went back to Gerber's Nursery as it is the closest one. I just went to check things out, see if they had fertilizers, and perhaps pick something up if it caught my eye.

First off, I saw a whole bunch of hydrangeas in a section that I hadn't been in before. Most of the plants there are trees, and the hydrangeas were tucked in and between the trees so that they wouldn't get direct sun all day. I resisted buying a bunch of Limelight hydrangeas; I am going to let the hedge idea percolate for a season, and if I still see it in my mind next spring, then I will plant it. This is the curve of the driveway where I can see a hedge of some sort. It would define the yard more and it would be the first thing you see when you drive in. I have estimated that I would need 7 or 8 hydrangeas to fill the spot.


I did buy a Bobo hydrangea which is labelled as a petite shrub. And I put it next to this fringed bleeding heart that I also bought and thought they should be together. So I dug out a new bed on the side of the front yard, just in front of a birch tree. I didn't dig too deep as I didn't want to harm the birch's roots. I amended the soil with a triple mix that I bought at Gerber's; it is a mix of manure, peat moss and loam and the woman working there said they use it for all their plantings.

Next summer, I will enlarge the bed a bit more and fill the front with impatiens. I think the pink looks so pretty next to the creamy white of the hydrangea. I have fallen in love with panicle hydrangeas; I think they give you so much with their long bloom time. 

This is a shot from further away, showing off the lovely birch bark.

And this is what it looks like from the front porch. 

I also bought more astilbe and will get them planted tomorrow.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

August 26th

The nights are getting really chilly. We even had the furnace on briefly this morning as the inside temperature was around 18 degrees Celsius. But now the sun is out and it is lovely outside. The breeze is fresh, not warm like summer, but with the nip of fall in the air.

More digging today. Yesterday the hydrangea went in, today it is Goat's Beard or Aruncus if I am going to use the proper botanical name. This variety is labeled Horatio and the ticket says that is is zone 4-8 and will grow 32" high. If it is anything like the Goat's beard that I grew in Nova Scotia, it will get much taller than that. But perhaps the colder zone may limit its growth. It is a pretty shrub that dies back each fall and then sprouts quickly in the spring, producing feathery white plumes. It looks like a giant astilbe when fully grown and the flowers last for close to a month and turn brown very similar to astilbe.


Next is an ornamental grass, so pretty. I should have bought more of these, I like them so much. My tendency is to buy many different plants so I end up with a hodge podge, I should buy at least 3 of each plant so that there is more symmetry in the garden. Well, perhaps I will just leave room to add more next year. This variety is called Hamelyn Fountain Grass, it has silvery-white flowers that look like caterpillars to me. They turn tan as they dry. They should grow to 30" tall. I will definitely get some more of these, they are so pretty. This is the bare bones of this bed, I will dig more around these plants and will fill in with annuals next year.


It is in the shade nowl (from our garage) but this photo was taken at around 3 pm. It has direct sun up until around 2:30 pm so that is about 6 or 7 hours of sunlight daily.


I also moved the clematis from where I had initially planted it. It was getting very little direct sun in that location, so I put it at the base of the clothes line post, which is smack dab in the sunlit area. I piled some small stones around the base to keep the roots cool, but should plant something  there to provide the shade that the roots need. Even though it has only been planted for two weeks, it has already made a lot of new roots and I think it will do alright in the new location.


Then I took an old peony from an existing bed and put it where the clematis was. It looks exhausted but what do I have to lose by moving it?  It didn't flower where it was since it is right underneath a maple tree; it may have some life in it yet.


Then I estimated the length of hedge next to the driveway and it is at least 30 feet long. So that means at least 6 to 8 hydrangea should be planted there next spring. This project I will leave until next year. I don't think there is enough growing season left for these perennials to establish themselves before winter.

Friday, August 25, 2017

August 25th - more plants going in

The nights are getting chilly, it was down to +6 here last night, that is Celsius. Daytime highs are in the high teens, low 20's which is considerably cooler than just last week. Such a short season we get in central Canada to grow our gardens.

I picked up two coneflowers at Gerber's last week and haven't decided where these will end up eventually. So I popped them into the bed beside the driveway for now; I don't know if they will stay here. That will probably depend on how happy they seem in that location. I imagine these in a drift somewhere in the back yard as they need full sun. And they shine best when planted in a large clump in my opinion.

That electric meter is an ugly site, I will have to find something that covers it up. 

And yesterday we took a trip to McKellar so that Nick could get his new motor and boat trailer ready for a trip next week. On the way we noticed a nursery in Dwight and managed a 10 minute visit on the way home. Not much time to see all that they had to offer. It is a beautiful nursery and I must go again.

I picked up an ornamental grass, a miniature bee balm, and an autumn sedum. I seem to have a lot of pink in the garden so far, I wonder if that is going to prove a theme. I will get those planted today. And hopefully also the goat's beard and the remaining hydrangea that await patiently in their pots. But they require a new bed to be dug.

So this is the front bed nearest the driveway. I have added the bee balm and the stonecrop or autumn sedum to this bed, next to the fringed bleeding heart. And then put black mulch over the bed here to keep the moisture in the soil. Already the bees are arriving and there is always one visiting the bee balm and also the foxglove in the other bed. One plant that is not visible is periwinkle or vinca minor just behind the bee balm. I put the pot there just because there was a space and it seemed to immediately produce two flowers so I thought it wants to stay here. It is a very pretty ground cover that produces lots of pretty blue flowers in spring. You don't often see any flowers at this time of year.

Then late this afternoon, I began to dig a bed on the strip of grass between us and the new neighbour. I have been watching the light and shadows here to see what will happen once her house is up. There is some shadow until around 10:30 or 11 o'clock, then this spot gets quite a bit of sun until around 2 and then it gets some afternoon sun a few hours later. So the hydrangea should be fine here. And I hope to add the goat's beard and the pretty grass to this bed as well. This hydrangea is Jack Cataraqui, which will grow rather like a tree reaching a height of 12' and a width of 10'. Guess I had better leave some room around this one. On the left is a hardy mum that was calling my name at the grocery store. I love hardy mums and hope that this will survive the cold winter here and actually return next growing season. 

I am imagining a short hedge along the curve of the driveway as well. I would love to have spirea somewhere on the property, even though their bloom time is so short. My dad had bridal wreath spirea in our garden when I was a young girl and their scent takes me back to those days. A neighbour of ours in Halifax, who is a magnificent gardener, advised having a double hedge if you want a hedge. In his yard, he has spirea on the outside border, and inside of that he has lilac. A wonderful idea if you have the space and the resources.

I was thinking of spirea here but they don't look that great after they bloom; however my new-found love of hydrangea is having me see a hedge of lime light hydrangeas and perhaps some ornamental grasses mixed together. I will let the idea percolate for a while. No one seems to have enough of one kind of hydrangea for me to do this now, so perhaps it will await the spring and I may have changed my mind by then. So many ideas! So many plans!

This is what I see in my mind's eye. How pretty!

                                  Image result for hydrangea as a hedge

Or perhaps a bed like this. I asked Nick if we could find a rock like this and he just stared at me. As if we can move a ton by ourselves. This is limelight hydrangea; I had overlooked this variety before as I thought the creamy white were nicer, but limelight turns a lovely shade of pink and it gives you blossoms that last for a couple of months. That is a winner in my book.

                                  Image result for limelight hydrangea

Monday, August 21, 2017

August 21st - Eclipse day

We didn't get much of the eclipse here in northern Ontario. It was less bright during the hour from 1:30 to 2:30 but that was about it. I recall the total solar eclipse of 1963. We were at a cottage not far from here in South River Ontario and at 4 pm, everything went dark as it would when the sun goes down. The birds stopped singing and it remained like that for about half an hour. It was a very strange experience. Today's eclipse was nothing by comparison. I guess you would have to be in the southern States to get a better showing.

This morning I transplanted a sweet woodruff that I brought from Halifax. It is in the bed with the astilbes and looks right at home in this shady location. It is such a pretty groundcover with its delicate white flowers in early spring. The foliage remains like this for the rest of the summer and reminds me of miniature schefflera.

Then I started to work on the overgrown shrub by the front steps. My husband decided that he could help me with this and thankfully he did. It took several shovels plus an axe to get this shrub out. The roots were extensive and very woody; I think it had been there for a very long time. Even our neighbour joined in the effort at one point and he hauled away the debris in his wheelbarrow. What a nice man.

Then I shoveled out the existing soil, mixed it with purchased compost and then put it back in the bed. I put the stones back, these were around the original bed and at this point, I think they can stay until I find something better to replace them. Actually the effort of removing them all seems too much at the moment. 

In the rejuvenated bed, I planted two digitalis or foxgloves and one sweet william plant. This location gets a fair amount of morning sun and then it is shady in the afternoon. I hope they will do well here. Foxgloves are biennials so they won't come back next year; I will plant more in the hope that they will continue to stagger themselves in the bed. 

A closer view of the three new perennials. A much better photo without the ugly downspout in the picture. 

And a photo to show there is some growth on the apple tree. The first photo below shows the tree when it was first planted in late May. Only three small branches on it and perhaps two dozen leaves.

And today, definitely it has been growing. Even though the bulldozer took out the apple tree in the vacant lot, my neighbour behind has an apple tree so this one will be fine. This type of apple tree requires another tree within 500 feet to be a cross pollinator.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A new bed with three perennials

Yesterday I planted three perennials in a new bed that Nick helped me to dig right next to the driveway and the front walk. This location gets morning sun and a few hours of late afternoon sun as well, so it should work well for this combination. 

The plant on the left is a hardy chrysanthemum in a lovely shade of true pink with a yellow centre. I have seen one like this in Halifax, coming into blossom every late summer/fall and have tried unsuccessfully to find one. So when I saw this at Gerber's nursery on Friday, I knew it had to come home with me. Then in the centre at the right angle of the bed is a daylily also in a shade of pink, this time a kind of coral pink. And the plant on the right is a Bobo panicle hydrangea. This is a petite shrub that will grow 1.5 metres tall and spread about 1 metre. 

This is the year that I have come to appreciate hydrangeas. I have never really paid much attention to them and I am not a huge fan of the really big round blossom types. They seem too common to me and the blossoms fade to a dusty brown. These panicle type turn pink in fall and I prefer both the shape and the colour much more. I think there are going to be quite a few more hydrangeas in this garden's future.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Blooms already

August 18th -  rewarded with blooms already!  how beautiful, the colour is lovely clear fuchsia.

I am sleeping like a log these days, it must be all the digging and lugging in the garden.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Another day of planting

August 16th -  I started to dig out a place for the Little Quick Fire hydrangea that I bought on Saturday. And discovered that some idiot previous owner had laid a sheet of plastic in the bed. I don't know what purpose it was intended to serve, but subsequent owners put soil and bark chips and straw right on top to a depth of about 6" so if you aren't digging down deep enough, you won't discover this plastic. I ripped out what I could and kept digging, then amended the soil with purchased top soil from the garden centre. I realise this is not the best amendment, compost would be far better but I don't have enough. I will add compost to all the plants once my compost bin begins producing significant amounts.

This is a smaller version of Quick Fire hydrangea, called Little Quick Fire. It blooms one month earlier than other hydrangeas and the blossoms turn pink, then almost red by the end of the summer.

It will only grow to about 5' in height so it is perfect for under this bedroom window. I will leave the hosta that is in front of it for now. It gets nibbled by the deer so hasn't amounted to much in this spot. 

Then I dug in front of the maple tree by the driveway. Grandson Isaac was helping, he loves to do stuff like this and loves getting dirty. He also mowed half of the back lawn with a mower that probably weighs as much as him.  Isaac is only 6, about to turn 7 at the end of this month, but he is a little powerhouse and is constantly active.

I placed a mini fence in front of the wisteria in the hope that small children will realise something is growing there and not jump on it. The soil here was completely sandy; however the maple has survived, so I added mushroom compost and filled the hole with that and popped in the wisteria, hoping that it will take. So much of this is experimentation for me; I have never had the opportunity to try out such a variety of plants before. So the learning curve will be steep and the effort will produce some results, I hope. I have visions of this plant growing quickly and climbing the tree and covering it with its lovely purple blossoms. This wisteria is called Blue Moon, so it won't grow as quickly as the Asian wisterias and unfortunately, it has no scent. Go baby go!

August 17th -Before the sun gets  too strong, I dug a large hole in the back yard right next to the neighbouring lot. Then I mixed the existing soil with purchased top soil and put some back in. Into this went a pink rosa rugosa, purchased at the Parry Sound nursery. The poor shrub must have been in the pot for ages, because there were three runners coming out the bottom holes and I had to cut the pot off the root ball. Then I found large woody stems that were all wrapped around the bottom of the root ball. I roughed up the edges of the root ball in the hope that some smaller stems would loosen and begin to extend into the new soil. I left the woody ones in place, hesitant to cut them. Wild roses are pretty hardy, they grow on the beaches of Nova Scotia in soil that is a mix of sand and gravel so I think this one is probably pretty happy to be placed into a hole with lots of black soil to grow into. It will also  receive full sun in this location, a necessary requirement if you want to get lots of blossoms. 

A quick trip to the local grocery store netted some purchases. They had some lovely perennials that were just brought in from a local nursery. I could not resist.

First up is a rudbeckia. I don't know what is the difference between rudbeckia and black-eye susans, but the fellow there assured me there was a difference. I think black eye susans might grow taller and these flowers seems to have a more composite flower, with a double layer of petals.
No matter, I love them and my daughter suggested that I fill this bed beside the driveway with daisy-like flowers as they seem to thrive almost anywhere.

The other plant in this bed is a rose mallow which is technically a hibiscus. It has smaller blooms and this one seems to be promising a red or deep fuchsia flower. This bed gets a lot of morning sun and last year I had nasturtiums in here and it seemed to be too hot for them. They looked scorched, perhaps the siding reflects too much heat, I shall have to check this out further. If so, I am sure I can provide some protection from that with a simple cover on the siding behind the plants. 

This is a  view of the bed to one side of the chimney. Right next to the chimney is the climbing hydrangea. I will put more yellow blooms in the space between the rudbeckia and the rose mallow, or perhaps a purple cone flower if I can find one tomorrow at the Gerber nursery in Killaloe. So much fun! I also got a digitalis and a sweet william at the grocery store and haven't decided yet where to plant those. 

I also planted this astilbe in the front bed below the living room window. This bed receives no direct sun and at the end is the sad hydrangea from which I have taken  three cuttings. There are some astilbes in this bed already, one I planted in May, and this one is a coral shade I believe.
They seem to be doing well in this location and there are a total of 4 astilbes here. So it  seems right to place this new one next to its relatives. There is a gentle beauty to a bed of astilbes, their feathery flowers are so delicate, almost like froth. They also last for a few weeks, which is a good stretch for a perennial flower. I will continue to add more astilbes to this bed, plus lady's mantle.

Tonight is the monthly meeting of the horticultural society. I might try to get to that, although this is soccer night for the kids. And on Saturday is the summer flower show, I will definitely be taking that in.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Starting the Garden

We arrived in Ontario on August 1st. Lots of work to be done, unpacking, sorting out where things go, and getting some work done on the house. All the workmen are super busy here, given the wet spring that caused so much damage to lots of properties. It seems we can't get anyone to do anything before September and possibly October.

And to our shock, one week after arriving, a bulldozer appeared on the empty lot next door. Within four hours, the lot was cleared of brush and the crab apple tree in the centre, and the next day another bulldozer arrived to dig the excavation for a new house. The owner came and told us things would be noisy; she has decided to put up her house, after her husband passed away last month.

This is what we see now when we look to the east in the morning sun.



This changes a lot of my garden plans. The new house is on our east side and her garage wall will be 12 feet from our property line. That is quite a lot of space if you live in the city, but here in the country, it is close. The most significant effect is the blocking of morning light to a large portion of our lot. So plans for a colourful flower bed on that side have to be shelved and I am looking at plants and shrubs that like a part-shaded location. I'm not sure exactly how shaded it will be and may have to wait until the house is up to know for certain.

That has not stopped me from buying plants however. I discovered a lovely nursery in Eganville, called the Temperate Garden, and I got two hydrangeas there plus an astilbe, a fringed bleeding heart and a wisteria. The owner convinced me that I would love it and it grows fast.

Then we took a trip to Parry Sound on Saturday so that Nick could get a new motor and boat trailer and on the return trip, we found a beautiful nursery just full of amazing plants, shrubs and trees. I got two climbing hydrangeas there, plus a clematis, another hydrangea, periwinkle and a pink rosa rugosa.

Now the planting begins in earnest. First up is a fringed bleeding heart planted in a corner of the front garden. This will receive morning sun for several hours and the columbines that I planted in May have done well and flowered.

Then I dug down in the bed next to the chimney to see how far down the soil goes. I encountered lots of stones that had been dumped in there on purpose. I figure there is at least a foot of soil to be had so to this I added compost and top soil and planted a climbing hydrangea. This is my favourite plant at the moment and I wanted to get it started asap. They take a very long time to get going; the one I have in my Halifax garden took five years before it produced a blossom. I read somewhere about this plant "first it sleeps, then it creeps, then it leaps". I hope the conditions here help it to move along.

In a corner by the back deck, I planted a clematis although I have no idea what type it is as it had no label other than clematis. In front I transplanted a deer-eaten hosta from the front garden. I have read that clematis like their tops in the sun but their roots in the shade, so having something to cover up the lower inches is a good idea. As for the deer, I think the new dog will keep them at bay. We will also be putting up a fence around the back yard once we know the dog is coming.

This next photo shows the side of the garage wall; it faces east and just escapes the looming shadow of the new house next door. It has overgrown and shabby shrubs there so I am removing them one by one and will fill this with some nice sunny plants. 

I began by planting a second climbing hydrangea near the front of the garage. This is insurance in case the one by the chimney doesn't do well. This one has a lot of room to grow and better soil so it should be okay in this location.

It has a lot of work to do though. All that expanse of wall to be covered. I told someone at the nursery that I have to work fast. At my age, I don't know how many years I have left; these things have to be planted and they have to start growing fast before I get too decrepit to do much gardening. Therefore I am concentrating on perennials and will be using lots of mulch to keep the weeds at bay.

One plant that I have inherited is this daylily. I am not a particular fan of daylilies, but this one has a lovely pinky colour with gold in the center and I am happy to leave it just where it is. This is a back corner of the garage facing the back yard. The rest of the bed is in deep shade due to a large maple tree right next to it. It has three peonies in it at present; I will try to remove those and plant them elsewhere.

And yesterday my grand-daughter Hannah helped me to put together these raised beds. I found the instructions on YouTube, on a channel from WIgardener. He has the greatest videos and I followed his instructions exactly. These were built with construction grade spruce. The length is 8' and the width is 3'; the height of the boards is 10". These will be for vegetables next summer but I wanted to get them in place because I have to build up the soil in these beds. I am hoping that I can get some from the pile next door. They have a lot there, surely they can spare me a few cubic feet of soil. I plan on adding two more raised beds next summer, but thought I should just start with two for now. The plan is for veggies to grow up netting that will be attached to the garage wall. The other bed will have smaller veggies such as lettuce, stuff that doesn't need to climb. Or it may just all be tomatoes, who knows?

 This next photo is the front of the house, the window is the main living room window. This bed has gone to pot and there is a shrub on the left that I don't really like. I think I will dig it up and replace it with a hydrangea. On the right is a sorry hydrangea that is dead on one side. But the other side is flowering. I hate to throw out anything living, so I looked up how to take stem cuttings and get new plants from the old one.

So these are the shoots prepared as numerous YouTube videos instructed. Cut a shoot with no flower on it, remove all the leaves except the top two, trim those in half, gently shave the stem, put on some root solution and pop into potting soil. Then place in a transparent container in a shady location outside. You also have to mist the plants so that they are moist and they will basically grow in a terrarium for several weeks. At that point, there should be roots formed and you can gently adjust the plant to normal conditions. It will take many months before they can be planted outside, but what do I have to lose? And it will be very satisfying to know that the old plant lives on. 

The shrub on the left is the one I want to remove. It seems to get bigger and bushier every year and I haven't seen any flowers on it, so it has got to go and be replaced by another hydrangea.

This is the front garden on the north side of the house. The two windows are bedrooms. My plan is to have a deck built here that will extend the front porch. It won't be the entire length of the house, but will go to where that sad cedar tree is now growing. The deck will be low, just about a foot off the ground so that it will provide lovely seating on hot days. This area is shady for most of the day and looks out on the lovely birches and maples and single oak tree in the front yard.

This is a large maple right by the driveway. This location gets both morning sun and then a few hours of afternoon sun. I am thinking of planting a wisteria here to climb right up the maple.
I am waiting to get some advice from my son-in-law who was trained as a horticulturalist, now turned math professor.

 So those are the plans thus far. I still have a number of plants to get into the garden over the next few days. I want to get them in the right spots so am taking time checking out the sunlight in all the locations. So important to have them sitting in the right spots. Water can be provided, but light is beyond my control.

It is just so pleasurable to have a spot to do all this gardening. I tried hard in Halifax but with a combination of poor soil and almost total shade, my gardening efforts didn't amount to much. I hope to have a sea of colour here in this Ontario garden.