Sunday, February 21, 2010

Away for A Week

Clematis 'Frances Rivis'

I'm going to be in the UK for a week and won't be able to post anything during that time. I thought I'd leave with a nice image on my site, Back on the 1st March.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Before Photoshop

There has been much written lately about the artificiality of photography of plants on tags and in certain catalogues. The deceitfulness is, of course, unforgivable, but I have to admit I get some pleasure from the over the top liberties that are taken with reality ( whatever that is). If only these little crafty works didn't claim to have a purpose and instead of posing as a form of identification, they could be accepted as examples of Folk Art.
This was happening way before Photoshop,in the 1943 book 'The Border in Colour' by T.C. Mansfield, the 80 plates in colour are a super-real and jump of the page in vivid shades in which nature could not have had a hand. The photograph of Inula royleana, for instance, turns this this quietly elegant flower into a vibrant Van Gogh Sunflower.In another plate Astilbe, usually a cool semi-shader has been transformed into a blazing candy-floss. In the example I show here Gentiana, Malvastrum and Potentilla are coloured by the hand of someone unhindered by the knowledge of colour theory.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Eminent Garden People

ISBN:13: 978-0-500-51353-8

Many people (I mean Garden People, of course), are fascinated with Garden Personalities. I am amongst those that seek out information about these formidable men and women who have influenced me through their writing about gardens and gardening.

However, I sometimes wonder if this just another form of the 'personality cult' that grips contemporary society? But on further examination I feel that the fixation on distinctive personalities is more than that of a mere fan, but is an affectionate respect for a teacher and mentor.

They are opinionated and passionate and happy to spread that enthusiasm around; they give us technical information, how to prune Clematis or when to plant Galanthus, but also we learn from them an enlightened attitude towards seeing, creating and the delight in the Art and Craft of gardening, not so much of 'how to', but more the 'why?'.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sage Border at Kew

Salvia greggii 'Cherry Chief'

Salvia greggii 'Lowrys Peach'

Salvia Boroder at Kew Autumn 2009

Salvia Border at Kew with Salvia leucantha in foreground

In the Autumn of 2009 I spent 48 hours in London and took the opportunity to visit Kew Gardens. One of the many things that impressed me was the long border planted with every species of Salvia imaginable, so much so, that I was bound to try and do a similar planting myself. This would have to be on a smaller scale, of course, as I live and garden on a small city lot. In fact, by comparison, much smaller, I was thinking a couple of containers devoted to the family Salvia.
Luckily I live within an hours drive of Richters Herbs and set out a few days ago along with friends Gayla(You Grow Girl), Davin and Johnny to escape the cold and spend a few hours in a warm greenhouse. I headed straight for the Salvia, of course, and made a start at collecting Salvias for the growing season. So far I've found Salvia greggii 'Cherry Chief', 'Big Pink' and 'Lowrys Peach', S.leucantha, and S. dorisiana. I hope to be able to post the progress of this planting over the next few months.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Blooms- Inside and Out

Outside- Hamamelis x intermedia "Jelena'

Inside the Greenhouse- Lavendula

Inside the Greenhouse- Oxalis obtusa "Peaches and Cream'

Inside the Greenhouse- Erodium pelargoniiflorum

Inside the Greenhouse- Cyclamen coum

Buds- Inside and Out

Outside- Hamamelus x intermedia 'Jelena'

Outside-Magnolia stellata

In the Greenhouse- Prunus 'Kojo No Mai'

In the Greenhouse- Oxalis obtusa 'Peaches and Cream'

In the Greenhouse- Clematis x cartmanii "Joe'

Friday, February 12, 2010


I was so encouraged by the reaction to my posting of the Sempervivums that I thought I might show this image of a collection of Orostachys in bloom. It's not difficult to grow, in fact, it needs the same growing conditions as their cousins the Sempervivums. But I have to admit that I've never been able to grow them this well since this picture was taken three years ago. They are susceptible aphids (in the flower buds), and perhaps have to be kept drier than the Semps.

Sempre Semperviviums

I love Semperviviums, hardly the most rare or unusual of plants, but some very choice forms can be found. I buy them anywhere I find them as the variety of colour,texture and size is seemingly endless.

The best place to buy them here in Southern Ontario is Cavendish Perennials ( they do mail order). They have an amazing selection of Semps. and also have other hardy succulents such as Jovibabas, Rosularias, Orostachys and Sedums.

Of course these plants look pretty sad this time of year but I'm posting some pictures of how they look in Spring.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hardy Bamboo

We've just had a day of heavy, wet snow and I was struck by the difference in the quality of snow we had just a few days earlier; that snow was light and dry and settled gently on all surfaces. It was light enough not to weigh the branches of the hardy Bamboo and to dust each leaf with just enough white to give the plant a temporary variegation.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Brant not Brandt

There was some discussion recently of the books of Phillips and Rix , and I was reminded of an interesting piece of Canadian Horticultural history that I uncovered a few years ago.
Vitis vinifera 'Brant' is commonly seen in British and French garden books and magazines, it is grown mainly for it's Fall colour, and certainly from the pictures one sees, it should be a very desirable plant. However I was frustrated that couldn't find it anywhere in Canada, and to add to this, I read in the Phillips and Rix book on Shrubs that it was in fact hybridized in Paris, Ontario!

The book says "Vitis 'Brant' A hybrid between V. finifera 'Black St Peters' and an American grape, 'Clinton', a cultivar of V. riparia, raised by Charles Arnold in Paris, Ontario in c. 1860. Fruits sweet, black but small. Leaves turning red, with contrasting green veins, in late summer".

When I told Roger Phillips that this Ontario native was unavailable here he said with disgust "Typical". But since then my friend David Leeman and I tracked the plant down to a Agricultural Station in Vineland Ont. and were able to buy some hardwood cuttings, which we grew on with varying levels of success. In my own garden the Fall colour wasn't outstanding and it did tend to get mold in the hot humidity of Toronto summers. Perhaps it performs better in European climates, and maybe this explains it's popularity there and it's scarcity here.

Paris Ont. is in Brant county, and named after Joseph Brant who was a famous aboriginal leader and political figure in this part of Canada. Whether the vine was named after the man or the county, I haven't been able to confirm, but one thing is for sure and that is the plants name is 'Brant' not 'Brandt' as one often sees it in the UK ( no less an authority than Penelope Hobhouse has used the name 'Brandt' in one of her books).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cyclamen coum

I have a number of cyclamen coum plants that I've selected to grow on in pots. These are from a 2005 sowing of seed from the Cyclamen Society in the UK. I've ended up with a large number of cyclamen of many species, but right now the C. coum are in bloom and are beautiful and mature looking in their fifth year. I'm showing a favourite plant that has been shown in an earlier post when it had developed into a lovely rosette of silvery leaves with distinct markings. I'm showing it again along with an image of how it looks today in full bloom.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Green Thoughts

I read that Eleanor Perenyi had died a few months ago. It was in one of those reviews on Amazon. The biography that went with it was sorely lacking in accuracy and left me mildly irritated. But more recently I quoted Perenyi in a comment to a fellow bloggers post and since then have started to reread her wonderful garden book Green Thoughts. I eventually found her obituaryin the New York Times ( May 6th 2009) and pleased to find an accurate account of her life.
Green Thoughts was her only garden book and published in 1981, it has a series of 72 essays that are arranged alphabetically starting with Annuals and ending in Woman's Place.. You will find quoted in the new York Times the chapter on Dahlias, it is one of my favourites, showing that Eleanor Perenyi knew her own mind and would not be swayed by fashion or current trends.

"It takes a while to grasp that not all failures are self-imposed, the result of ignorance, carelessness or inexperience. It takes a while to grasp that a garden isn't a testing ground for character and to stop asking, what did I do wrong? Maybe nothing".
Eleanor Perenyi, Green Thoughts, 1981

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Sense of Perspective

I've got to get this tropical paradise thing in perspective and move on. Thinking back, I remember there were a lot of insect bites and it was difficult to get a decent espresso.
What else ? Oh yes, we found tarantulas in the upstairs rooms. The first was quite small( approx 1") and we managed to get it outside with the old glass and card technique, but the second one fell out of Davids' pant just as he was about to put them on! This was a big one ( 2'' to 3"). David trapped it in a glass bowl and kept it for a few days in his office before releasing it well away from the house.