Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Lodgers

Asarum maximum 'Green Panda'

Eritrichium sp.

Ruschia sp.

I have an excellent arrangement with friend and neighbour Erika, she is, like me a complete Plant Geek with an impressive collection of plants grown in her tiny apartment and even tinier garden. The arrangement is that in return for space in my greenhouse during the winter, Erika looks after everything when I'm out of town. I call Erika's plants 'The Lodgers' and get great pleasure from observing them during their growing season in late winter.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Open Gardens Toronto

On Sunday April 25th my garden will be open as part of Open Garden Toronto.
With missionary zeal I hope to demonstrate that there is much of garden interest in April, and to debunk the out-dated idea that the garden season starts here in Ontario on May 21st.
I will also be open on various dates throughout the season including October 3rd, which I hope will show that the garden season can be easily extended way beyond Labour Day.
For further information about Open Gardens Toronto and dates of my openings this year, click on link or email me ( at address in my profile).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Big Chill

At 8.30 a.m. Ouch! Snowdrops laid low by an overnight temperature of -6c.

By 4.30 p.m. Snowdrops have fully recovered from a nasty chill.

Normally an overnight low of -6c would not be thought of extraordinary in this part of the world, however we have had such a mild winter this year that plants have taken the opportunity to get a jump on Spring and have grown on vigorously, if not a little prematurely.
The result after two nights of sub-zero weather is that the snowdrops have been laid low. But only temporarily, these gallant Galanthus know how to deal with this situation, bowing their heads for the duration of the inclement weather and as the warmer temperatures return, they are back in the business of attracting pollinators (unlikly in this clump of fully double flowers).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cyclamen repandrum and Family

Cyclamen Repandrum and C. balearicum

Cyclamen repandrum flower.

Repandrum foliage.

Cyclamen balearicum.

I've made frequent references to the cyclamen in my garden and greenhouse, and at the risk of being overly repetative, I have to make mention of the latest and last flowering of the season. Starting in late Fall with C. hederifolium and on into Spring with C. coum I've had an almost non-stop flowering of these fascinating plants, and just when I thought it was all over I noticed these small buds appearing above the foliage of a tray of plants. I'd forgotten about Cyclamen repandrum and it's near relative C. balearicum.
They are perhaps under-rated as the flowers are the smallest of the genus, but they make up for it by being very fragrant and by having foliage that has irregular speckling of silver rather than the symmetrical pattern as the rest of the Cyclamen family. Balearicum in particular has beautifully marked leaves and in one pot I have about 20 plants that need to be divided in the Summer when they are dormant, it's going to be a real difficult choice to decide which of these to keep as specimen plants and which to give away.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Clematis x cartmanii 'Joe'

Another Clematis blooming in the greenhouse at the moment is C. cartmanii 'Joe' which is a hybrid of C. paniculata and C. marmoraria, the later these parent is among the 11 species native to New Zealand. In this climate they survive only by being wintered over in a greenhouse but enjoy the great outdoors Spring to Autumn.
The leaves are deep glossy green and finely dissected and the flowers are borne in a mass of semi-nodding blooms. The stems are non-clinging and can reach a length of 2m. To keep it compact I use a section of a tomato cage and weave the stems into a wreath held about 3" above the pot, the effect is very pleasing showing off the pure white blooms and the flush of green on the buds.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Clematis columbiana var. tenuiloba

Clematis Columbiana var. tenuiloba.

Clematis columbiana var. 'Ylva' grown in the greenhouse.

Clematis 'Ylva' grown outside in 2006.

Clematis columbiana var. tenuiloba is about to bloom in my greenhouse at the moment, I'm thrilled that it's done so well as it was a gift from my neighbour and plant enthusiast Erika. The form I have has pink/purple flowers, but this plant has a variety of colour from blue to purple.
I also have another form selected by Henrik Zetterland of the Botanic Garden in Gothenburg and named 'Ylva' after his daughter. Both these plants are North American in origin ranging from B.C. to Oregon and Colorado. They are hardy to zone 3 and are considered alpine variants of C. columbiana. I was interested to look back on photographs taken in 2006 of 'Ylva' in bloom after being wintered over in a trough, it seems to have performed much better given this treatment, looking more robust and with flowers larger and of a more intense blue. So perhaps the greenhouse is not the best way to treat this plant, and in future I'll find a space outside in one of my troughs for a more permanent planting.

Monday, March 22, 2010


These may not be the showiest in the garden right now, but how moving it is, so early in the season, to come across these little plants from the Crassula family. Rhodiola is often lumped in with Sedum, but is in fact a separate genus of about 50 species of fleshy perennials with rhizomatous roots.
I wish I could name the species that I grow, but at the moment I have no record of them and my memory fails me completely. The one with the remarkable red/purple buds was a gift from a friend and this I must identify the next time I meet up with this generous donor. The other two I grew from seed from the Ontario Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society seed exchange and they too could eventually be identified. But even though I'm not on first name terms with these hardy little plants they have lifted my spirits with their determined return.

Friday, March 19, 2010


'Huntington Carpet'.

'Huntington Carpet' takes a right angled turn.

'Huntington Carpet' flowers.

'Pink Majorca' flowers.

Without really trying, I seem to have accumulated a small collection of Rosemary ( Rosmarinus officinalis). A few years ago I was inspired by the Rosemary I saw growing as a landscape plant in the gardens in San Francisco; there is much use there of prostrate forms that hug the ground and drape over walls and balconies.
Here in Toronto, of course, Rosemary is not winter hardy, but loves our hot summers and long days from Spring to Fall and so they had to be in containers. I purchased two prostrate forms R officinalis 'Santa Barbara' and 'Huntington Carpet' and planted them in tall rose pots giving them a good 14" to cascade down. This has worked out very nicely and in addition to cascading, they also have the habit of growing horizontally when they hit the ground making a sharp 90 degree angle.
Last year when revisiting Richters Herbs I couldn't resist picking up R. officinalis "Pink Majorca' and on this years visit i bought 'Foxtail' which will eventually form dramatic plume-like branches and the diminutive 'Blue Boy' which I plan to train into some sort of Bonsai or topiary form.
All these plants seem to enjoy wintering in my cold greenhouse and flower profusely starting in February and can stay outside from early Spring to Late Fall.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Good as Gold?

The recent article in Gardens Illustrated on Galanthus has got me inspecting my own snowdrops more carefully. Nature is always trying something new, and depending on personal taste, this can be seen as an improvement on the original or an aberration that has to be dumped as soon as possible into the compost heap.
As for Galanthus, I wonder how distinct a variation has to be before the plant is considered collectable? I've found three different markings on two clumps of G. elwesii in my garden and in another group flowers with gold markings has been produced. Only last week Helen Battersby of Toronto Gardens posted an image of a Galanthus which also had gold markings, leaving one to wonder just how unusual this phenomenon is in actuality.
I plan to enjoy my gold Galanthus, maybe bulk it up to a nice clump and think of it as something beautiiful that I found in my garden rather than a collectable, rare and unusual 'must-have'.

Monday, March 15, 2010

In Bloom Today

Eranthis hyemalis

Galanthus nivalis

Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Plena'

Hmamelis 'Jelena'

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Tower at Clyne Gardens

As a child I loved visiting Clyne Gardens, it seemed a lot more overgrown then and it was exciting to suddenly come across this little tower.It was built by Algernon Vivian "The Admiral" as a lookout to the sea and also to look down on his Rhododendron collection. Unfortunately the trees, mostly collected in Asia, enjoyed the conditions in their new environment so much that they grew way past their usual height and dwarfed the tower and the view to the sea.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lilies of the Field

I haven't got much to say about these images except that I remember the name Xenia Field from my mothers women's magazines in the 50's. I picked up this little book attracted to it's neat little illustrations and stylish design of that period.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Snowdrops and the Disappearing Snow

It was 14c this afternoon in Toronto, just what was needed to open up the flowers of a couple of well established clumps of Galanthus elwesii.
I'm curious about the whole Galanthophile thing, and inspired by the photo spread in the February Gardens Illustrated, I got on my knees and checked my plants to see if there was any variance in the marking on my snowdrops.
I was surprised to find that there were in fact some difference in the markings and have selected three examples in these photographs. I find this interesting, but can't say that I'm carried away by Galanthophilism, after all many plants show variance and Nature loves to experiment with this tendency. Finally I like snowdrops en masse, although the individual flowers are great subjects for micro photography.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I have an old witch-hazel Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena' which until recently sprawled diagonally away from the fence. It was at that time about 12' high,and then about five years ago I gave it a severe pruning.
This was followed by two years when it looked terrible, new growth seemed to hang down like a weeping mulberry, but through all this it continued to bloom profusely and when the leaves filled in they hide the worst of the ugliness.
Finally, it seemed to correct itself and now has a pleasant shape and has gained some of it's height and since it is limbed up to 6' it provides cover to the shade planting at its base.
I knew it would be spectacular in bloom this year, as the leaves fell in Autumn it was clear that the branches were covered in bud, and sure enough, in the warm sunny days of this weekend the flowers have glowed in the low light of the morning and evening sun.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Galanthus Everywhere

I wouldn't call myself a Galanthaphile, in fact the minute differences in the marking on Snowdrops have not caught my interest. However, I do love Snowdrops, individually and en masse. On my recent visit to Wales I had a chance to visit Clyne Gardens in Swansea, and even after a cold Winter and a late Spring, I found banks of Galanthus nivalis. I suppose this is not the Holy Grail for the the Galanthus expert, but I love the simplicity of G. nivalis, particularly seen growing in great drifts.
The Clyne Estate before it became a public garden, belonged to the Vivian family and in 1921 was inherited by Algernon "The Admiral" who had a great influence on the making of the gardens. He co-sponsered plant collecting expeditions to Asia, and many of Clyne's Rhododendrons still bear the original collectors numbers. One of the many features at the garden is a pet cemetery commemorating The Admiral's family pets. At this time of year the graves are decorated with G. nivalis.