Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Americas Gift to World Cuisine

I remember when on a visit to India, it suddenly occured to me how much of the Indian diet depended on vegetables originally from the Americas, tomatoes, potatoes, bringles (aubergine) and chilli peppers all were imported after the discovery of the Americas by the Europeans. "What did Indians eat before that time" I asked my indian friends, but no one could come up with the answer at the time, although I'm sure there are scholarly studies of the history of indian food.
But it's interesting to imagine what we would be eating if these American veg didn't cross the Atlantic, there would be no fish and chips, no pasta sauce, no aloo gobi, no ketchup !

Newly developed blue tomatoes.

Heritage tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I.D. on Gift Plant

In the Spring of 2006 my hort buddy David Leeman and I brought a large number of plants back from the UK. I should point out that we did this completely legally with permits and phyto certification etc. It was great fun and, at times, a tremendous amount of work, but we were very happy with our purchases and had a 100% survival of our plants despite the rigorous bare rooting and cleaning we had inflicted on them.

Buying plants is, of course, always fun, but we were also gifted plants by friends, and amongst those gifts was a lovely Cyclamen with pewter coloured leaves. Over the last four years this plant has matured and only this year am I able to identify it as being C. mirabile.
C. mirabile is notable for the flush of pink or red on the surface of the leaves as they emerge from dormancy, in most cases this fades to reveal broad silver or pewter bands underneath. But in the gift plant the foliage is evenly pewter all over and in the last two years the immature leaves have also been marked with a pink blush.

Seeing these features I was able to identify this as C. mirabile, but not only that, by consulting Christopher Grey-Wilsons's book on Cyclamen, I was also able to recognize it as one of the few cultivars of the species as C. mirabile 'Tilebardn Anne'. It now joins the other two cultivars that I grew from seed C. mirabile 'Tilebard Nicholas' and Tilebard Jan'. All three are pictured above.

Cyclamen mirabile

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I have always enjoyed growing Lithops, some of my best plants I've raised from seed and the whole process from germination to growing on to maturity has been very rewarding. However I haven't had great luck getting them to bloom, so image my delight today to find this sparkling yellow flower on one of my plants.
I'm not sure what I did to get it to bloom, it has spent the summer in the greenhouse and then for the last few months outside, but under the eves of the south facing kitchen. Perhaps the heavy rain we had a few days ago was heavy enough to reach the sheltered spot and trigger this flowering ? I hope it will still be open tomorrow for my Open Garden.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Turn Left at the Buddha

In the last few years, when giving directions to my house, I've been able to say "Turn left at the Buddha". It's been a useful landmark and one I'll be using this Sunday September 19th when my garden is open to visitors as part of Open Gardens Toronto.
The Buddha is the recent addition to a store on the corner that specializes in South Asian furniture made for the Euro/ N. American market ( that's the kindest thing I can say about it). I'm sure for the owners of this business, Lord Buddha is just a promotional prop, but the large Tibetan community in this neighbourhood treat it with great reverence, daily offerings are made of flowers, fruit, coins and bottles of water.

As you can see from this picture, the corner is a busy one and my street is very easy to miss when driving up Dufferin, so if you plan to visit this Sunday between 1.00 and 4.00 p.m., email me for full directions.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cyclamen Leaves

Cyclamen graecum

At this time of year the Cyclamen begin to emerge, but in a number of different ways according to the species. C. hederifolium is heavily in bloom at the moment, but the foliage has yet to fully appear. C. coum is stirring and showing just a few leaves and will soon put on a spectacular display of foliage throughout the winter and into the Spring, when it also comes into bloom. C. graecum and C. mirabile are already showing off their fine foliage and blooming at the same time.
In all the species the foliage is endlessly variable, the C. graecum shown here were until this summer all growing in the same pot, now that they are divided into their own container, I have the pleasant task of selecting the best forms to be potted up into larger pots and grown on as specimen plants.

The leaves and flowers of Cyclamen mirabile emerge simultaneously.

Selection of Cyclamen mirabile.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cyclamen Time

Illustration from "Gardening" by L. Williams in the "The Hobby Books" series.

If you've followed this journal for any length of time, you'll probably know that I love Cyclamen, and that I started growing them seriously five years ago when my friend David Leeman bought seed from the Clematis Society. We had excellent germination and some fabulous plants from that sowing and in the past few years I have potted-up special plants to grow in the greenhouse as well as naturalized small colonies in the garden. I've also been able to give plants to gardening friends and introduced them to this amazing family.

In the garden I found this particularly vivid pink Cyclamen hederifolium flower. I'll keep an eye on this and maybe pot it up as a specimen plant for the greenhouse.

Of the various species that I grow, the first to bloom are C. hederifolium, C. mirabile and C.graecum. This C. hederifolium has the most lovely scent.

A selection of the C.herifolium currently in bloom.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

9 Degrees of Separation

"Clematis" by Ernest Markham published in 1935

Clematis 'Comtesse de Bouchaud'

Commenting on my last post on Henry Correvon, EH suggested that there might be a likeness between HC and William Robinson, and being elderly nineteenth century gentlemen, they both wore suits and well groomed beards that were typical of that time they certainly were out of the same mold. But knowing that HC was also an anglophile and admirer of the gardening culture of the British Isles, I wondered if they knew each other.
The fact that the Clematis "Madame Julia Correvon' was raised by Francisque Morel suggests that they probably did. Correvon obviously knew Morel and Morel sold his wilt -resistant C. viticella and C. texensis hybrids to William Robinson. Robinson's head gardener Ernest Markham writes in his book on Clematis " I have vivid memories of the robust seedlings raised by Morel of Lyons which I have planted at Gravetye in 1914". One of the Morel plants grown on by Robinson and Markham was a texensis hybrid called "Gravetye Beauty'.
Morel is responsible for a large number of Clematis hybrids that are still popular today including 'Ville de Lyon', 'Perle d'Azur', 'Comtesse de Bouchaud' and 'Etoile Violette'. The full, extraordinary list can be seen at Clematis on the Web by searching the name Morel.
I have skipped the details of the history of the Clematis that were developed at this time, but if you'd like to know more there are many excellent books on the genus.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Henry Correvon

An exciting find in a Portland, Maine bookstore.

Last weekend we drove down from Montreal to Portland, Maine. We discovered Portland last year, almost by accident ( there was a train derailment and we were forced to take a detour of our planned route to New Brunswick); it was such a pleasant revelation that we decided to return this year and spend a little more time exploring this lovely little town. Portland is a university town and has a large art school, so very quickly and easily you can skip the tourist district and enjoy the more authentic cultural life of galleries, coffee shops and great restaurants. There are many good bookshops and not once did I see a Borders or similar chain.
After lunch on Sunday, just before we were about to leave I looked into a second-hand bookstore and found a fine copy of a book by Henry Correvon the famous Swiss horticulturalist. "Rock Garden and Alpine Plants' was published in 1930 and has the most beautiful coloured illustrations, this publication was translated into english and was obviously for the North American reader as it makes many references to his visits to the U.S. and Canada.

One of the eight illustrations.

The book has eight beautiful colour illustrations by an unidentified artist, they are definitely in the Art Nouveau style ( which in the 1930's must have been going out of vogue). This illustration is if sempervivums which is significant as Henry Correvon had also written "Les Joubarbes, etude du genre Sempervivum".

Sempervivum 'Aymon Correvon'

There are a number of plants baring the name Correvon, perhaps the most well known would be the Clematis viticella 'Madame Julia Correvon', but there is also a Sempervivum called 'Aymon Correvon'.

Henry Correvon

This picture of Henry Correvon is on the frontispiece of "Rock garden and Alpine Plants.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More Berries

Homegrown Tomatoes

Berry Time

Honeysuckle ( Lonicera americana?)

I was pleased to see this late Summer that the honeysuckle ( I think L. americana) is re-blooming, and to make the show even more effective are the berries that were set by flowers earlier in the season. Of corse the berries won't last long as the birds love them, but for now they glow in the Summer sun and are a lovely compliment to the later blooming flowers.

Arum maculatum

These Arum berries may be the only europeans amongst this selection, in the early spring they have typical arum leaves marked with black spots, there is a lot of variation in this, so look out for the plants with the best markings.

Caulophyllum thalictroides

The common name for C. thalictroides is Blue Cohosh, I'm not sure if this refers to the fruit or the foliage, which emerges from the ground in the Spring an amazing blue/purple. In "The Explorer's Garden" , Dan Hinkley describes the foliage as "coppery colored" in early spring, but perhaps, being a west-coaster, he is not that familiar with this eastern native. By this time of the year the leaves on my plant are a little worse for wear after a hot, humid Summer, but the fruit are their usual startling blue .

Smilacina racemosa

Smilacina has the common name False Solomons Seal, and is in fact a close Liliacaea relative, it has very showy clusters of small white flowers in the Spring and even more excitingly pink and red marbled fruit in the Fall.

Streptopus amplexifolius

Also in the family Lilicaea, it is a modest plant in bloom but in the Fall becomes highly ornamental when it shows off its spectacular fruit that matures from yellow to orange to red.

Actaea pachypoda

A. pachypoda has the common name Doll's Eyes, but also the more sinister Baneberry, a reminder that this is in the Ranunculaceae family and therefore very poisonous.

Diphylleia cymosa

This fabulous plant has been much written about and photographed by myself and Teza, it has large two-lobed leaves and clean white flowers in the Spring and in the Summer and Fall striking umbels of blue berries. Like Cauliphyllum it is in the Berberidaceae family, which also includes Epimedium, jeffersonia, and Podophyllum.

On a Wednesday, in September, Tricyrtis

Trictrtis 'White Tower'

Tricyrtis hybrid