Friday, July 24, 2009

What a weekend: torrential rain

We had torrential rains over the weekend: many separate waves of severe thunderstorms delivered 1.75 inches of rain on both Saturday and Sunday. These heavy rains came on top of almost 2 inches of rain earlier in the week.

Flood waters rushing down from the tree farm behind us

We had flooding, as we always do during heavy rain events. Fortunately, although torrents run through the low area of our property right around the house, the house itself sits on a hill, and we don't get flooding into the basement.

Looking down the hill from the house -
the garden hose is a bit redundant, don't you think?

The ground is saturated. Thankfully, the agricultural tile drainage system that my father advised us to put it when we bought this acreage worked its magic as usual. Our property dries out quickly after heavy rain and flooding. We are indebted to his foresight. It was the first thing he said we should do, and we had it installed in the first season - before laying out any lawn and garden areas.

The creek flooding its banks on Sunday afternoon

It has been difficult to get enough time between storms to cut the grass, which is growing gang-busters because of all the moisture and the cool temperatures we have had all month.

(I was going to write: "the cool temperatures we have enjoyed all month," but I know that most people have been complaining about the weather. After all the drought we have endured for almost a decade, I don't dare complain about this weather, even if it is excessive. Besides, John and I prefer cool weather to sweltering heat.)

The creek flooded up to the top of the bridge at the road

The only damage here: a lightning strike that fried our telephone line, and we are still without phone service 24 hours later. (On the bright side: at least the usual plague of telemarketers can't get through.) A couple of weeks ago, the electronic controls of our range hood were ruined in a thunderstorm, and that prompted a costly repair.

The bottom part of our east field on Saturday afternoon:
we had just as much flooding the next day

We were lucky to have so little damage. Sadly, in the city of Hamilton there is major flooding of many homes and cars that were swamped by sudden flood waters. A local expressway had to be closed because of heavy flooding, and we got caught in the resulting traffic jam while on the way to visit friends in Stoney Creek on Sunday evening.*

Flood waters creeping up toward our meadow on Sunday

Today is sunny and lovely, with a good wind to help dry things up, but more showers are in the forecast. Amazingly, this July hasn't been as wet as last July, but there are a few days left for it to catch up. The big problem over the past week and the weekend: there just wasn't enough time to dry out between storms.

*It turned out that Stoney Creek got almost 5 inches of rain on Sunday afternoon alone - on top of heavy rain in the days before, which had already saturated the soil. (That's more rain in one afternoon than the average precipation for the entire month of July.)

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

A slide show of my garden

I have been meaning to put a slide show of my garden into this blog for a long time, but gardening always seems to get in the way.

Now Helen and Sarah Battersby, sisters and neighbours, who blog at Toronto Gardens, have beat me to it. A couple of days ago I met them for the first time in person when they came for lunch and a tour of my garden. Here is their post and the slide show. The pictures were taken by Helen, who I can see is a talented photographer. Thanks Helen and Sarah! I'm thrilled.

Photo of me: Helen Battersby

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Monday, July 20, 2009

Meadow flowers coming on

Our meadow is beginning to come into bloom. Here are the first flowers:

Monarda didyma - I love their soft color and interesting shape

Rudbeckia hirta with what I'm guessing is a switch grass
(Panicum virgatum)

Echinacea pallida - the delicate-looking pale coneflower

Purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea)
We saw this in Colorado, and grew it from seed
and added it to the meadow

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), a favorite Monarch butterfly
plant, which I had not seen in the meadow before,
even though it was part of the seed mix.

More information about our meadow is here at my website.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July blooms day. Doesn't feel like mid-summer

Flowers seem to be a week or two late this year. We've had very cool temperatures, and lots of rain. The past two nights have gone down to 6.5 degrees C (43F), and daytime temperatures are comfortable. Is this really July?

I'm liking this summer very much. Heat and humidity: who needs it? Apparently, the tomatoes do: they're not growing well at all, but I only have three plants.

Here's a selection of what's in bloom right now:

Echinacea pallida is among the first flowers to bloom in our meadow

Persicaria polymorpha has been in bloom for a month: what a plant!

My semi-circular border with Persicaria, blue oat grass, Stachys officinalis and a silly-looking puff-ball Allium christophii (self sown, front right)

Eryngium giganteum (Miss Willmott's ghost) and Knautia macedonica
in our Piet Oudolf-inspired border (now the wild garden)
Photo: David Rees

Border mainstay: Echinacea purpurea
Photo: David Rees

In the meadow, the more delicate E. pallida

Lots of daylilies coming on now

Clematis 'Duchess of Albany', lady's mantle and lavender
in the four-square garden

In containers, we have my husband's seed-grown Agapanthus

My favorite Whichford pot in the front courtyard with wave petunias,
million bells, sweet potato vine and burgundy Dracena

At the front steps, a Canadian made pot (Night & Day Studio) with wave petunias and verbena, Cerinthe major (not in flower yet), white and purple Nierembergia in neighboring pots

Featured comment: Greetings from Night and Day Studio in Mount Forest!
Thank you for the credit on a fine terracotta planter, but unfortunately it is not ours. I do believe it is also a Whichford planter (applied lattice work). Thanks anyway and happy gardening!

Paul Kaye- owner-Night and Day Studio

For more contributions to Garden Bloggers Blooms Day, head on over to May Dreams.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Over the hump - our garden tour went well

Getting ready for a group garden tour is bit a like preparing for the opening night of a play. You want everything to be perfect, or at least as close to perfect as possible - as neat and trimmed and weed-free as you can get. With a big garden that's always growing and changing week by week, that's a tall order. But the garden looked great, and I think our guests, the Royal Botanical Gardens Auxiliary members, enjoyed themselves.

We used to host a lot of tours - one busy summer we had seven bus tours, which added a good deal of stress - so when I decided to simplify things, I dropped two things: the vegetable garden and big group tours.

Now, as far as the garden is concerned, I think I can relax for the rest of the summer. Sure, there are projects to do, but the urgency of a due date is gone. So far the season has been cool and moist, and I haven't had to fret about watering. I love it!

That's me on the right, in the coral blouse and straw hat

David Rees, who's working for us this summer, and who did the lion's share of making the garden tour-ready, took these pictures yesterday. You can see more of his photography on Flickr.

When David interviewed for the job here, I knew I was going to hire him as soon as he told me he was into photography, because that's my hobby too. I know that taking pictures doesn't have much to do with gardening, but he has turned out to be simply excellent at landscape maintenance. I count myself lucky to have his help this summer.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Oh summer, will you make an appearance soon?

Since we moved here 11 years ago, our summers have been dominated by drought. Indeed, the worst drought in 50 years plagued gardeners and farmers throughout 2007. So it feels really odd to be experiencing the second wet summer in row - at least so far.

According to the local paper, we had 30 percent more rain than normal in June and temperatures have been an average 1.5 degrees cooler than normal. So far, we've had only one day that was hotter than 30 C (86 F), and no smog days.

All of this means that garden and crop plants are about two weeks behind when they would normally bloom or ripen. Our serviceberries are usually ripe on the shrubs in late June, but this year I was picking them in July. The cool weather and excess rain affected local strawberries, which weren't very sweet or plentiful. In our garden, the time I've been saving on watering is spent mowing because the grass never stops growing, and needs cutting every four or five days.

All in all, I'm happy to take this over a hot, humid, dry summer, but I wouldn't mind a bit of warmth. It was so cool the other day that I changed into my winter uniform: a black turtleneck sweater and jeans. But I'm not complaining, except about the strawberries.

(The link for Agriculture Canada precipitation map is here.)

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

If you water me in summer I'll die: Lewisia redivia

Lewisia redivia in the wild - growing in dark basalt rock

When my husband John started rock gardening, one of the attractions was to grow little-known and unusual plants such as Lewisia. Native to western North America, these alpine perennials are named for explorer Meriweather Lewis. (Maybe you have dim memories of learning about Lewis and Clark in high school too?)

One lovely Lewisia in our rock garden is L. coteledon, above, which John grew from seed. It lives in the garden wall and has thrived there for a number of seasons. (Not all alpines make it through our eastern winters with their rainy January thaws and sometimes cold, snowless weeks in February.)

The strangest Lewisia that John grows is L. rediviva, commonly known as bitterroot. When he first started growing it, I couldn't figure out why anyone would bother with a plant that must stay completely dry in the summer. If it gets watered, L. rediviva dies, so it has to be grown in pots and kept away from those who carry around a garden hose.

Our Lewisia rediviva in bloom and dormant

This need for summer dryness is an adaptation to a very dry natural habitat, best described as cold desert. The plant grows in gritty, gravelly soils in places where most of the annual precipitation falls as snow and there is very little rainfall during the growing season. L. rediviva likes it cold in the winter and dry in the summer. The plants have big fleshy roots, which keep them alive through dormancy.

When this plant was discovered in the early 19th century and specimens were sent to collectors, it attracted a good deal of interest when a dried specimen returned to life and began to grow, but the first attempts to grow it in Britain failed. The plants all died in that moist summer environment.

John's plants live in clay pots. They bloom sweetly in June and when the flowers are finished, he lets them dry out. Already they have gone completely dormant sitting on the front porch where they won't get rained on. Later they will spend the rest of the summer unwatered in the basement and over-winter in our unheated hoophouse.

The things rock gardeners do to keep unusual specimens going!

Photo credit (top photo): Thanks to wanderflechten, Flickr

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Soggy Canada Day

We've had a lot of rain this week. More flooding down at the creek today, as we got our second inch in as many days, and the ground was already sodden with the 2.25 inches from last Thursday. And to think I was complaining about the lack of rain just before this wet week started.

Which would you rather have: too much rain or drought? I'll take this over the once in 50-year drought we endured in 2007.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener