Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Somebody's enjoying the snow

The boys of winter: my Toby, the white one, and our neighbor's dog, Buddy, are so joyful on snow-days, it's infectious.

The closer we get to spring, the more it seems to snow. I don't mind. I live in country and welcome every opportunity to go snowshoeing with my "boys," but anyone who lives in town or the city with mountains of snow blocking sidewalks is well and truly finished with winter.

The trouble is that winter isn't nearly finished with us.

Snowy willow tree

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sure sign of spring: They're back....

Robins that is. I was walking through my favorite thicket over at the golf course across the road with my dog, and I heard dozens of birds. I made out the familiar call of the robins and another call I didn't recognize, and sure enough there was a gregarious flock made up of dozens of robins and cedar waxwings.

For me, the confirmation that spring has truly arrived is the return of my favorite red-winged blackbirds. Last year, they were here on March 12. Just three weeks to go!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Those annoying, people-hating enviro types

Are you getting a bit tired of being hammered over the head about the sins of mankind? There's great rant over at Rambles at starchamber.com:
"...the sins of mankind stain every corner of the globe. But you don't have to follow the logic very far to see that the only possible solution consistent with this naturalistic world view is a horrific depopulation and a return to a primitive agrarian lifestyle among the privileged few that remain. It's a grim prospect, unlikely to inspire anyone but the clear-eyed believers and those rich enough to afford their own guilt. The trouble is, of course, that any movement that marginalizes people must necessarily marginalize itself. Depression does not inspire.
Read the entire post here.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ice storm, then snow storm

As regular readers of this blog know, I'm kind of a weather geek. And have we had weather this week: an ice storm yesterday morning, followed by a snow storm in the evening.

This meant one thing - time to get out the camera. Here are some pictures:

Sedum and Russian sage coated in ice

Old clematis vines coated in ice

After the snow storm

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Monday, February 04, 2008

Weird plant names: Pinky Winky

Do you like cutsie plant names? On the Garden Writers list-serve I belong to there's been a lively exchange about Pink Winky, the new hydrangea (shown left) that's being promoted heavily this season.

Pink Winky is a Pee Gee cultivar with big two-toned, white and pink flowers. According to Proven Winners, the plant has "strong upright red stems that hold the large, 12-16 inch blooms up so you never get the drooping Pee Gee Hydrangea look. The flower heads continue to grow throughout the season and as the older flowers turn dark pink the new flowers continue to emerge white. The effect is stunning."

The plant was bred by Dr. Johan Van Huylenbroeek at the Flemish DVP breeding station of Belgium, and it's said the name Pinky Winky was dedicated to his son, whose favorite Teletubby character was Tinky Winky.

Garden writers opinions on the name ranged from from: "Is it just me, or would anyone else here refuse to grow a plant named Pinky Winky just because the name makes your teeth hurt? - to: "I can't wait to take my grandson on a tour of my garden and introduce him to Pinky Winky. A few cutsie names sprinkled here and there are not a bad thing." Opinions in general leaned to the negative side.

For the record, I don't love the name. As for the plant, I'll have to give it a try. And the name is a trade mark, Pinky Winky™ - so if you hate it, you can always call it the cultivar name, 'DVPpinky', instead.

The Canadian government's food inspection agency, which (go figure) also covers plants being imported, has an interesting comparison between the Pinky Winky and the cultivar 'Pink Diamond' on its web site.

I've tried 'Pink Diamond' and found that it wasn't very pink, so it sounds like the new one is definitely worth seeking out if you're looking for a showy hardy hydrangea.
© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Friday, February 01, 2008

More Piet Oudolf

August garden beds: My take on the Oudolf style

There a good article over at the New York Times about Piet Oudolf. The writer tours his Hummelo garden in winter and notes his love of the look of perennials that have died away - the shapes and forms of seedheads and dried foliage.

This quote from the article is good summing up of Oudolf's garden style:
"He's gotten away from the soft pornography of the flower," said Charles Waldheim, the director of the landscape architecture program at the University of Toronto. "He's interested in the life cycle, how plant material ages over the course of the year," and how it relates to the plants around it. Like a good marriage, his compositions must work well together as its members age.

Oudolf is quoted, saying:
"When I started, 35 years ago, everything was focused on the traditional English garden. It was all flower and color. It was dogmatic — deadheading, staking. I got a bit tired of that."

The lack of fussiness, tossing out high maintenance deadheading and staking, combining grasses with naturalistic perennials - these are all the qualities that drew me to his style, which happens to be tailor-made for country gardens.

I once had the pleasure of interviewing Piet Oudolf for an article in Gardening Life magazine. This page on at my web site is an adaptation of that article.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener