Monday, June 30, 2008

In bloom for the Open Garden day

Persicaria polymorpha, giant white fleece flower

I was exaggerating a bit about the lack of bloom for tomorrow's Open Garden.

Here's what's in bloom: lady's mantle, Summer Snowflake hydrangea, two small flowered and one large flowered clematis, catmint, a few early daylilies, penstemon (Husker's Red), white campion, salvia, verbascum, Alaskian burnet, Stachys monnieri 'Hummelo', Persicaria polymorpha (giant white fleeceflower), cranesbill geraniums, Knautia macedonica and sea holly (in the wild garden, which we no longer weed).

Not so shabby after all, but with the sheer number of ornamental grasses, and all the echninaceas and rudbeckias that aren't out yet, the color effect is a bit muted, although the lawn is green and lush from all the rain.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Happiness is enough rain

We've been getting regular rains for a couple of weeks now. Overnight and into the morning, we had our best rain yet: a little over an inch. Even if it gets dry now, this should see us through several weeks: the cisterns are full.

It's a good time to weed: even the walnut seedlings - which are popping up everywhere - pull out fairly easily with a good two-handed tug.

The garden looks good - thankfully all is lush and green again after the dry spring - but there isn't much color because we're in that in-between stage when the spring flowers and the peonies are over, and everything else is on deck. The lavender isn't quite in bloom and neither is all the mid-summer stuff I love - echinaceas, rudbeckias, eupatorium, etc.

Oh, well, the visitors at Tuesday's Open Garden will have to be contented with structure and scale. John's rock garden still has some color, but it's just past its prime now.

Soon I might be able to relax about gardening for a bit. Just a few more things to do: cut the lawn with the clippings collector on the mower (I normally keep the clippings on, but it's grown lush with the rains), then weed and mulch on Monday with my helpers.

I even went to the garden center today and got a few plants to fill gaps. I seem to do that before every garden tour.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No bare soil: the secret is underplanting

Under our walnut tree: a few gaps that need more hosta divisions

One of the great secrets of outstanding gardens is underplanting. The idea is to plant layers of plants like nature does in a forest. For example, using smaller plants such as ferns, hosta, or perennial geraniums under the canopy of a tree or group of large shrubs.

My picture shows our big walnut tree behind the house. The space under it is a steep slope that used to be covered with weedy lawn grass that was dangerous to mow. (I almost overturned my big Toro mower there a couple of times.)

To start the garden on the slope, we killed off the grass one summer, and then began planting shrubs and perennials that are walnut-tolerant - mostly viburnum shrubs, daylilies, hosta divisions from the shade garden, Solomon's seal (the plain green version and the variegated one), and sweet woodruff, also moved from the shade garden. For early spring, there are tulips, daffodils and grape hyacinths. The area is coming along nicely, but I still have some gaps to fill.

For more planting inspiration, Margaret Roach (garden writer and former editor of Martha Stewart Living) has a great post with lovely pictures all about underplanting. Her blog, which has only been around since March, has become one of my almost daily must-reads. As a gardener, she's a true artist.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Bloomsday highlights and amazing thunderstorms

Peonies and allium seedheads before the storm

Why is it that we get the worst thunderstorms when the peonies are in full bloom? This is just rhetorical question: I'm not complaining, really!

Who could complain when Sunday night's rolling thunder revue (my dog's least favorite light and sound show) brought us three or four thunderstorms in a row? Well, I could take issue with the 15-minutes of pounding hail. Our precipation total that night: one-and-3/10ths inches! Amazingingly enough, the hail damage is minimal. Even the big hostas have just a few holes in their leaves.

The rain has made all the plants put on a growth spurt, especially the giant hostas. Everything looks 100 percent better, particularly the lawn, which I care about despite all the anti-lawn sentiment out there. (What other ground cover sets off flower gardens on an acreage as usefully as lawn? If I didn't have lawn, I'd have weeds.)

Peony with Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'

Verbascum 'Polar Summer' with irrigation running before the rain

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A wheelbarrow load of peonies

Our row of 'Angel Cheeks' peonies

Yesterday I noticed that many of the peonies behind the rock garden were hanging near the ground, weighed down by the thunderstorm rain from the night before. I guess I'll have to stake them next spring. Until now, they have managed quite well without needing to be propped up.

When we decided to plant a row of peonies several years ago, we ordered them bare root from a local grower in the fall. True to form, it's taken them three years to get big enough to produce armloads of flowers.

This cultivar, Angel Cheeks, has very strong, thick stems, but weighed down with the rain, a lot of flowers needed picking. When I started cutting them, there were so many that I needed a wheelbarrow to get them to the house.

Posed at the barn before going inside

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It really did rain...

It rained last night - a thunderstorm that got my dog a-panting and hiding under the table. The total: 6/10ths of an inch.

With the rain we had earlier, we've in good shape again: the cisterns that collect rainwater from the house and barn roofs are full. For the moment, the grass is green and beds are radient with peonies and Siberian irises. Contentment reigns (or should I say "rains"?).

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Recycle your pots

I got this press release today about a pilot project to recycle plastics associated with garden products. If you live in near Milton and Halton Hills, and have been holding on to plant pots in the hopes of recycling them, here's your opportunity.

Consumers Encouraged to Recycle Plastic Garden Pots

Milton, Ontario, June 12, 2008 - Gardeners located in Milton and Halton Hills now have an opportunity to recycle their used flower pots. Landscape Ontario is proud to partner with a recycling company, Re-Source Ontario of Toronto in hosting a pilot project to divert thousands of pounds of plastic pots, trays, tags and greenhouse film from the local landfills. Many municipal recycling programs do not accept this material.

During the week of June 16 to June 20, four large containers will be located at the Milton office of Landscape Ontario. Members of the public are encouraged to drop off their used horticultural plastic during business hours at 7856 Fifth Line, just south of Steeles.

The week-long demonstration will help the entire horticultural industry to evaluate the feasibility of long-term projects to recycle plastic gardening waste.
For additional information, please contact:
Lorraine Ivanoff, Tel: 1-800-265-5656 ext 366

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cool and wet: Can this really be on the way???

I have been known to complain (bitterly) about the lack of rain. This has been my main beef about the summers we've experienced recently.

So here's an update: On Sunday night we had 3/10ths of an inch, followed by 4/10th on Monday: almost an inch of rain. The entire landscape breathed a sigh of relief. Happily too, the intense humidity has left us for a few days as well, though it will be back over the weekend.

But after that, could something very odd be happening? I know you can never trust 14-day forecasts, but doesn't this outlook from the Weather Network look exceedingly strange? Cool and wet, hmmm, could it be a cooling period starting? Or did a summer intern screw up and hit the rain button too often?

U.S. readers: Up here in Canada 30 degrees is hot.
Note: temperatures are in
degrees Celsius

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Monday, June 09, 2008

Six men, three big trucks, two small trucks

Waiting for the new transformer box

That's what it took to get our place humming with power again. Last evening, we had dinner with my in-laws (it was my mother-in-law's 80th birthday). During dinner there was a thunderstorm with rain (a cause of great joy), but when we came home, our power was out.

We went to bed without calling Hydro because it looked like the neighbor's power was out too, so we assumed they had called. Usually, if it goes out, the power is off for just a couple of hours, but this time, we still didn't have power in the morning. I called Hydro, and when they showed up a couple of hours later, they discovered that our transformer was fried: probably a lighting hit last evening.

Lifting the new transformer into place

So they came back a couple of hours later with a small army to replace the green transformer box - free of charge! (I remember what it cost when we put it in 10 years ago, replacing an ugly transformer on a pole and burying our line to the road.)

Now our place is humming again. What did I miss most? Not air conditioning, but the Internet. I can't live without my computer and the web.

After all that, the amount of rain we got was small: only a 4/10ths of an inch, but better than nothing. Today was a scorcher of a day, and so far a number of the thunderstorms have passed us by.

Over the weekend, my friend in Michigan reported more than 2 inches of rain on Friday, and 2.5 inches on Saturday. There's no justice: many states are getting too much rain, even flooding, and even northern Ontario is getting more rain than needed, and we're still high and dry. So it goes.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The drought scenario rears its ugly head

For where I sit, it looks like we're in for a repeat of last year's horrid summer. Here's what the Weather Network shows for the next two weeks:

Note to U.S. readers: Temperatures are in Celcius

I've always believed the country gardens in particular need tough plants, and lots of natives fit the bill. And, of course, that's what I've planted here, lots of native trees, tough perennials and ornamental grasses. But drought is so disappointing when you want your garden to thrive, not just survive.

I've just ordered my first truckload of water for the season, so I can water my shade garden and my four-square garden (see picture in previous post). These two areas have irrigation now, which should make them easier to water.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Luscious early June

It's allium season in my four-square garden

Oh, early June, how lush and beautiful you are!

Old garden hands love to tell novices that it's easy to have a great spring garden, and early June is proof of that. Everything is growing: there are jewel-toned colors in the flower garden, the rock garden is in it's prime, the needles on the evergreens are still soft, and drought hasn't crisped the lawn yet.

My mystery peony

The name of this peony, which is now in glorious bloom, has escaped me. I lost the plant tag years ago and don't have it written down anywhere. It blooms at the end of May (last year) or beginning of June (this year because it's been so much cooler).

I do know that it is a Japanese peony. Here's what I learned about this type of peony when I researched them for an article for Canadian Gardening magazine:
Actually a double form made up of five or more petals around a centre of stamens with non-pollen bearing anthers (stamenoids), which resemble a soft mound of small petals. Sometimes called "anemone-flowered" when the stamens in the centre have been transformed into narrow petal-like petaloids.
The rock garden is at its peak of bloom

Here's a close-up of a prized Lewisia cotyledon, which John grew from seed, and has planted in the wall of the rock garden.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Monday, June 02, 2008

The rain, or lack thereof

I've been taking stock of the rain so far this spring, and we're in a deficit...again. After a winter of very good snowfall, the second half of April was too warm and dry.

May turned cool and gave us some good rains in the first two weeks, but after that nothing measurable until the end of the month, when we had a thundershower that netted 3/10ths of an inch. According to my records, we had under 2-and-a-half inches of rain in the entire month.

You expect dryness in high summer, but it's disappointing when it's too dry so early in spring. Last year was the same. Let's hope the weather pattern changes now that it's June. There is rain in the forecast for tomorrow.*

Here's how the Ontario precipitation map looks covering April 1 to May 29:

We are in the "very low" region at the tip of Lake Ontario

*It rained on June 3rd, but just 4/10ths of an inch. Better than nothing, but we could use more.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Sunday, June 01, 2008

After a decade: more before and after

I written about my husband John's rock garden before. This link tells the story of how it came to be.

Pretty gorgeous, but before that...

The pictures below show its progression from a mere rock pile rescued from the bulldozer. The rock used to be part of the foundation of a barn, long gone by the time we bought our property. The construction from beginning to end took John two years, working weekends and holidays in the summer.

What have I got myself into?

Cutting and shaping the stone

Adding the gravel and soil mix

Planting weekend - almost every single plant grown from seed

How the garden looked last month

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener