Thursday, July 31, 2008

Today's picture - meadow wildlife

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's so lovely we're up at dawn

Our meadow is so good right now that my friends from my camera club are eager to be here at the ungodly hour of of 6:30 am to give it a go. I've got two more people coming tomorrow morning. Coffee is on me.

You can see why we tend to do close-up work. There is so much natural exuberance that to get a shot that works, you really have to focus on details.

Today's guest photo: bergamot, also called bee balm, and here's why:

Photo: Margaret Grant (who also took my blog bio picture)

From me: another overlay, combining
a sharp exposure with a soft one

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Monday, July 28, 2008

More meadow: My friends' pictures

I asked the gals who came to photograph the meadow on the weekend if they would like a share a favorite picture.

Ratibida group by Karla Bondy

Ratibida portrait by Sandy Barbour

And here's one from me from this morning - still experimenting with image overlays:

Dreamy Echinacea

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Today's meadow picture

A couple of gals from my camera club came early this morning, and so there were three of us in the meadow shooting the wildflowers. We started at 6:40, and were lucky that it didn't get breezy until 8 o'clock.

My picture of the echinaceas and bergamot is an image overlay created in-camera. (Certain Nikons digital SLRs have this capability.) What you do is shoot one exposure sharp and another out of focus. Then the camera's software lets you overlay the two images and adjust their luminousity. This is the effect. You can also do this in Photoshop with two images or just one, as long is you create an out-of-focus copy.

Me at play - thanks to Karla Bondy for the picture

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stormy Saturday: more staggering rainfall

Pinch me, I can't believe we got so much rain this week.

Today's severe thunderstorm brought almost 1 and a half inches of rain. It was quite scary when torrential rain turned to hail for a few minutes and a hurricane-like wind whipped through.

I was out on the front porch with the camera when a particularly nasty thunderclap sounded right on top of the house, so I ran back in. I heard later that my neighbour was so frightened she went down to her basement. Amazingly, no big tree limbs came down here.

The view from the front porch during the storm

As someone who got shell shocked by last year's record dry summer, I wasn't expecting any better from this summer, especially when May and June started off almost as dry. So this soggy July, the wettest we've experienced in our decade here, is quite a surprise.

Total rainfall this week: a shade over 4 inches. That's more than we got all last summer. The lawn looks awesome (you can't even see the creeping Charlie, at least not in the picture). I've never seen the grass this lush in July. There's a lot of mowing in my future.

After today's and the week's storms: the lawn all greened up again

The semi-circular perennial bed after the storm

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

This summer and last year: what a difference

As you can see from the rainfall map that Agriculture Canada puts out, this season, which started out quite dry, is now nice and moist. The city of Hamilton, and areas to the east like Grimsby, have had too much rain recently, but here it's been just right. The excess rain of the past week has actually made up for the dryness we experienced before it came.

Compare that to last year's picture, which I posted here at the end of July, 2007, when we were in the midst of a deavasting drought:

The end result: finally a summer I can enjoy.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Friday, July 25, 2008

Scenes from our meadow

The meadow on our property is my favorite site for garden photography right now.

By nature I'm a night-hawk, not an early riser, but it's rewarding to get up at 6 in the morning and go out with the camera to capture the wildflowers.

I need to get up early because some time between 7:30 and 8am it gets too breezy to photograph. When the flowers start dancing, I go in for breakfast.

These pictures are from this morning and early yesterday. The dominant prairie plants in flower at the moment are the greyheaded coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), Echinaceas (E. purpurea, and E. pallida, the latter just past its prime), wild bergamot or beebalm (Monarda fistulosa) and prairie blazing star (Liatris pycnostachya), above right, with Ratibida.

Prairie ballerinas: grey-headed coneflowers (Ratibida pinnata)

Purple coneflowers with bergamot

For more on our meadow and how we got it established from seed in 2000, visit this page on my website.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lots in bloom here in mid-summer

I almost have to pinch myself. It's mid-summer and it's not dry. We had another thundershower yesterday which brought 3/10ths of an inch again.

This is what the garden looks like now.

Info about the metal flower sculpture is here

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rolling thunder, one storm after another

Instead of the usual dreaded July drought, we are being treated to lots of rainfall. Last night's rolling thunderstorms - there were three in row - netted another 1 and 3/10ths inches of rain. It's quite the contrast to last summer's endless drought.

Our local paper, the Hamilton Spectator, reports that 80 percent of the rain that the city of Hamilton has seen so far this month fell over a three-day period from July 19 to 21.

The city did get a few more storms than we've had here. They've had almost too much rain. However, here just outside the city I'd say we had barely enough rain until now. The rain over the weekend and last night's thunderstorms have finally brought us really moist conditions.

Typically, the Spec reporter sees rain as a blight, and describes last summer's devastating drought as "relatively dry summer":
"A total of 250.2 millimetres has fallen since May, to the delight of gardeners but few others. Last year, a relatively dry summer saw only 93 mm dumped on Hamilton from May through July."
Well, what can I say? I'm a gardener, and, yes, I'm delighted with all the rain.

Toby checking out the high water at the creek which flooded briefly and covered our bridge early this morning

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A great weekend of rain

Rainbow from two weeks ago

I was beginning to get cranky about the lack of rain - no rain for two weeks. On top of that we're in the middle of heat wave that looks like it's going to stretch through another week.

Then last night came relief in the form of 1 and 3/10ths inches of rain, delivered nice and gentle through the night. Today stayed humid, but remained overcast so plants and people (me at least - and also the garden club folks from Mississauga who came for a tour) enjoyed a respite from the heat.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Why do you garden?

Canada lily at our farm pond

Margaret Roach over at A Way to Garden asked this intriguing question last week.

I have to admit that there are plenty of times when I wonder why I garden, especially on this scale. (In answer, my husband will say: "What else would you do?")

The question comes up most often in these hot, humid dog days of summer, which I just find to be an endurance test; give me cool fall temperatures over sweltering heat any time.

So why do I garden? In one word, transformation. By creating a garden, you can turn the humdrum, ordinary or even ugly property into something beautiful. Not being able to afford already-gorgeous houses when we were younger meant that we got into the habit of buying properties that needed lots of TLC, in other words, fixer-uppers. (This place is our third, and possibly last, big transformation project: the first was an older house and yard in the city - where I created my starter garden - and the second, a lakeside cottage up north that we sold a number of years ago.)

The transformation part of gardening is exciting and challenging, but I have to admit that the day-to-day maintenance isn't as thrilling. However, the on-going tweaking - weeding, pruning, mulching, dividing, ripping out what isn't doing well - is crucial because once you've done the planting, gardening really consists of controlling and shaping growth, and responding to change.

Since I started taking photography seriously, another reason I garden is to have great stuff to photograph whenever I walk out the door, like the Canada lily above.

So why do you garden?

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gypsy moth update: friendly fungus at work

According to the Integrated Pest Management newsletter from Michigan State University, a friendly fungus called Entomophaga maimaiga is expected to slow down gypsy moth infestations next season:
"This fungus infects caterpillars, turning them into a mushroom in about a week. Fortunately, Entomophaga maimaiga is very host specific and only infects gypsy moth and not any other animals. The caterpillars die facing head down, the bodies becoming shriveled and rubbery in a few days. Eventually the dark-brown to black mushrooms, still in the shape of a shriveled caterpillar, fall to the ground around the base of the trees. In each mushroom are thousands of spores that will infect gypsy moth caterpillars next spring. When young caterpillars become infected next spring, they will die quickly, turn into mushrooms and sporulate immediately during wet weather, infecting other caterpillars. It is in this way that the fungus can spread quickly through a forest, infecting most of the gypsy moth caterpillars. The fungus in large caterpillar-mushrooms that are present now will not sporulate until next May when the next batch of gypsy moth larvae are active.

The outbreaks of gypsy moth that we are seeing around the state at this time may be due to two or three relatively dry springs in a row. Entomophaga cannot sporulate and infect caterpillars under dry weather conditions. However, the wet spring and early summer that we have had so far this year has allowed Entomophaga to spread quickly."
So how can you tell if the fungus is in your area? Here's what the MSU report says to look for:
"Take a look at the oak, birch, poplar or other infested trees on your property. You may find many dead caterpillars (mushrooms) on the trunks. If Entomophaga is active in your area, the gypsy moth population will naturally decline, so you may not see nearly as many caterpillars next year or the year after."
When I checked my trees recently, I saw exactly what they describe. Good news indeed. This fungus proliferates during moister, cooler conditions. (Though we are still a bit on the dry side, we've had more rain and cooler temperatures than last summer.)

For more information, see the newsletter and download a PowerPoint presentation on this fungus.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sharing the garden: this made my day

I received a wonderful thank you from Diane Wells, who organized a tour of my garden for her horticultural society. Diane's note made my day. Here's what she wrote:

Thank you so very much for giving the North Toronto Horticultural Society a tour of your beautiful country garden. Everyone enjoyed it very much, we were all in awe of the joyful beauty of the landscape you have created. And it looks so lovingly cared for, too.

The wildflower meadow is just stunning, those coneflowers (Echinacea pallida or pale coneflower, right) are the nicest I have ever seen. I got some great ideas from your woodland garden. The four square garden is very special in its "formal informality", as you suggested, and the sundial carved in stone by your husband is truly an amazing work of art. The rock garden is fantastic, too.

I love that you have planted all those trees around your property, and that you put comfy chairs under the big old weeping willow. I was overjoyed to sit under the weeping willow and just take in all the beauty around me.

I think you are an excellent garden designer. I like what you have done on the hillside around your house, your container garden, and the lovely use of grasses in the landscape.

Thank you so very, very much for sharing your gorgeous garden with us. You made us feel very welcome. I feel very lucky to have visited your lovely garden, and I am glad that it belongs to a lovely person like you.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener