Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow-day impressions

Snowstorm today. Out with camera, snowshoes and dogs. These pictures are the result:

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gourmet escargots - we have evidence

Some critter decided that today was garbage day. Time to rid the nest of all the debris of those Gourmet Escargots.

I have my dog Toby to thank for finding this little scene in our garden, and drawing my attention to it. It seems that we have pretty good help in battling snails and slugs.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Flower and garden stock photos: a new source

Hepatica nobilis ©Photo: Marg Cousens

Several years ago I wrote a piece for Canadian Gardening on the garden of Marg Cousens, who was the 2006 grand prize winner in the magazine's annual garden contest.

Since documenting her lovely garden through photos, some of which were used in the article, Marg, an artist and art director in her professional life, has also turned to flower and garden photography.

She has now created a web site of flower and garden stock photos: If you have a few minutes, it's worth a visit: she's got good pictures, and most important for stock, they are well labeled.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener, 2009

Sunday, January 18, 2009

We're in deep today

We had six inches of snow last night. Here's what the buried gardens look like.

The view I get stepping out my door

The four-square garden and its boxwood hedge

The rock garden plants snug under blanket of snow

Toby does not look amused: he's bored when I take out the camera

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Friday, January 16, 2009

Forget me not - thoughts about my dad

January is Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and Nova Scotia garden writer Jodi DeLong has written an excellent post about it here.

For me, what she said couldn't be more timely. I mentioned in December that my father was very ill and in hospital. He died shortly after Christmas, after having Alzheimer's disease for 15 years. In some ways, he was lucky that the course of his disease turned his personality from a driven, impatient, striving man to that of child-like person with an endless appreciation of the good things in life.

He loved to sit in his small townhouse garden and marvel at the beauty that surrounded him. "What a beautiful garden we have," he would tell my mother daily from spring to fall. He was proud of his children and enjoyed his grandchilden. He was appreciative of the loving care he received from my mother, and he thanked her all the time: "You are such a good woman," he would say. She cared for him with patience that knew few bounds.

My father was sick in hospital for only three weeks from complications of other medical problems. We all feel that he was fortunate not to have to go into a nursing home. Amazingly, at 81 his Alzheimer's had not progressed to the point that most patients get to: not even recognizing their families. The last time I saw him, he was still able to count down the names of all his six children. (I'm the eldest.)

My Dad looking contented, relaxing in his garden in Sept. 2006

Thanks, Jodi, for your post. I didn't quite know how to write about my father. It seemed too personal to share in a gardening blog, but you gave me an opening.
© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bloom day

Blooming this January 15 (can you believe the month is half over already) is this gorgeous amaryllis. This is its second flower stem. The first one did its festive duty over Christmas week and lasted beyond New Year's. This wonderful flower is a cheery sight during our current deep freeze. Tonight's low predicted low: -20 degrees C (around 2 F). Brrrr, that's cold.

PS: I don't want to admit it, but there are still three Christmas poinsettias on the window bench - the kind that had gold glitter sprayed on the bracts by the florist at the supermarket. Well, who doesn't need a little glitter in frozen January?

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

The peace and quiet of January

I really enjoyed this post at Commonweeder about the January as a month of quiet after the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. I hope Pat Leuchtman doesn't mind me quoting her because I loved what she wrote:

Even the sun is silent. No longer does it come up like thunder. Its light seeps into the day, pale as pearls.

Such deep silence is hard to ignore. I avoid turning to the sounds of the modern world, radios, TVs, records. The news, such as it is, commentary, chatter, even music, can all wait for awhile. I need to fill my ears with silence, and let it penetrate blood and bone. Noise is exhausting and I need to rest. Just for a while.

I don't wish for endless silence. I wish for balance and rhythm. All music includes rests. A silent beat. Without silence you can't hear the melody or harmony. You can't appreciate the beauty of the song.

I love the song of life, the bass line of my own true love, the trilling of the children, the adagio of friends, the timpani of joy, even the beat beat beat of routine, all building to the crescendo of December.
But then rest.
Pat's words about keeping the noisy media at bay resonated with me. A few years ago, the CBC (for you Americans: the Canadian Broadcasting Corp is public radio, without commercials) had a strike, and so we stopped listening for a few weeks. What we discovered was that we felt better not listening to the news. We found that we had much less aggravation in our lives that way. You know how you feel when you hear George Bush talking. Well, who needs that?

At the time, we had already given up watching news on TV. Then a year and a half ago, we gave up TV entirely too. This doesn't mean we're hiding our heads in the sand, but we have a level of peace and calm that just isn't possible with radio and TV blaring bad news and commercials.

Of course, we listen to music, catch up on the goings-on at youtube, and get the newspapers (both on paper and online), so we're only too well aware of what's going on in the world.

I like this hoary joke that my husband sometimes tells: One of those wandering preachers came up to a farm house one afternoon, and said to the farmer: "Don't you know that Christ died for your sins?" The farmer responded: "Well, ya know, we're pretty far from the road."

Amen. We live far from the road too, and we like it that way.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Garden resolution 2009: less mowing

My resolution is to do less mowing this year. Don't know if I can keep it though.

The trouble with an acreage is that the areas you don't mow get overrun with pernicious weeds you don't want all over the rest of the property.

In our case, the two nastiest are sow thistle (the seeds blow around like dandelions) and buckthorn, a nasty invasive non-native shrub that the birds spread everywhere when they eat the berries. So I will most likely have to go over some of the new "no mow" sections at least once a month to keep these and other weeds from taking over.

The past season was quite something with regard to mowing - we went from the worst drought in 50 years in 2007, to the soggiest season I can remember. Usually, we get a break from mowing in July and August, but not last year.

In previous years, I had hired a young man to mow, but he moved on. Last year's hire didn't work out and so I ended up doing the job myself. This wasn't a bad solution: given last summer's high gas prices and all-too frequent mowing (every four days sometimes), I'm sure I saved us a lot of money.

However, I spent far too many hours on the mower: fortunately, it's good machine - ride-on, obviously - with an 6-foot mowing deck, and it's actually fun to operate. We'll see what happens this year...

What's your garden resolution for 2009?

Photo: istock © Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Monday, January 05, 2009

One of my favorite plants is a 2009 star

I love ornamental grasses, and one of my favorites, Golden Hakone Grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola') is the 2009 Perennial Plant of the Year.

This is the second time an ornmental grass has been awarded this honor: in 2001 it was Karl Foerster's feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'), another of my all-time favorite plants.

In my garden I grow golden Hakone grass with 'Golden Tiara' hosta and purple-leaved oxalis, a non-hardy summer bulb plant. The grouping at my side entry garden (shown above) looks lovely all season long.

If you have partial shade and moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil, this slow-growing grass will do well for you. More information about growing it is at my web site. See golden Hakone grass.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener