Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Country Gardener picks: favorite ornamental grass

'North Wind' switch grass in early fall

My hort buddies all know that my signature plants are ornamental grasses. Here's my absolute favorite, Panicum virgatum 'North Wind', hardy in Zones 4 to 9, introduced by Northwind Perennial Farm in Wisconsin. Find out more about this and other great switch grass cultivars.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

A radical change of view

Landscape makeovers can be dramatic. This is the view from my kitchen window before and after last week's big tree culling operation.

When we moved here 11 years ago, the line of too-closely planted spruces trees along the laneway was not as oppressive as it became over a decade. Planted by previous owners, the trees were supposed to function as a windbreak, but they clogged the lane with snow in winter, blocked the view, and cut the property in half visually.

I never liked them at all, and in recent years they began to look more and more like an oppressive black wall. I was resigned to them until they started needing yearly trimming to keep from encroaching the laneway. They were expensive to take down, but we're glad we bit the bullet. They have been chipped into mulch, which we will move to our service area and let compost for a couple of years. After that, we can use the mulch in our gardens.

Do I feel bad about having cut so many trees down? No: over the years, we have planted so many trees that our balance sheet is healthy on that score. I really must count all the trees we planted, but I'll bet the number is well over 100.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Sunday, February 22, 2009

In four short weeks...we hope

Mud season is gone for the moment. All is frozen and white again, although the snow cover is thin. In four weeks and a few days, I hope these cheerful flowers will be out.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The travails of mud season are upon us

All the snow melted last week, and we have have a temporary descent into mud season (can you believe Wikipedia has an entry on this?).

Who knows? If we don't get more snow, mud season might be here for weeks and weeks.

My feeling is that winter is a lot easier in the country and mud season is easier in the city. The reason: we have a lots of room for all the snow. It doesn't pile up on the streets the way it does in the city, making them narrower and obliterating parking spots.

The big meltdown: Toby taking in the scents

But mud season is definitely easier to cope with where there are sidewalks and there's pavement, and you don't need rubber boots. (You should see me in my stylish hunting boots.)

I was thinking it might be nice to get out and start some tree and shrub pruning, but it's still too sodden to be walking on the grass. Maybe next week, when it freezes up again.

In the meantime, the dogs and I continue our walks over at our neighbor's golf course, which is on higher ground, and that brings me to the other scourge of mud season: skunk mating time. What could be a more appropriate activity for mud season???

Not a February doesn't go by when Buddy (the neighbor's dog) and Toby don't get skunked. It happened yesterday: Buddy - who's a real dog's "Dawg" - and I saw the critter at the same time. I started yelling, but no luck. Toby came around to see what the commotion was all about, and he got some spray too, but not as bad as Buddy, who wouldn't leave the thing alone. You think they'd learn.

Luckily Toby came when I called, and he was good enough to let back into the house after a dousing with an anti-skunk product I had around. Buddy's owners took him straight to the country kennel that does grooming, but he still smelled quite a bit today. (He's banished to the mud room). Toby had his first professional grooming at PetSmart today. He handled it well, I was told. Now he smells of cheap perfume, but he sure looks good.

Post Script: John to me while we're doing the dishes: "The trouble is when February dissolves like this, there's still a long way to go before things get better."

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Verdict for January: cold and snowy

One of the great things about a garden blog is that it serves as a kind of diary. I've never been one to keep an official garden record on paper, so this helps.

We've had a colder-than-normal January. The average temperature was -9.5 C (that's 14.5 F). The normal average temperature for January in Hamilton hovers at -6 C.

We've also had a lot more snow, 62 centimetres of the white stuff (more than 2 feet), and about 20 cm more than normal for January. In fact, the snow is so deep that it's hard to get around even on snowshoes, but I manage. I just make the outings a bit shorter. The dogs are up to their bellies in the snow - they have to bound and jump to get around. Must get a picture of them in the snow tomorrow.

At the golf course today while it was snowing

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener