Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Bit of Spacing Saw Magic

Plants seem to often continue growing year after year without much useful intervention from us. Most springs it is famous last words that say "we really should prune/trim/eliminate" that one.
Such an out of control plant is a Barberry tree/bush which was getting very large and intrusive. I think I knew which one it was, probably the European Barberry(B. vulgaris). It has rather pretty, smelly yellow flowers in June.
It usually forms some red berries that persist  into the winter. 

It also boasts very vicious thorns.
I invited James to use his trusty spacing saw and cut it to the ground. I have no idea whether it will grow back from the base or not.
It took only seconds to level the thing and be left with a bunch of branches and the stumps.
I do know I will have neither time nor energy to dig out the stump. It has very peculiar yellow stems.
Where is a back hoe when you need one?

While we had both a machine and an operator, we had a couple of volunteer hardwoods taken out of the rhododendron area at the north end of the house. 
These things sneak up on you! They were getting a little big for loppers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Celebrating Crocus

Crocus groups are about at their best just now. A few of the very earliest are starting to fade.
They will soon be joined by countless Glory of the snow. 

Signs of those are with us now.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Glorious First Working Day

Today was a very lovely spring day, so I made my first foray to do a bit of garden work. I find doing a few necessary pruning jobs and some raking reminds my body it hasn't done this sort of thing for awhile. I take quite a casual approach. It is sort of pretending I am really not working!
Bill has started his annual debris raking and will soon get the tractor and wagon going.
Even though there are still some snowy spots, things are drying up very well. It was dry enough to sit on the ground and give a patch of lavender a bit of a trimming. It always looks a bit pitiful at first.
The long bed beside the driveway got most of my attention. The buddleia, and roses got a good cutback. The roses don't appear to have much winter damage other than some serious bending. They all got quite serious haircuts. Our rose thicket isn't very refined at the best of times. These hardy shrub roses will take quite a lot of abuse.
We have a rather out of control Dorothy Perkins on the front arbor that needs some attention soon. Canes are flapping around and will have to be aimed to the actual structure.
It is heartening to see the many little shoots of the Glory of the Snow starting here. They will be out in a few more days.
The only one fully out is in close to the foundation.

The crocus and snowdrops are most prominent now. It is interesting how they spread themselves from year to year. These pastel toned ones are among the crowd under the PeeGee hydrangea at the front. There are still a lot of deep purple ones to come along.

This big patch of white crocus really should be in another spot, but I am not about to move them.

We're sure there are patches each year where there were none the year before. Some of the nicer snowdrops are in the little bed in the front yard.

We saw the first robins yesterday and a flock of red polls came to visit this morning. As long as we have the bird feeder set up outside the dining room window we have squirrel visitors. They are cute, but we are always concerned they may decide to take up residence somewhere we don't want them to be. 

Some persuasion to relocate may be in order.
A sure sign of spring is actually having water in the pond. Most of the ice has gone. I think I heard a small sound of a frog or toad today, but we need a few more warm days before there will be the usual activity and noise.

We have a perennial supply of duckweed in our pond. It is, perhaps, the result of too much organic debris. The Hellebores are pushing up their spring blooms. Both the patch of purple and the pink and white ones seem okay. 

The leaves are very flat, but at least are not black.

The sap was still running some today, James may get one more "boil" done. We finished about a litre or so of syrup yesterday.
The time is fast approaching to get started with Plant Sale preparations. If all goes well, we will have our sale the weekend of May 14 & 15. It is all quite weather dependent.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

One Spring Seems Like Another

I have come to the conclusion that spring is a creature of habit. Looking back to other springs shows exactly the same things, the only variation seems to be the date certain things show up.
I was looking at a blog post from a year ago.....other than the date being different, it could be a day from this year.
Finding something new and original would seem to be a challenge.
Not to say I don't appreciate the sure signs of spring! Who wouldn't be encouraged by the various groups of crocus blooming brightly..........
....or the precocious noses of the Crown Imperial Fritillaria.

April finds us in seed starting mode. We have cut back on the number of seeds started each year, but still have the herbs, vegetables and flowers to deal with.
Every year I update the file that is my "planting calendar" and add the fresh entries for a new year. Excel makes quite a useful organizational tool.
This file has been with us since ~2001. It is quite an interesting archive to check on varieties and performance. Depending upon how diligently I have entered information in any given year, sometimes a mystery will be solved. The page below is from 2010, and the similarities are striking. It seems the peppers are a bit pokey this year.

We often come upon a plant somewhere in the garden that have forgotten details, whether it be a source or a year it came into being.

The planting tray is sitting on a little heating pad as a trial. It was given to us by a friend who didn't really use it. 

Other years we just placed a seeded tray, covered in a sheet of plastic, on top of the lighting fixture ballast. the bit of heat effectively provides bottom heat. The seed trays get moved to a position under the lights just as soon as there are signs of germination. These are not especially wonderful pics....I should have taken them NOT under the fluorescent lighting.

I try to get myself into the "mode" of checking these each morning.
I suspect we were a bit spoiled by the lovely early and comfortable spring we had last year. This year seems very slow in comparison. Lots of crocus are blooming and every bare spot shows some sign of emerging growth. I'm always a bit impatient to see the emergence of newly planted bulbs, but most of those are in a fairly cool spot in the gulley bed extension, so they won't be fast.
We found some evidence of breakage in some rhododendrons, but not too bad overall. More will likely become apparent as we do more wandering about. I found this broken down branch in the 2002 nursery bed.

A walk around yesterday did show a great deal of snow had retreated, but we still hadn't been down the hill at the extreme rear of the garden.
It is a cold, windy day today, not really conducive to much wandering about.

The suspicions of a  Witch Hazel in bloom down there were verified by another walk.
This was taken from the bottom of the hill looking up, not very good walking here. 

There is one plant of a supposed contorted willow of some type that Bill grew from a cutting. It currently has catkins. 

This group of white crocus obviously didn't think there was enough sunshine today; a thought echoed by everyone.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rhododendron Seedlings That Grew Up

I have spent a bit of time perusing pictures to pick out some candidates for prints over the last day or two. We don't get many done, perhaps a couple of hundred a year. It is still rather pleasant to have a "hard" copy of an image. We usually wait until there is a special offer at a retail printer rather than doing any "at home" printing.
There are inevitably some rhododendron pictures chosen. In today's list there were some seed grown plants that range in age from 10-16 years. A lot of our seedlings have also lost their original labels, so a bit of guesswork is sometimes in order.
The season of 2010 was quite a good one, bloom-wise. There were probably some plants blooming we had rarely noticed before.
One was a very nice plant from 1994. Judging from the seed order records, it should be the smirnowii cross on the label, but we can't be 100% sure. 
There are a couple of plants from 1995 seedlings that are quite interesting. We have two of this candy striped plant. We sent some cuttings off a few years ago and received one plant via the ARHS Member Sale. We haven't attached any name, so just call it the "899 double calyx". It is such a complex cross that it is difficult to speculate what characteristics came from where. It is possible that yellow was the aim, but that doesn't always happen!

I rather enjoy the doubling effect found in many plants. The same effect is seen in this plant from 2001. I believe we finally got around to moving this one last summer. It will need a season or two to recover from the crowding it experienced in the nursery bed.
Another example of this doubling is found in some of the plants of (Always Admired x Barbara Cook) from 1996. These were in a very poor situation until a couple of years ago, when we moved them. They have started to resemble a much nicer plant. We hope they didn't get too flattened by this winter's snow load.
Some of our favourite plants are seedlings with R. pachysanthum as the pollen parent. A seed lot from ARS 1995 gave quite a number of hardy plants, which bloom most years. They are 'Calsap' x R. pachysanthum and most have some version of the distinctive blotch characteristic of 'Calsap'. They are relatively compact plants and most have a lovely cinnamon coloured tomentum on the new growth.
Another group of R. pachysanthum hybrids are growing beautifully in our Oak bed. This picture shows their colourful  new growth. 
The nicest of these we have dubbed "Blue Heaven" in response to the lovely silvery blue tomentum. 
Another plant which literally rose up and looked us in the eye was this tall plant with quite nice yellow flowers from 1999. It also got moved in 2010. 
Keeping track of the progress of all the seedlings Bill has grown is a job we actually do quite poorly! We have attempted a bit better stab at recording all the bloom, but never quite make it.
This plant grew from seed donated by Bruce Clyburn from here in Nova Scotia has quite good red colour. 
A tremendous number of seedlings grown here seem to have rhododendron 'Janet Blair' as the seed parent. She is a very good mother, it seems! One example I came across today was from 1996 seed. Not especially outstanding, but the plant has performed consistently over a number of years. 
This little look into seedlings "grown up" will end here, but could go on seemingly indefinitely.