25 Feb 2015

May Day! May Day!

I simply want for it to be May again! Here in Z5 Ontario, its usually when my garden starts to come alive without the risk of damaging frosts. To clarify, they still lurk in the forecast, but by then the kids have reacquainted themselves with the notion that sometimes you have to bare down and weather the storm. Its usually always greener on the other side!

I know that Spring has truly arrived with the appearance of Polygonatum x hybridum 'Betberg' - he of the stunning brownish purple bruised juvenile foliage that is the perfect foil to the apple yellow pearl shaped pendulous flowers that hang daintily at each leaf axil. Fellow collector/hoarder Barry Parker, although recently relocated to Montreal, is always close at this time of year! 

In recent years I have focused most of my garden energy towards the narrow border that is protected by the east side of the garage. While it tends to be one of the last areas on the property to melt every Spring, I cannot help but think that the near consistent snow coverage throughout the long cold winters works best to its favour! It is in this narrow border where the vast majority of my rare and unusual treasures reside.

Glaucidium palmatum [oh how its name rolls off the tongue like melted butter!] is one of the earliest of the children to make it's presence noted every Spring. So early in fact, that I have purchased three wonderful glass cloches for fear that the young leaf and flower buds might fall victim to Jack Frost! It would be heartbreaking to lose their magnificent Spring presence!

The vast majority of my Epimedium collection resides here as well. It is always a challenge for me when asked what trait about this beguiling genus I am most fond of. For many, it is the wonderful marbled/mottled Spring foliage that often includes rich wine and burgundy coloration that wins out, but I have always been partial to those whose demure flowers include the delicate claw like spurs!
They remind me of delicate pink spiders - an insect that I usually give as wide a berth as possible! I can often be found sprawled out on the ground, aiming my trusted camera at the latest one to emerge. If you're a fellow connoisseur like myself, be sure to check out the catalogue listings at Lost Horizons, located in Acton, Ontario. This is where I was first 'bitten' by the Epi bug!

I do not have much in the garden by way of 'art' or statuary, with the exception of this delightful concrete Buddhist boy, who in early Spring is most visible. Within months he is all but buried beneath the foliage of other cavorting children including my ever present Corydalis 'Blue Panda.' A small patch of Mertensia virginica provides the very first of the true blue flowers, and it usually at this time that my favourite Clematis [Mrs. Harvey] begins to flush out in leaf! It truly is my favourite time in the garden.

I have recently ordered a new Kew monograph on the genus Erythronium which is one of the plants in my garden that I am adamant about increasing as far as presence in concerned. I have tried numerous times to secure additional white and pink flowering species, but have sadly come up short. I am not convinced that the corms that are sold by most bulb suppliers are even viable. Too many times I have felt around in the mesh bags and come away with shrivelled or dried up examples. I ordered the one in these photos from Fraser's Thimble Farms on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, and am presently putting together my Spring order, which will for the most part be made up of these intoxicating beauties! One can never have enough! 

And then of course there are the delightful Helleborus species that no Spring garden should be without. I find myself drawn to the recent double flowering hybrids that have flooded the market. One of my all time favourites is 'Mrs. Betty Ranicar' with her pristine white blossoms!

It is hard to make out, but the photo above is yet another example of the sublimely gorgeous foliage of P. x 'Betberg'. His tall, thick stems emerge from the ground looking more like shoots of bamboo than of its true identity. I am thrilled that when happy, it quickly forms formidable sized clumps - making it easy for me to take divisions to hopefully propagate and sell to my clients at Cedar Spring Nursery. Below is one of my most cherished woodland plants - Disporum maculatum, our native 'spotted fairybells.' His foliage is covered in a light dusting of hairs, making them appear as though velvet, and his flowers are perhaps one of the largest in the genus, each one adorned with purple spots! He is slow to clump up, but is another of the 'true' signs of Spring here at Teza's Garden!

We're still a ways off, and I really shouldn't try and rush the season, as soon enough I will be running to and from the nursery like a madman, and my beloved children will have to all but trip up my feet to get to me slow down and admire their beauty. But fear not..... once this narrow border stirs into life, I will be there like the proud Father that I am!

23 Feb 2015

What's In A Name?

Daughter of the Roman orator Quintus Hortensius , known for her Speech against the taxation of Women without Representation. Hortensia delivered an Oration in the Roman Forum, rebuking the Triumvirs for proposing to tax women to support Wars they had no part in initiating nor conducting. Hortensia declared that Women would enthusiastically help resist a Foreign Army, but would never pay for Civil Wars! 

21 Feb 2015

Yellow Suburban Annunciation''

 'Remember the afternoon's yellow suburban annunciation. Your
goalie in his frightening mask dreams perhaps of

Canadian poet and author Michael Ondaatje quotes the above stanza in his poem 'To A Sad Daughter,' one that I studied in Uni English with the late Professor Constance Rooke. Both professor and poem have left a lasting impression on me. Yellow is not a colour that I am fond of. Or wasn't fond of until my garden steered me away from such blasphemous thinking!

In the sweltering Summer months I will do just about anything to escape from the sweltering heat of the sun, that giant yellow orb that casts it's rays down upon me, burning my skin to a bright crimson within minutes. And then in the Winter months I bemoan its disappearance, an absence felt all the more acutely with the presence of SAD. MY diva like dichotomies leave me askance! 

Yellow is the colour I most associate with Spring! My old fashioned Primula veris are one of the first flowers to bloom, and their getle whipped buttery yellow presence never fails to bring a smile to my face! My garden started off with a minimum of yellow - the diminutive Iris reticulata with their golden crests, a majestic towering Aconitum species with a yellowish-apple green flower that looks more like a smurf cap than the helmet shaped blooms of its purple cousins, and the waxy, shuttlecock flowers of Kirengeshoma as pictured below. That was about it.

And then came the comments. 'You don't have very much yellow in the garden do you? Do you not think it would help to brighten up some of these shaded corners? So much blue, but so very little yellow? You're missing out my friend!' Looking back I remember thinking to myself, 'And this is precisely why I do not invite people to my garden!' But then I got to thinking.... and thinking, and then out of nowhere something rather startling began to occur.

I would like to think that it started out softly and subtly, sort of like the soft yellow of my beloved Paeonia x 'Going Bananas' or one of my all time favourite Daniel Hinkley inspired finds - Disporum uniflorum. They definitely do add a pleasant pop of colour to the garden!

 There is a cheerfulness to having pops of yellow scattered here and there. I also enjoy when they act as a cheerful accessory for a plant. There is no denying that I grow Saruma henryi [aside of for its hilarious name!] for its gorgeous felted heart shaped foliage. Its wonderful cheery yellow flowers add a dainty charm, often causing visitors to stop and comment as to its identity. 

Euphorbia is one of my favourite genera. One of my favourite is 'Bonfire' which breaks through the thawed Spring soil as a mass of velvety purplish red foliage. It it ages, it loses some of the rich coloration, but then out of nowhere - bam! Bright, almost screaming yellow 'flowers' appear for weeks on end.

The regal beauty of Cypripedium calceolaris speaks for itself. The winy brownish colour of its sepals when cast against the golden yellow of its delicate pouch is reason for rejoice every time I gaze upon it. I think I am mellowing in my newfound appreciation of yellow!

The most commented upon member of my ever growing Epimedium collection is the one pictured below: Epimedium 'Windfire' - with its canary yellow delicate, airy flowers that are infused with a red marking on the reverse of each bloom. 

 I do not think I could be without this most vibrant of colours here at Teza's Garden. While blue will forever reign supreme, yellow is definitely a necessity in the garden! Lesson learned most pleasantly! How much yellow do you have in your garden?