Jul 21, 2014

Looking Back: A Return to where it all began!

I had a free day to myself this past Sunday, and decided it was time to slow down the somewhat hectic pace that has been the garden season of 2014, to actually take the time and look backward over my shoulder! I was up early and on my way back to the very first garden nursery who employed me - what is it now, seven years ago? Those of follow my blog, will know that I mean Lost Horizons, a sublime woodland plant nursery just this side of Acton, Ontario.

 I promised myself that I would make a return trip when time allowed, if only to see if I could relive the excitement I felt on that day, when, on a search for Corydalis flexuosa 'Blue Panda' [what has since become my signature plant] I found myself at the gates of this botanical magic kingdom. It was very much a case of deja vu all over again! There was one glaringly noticeable difference this year - the absence of so many of the tall, majestic trees that alluded to the feeling that you were entering some hidden away botanical hideaway - but sadly, not even such magical kingdoms are exempt from Mother Nature's icy fury! I had also momentarily forgotten about the bug issue! Big time. The fact that it was overcast and was drizzling didn't help the situation in the least, but for me what was a dozen or so mosquito bites when I could bask in the glory that are the display gardens!

I noticed that the staff was new, and asked for one of the two plants I was hoping to locate. Glancing at the 'plant locator' I discerned that it said 'STK' which in LH jargon means that it is in the stock bed. Not to worry. There is always next year! The sales associate said she would go track down Larry and see if she could find it for me. I didn't have the heart to tell her it was unlikely that we would locate said plant, but I let her strike off and find Larry - I was looking forward to our 'yearly' catch up. Soon enough we spotted one another, and for the next half hour we discussed the trials and joys of the business. He pointed out a couple of his newest treasures, including a stunning Actaea that must have been eight feet tall. We pontificated over a Dracunculus that had just finished flowering. [Mine has not made a return appearance this year after gifting me with a staggeringly bizarre yet beautiful, if somewhat putrid smelling bloom last year!]
And then he was gone, disappearing among the supple textures of foliage that are the bones of why his display gardens are as magical as they are. It was almost like a botanical illusion. Here one minute, gone the next. It was so rewarding to be able to bask in his knowledge and passion of only for such a short time. I found a new member of what is one of my favourite genera - Polygonatum verticillatum 'Himalayan Giant' - and deposited it at the cash desk before crossing over the instantly recognizable footbridge into what can only be described as paradise!

The drive home was filled with nostalgic silence - a part of me will forever refer to 'Lost Horizons' as my first 'home' when I decided I was ready for a career change those seven short years ago. It was there where I was immersed in the intoxicating world of Botanical latin, and it was there, where under Larry's generous and genuine tutelage that I first crossed over to what I now jokingly refer to as 'the dark side!' I learned that for most shade gardens, its more about structure, texture, hues of green and placement, than it is about colour or even presence of flower. I also learned that more is always better. Plant one truly hortgasm worthy specimen, and then fill in with other botanical wonders. The display gardens helped to encourage within me the so called 'layering' method of planting. 

Arriving home again with new plant in tow, I decided to sit and quietly observe my own garden - to look beyond what are undoubtedly my favourite plants and seek out the undeniable connection that links it with Lost Horizons. It didn't take long!

Thank you Larry for taking me under wing and opening my eyes to the undeniably intoxicating world of woodland gardening and the vast array of plants that it encompasses! I like to think that my garden is my homage to your skills, knowledge and generosity!

** On a different note I have decided to focus my energies on my FB and Pinterest pages. I will still publish here periodically, but I find that the Blogger platform is so not user friendly and without my WLW [its all about MAC now don't you know!] it is simply easier for me to post to my FB or Pinterest pages. You will find a link to both of them in the right sidebar. Thanks! **

May 15, 2014

Betberg Rules: Returning to my trustworthy Nikon!

[The introduction of an iPhone offered me a portable camera whose photos are relatively decent, until I compared them against my trusted Nikon whose photos make up this post!]
A few of my blogging friends have been posting about the plant pictured in the above photo – namely Polygonatum x hybridum ‘Betberg’ – and with due cause! For those enamored with the genus Polygonatum, and yes I rank among them, this sublime selection is probably considered to be the ‘Holy Grail!’ If you would like an intimate introduction, please visit here. In the meantime, for those who are still recovering from the bruise to their wallet, let me tell you that in three years, my four stems have increased to total fourteen – in keeping itself in accord to a genus that is most happily rambunctious when happy! His smoky purple, bruised foliage bursts from the ground like snakes reaching for the sun. As his foliage unclasps itself from his stems, you are rewarded with the opulent, dainty fabulously chartreuse pendant flower buds that look like an as yet undiscovered form of pearl! Nothing offers me more reward every Spring. Forever indebted to fellow plantsman Barry Parker for this magnificent gift!
Elsewhere in the gardens, that long buried song is resonating through the warming soil to magnificent results:
DSC_0324 Syneilesis aconitifolia is jumping by leaps and bounds – each shredded leaflet adding dimension with each passing week. I hope that by Summer’s end, his ‘shredded umbrellas’ will cover the ungainly foundation of the house!
DSC_0325 The Border of Botanical Curiosities [am I the only one who names their gardens, and then changes them as the wind changes direction during the garden season?] is alive with wondrous new growth! It is here where my most prized [and pricey] kidlets reside. One needs to be able to keep a keen eye on the single specimen that left his wallet black and blue. Please do not misconstrue this as whining – on the contrary – I often spend my prerequisite grocery allotment on a plant that catches my eye and then subsist on PB&J for two weeks!
DSC_0327 Paeonia x ‘Going Bananas’ is a sublime single flowering form of the ‘Itoh’ collection – that being the new family off-shoot that combines the suffruticosa tree Paeonia with the ubiquitous lactiflora garden varieties – resulting in a sturdier plant whose woody stems are adorned with sumptuous blooms. There was a need for a plant that would offer the brilliant, light and airy yellow [formerly whipped buttery] annunciation that I associate strictly with Spring!
DSC_0330Your assistance please? Not sure what variety of Primula this is, but his return to the Spring garden coincides with a sudden burgeoning of Epimedium x versicolour ‘Sulphureum’ whose annunciation yellow compliments the edge of each of Prim’s flowers! I love when Natures gently assists with our garden planting combinations!
DSC_0334 Can we please, once and for all toss that gangly, coarse Rozanne to the curb once and for all! Yeah, she blooms pretty much non stop, but her tomboyish appearance does nothing for a well manicured border, to say nothing for a collector inspired border filled with rare and unusual delights. In my green minds eye, she was usurped when I spotted ‘Margaret Wilson.’ Her stunning variegated foliage maintains a somewhat bushy, upright appearance, and is topped with dainty purple flowers, neither one overpowering the other. And yes, she does look stunning against the blue ceramic pot in the background if I do say so myself. Repeat after me:
Banish Rozanne! Banish Rozanne! Banish Rozanne!’
DSC_0337 DSC_0347 Every passing garden season reminds me of the importance of one virtue in particular: Patience! As a child, I was often the target of a phrase that resonates in that warm glowing aura of remembrance: ‘Patience dear Prudence!’ I wanted the freshly sown Zinnia and Marigold seeds to sprout and bloom before my eyes! Its a wonder I did not introduce myself as Prudence when I registered for kindergarten, so often did I hear the name! Dysosma versipelle is a stunning Asian subspecies of Podoplyllum. Two years later I have three tiny but easily recognizable leaves.
DSC_0342 The Helleborus continue to bloom, but really, is this anything new?
DSC_0343 DSC_0350DSC_0352If, on the other hand, we were speaking of Glaucidium palmatum, well, you’d likely hear an ear splitting squeal of delight coming at you from Fergus, Ontario, Canada! Step out the front door and listen carefully! Garden blogging partner-in-crime Grace commented on what a beautiful name this plant is blessed with! The two last photos in the sequence above show its sublime poppy-esque flower in bloom and bud. It was raining, ever so lightly, when I took the photos, so its blowy airy appearance might appear somewhat sodden! I can not encourage gardeners of a shady disposition to seek out and grow this stunner!
DSC_0359 DSC_0355DSC_0356DSC_0361The Epimedium are in their absolute magnificence at this time of year! I am often asked what my favourite photographic subjects are – I think this sequence of photos gives one of my responses!
DSC_0363One for Shawn! Disporum maculatum, or spotted Fairy Bells is a North American member of yet another of my favourite genera!  Tomentose stems hold delightfully veined foliage, ending with flowers that are larger than most within the genus!
DSC_0365     … and then the rains increased, and I had to seek cover! [for the cameras safety] I had attended a plant sale some years ago and had picked up a tiny Corydalis nobilis seedling, brought him home, planted him and, forgive the harshness of it, but I forgot all about it. Spring 2014 and he is somewhat difficult to ignore. Bushier, taller… larger in all of his parts than his seductive blue flowering cousins, he is indeed a noble presence in the garden!
Stay tuned for Part Two of the Walkabout when times allows. We’re headed into the May 24 weekend at the nursery, and all of my energies are directed there for the moment. A hearty welcome to the ‘official’ start of the 2014 garden season. How is everyone else feeling about their gardens?

Apr 17, 2014

Growing Me A Serpent!


Yes, its been awhile! Been busy the past month: recuperating from next thing to pneumonia, planting up four odd thousand Pelargonium and assorted bedding plants, hanging baskets and containers, and waiting ever so patiently for Spring to decided that she wants to grace us with her presence – for longer than a three day stretch! Oh yeah, and I’ve also been growing a serpent in my room! Now before you go to an entirely inappropriate place, let me explain…..

972327_10202610947847869_824271155732805354_nMeet Arisaema griffithii – my latest obsession in what is one of my Top Three favourite genera! Our native A. triphyllum was the very first plant that I learned to recognize during walks in the ‘Darkling Wood’ with my Grandparents, and over the years I have steadily grown more fascinated with their serpentine beauty!

1661572_10202628278521125_3224753576440360689_n1506892_10202641426249810_3325881843817853323_nPerhaps the most sinister and hard to describe within the genus, it emerged from the ground like a giant claw! At first I was worried that I was going to witness the birth of a dragon [in no small part thanks to the over active imagination inspired by GoT] but alas, no. You can make out the distinct spathe nestled among the tall, sturdy foliage in the photo above. The rubbery sheath in the background was a stunning opalescent silvery pearl like purple. It reminded me of a recently discarded skin – more snakishly serpentine than dragonesque!

1779144_10202653417829592_722124983846657487_n   Like all within the genus, it has a long thin spadix that looks like a tongue! Its spathe is a stunning presence: It seems to want to curve down over itself, giving it a rounded appearance. I want to describe its coloration as a deep wine with lime green and white stripes and mottling, but this truly is a case where words cannot but fail. 10151820_10202653418669613_4055669797524964424_n (1)

As with most of my most beloved, he is not reliably hardy here – I have read posts about it being hardy in Zone 7 – and as such he is going to live in a pot for the season, and spend the winter months in a newly installed ‘plant’ fridge. He came to be as a large bulb, at least the size of my fist, and I have noticed that some of my other blogging friends have bought it as well.

Is anyone else familiar with this serpentine beauty? Do tell! Hoping that this weekend brings warmer weather. I am three weeks behind in my own garden, not to mention the outdoor perennial, tree and shrub section at work. It might be mid May before I am able to return, but fear not.

Awesome congrats to Grace on the recent publication of her new gardening memoir – waiting for mine to ship from Amazon!