Wednesday, 21 March 2012

March 2012 in the Garden

Lots is happening in the garden right now! In a "normal" spring, this would all be taking place in April, but...well, there's not a lot that can be done about things being "early," so might as well enjoy it...

At left is a showy white hellebore. I'm not sure what chewed on the petals, but something thought they were tasty while still in bud stage, as they opened with the holes already in place. Oh well, the overall effect of seeing these lovely white flowers against all the composting leaves is still lovely, in my opinion.

In the front yard is another hellebore, but this one is deep purple.  The effect from a distance isn't quite as dramatic, but up close, it's certainly something to look at!

The crocuses, of course, have been putting on a fantastic show. Their bloom time is short lived but they do make the most of it!
One of my pollinator friends decided to take a closer look...

Unfortunately, bees aren't the only creatures stirring already. I strongly suspect it was a squirrel that decided to "rearrange" the tulip bulbs I had been "forcing" in a pot (The forcing was a bit of a flop. Due to the early warm-up the tulips in the ground are actually farther ahead than the ones in the pot!) Mr. Squirrel definitely does not have an eye for floral design, is all I have to say about his arrangement!

These guys are on the crawl, remarkably plump for so early in the season...

And yes, I did squish him after I took his picture (sorry to the squeamish, but this was the first of many, many that will meet the same fate over the summer. If anyone wants free escargots, please give me a shout--all you can pick, free!)

The Itoh peony is by far the most advanced in growth in the garden so far. It is in quite a sheltered spot and it is traditionally an early bloomer (May 24th most years.)

A few of the species tulips are starting to show colour. Again, these ones are in a protected area. The more exposed ones in the front yard don't have any colour yet. You can see a nice little field of bluebells emerging. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to see their blue blooms next to the dark pink tulips.

It's not only the flower garden that's showing signs of life; there's action in the vegetable patch as well. The garlic I planted in the fall has pushed up about 3" through the straw mulch.

Of course, what says SPRING to me like nothing else (even if I could be seen shaking my head this year, imploring this plant to wait, as it's only March, and you're risking freezing your blooms off) the magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel')

Spring is here...for now, at least!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Before you go to Canada Blooms 2012...

...there's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. From Saturday until today (Thursday) teams of people, including many volunteers, have been working long hours to create the garden magic that is Canada Blooms. I apologize for the cell phone camera photo quality, but here are some of the faces behind the hands that make the show happen:

I wish I could put names with all of these faces. But you can tell just by looking at them, can't you, that they're a great fun bunch to work with! The fact they're still smiling after many of them have been working non-stop for days says a lot about them. It brings me back year after year.

We purposely posed the group in front of the rose garden so we'd have a pretty backdrop. Can you see the rose garden? Maybe not. Let's try a smaller group shot...

Canada Blooms volunteers in front of the rose garden.

Yes, that's me, on the far right. For the past several years I've had the privilege of volunteering a day or two of my time to assist with planting the large decorative planters that are placed throughout the aisles of Canada Blooms.
It's a huge amount of fun to have this many plants to play with, especially in March!

When the planting is going on, it's a full fledged construction site. Steel toed boots, hardhats, and stylish flourescent safety vests are required...
I'm beaming because that orange coleus is so fantastic. It's name is ruffle something or other, and I'll definitely be growing it in my garden this year!

A few of the decorative planters we created this year featured edibles. I have to say that these were the most challenging ones for me.

I grow tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers and peppers in pots in my own garden. But making a flower show worthy display in a planter (the idea is to make an arrangement that is eye-catching and inspiring, which is very different from providing a plant with its ideal growing conditions for a full season) of fully grown vegetables, overwhelmingly comprised of nothing much but green leaves, took all the imagination and gravity defying skills I could muster.

The cabbages are like giant roses, to my eye.


There was a little get together for volunteers tonight (thanks, Canada Blooms!) so I took the opportunity to spend a few minutes checking out some of the amazing gardens that have been created for the show. Here are just a few samples (and again, I apologize that these are only cell phone camera quality):
Have you ever seen a more charming set of garden stairs?
There's so much to look at in this garden. I especially like the copper water features.
A clever tapestry of heuchera (my favourite!) and other fantastic foliage plants.

You can try leaving the show without buying one of these Medinilla plants but you'll need very strong willpower. Canada Blooms Horticultural Director Charlie Dobbin tells me that not only are they very easy to care for, they like to be on the dry side, and the blooms will last close to 6 months. Think they look interesting in even in this lousy picture? Wait until you see them in person. They're spectacular! I predict they'll be selling by the truckload. I haven't bought one yet only because they're big, we're in the midst of some renovations, and I have no idea where I could safely put it. That probably won't deter me for long...

 So that's my sneak peek of Canada Blooms 2012. I'll be at the show a couple times (with my good camera!) over the next ten days so there will be more pictures later. One of my favourite things about the show is learning from some top notch speakers. I'm disappointed to be missing Marjorie Harris' presentation tomorrow, but very much looking forward to hearing Paul Zammit and Liz Primeau (on growing garlic!) on the days I will be attending.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Buzzworthy March!

The earliest blooming shrub in my garden is Witch Hazel. This is only the second spring for Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' in my garden, but it has been putting on quite a show since mid-February. From a distance the flowers are a burnt red.

Today, March 11th, they've turned into a lovely fireworks of oranges and reds.

But what was really astonishing to me today, when I went out to see what was poking out of the soil on this warm day, was this...

There were about half a dozen of these pollinators (bees, wasps--I can't tell the difference) swarming the plant! I imagine they were starving, and this was one of the very few "restaurants" in town open!

Noted plant guru Marjorie Harris often talks about the importance of planting lots of tiny bulbs that flower early so that the early pollinators will have something to eat. I have to admit that I didn't think there were a lot of pollinators out looking for breakfast when the earliest of these bulbs and, in the case of witch hazel, shrubs bloom, but today was quite something to see. Granted, today's temperatures were record breaking, but in a "normal" year, the same scenario would be playing out in a few weeks.

I think this is a good excuse reason to buy more early spring-flowering bulbs this year. The three snowdrops that bloomed last week aren't going to be enough of a buffet for my early buzzing friends!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Geraniums! Who knew?

Head on over to the Gardenmaking magazine blog for very exciting news on dealing with Japanese beetles. These sparkly critters have made a complete mess of my roses the past few summers. It hasn't helped that they seem to favour my favourite roses (the English roses, especially "Pat Austin.")

Bring on the zonal pelargoniums (geraniums!)