Monday, February 23, 2009

The Greatest Garden Pest

The garden and field seem dormant - at times covered by a blanket, or even a truck load, of snow - during the winter season, and you feel good that at least some of last year's garden pests won't make it till spring.
Almost all my garden experience is from my past urban gardens where aphids and various kinds of viruses made up my "garden enemies", ruining some of the beauty during parts of the gardening season.
I never thought that a cute little cottontail would become my enemy #1, the one that frustrates me the most.

The little Fragrant Snowball Viburnum (Viburnum x carlcephalum) grew by 30-40 cm last summer, nearly doubling it's size and I was very happy as I love this shrub with its fairly long lasting, very fragrant white/pinkish balls in spring and its season long glossy, dark green leaves. This is what it looks like now: All growth from last year, every last shoot and bud that was ready for spring GONE.
The Pink Lady quinces (Chaenomeles x superba 'Pink Lady') were not only chopped down

but the bark at the base got a good chew too. Well, at least they left some "fertilizer" behind!
Unfortunately, even during the rest of the year when there's an abundance of food in the fields and natural areas around our property the rabbits still LOVE my garden. They don't understand that it's mine!! They love munching on the tender new shoots on garden plants in spring and the veggie garden all through the seasons if I don't fence it in.
Maybe I should get a hunting license!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The good snow

The very first blooms in early spring seem so tender yet unbelievably strong as they often bloom through some snow and frosty days. Mid February now and as this winter has been extremely cold (and long it seems) there's no signs in my garden of even the very tip of the first Galanthus elwesii - the snowdrops that I love. I am afraid that I'll have to wait a LONG time still!
I have a point to make about the other snow that I really don't love - though it has to be my garden friend.
The daffodil - Narcissus Martinette - decided to show it's dark green shoots already in the fall with lots of leaves. I really don't know why! Here's what they looked like on January 5 At this stage we had several extremely cold nights -20 to -30 Celsius and not until later did we get a lot more snow.
This was on January 29 and they are completely covered - just the outline of one mugo pine is visible.
Since then most of the snow has disappeared - and look at what the frost did to the Martinettes on the parts that were above the snow during the hard frost!

All those tips are dead, but everything below that snow is still green and alive. HAVE to condition myself to LOVE that snow!!!
SOOO looking forward to this sight (photo from April 30, 2008):

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Winter Sowing

When I first heard the term "winter sowing" my thoughts were of sowing seeds in trays, placing them under a light source inside the house, water and take care of them until it was time to bring them outside.

The thought of sowing seeds and placing them outside at a time when my - still tiny - rhododendron looks like it is more dead than alive, paralyzed by temperatures far below -20 Celsius, just didn't occur.
My curiosity took over. I studied information that I found on the net and finally decided that I would try it this winter. You might say that for me this first time winter sowing is somewhat an experiment. Like many (I'm sure) longtime gardeners I find it going against some of my instinct (?) or rather learned "seed starting ABC" that the seeds don't need my tender care and attention, but will do just fine on their own outside in the cold and snow. In fact I read that they will do much better this way! The dreaded "damping off" will not happen to the young seedlings this way and seeds that need cold stratification will get just that. You don't have to put them in your fridge or freezer for x number of weeks - sometimes even repeatedly - they get the cold treatment automatically.
There are lots of information about winter sowing to be found on the net. Trudy Davidoff, I believe, started the idea and has a very informative site, Wintersown about it. Other sites that I visited are Daves Garden , American Gardens Suite 101 , and Gardenweb has a forum called Canadian Winter Sowing.
The last few days we have had a thaw here - I think that the snow level has shrunk by 50 cm - and yesterday I did my first winter sowing. I started out by sowing seeds that I collected last summer from echinacia, rudbeckia, daisy, anemone, helenium, zinnia, pine, and spruce.

I placed the miscellaneous re-cycled plastic trays in a corner, sheltered from the harsh south-western winds and with some additional protection by a row of potted "willow trees" to that they will stay in place. They get a few rays of morning sun here and I will be checking on them.
In a few months I hope to report life in the containers and to submit photos as evidence.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Willow baskets

The opportunity to make baskets, bird feeders, plant supports, and other smaller, woven items was not my main reason for growing willow.
As I did a lot of research about willow, I visited lots of Danish web-sites showcasing very beautiful, unique, and artistic works of art - most often displaying an unbelievable range of colors due to the bark on the willow. During that process and later on, after I had planted my first field, I felt that my knowledge of willow would be missing something if I didn't know how to weave a basket. I started to search for willow basket making classes in Ontario, but became very discouraged as I could not find anything - not a willow grower, not a teacher, not an interest group, no on-line willow forums.
So I decided to make a trip to Denmark to visit family and at the same time take in a two day class to make a basket.
My first weaving experience was at a week-end course with Anne Folehave who is one of Denmark's most experienced and accomplished basket makers and teachers.
The image of the oval basket is from Anne's site.

The Danish willow weavers association "Pileforenigen" has an excellent web-site with lots of links for those interested in more.
I finished the basket and brought it home as "carry on" on the plane. The sun and the rusty colour in one of my sedums are really highlighting the basket here.
Well, through my membership in the Danish willow weaver's association I contacted a member in West Virginia who referred me to a willow grower and weaver in South-western Ontario. What I could not find through the internet I was lead to through a Danish association - isn't that just wonderful!!
Monday and Tuesday last week I went to visit Frances for the second time and this time we were going to make baskets together. She is very knowledgeable and experienced in weaving baskets and she now became my second teacher.
And here is my friend Frances, busy weaving. Visit her at her blog.
These baskets are made from "wild" willow collected in nature. The rods have been dried and then soaked before use to become flexible again so they can be woven without breaking.
And here it is, my second basket. And yes, it is obvious that it is the work of a beginner - but, hey I made it.