Thursday, April 23, 2009

Challenge: Six plants I can't live without!

My favorite garden writer/blogger Country Gardener - has extended the challenge to write about the Six plants you can't live without.
You would think that would be rather easy - but it is too difficult to really narrow it down, so I have picked the following (after I stopped thinking too much about it because that kept me awake last night!):
My very favorite flowering plants provide hope and promise at the first signs of spring. All the spring flowers are beautiful, yet the Snowdrop (Galanthus) is my favorite.
The European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is the national tree of my native Denmark and a late spring day in the forest is just like the picture - maybe with an added carpet of wild anemones. The light shining through the canopy is like a magic lamp as the leaves are stretched out in almost vertical blankets. During the summer the leaves turn a darker green and in autumn the golden brown is like nothing else. Did you know that the leaves are edible?
I believe that the Nordman fir (Abies nordmanniana) is the cadillac of Christmas trees. I love its shape - open with almost horizontal branches that on older, larger trees will curve gracefully. They have a couple of very large specimens at the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens.
Another favourite bloomer is the Siberian Iris (Iris siberica). I have quite a few of the above blue variety and even though each flower is short lived, it blooms for awhile during late spring as the buds open along the stems. After flowering the grass-like foliage stays fresh and green all summer.
I never liked most rose bushes - I think the plant itself is ugly - but those flowers!! There are many beautiful (and also some climbers whose "frame" is good looking too), but I will choose the floribunda rose Iceberg (Rosa 'Iceberg') which was bred in Germany in 1958 and marketed under the name "Schneewittchen" which means Snow White. The buds have a light pink tint and the flower is almost completely white. It blooms all summer and the foliage is a healthy dark green. When I am ready to put in a rose garden, this one will be the first on my list.
Not much as soothing with the ability to make me feel good as my meadow (hey field) with different grasses, clover, trifoil, ox-eye daisies and more. That's not really "A plant" so the ornamental grasses will make up number six.
I can't pick just one, but here is a lovely summer pic of the early plumes of my Pampas grass (I think - but I don't know for sure) on a sunny summer day last year.
Thank you Yvonne, for challenging us - this was fun.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Garter snake release

Days are getting warmer and we are having some nights without frost. Time to release "Isicle" the snake in the bucket (the bucket covered with cloth, secured with heavy elastic string - I am not a snake person, really) in the garage.
Lately "he" has been spending more and more time outside his black hiding saucer and he seems more alert, so we decided to let him out yesterday.Looks like he is really eager to explore the world again.
We released him on top of the berm - approximately where we found him in the snow in January.
Ready to go - gone! I am sure though, that I'll meet him again.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tough Love!

I can watch seedlings grow! I just love to see the new leaves unfold - to "study" how different the cotyledons and then the first leaves look. Heuchera and Helenium are so tiny. In the greenhouse we now have seedlings of:
Aruncus dioius - Goatsbeard
Aster puniclus - Purple stemmed Aster
Sanguisorba officinalis - Great burnet
Salvia nemerosa
Agastache foeniculum - Giant blue hyssop
Verbena bonariensis
Helenium flexuosum
Heuchera villosa
Monarda fistulosa
Betula pendula

Two years ago we laid out my first perennial bed. I bought plants at fall nursery sales - just to see most of them die over the first winter.

Last year that bed was used as a parking spot for some shrubs for most of the spring and summer and now I really want to get the perennial bed started. The size of the bed is approximately 4-5 x 35 meters, so I need an awful lot of plants and decided to grow my own from seeds. And then, when I am at it, I might as well plan for yet another bed.

Perennials are not always as easy to grow from seeds as annuals are. I knew that I would be very busy and wanted to make my odds for success good, so I carefully picked plants that are fairly easy to germinate and grow and two weeks ago I transplanted my first seedlings from the "seed sprouting set-up" under lamps in the office to individual pots in my small and drafty hobby greenhouse.
When we (unexpectedly for me) had a couple of very cold days last week, I was afraid that the small space heater (placed in the greenhouse to keep night temperatures above freezing) wouldn't be able to keep up. What do you then do with 750 seedlings?? You put them in the back of the pick-up truck - in two layers - and park it in the frost-free garage for two days. Temps around 8-10 Celsius and very little light!
I am not sure, but I think that because of the low temperature the plants didn't seem to have any setback because of this "treatment" and are now happily growing in the greenhouse again. Getting ready for transplant are Phlomis tuberosa, Lobelia siphilitica, Papaver anomalum 'Album', Digitalis stewartii, D. parviflora, D. ferruginea and Thalictrum pubescens, Echinecea purpurea 'Alba', E. purpurea 'Primadonna'.
So far, so good - cannot wait to have the beds planted!