Category Archives: Plants

The flowers that bloom in the spring, Tra-la

May 9th, 2017 | 8 Comments »

Gilbert and Sullivan got it right when they wrote about spring flowers.

The flowers that bloom in the spring, Tra la,
Breathe promise of merry sunshine —
As we merrily dance and we sing, Tra la,
We welcome the hope that they bring, Tra la,
Of a summer of roses and wine.

Right now, I’m dancing and singing. Because everywhere at Glen Villa, spring flowers are blooming. Daffodils galore brighten the path to the China Terrace ….

 

We planted these daffodils about fifteen years ago. The clumps get bigger every year.
We planted these daffodils about fifteen years ago. The clumps get bigger every year.

 

hugging the base of birch trees.

 

I like to mix colours and varieties in some area and to plant varieties of a single colour in others.
I like to mix colours and varieties in some areas and to plant varieties of a single colour in others.

 

More daffodils sparkle on the berm by the Skating Pond ….

 

We planted 1000 bulbs a year on the berm for four or five years in a row. Deadheading takes time.
We planted 1000 bulbs a year on the berm for four or five years in a row. Deadheading them all takes time.

 

and spring up from the grassy hillside like dots of  butter and cream.

 

Mixing varieties extends the blooming season from mid-April to the end of May, and sometimes beyond.
Mixing varieties extends the blooming season from mid-April to the end of May, and sometimes beyond.

 

In the Lower Garden, magnolia blooms take pride of place. Now blooming are the star magnolias (Magnolia stellata ‘Susan.’) When they begin to fade, the darker-toned Magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’ appears, as welcome as any flower that blooms in the spring.

 

Magnolia stellata grows well in the Lower Garden where it is sheltered from the wind.
Magnolia stellata grows well in the Lower Garden where it is sheltered from the wind.

 

In my photos, the colour of the star magnolia blossoms seems almost unnaturally vivid against a lawn still greening up after winter.

 

The star magnolia blooms stand out against a grassy lawn.

 

In close-up, the pink is softer and gentler.

 

untitled (4 of 20)
Continuing the Gilbert and Sullivan theme, this is no caricature of a face.

 

Joining the magnolias and daffodils throughout the garden are ferns of all sorts. They rise up from the leaf mold like sleepy monks shedding their winter robes.

 

A huddle of hairy heads.
I don’t know why this huddle of hairy heads makes me think of monks, but it does.

 

Whatever the variety —  and growing wild in our woods there are many — the newly emerging ferns always make me smile. They seem like sociable creatures, happy to be part of a group ….

 

I haven't tried to identify the different types of ferns, only to enjoy them.
I haven’t tried to identify the different types of ferns, only to enjoy them.

 

or, like giddy maids at school, to be sharing secrets with special friends.

 

Whatever the topic, ferny heads always seem to nod in agreement.
Whatever the topic, ferny heads nod in agreement.

 

Normally my favourite spring flower, the one I watch and wait for, is the twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) that grows by the kitchen door. I love watching the leaves and buds emerge, opening and shutting as the weather dictates.

 

Jeffersonia hold a special place in my heart. Named after Thomas Jefferson, they remind me of Virginia, where I grew up.
Jeffersonia hold a special place in my heart. Named after Thomas Jefferson, the flowers remind me of Virginia, where I grew up. For southerners, these flowers may be a commonplace. In my climate, they are a rarity.

 

But of all the flowers in bloom this year, the highlight for me are the daffodils that are whipping their way across the grass in the Dragon’s Tail.

 

The Dragon's Tail, 2017 model.
The Dragon’s Tail, 2017 version.

 

For the last fifteen years, the Dragon’s Tail has been blue in the spring when the grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) bloomed and bright fuchsia in August with Astilbe ‘Veronica Klose.’ But lately the muscari hasn’t been doing well. Deer eat the foliage as it emerges, and this weakens the bulbs so gradually they’ve been fading away.  Last fall I dug them up, determined to try something new.

 

Seen from a different angle, the whip of the Dragon's Tail appears more gentle.
Seen from a different angle, the whip of the Dragon’s Tail appears more gentle.

 

A year or two from now I’ll be able to assess whether the change was an improvement. But for now, I’m loving it.


STAYED TUNED FOR AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!

I’ll be posting in a day or two with news about this year’s Open Garden Day. For now, mark it down on your calendar: Saturday, July 29, from 10-4.

Hope to see you on the 29th.

The Upper Room

April 26th, 2017 | 24 Comments »
The hardscaping for The Upper Room was completed last summer.
After months of anticipation, yesterday we installed the glass panels at The Upper Room. The wait was long but it was worth it -- I am thrilled with the results. The Upper Room is a memorial designed to honour my mother and her beliefs. It's a tribute to family and to the traditions I grew up with in Richmond, Virginia, when classically symmetrical architecture, brick, and boxwood shaped our streetscapes and our view of the world. From inception, brick and boxwood were essential elements of the design. So was a sense of embrace. I wanted the

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Looking Back and Forth

December 31st, 2016 | 10 Comments »
Since I didn't do anything about new pots, I shouldn't have a photo to illustrate this goal. But I did use Mandeville vines on the living room deck. I've had these same plants for ten years or so, and they continue to provide abundant blooms and colour.
Last December I took the risky step of setting goals for 2016. So as that year ends and 2017 begins, it's time to assess. How much of what I wanted to do did I actually accomplish? 1. The Cascade: As intended, I modified the plantings around The Cascade. I reduced the number of different types of plants, improved the drainage and the soil in the beds themselves. As a result, the plants flourished and I was content. But of course there are always reservations. The Weigela 'Wine and Roses' needs another year

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When Less is More

December 5th, 2016 | 25 Comments »
water meadow clean up
Is less more? I associate the familiar phrase with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the founders of modern architecture and a proponent of simplicity of style. But when I went to confirm this, I found to my surprise that the phrase was first used in print in Andrea del Sarto, a poem by Robert Browning. Who strive - you don't know how the others strive To paint a little thing like that you smeared Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,- Yet do much less, so much less, Someone

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The Colours of Autumn

October 31st, 2016 | 12 Comments »
What an array of colours! The view looking out over the Big Meadow never fails to excite me.
I missed the peak of autumn colour this year in the Eastern Townships of Quebec -- where colours are as good as (or better than?) any place in North America -- because of some trips that took me away from home. So when a friend sent me a photo he took a week or so ago of the hills behind our house, I was delighted.   [caption id="attachment_4579" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Our house and boathouse on Lake Massawippi are dwarfed by the hills that rise behind.[/caption]   What a spectacle it was. Friends who were

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Yin and Yang at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden

October 3rd, 2016 | 8 Comments »
Black and white, rough and smooth
Vancouver's Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is an  oasis in the middle of a busy city, a place to rest and reflect on a garden tradition that reached its peak in the Ming dynasty (1358-1644). In accord with the Taoist philosophy of yin and yang that guides the garden's design, the aim is to balance opposing forces and thereby to achieve the equilibrium that constitutes perfection.  Behind the walls that separate the garden from the city, contrasts of dark and light, flexible and immovable, rough and smooth, large and small combine to create a picture

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Changing Colours

September 27th, 2016 | 10 Comments »
I don't know which of the asters this one is. But notice the different coloured centres.
This year autumn is slow in coming. Often by the end of September, the hills are as colourful as the big box of Crayola crayons I always begged (unsuccessfully) my mother to buy, with trees standing in ranges of red, orange and pink, gold and chartreuse, and occasional patches of dark wintery green. Not this year. Temperatures have remained high and leaves seem reluctant to lose their grip on summer. In the woods and fields around Glen Villa, though, wildflowers appropriate to the season are blooming their hearts out. Asters predominate.

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Fall projects for Gangly Teens

September 21st, 2016 | 10 Comments »
The line of green clearly marks where you are meant to walk. But now that all the grass is cut, it is easy to walk anywhere.
Coming home after a tour of gardens in the UK is always a shock. English gardens are so lush, so flowery, so impressive in predictable and unpredictable ways. In comparison, my garden in mid-September is a let-down. In fact, it makes me think of a gangly 13-year old. The teen may have good bones and a sense of fashion but for the moment the best features are hidden behind braces and a spotty face. Like that gangly teen, my garden is full of promise. It has good bones even if they do seem hidden today,

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The Big Meadow in August

August 25th, 2016 | 19 Comments »
The mown path makes this work. Showing a human intervention is essential.
  This summer I've been watching what used to be a manicured lawn turn into a meadow.  Seeing the changes month to month has shown that what pleased me in June ...   [caption id="attachment_4073" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] The view from the driveway gives some idea of the size of the Big Meadow.[/caption]   became even better in July.   [caption id="attachment_4203" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Grasses on the prairie used to be called oceans of grass. Now I know why.[/caption]   I was thrilled. Was the transformation from lawn to meadow going to be as

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The Lower Garden

July 19th, 2016 | 6 Comments »
untitled (5 of 11)
It's garden visit time at Glen Villa. Last week a group from Quebec City visited the garden; this week it's a group from Ontario and the following week it's another group from Quebec. Then, on August 4, comes the big Open Garden Day when we could realistically have 500 people or more. I think all gardeners would agree -- it's satisfying when your garden looks good, or at least when it looks good enough to bring you that frisson of pleasure that tells you your work has paid off.  But when visitors

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