Tag Archives: wildflowers

Wildflowers and Wild Life

July 14th, 2019 | 16 Comments »

Some wildflowers are called weeds… but often those ‘weeds’ have pretty flowers. Consider crown vetch, for instance. Its purple flowers are lovely from a distance and it is useful as a temporary ground cover to prevent erosion. But it’s also a menace, in some cases covering and shading out native plants.  Chickweed, on the other hand, isn’t a problem, although people who yearn for perfect lawns may disagree.


It's chickweed but it's actually quite nice.
It’s called chickweed because chickens love to eat it. People can too, and its flowers are quite nice.

A few years ago I threw out some seeds of a flower I saw growing alongside a road. It is some form of scabious, I think, and has happily seeded itself all around the Skating Pond in the Upper Field.


For a wildflower to seed itself all over a field ... how lucky is that!
For a wildflower as pretty as this one to seed itself all over a field … how lucky is that!


Some kind of tiny butterfly obviously finds it appealing.


Butterfly or moth? What's the difference?
Butterfly or moth? What’s the difference?


Also dismissed as a weed is milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Yes, it spreads easily which can create problems, but take a look at the flowers — aren’t they pretty enough to make up for that?


A close up shows the tiny blossoms that make up the single flower.
A close up shows the tiny blossoms that make up the slightly pendulous round umbel. There can be as many as 100 flowers on each.


Common milkweed forms large groups by clones, and that is happening in some of the fields at Glen Villa.  I don’t mind, though. The flowers smell good and common milkweed is the host for monarch butterflies as well as being of special value to native, bumble and honey bees.


Can someone tell me what's going on here, on the underside of the leaf?
I think the orange and black creature is the milkweed leaf beetle. Not surprising since it seems quite happy on the underside of this leaf. But is it eating something else as well?


It’s obviously attractive to all kinds of wild life.


Can someone identify this little guy?
Can someone identify this little guy?


Native Americans used milkweed as a source of fibres, and during the Second World War children in northern states were encouraged to collect the floss for floatation in life vests.  Who knew?

Even stranger, the floss is now being used as insulation for winter coats! According to Wikipedia, the first milkweed insulated winter coat was produced in 2016 in collaboration with Altitude Sports, a Canadian online retailer, Quartz Co., a Canadian brand producing high-quality winter coats, and Monark™, a Quebec-based company cultivating milkweed fibres.

Just a pretty picture.
Just a pretty picture.


The best way to get an up close and personal look at the milkweed growing at Glen Villa is to visit the garden next Saturday, July 20. On that day only, we are opening the garden to the public as a fundraiser for the Massawippi Foundation and Conservation Trust. Tickets are selling fast so buy yours on line today through  the Massawippi Foundation. 

Tickets will be available on site unless all are sold before then.  No dogs and no picnics, please!




The Middle of August

August 13th, 2018 | 13 Comments »
The Big Meadow
In the middle of August the garden at Glen Villa is just beginning to emerge from an unusually long dry spell. A few days ago we had rain -- buckets of it that washed out our driveway and threw a section of bank into Lake Massawippi. (We repaired the driveway; the lake itself may take care of the landslide.) Before the rain, plants were wilting badly. The leaves on a catalpa tree we planted years ago first drooped, then began to curl up and turn brown; thankfully they are now starting to recover.


Midsummer Medley

July 23rd, 2018 | 14 Comments »
nepeta (1 of 1)
Mid-July is truly the middle of summer in North Hatley, Quebec, when both the flowers in the garden at Glen Villa and the wildflowers in the fields strut their stuff. The Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low' at The Aqueduct is still blooming, a month after it began. The Eremurus 'Cleopatra' that provided such a wonderful vertical accent has faded now, but its candles remained lit for several weeks. Only in the last few days  have they been extinguished.     Nearby, a clematis (Clematis 'Inspiration') with the same colour tonality as the


What’s in a Name?

June 1st, 2018 | 4 Comments »
cardamine diphylla (1 of 1)
I saw this wildflower in the woods last week and was surprised to learn its botanical name, Cardamine diphylla.     I was surprised because only a week or so ago, I looked up the name of another plant, now growing in damp areas in the garden and in the fields at Glen Villa. Its botanical name is Cardamine pratensis.   [caption id="attachment_6380" align="aligncenter" width="3264"] Lady's smock or milkmaids is growing beside the Glen Villa pond. It has bloomed for several weeks.[/caption]   What is the relationship between the two Cardamines? Are


The Big Meadow, Year 3

May 24th, 2018 | 13 Comments »
Saturday late afternoon-020
In 2016, in order to discourage Canada geese from 'littering' the  lawn, we began to transform it into a meadow. We didn't follow the advice given by experts on how to create a meadow -- their process involved too much work and too much expense. Instead we simply stopped cutting the grass. We let it grow throughout the season and cut it only once in the fall, to mulch the leaves and to cut down any trees that were taking root. Now, entering the third year of this experiment, it is fascinating to see what is appearing. From a


The Big Meadow, 2017

September 25th, 2017 | 8 Comments »
I took this photo near the end of July. The mown path remained green all summer, thanks to the amount of rain we received.
Is it accurate to call The Big Lawn at Glen Villa The Big Meadow? If you use an American definition, the answer is yes.  If you consult an English dictionary, the answer is less clear. Webster's Dictionary defines a meadow as a tract of low or level land producing grass which is mown for hay,  and that definition fits precisely. Allowing the sweep of grass beside our house that was tended for decades to remain untouched produced six large bales of hay last year, the first year we didn't mow regularly.  Those bales were


Garden Envy

June 20th, 2017 | 19 Comments »
The Upper Field at Glen Villa is a what dieticians argue against, butter spread thick on the ground.
Coming home from a tour of English gardens I felt a short, sharp shock. Everything in my garden looked inadequate, not up to the standard I had come to expect. I moped. I complained. Why can't I grow the hundreds of plants I saw and admired?  Some of them must surely suit my climate. So why don't the garden centres around Glen Villa stock them? Then I faced the facts. My garden will never match the perfection of an English estate that employs six or seven full time gardeners.  The garden centres will


A Change of (Ad)dress

May 23rd, 2016 | 14 Comments »
A froth of white dresses the fields and roadsides in Hertfordshire. What do you call this wildflower -- Queen's Anne's Lace, wild carrot or something else entirely?
  The weather at this time of year does strange things to the mind -- and to the wardrobe. One day is cold, the next is hot. Changing locations makes the uncertainties even worse. What do I pack? Summer dresses or winter woolies? I arrived in England a few days ago on a chilly morning that felt much like the mornings I'd left behind in Canada. But looking out at the countryside, it was obvious that summer was now dressing the fields.   [caption id="attachment_3982" align="aligncenter" width="3888"] A froth of white


Wild Names Flavoured with Wild Garlic

May 10th, 2016 | 6 Comments »
I don't often walk in this section of the woods in spring -- it is too wet. So it was a surprise to come across such a huge colony growing wild. That means it is a good spot for wild garlic.
  NOTE: Several readers have let me know that this blog post only had photos without any words so I'm posting it again.   A walk in the woods at this time of year is a journey of discovery. So many things are there in miniature, waiting to be spotted if you take the time to look closely. Trilliums, for example. Not many are yet in bloom but they are beginning to open up as the days grow warmer.   [caption id="attachment_3890" align="aligncenter" width="2317"] Red trilliums (Trillium erectum) go by many common


Following my tree, down a colourful garden path

September 7th, 2014 | 9 Comments »
It's that time of month again, time to write about the tree I started following in March this year. My corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana 'Red Majestic') is looking about as tired as the rest of the garden -- late August and early September are not prime times at Glen Villa.Something is eating the hazel leaves.Something likes the leaves of this corkscrew hazel.They are welcome to it.The leaves are looking decidedly weary. Not to mention spotty and full of holes.So instead of writing about this unattractive tree, I'm writing about some