Saturday, January 31, 2009

Platanus occidentalis: winter

Platanus occidentalis, known in English as American sycamore and in French as platane d'occident, is a deciduous tree native to eastern North America. In Canada, sycamore is considered an indicator species for the unique Carolinian ecoregion in southern Ontario.

In winter, the distinctive bark of the sycamore can be best appreciated.

Echinacea purpurea: winter

[Photo: Echinacea purpurea in winter.]Echinacea purpurea, known in English as eastern purple coneflower and in French as echinacée pourpre or rudbeckie pourpre, is a perennial native to eastern North America. It is used as a herbal medicine and is becoming popular as an ornamental plant. The flowers are like big purplish-pink daisies with conical brown centres. [Photo: Echinacea purpurea seedhead.]

The seedheads, which are like spiky dark brown balls, remain ornamental in winter (until the snow gets too deep).

Coreopsis lancelata: seedheads in winter

Coreopsis lanceolata, known in English as lanceleaf coreopsis or lanceleaf tickseed and in French as coréopsis lancéolé or œil de jeune fille is a perennial native to much of North America. The bright yellow daisy-like flowers have wide petals with scalloped edges.

The dark brown, somewhat crown-shaped seedheads remain decorative in winter (at least, until they're buried by snow).

Rosa: bushes and berries in winter

Rosa spp., known in English and French as roses, are shrubs, most native to Asia, but some are native to Europe, North America, and north west Africa. While commonly grown for their beautiful, often fragrant flowers in shades of pink, red, white, or yellow, allowing them to set fruit ("rosehips") extends the shrubs appeal through the cold winter months.

Hydrangea: flowers in winter

Hydrangea spp., known in English as hydrangeas and in French as hydrangées or hortensias, are shrubs native to south and east Asia, and North and South America.

Here in Toronto, these are probably the only flowers you can see outside in the winter (unless they are buried by snow). The flowers persist for months, drying to a light brown but remaining attractive.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Liatris spicata: winter

[Photo: Liatris spicata in winter.]Liatris spicata, known in English as dense blazing star or prairie gayfeather and in French as liatride à épis, plume de Kansas, is a perennial native throughout much of eastern North America. In summer, it bears vivid purple spikes of flowers. Even in winter, though the seeds have fallen from these spikes, the stems remain in the clump of liatris.

Verbascum thapsus: winter

Don't plant this—it's invasive! Verbascum thapsus, known in English as great mullein or common mullein, and in French as molène thapsus, molène Bouillon-blanc, Bouillon-blanc or Bouillon jaune is a biennial native to Eurasia and north Africa. In Canada it is generally considered a weed, and a number of sources call it invasive, but this gardener has included it, presumably as a vertical accent. (You can't see it now, but the plants are mulched, so their presence here is deliberate.) In the first year, the plants are low rosettes of fuzzy greyish leaves about 25 long; in the second year, a striking 2-metre tall spire of yellow flowers appears, with the resulting seedheads persisting well into winter.

There are lots of showier plants that would provide a vertical accent without being invasive, for example, Penstemon digitalis. Hopefully this gardener will switch to one of these alternatives.

Sedum 'Autumn Joy': winter

p[Photo: Sedum 'Autumn Joy' in winter.]Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is a hybrid of different Sedum (stonecrop) species popular in Toronto gardens for providing true four-season interest with minimal care. Here is a clump of Autumn Joy seedheads, persisting well into winter despite heavy snowfall. I find it amazing that such slender stems can support such large clumps of snow.

Rhododendron: winter

Rhododendron spp., known in English and French by the genus name, are shrubs native to many parts of the world, especially in the northern hemisphere. The species shown is (obviously) a broad-leaf evergreen, one of the very few broadleaf evergreens which can survive Toronto winters.

Rhododendrons are sometimes suggested as a source of "winter interest", but here in Toronto many of them are buried under snow. Also, the leaves become limp in winter; I personally do not find this appealing. The plump buds with their promise of gorgeous spring blossoms are lovely, however.

Hibiscus syriacus: winter

>Hibiscus syriacus, known in English as Rose of Sharon or Rose of Althea and in French as althéa, is a large shrub native to Asia. It is the national flower of south Korea and symbolizes immortality. The gorgeous blossoms may be mauve, pink, or white, often with a red centre, and appear in late summer.

In the winter, the light brown seed pods add a touch of interest.

Gleditsia triacanthos var inermis: winter

Gleditsia triacanthos var inermis known in English as thornless honey locust and in French as févier d'Amérique sans épine or févier d'Amérique inerme is a deciduous tree native to much of the continental United States and part of southern Ontario.

In winter, large trees like this are the stars of the landscape—especially when most of the gardens in our area are buried under one or two metres of snow!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Papaver rhoeas: seeds

Papaver rhoeas, known in English as field poppy and in French as coquelicot is an annual native to south-eastern Europe and Asia Minor. It bears large showy red flowers with papery petals, each flower lasting only one day.

Last year I sowed the seeds directly in the garden in the spring; this year I am experimenting with wintersowing them. (The tiny seeds, much smaller than the poppyseeds stuck to bagels, were very cheap; one packet probably has enough seeds for hundreds of plants).

Nepeta cataria: seeds

Nepeta cataria, known in English as catnip and in French as cataire, chataire, or herbe aux chats, is a fragrant perennial in the mint family, native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. Although it has spikes of small white flowers, it is most often grown for its foliage, which many cats enjoy as a recreational "drug".

This is my first year growing catnip. Since the seed packet says it may be sown in fall or spring, I assume it will be fine wintersown. The seeds are quite small and dark brown.

Monarda didyma: seeds

Monarda didyma, known in English as bee balm, bergamot, Oswego tea, or firecracker plant, and in French as monarde, thé d'Oswego, bergamote, or mélisse d'or is a perennial in the mint family native to much of eastern North America, and also the northwestern United States. Its flowers are very unusual and hard to describe—some say they look like jester's hats or fireworks; and are a lovely red.

I collected some of the seedheads from our plant in the fall; they look like prickly dark brown pompoms. They come apart into papery tubes about 1 cm long which are open at one end; at the closed end (closer to the centre of the pompom) of each tube is a tiny black seed; at least, I hope it is a seed.

Since this is a native plant, I am assuming it needs to go through a Canadian winter, or at least part of it, to germinate, so I am wintersowing it.

Lobularia maritima: seeds

[Photo: seeds of Lobularia maritima.]Lobularia maritima, known in English as sweet alyssum or sweet Allison and in French as alysson maritime, alysse odorante, or corbeille d'argent, is a hardy annual native to southern Europe, covered in tiny, four-petalled flowers, usually white or purple but there are pink, pale yellow, pale blue, and peach cultivars available.

Last year I grew alyssum from seed direct-sown in the garden in early spring; but since we also had a number of self-sown volunteers come up (clearly distinguishable since they were a different colour!), clearly this is a great candidate for winter-sowing. The seeds are about 1 long and light to medium brown, not too difficult to handle.

Centaurea cyanus: seeds

Centaurea cyanus, known in English as bachelor's buttons or cornflower, and in French as centauré or bluet, is an annual with flowers in blue, white, pink, or red, native to Europe.

This is my first year growing centaurea. Since the seeds were cheap, I am experimenting with winter-sowing this hardy annual. The seeds are light brown, about 3 long, and easy to handle.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tradescantia ohiensis: seeds

Tradescantia ohiensis, known in English as bluejacket, Ohio spiderwort, or snotweed, and in French as tradescantia de l’Ohio, is a perennial native to much of eastern North America. The flowers are a lovely vivid blue, with three petals; a bit like small trilliums, but the foliage is completely different, almost grass-like. (The unfortunate name "snotweed" refers to the faded blossoms, which turn into a runny blob.)

This is my first year growing Tradescantia, starting with seeds from Wildflower Farm. The seeds are plump and about 2 mm long; I found them fairly easy to handle (especially compared to the other seeds I sowed tonight!).

Rudbeckia hirta: seeds

[Photo: seeds of Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan).]Rudbeckia hirta, known in English as black-eyed Susan, gloriosa daisy, or yellow ox-eye daisy, and in French as Rudbeckie dréssé is a biennial native to most of North America. Its daisy-like flowers have bright golden yellow rays surrounding dark brown cones in the wild type, though many cultivars with various colourings are available.

I collected these seeds from my landlords' garden; the parent plants came from seed given out by the High Park Nature Centre for Earth Day 2007.

Penstemon digitalis: seeds

[Photo: Seeds of Penstemon digitalis.]Penstemon digitalis, known in English as smooth penstemon, foxglove penstemon, or foxglove beardtongue and in French as penstémon digitalis is a perennial native to eastern North America. Like foxglove, smooth penstemon bears tall spires of nodding flowers, but it is much lighter and airier than foxglove and usually has white blossoms (the striking cultivar Husker Red has dark red stems contrasting beautifully with the white blossoms).

This is my first year growing smooth penstemon, starting with seeds from Wildflower Farm. The dark brown seeds are about 1 mm long; small but doable.

Campanula rotundifolia: seeds

[Photo: seeds of Campanula rotundifolia (harebell).]Campanula rotundifolia, known in English as harebell, Scottish harebell, or bluebells of Scotland, and in French as campanule à feuilles rondes, is a herbaceous perennial native to northern parts of the world.

This is my first year growing harebell. I ordered seeds from Wildflower Farm, an Ontario nursury specializing in native plants, little suspecting how tiny the seeds would be. I believe "dust-like" is the most apt description. They were difficult to work with, but if I get some beautiful harebells it will be more than worth it.

Aquilegia canadensis: seeds

Aquilegia canadensis (known in English as wild columbine, red columbine, or Canada columbine and in French as ancolie du Canada or gants de Notre-Dame is a short-lived herbaceous perennial native to southeastern Canada and northeastern United States. Like most columbines, its flowers have five long spurs. This is my favourite wildflower, in part because it is one of the few red flowers found in the Canadian wilderness.

Last year I planted a small columbine I bought at Toronto Botanical Garden. Unfortunately it turned out that the barrel I planted it in originally had insufficient drainage to cope with the freakishly heavy rainfall we had last year, and the columbine struggled until I moved it to the shady front yard. It never grew very large, and suffered from leaf-miners (a common problem with this plant, unfortunately). This year I am growing some more from seed, purchased from Wildflower Farm, an Ontario nursury specializing in native plants.

The seeds are black, shiny, and 1-2 mm long.

Agastache foeniculum: seeds

Agastache foeniculum (known in English as lavender hyssop, anise hyssop, licorice mint, and in French as fenouil, anis hysope, hysope anisée or grande hysope, is a herbaceous perennial native to most of Canada and the northern United States. As some of the common names suggest, it smells like licorice and is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). Like many mints, it has spikes of light purple flowers.

This is my first year growing lavender hyssop, starting from these seeds I purchased from Wildflower Farm, an Ontario nursury specializing in native plants.

The seeds are dark brown and about 1 mm long; small, but not too difficult to handle.

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