Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Acer rubrum: small sapling with new foliage

[Photo: Acer rubrum sapling showing new foliage.]Acer rubrum, known in English as "red maple", "swamp maple", or "soft maple", and in French as érable rouge, érable de Virginie, érable de plaine, or érable du Canada, is a deciduous tree native to eastern North America.

We have a few small red maple saplings volunteering in the yard.

Ambrosia artemisiifolia: foliage

Note: this plant is considered a noxious weed under the Ontario Weed Control Act Ambrosia artemisiifolia, known in English as "common ragweed" or "short ragweed" and in French as petite herbe à poux or ambrosie à feuilles d'armoise is an annual native to North America, infamous for its highly allergenic pollen.

Last year when these pretty leaves started emerging in the spring, I was sure they were something "good". Imagine my disappointment when I realised they were in fact ragweed. Ragweed's flowers are tiny and green; they don't need to be showy to attract insects because they are wind-pollinated. I don't know if I'm allergic to ragweed myself (I'm stuffed up all year round due to my fibromyalgia), but a friend down the street suffered from ragweed allergies, and ragweed pollen can travel hundreds of miles on the wind.

Even though ragweed is a native plant, I think those of us in populated areas should pull it out of consideration for all the people sickened by ragweed pollen. The Ontario government has designated ragweed as a noxious weed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Viola x wittrockiana 'Delta Pure Rose' flowers

[Photo: Viola x wittrockiana Delta Pure Rose in bloom.]I know I don't really need to put yet another photo of pansies on my blog, when I just posted a whole whack of them a few days ago, but I couldn't resist these little beauties, 'Delta Pure Rose', and broke my original vow to not buy bedding plants I could have grown from seed if I had been more organized a few months ago. I bought them at a corner store on Bathurst south of Dupont.

Echinacea purpurea seedlings chomped by cats!

[Photo: Echinacea purpurea seedlings chomped by cats.]My poor little echinacea seedlings, which have been through so much, have fallen victim to the cats! Most of them are still alive, so I'm hardening them off in the hopes of saving them from further suffering.

[Photo: new growth on old Echinacea purpurea.]By way of contrast, here is the happy healthy old echinacea plant that's been growing outside for a few years. Although one of the cats has been sneaking outside a bit to enjoy the sun, he hasn't tried chomping this plant.

Solenostemon scutellaroides 'Wizard Mix': foliage

[Photo: Solenostemon scutellaroides six weeks after sowing.]Wow! Six weeks after sowing, the colours on the coleus seedlings are really popping! My favourite is the white with green edge ('Wizard Jade'); I wish I had ordered another seed packet just of this variety. Photo: Solenostemon scutellaroides six weeks after sowing.]

Dianthus chinensis 'Double Gaiety Mix': foliage

[Photo: Dianthus chinensis Double Gaiety Mix six weeks after sowing.]The China pinks were doing well, but apparently they are quite palatable to cats! This is the healthiest seedling, probably because it was right under the lights and the cats couldn't get at it. I've started hardening them off; hopefully once they are outside and have less cats nibbling on them they'll all bounce back.

Reseda odorata 'Mignon Finest Mixed' foliage turning orange?!

For some reason, the leaves of the mignonette seedlings (sown about 6 weeks ago) are turning orange. I don't think they are supposed to, for I don't see orange leaves in the mignonette photos online. Any ideas what could be causing this?

Tagetes tenuifolia 'Lulu': foliage

[Photo: Tagetes tenuifolia Lulu foliage.]The 'Lulu' marigold seedlings are now about six weeks from sowing and looking great. You can see their pretty somewhat ferny foliage and reddish stems. I've started hardening them off; can't wait for blooms!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tussilago farfara: flowers

Caution: invasive [Photo: Tussilago farfara flower.]Tussilago farafara, known in English as "coltsfoot" and in French as pas d'âne, is a perennial native to Eurasia. I had never seen it before and was intrigued by its apparent absence of leaves; apparently a rosette of broad leaves will emerge later on; their shape reminded whoever thought of the common names of a colt's foot or donkey's foot.

The Invasive Exotic Species Ranking for Southern Ontario rates coltsfoot as Category 4 ("Exotic species that do not pose a serious threat to natural areas unless they are competing directly with more desirable vegetation.")

Coltsfoot has traditionally been used medicinally, but is toxic in large doses. Also, European Journal of Pediatrics reported a case of an infant who developed hepatic veno-occlusive disease after regular consumption of what his parents thought was coltsfoot, but was actually Adenostyles alliariae, which shows the importance of being cautious about gathering and self-treating with wild plants.

I photographed these plants at the University of Toronto downtown campus on St. George north of College.

Friday, April 24, 2009

High Park VSP Plant Sale coming May 3

The High Park Volunteer Stewardship Program is having their spring native plant sale on Sunday, May 3, 11-2, at the greenhouse. You can view the plant list (PDF) online; prices are very reasonable.

Viola flowers

[Photo: Viola Penny Primrose.]Viola hybrids are small annuals grown for their flowers, which are like small pansies. Like pansies, violas are available in a wide range of colours: purple, yellow, blue, mauve, pink, rusty red, orange, and white. These pale yellow violas are 'Penny Primrose'. You can see more violas in the 'Penny' series at Stokes.

[Photo: Viola Sorbet Lemon Chiffon.]Viola 'Sorbet Lemon Chiffon' is from the extensive 'Sorbet' series of violas. [Photo: Violas, unknown purple cultivar.]I couldn't find the name of this bright purple cultivar.

All violas in this post were photographed at Mimi's Convenience, 1686 Danforth.

Viola x wittrockiana: flowers

[Photo: Viola x wittrockiana Matrix Red and Yellow.]Viola x wittrockiana, known in English as "pansy" and in French as pensée des jardins, is a short-lived tender perennial grown as an annual in Toronto gardens. Pansies come in a huge variety of colours, though unfortunately no "true" red, only a dark rusty red like in this cultivar, 'Matrix Red and Yellow'. The five-petalled flowers often have a central blotch and/or are bicoloured.

This is not the best picture, but it does show what a pretty blue 'Matrix Ocean' is. I am regretting not starting some pansy seeds myself. [Photo: Viola x wittrockiana Matrix Morpheus.]'Matrix Morpheus' has pretty blue and yellow flowers with whiskers rather than a blotch. There are many other colourways in the 'Matrix' series; you can see many more 'Matrix' varieties at Stokes.

[Photo: Viola x wittrockiana Delta Premium White Blotch.]This pansy is 'Delta Premium White Blotch'. I think this is the cultivar Nicky chose last year. (Since Nicky generally hates anything to do with plants and gardening, when he actually likes a plant I usually get it.)

[Photo: Viola x wittrockiana Delta Premium Red Blotch.]Here's another so-called "red" pansy, 'Delta Premium Red Blotch'. I love truly red flowers like Monarda didyma and Aquilegia canadensis, so I'm always a bit annoyed when nurseries call merely reddish flowers "red". To me this is more of an oxblood colour.

[Photo: Viola x wittrockiana Delta Premium Neon Violet.]This beauty, 'Delta Premium Neon Violet' is really tempting me. I love the neon glow around the blotch, which you can really see on the flower in the back.

[Photo: Viola x wittrockiana Delta Premium Beaconsfield.]I love the way that the purple blotch on 'Delta Premium Beaconsfield' softly blurs into the white, as though painted in watercolours. There are many other colourways in the 'Delta' series; I especially love this unusual pink and purple pansy from the 'Delta Pink Shades' mix.

All the flowers in this post were photographed at Mimi's Convenience, 1686 Danforth.

Vinca minor: flowers

Warning: this is an invasive species in Toronto.

[Photo: Vinca minor in bloom.]Here's what Vinca minor looks like in bloom. Very pretty. Too bad it's invasive. The City of Toronto advises residents to not plant Vinca minor.

Tulipa turkestanica: flowers

Tulipa turkestanica, known in English as "species tulips" and in French as tulipe botanique 'Turkestanica' is a flowering bulb native to Iran and Turkistan. It has 6 pointed petals, white with yellow at the base, and narrow wavy leaves.

This pretty clump is blooming in a talented neighbour's garden.

Matthiola incana 'Vintage' series

[Photo: Matthiola incana Vintage Yellow.]Matthiola incana, known in English as "garden stock", "ten-week stock", or "gillyflower", and in French as matthiole, giroflée quarantaine, giroflée des jardins, giroflée rouge, quarantaine or violier, is tender biennial (grown as an annual in Toronto) native to Eurasia. It bears spikes of deliciously fragrent flowers in a variety of colours.

[Photo: Matthiola incana Vintage Peach.]A whole slew of bedding plants, including these 'Vintage' series stocks, have arrived at the corner store (Mimi's Convenience, 1686 Danforth), and are testing my resolve to grow everything from seed this year wherever possible.

[Photo: Matthiola incana Vintage Lavender.]I knew I should have ordered some seeds for stocks when I was placing my order with Stokes. (I did pick up some seeds for night-scented stocks, Matthiola longipetala, at Canadian Tire, but I haven't started them yet, and I don't know if they'll smell the same.)

[Photo: Matthiola incana Vintage Copper.]The 'Vintage' series of stocks comes in a wide range of colours, including not only the 'Vintage Yellow', 'Vintage Peach', 'Vintage Lavender', and 'Vintage Copper' in this post, but also 'Vintage Red', 'Vintage Burgundy', and 'Vintage White', and has a height of about 25 cm. I think the "copper" is particularly interesting.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pinus strobus

[Photo: Pinus strobus (eastern white pine).]Pinus strobus, known in English as "eastern white pine" and in French as pin blanc d'Amerique, is a large evergreen coniferous tree native to eastern North America, and the provincial tree of Ontario. I photographed this beautiful tree at Wheelers' Maple Syrup Camp and Pancake House in McDonald's Corners, eastern Ontario (which has delicious pancakes, made vegan on request (phone ahead), year round!)

[Photo: cones of Pinus strobus.]The cones of eastern white pine are 10-20 cm long. According to, Pinus strobus is "the only eastern pine with long, stalked cones with pliable cone scales". [Photo: Pinus strobus needles.]Eastern white pine is the only eastern pine with needles in clusters of five. (I found these needles on the ground; the tree was not harmed for this photo!)

This beautiful native tree is too large for most Torontonians' gardens, alas, which just shows the importance of protecting large wilderness areas to preserve the plants and animals that depend on them.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Geum triflorum: flowers

[Photo: Geum triflorum in bloom.]Walking around the block, I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a tiny bleeding heart plant (Dicentra sp.) already in bloom. A closer look showed it was prairie smoke (Geum triflorum)—the first time I've seen this in bloom in real life. I found out later that when my mom was growing up in Saskatchewan they actually did call this wildflower "bleeding heart". [Photo: Geum triflorum foliage.]Unfortunately, my prairie smoke is nowhere near the blooming stage yet.

Hyacinthus orientalis in bloom

[Photo: pink hyacinth in bloom.]Hyacinthus orientalis, known in Englisha as common hyacinth, Dutch hyacinth, or garden hyacinth, and in French as jacinthe d'Orient is a flowering bulbous perennial native to southwest Asia. Its spikes of mauve, pink, white, purple, light blue, or light yellow flowers are extremely fragrant.

Well, most of the budding hyacinths I posted a few weeks ago were trampled, alas. This is the least mangled of the plants.

Eranthis hyemalis: unripe seed pods

[Photo: Eranthis hyemalis, unripe seed pods.]Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) has to be one of my favourite plants. Not only is its flower very pretty, it is also one of the very first flowers to emerge at winter's end, just when I'm feeling most desperate for blossoms.

Here are the developing seedpods. To me, this plant is beautiful at every stage of development.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Garden bloggers' Bloom Day April 2009

Once again, it is Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Although I'm supposedly in the same zone as Carol, spring is coming more slowly here in Toronto though unlike last month, I do have a few blooms to post today.

[Photo: Scilla siberica in bloom.]The Siberian squill (Scilla siberica), which the landlords' kids and I rescued from a garden down the street last year, are in their glory now.

[Photo: another Scilla siberica bloom.] Unfortunately, I found out long after the kids and I rescued them that Siberian squill is an invasive species in southern Ontario according to Invasive Exotic Species Ranking for Southern Ontario. I need to learn more about how the things spread; hopefully I can control them, since the landlords' eldest will be very unhappy if I rip out his squill.

[Photo: Iris reticulata 'Cantab' bloom.]Only one of my reticulated irises (Iris reticulata 'Cantab') is still in bloom. This picture came out badly but I didn't have time to take another because I had to catch a train—I'm posting this from my mom's apartment in eastern Ontario. Fortunately I got a prettier picture a couple of weeks ago.

This early stardrift, still in bud, (Puschkinia libanotica) is another rescue from the garden down the street. (Here's a photo of the gorgeous masses of early stardrift in that garden before the new owner attempted to replace it with sod. I say "attempted" because a number of puschkinia have popped up through the lawn this year despite his efforts.)

All of the flowers out today are blue, but we did have some bright yellow winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis, see photo) which bloomed at the end of March, managing to avoid both the March and April Bloom Days. There are also hyacinths and tulips in bud, and lots of growth on the daffodills, columbines, and beebalm. Lots to look forward to!

[Photo: Easter tree.]I couldn't resist including the Easter decorations the landlords' kids put up, which add lots of gay colour even though they aren't technically blooms. I think that decorating Easter trees is a Czech tradition.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tagetes tenuifolia 'Lulu' seedlings

[Photo: Tagetes tenuifolia seedlings.]About a month after sowing, the Lulu marigold seedlings are definitely looking like marigolds!

Solenostemon scutellaroides 'Wizard Mix': seedlings

What a difference in just a week or two! (See earlier photo of baby seedlings.) So much bigger, and the colours are getting more and more distinct. I have 45 coleus seedlings now. I find it interesting that the seedlings with pink and green leaves are by far the most vigorous; I would have expected the mostly green-leaved plants to have the edge. It seems to me that the seeds started in starter mix (Home Gardener Organic Starter Mix, to be precise) are growing faster than those started in peat pellets.

Echinacea purpurea: seedlings

The once-bedraggled echinacea sprouts are doing surpisingly well. Here they are about a month after their rescue from the bowels of my fridge.

Iris danfordiae: bloom

[Photo: Iris danfordiae flower.]Iris danfordiae, known in English as "dwarf iris" (a name it shares with Iris reticulata) is a small perennial native to Turkey. Its bright yellow flowers emerge early in spring, before its leaves (the leaves in this photo are tulip).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Intriguing mystery bulb

[Photo: emerging mystery bulb.]Last year, the landlords' kids and I rescued a bunch of bulbs, mostly of unknown species, from a garden down the street that was being replaced by sod by the new owner. We're looking forward to seeing what comes up this year. Today I noticed this beauty; I have no idea what it is. Anyone recognize it?

Dicentra spectabilis: emerging foliage

Dicentra spectabilis, known in English as "bleeding heart" and in French as cœur de Marie, cœur-de-Jeannette or cœur-saignant, is a perennial native to east Asia and well-known for its distinctive heart-shaped pink flowers. Not only is it very pretty, but it's easy to grow and shade tolerant. Bleeding heart blooms in late spring and the foliage goes dormant some time in the summer.

I just discovered this lovely bleeding heart foliage emerging this week—it was hidden under some windblown trash which is all too prevalent in this neighbourhood for some reason (drives me nuts). I just bought this plant last spring; it's good to see that it survived the winter.

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