Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thunbergia alata 'Blushing Susie' seedlings are thriving!

[Photo: Thunbergia alata 'Blushing Susie' seedlings.]Seven of the ten black-eyed Susan vine (suzanne aux yeux noirs) seeds I planted sprouted. Weirdly, on many of the seedlings the cotyledons emerged practically underground so the first I saw of the plants was the true leaves. It's gratifying to see them doing so well.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Natives in our garden

Andrew Keys at Garden Smackdown is calling on bloggers to list the native plants in our gardens. Here's what's currently growing in our garden:

[Photo: Erigeron annuus flowers.]

Volunteered or planted before we moved in and thriving

[Photo: Asclepias tuberosa flowers.]

Planted by me and thriving for a couple of years

[Photo: Gaillardia aristata blooms.]

Planted by me last year, don't know if they survived the winter

Planted by me and died

[Photo: Verbena stricta in flower at High Park.]

Attempting to grow from seed this year

What natives are you growing in your garden?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sansevieria trifasciata

Sansevieria trifasciata, aka "snake plant" or "mother-in-law's tongue" in English, plante serpent or langue de belle-mère in French, is a west African perennial commonly grown as a houseplant. It's unusual to see a specimen as large and healthy as this in a mall—this one is in Brookfield Place. (I believe the underplantings are Rhododendron simsii (Indian azalea, azalé de l'Inde) and Hedera helix (English ivy, lierre grimpante). The latter is an invasive plant here in Toronto, which should be confined to indoor plantings like this rather than planted in the garden).

I briefly had a sansevieria, which I picked up half-dead at Canadian Tire because I felt sorry for it. I thought that the leaves would be too tough and unappetizing for my cats to nibble, but I was wrong. There is some debate over how toxic sansevieria is, but according to Plants are the Strangest People's Houseplant Toxicity Series, Sansevieria trifasciata can kill a cat. I've composted mine.

I should mention that I dislike the common names "mother-in-law's tongue" and langue de belle-mère for this plant, since they are a dig at mothers-in-law (the sharp leaves of the plant are supposed to be like the sharp tongues of mothers-in-law). I have had two mothers-in-law and they both are lovely people whom I am grateful to have known.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lobelia erinus 'Sapphire Pendula' seedlings

[Photo: Lobelia erinus 'Sapphire Pendula' seedling.]I didn't see seeds for that gorgeous sky blue lobelia for sale, but hopefully these will provide a good approximation! (And I'm still hoping I can get my native Lobelia siphilitica seeds to sprout; I recently had a dream about it!)

Antirrhinum majus 'Montego Pink' seedlings!

[Photo: seedlings of Antirrhinum majus 'Montego Pink'.]As you would expect from a plant that is capable of volunteering out of nowhere, the snapdragons (mufliers) germinated quickly and easily.

Hypoestes phyllostachya 'Splash Select White' seedlings!

[Photo: seedlings of Hypoestes phyllostachya 'Splash Select White'.]Polka dot plant (plante aux éphélides) is sometimes recommended as a good plant for children to grow from seed because it is easy. I can confirm that is the case! Here are my lovely healthy seedlings, about a week after sowing. No markings yet, but I expect they will come with the first true leaves.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, March 2010

Spring is just getting started here in Toronto. There are a whopping two species in bloom in our garden (which is two more than most of the other gardens around here...) [Photo: Crocus chrysanthus 'Blue Pearl'.The snow crocus (crocus du printemps, Crocus chrysanthus 'Blue Pearl') were the first to bloom. They're staying closed today because it's cloudy and cool, but they were wide open on a sunny day last week. This is my first year growing snow crocuses and I am very pleased with them.

[Photo: Galanthus nivalis.]My first snowdrop (perce neige, Galanthus nivalis) bloomed today. I planted a good sized clump of them, but so far only this one lonely plant is blooming. But I can see tips of a few neighbours so hopefully the full clump will appear. I'm disappointed that the snowdrops have been so slow in our garden; I guess they don't like this location? Other snowdrops in neighbourhood gardens were out in full force a week ago.

Check out what's blooming in gardens around the world for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day March 2010. Thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for organizing this event!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hypoestes phyllostachya 'Splash Select White' seeds

[Photo: Seeds of Hypoestes phyllostachya 'Splash Select White'.]Hypoestes phyllostachya, known in English as "polka dot plant" or "freckle face" and in French as plante aux éphélides, is a tender perennial native to Madagascar grown for its attractive foliage, which is dark green densely covered with spots of pink, white, or red.

Usually in polka dot plant is sold as a houseplant in Toronto, however, a neighbour had a very pretty planting under a tree which impressed me last summer.

Plants are the Strangest People reports that polka dot plant is invasive in various warm parts of the world (Australia, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Zimbabwe, and India), so if you live there, please don't plant this in your garden. However it doesn't seem likely to go wild in Toronto. (PATSP also reports that polka dot plants are potentially dangerous to dogs and cats.)

I bought these seeds at Parks, who also sell a pink variety.

Antirrhinum majus 'Montego Pink' seeds

[Photo: Antirrhinum majus 'Montego Pink' seeds.]Since snapdragons (mufliers) liked the front garden so much that they volunteered there last year and were still blooming in November, I've decided to plant some deliberately.

This is a dwarf cultivar with pink flowers, you can see it at Stokes, where I purchased my seeds.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thunbergia alata 'Blushing Susie' seeds

[Photo: Thunbergia alata 'Blushing Susie' seeds.]Thunbergia alata (black-eyed Susan vine, suzanne aux yeux noirs, oeil de suzanne) is a perennial vine native to eastern Africa, grown as an annual here in Toronto.

Despite the similarity of the common names, thunbergia should not be confused with our native black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta (rudbeckie dressée). Unlike rudbeckia, thunbergia is not a composite flower; rather it has trumpet-shaped flowers with five petals and an almost black throat. The species has light yellow-orange petals, however cultivars are available in yellow, white, and in the case of 'Blushing Susie', peachy-pink.

I got these seeds from Park Seed.

Veseys claims this plant attracts hummingbirds, however I haven't been able to find any photos of hummingbirds visiting T. alata so I'm a bit sceptical.

Desmodium canadense seeds: sticky little guys!

[Photo: Desmodium canadense seeds.]I bought these seeds for showy tick trefoil (desmodie du Canada) at Seedy Saturday in Scarborough, but another option is to go for a walk through the savannah of High Park in August—you will get a lot of these seeds stuck to your clothing, like ticks (hence the English common name).

Crocus chrysanthus 'Blue Pearl'

[Photo: Crocus chrysanthus Blue Pearl.]This year, the first flowers in our garden are these snow crocuses (crocus du printemps), strategically planted up against the foundation on the south side of the house. Their cousins, Crocus chrysanthus 'Romance', aren't even in bud yet, probably because they are about 50 cm away from the foundation. Kathy Purdy at Cold Climate Gardening has a smart suggestion: keep records of where the snow melts first in your garden, so next fall you know where to plant these early-blooming bulbs.

Monarda fistulosa seeds

[Photo: Monarda fistulosa seeds. Seed packet reads: Monarda fistulosa, Wild Bergamot or Beebalm. Useful as an ornamental, medicinal & honey plant. It's found in rich soils, dry fields, thickets & clearings, usually in limey soil. It spreads with rhizomes and grows in large clumps. 2-3 ft. tall. Flowers June to August. All of the plant is fragrant and useful. Produces an antiseptic called thymol - an active ingredient in mouthwashes. A traditional medicine of many native tribes who used it for skin infections, wounds & treating mouth/throat infections, dental caries & gingivitis. Nectar attracts long-tongued bees, butterflies, skippers & moths. Also visited by ruby-throated hummingbird. HIGH PARK VSP 2006.]I was enchanted to see wild bergamot (monarde fistuleuse) blooming in High Park last summer, so when I saw this packet of seeds from the High Park Volunteer Stewardship Program at Seedy Saturday in Scarborough, I snatched them up!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Gardening influences

Today, Teza asks, "Who Has Made The Greatest Influence On Your Garden Career? As I wrote my reply, I realized that it was getting far too long for his comments page, so I'm posting it here.

[Image: 100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants by Lorraine Johnson. © someone else, used under fair use.]I first started gardening a few years ago when, in early spring, I was feeling homesick for the hepaticas which were the first flowers of spring in the forest surrounding my childhood home. Looking at the library for wildflower books, I discovered Lorraine Johnson's 100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants. It had never even occured to me that people in the city could grow my beloved wildflowers; I somehow had got the idea that in the city people had to grow "city plants" like the ubiquitous petunias that filled all the city planters (or so it seemed) when I was a kid. Johnson's passionate writing got me excited about gardening with native plants.

[Image: Noah's Garden by Sara Stein, © someone else, used under fair use.]More recently, Sara Stein's Noah's Garden inspires me with her moving account of how she and her husband inadvertently drove away the wildlife from their property in the course of creating their conventional garden, and then using the magic of native plants lured them back! Having grown up in the country I really miss the huge variety of songbirds, butterflies, frogs, snakes, dragonflies, and many more that made our landscape gloriously beautiful and full of life all year round. Stein gives me hope that I can recreate a bit of that in my present life.

[Image: Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy. © someone else; used under fair use.]Regular readers of this blog will know how fond I am of Douglas Tallamy's Bringing Nature Home. An entomologist, Tallamy makes a compelling case for the importance of native plants as habitat for insects and the animals who depend on them.

On March 1, my mother passed away, and I have been reflecting on the influence both my late parents have had on my life.

[Photo: Dr. G. X. Amey, circa 1950.]My father, a city boy from Australia, had no attachment to the native plants of his adopted Canadian home. But he did have a passionate love of gardens, spending hours poring over his collection of gardening books (some of which I am lucky to have inherited) and ordering dozens of varieties from the Stokes and Park's seed catalogues every year. Dad designed and with my mother built our house, which had scads of large windows filling the rooms with abundant sunlight all year round. Our living room hosted a collection of dozens of plants (pruned by our two pet budgies!); the highlight was a gorgeous bougainvillea. Although my choices of garden plants are often different from what Dad would have chosen, I share with him a love for reading, learning, and imagining the potential beauty of the garden.

[Photo: Anne Amey at her 75th birthday celebration, probably © my sister, Jennifer Beer.]My mother, on the other hand, was a true nature lover who would have been content to leave the property completely wild. It was she who took my sister and me for walks in the woods and taught us the names of the flowers, the butterflies, and the birds. She established an annual tradition of hand-rearing a monarch caterpillar to butterflyhood (a tradition I long to reanact with my son, but I haven't been able to find any monarch caterpillars here in Toronto); she would rescue the birds who crashed into our masses of windows (and donate those who didn't survive to the museum in Ottawa). As a child I didn't understand why, although the gardens weren't really her idea, she would spend hours each night weeding, but now I do the same thing. I think for her, like me, this time in the garden was a time to slow down and be immersed in the beauty of nature.

First snowdrops of the year!

[Photo: Galanthus nivalis in bloom.]Once again, the snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis, perce-neiges) are the first flowers in bloom in my neighbourhood, and once again, there are none in my garden (these are in a neighbour's yard). But I planted some last fall! I don't know where I put them, but I don't see any sign of them. Where did I go wrong?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Matthiola incana 'Vintage White' seedlings: growing like weeds!

[Photo: Matthiola incana 'Vintage White' seedlings.]I had to leave town suddenly for two weeks, but these babies did fine without me! (Covered with cling film to prevent drying out). It was great to come home to brand new healthy seedlings (although now that they're not covered I see the cats are pruning them). I'm not sure if I should prick them out now or wait until they have true leaves. Thoughts, anyone?

Maybe one of these is a Zizia aurea seedling?

[Photo: mystery seedlings.]Well, the gardeners at the Dave's Garden Plant Identification Forum confirmed my suspicion that the first crop of seedlings that came up in the pot I planted my golden Alexanders (zizias d'oré) in were actually Oxalis. Looks like I didn't clean the pot out properly before planting in it.

So I weeded out the oxalis, and ended up with these three plants. There seem to be two species—the plant on the left has smoother narrower leaves than the other two.

Could either of these be Zizia?

Primula hybrida, colourful harbingers of spring

[Photo: many different colours of Primula hybrida in bloom.]As we head in to spring, stores all over Toronto are carrying brightly coloured Primula hybrida (primroses, primevère)—these were photographed at Natural Florist, 1852 Danforth Ave.. I am a bit ambivalent about these hybrids; in a way they're pretty, but most of them look so unnatural, which I find a bit disturbing somehow.

Primula is a large genus of 400-500 species native to the northern hemisphere, mostly Eurasia. PLANTS lists four species native to Ontario (P. egaliksensis, P. laurentiana, P. mistassinika, and P. stricta), though I don't know if their natural range extends this far south. I do find the wild types prettier than the technicolour hybrids that one usually sees (click links for pretty pictures from the photo gallery at Primula World by Canadian photographer Pam Eveleigh). [Photo: Primula hybrida new foliage emerging in spring.]

Of course, those primulas at the top of the post must be greenhouse grown, because the primroses that overwintered in Toronto gardens are nowhere near blooming, though last year's leaves stayed green and there's already fresh growth.

By the way, the English name "primrose" has nothing to do with the English word "prim". It comes from the Old French primerose, which in turn came from the Latin prima rosa, i.e. "first rose", because it blooms early in spring, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

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