Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What's blooming in High Park, late August

[Photo: Helianthus divaricatus.] Summer is at its climax, and there's lots to see in High Park! The current stars in the flowering native plant world are
  • Desmodium canadense (showy tick trefoil, desmodie du Canada)
  • Helianthus divaricatus (woodland sunflower, hélianthe à feuilles étalées, shown above)
  • Silphium perfoliatum (cup plant, plante bain d'oiseaux)

    Other natives in bloom include

    The various Solidago spp. (goldenrods, verges d'or) are just getting started, but no sign of the Symphyotrichum spp. (asters) yet.

    Of course there are also various non-native wildflowers kicking around, such as

    • Cichoricum intybus (chicory, chicorée sauvage)
    • Daucus carota (Queen Anne's Lace, carotte sauvage)
    • Melilotus albus (sweet clover, mélilot blanc)
    • Trifolium repens (white clover, trèfle blanc)

    I spent part of Sunday morning weeding the Boulevard Beds, which are a showcase for native plants near High Park's Grenadier Restaurant. Most of my efforts were focused on Lunaria annua (aka money plant, annual honesty, silver dollars, lunaire annuelle, or monnaie-du-pape). [Photo: garbage bag with various junk from Boulevard Beds, mostly seed pods from #&*!% Lunaria annua.] I used to think this plant was pretty. Those papery seedpods are a lot less pretty when you're trying to pick a million of them out from leaf litter. If you are thinking of growing this non-native in your garden, be warned! Harvest the ornamental seed pods promptly, before they fall on the ground and make life miserable.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Can this Phalaenopsis be saved?

Phalaenopsis is a genus of orchids native to southeast Asia and northern Australia, with gorgeous flowers that supposedly resemble moths in the obsolete genus Phalaena (I don't see it myself), hence the English common name "moth orchid" (in French, orchidée papillon). I've been tempted to get one of these for years because they are gorgeous, there are many easy-care hybrids available, and they are considered safe for cats. However, my old apartment, being in a basement, had almost no natural light so I didn't think it was worth the investment.

Now that I've moved, I have loads of natural light, but can't really justify buying an expensive plant this month on top of the expenses of moving. However, look what I found in the "as is" section at IKEA! [Photo: sadly neglected dried out Phalaenopsis.]

Take a look at the price tag! [Photo: label of Phalaenopsis from IKEA. Price marked down from $14.99 to $1.40.]

At 90% off, I couldn't resist the temptation to resuscitate this poor plant. [Photo: Phalaenopsis with dead leaves, dead flowers, and spent scape removed.]

Since the plant is in poor shape (the growing medium was completely dry and the leaves were shriveling), I decided to completely remove the flowering scape and let it have a good long recovery period before blooming again. I'm not sure what that grey thing sticking out is—a root? Since it didn't want to come off, I'm leaving it on for now. Perhaps a reader who actually knows something about Phals could advise?

Plants that survive neglect

It has been a very busy summer, and not in the ways I had planned.

In early June, my wonderful landlords of the last 12 years told me they were moving to Scarborough or Markham for work-related reasons. They had to sell the house my apartment was in, and of course it turned out that the new owners did not want a tenant. Yikes!

Of course the Toronto housing market is difficult for anyone, let alone a single mom with a very low income. So my summer so far has been spent looking for a place to live, packing, and now unpacking.

Unfortunately the plants at the garden at my old place suffered a lot of neglect, and the crazy heat wave of July took its toll on many plants. Here are a few of the survivors (photos taken July 19): [Photo: Cuphea 'Lavender Lace']

Cuphea hyssopifolia 'Lavender Lace' (Mexican heather, étoile du Mexique) [Photo: Dianthus.]

Some kind of annual Dianthus. [Photo: Echinacea purpurea.]

Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower, echinacée pourpre) [Photo: Glandularia hybrid.] Glandularia hybrid (verbena, verveine) [Photo: Rudbeckia hirta]

Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan, rudbeckie dressée) and some kind of Mentha (mint, menthe) [Photo: Zinnia 'Thumbelina'.]

Zinnia 'Thumbelina'

Unsurprisingly, I was not lucky enough to find another home with access to a garden. At least, not an outdoor garden. But my new apartment has huge windows facing southeast, so I now have the opportunity to try my hand at indoor gardening. In particular, I want to see what kind of food plants are willing to tolerate growing indoors.

And of course, I will continue to get my native plant fix through my volunteer work at High Park.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Trilliums are blooming in High Park right now!

[Photo: clump of Trillium grandiflorum in High Park.Torontonians, now's the time to see our provincial flower, Trillium grandiflorum (white trillium, trille blanc) blooming in the wilds of High Park! You'll find them in the woods in the south west corner of the park. There are also lots of Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple, podophylle pelté) in bud, and some Tiarella cordifolia (foam flower, tiarelle cordifoliée), also in bud.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, April 2011

Once again it's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Looking back at my April Bloom Day post from last year, I can see that spring really is coming along more slowly this year, it's not just my imagination. Last year I had a couple of native blooms for April 15: Waldsteinia fragaroides (barren strawberry waldsteinie faux-fraisier) and Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells, mertensie de Virginie), but there's no sign of them today, not even foliage (which worries me). I do have some flowers blooming today at least: [Photo: Chionodoxa forbesii.]

Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow, gloire des neiges). [Photo: Primula hybrida.]

The Primula hybrida (primrose, primevère) which my landlords got as a disposable houseplant a couple of years ago is a bit of a mess, but at this time of the year I am grateful to see any flowers at all!

Behind and to the right you can see a bit of foliage from our native Tiarella cordifolia (foamflower, tiarelle cordifoliée). I think it kept its foliage all winter (hard to know for sure what's going on under the snow). It's sending out runners like a strawberry! I will be very happy if it spreads. [Photo: Puschkinia libanotica.]

The Puschkinia libanotica (snowdrift, scille de Liban) is not "drifting" at all. I wonder how long it took the neighbours to establish this beautiful mass of snowdrift? Since this isn't native, I guess I should be glad it's not prolific since that means it's less of a risk to wild areas. [Photo: clump of Scilla siberica.] Scilla siberica (Siberian squill, scille de Sibérie) is continuing to spread. I didn't realize at the time we rescued it from a neighbour's garden that it is an invasive species here in Southern Ontario and my landlords' kids would be upset now if I tried to remove it—not to mention that it is very difficult to remove. I will be deadheading. If you don't have this in your garden, don't plant it!

Behind and to the right of the scilla you can see some Aquilegia sp. (columbine, ancolie) foliage. The columbines in the front yard haven't bloomed yet and I can't remember if they are our native Aquilegia canadensis (wild columbine, ancolie du Canada) (my favourite flower) or the non-native Aquilegia vulgaris (also nice, and the bees like it). Maybe this year I'll find out!

Barbara Pintozzi at Beautiful Wildlife Garden wrote about using non-native minor bulbs to attract pollinators. I was hoping that the local bees and friends would visit these early flowers, but I haven't seen one! Fellow Torontonians, have you seen pollinators visit early non-native flowers (like crocus, squill, winter aconite, etc.) in your garden? Or are they just too early?

Thanks to Carol from May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Be sure to visit her and check out what's blooming today in gardens all over the world!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NANPS spring plant sale pre-ordering now open!

[Photo: close-up of Penstemon hirsutus blooms.]

The North American Native Plant Society's annual spring plant sale is coming up! This is the biggest native plant sale in all of Canada, and the best source for locally ethically grown native plants for Toronto gardeners. You can preorder online now, or just do what I do and shop on the day itself. The prices are very reasonable ($5 for most forbs, $12 for most trees) and the selection is amazing! (The photo above is the Penstemon hirsutus (hairy beardtongue, penstémon hirsute) which I bought at last year's sale. It started blooming within weeks of planting it in my garden!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Native alternatives to butterfly bush

Recently at the Birds & Blooms blogs, Carole Sevilla Brown wrote about the problems butterfly bush is causing in many areas of the United States. Although commonly recommended for butterfly gardeners, the most commonly available butterfly bush in the horticultural trade, Buddleja davidii, is native to east Asia and is an invasive species in many areas of the United States.

So far, Canada's cold climate has apparently prevented B. davidii from becoming naturalized here, except in parts of British Columbia (Tallent-Halsell and Watt, 2009). However, each mature butterfly bush can produce millions of seeds, and these seeds can be spread by cars and trains (Tallent-Halsell and Watt, 2009). So a butterfly bush in Toronto could contribute to the problems our neighbours to the south are facing. In addition, climate change is likely to make Ontario's climate milder and therefore put our wild spaces at greater risk from butterfly bush invasion.

Luckily, there are many alternatives for butterfly gardeners. Growing native species avoids the problems of habitat destruction caused by invasives, and can provide better attraction for butterflies by providing food for caterpillars as well as adult butterflies (Tallamy 2009).

With that in mind, here are a few flowering shrubs native to Ontario, which I found through Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's Plants Database. This is a great resource for wildlife gardeners throughout the United States and Canada; you can search by state/province, habit, lifespan, light needs, moisture needs, bloom season, bloom colour, and height! Each species description at the Wildflower Center's database includes a wealth of information, including which butterflies' and moths' larvae feed on each plant, and links to their descriptions at Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA).

Native Ontario shrubs to attact butterflies

I'm so glad that Carole wrote her original post, as I didn't realize that butterfly bush was such a problem, nor did I know much about these lovely native shrubs that we can grow instead. I've got seeds for buttonbush stratifying right now, and I plan to look into some of these other shrubs as well. Please click the links for each plant to see gorgeous photos; I hope you'll be as excited about these plants as I am and try some in your garden!

Works cited

  • Nita Tallent-Halsell and Michael S. Watt (2009). The Invasive Buddleja davidii. The Botanical Review, September.
  • Douglas W. Tallamy (2009). Bringing nature home: How native plants sustain wildlife in our gardens (updated and expanded edition) Portland, OR: Timber Press.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Can you recognize these seeds?

I try to get photos of my plants at different stages of life, which means I end up with a lot of dull photos like these. So to add a bit of intrigue, can you guess what species these seeds are? Right now they are indistinguishable to the naked eye, but once they get going they will be quite distinctive!

Mystery plant A

[Photo: Seeds of mystery plant A.]This familiar member of the mint family is grown for its decorative foliage. In its native land (southeast Asia) it's a perennial, but here in Canada it is treated as an annual.

Mystery plant B

[Photo: Seeds of mystery plant B.]This member of the borage family has attractive dark green foliage, but is grown for its fragrant dark purple flowers. Here in Canada it's treated as an annual, but in its homeland, Peru, it is a perennial shrub (or sub-shrub depending on who you ask).

Gazania sprouts!

[Photo: Gazania rigens sprouts!] Tonight I decided to peek at the gazania seeds I started last week (the packet said to keep them in the dark for 7 to 14 days so I was deliberately not looking at them). It's a good thing I did because as you can see they have all sprouted, and it looks like they've been up for a while. They're awfully etiolated but hopefully they'll be able to recover now that they're under the lights.

Monday, February 21, 2011

First annual seeds of 2011: Gazania rigens 'Daybreak Pink Shades'

[Photo: Gazania rigens seeds, with Canadian penny for scale.]While native plants are my passion, I can't resist growing some annuals from seeds as well, especially since most natives need a few years to grow from seed to flowering size.

This is my first attempt at growing Gazania rigens (gazania or treasure-flower, gazanie) from seed (or any other way). Gazanias are low growing brightly coloured daisies (these ones are pink), and I'm hoping that like other daisies they will be attractive to pollinators as well as humans. G. rigens is native to South Africa and Mozambique, and grows as a weed in Australia, but has not naturalized in North America.

I was surprised by the pale yellow colour of these seeds; they don't look ripe somehow. According to the package they need a week or two of darkness to germinate, which is just as well as I haven't figured out where I'm going to set my lights up yet. They're currently sown in flats hidden in one of my kitchen cupboards!

PS: The natives I've started so far are Agastache foeniculum, Allium cernuum, Anemone virginiana, Aquilegia canadensis, Asclepias sp. (syriaca?), Asclepias tuberosa, Baptisia australis, Cephalanthus occidentalis, Desmodium canadense, and Helenium autumnale. They're stratifying in flats outdoors, hopefully they will get enough cold weather before spring starts in earnest.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snowy owl in the garden!

[Photo: owl snow sculpture © Nicky Sztybel and Rosemary Amey.]Although theoretically we live in its winter range, I'm not sure if snowy owls (Bubo scandiacus, harfang des neiges) live in Toronto any more. (Apparently there are some owls here though, check out these sweet photos of owls in Toronto by Jean Iron.)

Nicky and I took advantage of the recent "extreme" snowstorm here in Toronto (which would have been considered perfectly ordinary February weather where I grew up in the Ottawa Valley) to create this snow scupture (obviously we weren't looking at an image of a real snowy owl when we did it!). The coloured parts were done with Wilton Icing Colors in Lemon Yellow, Black, and mixture of Lemon Yellow and Christmas Red, available at Bulk Barn. I don't know if I'll try adding colour to a snow sculpture again; the colour kept bleeding, and I kept having to scoop out areas and replace them with fresh snow.

Here's a nostalgia-inducing video about the snowy owl from the Canadian Wildlife Federation's classic Hinterland Who's Who series of PSAs. (Regular readers, I'm sorry I've been away from the blog so long. My fibromyalgia flared up in early autumn and for a while I forgot that I even had a garden, never mind a garden blog! And of course although this blog is supposed to be about gardening all year round, winter is not really prime gardening time in Toronto. But I'm feeling better now and have a whole backlog of photos to post, and there are exciting things coming up in terms of garlic mustard eradication in High Park later this year!)

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