Saturday, April 7, 2012

A walk in the forest

I haven't been blogging lately or even thinking much about plants because my son is seriously ill and it is weighing heavily on my mind, but yesterday I finally got out to my local forest, E. T. Seton Park.

This is a forest under a lot of stress—huge quantities of litter (and one unofficial garbage dump area), loads of dog strangling vine, some garlic mustard, soil compaction from improvised footpaths/bicycle trails, serious erosion. I found only two plants in bloom (not surprising this early in the year), neither of them native: [Photo: Tussilago farfara.]

(above) Tussilago farfara (coltsfoot, pas-d'âne, tussilage). [Photo: Narcissus.]

(above) Narcissus 'Tête-à-Tête' (I'm guessing). Clearly someone has done a bit of guerilla gardening. I don't think it is a good idea to introduce non-natives in wilderness areas, but this little clump of daffodils is the least of this forest's problems.

I think this fern must be native, though I am lousy at fern identification: [Photo: mystery fern]

And I was very pleased to see this native coming up: [Photo: leaves of Erythronium americanum.]

(above) Erythronium americanum (trout lily, dog-tooth violet, érythrone d'Amérique).

The forest was disturbingly quiet—I heard only one bird (a red-winged blackbird, though I didn't see him or her). I saw only one black squirrel, how sad is that? I did see an intriguing sign that another, larger mammal was around recently: [Photo: gnawing marks on tree.] This doesn't look quite like the beaver gnaw marks I'm used to. Could it be from deer?

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!

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