Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Putting this Hot and Dry Summer to Bed

There's a fine line between a chronicle and whining.  I must have abandoned more posts than I wrote this summer - my writing drought mirroring the weather.  Yes, I know I am a mere amateur in the professional world of hot and dry experienced by my southern gardener friends, but this year it has been fierce.  The only good thing about the summer was the lack of maintenance the garden needed:  the lawn was dormant; the weeds stunted; no need for dead-heading the annuals - those seeds that germinated and became plants, never bloomed.  The only exception was the pots that needed to be watered often and for greater periods of time.

Fortunately the winds and weather patterns have shifted over North America - there are cooler temperatures and weekly water in the forecast.  I thought it might be a great idea to give you a little taste of the summer and, like a less-than-perfect meal, put it behind me and get on with all the garden maintenance I need to do now that life has returned to the garden.

Rather than my own garden, let's take a look at the happenings at my mother ship, the Royal Botanical Gardens.  On August 8th, when the temperature finally dipped below 32C (90F) - Kevin and I headed over to the Cherry Hill Trail.  The trail, that is often wet in spots was cracked and dry.  Look at these water lilies - normally these pads would be floating on the water.  On this day they simply stood naked above the muck.  (Several weeks later, they had all collapsed into a black mess.)

Although, I suppose it might have been a little easier fishing for some of the birds.

And there were more places to sun for the turtles.

While it wasn't as obvious that the water was low here....

Take a look at this:

To compare, here's a photograph I took exactly a year ago.  Obviously this area dries out somewhat in August, but this is really extreme.

What is doing well is the new Rock Garden.  There are big masses of low maintenance plants meant to withstand hot and dry - perfect for this year.  The mass plantings designed by Janet Rosenberg are doing what they're supposed to be doing - thriving.

The water features all had to be re-built as well - this was the first time I saw some of the fancy tropical water lilies blooming.

Best of all, every time I visited this summer, the parking lot seemed fuller - just had to capture these folks and their pretty daughters using the hibiscus as temporary hair ornamentation:

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend an event put together by the Ontario Invasive Plant Council and the Royal Botanical Gardens.   The OIPC are the folks who put together the terrific Grow Me Instead Guides with Landscape Ontario.

It was an event primarily for landscape professionals/growers to learn more and exchange ideas about invasive plants for the horticulture industry.

The Royal Botanical Garden because of the size of its collection and acres of undeveloped land can be the canary in the coal mine when it comes new invasive species.  There are various factors including the change in weather and loss of species (what moves in when the Ash trees leave?).  So off we set to the edge of the Magnolia collection to see first-hand a potential new invasive.  We were given a presentation and shown thickets of Magnolia kobus establishing themselves both by seed and by underground roots.

Here was a fun discovery, our guide Jon Peter from the RBG showing a native Apios strangling an invasive....

Aren't these cool flowers - great scent too.

After our hike around Cootes Paradise we all sat down for lunch.  Can you say lunch-bag-let-down?  I suspect they've seen the size of my hips - my lunch:  one fork, one straw, one peach (fabulous this year), one bag of apple chips and one granola bar.  Dear Anne Marie Van Nest shared her peach with me.

Proof positive it has been the year for plants that like it hot and dry - a parking-lot display garden outside the RBG.

I'll be going outside shortly to start to work on my garden (and hopefully plant some red and white tulips in honour of Canada's 150th birthday!).  I will make my notes and take some pictures.  I need to see what's done well, and what's been a bust.  Nothing better than having my own laboratory right outside my door.

I'll leave you with one last look of a typical summer evening this year in downtown Oakville.  I'll keep this photo in mind when the snow begins to fly.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Our 5th Annual Shuffle Off to Buffalo!

The last weekend of July is the Buffalo Garden Walk.  It's our tradition to go down for an overnight so that we can see as many gardens as possible.  This year, being a special birthday, we decided to go early and stay an extra night in order to do a couple more/different things.  Mum was kind enough to come out to spoil Bart and Hercules.

We booked a tour of Graycliff - the Martin summer home on Lake Erie - about 25 minutes or so out of Buffalo and a very easy drive.  We've both read a lot about Frank Lloyd Wright and seen photos of his homes, but never been inside one.

You aren't permitted to take photos of the interior, so you'll just have to take my word for it that the two-hour tour was great. Carol, our docent, did a superb job explaining the history of the building; the acquisition by the conservancy and the restoration.  The home looks very large on the outside, and yet inside it seems small - certainly by today's standards of "rich people's homes" - the rooms were tiny - bedrooms big enough for a bed, closet and washroom; kitchen utilitarian, small, but with the mod-coms of the day.  Even in spaces where there were higher ceilings, it still felt small.  It left me wanting to see more of his buildings.  The views, as Mrs. Martin had insisted were fantastic from every room.  

The garden certainly didn't interfere with the structure or make it any less impressive.  It's a place you visit to see the building and hear about it, not luxuriate in a garden.  These are cut and come Zinnias that were planted to the far left of the home for colour inside and outside the home.

The water feature from the front of the building looking into the property.

Cameras came out on the upper bedroom floor:

Ah, the whims of the wealthy - a window in a fireplace!

The fireplace had to be completely rebuilt - note the numbers to aid putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

When F.L.W. was in the slammer - Mr. Martin used the opportunity to go to Bethlehem Steel and order this less-than-elegant-although-effective platform down to the beach.  The walkway that spanned the gap has been removed.

The Brothers who owned the building had bricked this area up for a chapel - part of the restoration brought it back to its 1929 glory.

On the way back we stopped off at the Public House - it was written up in the local paper and given a great rating - the outside is a little biker-bar-ish and without a recommendation, we might have continued on.  When we got inside to put our name down for a table there was a 45 minute wait - fortunately 6 grumpy people stormed off declaring that no restaurant was worth that kind of a wait, and so presto! our wait was less than 10 minutes.

And when we did get in - this was our view.  Not bad.  Food was very good - and an excellent selection of craft beer.  Nothing like an afternoon sitting up a'top a cliff overlooking a Great Lake.

Back into Buffalo on Saturday we did an abbreviated Garden Walk starting up around Soldiers Circle.  

Our first garden involved tiptoeing down a pathway with Kevin saying, "Are you sure this place is on the tour?"  Of course it was - had a discussion with the gardener about the drought and the struggle to have plants look good for this weekend. It looked great.

Melton Manor was a walk-around garden.  What a fantastic old building (1905) and what a great garden:

Who wouldn't want to live here?

Again, for anyone who has yet to go on the walk, not only are the tour gardens great, you'll see plenty pretty gardens and lovely homes along the route.

How's this for a dedicated flower-basket waterer!

Lisianthus - such a pretty plant

And for those of you who prefer pink.  Here you go:

The dahlias were against the neighbour's home, but Kevin wasn't going to move until I took a photo of them.

Pretty from every angle.

Kevin wanted to know if there was a apparatus that was suspended over this full garden to weed - I'm thinking, if you plant it this full, you need never weed ever again.

Trim and matching red flowers - excellent.

Those on the tour have the option of showcasing their front, their side, or their back garden - or sometimes all three.    This was a back-garden:

You're still not there....

And voila, this tidy garden:

It's not everyone who is brave enough to really have a butterfly garden with Milkweed.....but this intrepid gardener says it's all about the butterflies

and the rain garden:

We had a great chat about her garden, and she gave us a heads up about another garden on Bird Street that wasn't on the tour (they sell plants - verboten for tour gardens) and well worth the look.

Here's this remarkable garden - obviously a couple with the collecting gene:

Good colour echo:

Looks like you could use these for house-cleaning.

Lovely and stinky:

I used to grow Tithonia.  Am thinking now with all the trees I've lost, perhaps I should look at growing it again.

Selfie with Kevin in the garden:

Kevin fiddled with his phone for a bit, and I went back to see the part of the garden I'd missed:

It certainly is a summer for anything that likes it hot and dry:

Clever thing to do with a smoke bush - when they're not smoking, they can be rather dull, but if you cut off their arms, look at how the new appendages show off.

A few more bits before I joined Kevin out on the street:

And a Frank Lloyd Wright home that it would appear, someone actually lives in.  I covet that planter.

Lots of colour and care involved in this little paradise:

No room for a vegetable garden you say....this one is on top of their garage:

This is the back garden:

Blooming right on cue.

This is the part of the garden that leads down to the back garden:

Another couple of shots of the front garden:

This gardener has a bright sunny front garden and deep shade section in the back - I asked if I might take her photo in her favourite part of the garden:

Appreciated for its beauty by gardeners, visitors and neighbourhood pussy cats:

We visited one more garden before we headed over to see Jim's new shed, and of course Jim, from Art of Gardening.  These were just random delightful gardens on the way...

How could I not have my photo taken with the buffalo?

So it was back to the car, grab a sandwich at the Co-op and over to Jim's house.  It was looking fabulous as you would expect it to:

and of course, the shed:

We had a great couple of days and saw lots of fabulous Buffalo gardens and gardeners.  I'm clearing the calendar for next year.  Whether we spend two full days just touring gardens, or a hit and run like we did this year, this is one event not to be missed.