Friday, September 30, 2011

In Love With Wales: Reason #2 Rock

Driving from England into Wales I was in for a big surprise. While brick is big in England because they have the clay soils for making it, the big thing in Wales is rock, specifically blue slate. What can you do with rock?

A. You can build rock walls such as this one at Bodysgallen Hall.
B. You can plant rock walls with Zauschneria californica (seen at Bodnant Gardens)

C. You can pave , make shingles or plant labels with stone.
D. You can build a barn, home or castle such as this barn from the holiday home of children's author Beatrix Potter at Gwaenynog Hall in Denbigh
E. You can build a famous site such as Stone Henge (After leaving Wales I found out that the famous Welsh rock was transported to Stone Henge in England during prehistoric times)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In Love With Wales: #1

Oh Wales, your rainy reputation preceded you and it just wasn't true. I am just back from a fabulous trip to see you in September (thank-you Visit Wales!) and the first thing I packed to bring with me was a raincoat. Since my return home people keep asking mean things about you: "Was it raining every day?", they inquire.

In fact the small group of elite garden writers invited to visit you, Wales, all came away with a new respect for your tiny footprint in the U.K. Yes it was green but we didn't see much of your widely reported rain. The food was fabulous, the scenery was varied, and the gardens were great. When we departed from the bus we had softly overcast skies, perfect for photography. My husband claims it never rains on the golf course. I claim the same for you Wales.(Photo 1: My little private cottage in Bodysgallen)

Over the next several days I will write about and show the ten things I loved most about you Wales. Today I share the unpublished wonders of the first night's hotel: Bodysgallen Hall & Spa. In a word: WOW. Is it a grand hotel or simply a lush garden? I can't decide.

(Photo 2: The big picture- a view of the hall and garden from the far end of the garden)
(Photo 3- A view of the herb garden)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Yes- it is aster time again

My neighbor complained his whole garden came and went again one weekend in mid-summer while he was away. "It was a real disappointment" he said.

I have decided that in my advanced years (yes I turn 55 later this year) I will no longer put all my eggs in one basket - will no longer plant only annuals or some mid-summer beauty that catches my eye in July. Forget about the traditional spring summer and fall. I decided to really enjoy all the various seasons such as peony season,lily season, helenium season, hydrangea season and now finally - Aster season.

If you happen to stroll by please take a peak at my Professor Kippenburg fall asters .... they are hardy and pretty. They have brilliant purple ray flowers with a yellow eye, and they are a super source of bee food in the waning season of fall blooms. Why not squeeze a few asters into your own garden next spring? They are lovely little shrub-like fine textured plants until the day they bust out and bloom all over.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Spring Bulbs Peaking Through

It's a mystery how plants know it is time to emerge but the first time I saw my Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) emerging in the fall I panicked. I knew this was a spring bulb- a little beauty known for it's blue grape-like clusters of blooms. I had seen it in other gardens and rather than being jealous I decided to jump in with joy.... I planted a couple hundred of them all at once. They are so easy to toss on the soft fall soil and push in about an inch with a quick finger poke.

In a few seasons little guys spread to make clusters and provide a month of pure joy in late May. They are not the earliest source of colour- at least a month after Hepatica or Bloodroot - but they are a pleasant surprise in between the earlies and the mid-June Peonies. So when I see them coming up in fall it reminds me where they are and I don't accidentally plant over them!

Here is a picture of what they will look like in spring beside the bloodroot leaves that emerge after their white blooms finish:

Friday, September 9, 2011

And Speaking of Annuals

Okay - a mother shouldn't play favorites and a gardener shouldn't either. But gardeners are only human and sometimes a plant comes along that surprises and delights you. Just when you were looking for a filler you find a new favorite.

I know gardeners want to know about new flowers in the spring not the fall but this one came from behind the pack - bought at Superstore no less- to surprise me with its vigor. In a summer defined by cold rain in June and July I tucked a few new plants between the other experimentals. Imagine my surprise when a plant I have never used before grew rapidly in shade and sun - dashing past all the presumed better plants to win the race and my heart?

With the crazy long name (Dorotheanthus bellidiformes) this trademarked Mezoo is gonna find a place wherever I need vigorous colour and carefree attitude (which is everywhere) in sun or shade. It barely needs water but if it gets it watch out. I like the thought of it spilling off my balcony next year instead of those wimpy petunias that barely made it past the starting gate and sulked for weeks in damp weather.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Calgary gardener's are used to a sharp cold snap and then a warm fall. This year we got the warm September without the cold. We had very few warm days in July and August but it looks like summer is finally here in September.

Will this be a problem for plants? Nah- they love this chance to keep blooming and growing new leaves and save up more energy for the big winter ahead. Some plants are triggered to do their winter prep thing by the shortened days and cooler nights. Yes even though it is plus thirty in the day it is still dipping to single digits at night.

This has triggered my Tiger Eyes Sumac (above and at top) to begin changing colour. Most of the other plants are just soaking in the sun, trying to squeeze in another flower. For the record I have clipped off the tomato blooms- it is just too late to even hope for more fruit so I am letting the plants ripen the fruit they have but not letting any more form.

Gardeners wonder if they have to keep watering trees and shrubs in fall and I say yes- don't let plants wilt. If they wilt, they are stressed and then they attract bugs and other problems. Keep up the moisture and don't shut down the irrigation too soon. It is not true that we need to stop watering to harden plants up- that is just Guff. And speaking of Guff- I sold a ton of books at the BBQ on the Bow this weekend. What fun to meet and greet so many CBC listeners! Hello to all!