Friday, August 15, 2014

The Burn

Gilbert from Redtail Vineyards lights the fire
A hot fire for a Hot day!
This is where we get to destroy... love using that word in this context... destroy the Buckthorn that I've been cutting down for the past few years.  Common Buckthorn - (Rhamnus cathartica) - was introduced to North America in the 1880's from Europe.  According to Ontario’s Invading Species Awareness Program, it was used originally as a hedgerow (useful) and as a decorative shrub (doubtful).  It grows quickly in full sun or shade and its stems and branches have very sharp thorns.  I know... my legs and arms can prove it!  So perfect to use as a pasture border, right?  To keep sheep and cows in, and other critters out?  Problem is it sets a prodigious number of seeds every year.  By prodigious, I mean this year there are gazillions  of inch high seedlings everywhere on the property the lawnmower doesn't get.  Its roots quickly reach down and take firm hold of the soil making it difficult to pull out.  It chokes out other plants and, to top it off, even birds don't seem to have much use for the berries.

So I cut it down, treat the stump with a weed killer and last Monday burned the suckers into a tiny pile of ash.  The top photo is Smokey and our friend Mags and her dog Skeeter enjoying it as much as I!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's Official!!

view from the back
view from the road
If there's a hole in the ground that must mean things will really happen, right?  Well, the hole got dug last week - here's the proof.  An added bonus - the Big Machine pulled out a few years (five or six years, really) worth of buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica).  I've been cutting it back and stockpiling it.  Not really knowing what to do with it.  Just happens my stockpile was in the way of the new driveway, so out it came and we celebrated with neighbours by having a bonfire yesterday.  Pictures of that to follow!  In the mean time everyone is very happy!  More good news - there was six to 12 inches of nice topsoil over most of the area - this will come in handy when it's time to spread some good soil over whatever gets built up.
Eryngium yuccifolium
Rattlesnake Master

I've changed my cover photo from the Rattlesnake Master(Eryngium yuccifolium) growing quite happily in the Lavender bed - here's an encore presentation, with a new picture of the Corner Garden.  It's now fully mature; in fact, so mature it's ready to start pulling out Echinacea and Rudbeckia and planting elsewhere.  Good news for the new gardens to go in around the house eh?

With thanks to our neighbours Pauline and Gilbert from Red Tail Vineyard who provided the toast after ground breaking, and to our neighbours John and Tara who provided the bubbly (from Red Tail) for the bonfire morning!

Monday, July 28, 2014

No construction update; a new Dayliy

The fiundation was starting to collapse - front door off its hinges... a few years ago
There's nothing new to report about the construction.  Things are proceeding 'behind the scenes' though.  We obtained a demolition permit to take down the old cottage that was on the property when we purchased it.  The real estate listing said "Two bedroom cottage in need of repair" and they weren't kidding!  It was quite pretty 10 years ago but time and collapsing floor joists have made it unusable.  Also, our architect will be bringing plans for the new house to city hall this week - with luck we should have our first permits within a week.  Excavation and demolition is penciled in to start the Tuesday after Simcoe Day.

Here's another favourite Daylily just starting to bloom - a two toned one.  Plus another shot of that beautiful peach Daylily. 

Catherine Woodbury

I think, all in all, of the dozen or so varieties I have, my ultimate fave, the one I'd save if I had to move and could only take one with me, would be the elegant pink Catherine Woodbury.  It has a slight fragrance and is just so different from all the others.  I just read that it was registered in 1967 by someone named Childs.  Dave's Journal ( shows this Mr or Ms Childs producing registered cultivars from the 1950's through to the early 1980's.  How much fun he or she must have had!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


OK I know - I'm going backwards here.  The Lilacs finished blooming two months ago, right?  Right.  And wrong.  It's true the shrub most people call Lilac - Syrnga vulgaris sp. blooms in May, usually in the County around the long weekend (although this year a week or so later -my records show them starting to bloom on Partridge Hollow on May 26).  Another variety, Syrnga prestoniae, started a few weeks later and bloomed until July 1. 

The flowers of all Lilacs are in one shade or another of pink or purple, as well as white and sometimes two toned.  The difference between the two lie in the shape of the leaves and flower clusters.   You can tell the difference in these two photos - the regular common Lilac has dark green, sometimes glossy leaves and bold, vibrant, in your face (and nose!) colour and fragrance, while the Preston lilac (this one likely a James McFarlane variety) has a much more delicate perfume and and very subtle colour palette.  The leaves are paler green, almost fuzzy sometimes, and not quite as round as the S. vulgaris.

Syringa vulgaris

As far as origins go, Lilacs are native to the Balkans but quite easily naturalized throughout Europe and much of North America.  Preston Lilacs were hybridized right here in Canada, at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa in the 1920's.  They're more cold resistant and mildew resistant than other varieties, I find, and mine have never had a 'bad' flowering year compared to some years where I get very few blooms on the S. vulgaris.

Syringa prestoniae

The won't grow just anywhere - full sun is best (otherwise they'll get leggy and won't bloom as much) and they do like moist soil but not wet.  I made the mistake early on of planting a bunch of them all around the back end - where the limestone was particularly close to the surface, creating drainage problems in the spring and letting the thin layer of soil get powder dry in July and August.  Only three of an original eight bushes survive, and none of them are terrible happy.  The Preston Lilacs, on the other hand, one of them in particular, seemed to have been able to adapt, sending down roots far enough to survive the summer, and I also happened to plant them a little higher instead of level with the normal soil surface.

 I don't think I could ever get enough Lilac and plan to plant many more in the years to come.  Properly situated, of course.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


I arrived in The County this weekend to discover The Mound awash in colour, as if a hand from the clouds had reached down and, with one swoosh of a giant brush, painted it with red, yellow, orange and pink.

It's time for the Daylilies.

On the Mound, when I see the Daylilies (Hemerocallis, various species and cultivars) next to the whites of Ox Eye Daisy and in combination with the purple Echinacea and the scarlet Monarda, I find the colours to be, from close up, sometimes cacophonous and sometimes harmonious.  It varies according to the time of day and the harshness of the light.  What I've been drinking.  Elsewhere in the garden there are smallish clumps of red and yellow flowers, burgundy tetraploids, quickly expanding piles of the double orange daylily a former neighbour in Toronto gave me.  I also have two sections of the more common organge 'ditch' daylily.  I know some people don't really like them, and relegate them truly to the ditch, but I appreciate the vibrancy they give the garden at the beginning of July, both in the back garden as well as along the curve of the driveway coming in from the road.

In any event, here are a few of the beauties.

 I have a lot of yellow-ish Daylilies, and several that are variations of yellow and red.  I started many from seed, pollinating a red flower anther with pollen from the stamen of this canary yellow one.
One of the hybrids

Catherine Woodbury  the only named Daylily I have.

One of my favourites - this peach colour.

And of course the common orange 'ditch' daylily.