Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The cheque's in the mail

I've committed myself now: payment is in the mail for three horticulture courses at the University of Guelph. I'm looking forward to this -- it should be a great deal of fun.

The weather has taken a decidedly autumnal turn this week. Rain (about twice as much as we got from Isabel) and cooler temperatures. I haven't tackled the rest of the lamium, yet. I've just sat out back and looked sullenly at it. I keep forgetting to buy garden gloves at lunchtime. Web searching has turned up some very toxic ways to get rid of fire ants. Ugh. What else might I poison by accident? I think I might just try stirring them up on a daily basis until they leave.

The tuberose flowers keep opening. Here's another photo of it.

Not much else to report. It's getting dark before 7pm, which really doesn't leave much time for gardening in the evening.

I ordered spring bulbs for the rooftop garden at work; if I remember to bring the catalogue home, I'll order some for here, too. One big difference between the office garden and here: the office garden doesn't usually get squirrels chomping crocus heads off. I'm tempted to get some lovely globular tall alliums to plant in with the Japanese anemones, since those don't even start growing seriously until late July. A row of upright, tall, soldierly flowers will look pleasing at the back of the garden. And deep purple will contrast nicely with the green and white of the porch.


Saturday, September 20, 2003


Got up, had a coffee and read the paper, went out for brunch, and then decided it was time to do some things in the garden. it was perfect weather for it today: a mix of sun and cloud, a little cool, no wind, and low humidity. Great day for bustling around and doing things.

First thing, Ash and I went to the local garden center and bought some icicle pansies, as I threatened to do yesterday. So now there are icicle pansies in the two urns at the foot of the front stairs, in the window box, and in some little trails through the rose garden in the front yard. They'll help provide good color after the roses pack it in, although I'm still expecting more blooms this fall.

After planting, I decided to check out the back yard for damage from the storm yesterday. Ash had already been out there, so the garden furniture and potted plants were all back in their proper places (the wind really hadn't been all that bad). Not much damage to report: a few twigs with leaves from the male cottonwood tree two yards over; a broken hibiscus flower, a bent rose blossom, and some Michaelmas daisies and obedience plants that need restaking.

The tuberose came through it unscathed. I managed to get a good shot of it today. Notice to photographers: I had to close it 1.5 stops to stop the flower from blowing out.
Have a look!

Photography over and done with, it was time to do some fall clean-up. I pulled some weeds, cut back the bergamot, gave the weigela a trimming, and then took a look at the lamium. Lamium maculatum is an attractive ground cover, with green and white leaves and little pink flowers. It does well in the shade, which is where I've got it planted. I should have read up on it before I bought it, however: "in ideal situations may be quite vigorous." It sure is.

I decided it was time to rip out a few sections of it before it took over and killed everything else in the garden (especially my bleeding heart plant, which just went in this spring). Grab, pull, and use the secaturs to snip at an appropriate place along the length of it.

Suddenly my left hand (that which was holding the plant bits, roots, and dirt) was stinging.

I have fire ants.

I've always hated wearing gloves while gardening (unless I was pruning roses, and even then, I took the gloves off as soon as I could). I think I need to buy a good pair of gardening gloves that come up to about my elbow, and seal around the arm, so I can finish removing the Lamium.

Any one know how to kill fire ants? The way they were moving around, I think I must have disturbed a nest when I uprooted some strands.


Friday, September 19, 2003

Weather forecast: sunny and mild

OK, the remainders of Hurricane Isabel have gone through: the air outside is calm and cool, and the rain has stopped, thank goodness. I didn't want to have to deal with a flooded basement this weekend.

Of course, it is thoroughly dark outside now, so I can't check everything, but (while it was still raining at 6:00) it seemed that everything had made it through the storm without any problems. Some of the roses that are getting long-of-cane got whipped around a bit, but I don't think anything broke.

I did take a few precautions:

  • All garden furniture was moved to the deck, stacked, and laid on the deck so it wouldn't blow over.
  • All potted plants were moved up against a wall, and away from steps and precipices.
  • The pot of tuberoses has been moved to a nice sheltered area so it won't fall over and have the flower stalk broken

There is still only one flower on the tuberose open, but the next two going up the stem are ready to open. I tried taking a picture of it two evenings ago, but the dimness of light lead me to overexpose, so I need to take another iimage, and this time -- compensate for the fact that I'm trying to take a picture of a white flower by dropping the exposure by half or a whole stop. If I take it in the morning with some indirect light, that might work. Then you'll be able to see it. I wish I could electronically transmit the smell of it: it really is wondrously fragrant.

More gardening to be done tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it. Maybe I should get some little icicle pansies to replace some woeful petunias, as Kathy Renwald recommended in her article in the Globe and Mail this week.


Thursday, September 18, 2003

hooray. i have been accepted as a trainee to the Master Gardener program in Toronto. Now I have to successfully complete three courses (Horticulture 1, 2 and 3) at the University of Guelph by correspondence. I think I can do that :-D

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Intimations of things to come

I made the little fence for the Japanese anemones yesterday. I didn't verdigris it after all -- I read the instructions and cautions on the bottle of the verdigris solution, and wondered what the heck I was thinking when I bought it. Toxic! Watch out for splashes! Warning! I decided not to use a toxic solution to green the metal, since rain would wash the remnants of the solution into the soil, and possibly into the goldfish pond.

I brushed about a cup of vinegar on it to get it started -- nature will have to do the rest.

Didn't spend too much time outside today; had some indoor chores that needed to be done (like modifying and putting up a fireplace mantel).

I did go out and inspect things, however; and the tuberose is getting very close to opening its buds. I smelled it -- Ash smelled it. We agreed. It smelled, even in its bud state, like the gardenia we used to have.

It was a wonderful little gardenia -- we brought it indoors every winter, took it out again in late spring. Not winter hardy way up here, of course. It had very nicely glossy leaves, and white flowers, about the size of a toonie, that could provide fragrance for the whole back deck on a muggy summer night. Something made it unhappy last winter, and it died back from its roots on up. I'll have to see if I can get another one to replace it. We had it for about five years.

Well, time to do some research for fall bulbs, and to find out how to treat the tuberose over winter!

Saturday, September 13, 2003

OK, I've been interviewed. The interviewing process continues until Monday night, and Tuesday morning they will mail out acceptances and rejections. With any luck, I should hear from them, one way or another, by the end of the week.

On the way home, Ash and I stopped at the brick yard, on Bayview Road. Some lovely wildflowers are in bloom, as are a couple of water lilies here and there.

Now that I'm home, it's time to do some work. I have some left-over 1/2 inch copper pipe from a trellis I made, so I'm going to make a little fence around the Japanese anemones in the front garden to keep them from falling over. I think the fence will be more attractive than tieing them up, which is what we usually do. Copper pipe, a T joint, two elbows, a pipe cutter, copper epoxy... and maybe I'll verdigris it before I put it up. Yes, that should be quite attractive with the dark green foliage and light purple flowers, I think :-D
Gardening at this time of year consists mostly of making sure the plants are watered, the weeds are pulled, and sitting back and enjoying. Some of my clematis are in bloom again, and the Brother Cadfael roses growing over the arbour in the back yard are doing much better than they were earlier in the season, when we had a heat wave. The poor things would get about half open, and then give up and shrivel, without dropping any petals. Mushy balled-up tissues is what they looked like. But that was back in July. Now they are beautiful, and getting very high on canes that are reaching 8 feet.

I planted pennyroyal between the slates on the back walkway this year. I tried doing it last year, too, but it all died. It may have been our unusually hard winter, which, once it was over, returned, double-shocking plants that had begun to grow, but the pennyroyal all died. So, never heeding a lesson, I bought more this spring, and replanted it with high hopes. Unlike last year, where it stayed close to the ground, it has grown vertically, to a height of about 4 inches, and how has small purple flowerets. It smells wonderful when walked on, releasing the most wonderful minty smells. I'll have to see in the spring if it survived, or if I need to switch to hardier plants, like some of the creeping thymes. I've got some lovely moss growing between the stones now, so if that continues, the combination of plantings and moss will look quite attractive.

Another purchase this year was some tuberose bulbs. Planted around May 20th, moved outside in June, two of the plants got fairly munched by either squirrels or raccoons. One survived intact, and now has a flower stalk forming. It's about 4 feet high. I'm looking forward to seeing (and smelling) it.

One task I must do within the next week is order spring bulbs so I can get them in the ground next month. I have left it, in the past, until late November or early December before I've planted, but that really doesn't give the bulbs a chance to develop any roots before frost hits hard. There are some types of bulbs that are just not going to get planted in my yard, however: no crocuses, even though I love them. Why? Because the darn squirrels love them, too! As fast as the flowers open, the squirrels come, spot them, think to themselves "ooooh, look! a crocus! I think I like the taste of crocus flowers!" and then they bite the flower head off, change their minds, and spit them out. Carnage, total carnage. They do the same with a tulip flower or two, but usually don't go after them with the same fervour as crocus.

Today I'm off to Edward's Gardens (The Toronto Botanical Gardens, it's called now). I've got an interview to become a master-gardener-in-training, which would then entail 3 courses from the University of Guelph. Wish me luck!