13 Oct 2014

Garden of Giving Thanks

This is a post of thanksgiving! It doesn't include your traditional family, nor turkey dinners and pumpkin pie - but rather a very special garden [to me at least!] and the people who helped inspire and bring it to fruition, and who actually assist me in its continuous evolution.

It was my Grandparents, and my Grandmother in specific who introduced me to the wondrous magic of the 'darkling wood' of Sombra Twsp as a child. The genus Arisaema was the very first I learned to identify, and as such, it has remained a life-long fascination for me! Our NA native A.triphyllum happily seeds himself about every year, and there are an ever increasing number of 'cousins' being introduced.

Parents are not supposed to have 'favourites', though secretly I think we all do, given the hour of the day, and our level of stress, and as such I find my heart swelling everytime I come across the faintly blushed faces of A.candidissimum! How do you not totally fall in love!

Once upon a time, eight odd years ago, my current employer at that time pressed into my hands a book that he thought I might be interested in. I cannot help but laugh when I think back, of how he rather wittingly ensured that the 'green' [and I do not mean in the environmentally knowledgable way] acolyte standing before him would find himself ushered toward the 'dark side' within the short span of reading the first six pages of the book pictured above. If you're at all familiar with the name Daniel J Hinkley, you will also undoubtedly know the name Heronswood - a word intimately associated with a magnificent garden, and a sadly now defunct nursery in Washington.

Say no more! That damned photo in the bottom right hand cover of the dust jacket ignited a full on hortgasm inspired obsession for me! 'Sweet baby Jesus, what is that startlingly blue flower, and more importantly, how do I get my hands on one? Of course said plant is none other than one of the pinnacles of accomplishment for obsessed gardeners like myself - hell, we've even designated a scale of 'worthiness' if I am truthful: if a plant is held in high enough esteem, it is often referred to as being part of the elusive 'holy grail' - and if there was ever a plant to deserve such a designation, it is most definitely Meconopsis - specifically those with the sublime blue of the photo above, which, for the record is from my own garden! Please. No applause until the end of the post..... thank you! [LOL]

The next recipient of thanks is the mastermind behind one of Ontario's best woodland garden nurseries, not to mention a display garden that can best be described as 'a magnet for repetitive hortgasms!' I see I might be confusing some of you with the word 'hortgasm' - a brief definition:

'The sudden state of mind and body that may include the following - a sudden tightening of the chest cavity, followed by successive heart palpitations, a sudden sweat, dizziness, shortness of breath all occurring in quick succession after viewing a particular plant or collection of plants in a defined space.'

Welcome to paradise, conveniently located in nearby Acton, Ontario! Larry Davidson is a plantsman with a decidedly shady disposition, and as such, Lost Horizons, his woodland plant nursery is home to a staggering selection of plants that also share his passion for all things woodland: they are indeed the best examples of 'shady characters' bar none! The plantings that make up the display gardens are unlike anything pumped out by the 'landscrapers' of today. Each plant is hand selected, an intimacy between plantsman and chosen plant that reflects knowledge, respect and an awareness towards aesthetics - a key component that too often supersedes those aforementioned. The perfect balance, the harmony if you will shines through in aces when you see the garden first hand!

Lost Horizon, as mentioned, is first and foremost a woodland plant nursery - one that coincidentally is home to an inventory of what can best be described as 'rare and unusual perennials!' Did you not see those exact words somewhere else within this post? Skip back - I will wait for you! With an inventory of some three odd thousand plants - yes, you read that number correctly, and with three quarters of said number made up of hortgasm worthy shady characters, not to mention a generous spattering of said 'Holy Grail' selections - Sweet Baby Jesus! All I am going to say! Well no. I lie! I should add that for close to two garden seasons, LH was where I spent my working days. As shy and elusive as Larry's reputation claims, he practically guided me by the hand, step by step through his display gardens and numerous hoop houses, introducing me to his 'green family!' The aforementioned book? It was the proverbial snare~!

Which brings us full circle: three influential individuals, each an essential part of said circle: My Grandmother; a plantsman/author extraordinaire; a plantsman whose nursery inventory allowed for Teza's Garden to be born. It would be remiss if I did not also mention gardening compatriot Barry Parker, whose generous gift of what remains one my my personal favourites, not to mention a favourite among garden visitors: Polygonatum has never looked so darkly shady as does my beloved 'Betberg.' I am also largely indebted to my current employers at Cedar Spring Nursery in neighboring Elora, both of whom were willing to bring a notoriously shady character into their fold. The creation of the numerous display gardens has been a divine pleasure to be a part of! Here then are a few candid shots of some of my 'family' for you this Thanksgiving Day!

23 Sep 2014

In The Gloaming of Gentle Decay

A new flush of foliage on Miss Grace [Cotinus coggygria 'Grace'] has been eliciting gasps and finger pointing from people walking down the street, wanting to know what kind of tree it is. Thanks to annual coppicing when it was but a mere shrub, it does in fact resemble a tree. I have seen this genus available as a grafted specimen.

Only yesterday I was worrying about where I was going to plant the newest Acer specimen - A.pseudoplatanus 'Eskimo Sunset' - and it wasn't until I realized that with his cream coloured foliage, he would look rather stunning planted at the base of the aforementioned Cotinus. Of course when I turned one of his leaves over to reveal the startlingly claret underside.... it was a no brainer. I still cannot get over the fact that this diminutive selection is not more popular. [Must remember to reserve two or three with Darren before he places his Spring order, as I am sure once folks realize how extraordinary it is, they will be knocking the doors down next year! 

This is also the time of year when my Actaea [formerly Cimicifuga, a name I much prefer!] is in glorious bloom. The flowers ar such a pristine white, at a time when the existing whites are all looking beige and faded. And then there is the olfactory overload, thanks to the delicate sweet fragrance that they emit. Its another of the 'must have' selections, especially for those looking not only for height, late season bloom, but for fragrance! Pure heavenly sublimation!

It helps that the camera has a love affair with them as well, although all of the photos in this post come via my iPhone and not my trusted DSLR.

Grace would perhaps feel at home with the pinks in the next photos. I despise its name. but love the blooms of Hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky!' Damned teletubbies! 

Paeonia mlokosewitschii, affectionately known also as 'Molly The Witch' has the most unique seed pods! This one is fully opened where the remaining dozen or so [this was the best year for bloom, even if they were more pink than yellow!] all resemble smiling mouths filled with pink teeth! Most bizarre indeed!

The gentle decline isn't being so gentle in my favourite section of the garden. There is a lot of brown, decayed leaves, and while you cannot make them out very clearly, the bare stems of my beloved Anemonopsis macrophylla bring a certain pall and sadness to my heart! I wait ever so patiently for it to bloom every Summer, and then turn around to see empty stems! Sigh! We're supposed to have warmer temps for the next week. All Summer we went above 30 twice, and one of those days were here in September. Not that this icicle Canuck is complaining. On the contrary!

21 Sep 2014

Looking Back: Teza's Garden Highlights

When I find myself relegated to trying to make pots of Chrysanthemums look appealing, I know that the gardening season has entered its waning days. The garden is preparing itself, and is sending gardeners those first signs of its gentle decline. Its the time of year when I like to do a quick backward glance - to look back at some of my most favourite moments of the gardening season. Got to admit that four precocious Arisaema candidissimum spathes are better than one! And it looks like my serpentine Prince has seeded itself next to his cousin A.consanguineum 'Perfect Wave,' which will hopefully result in a stunning display next year! While we're on the subject of serpents in the garden, both A. thunbergii var 'Urashima' and A.consanguineum var. liubaense put forth stellar performances this year - largely in part thanks to the cooler, damp conditions that prevailed for most of the summer. This gardener was most grateful! And one must not forget the tender hearted A.griffithii [last photo in my serpent series] which I was able to watch grow in a pot during the early days of April here in my room. Grew me a serpent. [Wow! If ever I was misquoted it was that posting! LOL!] 

I was thrilled to discover that once a Veratrum nigrum flowers, [sometimes they can take between five and seven years!] it seems to continue to do so with each successive year! I bought this sublime plant solely for its enchanting deeply pleated light green foliage, hoping it would create a foil for the more ubiquitous, boring Hosta specimens that were planted the year I started the garden. When it flowered for the first time last Summer, I was immediately smitten with its long, wand-like stems that are topped with deep wine infused flowers that resemble miniature stars. This year, the second of my plants bloomed most prolifically. I even managed to rescue some seed!

I try not to show favouritism when it comes to the 'children,' but I would be lying if I said I did not have a personal favourite! I spend the better part of a month each year waiting on my most prized and beloved Anemonopsis to bloom. I spent five long, tortuous years for him to bloom, and now, he continues to blindside me with his stunning beauty! I am not sure who is enjoying this annual love affair more, me or my trusted camera. I can spend hours creating a visual montage of this plant alone!

Truly, I could continue showing photos from this year alone, but I sense the other kids are getting a tad jealous of my obsession! Moving right along....

Epimedium x 'Windfire,' the latest addition of yet another obsession of mine caused his fair share of 'stir' with visitors this year! It had everything to do with the deep wine wiry stems that were topped with bright yellow spidery looking flowers, each with what appeared to be a droplet of blood where the flower meets the stem. He is a diminutive wee guy, but believe you me, he sure knows how to bring conversation to a screeching halt, followed by, 'whatever is that?'

My Bletilla striata, a sublime Japanese terrestrial orchid, outperformed itself this year! He can be notoriously petulant, disappearing if the soil does not meet his exacting specifications - high in organic content, slightly acidic, and never allowed to dry out. Seems like everything was to his liking this year. He was literally everywhere I turned, and trust me, I am not complaining in the least!

It was a stunning year for foliage, especially in the shaded and protected section between my and the neighbouring house. I'd relegated my Acer shirasawamum 'Aureum' to this section last Fall - confident that he would have a better chance of surviving the winter in the ground and not the pot where he had resided for the season on my veranda. I had intentions of repotting him this Spring, but noticed what a wonderful contrast his foliage made against the wine coloured siding on the house. He also created a beacon of fabulous chartreuseness that beckoned people forth from the walkway. 

The same can be said of Acer campestre 'Carnival' - my super sweet dwarf variegated hedge Maple that was my very first indulgent purchase. I was shocked that so small a shrub could cause such a hefty dent to the pocketbook, but five years later I find myself loving him even more!

A whirlwind trip to Whistling Gardens in May netted me my third prized Acer. I have been enamoured of Acer pseudoplatanus 'Eskimo Sunset' since I first laid eyes on it four years ago, and when I spotted a lonely single specimen in a three gallon pot, well lets just say I'm now contemplating where I will plant him for the winter. Uh huh! Another pot head during the season. The stunning foliage, cream with green veining on one side, and a deep claret colour on the reverse..... its a hortgasm waiting to happen!

These are but a few of the highlights of the year. What were some of the moments in your garden that brought you to your knees?