14 Aug 2014

Family Photo Day

I am constantly being teased. What? No gasps of shock? No chastisements? At this rate I might just flag my blog as *private* and seek out a corner in a round room and sulk! Of course then I would only be confirming what so many of my friends have said about me for years! And what the hell is wrong with being a Prima donna? A gardener who knows anything about gardening ensures that they have at least one Prima donna per border. So, getting back on track. I am constantly being teased because the iPhone that I inherited is never used as a phone. Primarily it is my dare I use the term, updated 'walkman?' And when it isn't being used for music, its being used as a camera. I think I have had maybe a dozen incoming phone calls since I inherited it, and yeah, I have missed every one of them, or was listening to music and didn't know how to toggle between phone and music [the new Monster headphones have remedied that quite nicely thank you!] and therefore missed the call. Today, DAY SIX of my official 'vacation' found me bringing out the big guns [as in camera] in order to try and compile series a family portraits of my 'children.' Like any proud parent, I like to boast about them when I get the chance. True, another element of unending teasing is that I have zero photos on my iPhone that include 'humanoids' as my nephew calls us. Am I missing something?

 I always love when Thalictrum delavayi 'Splendide' is in bloom. Aside of his ever increasing stature with each passing season, to me, especially when looking through the lens of my Nikon, it looks like I am standing in the midst of a pink snowstorm! Each opalescent pearly pink flower and bud is slightly different from its neighbour, and when it is breezy, such as it has been all day, what you see through the lens is nothing short of a whirling dervish! 

Hydrangea paniculata 'Dvppinky' is better known as 'Pinky Winky' which instantly transports me back to a time when I used to look after my nephews when they were but wee tots [aged 18 and 15 currently!] and we would watch Teletubbies which of course included a character with the exact same name! While his stems are a deep wine colour, which is striking against his chlorotic golden foliage [he is planted in the one section of the property that is consistently moist thanks to a sump pump drainage pipe within close proximity. He is a favourite within the paniculata species, head and shoulders above the floppy blowsy looking 'Vanilla Fraise' or 'strawberry.' ['Careful Dad, you're sounding a bit snobbish again and might offend someone!] 

I always referred to Strobilanthes as an annual, and know for certain that there are multiple annual varieties, but, I am lucky enough to cultivate a fully hardy perennial species - S.attenuata 'Purpurea' whose tall, wispy, model thin stature is accentuated with stunning foliage, each leaf being slightly rippled at the outer edge. It is a mass of buds at the moment, all waiting for that magical moment when they will unfurl into deep purple ram horn shaped flowers. Somewhat reminiscent of Penstemon, with their coy open ended flowers, but with a decidedly less tubular, more horn shape to each flower. Sadly its flowers last one or two days at most, but with the proliferation of buds this year, I hope to be able to extend the bloom time by a week at the very least! I must remember to check on a daily basis and hopefully be able to capture a few posterity shots to share!

My trusty Nikon and I could, if time allowed, spend hours on end capturing the beauty that is Acer campestre 'Carnival' - a delightful dwarf  variegated version of the common 'hedge maple.' Take my word for it, there is nothing common about 'Carnival' - from his pink, cream and green variegated foliage, to his much slower, more diminutive growth habit, not to mention the fact that he is surprisingly difficult to find - especially in shrub form. Up until recently, he was my most expensive purchase in the garden, but one that, as the MC ad says, remains 'priceless' to this day! He resides in the border between the two houses, away from the harsh afternoon sun and winds which often result in severe scorch and windburn if left unattended. He had lost a few branches due to falling ice this past winter, and seemed reluctant to leaf out this Spring, but is now looking every bit the Prince that he is!

Kirengeshoma koreana is in full bloom, while three feet away, his cousin K.palmata is still holding tightly to its budded flowers. There has, in the past, been debate as to if in fact the two plants are separate species, but judging from the fact that 'koreana' is not only a taller plant, has more upright facing flowers that bloom three to four weeks earlier than his cousin, it is also possessed with a shimmery silver patina to each of its leaves that is missing from 'palmata.' For me they are definitely two distinctly different species.

I first grew Veratrum nigrum for its luscious, deeply pleated, light green foliage which made it the perfect foil for the more ubiquitous Hosta. It wasn't until I witnessed his stunning flower stalks did I realize that he has more going for him aside of being a spiffy dresser! Tall wands of deep burgundy, star shaped flowers began blooming for me in early July, and as you can see here, while a lot of the flowers have gone to seed [note to self: collect this Fall!] there remains evidence of their deep coloration. 

 Nearby are the unmistakable wands of Actaea matsumurae 'White Pearl,' a statuesque 'bugbane' or 'snakeroot' whose flowers, when they open an opalescent pinkish white, are in possession of the most intoxicating fragrance. It is too hard to put into words, but believe you me, if you have stumbled across a drift when in bloom, you will know what I mean. I always include it in garden designs where there is an outdoor seating area that affords partial shade. Clients have come in, years afterward, to comment on the indescribably fragrance that they bear witness to every Fall when it is in bloom. 

 Mauve and periwinkle are common colours in this same narrow border thanks in part to a few Hosta selections and another of my statuesque beauties - Veronicastrum virginicum 'Lavender Towers', and if truth be told, yet another two or three species of Thalictrum including 'Elin' and yes, another 'Splendide!' I love the whorled foliage of the veronicastrum, thinking that it adds a regal elegance to a plant that can be somewhat lanky in appearance! No offence 'Veronica!'

My second of three 'dwarf' Acer species is Acer pseudoplatanus 'Eskimo Sunset' and while he will attain a height of 3-4m at maturity, he is still much shorter than most more common ones. His foliage leaves people shaking their heads: pink, cream/white and green, heavily veined with a deep claret reverse to each leaf as it matures. His new growth is surprisingly coppery-orange in colour. He is another true vamp, in the sense that he too does not abide sunny conditions, preferring instead, the shade of say an overly rambunctious Cotinus 'Grace' that may or may not have been coppiced so that it now resembles a 3m tree instead of the shrub it started out as!

Cassia marilandica is grown for his stunning foliage, and perhaps those beguiling flowers that remind me of banana spiders - not that I have ever witnessed one up close and personal. Of course the bees are drawn to this plant as though it were a magnet which is always a good thing. It was a very rewarding experience this morning when I realized just how many bees I have drawn with the different plants that have become my family. 

Without a doubt, one of my true divas here at Teza's Garden. I will forever be enamoured of the genus Arisaema, and with so many rare and unusual Asian species making their way into commerce, it is always a challenge for me to keep a fair balance within my overall plant collection. Arisaema consanguineum 'Perfect Wave' came to me via Lost Horizons, who was able to ascertain a small collection from Ellen Hornig, the remarkable plantswoman behind the now defunct Seneca Hills Nursery. EVERYTHING about this plant makes my pulse beat faster, my breath more shallow, beads of sweat to appear on my palms and forehead..... in other words he is 'hortgasm' worthy one hundred percent!

The magnificent height he attained this year after a very late emergence - so late that I was down on hand and knee looking for any sign of his existence in late June! And then one evening on the way home from work there he was! Look at that foliage! I think there are eleven, heavily rippled, blue grey leaflets, each with a stunning pewter embellishment running down the centre, not to mention the fact that each leaflet's tip ends with  what can best be described as wiry, thin hairs. His stunning foliage does, for me at least, supersede his traditional looking spathe [flower] when he blooms. 

Any day now! Anemonopsis macrophylla's swollen buds are darkening, letting me know that one day soon I will walk out the door and let loose with one of my squeals of delight. In the meantime I have my collection of Gentians to keep me enthralled!

It baffles me why this is not a more recognizable plant in gardens. While there are a few species that require coddling, the majority of the ones that I cultivate all tend to look after themselves, and bring me hours of visual pleasure. Of course if they were red or yellow, I probably would not grow them, but as they come in such riveting, deeply saturated shades of blue....... a boy has his favourites after all! Speaking of which, this is mine: Gentiana septemfida 'Lagodochiana Select.' 

And I will close with my favourite Clematis - 'Mrs. Harvey' - and one more anecdote:

'One of my most treasured garden friends, before she passed, liked to rib me to the fact that it appeared as though, as a gay man, I had subconsciously assigned the male gender to all of my plants. What was she going on about? She immediately engaged me in a conversation about some of my 'favourites' and was lightening quick on the draw when I made comment to 'his statuesque beauty,' or 'his demure pink blushed flowers.' She jokingly quipped, 'Whatever would happen if one of your adoptions came with a name of the female vernacular? Oh wait. You don't have to tell me..... you'd change it to something sexually ambiguous or say it was transgendered!' Yes. This coming from a woman who was eighty if she was a day! IN HONOUR OF HER INTUITION AND INSIGHT, LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO 'HARVEY' plain and simple! [Just kidding!] I shall forever miss 'M,' her sardonic wit, sharp tongue and the fact that she was one of the few people who upon first introduction 'got who I was.'

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