Saturday, September 20, 2014

a roof and a place to pee...

What a busy week!!!  The roof got put on, the electricity trench was dug and the septic system was installed.  Perfect weather for it (a tad dry for the gardens though... everything is really really wilty) and on top of this, we hope to have a Real Driveway bu Monday!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Week 4?

Construction is progressing quickly, it seems.  The walls are up and this week (no photos yet) the roof is being added, septic systems installed, grading and driveway are all being put in.  I hope also to start work on the first new garden - a small herb garden by the back door.  Here are some pictures from last week.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Week 2

A new week, a new template -- it's as much fun fooling around with templates for this blog as writing it! 
week 1

Week 1 - hole dug, base poured
Week 2 - foundation forms installed, foundation poured and forms removed, well connected (pump installed), main floor joists delivered
Week 3 - tbd...

week 2
In the garden - the end of August has been quite spectacular, both weather wise, house building wise and garden wise.  (OK, a little rain would help the garden a lot, but for building it's been perfect.)  The daylilies are ending - just a few of the double orange left to bloom; the Echinacea are past their prime; Rudbeckia is in all its glory.  Seriously.  My whole yard is awash in or

week 2

compost bin on left finally emptied and screened
ange and yellow from Rudbeckia and the beginning of Goldenrod.

Bonus - I sorted out my third compost bin - emptying about eight years of accumulation to find some nice compost down in there!

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.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Construction begins - and something new on The Mound

It's hard for me to believe, and I really won't believe it until I walk through a front door, but The Prince Edward Group (my husband's company) has started construction on the new homestead in The County.  Architectural technician Pegi Amos and excavator Paul Greer came over to stake out the foundation.  After much discussion about drainage, direction and septic fields, the four stakes were pounded into the ground (through the very few inches they could go before hitting stone) and voila!  Step One done!

If you look closely you may see the four stakes in the ground.  Looking from the road towards the back of the field.

Looking down towards the road.  That's the well right up front.

(Gaillardia x grandiflora)

A happy surprise this summer was the emergence and quite spectacular blooming of these Blanket Flowers (Gaillardia x grandiflora).  I harvested seeds from the Leslie Street spit (Tommy Thompson Park) a few years ago and threw them all over the Mound.  Hopefully they'll self seed a bit.  On the spit, where the 'soil' started life as concrete landfill, these flowers only grow to about six inches or so.  On the Mound they're reaching 18 inches -- I guess I can't complain anymore about how horrible the soil is here eh?

Monday, July 7, 2014


A new apartment in Toronto, building a new home in The County, and, finally, a new computer.  I haven't been able to post anything for a while as my late lamented laptop, after 11 glorious years, finally bit the dust.  So here I am on my new HP, ready to share thoughts and images from the past few months and eagerly looking forward to chronicling the building of our new house in Prince Edward County, and the planning and planting of the gardens to surround it.

A reminder - here's the acreage (this past April) onto which the new home will arise:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Shileau's Pond

It was a long, cold winter with lots of snow.  This means flooding in the Quinte region, including on our property.  We generally have a smallish pond of melt water that stays a week or two, but this year the size of the pond is exceptionally large.  It laps at the border of the Mound on the east and stretches all the way across the width of the front field, stopping finally three or four metres west of the lemon Magnolia.  This means that the entire entrance garden is underwater -- Magnolia, Lilacs, Spirea, Spruce, Iris, Peonies, Tulips, Daylilies...  everything.  I'm worried about all of them, perhaps most of all the bulbs, like the Fritillaria and Colchicum.Only time will tell if they survive...

The first Crocus of the year, about a month later blooming than last year
Narcissus making an appearance
Shileau's Pond - HUGE this year!

Shileau's Pond - reaching all the way to the Mound

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Seedy Saturday

I won't be doing much seed starting this year.  Gave up the Toronto allotment garden (not enough time and too buggy to be enjoyable for the past few years) so I don't have any room, really, to plant things.  Which is ironic since I have more than four acres of land in the County.  Most of that land is, however, wooded or grass/meadow.  The gardens that I do contain, by necessity it seems, almost exclusively ornamental shrubs and perennials.

I say by necessity because so many of the perennials I started there self seed like crazy and I've found it necessary to create new beds just to house the offspring.  (Yanking and composting? Never!)  Think Echinacea (Coneflower) and Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan) primarily.  Of course I have also in years past started from seed Hemerocallis (Daylily), Allium and Iris.  But for several reasons I've never seriously considered putting in a vegetable garden. 

The first is watering.  Rainfall can be a hit or miss thing in the County; some years there's rain every week through the summer and others nary a drop from June through September.  This means watering, on a very regular basis.  Currently, watering for me is a big deal, getting the pump into the well and carrying buckets of water to wherever it's most needed.  In the driest years I'd do this maybe every two weeks.  Not enough for veggies.

The second is grass and soil.  Too much grass and not enough soil.  I would need to create a raised bed and bring in good soil - the surface soil that covers most of the property "contains an abundance of angular limestone fragments," to quote a local brochure extolling the virtues of the region as perfect for grape vines.  Not so good for double digging in compost etc or for growing root vegetables.  And to properly build such raised beds I'd need to ensure grass couldn't get it.  Much of my weeding now is controlling the grass that quite naturally spreads into flower beds from the yard and field.  Weeds I can handle, grass is much more difficult.

So where does that leave me?  I've planted the occasional tomato and pumpkin but that's about it.  I transplanted asparagus last fall from the allotment garden to a small bed - we'll see how that goes.  Generally though, no veggies.  Perhaps that will change soon.  Who knows.

The seeds I started yesterday are Crocosmia, Lucifer I assume.  I harvested them late last summer.  The flower spikes were sent up from the corms provided me by a friend in White Rock, B.C., where she has huge bushes of them growing all over.  I potted up some mature corms as well.  Looking forward to these fiery red flowers this summer - and the hummingbirds and butterflies they attract.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Mound, 2014

OK - here's what it looks like in the middle of winter.  Exciting eh?  I think that when the snow starts to melt and you're able to see the little creeping Junipers it might be a bit more interesting.  I should perhaps throw some large boulders here and there as well, to stick out through all that whiteness!

It's going to be interesting seeing how many of the new plants survived this rather harsh winter, and how may Tulips and Allium come up again!

Plans for the year?  Finish taming the backside of this hill - pulling out the wild raspberry canes and the thistle and buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), while keeping some clumps of Goldenrod and Aster for colour and nectar.  Add boulders (see above).  Transplant more Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) from the Birch Border and Corner Garden.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

it's that kind of winter

Seems to be turning into a real winter, one we're not used to after four or five winters of above average temperatures and below average snowfall.  This year, in fact, we're running below the seasonal norms.  So far, at least.  And there's no relief in sight.  What makes this winter even more unusual has been the number of freezing rain incidents, and the number of days with winds high enough to produce white-out conditions.  Come April I'll have a lot more dead and fallen branches to pick up from the driveway and I may try getting a burn permit for the first time, to burn them instead of just piling them up.  Anyway, nothing new to report, really, so I think I'll just post a couple shots from earlier this year.  One is the twisted branches of a corkscrew Hazel (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') that I kinda like.  I'm going to try and get a few more artsy pic of this little bush later in the year.  It was a rescue from an old landscaping job about 12 years ago; I had to cut it back by about two thirds to move it and it has taken until this past year, really, to show any vigour.

This picture is Shileau inspecting mother nature's version of professional tree trimming.  This Black Maple (Acer nigrum) had sprung up by itself right under the hydro wires.  This past summer I had been contemplating the necessity of either chopping it down or pruning it back severely so that it wouldn't interfere with the wires.  The Christmas ice storm beat me to it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


The winter of 2013 - 2014 will likely be remembered as the winter of windchill.  Many people in the County are saying they haven't experienced a winter like this since 1977.  By "this", they mean extreme blowing snow, extreme windchill.  There have been white out conditions from Consecon south to Picton and beyond many days starting at the end of December and continuing - to today.  Here's what Lake Ontario off Wellington looked like earlier this month - not an unusual picture this year.

Lake Ontario in Wellington, January 7, 2014

Of course, what this means to the garden is anyone's guess.  I fear most for the Magnolias - how their flower buds can survive the extreme cold I honestly don't know.  My two varieties are rated by Dirr to be hardy to US zone 3 (the M. acuminata) and US zone 5 (M. tripetala).  US zone 5 means hardy to -20 degrees fahrenheit - or about -29 celsius.  So the tripetal should be all right since I don't think the actual temperature has dropped that low, but it will all depend on the windchill, which has gone below -30 on numerous occasions this year.  It's planted in a somewhat protected location, with other large trees screening it from the strong north and west winds, but only time will tell.....

The other thing that causes me some concern is the flooding in the front field.  I planted a few saplings near the road a few years ago - a transplanted pine and a donated white spruce - in a spot I thought would be safe.  But looking at the pond that formed during last week's thaw I'm not certain.  Got to get the drainage swale put in!

pond in front field surrounding two new trees.  Oops!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Ice Storm Aftermath

The resiliency of plants is indeed remarkable. From the tiniest lichen to the giant redwood - plants have adapted and continue to adapt in order to survive in the harshest conditions imaginable.  In southern Ontario the weather and soil conditions are generally a lot more hospitable than, say, the far north or the equatorial deserts.  Even here; however, plants need to be resilient in order to survive.  No better example can be seen than how these white birch - Betula papyrifera - survived the recent ice storm.  Here's the before and after:
December 25, 2013

January 18, 2014

Another small tree, this Tamarack -  Larix laricina- hasn't quite sprung back all the way...

January 18, 2014

Perhaps that's the story with this pine tree - it has the most delightful spiral at the base of its trunk, as if it were planted sideways, or was somehow crushed when still a small tree.  It's probably my favourite existing tree  on the property.