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.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Mound, 2013

I don't have any more late 2013 shots of the Mound.  Hard to believe, I know, considering all the time I spent working it last year!  Here's a final shot from late May, showing all the Allium "Purple Sensation" - my favourite!

May 31, 2013; Iris and Allium
Also May 31, looking from the south towards the road, which is just behind the trees near the left of the picture.
But really, the gardening highlight of 2013 was undoubtedly the flowering of my Umbrella Magnolia - Magnolia tripetala.  It was totally unexpected and quite sensational - there were five of these huge flowers on the little tree.  I'm hoping this tree plus the other Magnolia I started from seed (Magnolia acuminita - Cucumbertree Magnolia, with its yellow flowers) will survive this cold, icy winter.

Magnolia tripetala - the flowers are about 10" long; leaves grew up to two feet long.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Mound, revisited

Nothing to do with the mound, just wanted to remember this beautiful Lilac.  I purchased two of them in three gallon pots from Canadian Tire at an end-of-year sale two years ago for $10 each.  They have a beautiful fragrance as well.

A friend remarked yesterday morning, while on a run with me and a few others, that sunshine in winter is like a free drug. So beneficial to the soul that it could almost be classified an illegal narcotic.  I couldn't agree more!

Today, another freezing rain warning for Prince Edward County.  That means it's a heck of a lot warmer this weekend than it's been for the past few days.  It's expected to get colder again Monday night through Wednesday, then warm up again next weekend.  In other words, a fairly typical winter.

April 27, 2013 - the first of several stair cases built into it.
A month later (May 21), the Alium had bloomed
It's probably time to update everyone (LOL!) about The Mound.  You may recall The Mound is a pile of soil created by a contractor friend when he dumped (at my request) several loads of soil from a home he was excavating/building five or six years ago.  I discovered early on some surviving reminders of that original house:  beautiful Iris, Paeonia [Peony]and Hosta; most of these I transplanted elsewhere in the garden, and let the pile of soil just sit there, untended.

The wild flowers had their way those first few years and I wound up with a colourful yet unappealing mix of six foot Solidago [Goldenrod], Aster, thistle and other things I don't know the name of but had tiny yellow flowers.  Three years ago I started to tame the Mound, section by section, by cutting down dead stalks, using Round Up (sue me...) on new growth and a shovel to round off and distribute the soil a bit more evenly.  Then I started transplanting things from my Toronto gardens, planting bulbs and scattering seeds.  In 2013 I finished about 80 per cent, I'd say.

Same day, wider shot.  Notice all the branches on the Juglans cinerea 
(Butternut tree) on the far left.

There are five paths through the Mound, and I've planted everything from Hemerocallis (Daylily) to Rudbeckia (Black Eye Susan), Hosta, Sedum spectabile, Veronica "Whitley's Speedwell" and may others.

 Here are three shots from the spring.  More to come in later posts.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

It's a new year....

Picea pungens v. glauca
I want to start the year off right...I want to make a pledge (just to myself since no one else knows this blog exists) to write something here at least once a week, even if I haven't taken any new photos in the County.

So here's the first post of 2014, featuring a photo on my property taken by my friend Terry Shewchuck.  It's a Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens var. glauca -- another pledge, to try and use botanical names as much as possible) I purchased seven years ago.  It was a foot high then.  This past summer it reached about seven feet - so a foot a year on average.  I mostly try to use Picea glauca - the native White Spruce - but couldn't resist this fellow when it was tiny and terribly blue.  Since then friends have given me a few additional Blue Spruces (after using them as small living Christmas trees).  One particular White Spruce on the  property grows much faster , in some years as much as a metre.  Pictures to follow.