Sunday, April 10, 2016

Long Awaited Blooming of the Dove Tree (Davidii Involucrata)

I love how my garden surprises me.  Almost every time I go into the yard, I make a new discovery.  This morning was no exception.  My beloved young dove tree (Davidii involucrata) has started blooming.

When I bought the small tree (really a twig, when I first bought it) in May 2011 (5 years ago), I was told it could take up to 10 years to bloom.  I've read 15 years from seed, and 20 years from seed.  From what I had seen of this wonderful tree, it would be worth the wait.  See this post of my Davidii tree when first planted.

Here it is today, under overcast skies :
Young Davidii involucrata (dove tree or handkerchief tree) in bloom for the first time.

And here is a closeup of one of the "doves", which is actually a cluster of flowers surrounded by two long creamy-white bracts (similar in structure to a dogwood flower) :
Bloom of the dove tree or handkerchief tree (Davidii involucrata)

For some more background about this remarkable tree, which is described as a "rare tree in the nursery trade and the gardens of North America", read this post called "The Legend of the Dove Tree".

My discovery this morning almost overshadowed all the beautiful blooms out in the garden at this time of year, but I did pause to take a few photos of those also.

The apple blossoms are at their peak now, in early April.  The espalier in particular is noteworthy, as the restriction in its vertical growth translates to loads of flowers and eventually fruit :
Espalier apple tree blossoms / blooms.

Espalier apple tree blossoms / blooms.

Espalier apple tree blossoms / blooms.

On the non-blooming side, I am very pleased with these new geckos for my fence, which I bought from an artisan market in Costa Rica last month.  I sprayed them with several coats of acrylic sealer before taking them outside, since it would be a shame to lose those beautiful colours too soon :
Decorative metal gecko sculptures on the fence.

When I hung those, it inspired me to revive this set which had been faded by years of being exposed to the weather.  I only had red and orange exterior paint, so I sprayed the top one for now.  I was too lazy to remove it, so had my son hold some paper behind it while I just sprayed it directly in place.  I'll need to get some green or blue paint, and maybe some black, to revive the other one.
Decorative metal gecko sculptures on the fence.

Speaking of needing work, these poor frogs are always losing their eyes.  I've bought dollar store marbles a couple of times, and exterior glue, to give them sight again, but they keep falling out and disappearing into the yard.  They could use some re-painting also.
Decorative metal frog sculptures on the fence.

What a wonderful morning.  I didn't end up doing much work in the garden, but I sure have been more than rewarded for any work I have put in previously!

Monday, September 07, 2015

Fall Cleanup

I've been spending a lot of time in the garden recently, doing some major Fall cleanup.  The weather has been wonderful.  Relatively clear, but cooler.  Perfect for cleaning out weedy and overgrown areas before Winter hits.

I keep thinking I should have my camera, for some dramatic Before and After photos, but I tend to garden like a butterfly, flitting from place to place, not sure where to land and do some serious work.  And by the time I'm into it, I don't want to stop to find a camera, and I've already ruined my Before photo.

Today I started cleaning the underplanting around my Davidii involucrata tree, and I needed to step inside to flip the laundry, so I brought the camera back for a somewhat Before photo :
I'd already cleared an area, but you can see to the right and left of it, the succulents planted there had been overtaken by a creeping grass.  From my reading, I believe it's a type of creeping fescue.  A beautiful grass with a fine blade, and an ability to creep by underground runners to fill all available space.  Which is fantastic for lawn, but a disaster when it overtakes my garden areas.

This particular underplanting, I know I've weeded it diligently several times during the summer, trying to pull the clover and grass and other weeds from between the succulents, but have not been able to get ahead.  So today was the day for more decisive action.  I removed the grass and succulents and moss, and sorted it out, the moss and weeds into a large garden bag, and the succulents into little piles :

Then I replanted the succulents, and watered the whole area well:
Tree with handmade ceramic totems and succulent underplanting.

By Spring, I expect it will be established, and with much less grass growing through.  Although I don't think it will ever come back to the original design from 4 years ago.  Clearly, some of the plants dominated while others quietly disappeared.  Part of the design is covered by small everbearing strawberry plants.  But unlike other weeds which spring up unplanted and unwanted, these ones are welcome almost everywhere they chose to spring up, because they supply me with a fresh supply of tiny strawberries all summer and fall.  I can always find a small handful of these sweet treats when I visit the garden :

Here's the tree and underplanting from another angle, showing my ceramic totems :
Davidii involucrata (dove) tree with handmade ceramic totems and succulent underplanting.
...and :
Davidii involucrata (dove) tree with handmade ceramic totems and succulent underplanting.

Speaking of treats, I picked my last apples today, from the top row of my espalier tree :
Apple harvest.

They are not 100% ripe, the seeds are still a bit light, not dark, but I see too many apples chewed into, and the numbers are dwindling as the squirrels have been carrying them away.  Look at this beauty, this is the biggest apple in the bunch :
Apple from my espalier apple tree.

I did leave one apple for the ants, who looked like they were enjoying it :
Espaliered apple being enjoyed by ants.

No danger of running out of areas to clean up, either, if the good weather continues.  Look at the grasses coming through tiles of our giant outdoor chess board :
But as with everything in the garden, it can wait.  I'll be back.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Convergence of Passions

It's great when one's passions complement each other.  Like my current obsessions with creating pottery and gardening.  There is nothing better than being able to use a piece of pottery, not just admire it on a shelf.

Like these Japanese anemone, which I was fighting back in a section of my garden today, where it's spread too far.  It looks great in contrast with my handmade ceramic vase :

That same vase came in handy for displaying crocosmia which I was also cutting back a few weeks ago :

This crackled vase (the effect achieved with sodium silicate) looks pretty natural holding back some ribbon grass which I was also fighting back in my garden.

I have a number of platters which I use to hold fruit on my countertops.  This large swirly one is the most practical, and here is holding pears and asian pears from my garden :

That same platter is also great for floating camelia flowers, which tend to fall off their stems too easily if displayed in a vase :

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

End of My Mole Problem (Beware : Graphic Photos)

I mostly live by the motto "live and let live".  So I have mostly tolerated the mounds of soil pushed up by the moles around my yard.  But when they moved into the lower (level ball-playing) yard last year, and pushed up gallons and gallons of soil, leaving the ground uneven, I finally bought gas bombs (the kind you light up a fuse, stick into the mole hole, cover up, and it releases a poisonous gas into the tunnels).

A few weeks ago, mounds started appearing in the lower yard again.  One morning I thought I saw one of the mounds moving, so I ran over to check, but no sign of movement.  So I dug up the entrance to the tunnel and inserted a gas bomb.  A couple of days later, I could see another fresh mound.  So my gas bomb has not been effective.  Then we were away last week, so I was not able to follow up.

This morning, I looked out on the back deck, and was surprised to see this :
Dead mole on the porch / deck.

Moving in closer for a better look :
Dead mole
Dead mole.

Other than one foot which was removed, the mole looked to be rather untouched.  Just like a rat I had found on my back deck years ago, also appearing to be more asleep than dead.  I am sure it is again an offering from one of the cats which prowl through my yard.  I'm surprised, since I have not really seen any cats recently, and I don't imagine why any of them would feel the need to leave an offering for me, but anyhow, I'm glad they may have solved my mole problem.

In the yard, I can see where they dug up the entrance to the mole tunnel, to find that creature :
 
Thank you to my mystery cat, for solving my mole problem, at least for now!

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Another Big Haul of Plums - Second Part of Harvest

I thought that since we picked two days ago our first big batch of Japanese plums, that it may be harder to find as many ripe today.  But that extreme sun and heat that we've been having lately in Vancouver resulted in quick ripening.  So I hauled about the same amount again today :
Methley Japanese plum harvest.
Standing on the bathroom scales, it looks like we got about 37 pounds of plums today.  So about 70+ pounds so far.  Surprisingly, there are still a lot of plums left in the tree.  We've probably picked 2 / 3 of it now.  So the total may be about 100+ pounds of plums this year.

Wow!  What a little over-achiever this plum tree is.  I hope to treat it well, and this happy relationship can continue for many years.  Soon I'll need to start learning some plum recipes.  :-)

Lavender and Echinops Dried Flower Harvest

After our big harvest of Japanese plums, it was a nice and fragrant treat to harvest the long stemmed lavender, Lavendula grosso.  Although this year, the plants again flopped over, and many of the stems were bent, and only good for harvesting the flowers for potpourri.  But I got a few good bunches of the long stems to share with family and friends who enjoy them.
Long-stemmed lavender, Lavendula grosso, as a dried flower and potpourri.
Since the flowers are clean and 100% organic, they could also be used in cooking.  In the past, I've made lavender jellies and even lavender ice cream.  But I don't have any plans for that this year.

I also decided to cut the globe thistle, Echinops bannaticus.  It makes a great dried flower, if cut before the little spheres burst into flower, and become a magnet for bumblebees.  I cut the ones at the front, next to my driveway, and leave the bit patch in the back yard, where I can enjoy watching the bumblebees.
Globe thistle (Echinops bannaticus) as a dried flower.
Although the stems are very sturdy, the stem at the flower head is soft, so they either need to hang upside down, or lay flat on the counter until dried.  The little globes in the bottom right of the photo were from the side shoots.  Those can be useful for a small dried flower arrangement, too.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Big Haul of Japanese Plums - First Part of Harvest

One of the fruit trees which has overwhelmed me with its success is our young Methley Japanese plum tree.  Here is last year's harvest (below), and here are my comments from last year, as well as photos of the inside of the plum, which is sweet and juicy and very blood red.  With that rich colour, I'm sure they would make amazing juice.
Modest Methley Japanese plum harvest.

This year, I've been munching plums for a couple weeks now, and finally, with my 14-year-old's help, climbed the ladder and picked about half the plums, which were ripe.  I don't mind letting the birds and wasps have many of the plums (there were many pecked / partly eaten ones), but it would be a shame to let too many of them drop to the ground.  So here we are, with about half of this year's harvest :
Good harvest from my Methley Japanese plum tree - and this is only half!

Not a bad haul, for a tree we've only had for about 4 years now.  Here is the poor tree about 2 weeks ago, with the plums weighing down the branches so they form a weeping shape :
Japanese plum tree full of fruit.

It might be hard to see, but here is a typical branch, from a couple weeks ago :
Japanese plum tree loaded with unripe plums.
The branches were loaded like that from trunk to tip.  Pretty amazing.

As far as my other fruit trees, not so much success.  My italian plum which bore a lot of fruit last year, but had come down with some disease, put out flowers and even had some miniature plums forming in the Spring, but I don't see any now.  None!

My young peach tree gave me so much joy over the past few years.  Here is last year's harvest (below), and see my blog post for more details.
Memories of a beautiful little Frost peach tree and harvest.

Well, this year it put out a LOT of pink flowers, but then didn't follow up with any leaves.  At all.  It looked like it had finally given in to a disease which left many of its tender branches broken and oozing.  It looked really quite painful.  So I continued to water it, and hope, but finally a couple of weeks ago I realized it was not coming back, so chopped it back.  I hope to replace it next Spring.  So sad.
Remains of a dead Frost peach tree and birdhouse (and garden totem)

My little Morello sour cherry tree was purchased in 2008.  Here he is, the following year, showing good potential for fruit production :
Young Morello sour cherry tree.
Funny thing is that he never really grew very much.  And he continued to have the same weird pattern, fruit along the branches, and leaves at the tips.  Except the branches grew longer, so it looked even weirder.  Then last year, something (I suspect a raccoon) broke off the top half of the tree one night, leaving only 1 long branches and a few tiny side branches.  I decided to keep him, and see what would happen this year.

So this year, something again broke the main branch (perhaps crows this time), leaving it pretty much a skinny trunk and some tiny side branches.  I don't think he's worth saving now. he looks pretty pathetic, I will probably replace him next Spring also.  And will try to dig out the hole and add a lot more good soil, while we're at it.
Broken sour cherry tree.

But all is not lost.  My Bartlett pear, which was suffering for many years with a disgusting fungus infection, is doing much better this year, and looks like it may even bear a crop of pears.  Over this past year, the trees behind us were taken down, opening up more sun, and I spent some while removing the moss and lichens from the branches, and even sprayed it before leaf-out this Spring with a homemade mixture of dishsoap and vegetable oil and water.  Any or all of those things seemed to help.

The espaliers are also doing very well, all 3 of them.  And my dear "David" (Davidii involucrata) tree is forming a nice shape :
Beautiful young Davidii involucrata tree (dove tree).
Here he is flanked by two garden totems, made from my ceramic pieces.  If you want an amusing story of how the first totem became an apartment, read this post from May 2015.  When I went out there a couple of weeks ago to install the second totem, the ants and soil had made it all the way up to the top piece.  Pretty weird and amazing.  I wonder how long it take for them to full inhabit the second garden totem?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Garter Snake in My Garden

I was ecstatic to see a small garter snake in my garden yesterday.  I couldn't have snapped a photo if I tried, since I only saw him as he was darting from my gravel walkway (where he presumably was sunning himself) into the greenery.  So this photo by Dr. Tom Titus of a Northwestern Garter Snake (Thamnophis ordinoides) from this University of Oregon page, is probably the closest to what my snaked looked like.  He was brown with bright yellow stripes down his body, and no sign of the checkered pattern that some garter snakes seem to have.

I have been musing whether this could be the same snake as I spotted in my garden quite a few years ago now.  Or maybe an offspring of that snake, since the colors look the same as I remember them.  I guess I'll never know, the the Garter Snakes of Canada page by Simply Wild Canada seems to indicate that in various species, their lifespan is long enough that this could be the same snake.  However, it also mentions that they may travel long distances, so this would tell me that it is not likely the case.  Either way, it was fun to discover a snake in my garden, and I hope it won't be the last time.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Prettier in Pink, and More Spring Flower Photos

That tree peony bloom is still getting bigger and fuller and more beautiful.  Here it is today :
Beautiful pink tree peony.

It's not the largest tree peony bloom I've seen, but then again, I haven't needed to prop the branches to support the blooms either, so I'm really happy with the size of it, and the colour.
Beautiful pink tree peony flower in the garden.

I like this pale helleborus flower, it has faded from pink, and is developing a seed pod.
Beautiful helleborus flower in the garden.

Pretty heart shaped leaves and cheery yellow flowers of my Epimedium.
Beautiful heart shaped leaves and yellow blooms of epimedium in the garden.
...complete with a monster lurking underneath.
Epimedium with yellow flowers and a rock painting lurking in the heart shaped leaves.
I am really impressed how these painted rocks have held up, we must have painted those about 8 years ago.  Then sealed them with several layers of clear acrylic sealer.

These fern fronds look like they're having a conference.  I wonder what they are discussing?
Fern fronds emerging in Spring.

Finally, one of my favourites in my garden, my little Cornus canadensis (bunchberry) :
Cornus canadensis or bunchberry in the garden in spring.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pretty in Pink

I love this time of year, when something new is blooming every time I visit the garden.  I am fortunate to be able to view my pink tree peony (I am too lazy to look up the name, which I have recorded somewhere) from my kitchen window.  A few days ago, a bud began to swell, and was quite large when I left for work yesterday.  When I returned home, the flower was open.
Beautiful pink tree peony in the garden.
How gorgeous is that?

I have another tree peony, with pure white blooms, but I managed to plant it so that it is hiding behind a bush, and not visible from the kitchen window.  So I'll need to visit it often, to make sure I don't miss the blooms.

Beautiful pink bleeding hearts.
I love my bleeding heart, which after a number of years, is finally taking hold, and produced a lot of blooms this year.  I like this branch.  It made me think of hearts, and love, and how it can be up and down sometimes.

Today it suddenly turned to rain, after a long (more than a week) stretch of dry warm weather in Vancouver.  So now it feels more like Spring again.  I'm glad for the garden, I think it needed a bit of watering.
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