Thursday, April 30, 2009

Non-aquatic Plant Experiment in Aquarium

Lots has been happening lately in my little gardening world. I attended the Van Dusen Plant Sale last weekend, and picked up some treasures. I have been busy trying to plant them, and still have a couple last ones to put into the garden. I'll post some photos when I'm done. While at Van Dusen with my kids and mom and friends Violet and Irene, Irene offered me some plants from her garden. So Wednesday night I had the pleasure of visiting her garden, and receiving these wonderful plants. So I need to plant those in also, especially since the weather continues to be very hot & dry. Then today I bought some more at a veggie store I discovered today (surprisingly, they also had a pretty good selection of bedding plants, veggie plants, and even some perennials and small shrubs). So I'm hoping for another significant gardening weekend, to get caught up. Since my husband is returning late Friday from a business trip, I'm hoping he's too tired on Saturday to plan any big outing, giving me my opportunity.

Recently I've also amused myself, by introducing some "non-aquatic" but moisture-loving plants into my two aquariums. So far, the experiment has been successful. If you're curious, see my blogs postings :

Non-Aquatic Plant Experiment
Continued Non-Aquatic Plant Experiment

I've been pleased to find a use for the Carex Pendula which has been an absolute disaster in my garden (reseeding itself by the thousands if not millions!).

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What is a Weed? Tough Love Day in the Garden

One of the questions which newbie gardeners frequently ask is "Is this a weed?" It was very enlightening to me when I realized that weeds are simply the plants which I don't want growing in my garden. That's all. So rather than fretting over what is a weed, just observe the plant, and decide if you want it there or not.

If it is ALL OVER your garden, there is good chance you should be wary. But if just a few spring up, you can leave one to observe, but be careful not to let it flower and then set seed before you decide to remove it. I've made that mistake many times, and then pulled it by the hundreds the next year.

One of my first loves in the plant world is the hardy geranium "Victor Reiter". I love the deep burgundy deeply lobed/fringed leaves, and then the cheery purple flowers which appear to float above the foliage. (See photo below, lifted from a plant site - I'm too tired/lazy to look for one in my photo archives.) So I was happy to let my first plant reseed itself liberally in the garden. But it was interesting that of the offspring, some (maybe 20% or 25%) had the beautiful burgundy foliage, but the remainder had identical leaves, but just green. The flowers were the same. The green variant (which I guess it truer to the basic species) even seemed more vigorous and slightly larger. But not nearly as attractive.

For years, I have tolerated the green variant in my garden, allowing it to grow as a filler in some areas (since I have a very large garden, but have been filling it over time with a very nice collection of perennials). But this year I have finally had enough, and it's on my "weed" list. So I will be slowly removing all traces of this green geranium from my garden. Today I started with the lower hillside (next to the fairy garden). I filled a clear bag from this area, much of it the green geranium. I think of it as "tough love" for my garden. Clearing out the clutter, and making room for more varieties of plants.

Both the weather and my family cooperated today, so I was able to spend a total of 6.5 hours of hard work in the garden, mostly clearing old growth. My mom is planting a new garden area, so I was happy to dig up lots of seedlings which I have been hoping to get rid of. I have a hard time disposing of seedlings, so I tend to accumulate lots of them, waiting until I can find a home for them. I would love to donate to a plant sale, such as the local BRAGS one, but 1) don't have time to pot them up 2) don't want to lose too much soil. Since my mom agreed to take the seedlings and replant them the same day, I could dig them up with little or no soil.

I yanked a fairly good patch of my white Lychnis coronaria (rose campion). It reseeds itself very aggressively, even into my lawn. So I have decided to remove the ones crowding around my tree peony and choking out my strawberries, and just leave one strip of them, along the edge of the lawn.

I also showed some "tough love" on my purple osteospermum, which was hit hard by this cold winter. Usually, it comes through looking a bit straggly, but this year it looked dead on the top. So I am cutting the osteospermum way back, to where it is showing new growth:
New growth in osteospermum
Last year, I had noticed a single shoot of a daylily (possibly Stella D'Oro) growing up on the edge of one of my clumps of Astrantia major (masterwort). At the time, I made a mental note to separate them, but didn't get to it. So this year, I saw about 5 shoots, and decided it was time to do it once and for all. So I first took a shovel to the clump, and divided out the part with the daylily in it:
Clump of Hemerocallis and Astrantia intertwined
So far so good. But then the 1 hour job of separating out the two plants started. I was surprised how deeply connected they were. The Astrantia has very fine roots, which had intermingled with the daylily, and it was a fight to untangle & remove them. First I tried banging the clump to release the extra soil. Some soil was released, but the clump was pretty solid. So next I got a large bucket of water, and tried plunging the clump repeatedly to release the soil. But I still had a fairly tight clump:
Daylily and Masterwort
Then I tried to cut out the bits of Astrantiam using my garden clippers. I should have used a knife, but was too lazy to go back into the house for one. I was still not able to work the daylily plants loose, but I was able to remove most of the Astrantia. One they were washed, I could see that the daylily roots were beige, whereas the Astrantia were a dark reddish colour. So I kept pulling out the dark roots until they were pretty much gone. Finally, I had my clump of daylilies:
...and found a nice spot for them in the garden.

I cleared a number of areas today, and planted in some of my purchases from last weekend. So by the end of the day, my hands were aching, and then after I came inside, I found out how much my feet were hurting too. But I guess I consider it a good day in the garden if I can work until I'm hurting.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Weeding and Clearing by the Wheelbarrow Full

I have come to realize that I am most happy in my garden, not when I am strolling through, or planting, or cutting flowers, or even stopping to smell the roses. I am the most happy when I am on my kneepads, struggling to clear stalks or clumps of old growth to make way for the new growth, or pulling weeds by the wheelbarrow full.

Fortunately, in my garden, there is no shortage of this kind of work. Here is a typical "before" garden view this Spring (click the photo for a slightly larger view). Note the hydrangea which needs cutting back, the old stalks to clear off the ground (and remove the weeds hiding beneath them).
Garden area which needs Spring clearing
That is the stuff I thrive on. Tonight I cleared a pretty large patch of my garden, along the top retaining wall on the west side of our lower yard. Old stalks of fall asters to break off, a cascading rose bush to cut back, old iris leaves to pull out, the climbing hydrangea to cut back. A good wheelbarrow full. It looked so clean and green afterwards (but was getting too dark by the time I finished gardening, to take an "after" photo).

Then I cleared out the garden where I grow my dahlias. They don't seem to be coming up this year. I suppose I have lost them. This winter was unusually harsh, and I have lost a number of plants, especially those with a mediterranean or sun-loving heritage, such as lavenders, a rosemary bush, some hebes. Some of these lavenders were pretty sizable, and it was a struggle to pull them out. Another wheel barrow full.

The hillside yielded a full clear bag of old stalks from phlox and daylily and such. Everything I pull or cut is going into my dumping area just outside the garden fence, which is technically still my property, but on the edge of where it falls off into the abyss (we're bordering a fairly steep ravine on the back east side).

It feels good to clear some garden areas, even if by pulling out dead plants. I have yet to plant in the new perennials I picked up at the BRAGS plant sale last Sunday. I was passing by on the way home from church, so as usual, arrived in time for the few remaining plants to be discounted to half price, so filled a small flat with plants. Nothing to rave about, yet. But some plants that I don't have yet.

This Sunday will be the Van Dusen plant sale from 10am to 4pm. As always, I will be heading after church, so will be arriving half way through. But there will still be lots of plants to tempt me, and encouraged by the newly cleared areas, I plan to yield to temptation. Last year, the kids picked up their carnivorous plants which survived very well outside and then overwintered on my kitchen windowsill. The Himalayan Lily which I planted is sprouting this Spring. And a beautiful chocolate coloured geranium I picked up, is looking wonderful this Spring:
Chocolate coloured hardy geranium
I have a few plants in mind already, so we'll see. Let's hope for more of this wonderful weather on Sunday.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Crocosmia Cleanup

Today was a perfect gardening day, mostly sunny, calm, and with 90% probability of precipitation tomorrow. Ideal weather for transplanting and dividing perennials. So while my husband and kids went to visit their grandma, I got their approval to stay home and spend the day gardening.

Here is a diary of my gardening day:

11:00 AM - Into the Garden
I finally got the family out the door, and slipped into my gardening clogs and gardening clothes (ones which will end up in the laundry for sure!), and started out. First I did some light weeding in the herb garden, took a few "before" photos, and got myself in the mood for the big project.

11:30 AM - Tackled the Crocosmia Patch
The crocosmia patch, which started as a few small plants maybe 4 years ago, has become a large patch, a couple of feet across, blooming handsomely in front of my buddleia each year (see 2008 photo - 3rd photo in the posting).

In the last couple of years, though, a nasty creeping grass poked its way up through the centre of the patch, and my attempts to pull it out between the blades/leaves have failed. I had this project on my mental list already last year, but never got to it. So this Spring, my patch looked like a hairy mess (as always, click any photo for a slighly larger view):
Early spring
Crocosmia in early spring with nasty grass
So I decided to dig up the whole thing, separate out the crocosmia corms, and then replant them. Little did I know how big of a project this would be. When I started digging, I found that the patch went down about 6" to 8" deep, and was a big mess of tangled, connected corms, shooting out sideways (which is why the patch spreads so nicely) but also vertically, forming little chains. Reading in Wikipedia now (see Crocosmia article), it indicates that the corms are able to dig themselves deeper in the ground (wow! weird!), so that the youngest corms are on top, the oldest further down. What an amazing survival strategy! And good reason to think about where you want to plant crocosmia, since it may be a bit difficult to remove later!

1:00PM - Break for Lunch
After 1.5 hr of heavy shoveling, cutting, tugging and pulling, I was more than half way through the patch, but quite exhausted. So I took a break for lunch, and then collapsed on the sofa for an hour.

2:30PM - Back to the Crocosmia Project
After my break, I want back to the task with renewed vigour. Even after cleaning the soil off the crocosmia corms, and pulling off much of the roots too (the fine grass roots looked very much like the crocosmia roots, so I wanted to be as sure as I could that I've removed those grasses), I ended up with an amazing pile of crocosmia. Probably 25 to 30 pounds worth! If they were edible, I'd be pretty happy!
Pile of crocosmia corms
I decided that instead of just replanting a patch, I would plant a ring around the base of the buddleia, and then about 12" along the edge of the grass. In between, I planted some daylilies which I salvaged earlier this week. I took the opportunity to also remove some of the grass, and expand the garden bed by a few inches also. I also removed a lavender which was dead. (This cold winter killed off a few lavender, one rosemary, and possibly a few other plants and small shrubs).

I ran into lots of roots of the buddleia, which I tried to work around, or push back into the soil. So I hope he will forgive me, and do well this year. The hummingbirds sure do enjoy his flowers. I think the garden looks pretty good now, and I think it should fill in quite nicely:
Newly replanted crocosmia around buddleia
5:30PM - Cleanup and Wind Down
After the 3 hours of tough gardening work (5 hours total today!) I was beyond exhausted. But I managed to put away the wheelbarrow and buckets, and tuck the extra crocosmia away in a shady spot near the house (I must have some 10 or 15 pounds to give away!), and make my way back to the house. On the way, I overseeded the lawn in spots where it was too bare (it was recently dethatched, removing a significant amount of moss).

6PM - Dinner and Blogging
I managed to microwave a 5 minute Red Curry Chicken frozen dinner, but it was quite unimpressive. The taste was fairly good, but the chicken was rubbery. My body is aching all over, especially my feet. My plantar fasciitis was diagnosed just recently, but I guess I've been suffering for about 6 months now. I finally sought medical help, and am in physio sessions twice a week, to try to resolve this situation. It seems to be helping, but it may be some time to be entirely pain free, if that is even a possibility.

I am very thankful for my chance today, to spend the time in the garden. There are few other activities which I would enjoy more.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Signs of Spring

I managed to get outside for 1 hour after dinner last night, to do more cleanup in the garden, before it got too dark.

There are plenty of signs that Spring may finally be here, with fresh shoots bursting forth from the soil. There were a few flowers visible also, so I snapped a few shots while I could.

These grape hyacinths form a colourful edge to my poor neglected herb garden:
Grape hyacinths
This primula is blooming nicely, not yet discovered by the slugs (which may still be in hibernation or at least in hiding):
I am too tired / lazy to look up the name of this flower at the moment, but I discovered this little surprise in my garden, the seed or bulb likely transported in the soil of another plant acquisition:
Spring surprise
Many of the fruit trees, notably the cherries, are full of buds. But after last year's scare (when it stayed dormant for a long time after it was planted) I was very pleased to discover this single bud on our Frost Peach tree:
Our first Frost Peach bud
This morning we woke up to frost, and the nearby roofs were completely white. So it continues to be a very cool Spring. I hope to sneak into the garden more often, to enjoy what good weather we have.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

He is Not Here; He Has Risen

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' "

Luke 24:1-7 (New International Version)
He is Risen

Thursday, April 09, 2009

By His Stripes We Are Healed

He was wounded and crushed
because of our sins;
by taking our punishment,
he made us completely well.

Isaiah 53:5 (Contemporary English Version)

A jug of sour wine was standing by. Someone put a sponge soaked with the wine on a javelin and lifted it to his mouth. After he took the wine, Jesus said, "It's done . . . complete." Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit.

John 19:30 (The Message)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Early Spring at Shadbolt Centre

Today our family took advantage of the good weather, and strolled the picturesque grounds around the Shadbolt Centre in Burnaby BC. The trails lead down and around Deer Lake. Here is a view across Deer Lake, to some of the residential towers near Metrotown (click any image for a slightly larger view):
View across Deer Lake in Burnaby BC
Everywhere there are signs of early spring, such as these bright yellow shoots of skunk cabbage:
Skunk cabbage in early spring
The daffodils are now blooming:
Daffodils and lamp stand
As were some bedding plants, such as these pansies:
Pansies near Shadbolt Centre
But what caught my attention today were the weird and spooky looking trees, such as this one, which looks like a bumpy monster screaming, and having a bad hair day:
Screaming tree
This one was pretty interesting too:
Spooky tree in the Picturesque Shadbolt Centre Grounds
But my favourite was this one, which looks like a very very contorted willow:
Very contorted willow tree
Here are a couple more images of this same tree:
Very contorted willow tree
Very contorted willow and daffodils
Our kids' favourite spot is the climbing structure, seen here in the background:
Climbing structure near Deer Lake in Burnaby
It makes for some pretty nice shots of the kids, I think, with the beautiful blue sky behind, and their natural (at least more natural than usual) smiles. Here are my little monkeys:
Handsome boy
Gorgeous girl
Could he get more handsome than this?
My happy beautiful girl
My handsome monkey
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