City of York rose and Youthful Ignorance

The first few roses are coming into bloom in the garden, and this is one of my all-time favourites: the old climber/rambler “City of York”. The foliage is a glossy green and heavily scented, not too dissimilar from the flower itself.

For the record, when first gardening I was of the youthful opinion that roses were all hype and just floozy things that keel over and die, after inflicting extensive thorn damage to one’s vulnerable bits. This was in the 70’s when modern big-flowered monsters were all the rage. It was only later when I came across the older varieties,  particularly at Waterperry Gardens, and bought a house with Rugosa roses, that the conversion happened. The thorns are still there, but then that makes the scent even more rewarding.

As for Rugosa roses, they are not all magenta things planted in road meridians, to be tortured and cut back every year as part of highway maintenance, but are handsome hedging shrubs that also come in beautiful porcelain pinks and whites as their flower colour. And that is quite an attractive combination to have in any plant. The photo is of a multi-petalled and heavily-scented rugosa rose, of the magentas colour.



Tender and Hot Border Planting

It was almost like a mecca, going back to see Oxford Botanical Gardens some 3 years ago, an old haunt of mine and retreat from the busy and noisy city streets, with tropical greenhouses to warm the bones on a cold wintery day. To my delight there had been extensive changes: in addition to the standard botanical plantings was a dramatic new area… oranges, purples, yellows, then soft light green foliage set off against sharp prickly leaves.  It is quite brilliant, setting off the more “modern” planting against the more traditional terracotta pots and old buildings, although in this case it relies on tender plants that are reminiscent of a Victorian hothouse. The plants look to be tender, in need of protection from wind, and so is something to be done on an annual basis in colder zones. This makes it high maintenance, but then every year could be a bit different.

Tender and hot, indeed, in botanical terms.


White Fawn Lilies at Piper’s Lagoon

A native of BC, and locally common on SE Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and parts of the mainland, this wildflower is enchanting. It’s common name is derived from the mottled appearance of the leaves, the colour white with regard to the flower (there is also a pink species).

As a gardener, we can all enjoy them in the wild. Please do not collect or pick: up to 15 years to maturity is a long time, and picking the flowers reportable kills the plant. Some lucky people hereabouts already have it naturalized in a woodland area. Erythronium oregonum is the latin name. There are many cultivars from Erythronium that are available commercially, so  you can add a bit of that magic to a suitable spot in your own garden, perhaps on a protected berm above a path, from where the nodding flowers can best be appreciated.


Wildlife Pond

A wildlife pond – as opposed to a koi carp pond or formal rock pond – has several key elements: deep water, a shelving beach with shallow parts, and of course animals and plants. The former two elements are wildlife-friendly throughout the year and will attract animals, and the majority of surrounding plants can be introduced from the adjacent garden or brought in from outside (as in this case for true water plants).

For the Green House (see under Portfolio) the project here was done with economy of materials in mind (an old rug, a pond liner, plus about ten specialized water plants), and a lot of manual labour. All the river rock was hauled from a neighbour’s house – they were not popular in his vegetable garden – and many plants relocated from some flowerbed changes elsewhere in the garden.






The new pond lead to changes extending all across the rear of the garden, blending the river rock into the surrounding features, making it seem as though the pond has always been part of the immediate landscape.

Sadly, deep ponds are not young-kid friendly and so they are not that common. In the case of the Green House, in addition to a high perimeter fence, the children have now reached a level of maturity where the long-planned pond could be put in. It has become an instant hit with everyone, even though the paths still need some nice bark nuggets to keep the mud down, plantings are still growing in, there is as yet no water lily for the deep end, and no native frog spawn either.

Come summertime and mosquitoes, a combination of active pond life and aerated water, plus a secret weapon, will hopefully keep the mosquito numbers down. In time, dragonflies will be established and the pond margins grown in. If we are really lucky, bats will haunt the area, attracted by the myriad of flying insects that water attracts. And that will have us up many a dusk, listening for the plop of frogs and scanning the air for the little furry-brown acrobats.


On Moss, Ponds and Orcas

Further to my previous post about moss in the garden, I took this photo this morning on a walk at Neck Point, here on the Strait of Georgia: mossy rock with lichens, on a rocky bluff next to the ocean. Quite inspiring for a mossy garden feature, but the lichen is unlikely to succeed in a polluted urban area. My new pond construction moves ahead still, in between cold rain showers and strong winds… risk of thundershowers this afternoon… but buoyed up by the sighting of a baby Orca along with it’s family (pod) of about 6 to 8 individuals in all, prior to taking this photo. Getting me thinking about the wildlife pond and how to prevent the raccoons from trashing it…..