Ferns in the Winter Forest: The Beauty of Foliage

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An unexpected bonus of the snowy weather of late has been to illustrate just how important foliage can be. This is a native fern growing in my wild forest area at home, set off by where some snow made it through the canopy. How those leaflets attach to the stem is as wonderful as any orchid flower. I shall not name it (likely Dryopteris species, but then taxonomy of ferns can be complicated, and I apologize if completely deluded in my off-the-cuff naming).

I have just made this photo my new logo for accounting etc. In marketing-speak it should carry a message, and my message is Structure with a Organic Feel. Just made that up.

 

Showing the Bones of the Garden

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When the wind is not blowing the Pacific storms directly into the face or down the neck – November and December being fine times for such events – we can take the opportunity to stand back and review the garden space: look at where all that water goes (or not), then take in the overall composition of the surroundings as well as the details in the garden….. perhaps take notes for a task list. I like to take a camera and record the bare bones of the garden that hold everything together throughout the year.

Also, those colder frosty mornings are particularly good for discovering a whole new winter garden: the photo above shows the wonder of local sandstone bordering an entry pathway, with moss, leaf litter and Sedum succulents, all dusted with frost. Now to my mind it would be at the very least overly tidy to have brushed it with suds or in this age of power tools to pressure wash it clean to bare rock (there are such rare but necessary instances). While admiring the chilled world around, again take that camera and record the long deep shadows where the sun does not melt the frost, or where there are other areas (frost pockets) where some types of plants do not thrive.

Finally, keep your eyes open for the first bulbs that herald the coming of spring: winter aconites, snowdrops, crocus flowers, early daffodils, and so on. We do not want to step on those. Come the joys of spring and summer those flirty plants will likely confuse us with distracting temporary shows, and we will be glad to have taken the time to step out this winter and opened our eyes to another dimension of gardening, one that is more permanent and mature, and the framework in which to hang our changing floral displays.

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Water, Gardens and Plants: The Changing Landscape

WebGTMb5I was going to include in the title above the phrase “Boogeyman Rustling the Bushes”, with reference to that which we try to ignore until it is too late. However, enlightened by modern marketing concepts and the need not to frighten the children, I opted instead for the positive and uplifting “The Changing Landscape”.

Previously I have referred to plants raised in large automated factories that have often spent all their life coddled and nurtured – special nutrient suppliments, regular watering, sprayed with factory-derived chemicals, controlled humidity and temperature – and are destined to be fully urbanized in their own way once planted into their new garden. And yes, I am glad to say they usually succeed under those conditions provided by copious irrigation and the application of various products, greening our landscapes and cooling the air.

However, there is growing awareness that the days of golf-course greens and full irrigation in the garden may be something to fade out of the mainstream trends of gardening, as snow melt disappears, mountain lakes drop, aquifers are put under stress and municipal water supplies are rationed. That boogeyman has been rustling in the bushes again, and this time looks to be coming up the garden path. Reactions have included various strategies from artificial turf to spraying the dead grass with green colourant, or making lots of rock gardens. Frankly in my opinion the ripping out of lawns and covering everything in artful rock is just as useful as pouring concrete or spreading asphalt when we consider urban heat, or the cooling effect of vegetation. I should point out that I like rocks in moderation, and water retention/runoff by river rock is better than an asphalt-topped car park, so is a good thing.

So what to do? We can look to how pre-industrial societies – Rome, Greece, Arabia, Mesopotamia and sub-continental India spring to mind – created those “gardens” and therein lies some real thought-provoking avenues of thought, but for now I will be brief, throwing a few thoughts out there and pulling so lightly as to maybe help steer gardening practices to more sustainable solutions: Focus irrigation close to the house in isolated spots if you must (not the whole lawn/garden thing) and only irrigate when needed; drip irrigation for the food garden (and use grey-water if permitted); planting drought-tolerant varieties; preserve or create shade (once established, the right tree will put it’s roots deep down to find water); and develop water conservation by collecting rainwater, storing water, read up on permaculture techniques that slow down water runoff and trap it in your garden, and stop watering the weeds so much. There, a positive spin on the changing garden landscape is to make those weeds wilt in a positive way, if you know what I mean (then shift imagery to a dewey flower).

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PS All images copyright to Guy Menendez.

 

One of the Best or Most Brilliant Garden Ideas

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Yes, there is one idea – or invention if you like – that every garden should have and it could be as low-tech as a tree stump on it’s side, or as elaborate as an Emperor’s throne. Yes, a seating area. If you do not have one already in your garden, then do yourself a favour and get one this year, ideally very soon. My first one was an old plank of wood nailed onto a tree stump. The one in the picture above is of a simple design and weather-resistant wood. There are some magnificent ones too (you will find a photo at the very bottom of this page which as they say “really takes the biscuit”. It is at the Oxford Botanical Gardens).

So, picture yourself pausing, taking just a moment to look around and take in the atmosphere. Without somewhere to seat oneself, it is so easy to not take a break or to pass on by and miss the world around you. Your cat will thank you too, if you have one. Then you may need another seat.

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Rodmarton Manor (above)

PENTAX Image

Western Development Museum grounds, Saskatchewan (above)
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Oxford Botanical Gardens (above)

 

The 2015 Gardening Year

It feels great to think that the birds are starting to sing and establish their territories in preparation for the upcoming spring. We have so far been spared a heavy dump of snow, but it should be expected at some point. My home tasks involve preparing new vegetable beds when it is not too wet, tackling one or two rows early every morning. Happy New Year and Festive Gardening to all. plants5

Virdigris Gardening is still growing in 2014 …

At least one major online-advertising listing has posted that Virdigris Gardening has Closed. This is incorrect and I continue as before, being Open. Same person, same business, continuously.

My area of coverage extends from Yellow Point / Ladysmith, Cedar, Nanaimo and to Lantzville, and other regions of Vancouver Island upon request.

Thank you. Guycropped-webheader16.jpg

Summer Has Passed By: Long Live the Seasons

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A bit later than usual, October looks to be bringing in the tasks that usually would have been started in late September. The long hot days have now given way to the first of the autumnal storm systems that move in from the ocean, and as the evenings draw in the leaves are starting to change on the deciduous trees.

For the ornamental garden, I try to look at each plant’s potential and needs, rather than cutting everything back to an inch of it’s life in preparation for a long bleak winter ahead. There are 2 immediate examples that spring to mind: one about wildlife, the other more practical.

  • This year the Red Hot Pokers (Kniphofia) are still throwing out new stalks with flower buds and promise to keep at it until halted by frost, and other plants such as Cranesbill (Geranium) may continue to put on a show of flowers now that rain has fallen. The flowering season is still going. On a practical note, fleshy rooted plants such as the Red Hot Pokers, Crocosmia, Day Lilies (Hemerocallis) and such, require winter protection and apart from removing excessive soggy detritus that could cause rot, are best left alone until spring.
  • If some large flower stalks are left standing during the autumn tidy up – my favourite is  Mullein (Verbascum) – overwintering bugs will hide in them, and come a winter freeze, the birds will find a new larder to keep them going and provide a spectacle for the bird lover in the depth of winter. Aesthetically, the vertical component also adds interest to the garden, particularly in a light snowfall.

Now is also the time to plan the spring colour and plant daffodil bulbs, but tulips should left until it is colder (e.g. the first frosts). Enjoy the new season and all the good things it brings.

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Fruit Tree Harvest & Anthocyanins: Beautiful Plums as Colourful as Flowers

plums4This fruit tree just looks luscious. However, the fruit needs to be harvested if one wants to avoid a fermenting mess and drunk wasps terrorizing the neighbourhood (and perhaps attracting bears too). Such a harvest is a challenge in today’s rushed world: the fruit are usually harvested by volunteers or gleaners and donated to various worthy recipients.

Most years the plums are yellow, but this year the hot and dry conditions seem to have produced an early, mixed, and red-blushed crop. The red colour tends to relate to increased anthocyanin content. Anthocyanins are familiar as part of the vivid colouration in leaves brought on by day length, light intensity and temperature changes in autumn, but they can also be produced by a plant at different times and their production may be stimulated by environmental factors such as high UV exposure, water shortage or other stresses. That this tree is known for yellow-only fruit may therefore indicate that the very hot and dry conditions of late, with high UV levels, may have contributed to this year’s reddening of the fruit. Aesthetically, it is worth a picture  just as much as a rose is.

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New Contact Information

 

Update: New Tel. 250-924-1124

Location: Owlpen Farm, Yellow Point, Ladysmith, BC V9G 1G2, Canada

PortfolioMachl - 19This week I am in the process of moving, and should be back “with the world” in early June. So, in Flaming June I look forward to be all reinvigorated and ready for a glorious summer. Also my telephone number will change, although email and web remain unchanged.

With thanks for your patience. Guy

May Time in the Garden – Spring Flowers and Scent

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Muted colours but sweet scents, rain showers then sunshine, and the promise of summer to come, all this can be found in the garden in May, here in the temperate northern hemisphere. These were gathered from the garden for Mother’s Day and put into a vase: Bluebells, Tulips, Lilac and a hybrid involving Koreanspice Vibernum (V. carlesii x, I think, having lost track of that one’s identity some years back after the dog chewed the newly planted shrub down to the ground, but amazingly it recovered). The Koreanspice (or hybrid) is a highlight of the year, and should ideally be obtained in flower so the plant can be selected on the basis of it’s scent (quality varies).

Then there are the plants that will not fit in a vase: at the bottom of the garden is a Laburnum and stand of Lilac that show each other off wonderfully, aided by the purple tree foliage behind and to one side – despite my reservations about that colour on trees – and clear blue sky above.

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