Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Go, go Begonia 'Escargot'

Look at that face, just look at it! Who could resist Rex begonia (Begonia rex-cultorum) 'Escargot'? Not me, it seems.
Despite her better judgement, Helen the House Plant Killer has become the owner of a slightly fussy Rex begonia 'Escargot'. The showy leaves with their whorled, snail-shell centres wooed her, that is, er, me. In fact, we've managed to live together now for a few months. Yes!

Rex begonias need bright, indirect light and well-drained soil with a particular level of moisture, neither too wet nor too dry. In fact, you shouldn't let them dry out completely. The latter is a challenge for H the HPK. It remains to be seen whether mine survives long enough to look like the monumental beauty photographed this weekend at the Montreal Botanical Garden. Snail to the chief!

This is my dream escargot-à-go-go!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dry Shade Gardening at Beach Garden Society, April 15, 2014

My own dry shade garden gets featured tomorrow
East end gardeners, especially those who garden in dry shade, I hope you'll join me tomorrow evening, Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at the Beach Garden Society, when I'll be the guest speaker talking all about dry-shade gardening. The meeting starts at 7:30 pm, and I'll be talking as fast as I can to give tips and tricks about a subject that has obsessed me – of necessity – for more than 25 years.

Hope to see you there, asking lots of questions!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Vertical gardens grow up

It seems that you can order these Sage Living Walls as kits, plants and all. Plant unit pops out of the frame, and a cartridge inside retains the water. Strangely, a tropical version like this one doesn't appear on their website.
While our poor blog lies fallow, I'm busily putting the finishing touches on a Dry Shade Gardening presentation to deliver on April 15, 2014 at the Beach Garden Society. In the meantime, have a look at these interesting vertical garden contraptions seen this year at Canada Blooms.

This isn't meant to endorse, but to share info on things we find intriguing. Some are brand new on the market. But, if you've tried any of these, let us know what you think. We love to hear from readers!

Sorry, not the most flattering photo. However, the modular MiniGarden system does come in colours other than industrial grey, including an attractive terracotta and basic black. The website currently lists no local sources, but I was told that Sheridan might be one. The relatively large root zone and non-porous material will help prevent drying – a challenge for vertical gardens. A feature for balconies with load restrictions: these can be wall-mounted, indoors or out.
You can buy this all-cedar Gronomics system assembled or ready-to-assemble. An irrigation unit is available separately. All three of the above systems were on display in the new products area at Canada Blooms 2014.
These beautiful succulent frames were in a few locations, including Floral Dimensions – although the link to the succulent frames on their site is incomplete. (A little sleuthing suggests the designer might be Debra Toonk.) Yep, beautiful.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring is nigh. Behold, a lone snowdrop!

In a sheltered position, close to the house, one tiny snowdrop defies Winter 2013-4
A little bit of spring has finally emerged from the Polar Voldemortex that was Winter 2013-4 – in the shape of this tiny snowdrop. This is a full ten days later than the latest snowdrop sighting we recorded back in 2008, and more than a month later than usual. As if you needed telling how cold it has been.

To compare, have a look at this lusty showing, almost a year ago to the day, from Spring 2013.

Never fear, folks, spring will come. It thinks it can, it things it can, it thinks it can…

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Review: Taming Wildflowers by Miriam Goldberger

Taming Wildflowers is Miriam Goldberger's just-launched book from St. Lynn's Press
Between the front cover's exuberant coneflowers and the back cover's Piet Oudolf blurb, Miriam Goldberger's work of passion Taming Wildflowers is the little book that could. Although it appears skinny, this is a highly concentrated primer on knowing, growing and using wildflowers.

Toronto-area folk might know Miriam as the co-founder, with husband Paul Jenkins, of Wildflower Farm, also developers of Eco-Lawn. If you are around my vintage, you might also recall Preggae Woman, which Miriam created to help women stay fit before, during and after their pregnancy.

Energy, she has aplenty. I'm glad Miriam focused it on the writing of this book, which covers wildfloweriness from botany to bouquets. She gives how-tos on seed-starting, some planting ideas, and low-downs on 60 of her favourite wildflowers, by growing season. Most of all, she stresses that wildflowers are flowers to be picked and enjoyed – not in the wild, but in your own back yard.

I've known Miriam Goldberger for years, and when I congratulated her at Canada Blooms, she told me that this was a book she felt she had to write. Happily, St. Lynn's Press gave her free rein to create the book she wanted it to be.
Is this the definitive book on wildflowers? Yes and no. For example, my old copy of Lorraine Johnson's The New Ontario Naturalized Garden delves into a wider array of plants. However, Taming Wildflowers is accessible and well-organized. And hardly a page goes by without one of the unstudied photos that match the wild subject matter. I only wish more of the photos were larger.

Besides, Miriam's enthusiastic, experienced voice and easy-to-follow instructions make it all seem so possible. I, for example, who cannot be trusted with a seedling over winter, was delighted to see her start seeds that need cold, moist stratification (Doesn't that sound scary?) by simply sowing them in pots and leaving them outdoors in winter (Oh! Not scary at all.). Good, basic reference material.

An example of the quick-reference info on plant pages, including photos of the primary and secondary leaves – so you can differentiate wildflower seedlings from weeds. Light, soil and moisture preferences help you choose plants that work best for your growing conditions. Native states/provinces are given, if prefer to use only local natives. Also listed are the birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife attracted by each species.
Full disclosure: In my review copy, were were tickled to read our names in the acknowledgements, and near the top (it can be handy having a name that starts with the letter B). Nevertheless, I believe my review is honest and fair. But I hope you'll judge for yourself. Let us know what you think.