Monday, 29 August 2011

Chamber Music

Recital tomorrow - I'm part of the Dvorak bagatelles, and then the others will be joined by a talented clarinetist for Mozart's clarinet quintet, which is heavenly.  The talented clarinetist is apparently also a talented double-bass player (go figure!), and so next year, we have decided to tackle the Trout Quintet.  I played it about 20 years ago, when a student, although I think we only performed a couple of movements at a college music evening.  Anyway, I'll need to start practicing already for next year.....this clip, featuring Clifford Curzon and the Amadeus Quartet, filmed at Aldeburgh, captures the energy of the piece.  It also alternately makes me quiver with excitement, and feel sick with terror at having try to get that level of agility!  I think I need to practice scales with velocity for the next 12 months.  Maybe I need to start piano lessons again too!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

What happens when you don't really have a plan?

My garden didn't really start out with a plan.  I know this is not the way things are supposed to be.  I know that the diligent gardener would never start a garden without a plan for amending the soil, and a plan for blending just the right colours, at just the right time of year.  I know that such fastidious gardeners would plan to ensure that the scheme of the garden harmoniously accommodated a variety of forms and textures, all carefully placed to create careful studies in contrast, with each plant given respect to height and spread, to ensure that each has its proper place, and that this place would anticipate the prodigious growth of mid to late summer.  I know all of these things.  And I'm not normally known for excessive spontaneity or bending the rules in other aspects of my life.  I've even been described as rigid (although I prefer to see it as "principled").  But my garden hasn't quite followed suit.  I've always had a soft spot for cottage gardens, with their happy-go-lucky, wayward charm, and this has rather influenced things in my garden.  That, and the fact that when I first dug out the lawn in my front yard, 6 years ago, I couldn't afford to do anything other than plant gradually, and fill the spaces with divisions and self-sown seedlings, slowly adding new and different plants over the last few years.  It's always worked beautifully in the spring, and early summer.  But as the summer wears on, things just start to get a bit out of control.  And now, after half a dozen years, it's become a bit of a jumble.  Add to that the fact that I've been pretty much traveling or too busy to get out in the garden since the beginning of July, and you get a picture of neglect.  A colleague, who happened to drive by my house a few days ago, remarked at "What a pretty jungle there is in front of my house".  Not entirely a compliment.  In the next few weeks, I need to take charge of the situation.  My trainee espalier apples need a proper home before winter, and some space has to be made in the front yard that they can call their own.  An excellent opportunity to do some more extensive re-arranging once most things have their best flowering behind them for the year, and before they get ready to go to bed until the spring.  In the meantime, I've been out there today, battling the wind, and staking things and generally trying to get them to look more orderly.  I know, I know.  Staking is not to be done once the plant has reached full size and has already flopped to the ground in the last storm.....but necessity is the mother of invention, and I did my level best.  The one good thing about having this blog is that having to take pictures of my garden and show them in public doesn't half shame me into getting things sorted out!
Plenty of colour, but too many rudbeckias!

Perovskias definitely in the wrong place.  Too big, too floppy, and too many self-seeded off-spring for their current location at the front of the garden.

And where is the colour in the rest of the garden at the end of August?!?

The charm of all the chaos has definitely worn thin!

And my bush wants trimming.

Not a good time to dig things up and transplant, so the best I can do is try to stake them.

Not ideal, but at least you can see things now, and the daylight can penetrate the jungle!

Boxwoods look better now, after a light trim

I love these platycodons, now that they've emerged from the sea of perovskia

A bit better.

Martha Stewart "Frizzled Coral Lace" gladiolus.  I hated these so much last year when I planted them,  that I ripped the bulbs out and tossed them at the end of the year.  I guess a few were missed, and amazingly they survived the winter to bloom again.  I hate the colour, and will ditch them once they've bloomed.  But it does make me wonder if another, more pleasing variety could survive the winter and come up trumphs.

The lavender hedge looks halfway decent now the plants are in their second season, and they continue to throw out new blooms.  I hope next year will be even better.  There are quite a number of self seedlings springing up too.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A fleeting fancy...but was it worth the effort?

There are lots of things in life which, despite long periods of effort or waiting, are handsomely rewarded by the final results, making the whole thing worth it.  As of this week, the crinums I planted in pots in the spring are a bit of an open question in this regard.  They didn't show any signs of life through May and most of June, and I actually thought they'd succumbed to the wet spring and simply mouldered away.  But with a little heat at the beginning of July, a few signs of green started to emerge from the impressively large bulbs.  Finally in mid-August, one of the four bulbs that I planted started to venture forth with a single stem of flower buds.  Last Sunday, the buds quite literally swelled up like balloons (an impressive sight, which I was too busy to pay much attention to, let alone photograph) and on Monday, right on cue for my dinner with the Diva & her husband, the flowers were fully open and adorning my patio.  And I must admit, I was quite proud of them!

Crinum powellii Alba

Out of four crinum bulbs planted, only one has thrown up any flowers as of August 24

Now, and here's the rub, by the time I came home from work on Tuesday evening, thinking that I'd finally have time to enjoy their beauty, and the fragrance that I had read about.....they had already gone past, and only some sad, brown and wilting petals remained.  Now, I have carefully watered and fed them, as have my friends and deputies,  for weeks, so this is no fault of general diligence and care.  Perhaps with even more diligence, and feeding and watering for the rest of this season, I can fatten up the bulbs to get a more spectacular and lasting show next year.   BUT, given the tiny proportions of my yard, I really must pose myself the question of whether it's worth the effort, or should I move onwards and upwards with a new choice for next year.  How about a nice agapanthus?  I've always loved them, and saw them in abundance and doing quite well, thank you very much, in Scotland.  Any thoughts?

Friday, 19 August 2011

Fun weekend

Looking forward to a fun weekend, with lots of social activities planned, to make best use of these dog-days of summer.  Saturday evening will be a gathering with friends in The Beaches, and then on Sunday afternoon, I'm heading to Cabbagetown, for a little party since the Diva is in town - hopefully the weather will hold up, since I've heard the backyard of the hosts is quite lovely.  And then on Monday, the Diva will be staying at my place, and we'll have some folks over for dinner, and better yet, I'll get a chance to play some piano duets with her, and do some planning on our repertoire for Tuscany 2012.  The Dvorak Slavonic Dances are on the list, and I'm very excited to have the chance to sight-read our way through them....take a look at the wonderful video attached, and especially what goes on with their hands starting around 2:45, to see why I'm so excited.  Back in the late 19th century, when these pieces were first published, this must have offered a tantalizing opportunity for some very intimate contact between young lovers, whose chaperones would otherwise have forbidden such close physical proximity!

But first, before all that fun.....I have a guest room to clean and piles of laundry to get through!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

My trip back home has given me Zone 7 envy....sort of.

I recently spent 3 lovely weeks back in my childhood home of Aberdeenshire, in the North East of Scotland, visiting my Mum and visiting lots and lots of castles, historic houses and gardens.   I have to say, visiting gardens in Scotland is often a revelation, both for their beauty, and history.  Most of the herbaceous plants that fill my garden really suffer in the Toronto climate, with dry summer soil, extreme heat and humid air, which all conspire to weaken plants and make them prone to outbreak of fungus and other infestations, and it really does require some diligent management to keep on top of those challenges.  In Scotland, those same plants are lush and abundant, and have a sort of "softness" about them - perfectly fresh and full of vim and vigour.  And then, of course, in general, although the scottish climate can't be described in any way as easy, it's extremely mild compared to southern Ontario.  The corner of Aberdeenshire that I call home, is somewhere around a zone 7, maybe even zone 8, and as a result, there are some things which are possible there, which just would not work in Toronto.  One of the most impressive that I encountered on this visit, which I don't recall seeing before, and which just about knocked my proverbial socks off, is the cardiocrinum.  Towering at about 8 feet high, the flowers look like the iconic lilies of religious art.  Perfect form, utter purity and perfect simplicity.....but magnified in a most glorious way!  This specimen was photographed at Crathes Castle, about 15 minutes scenic drive from where I grew up.  The gardens at Crathes are justifiably quite famous, and I took lots of photos, which I plan to share over the winter months, when my garden has gone to sleep for the season.
The only drawback to the scottish zone 7 climate, which serves to mitigate my zone envy, is that in 3 weeks, we only really had one day where the sun broke through the all encompassing grey cloud that blanketed us!  Actually, it wasn't typical even for Aberdeen and everyone was complaining about it, and thankfully, there was hardly any rain.  But it was lovely to come back to Toronto to perfect blue skies and abundant sunshine, if not the weeds in my garden!
Cardiocrinums growing in the lovely gardens at Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

I must do a little research to find out if there are any options that would allow me to enjoy these in my own garden, perhaps I could keep them in pots and take them indoors during the winter.  In any case, these would join the ranks of gardening projects to test my patience, along with my espalier efforts, as they take upwards of 9 years to flower, and the poor mother bulb expires after the effort!  Makes you appreciate their beauty all the more.

Monday, 1 August 2011

August 1st - post "lite"

 Busy as a bee so no time for a proper post, but since summer is marching on, I wanted to capture a few more pictures of what's in bloom on August 1st.