Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Family Day Photos

Yesterday was the Family Day Holiday in Ontario, a still fairly new holiday that popped up 2 or 3 years ago.  We were lucky to have a lovely weekend (despite slushy snow overnight on Friday), and there was a fair bit of sunshine.  Although I've been looking skeptically at the photos of snowdrops and aconites that have started to spread across the blogosphere, I was delighted to see that our mild winter has actually meant that they are also popping up in gardens in my neighbourhood.  In my own garden, there are no signs of spring bulbs as yet, but the signs of rising sap (swelling buds and flushes of colour on bark) are clearly all around, so spring can't be too far around the corner!  (photos courtesy of Davey's iphone).

Dogwoods and willows are flushed with bright colours

If you didn't know better, you'd think this was a hot summery view, not a frigid winter pic!

In February, this inlet of Lake Ontario is typically thick with ice

Snowdrops peaking through oak leaf litter in a Mimico garden

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Des Pas sur la niege

Toronto has pretty much escaped winter this year, so it was a little disconcerting to wake up to something that should be considered quite typical on Saturday.  A weekend of cold and snow resulted in comfort food, including delicious cheese and beer soup, and a toasty log fire.  Although I've been pleased to get to nearly mid February without having to shovel the driveway, I have been looking for an excuse to make cheese soup (which only works on a frigid, snowy weekend).  I don't have to wait any longer!  

Someone, or something has been bounding across the snow in my backyard!
The birds are loving these Rudbeckia seedheads at the moment
When I first moved to Toronto from the UK, I found the constant winter snow and frigid weather to be quite "exotic" and not entirely unexciting!  
  Please enjoy this melancholy musical depiction of the season, Des Pas Sur la Niege, Claude Debussy:

Friday, 10 February 2012

Off season chutney making

Currant tomatoes from my garden
Last summer, I grew a few currant tomatoes from seed, and raised the plants in a couple of pots and urns on my patio.  They did quite well, despite not getting too much attention from me.  The plants produced a fair amount of fruit, although they did start to succumb to fungus as the summer progressed.  By the time Thanksgiving came around in early October, the plants were definitely past it, and I had to gather quite a crop of green tomatoes.  At that point in time, I was just embarking on my bathroom renovation, and living elsewhere for a few weeks, so all I had time to do was freeze them.
Finally tonight, I'm doing a bit of out of season chutney making, since my last batch of green tomato chutney was a big hit.  Too bad I couldn't remember where the recipe came from!  This time, I'm using a recipe from You Grow GirlTM, albeit with a few additions/substitutions of my own invention.  Right now the house smells of hot vinegar, a smell that always reminds me of summer as a kid, when my Mum would make soused herrings!  Hopefully the finished chutney will be worth the pong!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

A little support

Providing support is always a tricky business.  Too little, and things fall flat and full potential isn't reached, too much (or too late), and things will look constrained and strictured.  I have a bad tendency not to stake things sufficiently early in the season, so I've been looking through my photo albums to get some inspiration.  Hopefully this will spur me into action in good time this year, and my garden will benefit from getting just the support it needs!

The best type of support is when there is no intervention at all, such as here at Crathes Castle, where a yew hedge provides the back drop for a splash of vibrant red,  from a perennial tropaeolum.

Or here, where a self clinging Boston Ivy was decorating the ancient stone walls of the idyllic house we rented in Provence a couple of years ago.

Of course, the more walls you have, the more options you have as supports.  For example, the imposing red sandstone walls of Glamis Castle are the perfect spot for a streak for burgundy foliage
And here, again at Glamis, on a more intimate scale, trellises of roses soften the stonework

At Duff House, a lovely Georgian mansion near Montrose, there are wonderful examples of espalier adorning the protective walls of the flower gardens
I was less keen on these arching supports at Duff House....a bit 1970s looking to my eye

But I think this example, of golden hops covering a series of arches, in order to highlight the lovely stone font at the end, works perfectly.  When we visited the gardens at Crathes Castle in late July, the yellow/gold/chartreuse coloured section of the garden looked spectacular.

Ropes can be used to good effect.  Here at Threave Castle Gardens, in Dumfries and Galloway, even naked, they look really good (more than can be said for the poor box hedges, which must have been damaged by a series of bad winters 

Here, at Cruickshank Botanical Gardens, in Old Aberdeen, ropes support lovely climbing roses.  When in bloom, they must form wonderful cascades of flowers.

Even when not in full bloom, the ropes add interest.

Herbaceous borders need careful planning, first to place plants appropriately according to height, and then to engineer an appropriate staking system.  Looks perfect here, at Threave.

And another perfect example at Crathes.
And here are the mechanics behind it....I know I've blogged about this before, but I think it's such a great system!

I crafted twig supports like these last year for my peonies, and they worked really well.

These sturdy examples are from Threave - mine were much less robust, but did the job.

In my own garden, I covered up the garage with a cheap trellis from Ikea, which supports a lovely white clematis, which flowers in late spring...... 
....and then is smothered in glorious New Dawn roses in late June.