Sunday, 22 April 2012

What's in bloom - April 22, 2012

We're expecting snow showers in the next couple of days, which is a bit of a downer, but overall, the weekend has had it's excitements.   Most notably, arriving at a party last night to find out that it was the wedding reception of two dear friends who decided to tie the knot in a low key ceremony attended by only themselves, two witnesses and the officiant, earlier in the day.  I was amongst the first of the guests to arrive, so it was lovely to see everyone's reactions as they discovered the good news!  Please join me in wishing the Dollhouse Girls many happy years of wedded bliss ahead!
Here's what's going on in the garden this weekend:

I bought this Pink Frost hellebore just a couple of weeks ago, and really love it.  Haven't grown hellebores before, so I'm hoping it settles in and establishes itself.
Although I lost some of the buds on my Japanese quinces at the end of the year, they are still blooming fairly reasonably.

lovely red peony shoots

These pink hyacinths were planted in the fall.  They're quite pretty, but have too lax a habit for my liking.

Pink rock cress if very cheery.

Pincushion spurge has started to colour up.
I've been house-sitting this foxtail rosemary over the winter for a looks spectacular with all it's spring flowers, so I may have to take a trip to Richters herbs to get one for myself this year.
Pansies distracting the eye from the fact that I need a new front door, or at minimum, a fresh paint job.

My Arabian Night dahlias are coming up with vigour in the mudroom.

I overwintered these geraniums from last year's window boxes in a dormant state in the basement (i.e. I just pulled the window boxes down, set them in the basement and forgot about them!).    I potted them up a few weeks back, and they've come along beautifully, and have even started to flower already.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Toronto Symphony Orchestra - Verdi & Tchaikovsky

Went to the TSO last night for a concert of Verdi and Tchaikovsky, for a sold out performance featuring superstar soprano, Sondra Radvanovsky.

Ms. Radvanovsky looked stunning in a dramatic yet classic black floor length, full sleeved gown with a swoopingly low neck line.  Her intensely emotional performance of arias from I Vespri Siciliani and especially Eugene Onegin set the audience on fire, so that by the time we returned from intermission, the anticipation for the dramatic twists and turns of the sixth symphony, Pathetique of Tchaikovsky had us at boiling point!  I have to say it was the kind of performance that had you on the edge of your seat in anticipation, and when the final notes died away at the end of the work, the conductor held a perfectly still, engaged posture for what seemed like half a minute, building the audience into an absolute fever pitch of emotion before rapturous applause exploded throughout Roy Thompson Hall.  Definitely a performance to remember!   Here's a taster of what you missed:

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Kid in a candy shop

At this time of year, spring just can't gather pace quickly enough for me.  Although we had an early start to the spring and had unprecedented and consistently warm weather in March, things are back to normal now in April, and so I'm still patiently (or truth be told, impatiently) awaiting my first daffodils to bloom.  The sense of unfulfilled anticipation is only heightened when all over the blogosphere, people are reporting that their tulips are out, or that they've had their first rose of the season.  And indeed, because my garden sits about 100 yards from the chilly waters of Lake Ontario, it's in a cooler spot than most of Toronto, and I have to suffer the fact that others in this municipality are already enjoying the bounty of spring, whilst I must patiently wait!  As a result, trips to the garden centre at this time of year are particularly dangerous, given all the temptingly advanced items for the picking....which seem to call out "buy me" at every turn.  Last weekend, I paid a trip to Humber Nurseries, just to do a bit of are some of the temptations I managed to avoid:
This gorgeous tree peony had a delicious scent 
This looks like it's straight from a japanese silk painting

perhaps I could have had a second career as a hand model, but now (as my dermatologist told me recently), the barnacles of old age are accruing and I think I've missed my window of opportunity

This one was about the size of my head (keep any comments to yourself thanks)

The petals on this one looked like scarlet silk taffeta

Some of these Heucheras were quite nice, others were very much on the gaudy side!

love these little dianthus - I have some pink ones in my garden and the scent is fantastic.
This cheeky chap, and his mate, have been frequent visitors to my garden this year....not quite sure where the nest is, but it must be close by given the amount of activity in my garden.   The photo was snapped on my phone through the sunroom windows and doesn't quite capture the vibrancy of his colours - he's not called a cardinal for nothing.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Easter work

Back to work tomorrow, which seems but "oh too soon".  But it's been a highly productive weekend overall.....although I think my entire gardening budget for the year has now been exceeded!

Order of Work - April 8th

  • removed overgrown cotoneaster.  This plant was already moved from the backyard, to fill up space in my front yard when I initially removed the lawn and couldn't afford to plant the entire space in one go.  It definitely filled plenty of space, and I have a certain fondness for cotoneaster as my mother has a couple of absolutely beautiful cotoneaster horizontalis growing up against her house, which came from my grandparent's farm, Strathinver.  They fan across the walls, and are covered first in lovely, tiny white, starry flowers, and then bright red berries.  However, my cotoneaster did not thrive in the Ontario winter, and certainly didn't have the beautiful fan habit of the horizontalis.   It's time, as they say, had certainly come, and after a considerable effort to dig out the roots....'tis no more.  Replaced by two hydrangeas, "Wim's Red".  These sound highly promising, blooming first in early summer in a flush of white, which progressively matures through pink, and finally magenta in the fall......really hope they live up to their promise.
hydrangea "Wim's Red":

  • dug up border to my driveway which was inundated with rudbeckia last year.  Have removed highly invasive amethyst bachelor buttons, which get everywhere, and then thinned out other plants (keeping left overs for a friend who needs to replant a garden after a renovation squashed all life from their front yard.  Have left spaces for the dahlias and cannas that I bought on Good Friday, and filled spaces in the meantime with some cheery pansies.
  • Removed the perovskias which were upsetting me last year.  These have gone to the backyard (and may not last there either!).  Have backfilled their spaces, which lie on the one sandy patch in my entire garden, with 6 vigorous looking eremus, or foxtail lilies.   These were inspired by a visit to Larkwhistle about 6 years ago, where they were soaring throughout the garden in July, in the midst of a drought, and looking absolutely pristine.  I have tried these for the last 3 years and achieved nothing, but I'm hoping the sandy site, and the fact that the roots I bought look much more substantial and alive than any others will equate to success this time.  Fingers crossed please!

  • Other work included pruning the lavenders throughout the garden, all of which appear to be sprouting out nicely, potting up my seedlings (white cosmos, black kale, rhubarb chard and tomatoes), skyping with my family, roasting a leg of lamb and baking a lemon self saucing pudding.....yummy!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Impulse shopping - tender summer bulbs and rhizomes

I was supposed to be going out of town for the long weekend, but my travelling companion has been struck down with tummy trots, so the plans had to be postponed.  As an alternative, I thought I should make a trip up to Plantworld, just to get some potting compost and a few peat pots.  It's a nice sunny day and the trip was a pleasant one, but as is always the case when I go to the garden centre, I can't seem to leave with just the items on my shopping list.  I did buy the potting compost, but thought better of the peat pots (I have more plastic pots at home than I know what to do with so it seems silly to buy more).  I also came home with a few more spontaneous purchases:
  • one flat of mixed blue & white pansies
  • a lovely "Pink Frost" hellebore, which was on sale and therefore too good to be passed over!
Pink Frost hellebore (
  • a bleeding heart, again on sale, and although I've always loved them, have never had one in my garden.  Not sure if I will curse myself later, as I know they can get weedy looking after flowering.
  • A new pair of gardening gloves (which are truly needed - worn holes in my other pair).  I got a pair of "Toughguy" reflection on myself.
  • more dahlia tubers - this time, Bishop of Oxford.  I had already bought 2 Arabian Night dahlias a few weeks ago, again on impulse.  They are planted up in pots and growing nicely, waiting to be planted out later in May.  I haven't grown dahlias in a few years, but did have a Bishop of Llandaff for many years which I diligently brought through several winters.   It was a beauty, but if always got too tall and I was forced to put it in a place at the back of my garden, to accommodate the height, but it never got enough sun to do it's best.
Bishop of Llandaff (

After the mixed success of the pots of summer bulbs last year (crinums that flowered for a grand total of 2 days were a frustration), I thought I'd re-try the experiment, this time with Nerine, or Guernsey Lily (which although tender, I remember growing quite well in sunny, sheltered spots in Aberdeenshire).  I've selected the variety Kodora, which looks to be a salmony, red colour.

I've also plumped for two varieties of Cannas, a scarlet one called "The President" and a hot pink one called "Rhodos".  I haven't grown cannas for many years, and the last ones I had only ever produced huge, variegated, sun-sensitive (i.e. easily scorched) leaves, but no flowers.  Hopefully the varieties I've just selected will do better!

Canna "Rhodos" (Netherland Bulb Company)

Canna "The President" (
You can see that there is a hot and fiery trend to all of these selection.  I was re-watching some of Carol Klein's "Life in a Cottage Garden" and was smitten by her infectious enthusiasm for her hot borders, with fiery reds, oranges and yellows.  Last year, big patches of rudbeckia had taken over one side of my garden, and although they were spectacular, they need some other hot summer companions to spice things up and keep them company in the searing late summer days.  Hopefully all of the plants above will do just that.

Last years sea of rudbeckias.....needs a bit of spice this year!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

April Fools day

April Fools day proved to be cool and wet, and it was hard to pull myself away from the hearth to go outside and get some fresh air.  I was bitterly disappointed to see so many of the magnolias in Mimico have been hit by frost and won't bloom this year, the result of being too far advanced by the unseasonable warm weather we experienced in early March.   I've seen quite a number of fruit trees in bloom too, which typically wouldn't be the case here until early May....hope they aren't damaged by the frost.

Here are a few spots of colour that broke through the gloom of the day.

scarlet berberis berries
cheerful forsythia blossoms
A blue sea of scillas
In reality, these were a very delicate pale pink, not visible in this photo
This new build is about 8 houses down from  mine, but is clearly in a different league to my modest home!   It's nice to rub shoulders with the well healed!