September Bloom Day

There is something about the light in September, especially at magic hour before sunset when the sun is bright but lower in the sky.  The gardens are bathed in golden light and petals are backlit.

Here is what is blooming today in the garden.

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The potted geranium lights up against the early evening sun.

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What would a late season garden be without annuals. These provide the bulk of the color in September. But, enough catmint is blooming to feed the native bees and butterflies.

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I tend not to keep track of annual plant tags. So, I will just have to appreciate this nameless marigold for being hardy and lovely.

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I am always amazed at the fragrance of Sweet Autumn clematis. It has been looking fairly puny this summer, and though I wish it had grown farther up the arbor, I have to love the abundance of white fragrant flowers.

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A friend gave me this pink anemone years ago. It’s been moved a couple times, but continues to thrive against the garage.

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The queen of the garden might just be this hibiscus. It is at least seven feet tall.

Native Pollinators

It used to be that I hated all insects.  And, I confess, I dislike the majority of them even today.  I usually wear gloves when I garden so that I don’t have to accidentally touch a worm, slug, or bug.  But over the past few years I have come under the spell of bees, especially bumblebees and carpenter bees.  I didn’t know much about them, nor was I particularly compelled to learn more.  If I kept my distance, both I and the bees could maintain a manageable level of comfortableness.

A carpenter bee drinking nectar from a purple coneflower.

A carpenter bee drinking nectar from a purple coneflower.

I knew about bumblebees and carpenter bees.  I got stung by a wasp once.  And,  I remember my mother telling me that “sweat bees” were harmless.  And, I knew that moths and butterflies also pollinated flowers, but that was the extent of my knowledge.  It was during the  Garden Bloggers’ Fling in Toronto in June that I learned more about native pollinators. When I found out that a “Buzztini” was on our Fling agenda and that there would be a short presentation, sponsored by Burt’s Bees and the Fairmont Hotel, I was prepared to ask why we were spending so much effort saving honey bees when they are not indigenous to North America.  But, I didn’t have to ask that question.  The short presentation respected the role that honey bees play, but it also focused on mason bees and other native bees and how wonderfully efficient they are at pollinating.  In fact, they are often more efficient than honey bees. And, at a number of the gardens we visited during the Fling, I spotted native bee “hotels.”  You can learn more about the Fairmont’s worldwide efforts to support native and honey bees here.

Two native bee "hotels" at one of the private gardens we toured in Toronto.

Two native bee “hotels” at one of the private gardens we toured in Toronto.

When I first heard Flingers talk about mason bees, I thought they were using another name for carpenter bees. Silly me. Mason bees are a different species and are solitary, meaning they do not nest in hives, but, instead, in single little tubular compartments in trees and buildings.  One of the first things I did when I got home from Toronto was order a solitary bee abode.

The solitary bee abode I purchased when I returned from Toronto.

The solitary bee abode I purchased when I returned from Toronto.

It arrived within a few days and when I was hanging it in the cherry tree, I looked for other places in the tree that might house mason bees and other wild native bees.  Sure enough, I saw one going into a round hole in a scar where a large limb had fallen the summer before.  Cherry trees limbs sometimes snap under the weight of fruit.  No one has set up housekeeping in my solitary bee house, but it went in late, probably after prime egg-laying season. My hope is that next year a few females will find it attractive enough to lay eggs. I have noticed some sweat bees flitting in and out, but I think that is more about curiosity than house hunting.

Native bees have taken up residence in the old cherry tree. They dig circular holes in the soft wood and create chambers that each house a single egg.

Native bees have taken up residence in the old cherry tree. They dig circular holes in the soft wood and create chambers that contain a single egg. You can see at least two holes to the top right and one at the lower right of the knot hole.

There are 130 different varieties of mason bees in North America!

Female mason bees find holes created by other insects, including carpenter bees, or in cavaties hollowed out by woodpeckers. They also use hollow reeds.  Once a bee has found a suitable nesting place, she gathers pollen and nectar that form a pillow from which a solitary larvae feeds as it grows.  The mother bee partitions that chamber with a plug made of plant material (hence the name “mason” bee).  The plug becomes that back wall for another nest.  Bees destined to be female are in the back chambers.  Those destined to be males are in the chambers closer to the outdoors.

This mason bee was dining on catmint near the cherry tree.

This mason bee was dining on catmint near the cherry tree.

 

Mason bees and carpenter bees are usually better pollinators than honey bees.

Honey bees were introduced in North America by colonists in the 17th century.  In fact, English colonists took bees to New Zealand, Tasmania, and Australia, making the honey bee a world-wide species.

But, honey bees are not always the most efficient pollinators.  They don’t  forage during cool, wet, or windy conditions. Native bees, however, do not seem to mind that kind of weather.  Though honey bees can transfer pollen via the hairs on their bodies, because they wet pollen and and store it in “bags” on their legs, less pollen falls off of them when they are moving from flower to flower.  Large commercial bee companies transport hives from one growing region to another, which puts stress on those honey bees and further impedes their abilities to pollinate.  Solitary bees cannot be transported, which makes them unattractive to commercial bee outfits.

Honey bees get a lot of glory, but native bees should not be ignored.  Their presence means less stress for over-taxed honeybees.  And, mason bees are far better orchard pollinators, for example, because they emerge from their nests in early spring, just in time to pollinate fruit tree blossoms.  They also flat out do a better job.  In fact, one mason bee can pollinate as much as 70 honey bees.  Blue orchard mason bees look a bit like a fly with their iridescent blue/green bodies , but they are bees.  For more images of mason bees, click here.

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Leaf cutter bees often visit rose bushes. If you see round holes on leaves, they were probably made by leaf cutter bees that use the pieces to separate egg chambers. The little bit of leaf that they cut do not harm the plant.

Leaf cutter bees are darker than honey bees and have off white stripes on their abdomen.

Leafcutter bees often have white stripes on their abdomen. In my garden, they seem to like catmint and hydrangea pollen.

Leaf cutter bees have white stripes on their abdomen. In my garden, they seem to like catmint and hydrangea pollen.  Here they are feeding on the Tardiva hydrangea in the Secret Garden.

They get their name because they chew off sections of leaves and use them to partition off spaces, much like mason bees do with the mud they create.  They, too, carry dry pollen on the hairs of their bellies. Pollination occurs when the pollen from one flower is dropped on another. They are also not aggressive.

Bumblebees seem to love catmint flowers, at least in my garden. They collect pollen in sacks on their hind legs, but pollen also attaches to the hairs on their body and is transferred to other blooms when they land.

Bumblebees seem to love catmint flowers, at least in my garden. They collect pollen in sacks on their hind legs, but pollen also attaches to the hairs on their body and is transferred to other blooms when they land.

 

Carpenter bees look very similar to bumblebees, but are generally larger and do not have much hair on the top of their abdomen.  They also do not collect pollen on their legs, but carry it on the hairs underneath their bodies.

Notice the pollen that has collected on the hairs underneath this carpenter bee's body. This allows for easy transfer of pollen from one bloom to another and makes carpenter bees wonderful pollinators. These particular bee is nuzzling the white phlox in the Secret Garden.

Notice the pollen that has collected on the hairs on this carpenter bee’s body. This allows for easy transfer of pollen from one bloom to another and makes carpenter bees wonderful pollinators. This particular bee is nuzzling the white phlox in the Secret Garden.

Paul Zammit, the Nancy Eaton Director of Horticulture at the Toronto Botanical Gardens, talked to Flingers briefly about the importance of native and honey bees. He asked us what color bees are drawn to the most.  I thought it would be red. Others thought it might be yellow.  It turns out bees are drawn first to white flowers.  I should have known.  When I want to try and photography bees in my garden, I go first to the Tardiva hydrangea.  Because it blooms later (hence the name Tradiva), it provides pollen and nectar to all sorts of pollinators including wasps and butterflies.

Other Pollinators

Below are pictures of other pollinators that visit my gardens.

This cicada killer wasp landed on my Tardiva hydrangea a few days ago. It is a very large wasp that stings cicadas and lays its eggs in the body. The wasp larvae feed on the cicada.

This cicada killer wasp landed on my Tardiva hydrangea a few days ago. It is a very large wasp that stings cicadas and lays its eggs in the body. The wasp larvae feed on the cicada.

 

This beautiful wasp may strike fear in some because of its size, but the Great Black Wasp is quite mellow. Because they drink nectar, they are pollinators and visit gardens in mid to late summer.

This beautiful wasp may strike fear in some because of its size, but the Great Black Wasp is quite mellow. Because they drink nectar, they are pollinators and visit gardens in mid to late summer.

Butterflies, too, transport pollen

Butterflies, too, transport pollen.  This female Tiger Swallowtail loves the purple coneflowers in the Secret Garden.

Though they are often called bald-faced hornets, these insects are actually wasps. They get their name from the white on their faces. They are beneficial pollinators.

Though they are often called bald-faced hornets, these insects are actually wasps. They get their name from the white on their faces. They are beneficial pollinators.

GBBD: August 2015

One of the great things about Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is that it keeps you honest.  If you are going to post pictures of your garden, then you need to make sure the garden looks well tended.  It also sends you back to your blog.  And, because a community has arisen around this meme, you get to visit other gardens and get a peek at other aesthetics.

This month I decided not to focus so much on close ups.  Today my hope is to give visitors a feel for what I experience when I go out into the gardens. Sadly, WordPress would not cooperate with me today. The images below simply would not go in the order that I wanted them to.

Another view of the magnolia hosta bed. Here you will find Golden Tiara, Guacamole, more Lakeside Beach Captain, Bressingham Blue, and Elegans.

 Here in the magnolia bed in the front garden, you will find Golden Tiara, Guacamole, more Lakeside Beach Captain, Bressingham Blue, and Elegans.

Though nothing is blooming here, the hosta bed under the old magnolia tree always catches my eye. I think I need to think the Frances Williams. The very light hosta on the right is Pineapple Upsidedown Cake. The hosta with the pale stripe in the center is Lakeside Beach Captain.

Another view of the hosta bed underneath the old magnolia, this time showing off Francis Williams, Lakeside Beach Captain, and one of my favs, Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

The Nikko Blue in the foreground is the first bloom this plant has sent out in years. I'm not sure why it only produces foliage. Next to it are several favorite hostas: High O Silver seedlings a friend gave me, My Friend Nancy, and Deep Blue Sea.

This Nikko Blue in the foreground is sending up the first bloom this plant has had in years. I’m not sure why it only produces foliage. Next to it are several favorite hostas: High Oh Silver seedlings a friend gave me, My Friend Nancy, and Deep Blue Sea.

Stained Glass, one of my favorite hostas, is sending out its fragrant blooms. Not all hosta flowers are fragrant, but Stained Glass makes up for those.

Stained Glass, one of my favorite hostas, is sending out its fragrant blooms. Not all hosta flowers are fragrant, but Stained Glass makes up for those.

The day lilies have finished blooming and the last of the canes will come out this week. I'm in the process of taming the Tardiva hydrangea, so it looks a bit lopsided. As soon as the flowers fade, I'm going to give it a hard prune in the hopes of getting a bit more symmetrical.

The day lilies have finished blooming and the last of the canes will come out this week. I’m in the process of taming this Tardiva hydrangea because it looks a bit lopsided. As soon as the flowers fade, I’m going to give it a hard prune in the hopes of getting it a bit more symmetrical.

The sunny border by the garage in the Secret Garden has gone through some revisions this summer. I took out a lot of the Zagreb coreopsis and complete removed the Friesland salvia. It just got too floppy, no matter how I staked it. So, marigolds and annual salvia are filling in the bare spots. I'm hoping the blanket flower takes off

The sunny border by the garage in the Secret Garden has gone through some revisions this summer. I took out a lot of the Zagreb coreopsis and complete removed the Friesland salvia. It just got too floppy, no matter how I staked it. So, marigolds and annual salvia are filling in the bare spots. I’m hoping the blanket flower takes off. That is Moonbeam coreopsis in the upper part of the picture.

This gorgeous hosta went in late last summer. It is On Stage and the foliage is particularly lovely.

This gorgeous hosta went in late last summer. It is On Stage and the foliage is particularly lovely.

Looking east toward the Kousa Dogwood in the Secret Garden shows the power of snapdragons. I didn't plant these this year. They are volunteers from last year, and I rather like their tenacity.

Looking east toward the Kousa Dogwood in the Secret Garden shows the power of snapdragons. I didn’t plant these this year. They are volunteers from last year, and I rather like their tenacity.

In the Secret Garden the echinaceas are finishing up. That is white phlox in the back.

In the Secret Garden the echinaceas are finishing up. That is white phlox in the back.

I've been using the rose medallion as a watering spot for various potted plants that I bought early in the summer. That began when I went to a conference and wanted to make sure everything got watered. And there those pots have remained for the rest of the summer.

I’ve been using the rose medallion as a watering spot for various potted plants that I bought early in the summer. That began when I went to a conference and wanted to make sure everything got watered. And there those pots have remained for the rest of the summer. That is a Limelight hydrangea sending out more blooms than it has ever produced before.  The red you see in the foreground are the wonderful hips on the hansa roses.

In the lower garden behind the house are more hostas and catmint. I love that the bees love the catmint. And its long bloom season provides a constant supply of nourishment for both native bees and honey bees. The rose of sharon is still blooming.

In the lower garden behind the house are more hostas and catmint. I love that the bees love the catmint. And its long bloom season provides a constant supply of nourishment for both native bees and honey bees. The rose of sharon is still blooming.

The red Knockout Rose and the red Carpet Rose provided consistent color in the rose medallion.

The red Knockout Rose and the red Carpet Rose provide consistent color in the rose medallion.

Looking east from the lower garden to the entrance of the Secret Garden. The Annabelle hydrangea blooms are turning green and in a month I will pick them for winter bouquets.

Looking east from the lower garden to the entrance of the Secret Garden you’ll find the Annabelle hydrangea blooms turning green. In a month I will pick them for winter bouquets.  This week the Zagreb Coreopsis will get deadheaded.

Again, though nothing is blooming here (except the rose of sharon and a couple of stems on the white dome hydrangeas) I'm quite intrigued by my lewd hosta bed. It includes Seducer, Obscene Gesture, Naked Lady, Boyz Toy, Stiletto...I'm looking forward to watching this bed mature.

Again, though nothing is blooming here (except the rose of sharon and a couple of stems on the white dome hydrangeas) I want to show off my lewd hosta bed. It includes Seducer, Obscene Gesture, Naked Lady, Boyz Toy, Stiletto…I’m looking forward to watching this bed mature.

Looking west and into the entrance to the Secret Garden is another border with Walker's Low catmint.

Looking west and into the entrance to the Secret Garden is another border with Walker’s Low catmint. The white asiatic lilies are spent, but they were so wonderfully fragrant when they were in bloom.

I trimmed Walker's Low catmint a couple of weeks ago in the hopes that it would sent up new blooms. It is starting to do that. In the meantime, I am enjoying the Rudbekia and the blackberry lily.

I trimmed Walker’s Low catmint in the entrance garden a couple of weeks ago in the hopes that it would sent up new blooms. It is starting to do that. In the meantime, I am enjoying the Rudbekia and the blackberry lily.

GBBD: July 15, 2015

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Sweet William, marigolds, and Walker’s Low Catmint in the little nook between the  sun room and dining room.

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White Dome Hydrangea, hardy geranium, and Zagreb Coreopsis in the lower garden. I almost yanked the coreopsis early this spring but am so glad I didn’t.

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This is my new “lewd” hosta bed. At the moment the euphorbia and rose campion can stay, but as soon as the new hostas mature those two plants are going to need a new spot in the garden. What do I mean by “lewd?” This bed includes Seducer, Obscene Gesture, Naked Lady, Stiletto, Midnight at the Oasis, Boys Toy, She’s Got the Moves…You get the idea

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This Wild Spice Hansa rose is on its second bloom cycle. This shrub rose give off such a wonderful fragrance.

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Limelight hydrangea and Rosie Returns day lily in the lower garden.

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Knock Out rose in the rose medallion.

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I clumped a bunch of pots together so that the in-ground sprinkling system could water them while I was at a conference. I haven’t moved them back to their original spots and kind of like all the riot of color they bring to the rose medallion. That is Endless Summer hydrangea in the background.

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Walker’s Low Catmint with Annabelle Hydrangea at the entrance to the Secret Garden.

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Just inside the Secret Garden is Kim’s Knee High Echinacea next to Annabelle.

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It’s day lily season!! Rosie Returns is putting on quite a show, but it’s not the only one. Next to Rosie Returns is Moonlight Coreopsis and Zagreb.

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First Knight, the yellow day lily to the right, is one of my favorites. To the left is Sea Urchin. And, the crocosmia is doing its wonderful scarlet thing.

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I keep thinking that I have gotten all of Pandora’s Box day lilies out of the Secret Garden, but I am continually wrong. Next to Pandora’s Box is my nameless dark, dark red day lily.

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Echinacea from a garden buddy with Fragrant Angel Echinacea.

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Sea Urchin day lily in the Secret Garden

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The Garden Lady is surrounded by crocosmia and day lilies.

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First Knight

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Rosie Returns

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Stokesia

This is one of my favorite spots in the garden. Great Expectations has finished blooming, but Stained Glass has new scapes and will bloom in a week or so. To the left are Cherry Berry and Allegan Fog.

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That’s Deep Blue Sea on the left with Creamscicle just to its right. Little Aurora is in the foreground.

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Crocosmia.

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Fragrant Angel Echinacea

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Grosso lavender and pink echinacea. I’m looking forward to seeing and smelling the asiatic lilies that are in bud.

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I have an ever-growing love of native pollinators like bumble bees and am so pleased that so many native bee species visit my gardens.

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A pretty little bend in the path in the Secret Garden.

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New this season is White Pow Wow echinacea.

Many thanks to May Dreams Gardens for creating a space for garden bloggers to record what is bloom on the 15th of each month.

Here is what is blooming in Garden337.  It’s been a great gardening summer so far…



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What more could you want: A cat statue, Rudbekia, and Walker's Low Catmint in the entrance garden.

What more could you want: A cat statue, Rudbekia, and Walker’s Low Catmint in the entrance garden.

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Halcyon in the back door garden. That is Rhino Hide in the little pot to its right. This is it’s third year in that pot and it’s doing better and better. Rhino Hide gets much bigger so I will need to move it to a better spot when it decides to grow up.

June 15: Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

The corner nook where a few bleeding heart blooms are hanging on, the old climbing rose is trying to come back after a hard winter, and the hidcote lavender have been thinned.  In the foreground are to blue salvia annuals waiting to be planted.

The corner nook where a few bleeding heart blooms are hanging on, the old climbing rose is trying to come back after a hard winter, and the hidcote lavender have been thinned. In the foreground are to blue salvia annuals waiting to be planted. The red is Sweet William.

Thank you again to May Dreams Gardens for creating the Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day meme.  Check out her website for links to gardens all over the world.  Scroll down to see what is blooming in mine.

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The Walkers’ Low catmint is putting on a wonderful show. I have it growing in several spots. Here it is at the entrance to the Secret Garden.

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Here the Walker’s Low catmint surrounds the cat statue in the front garden.

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The Kousa dogwood is an explosion of blooms.

 

Here is another view of Kousa.  In the foreground are white snapdragons that self-seeded.

Here is another view of Kousa. In the foreground are white snapdragons that self-seeded.

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Sorry for the blurriness. This David Austin rose continues to struggle. It is the sole survivor after gallant efforts to keep the fragrant roses healthy.

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More catmint!! The red is Sweet William gracing the corner nook garden. The rain has knocked down the catmint.

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This entrance to the Secret Garden features a potted geranium and white clematis winding its way through the dutchman’s pipe.

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This is a nice shot of the Lower Garden. The blue in the middle is some sort of hardy geranium that is a bit unruly. As soon as the blooms are finish, I lop it off and get a few flowers for the rest of the season. Those are the hansa roses to the left. The White Dome hydrangeas are full of buds. These are doing so well this year!! I was tempted to yank them all out.

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These hansa roses are so wonderfully fragrant.

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This is the last of the poppies in the Secret Garden. I wish they lasted longer.

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I’ve moved the heuchers so often I’ve lost track of them. This could be Palace Purple.

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The little seating area in the Entrance Garden gives a pop of color against the Dwarf Albert Spruces.

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This view of the Secret Garden includes Alchemilla in the foreground, Blue Ice Amsonia, and Euphorbia Perkineses. Some of the daylilies are already producing scapes.

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A closer shot of Euphorbia Perkineses

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I did a hard prune of James McFarlan lilacs as soon as they were finished blooming so that I could enjoy the mock orange.

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The Francis Williams hostas are starting to bloom. Again, this seems early. The White Dome hydrangeas are a titch ahead of the ones in the Lower Garden.

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Another shot of Francis Williams,

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White Dome Hydrangea.

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Wildberry Breeze Hansa rose.

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The charming climbing rose in the corner nook.

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Red Knockout rose in the rose medallion. Too bad it isn’t fragrant

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Inexpensive basket in the corner nook.

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Just a few bleeding hearts left.

 

H. Abiqua Drinking Gourd is blooming.  This is a bit early.

H. Abiqua Drinking Gourd is blooming. This is a bit early, too.

 

2015 Garden Bloggers’ Fling: Toronto

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This amazing “backyard garden” was a visual feast. There was such lovely attention paid to height, texture, and color. The owner said she had been tending this garden for 40 years. Amazing.

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This deco fountain is part of Parkwood, the former home of a General Motors Canada president that was built in the early 1900’s. The estate features magnificent deco gardens and is the venue for weddings and other gatherings. There were two weddings happening on the day we toured. Parkwood staff served us a lovely luncheon in and around the tea house.

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The owner of this private garden has a number of native bee houses. A log drilled with holes can attract mason bees, and there are a number of companies that sell bee houses. Scroll down to learn more about native bees.

When my friend Stef asked me if I was interested in attending the Garden Bloggers’ Fling in Toronto, I immediately said yes.  It was absolutely the right answer.  What more could a gardener ask for–great people, beautiful gardens, and terrific swag. I’m a social kind of girl, so being surrounded by so many friendly and knowledgable people was the biggest plus.  But I am still marveling at the wonderful gifts I received from Lee Valley Tools.  The long bladed trowel is fabulous and the hand rake is going to be so helpful now that the mulch has been spread in all the gardens.  Yes, I still have planting to do.  Later we were blessed with Corona garden tools.  I’m going to need a bigger tool box and maybe a garden tool belt!

We began our fling at High Park, a 400 acre recreational and conservation space.  There is a continuing effort to save native plants and raise public awareness of the fragile nature and tremendous value of those plants.  We saw introduced species that have invaded other parts of the park and learned about the efforts to restore places in the park to native plants and animals that depend on those plants.  Because non-native invasive species are crowding out natives, there is a dangerous decline in native pollinators.  More about that below.

That evening we learned more about the Fairmont Hotel’s efforts to provide habitats for native bees. There is a rooftop chef’s garden and a number of honeybee hives.  But more importantly there are solitary bee houses. I’ve had my suspicions that our efforts to save our declining honey bee population have been a bit misguided and prompted by corporate interests rather than conservation.  The little presentation we saw that night affirmed my suspicions.  I recognize the value of honey bees, but the truth is that they are not indigenous to North America and have crowded out native bees.  As we diminish native bee habitats, we diminish our knowledge that the bulk of the pollination work in our natural world is carried out by native solitary bees.

I love the bumble bees that visit my gardens, though these are not solitary bees. The carpenter bees are solitary and there are lots of them nuzzling anything that blooms.  I didn’t know about mason bees who are also indigenous and excellent pollinators.

Carpenter Bee on Tardiva in my Secret Garden

Carpenter Bee on Tardiva in my Secret Garden

There are hundreds of native bee species and I’m starting to learn about the role they play in our own survival.  We will disappear when the bees do.  And if we do not pay closer attention to the needs of native bees, we will pay a tragic price for our ignorance and our carelessness.  You can learn more about the Fairmont’s efforts here.  And you can read more about the role native bees play in our own survival here and here.  Native bees do a better job of pollinating than honey bees.  Who knew!?

This amazing private garden is so much more than a back yard!

This amazing private garden is so much more than a back yard!

We also toured a private garden that has been in the making for 40 years. The owner has paid such careful attention to height, texture, color, and the needs of the plants.  There was a lovely water feature full of tadpoles.  I tried to find parents, but they must have been nestled into a moist safe place waiting for dusk.

We feasted in several ways at the former estate of General Motors Canada’s first president–Parkwood, now a national historic site.  It is a wonderful example of art deco garden design and is the venue for weddings and other events.  There were two wedding parties on the estate the day we toured.  We were treated to a lovely luncheon in the tea house next to a long reflecting pool.  The swan pictured above was one of two fountains at the top of the pool.

We toured more private gardens that afternoon, so many that they have begun to merge in my memory.  Cabbagetown, though, was a stand out.  Initially a neighborhood settled by Irish imigrants, the neighborhood is now in the midst of restoration and home to some lovely gardens.  Narrow lots have become eclectic gardens that maximize space. And we toured Evergreen Brickworks, the site of a large brick making company that has been repurposed into a farmers’ market, wetlands, and window into Toronto’s past.

A map of Toronto!

A map of Toronto at Evergreen Brickworks

Aga Kahn Museum reflecting pools arranged around a center pool.

Aga Kahn Museum reflecting pools arranged around a center pool.

We also looked at a garden the nestles into a slope that goes to one of Toronto’s ravines carved by a stream system that feeds into rivers that in turn empty into Lake Ontario.  And we visited the Aga Kahn Museum that has the most amazing reflecting pools.

It’s been a rough winter for me.  My rheumatoid arthritis flared up big time and there were days when it was a struggle just to get out of bed.  I made arrangements to get a wheel chair just in case things flared up.  But, I didn’t need it.  Those with fitness monitors reported that we were walking upwards to 14,000 steps in a day and I trudged along.  I didn’t break any speed records and I was pretty slow getting on and off the bus that took us to all those wonderful gardens, but, damn, I did it.

Part of the machinery for making bricks.

Part of the machinery for making bricks.

Allium!  I need allium in my garden!

Allium! I need allium in my garden!

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I love those hostas!

One of the private gardens we saw.  What a serene place.

One of the private gardens we saw. What a serene place.

Here is Helen, one of our organizers, doing a blue thing.  The tree in the background was discovered at a curb.  The owners of this private garden rescued it, painted it blue, and called it garden art.  Talk about re-purposing!

Here is Helen, one of our organizers, doing a blue thing. The tree in the background was discovered at a curb. The owners of this private garden rescued it, painted it blue, and called it garden art. Talk about re-purposing!A special thank you has to go to the Helen and and Sarah Battersby for all the planning.  The pre-conference reception at Lee Valley Tools, the Buzztini where I learned more about native bees, the buses, the gardens, the dinner, the lunches, the snacks all took such careful planning. Never underestimate the power of smart women!!We began our “fling” at a private garden that was amazing.  In what could have been an ordinary urban back yard, the owners created amazing beds punctuated by swaths of grass.

Information about bees at the Toronto Botanical Gardens, the smallest botanical garden in North America at just 5 acres.

Information about bees at the Toronto Botanical Gardens, the smallest botanical garden in North America at just 5 acres.

Is it a cottage garden?

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I planted this wonderful peony three years ago and it is finally showing off. Peonies were initially planted for medicinal purposes and later for their beauty and scent

I planted this wonderful peony three years ago and it is finally showing off.  Peonies were initially planted for medicinal purposes and later for their beauty and scent.

That is Walker’s Low catmint in the foreground and the peony on the other side of the entrance to the Secret Garden.

I think my goal, at least for my Secret Garden, has always been to create a country/cottage garden, but I’m not sure that’s quite what I’ve ended up with.  I’ll let the reader be the judge.  Initially, though, I was charmed by the IDEA of an English cottage garden, at least the romanticized version.  And, of course, the book The Secret Garden had everything to do with my own version of that.  I don’t have a rambling manor house or a hidden door or a mystical friend who helps me discover a garden that brings the world together in peace and harmony.  I am, by the way, particularly charmed by the musical adaptation of the novel.

Some say that cottage gardens were first introduced in Great Britain by the Romans.  Others say they arose after the Black Death which wiped out a third of the population in the British Isles.  Laborers were few and former serfs found a demand for their work and the fruits of their labor.  Rather than paying their rents in crops, serfs could pay a yearly rent, grow fruits and vegetables for their own use and to sell or trade.  Some became skilled laborers who kept gardens.

Early cottage gardens were strictly utilitarian, becoming a source for fruits, vegetables, and scented plants that could be used for medicines, adding flavor to wines and ales, and for masking the unpleasant smells associated with being human in a time when there were no toilets or morning shower baths.  This was especially important for those living in low-ceilinged thatched cottages that were dark and damp.  These scented plants included peonies, pinks, hyssop, daylilies, Madonna lilies, and roses.

I have long forgotten the name of this hardy geranium, but it is a welcomed resident of my lower garden.  When it stops blooming, I cut it back and it usually supplies a few blooms throughout the summer.

I have long forgotten the name of this hardy geranium, but it is a welcomed resident of my lower garden. When it stops blooming, I cut it back and it usually supplies a few blooms throughout the summer.

Those early cottage gardens were not planted with any attention to aesthetics.  But that changed in the 16th century when trade with other regions brought new plants and ideas into the lives of cottagers and the landed gentry.  It was the gentry that romanticized the cottage garden.  Out went the concept of utility and in came the notion that cottage gardens were a type of planned abandon, a place to spend leisure time, and a way to show off one’s affluence.  Tudor gardens borrowed from Italian gardens and included sun dials and statues.

It was the Victorian era that greatly influenced the modern cottage garden with its mass of flowers and a combination of “wild” and highly structured plantings.  I suppose that describes my gardens, though I tend to think the “wild” aspect of my gardens comes from a lack of attention rather than a deliberateness.  An hour ago I finally decided to tame the dutchman’s pipe that was taking over an arbor designated for clematis.  As soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to go out again to pull weeds, plant, and take the pictures that appear here.  I find that my blog posts go together better when I write the text and then insert the images.  I tend to get overwhelmed by the wildness in my gardens and dither about where to start.  I flit from one bed to another with no real plan.  That perhaps is a result of my very associational brain.  But there is also a sense of freedom there.  I don’t have to do things in a logical order.

Here is evidence of my aimless gardening habits.  The perennial spade actually wintered over.  I stuck it in the ground early last winter before the ground froze, went off to do other tasks, and forgot it.  Sadly, it didn't grow any babies for me.  But it also didn't die.  It's my favorite spade.  The empty pot is from a daylily I planted last week.  Sigh.

Here is evidence of my aimless gardening habits. The perennial spade actually wintered over. I stuck it in the ground early last winter before the ground froze, went off to do other tasks, and forgot it. Sadly, it didn’t grow any babies for me. But it also didn’t die. It’s my favorite spade. The empty pot is from a daylily I planted last week. Sigh.

I noticed that the honey bees are awake and visiting the catmint.  The bumble bees have been around for several weeks and I saw several carpenter bees, today, too.  They look like bumbles but have shiny butts.  Both bumbles and carpenters are excellent pollinators. And, unlike honey bees, bumbles and carpenters are native to North America.

Roses have long been a party of cottage gardens.  This Hansa rose, a rugosa that was developed in the Netherlands in the early 1900's.  It is hardy, which makes it an ideal choice along the shore of Lake Michigan where wickedly cold winds and heavy snow are the norm.  They are wonderfully fragrant.

Roses have long been a party of cottage gardens. This Hansa rose, a rugosa that was developed in the Netherlands in the early 1900’s. It is hardy, which makes it an ideal choice along the shore of Lake Michigan where wickedly cold winds and heavy snow are the norm. They are wonderfully fragrant.

So, is this a cottage garden? Is there enough wild abandon demonstrated, or is it too safe to be classified as a such.  Scroll down for a few more pictures.

I am, by the way, looking forward to Garden Bloggers’ Fling in Toronto later this week.  I anticipate getting lots of great ideas and experiencing other gardens just for the pure joy of it.  This will be my first non-academic conference in decades!!

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Notice the pinks to the left. These were one of the original cottage garden plants used for the scent. Pinks belong to the dianthus family and are related to Sweet William and carnations. The Garden Lady, by sculptor Casey Bell, joined the garden a number of years ago and greets me every day.

Catching the Late Afternoon Sun

Wandered through the gardens yesterday, camera in hand.  Here’s how the light played.

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I know I’ve posted a number of pics of this columbine, but it’s so pretty…

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That’s H. Halcyon, a medium sized hosta. It hangs onto its “blueness” all summer. It is a layer or two of wax that gives hostas like Halcyon their blues. Some varieties lose their waxy coating in hot weather which makes them appear greener..

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Abuja Drinking Gourd was Hosta of the Year in 2014. Mine has occupied this space for five or six years and it continues to charm me. I love its deeply textured blue leaves and the way they cup.

This charming and solitary allium popped up just over the fence from my lower garden.

This charming and solitary allium popped up just over the fence from my lower garden.

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The Cheddar Pinks have been teasing me with lots of bud. No any more.

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The old dogwood in the Secret Garden is in full bloom and hosts oodles of buzzy insects. Later when its flowers have turned to clusters of dark blue berries, birds find a feast, too.

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The hosta bed behind the garage in the Secret Garden is filling in. That is Great Expectations near the fence. Francee is nestled next to it. Next to Francee is Stained Glass, one of my favorites. It has wonderfully scented flowers, lovely color, and lots of texture. In front of Stained Glass is June, another Hosta of the Year in 2001. It is a sport of Halcyon.

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No one told me that Great Expectations was a difficult hosta to grow. It must like gravely soil and the dappled sun it gets in the Secret Garden. I love deeply textured hostas, and the fact that I can get all that color, size, AND texture makes this one of my favorites.

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I planted On Stage late last summer. I was first drawn just to the name, but I also liked the streaky leaves.

I think house sparrows finally whittled the opening to this birdhouse so they could build a nest.  Usually wrens have nested here, but with the larger opening, I suspect they will find a more secure nesting spot.  There are babies inside.  I had hoped to catch the bright yellow mouths, but they didn't cooperate.

I think house sparrows finally whittled the opening to this birdhouse so they could build a nest. Usually wrens have nested here, but with the larger opening, I suspect they will find a more secure nesting spot. There are babies inside. I had hoped to catch the bright yellow mouths, but they didn’t cooperate.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day: May 15, 2015

Yea!!!!  It’s my first GBBD of the season!  As always, a shout must go out to May Dreams Gardens for creating this opportunity for people all over the world to share their gardens on the 15th of each month.

So, here is what is happening in my garden today.

Here's another view of the clump of columbine.

Here’s another view of the clump of columbine.

For years i tried to get rid of this columbine, a remnant from a previous owner, but couldn't.  Now I'm glad I let it be.  It greets me every day during its bloom season as my back door.

For years i tried to get rid of this columbine, a remnant from a previous owner, but couldn’t. Now I’m glad I let it be. It greets me every day during its bloom season at my back door.

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The hosta bed under the old magnolia tree. Love that combination of coral bells and hostas.

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There are more coral bells on the “inside” curve of the boxwood hedge. The only thing blooming at the moment is the Heurcherella.

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This little columbine, Blue Winky, lives in the Secret Garden.

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Also in the Secret Garden is this Jack Frost brunnera.

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I didn’t not expect a lot from the lilacs this year because I gave them a hard prune last summer. But these few blooms are kicking out a lot of sweet perfume.

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The ammonia are about to bloom in the Secret Garden.

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Alchemilia or Lady’s Mantle in the Secret Garden. No blooms yet, but the beads of water, like cabochon gems carry their own beauty.

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The little nook outside the kitchen door provides a great place for this Bleeding Heart to thrive.

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The Walker’s Low catmint is just about ready to bloom.

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The variegated brunnera in the Secret Garden looks pretty amongst the rising hostas.

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Another Bleeding Heart doing it’s wonderful thing in the Secret Garden.

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I gave this bridle veil spirea a hard prune last summer and knew there would not be very many blooms this year. But a few is enough. And next year it will be back to its old self.

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The euphorbia in this bed is so striking! This is my “lewd” hosta bed. I plan to put Striptease and Hanky Panky in there. That is Seducer that you see. I also plan to put in a Praying Hands, just for balance, donchaknow…