February 10, 2018

Happy Phalaentines!

The Love Affair with Moth Orchids


Valentine's Day 2018 is fast approaching and since I can't offer you, dear reader, a dozen roses and assorted chocolates, how about a dozen or so pictures of orchids?


Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory 
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid 


It's a tough time for me as a gardener in Toronto as the middle of February offers no respite from snow, slush, horrible windchills and so on. I'm not the type to order and read seed catalogues by the fireplace; in fact, currently I'm reading books about many non-gardening topics like marketing, design and Japanese fiction. I just don't find spending hours reading about constructing compost bins, growing chickens in the city and maximizing your backyard vegetable yields particularly exciting or beautiful.



Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid white hybrid by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory 
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid white hybrid 


What do I find beautiful at this time of the year? As you surely have ascertained at this point of the post, orchids!


Phalaenopsis Harlequin Moth Orchid at the Centennial Park Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis "Harlequin" Moth Orchid 
at the Centennial Park Conservatory 

I'm not an orchid collector or grower but I can completely understand how and why many apparently rational and sane people lose their rationality and sanity buying, growing and showing off their babies as I was the same with hostas many years ago. 

(Erik Hansen wrote a very funny and yet at times sad book detailing the madness of some orchid growers titled "A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy" which I've read and reviewed here. You don't even have to like orchids to enjoy reading it as the themes cover any obsession we have!)

If our house wasn't so drafty and dry in the winter, I likely would keep an few orchids around but, to be honest, I much rather take pictures of orchids than actually growing them. And why not? Orchids are so photogenic and practically dare you not taking a picture of them when they're happy blooming away in warm and humid conditions.



Phalaenopsis Harlequin Moth Orchid hybrid at the Centennial Park Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis "Harlequin" Moth Orchid hybrid 
at the Centennial Park Conservatory

"Warm and humid" growing conditions in Toronto right now are rare and likely to occur inside greenhouses and conservatories. Two local conservatories I visit regularly always have more than a few orchids blooming away so recently I carried my camera in the hope of capturing some pictures. Lucky for me, these orchids were happy to accommodate!




Phalaenopsis hybrid at Centennial Park Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis hybrid at the 
Centennial Park Conservatory

Most of today's pictures show the orchid you're most likely familiar with: the moth orchid or Phalaenopsis. You see these hybrids on sale almost anywhere: grocery stores, home improvement and warehouse shopping stores, your local floral shop and of course, garden centers. I'm amazed how plants so beautiful (in bloom of course) are so common and inexpensive to the point of being commodities. I realize, of course, these are due to the fact that Phalaenopsis can be commercially propagated easily by tissue culture.

(If you want to dive into the fascinating world of Phalaenopsis propagation, click on this PDF created for the American Orchid Society: "Growing the Best Phalaenopsis" by Runkle et al. I was surprised how quickly I recalled all those terms from my botany and horticulture classes from eons ago!)





Phalaenopsis hybrid at Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis hybrid at 
Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory 



Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid 
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory 



Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid at Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid 
at Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory 



Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid 
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory 



Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid at the Centennial Park Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid 
at the Centennial Park Conservatory 



Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrids at the Centennial Park Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrids 
at the Centennial Park Conservatory 



Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid magenta hybrid at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid magenta hybrid 
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory



Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid purple and white hybrid at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid purple and white hybrid 
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory 



Purple and white Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Purple and white Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid hybrid 
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory 

Here's excellent information about keeping your Phalaenopsis happy at home by the American Orchid Society: Novice Phalaenopsis Culture Sheet

Wait, there's more!


If you're tired of looking at moth orchids at this point, I've included the following orchids which were begging to be photographed during the same visit to the Allan Gardens Conservatory.


 At the Allan Gardens Conservatory Cymbidium insigne Sweetheart  by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
 At the Allan Gardens Conservatory 
Cymbidium insigne "Sweetheart"



Cymbidium insigne Sweetheart at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Cymbidium insigne "Sweetheart" at the 
Allan Gardens Conservatory



Cymbidium insigne Sweetheart at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Cymbidium insigne "Sweetheart" at 
the Allan Gardens Conservatory 


Angraecum spp. Orchid at the Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Angraecum spp. Orchid at 
the Allan Gardens Conservatory 


January 27, 2018

Beauty (and Disgust) is in the Eye of the Beholder

Spring Flowers and the Horrors They Bring


I think it's safe to say that most of you reading appreciate growing, smelling and seeing flowers (otherwise, you're in the wrong blog!) Granted, not everyone likes the same flower (for example, it seems nothing polarizes people more than being presented a bunch of freshly pulled dandelion flowers.) Flowers (or you can argue plants in general) can evoke certain emotions, feelings and physical reactions based on distant memories and associations with people, events, locations, etc. For those who haven't read my profile blurb, I'll always associate tomato plants with my kindergarten (maybe grade 1?) teacher handing out a styrofoam cup with a precious seedling to each of us in her class. I think my mom even grew it but this memory may or may not have actually occurred 45 years ago; nevertheless, the scent from a tomato plant always triggers this happy memory from primary school.

I recently was reminded of my little tomato plant in a round-about way after sharing this picture on another social media forum I visit:



"Royale Red" Salpiglossis sinuata (Painted Tongue, Scalloped Tube Tongue or Velvet Trumpet Flower) at Toronto's Allan Gardens Conservatory Spring Flower Show.
"Royale Red" Salpiglossis sinuata (Painted Tongue)


The plant's common name is Painted Tongue and botanically known as Salpiglossis sinuata. I took this photo during a Spring Flower Show from four years ago (here's the original post titled "Allan Gardens Conservatory Spring Flower Show 2014: primulas, cinerarias, grape hyacinths. Toronto blooms (without the distracting home renovation booths)" if you're interested.)

Painted Tongue is an annual for us here in zone 5 Toronto and these flowers were grown from seed just for the Show. There are many cultivars and I think this particular one is called "Royale Red".

What do you think of its appearance? It's certainly grabs your attention as the veins seem kaleidoscopic. To me, it's even a little hypnotic.

After I shared this picture on the aforementioned flower community, I received an unusual reply. (To give you some context, the particular group is for members to share pictures of plants and the moderator and I'm guessing 95% of the members are Japanese.) Here's my conversation with Seiichiro:


S: This is a very less attractive flower for Japanese people's soul, I think.


Me: Can you explain? I'm not sure what you mean by "less attractive" :-) Do you like it?

S: For me, it seems a kind of monster and my heart rejects it.I suppose many Japanese feel like me. 毒々しい (poisonous) , this is the very Japanese word for the flower.


Me: That's very interesting! I never viewed it as evil or poisonous but the pattern does get your attention, in a good or bad way. I googled the kanji and the images produced included many poisonous mushrooms!

I appreciate your comment. I am sure many here in North America also find this flower's appearance too shocking!



I didn't receive other negative comments so maybe Seiichiro is generalizing but then again, maybe not. I tried to translate (via Google of course) the Japanese characters he provided above and got results like "gaudy", "detestable", "odious" and the all encompassing "gross." And if you searched these characters by image, you'll be surprised (try it, don't worry, it's definitely safe for work.)


My little conversation with Seiichiro confirmed what I've known all along: sometimes, a rose is not just a rose and in this case, an attention-seeking annual flower which at first glance provides much needed colour therapy after a long Toronto winter isn't so innocent-looking after all. 

At least to Shisido-san....


December 11, 2017

Not the "Winter Interest" I Had in Mind

Gilding the Hydrangea


Christmas is around the corner, we've just put up the Christmas tree (well, my wife did) and there are seasonal decorations everywhere around the city adding to the festive feel. But I think at least one property owner has gone a little too far in applying the Christmas spirit in the garden. But let's first talk about that old warhorse of a garden design term, "winter interest."

Toronto gardens will look bare until next March aside from the presence of evergreens (boxwoods, yews, and cedars usefully provide the plant "bones" when your garden is denuded) and very early season blooming plants like witch hazel, hellebores, and crocuses which give us much needed colour. How bare depends on how much "clean up" occurs in October and November: one can ignore the garden as it goes into dormancy by leaving all stalks, flowers, berries and leaves alone, in situ. On the other end of the garden maintenance spectrum, you could also remove all leaves and dead material in order for the garden to be "clean and ready for next spring" (words used by a client in the past.) Why a garden is in such dire need to maintain horticultural hygiene has always been a mystery to me. I occasionally remind such clients that a vigorous fall cleanup doesn't occur in nature.

And of course a happy medium can occur by removing some plant material to make your spouse and/or neighbours happy.

By choosing shrubs and trees that have ornamental stem and bark features like vivid colour and interesting texture, horizontal branches, old flowers and berries to catch and contrast against the snow, you can extend the seasonal interest of your little patch of heaven. (I can't help you here if you're a veggie grower.) You can also plant many perennials with dormant leaves and stalks that hold up well under the weight of snow and howling winds (ornamental grasses fit the bill perfectly.) Given winter is easily more than a third of the gardening calendar here in Toronto, that goal may be worthwhile.

"Annabelle" Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle') is very commonly used in Toronto gardens and I've posted many pictures of the shrub in my "fall cleanup" posts recently. In a nutshell, if you grow this shrub, every autumn you face the question: "should I leave all the dormant stalks and flowers [more accurately, the flower balls are "corymbs"] alone for winter?" like this:


Autumn Annabelle Smooth  Hydrangeas by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Autumn "Annabelle" Smooth Hydrangeas 


Or "should I cut the aforementioned stalks hard to the ground?" like this:


Pruned Annabelle Smooth  Hydrangeas by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Pruned "Annabelle" Smooth Hydrangeas 


I think either option is fine going into winter. I do recommend that in the spring, an older Smooth Hydrangea shrub which hasn't been pruned hard in a few years should undergo some sort of rejuvenation pruning to clear out the inevitable dead interior stems and branches. Since "Annabelle"'s flowers are produced on new wood, you won't go through a season without those beloved white pom-poms by doing this.

Now getting back to the Christmas theme, what I don't recommend you do is this, as recently seen in my neighbourhood:


Spray painted Annabelle Hydrangeas by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Spray painted "Annabelle" Hydrangeas 


Spray painted Annabelle Smooth Hydrangeas by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Spray painted "Annabelle" Smooth Hydrangeas 



From a plant health care perspective, spray painting dead flowers shouldn't affect the shrub. You can make the argument that the flowers are going to be pruned away next spring and I'd agree with you. And for all I know, the owner/artist will prune away Hydrangea arborescens "Metallica" (trademark pending) on December 26.

Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I'll leave it up to you to decide on the shrub's artistic merits going into Christmas and the New Year. I think it's gosh-awful ugly.

On this positive note, I wish everyone well wishes over the holidays! And leave the spray painting to poinsettias...


December 02, 2017

The Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show

No Christmas Turkey But This Bird is Just as Succulent


The Allan Gardens Conservatory's annual Christmas Flower Show is never a turkey of a show but the highlight of the Conservatory's year if you're into poinsettias, hanging ornaments, Christmas trees, seasonal floral design, etc.. (I prefer the Spring Flower Show held in March-April since I'm so colour-deprived at that time of the year that forced tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other bulbs provide the greatest therapy.) My work season unofficially ended yesterday and to celebrate, I dropped by to see this year's Christmas Flower Show with camera in hand.

I'm always curious to see what the Show's theme is. One year it was about music, another Show profiled outdoor activities like skating. This year? I'm not sure. No turkeys or geese on the menu; instead, we had this bird for Christmas:




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show floral peacock by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
 Flower Show floral peacock



Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show floral peacock kalanchoes detail by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show floral peacock with kalanchoe in detail 



Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show floral peacock succulents detail by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show floral peacock with succulents in detail 




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show floral peacock succulents and kalanchoes detail by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show floral peacock succulents and kalanchoe detail 




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show floral peacock detail by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show floral peacock feathers in detail 



Orange, pink and yellow aren't your typical Christmas colours (they remind me of a perennial border during high summer) but so what? I imagine the floral designers had a lot of fun arranging all these Kalanchoe, Echeveria and ivy to form this peacock's finery. And coming into the Conservatory on a dull December day, it was great to see some high voltage colours.

Don't worry, Christmas traditionalists, there will be more than enough "green-red-white" combinations in the pictures to follow. 



It's a Christmas Flower Show so where are the Christmas trees and ponisettias? Well, right across from our colourful peacock friend, we had these "trees":




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show Christmas tree topiary by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show Christmas tree topiary 




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show Christmas tree by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show Christmas trees 



Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show Christmas tree topiary detail by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show Christmas tree topiary detail




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show Christmas tree topiary detail red and white kalanchoes by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show Christmas tree topiary detail red and white kalanchoe




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show Christmas tree topiary Echevieria by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show Christmas tree topiary with kalanchoe and Echevieria




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show Christmas tree topiary succulents detail by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show Christmas tree topiary succulents detail 



A Flower Show is all about colour so setting up a "normal" Christmas tree like the real or artificial one you put up every December just won't do. The closeups above show how these "trees" were painstakingly put together. It takes an artistic eye to arrange the kalanchoes and Echeveria in that candy cane pattern. And for everything not to fall apart!



You waited patiently for poinsettias so here they are: The good news? Not a flake of glitter was seen anywhere on these poinsettias. Spray-painting poinsettias or plants in general is just plain wrong!




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show poinsettias massed by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show poinsettias massed 



Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show poinsettias massed with variegated English Ivy by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show poinsettias massed with variegated English Ivy



Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show peach pink poinsettias by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show peach pink poinsettias


Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show poinsettias and succulents by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show poinsettias and succulents



Something new for me in this year's Show is the use of taller poinsettias to create a greater layering effect as shown below. I guess the central stem was staked and leaves pinched off in the greenhouse. This makes for a better picture by filling up the middle layer, bare poinsettia "knees" notwithstanding.




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show tall poinsettias by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show tall poinsettias



Besides seeing ubiquitous poinsettias during this season, cyclamens, azaleas and ornamental cabbage or kale are also for sale around the city now. I don't think they're hardy for us here in zone 5 Toronto (to be honest I've never tried to see if this is true but I assume most flower show material isn't bred for winter hardiness) but they are staples at this Flower Show every Christmas and provide the filler in the beds located in the separate room of the Conservatory that's kept in temperatures in the teens (Celsius) or 50s in F.




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show pink cyclamen by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show pink cyclamen



Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show red and white cyclamen and dusty miller by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show red and white cyclamen and Dusty Miller


The Dusty Miller (Jacobaea maritima) tie the azaleas and ivy all together perfectly, like most silver-leaves plants do. Keep this in mind if you revamp your perennial bed next season. 





Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show Fleur En Vogue Purple Persian Cyclamen by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show "Fleur En Vogue Purple" Persian Cyclamen 

You're looking at the underside of these nodding "Fleur En Vogue" Persian cyclamen flowers by design. And the foliage, as usual for cyclamens, is wonderful.



Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show pink cyclamens by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show pink cyclamens



Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show pink azaleas and Asparagus ferns by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas 
Flower Show pink azaleas and Asparagus ferns 


I find the pink azalea flowers combine so well with the Asparagus Fern's (Asparagus aethiopicus) fine foliage, although this colour scheme reminds me more of spring than Christmas.




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show white ornamental cabbage kale by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show white ornamental cabbage kale 

This green and white ornamental kale is twirling around like a flamenco dancer!



Let's warm things up!



Any visit to the Conservatory means spending time in the two "hot" houses or rooms which are heated and have high humidity all year. You can usually depend on seeing orchids, hibiscus, Abutilon (Indian Mallow), croton, bromeliads and other tropical plants blooming happily away, even with the Arctic winds howling outside during January and February. This Conservatory is truly an oasis in downtown Toronto and provides me and many other visitors a reprieve from the numbing cold and depressing snow and ice during a long Toronto winter.


Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show Phalaenopsis orchids by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show Phalaenopsis moth orchid




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show Cattleya labiata by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show Cattleya labiata




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show red tropical hibiscus rosa sinensis by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show red tropical hibiscus Rosa sinensis 




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show tropical hibiscus rosa sinensis by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show tropical hibiscus Rosa sinensis 




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show Codiaeum variegatum Croton by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show Codiaeum variegatum (Croton) 




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show bromeliads and aechmeas by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
 Flower Show bromeliads and aechmeas




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show bromeliads and reindeer by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas
Flower Show bromeliads and reindeer

One of Rudolph's siblings (since he or she doesn't have a red nose) seems confused about grazing on these bromeliads and Aechmeas.




Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show Blushing Bromeliad Neoregelia carolinae by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 2017 Christmas Flower Show
Blushing Bromeliad (Neoregelia carolinae)


The common name for this bromeliad makes perfect sense!