April 15, 2011

No More Forsythia Balls! Choose Cornus mas Instead.

Toronto gardeners have an alternative: Cornelian Cherry Dogwood (Cornus mas)

In a "parkette" nearby which doubles as a dog run (watch out while treading!),  the City of Toronto has planted some more "unusual" shrubs and perennials. I use this adjective because I constantly see the "classic" run of the mill selection like yews, euonymus, and forsythia in private foundation plantings instead of public spaces. You know there's a disconnect when the city's park planners are more progressive than many landscape contractors.

spring yellow cornellian cherry cornus mas blooms by garden muses: a toronto gardening blog
Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) in bloom

Anyway, off my soap box, here's a shot of some Cornelian cherry or Cornus mas blooming right now in downtown Toronto. The bright yellow flowers cluster along tan branches and are welcome at this time of the year.

yellow spring cornellian cherry flower buds by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
A closer image of Cornus mas flower buds yet to open

A closer look at some buds which will open within a few days. One can expect red oval fruits the size of...cherries...by late July and August. The shrub doesn't have a noteworthy form or structure but the fall colour is a nice purple/red/violet mix so we have at least 3 seasons worth of interest. Cornus mas is also very hardy here in zone 5/6 so one doesn't have to baby it through the winter. And you get rewarded with a bright shot of colour in these still early days of spring. Can't you tell I love this plant?

spring cornellian cherry shrubs by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Three Cornus mas shrubs in full  sun

Here's a grove of several Cornelian cherries facing south and west and getting full sun (8 hours plus.) These plants are about 15' tall by 10' wide or so each and should be given the proper spacing. They shouldn't be pruned/tortured into cubes, balls, or other odd shapes, which leads me to...forsythia!

We will be seeing forsythia blooming in about another month and, to be sure, the shrub will be ablaze with yellow...for about two weeks. Afterwards, it will revert to a green blob or a huge tangled mess. No appreciable fall colour, no wildlife interest, prone to galls and anthracnose, the choice is obvious: choose Cornus mas instead!


April 04, 2011

Allan Gardens Conservatory 2011 Spring Flower Show

In need of some colour, quick!

After I visited a potential client this morning, I had some time to fill before picking up my kids. Allan Gardens Conservatory is nearby so I hopped in for a short visit. You can't beat the price of admission--free--and the greenhouse complex is easily reached by public transit.

Allan Gardens Conservatory spring blooms pansies ivy by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
What we want our garden bed to look like right now

Upon entering, I'm always hit by a smell of, I think, dormant oil spray. (I guess I'll always associate the place with this odour.) Does anyone else have this experience?

One section has rotating themes throughout the year and right now there are spring bulbs and perennials in bloom. To the right, this section of a bed presents a complementary contrast between the purple tulips and yellow pansies. (Sorry, there were no name tags detailing the cultivars so enjoy the pictures for now, there's no plant i.d. test at the end!) Spilling over the top is a variegated English Ivy tying the purple and yellow together. The daffodils bring up the rear while the phorium crashes the party and makes its presence known!

Could you not see this combination in a spring container?

Allan Gardens Conservatory spring blooms yellow and pink primula by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Look at me, darn you!
I couldn't resist taking this shot of this primrose. She/he/it was among the gaudier of the others. The markings seem almost fluorescent and that halo is just...I love it! This little guy jumped at me from about 20 feet away it seemed. (Magenta and yellow tend to cause this or a migrane I guess.)

Another section of the Conservatory holds all the tender tropical plants that need high humidity and warmer temperatures.  I snapped this shot of Strongylodon macrobotrys or jade vine, a tropical vine native to the Phillipines.

Strongylodon macrobotrys Jade Vine by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Strongylodon macrobotrys (Jade Vine) 

My lousy pic during overcast conditions doesn't do justice to the flowers' glow. It's really a colour you don't expect to see walking through the greenhouse, your eyes drawn to the vibrant reds and yellows of the croton, alternanthera, and coleus. Then the blue says hello. And you smile.