March 29, 2012

Happy birthday to "garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog"

My first year writing about gardening in Toronto, wow! 

Banana bread muffin celebrating first anniversary of garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
My wife's banana bread mini-loaf,  before being sacrificed to the blog gods.

Time does really fly by between work, the kids, and blogging. I'm really enjoying writing and documenting plant/landscape/garden-related topics. It allows my creative side to burp up ideas which I love to share with you, kind reader.

Thank you for reading and commenting over the past year. Who knows where the muse will take me over the next year? 

Come along for the ride!

March 20, 2012

Summer in Toronto

Toronto gardens off to an early start this year

Oh, it's the first day of spring?

This is getting ridiculous! 

Today we reached 21 degrees Celsius or about 70 degrees Fahrenheit in Toronto, even warmer tomorrow. You just know that we'll be punished with one more hard frost! But this won't stop us from enjoying the earlier-than-expected blooms. I just can't get rid of this nagging feeling that those bursting magnolia blooms will be zapped!

dwarf iris Iris reticulata spring blooms by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Iris reticulata nestled among moss phlox. 

Saw these really cute dwarf irises blooming their pretty heads off among some moss phlox. I much prefer these little guys compared to their bearded big brothers who are susceptible to borers.

Campanula garganica Dickson's Gold Italian bellflower by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Campanula garganica "Dickson's Gold" (Italian Bellflower) 

At a client's house today for a spring garden cleanup and wanted to show you this perennial you might consider to brighten up a container or a spot in your garden. This bellflower has lavender-blue flowers, creeps slowly and suitable for the front of the border. That chartreuse is a winner in my book!

Emerging bleeding heart Dicentra spectabilis shoots by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Dicentra spectabilis (good ol' fashioned bleeding heart) 

Common as nails but emerging leaves and stems provide plum colour when the perennial bed is still quiet. Take home point: even emerging foliage has ornamental value.

March 15, 2012

Farewell to the winter that wasn't

Toronto snowdrops and epimedium emerge

With temperatures hitting the mid and upper teens (Celsius) this week in Toronto, it seems like bulbs and buds (makes for a nice landscaping company name) are in overdrive to open. We had so little snow this winter that it doesn't feel like we even had one. Not a typical Toronto winter but no complaints here!

Spring ephemerals are out and about and since I promised you last post that I would show some snowdrop pictures, well, here they are: 

Drift of white snowdrops early spring by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
A drift of snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)

Galanthus nivalis white snowdrops by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Detail of  a clump of nice clean white snowdrops

These were taken at a client's shady backyard in the midst of a garden cleanup. I'm not the world's biggest fan of spring bulbs/corms but I would miss these little guys, along with crocus and grape hyacinth. When everything else is brown, they provide welcome colour with very little maintenance.

Hellebore lenten rose leaves unfurling by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Let the unfurling of the hellebores begin!

Hellebores are getting ready too! Since my client wasn't home, I couldn't verify if this was Helleborus orientalis or x hybridus although I suppose it shouldn't matter. I cut away the diseased leaves from last year to expose the purplish emerging foliage and flowers. There are four clumps so this will be a nice show soon!

Barrenwort Epimedium grandiflorum early spring by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Clumps of barrenwort (Epimedium grandiflorum) relatively
 unscathed from winter damage

I don't see barrenwort (Epimedium sp.) enough in other peoples' gardens so it's a treat to see them here. The leaves came through the winter without severe damage so I didn't prune them heavily. I poked around the base and saw buds protruding--a good sign for another successful Epimedium show. 

Fun/silly fact: This genus is also called "horny goat weed" or "rowdy lamb herb." 

Use this information as you will...

March 09, 2012

Are we there yet? Late winter in Toronto

Spring is around the corner, trust me! 

Rosetta McClain gardens daylily bed by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Daylily bed in its August glory

I would normally post pictures of crocus and snowdrops blooming right now in Toronto but haven't done garden walk-abouts lately (pre-occupied with mundane things like filing taxes, budgeting, website-tinkering, getting ready for another work year,) so I've posted the following photos from the long and hot days of last August to inspire and/or relieve you temporarily of a Toronto gardener's "spring fever." 

These were all taken at Rosetta McClain Gardens in east Toronto (Scarborough) which are basically on top of the escarpment overlooking Lake Ontario. Not only can you enjoy the various beds but can have a bird's-eye view of the lake for miles and miles

Mid-summer is daylily time so here's a picture showing the flowers leaning south towards the sun. Because there are thousands (?) of Hemerocallis cultivars, daylilies are a useful addition in a perennial bed. You choose them based on height, bloom time, flower colour, throat colour, ruffled vs. not, etc... You can see why they're collector's dream with so many hybrids available.

Rosetta McClain Gardens purple tradescantia and yellow rudbeckia annual bed by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
You know I love this colour combination!

The gardens are public and easy to get to by public transit but the area is wedding-photo heaven so you might be constantly shooed away from being in the wedding party's shot. Which happened to me when I snapped this complementary purple and yellow colour scheme. I love the contrast and drama between the colour and form of the purple tradescantia versus the yellow blooms of the rudbeckia and (I think heliopsis/helianthus/sunflower. Definitely worthy of duplicating or imitating in your summer container this year.

Rosetta McClain Gardens English perennial border  by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
The cliche and conventional thinking of a successful garden bed

Give the public want they want and Rosetta doesn't fail. Many of us (well, many of my clients and myself) were brought up to believe that a "real" and "beautiful" garden needed an English perennial border like you see on the left. Fixed between a swath of lawn and a yew hedge, the bed contains a recipe of perennials, small shrubs and maybe/usually (?) annuals.  This was the conventional wisdom and you still see it throughout Toronto parks.

English perennial border Rosetta McClain gardens by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog

I don't know why this view is so dark but I hope you get a sense of scale of the bed's length (that's me way at the back.) The bed contains the hardier stuff like Echinacea, Sedum, Rudbeckia so it doesn't probably get the maintenance like the other annual beds and rose gardens. So maybe if you have a hundred plus feet patch of land in full sun, you might consider this approach. You'd be worthy of hiring your personal gardener (wink!)

Japanese beetles on white rose Rosetta McClain gardens by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
In case you forgot, all you rose lovers out there!

I couldn't help but to end these thoughts with a graphic example of what's around the corner! With such a mild winter and almost no persistent snow cover in Toronto, overwintering pests should be emerging very nicely soon.

The Rosetta McClain Gardens have many roses because, again, many visitors believe that a public garden should have them (I know this view is slowly changing, for the better.) Well, with roses you get a legion of "challenges" and here's a picture of a gregarious bunch of adult Japanese beetles doing what comes naturally (chewing and mating, maybe even simultaneously.) 

Food for thought for summer 2012...