Saturday, April 30, 2011

Some wild flowers in April

The skunk cabbages were out in glorious  colors in damp spots, along our day trip route to Port Renfrew last Friday.  I added some HD toning with photoshop on this one. 
The Pink Fawn lily was found at Skutz Falls where we made a stop on our way home around the loop from Port Refrew to Duncan and over the Malahat to Victoria.  The fawn lilies in my woodland garden are yellow and white.  They are spreading nicely.  I need to get rid of the introduced bluebells in their area, though, as the blue bells are very invasive.  When this woodland area is cleaned up, I will want to introduce some pink fawn lilies, if I can find some at the nurseries. 
One of the photos of the Bay at Port Renfrew.  We had a delicious seafood chowder at the Hotel over-looking the dock.  The hotel is newly re-built and is a lovely spot.  Port Renfrew is the beginning of the world renowned West Coast Trail.  Botanical Bay is another attraction in the area.  I hope to do another over-nite camping trip to visit Botanical Bay again.  Its a bit of a hike into the protected area to see the flora and fauna.  Its been a few years since I was there last.  I must take a good macro lens for the sea creatures that I may find. 
The tulips are in bloom in the pot that I planted up last Autumn.  I intend to get basil plants to add to this pot so I can have basil right on the deck for culinary purposes.  And maybe even for the pesto I have learned to use, made with store bought basil, which gets rather spendy. 

The tulips are coming into bloom all over my garden.  Last Autumn, Grace left me a package of 30 tulips, as a hostess gift from their visit to our home.  I also purchased a few more and planted them last Autumn.  Hopefully there will be more photos later. 
I have the butterfly/humming bird planter transplanted with perennials and some heliotrope, in a matching pot and it will be on the deck.  Speaking of humming birds... a week or so ago, I watched one of them playing in the little waterfall of the pond.  It was a delight to see.  Too bad I never see any fish in the pond.  I think the river otter must have paid a visit while I wasn't looking.  I did add one little fish 2 weeks ago, and I have seen two little ones.  I have not seen the frog again, but I am sure its in there.  The marsh marigolds are putting on a great show and the water hawthorn is in bloom.  There will need to be May photos here too. 

I have finished the top dressing on the grass paths and the little patch of grass around the apple tree.  The trees are mostly pruned back.  I have yet to do the hedge trimming.  I am attempting to grow new little cedars behind the big ones that Mrs. P. had billybob destroy next to their sidewalk.  When Pat cut these cedars down in height a bit, after Mrs. P.'s whining about junk in her house eaves troughs, I found that a few of these little cedar leaves had grown substantial roots, where they had landed in the water iris pot in the deck water feature tub.  So, hopefully in no time I shall have a back up screening hedge of cedars where billybob, or his hockey playing boys,  can't get at them.  :)))

I have weeded a bit in the front little rockery, but mostly go out to see how the little plants there are coming along.  The lilies are doing great and I hope to see a fine show this summer.  The soil in this area behind this little  rockery  needs to be improved, also.  Perhaps, with a view to adding more litlies.  On the other corner of the front, I have a small area where I have campanulas and pasque flowers, iberis, a couple of daffodils.  I will want to introduce a few tulips here, too.  Its a chore to keep after the violets, but I am beginning to like them, in small numbers.
The strawberries have a few blooms and the rhubarb is slowly growing.  I have not planted any vegetables yet.  Ruby and Steve were over for dinner on Monday, and she was telling me of the great success she is having with her new garden boxes.  She has peas and sweet peas up.  Her strawberries are in bloom and her other berries are just booming!  She is an inspiration to me to get busy on making my vegetable garden more productive. 
When they were over to dinner we had ham and scalloped potatoes and other good stuff.  Since I had the ham bone on hand, I wanted to try the pea soup made with the ham bone.  I found this recipe on the internet.  I always thought this soup would be a big fuss to make, but it was not too bad.  I had all the ingredients and so made it up and it is delicious, if I must say so myself.  I have to jars full frozen for the future, and we had two lunches of it.  We should get at least 6 servings from it.  I had the chicken stock from a roasting chicken I had made earlier in the week.  I used to dump out the juices that collected around the chicken when it was roasting, but now I shall always save them.  This juice was a good jellied stock, when cooled.  I did not do up more chicken stock from the bones, this time, as I still have some on hand from before.
This recipe makes 8 servings

Classic Pea Soup with Ham


    1 smoked ham_hock (about 1 lb/500 g)
    1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable_oil
    1 large onion, finely chopped
    2 each carrots and stalks celery, finely chopped
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    2 bay leaves
    1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper
    4 cups (1 L) sodium-reduced chicken stock
    2 cups (500 mL) dry green or yellow split_peas
    3 green_onions, thinly sliced

Using paring knife, peel off and discard skin from ham hock. Trim off and discard fat. Set aside.

In Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-low heat; fry onion, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves, salt, pepper and ham hock, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Add stock, peas and 2 cups (500 mL) water; bring to boil over medium-high heat, skimming off any foam. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until peas break down and meat is tender enough to fall off hock, about 1-3/4 hours.

Remove ham hock; pull off and shred meat. Set meat aside. Discard ham bone and bay leaves. In blender, puree half of the soup; return to pot along with meat. (Make-ahead: Let cool for 30 minutes. Transfer to container and refrigerate, uncovered, until cold. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Reheat to serve.) Ladle into bowls; garnish with green onions. 


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring in the Garden

The mermaid sits on top of the water fall now observing the top mossy water running down.  There is a view over the top of the variegated lily of the valley shrub to the back of the water garden.  Sadly this view includes Mrs. Pee's barren, cement back yard.  You see the green foliage plants beside the pond by the deck... a geranium, a monks hood and some primula.  The marsh marigolds are making a lovely big golden clump and are reflected in the pond.
  This evening when I looked out to the pond, I saw 2 little gold fish.  So, there are some fish in there!!  Hope to see more of them as the temperatures warm up.

There are two trilliums in the back woodland garden.  The big one has 3 blossoms.  It was buried beneath a big leaf of a plant.  It is doing much better since I uncovered it.  This area needs some attention to curtailing the invasive blue bells.  I hope to carefully use the Weed be gone spray on them.  They are getting all over the garden, not just in the woodland area.  Across the sidewalk from the trilliums and hiding the old compost bin, is the old lily of the valley shrub that is in full bloom and is perfuming the garden.   The white fawn lilies are showing in the photo.  You can see some of the bluebells in there.  They will be very carefully painted with weed be gone, and hopefully give the lilies a chance.

 A daphne, a lewisia, and two tiny alpines on the small rockery at the back.  I am happy to see a few of last year's alpine purchase surviving.  The lewisias are not the showy ones, but are nice little rockery plants.  This little rockery needs top dressing of compost and perhaps more pea gravel.  Most of these tiny alpines do not want moisture around their crowns.  I have yet to transplant this year's alpine purchases.  I really only have two or three to go in.  I will be putting the cyclamen coum in the front little rockery area where is is better shaded.  The willows will go into larger pots until I get time to transplant them in the right locations. 

Spring Flowers

More photos from April 18.  The wind flower, anemones along the old sidewalk beside the garage
The stone path at the back.  It seemed to be missing a stone, that I have since replaced.  Now I need another fairly big stone for the front rockery.  This shows the windflowers and the old cement sidewalk at the end of this stone path.  The other end of this path goes to the water garden.
The arabis and my best hyacinth that are along the driveway beside the house.

The primulas putting on a good show, in front of the rhodos and the hellebores by the back steps up to the deck. 

I had a quick look at a headline about the uprising in Syria and all the people being killed. Canadians are advised to leave that country, too. The news is full of these horrible happenings in the Muslim countries, and of climate catastrophes.  Its good to live here.  My anal, silly old women neighbors are a joke compared to what I see in the news. 

I am reading another book by Phillipa Gregory.. this one about Katherine of Aragon and the Tudors.  Its very depressing too.  I should really have been out gardening as it was a lovely day. 

This is the strawberries.  I put composed manure around them and covered that with the grass clippings after mowing the grass bits.  Hope I can keep them mulched to retain moisture.

Spring flowers

More photos from  April 18.  Since then we have had a few sunny days that really bring out the flowers.    This is the berengaria next to the west coast planter.  It looks like this planter is wearing a frilly green dress with a pink corsage.  :)

Close up of the Corsican hellebore and another self seeded hellebore with the donkey's tail sedum along the stone path at the front.  They have seeded themselves here in this fine color combination, next to a heather that blooms in late summer in purple. 
This anemone now has more blooms and is looking great.  The pleione is next to it with more shoots coming up.  You can see the lilies starting to sprout up too.  This is the litttle rock wall just across from the west coast planter and the other little alpines that are well established now.
This camas is in bud and will bloom soon.  It is along Mrs. P.'s sidewalk.  I am surprised she hasn't killed it too.  The camas is a native plant.  The natives used it as food.  :).  Above the camas, which goes dormant over the summer, is a very vigorous dark purple Jackimani clematis climbing on a trellis.  This froths out all over its space and needs to be pruned back in early spring or late autumn to just at its trellis height.  Below the camas is this very invasive bisshop's weed that looks really good as a ground cover along by this sidewalk and grows in the clay, with very little water in summer.  I need to cut it back after it blooms and it grows again and looks good until it is killed by frost.  Also along this strip of clay is the cut back camillia, and 2 rhodos and one lovely azalea.  Under these shrubs are some daylillies and some lily of the valley.  I will want to move some of these plants to under the deck; especially the lily of the valley, before Mrs. Pee kills them, too.  In front of the bishop's weed I have a burning bush with red new leaves in spring.  I have to keep this pruned back off  the sidewalk, too.  It is there to screen my front door view from their garbage cans.  Just next to the burning bush and at the corner of my house is a Japanese anemone and the lovely Simplicity rose blooming in pink all summer and autumn.  Under these plants there are violets.. another very vigorous plant.  They have to be vigorous to survive Mrs. Pee's attentions.
This is a bunch of violets.  They are lovely, and I keep some around as ground covers here and there.  But they seed themselves everywhere.  The roots have to be dug out, as they have a tendency to just break off at ground level and just spread more from the roots.  I have too many in the moss garden at the back and they need to be cleaned up there, as well as in the front garden.  I would like to get them established under the deck with some of the lily of the valley plants in the heavy shade. 

These are the two clumps of pasque flowers, or prairie crocus, that live at the front by our driveway and in front of the cedar hedge.  I could use a couple more of these plants there, as they are well behaved and long lasting.  When finished blooming they make a nice clump of feathery foliage.
This is the little trillium at the front, showing 2 blooms this year.  There are two trilliums at the back.  More on them later.

Yesterday, we spent the day going out to Port Refrew and around the loop to Cowichan Bay and home past Duncan and the Malahat.  It was a wonderful day trip.  Lunch at the Port Renfrew Hotel was scrumptious.  We also visited Skutz Falls, which are really just rapids on the Cowichan river with fish ladders added.

Last evening when I went out to look at the pond from the deck I saw a splash in the water from what I think was a frog leaping off the waterfall rocks.  I have not seen it today.  I hope it is not one of those big frogs that have been introduced into the wild and are taking over the habitat of our indigenous frogs.  I haven't seen any fish yet, either.  I wonder if the frog has been eating them.  Some of the fish were quite big though.  The splash in the pond, did not look like a huge frog... maybe 2 inches across is all.  Some of those fish were at least 5 inches long. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

the front garden

the stone path forms an S curve.  I never noticed this before.  At the moment this path is clear of weeds and is easy to walk upon.  I might add a bit more pea gravel.
this is the cement vase in the front garden, and now next to the driveway, and starting to bloom, aubretia.
the fern leaved peonia, that always gives a fine, but fleeting show.  I mucked about with this photo in HD
this is the little rockery at the front showing the west coast planter, and other small rockery plants.
This is a pleione, in the small rockery in the front garden.  We had frost over night, and since I took this photo the pleione is looking rather sad and drooping.  But, there are more shoots coming up from beneath this plant.  The Plieione is a ground orchid and really a lovely plant in bloom, for  its fleeting momentsl

This hyacith is next to the entry and lends its fragrance to the entrance.
A shot of the thrift on the front garden rockery.  These are excellent plants.
The photos are from Sunday  To day is Wednesday.  We had a bit of frost over night.  The pleione is dropping a bit,
I managed to get the butterfly and hummingbird planter set up today and watered in  I added top dressing to the front and have almost finished the top green path.  I need photos of the butterfly/hummingbird planter.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Some photos from our trip to Southwest US

This photo is about the vivid orange I see on some of the desert plants.  It seems to be some kind of vine that is growing on the actual plant.  I find that a good portion of my photos from our trip to the Southwest US in Feb. - March, are of plants, of course. 
Some of the grasses that manage to grow in the white sands desert, in New Mexico.
There is a surprising amount of plant life in these harsh conditions.  This is at Death Valley, California.
More Death Valley.  You can see the reflection in this photo.  They had quite a bit of rain, just prior to our arrival here, and so you are seeing quite a large expanse of water that has not drained away.  I have much to learn about this area.  The night before we drove through Death Valley, we camped near Shoshone just at the edge of Death Valley.  At night, there was a chorus of frogs... I could not believe it!  I made a video of them.  I have the audio but no photos of the frogs... I could not see them.  As it was getting dark I did not attempt to look for them.  There are all sorts of 'harsh'  and maybe poisonous creatures that live in this area.  Most of them come out at night, when it is cooler.  So, not knowing what I may have gotten into, I returned to the Dodge Lodge without finding frogs. 
My viewing of the trip photos will have to wait for when I have more time.  It has been a busy week, It was raining off and on for most the week, but I seemed to be busy the whole time.  I read the Wild Swans book, by Jung Chang.  The horrendous story of a woman, her mother, and her grandmother, who lived through the political reign of Mao.  I can't begin to imagine how so many people were brainwashed into living through the things the country endured for so very many years.  The present politics and revolts in the Muslim world sound awful, too.  The whole world seems to be tipped on its ear, with the climatic catastrophes and human wars and economic disasters. 
Marlene and Art were over to dinner.  They had a rather nasty bit of weather to come home through.  We were lucky on our dash home, going up the I-5 with no snow anywhere, except up in the mountains.  While we were away, and snowed in at the KOA in Flagstaff, Arizona, Victoria had a dump of snow that lasted a few days.  The weather is still coolish and we seem to be about 3 weeks behind in our beginning of Spring.
Yesterday, I was to the Rock and Alpine garden club's show and sale.  . no photos this time.  I somehow did not feel motivated.  It was a good show, I thought.  I brought home a few little rock plants.  A salix boydi to replace the one I lost last summer.  When we were away last summer Victoria had a heat wave and the little willow had no water.  I also have 2 more willows... these can grow quite big if left on their own.  One of them I saw at the show had been made into a bonsai ... sort of... just in a larger pot and not trained, but pruned way back to have a good show of the catkins every year, I suppose.  So, now I may put this one into a larger pot with a nice rock for it to spread over.  I have a nice green rock out in the garden that might work very well.  The other one I may try to grow near the pond and have it grow over the rocks of the waterfall.  The water fall is becoming quite mossy, but still needs more encouragement for the moss to grow all over the rocks.  I also got a Japanese quince tree that has some blooms.  This is a very strange shape, with one branch with leaves sticking 2 feet up and the blooms are on another tiny branch at ground level.  I have seen these plants as bonsai also.  I think mine may become just a pot plant that will be kept pruned  smaller too.  With my neighbours butchering my trees maybe I am acquiring a taste for this stuff.  Ha!  :)  I have 2 more lewisias to add to my lewisia patch on the little rockery at the back.  These plants need very sharp drainage.  I got a little androsace camea ssp. laggeri with lovely pink blooms.  This will go to the little rockery too.  And a cyclamen coum.  that needs more shade so it may go in the little rockery in the front garden.  I have a Paeonia veitchii that is to be the size of 20" x 24" with purple red blooms.  I shall have to prepare a good spot for this one in the back garden bed across the stepping stone path from the Harry Lauders walking stick.  I hope to get this area more organized as it has had a year to settle I have watched how it drains the winter wet and where how the sun/shade affects it.  I have a campanula biebersteiniana for the back garden little rockery - 2" x 6",
After the plant show, we went over to Mark and Anya's for coffee.  They live in a delightful older home.  Little Lily is truly a wee sweetie. While we were away Cannor delivered the plants, potting soil, sand and pea gravel that I had bought last week.  So when we got home I moved this stuff to the back.  While out looking at stuff, I found that Mrs. P had someone chop off more of my cedars from on her side.  Now there is no screening left to them at all.  These people's kids kicked the hell out these trees playing hockey by them and now the rest of the branches up to deck floor height are chopped off.  Their ignorance knows no bounds.  Saanich is no longer letting us use plant killing chemicals on our lawns or gardens.  People have to dig out their dandilions by hand, if they want to keep their lawns.  Mrs. P.  has a lot of dandilions!!  That should keep her busy!!  I hope Sannich passes a by-law to be sure every lot has at least 6 trees on it, in keeping with the 'green' approach to our 'garden city'.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Spring, at last

Erythronium or fawn lilies or trout lilies require a long period of growth before they bloom. It takes a seed seven years, usually, to reach blossoming size seven years while the bulb grows deeper and each year -ends up a single Leaf. In the sixth year there are two leaves, and in the seventh springtime there come two leaves with a flower bud between them, and the trout lily finally blooms.  They seem to like to grow in Oak woodlands.,  I purchased my yellow fawn lily from a nursery on Saltspring Isand,  a few years ago.,  It was at the blooming stage when bought.  This little beauty has now expanded to several plants in its clump.  It seems to be happy in the woodland.  The white ones are just a bit later in opening up.  We see a lot of the white variety growing wild here, but I have not seen yellow ones.  I hope this one seeds around.  I will try to take seeds and scatter them where the white ones grow.  Fortunately, there are several patches of these lilies near me, by the river, in the park.

 My first trillium is up and in flower.  Only one bloom, so far.  Its tiny compared to the other one that grows in the woodland area and which I have not seen yet.  They are different varieties.  These trilliums also grow wild in the the parks and are protected.  I have not seen any near me though.  I guess I need to scatter some of these seeds too.
Marsh marigold are just starting in the pond.  With the water fall running, there is under water plants growing and keeping the water clear.  Oh dear, there seems to be a lot of leaves collected in the pond.  I did not see any fish today, except for the one in the deck pot.  I might need a few new fish.  I did see a baby one a couple of days ago, in the pond.
This is a fairly new plant that lives in the front garden little rockery.  Its spectacular against the rocks and the leaf mulch.  While photographing it I notice that the plants around it are sprouting too.  I saw 4 lilies sprouting up.  I need more compost on this little rockery bed.  It seems to have shrunk about 6 inches below the top of the retaining rocks.  .. strange.
This is the brightest and biggest clump of primulas.  The doubles seem to need drier conditions as they are growing better at the back near the woodland,.   The area where this one is is quite damp, as I thought primulas liked early wet feet.  I imagine I will be seeing quite a lot of these at the VIRAGS spring show and sale, as it seems to be the season for them. 

Earth Day - Friday, April 22

My yellow plum tree is in bloom.  You see the English Oak and my hedging cedars at the back, in this photo.
I received my copy of Garden Wise magazine in the mail today.  I was moved by the Editorial by Carol Pope, in particular this paragraph: 

"Planting just one tree, I will be siphoning 100-plus pounds of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere every year and adding back enough oxygen to sustain two people.  This wondrous tree will also recycle water, shelter birds and stretch out to help shade our overheated planet."
In this regard, I am extremely upset with my neighbour, Mrs. P.. insisting that I butcher my trees so that she has no, in her son's words "tree shit" to sweep off of her sidewalk.  
So, yesterday, Pat top our cedars down to eaves height imperiling his life by standing on the deck railing, and also dragging most of the cuttings to the green bin.,
In the meantime, I used the pole pruner to cut back my camillia tree way back from her side walk.  Also dragging all debris to the green bin.

Her son, Bill, was very friendly and helpful in using my pole pruner to butcher the English Oak tree that they claim to be interfering with the laundry on their line.  A few years ago, I had an arborist look at this tree with a view to complying with Mrs. P.'s laundry problem.  The arborist is care taker of a heritage tree on what is now the new Salvation Army property.  This protected tree is an English Oak, planted years ago.  He told me to get my neighbors to move their laundry line and would not touch the tree.
Bill also chimed in with the idea that my plum tree in the front was too low and scraped his van when he drove in.  Now to have this tree touch his van, he must be right over on the edge of his front driveway.  And this never happens, because the van parks in the side driveway, as they live on the corner and have two streets for cement driveways.
Today, Mrs. P.  thought she wanted the part of my cedars that are hanging over her sidewalk trimmed off.  Her grandkids beat the hell out of the bottom 6 feet of these cedars over the years.  They had their hockey net set up in front of the cedars and the children would be chasing the balls through the cedars and under my deck, constantly.  These cedars are no longer a privacy screen at the bottom.  I told her "no" as I had enough of her demands.  She said she would hire someone to do it and I would have to pay her for it.  I said "NO" again.  I told her to take a drive out to Broadmead and see how the rich people treated their trees.  She said "No".  Now, Billy Bob had to get into the act again.. no longer the friendly, helpful neighbor.  This escalated into a most ridiculous rant by him, including telling me she was a 70 year old woman, and what have I done for her?  When asked what he had done for her, he became almost incoherent, using the f word on almost every second word of his rant.  At one point he said to me.. get a job, and live in the real world.  Now this is quite amusing to me, since I am damn near as old as this 70 year old mother, the tree killer.  I had had quite enough of them after awhile and suggested that I would have a survey done to show them that their sidewalk was actually on my property, based on the orientation of a retaining wall that Mr. P. built when they first moved here.  Then the old guy came out and had a look at the wall, and that was the end of the spouting off about the 'tree shit'.  You can see the wall in a couple of the photos above behind the cedars that hang over the sidewalk.  The cedars are not out over the retaining wall line.   But besides all this, I simply do not see their need to worry about a few flowers or tree leaves on the sidewalk.  Their background, I think, is from India.  Now I have seen photos of present day India where there is garbage everywhere.... in the streets, in the rivers, ... and they all seem to think this is fine.   Also Billy Bob has spent his entire life under his parents domination... and his children are now in university and they all endure this pecking order.  I don't think Bill and Gerty even have friends of their own, or a life of their own.  It really is sad. 

I spent the rest of the afternoon sweeping off the deck and the patio, leaving the moss intact.  I like the moss and so does pat.  Its lovely and green in winter and is mostly swept up and gone in summer.  I dragged some of the cedar clippings to the middle of the space under the deck.  This is all clay under here and is quite wet just now.  The ferns and other plants are coming up.  I need to clean up the dry stream and the moss garden.  It shouldn't take much time, as it is fairly clean from last year.  I have 7 bags of compost to use around the beds when I get out to work in them.  Our Spring is about 3 weeks late this year.