Wednesday, March 6, 2013

wordless wednesday ..

rhododendron moupinense .. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

look ahead ..

hamamelis mollis 'pallida' ..

one of the things phil taught me when we were gardening together was to look ahead .. he didn't say "jane, you need to look ahead when you're gardening" .. it was far more subtle than that .. he showed me how to look ahead .. by example .. it's a bit ironic considering the short time he had left on the planet by the time i met him .. later .. after he passed away .. i realized that his ability to look ahead was exactly what makes this garden work so beautifully .. for instance, the witch hazel above was planted .. more than fifteen years ago when it was about three feet tall .. at that time it looked like a twiggy thing someone has plunked in the middle of the bed .. now it reaches out gracefully filling its alloted space .. happy ..

skimmia 'reevesiana' ..

before phil planted anything in his garden he thought a great deal about it .. he'd have an idea .. or be inspired somehow and he'd start gathering information from the select few gardening reference materials he kept within easy reach of his chair by the sliding glass doors .. these constant companions covered every aspect he was interested in as far as the creation and design of his garden was concerned .. 'winter blooming plants' .. 'shade loving' .. or 'shade tolerant plants' .. his favourite .. Taylor's Guide to Shade Gardening .. held a place of respect at the top of the pile .. The Gardener's Guide to Growing Hellebores and The Colour Dictionary of Garden Plants were also always close by .. pages of photocopied information from the Cyclamen Society on how to grow different cyclamen were tucked between the books .. a neighbour had brought them by thinking phil would find them  useful .. he did .. there were also several dog eared copies of seed catalogues .. some new .. some years out of date .. which came from nurseries as far away as heronswood in washington .. from fraser's thimble farm and the plant farm on saltspring island .. and from brentwood bay .. a lovely nursery not far from victoria's butchart gardens .. all appropriate to our general environment ..

vibirnum bodnantense 'dawn' ..

these 'bits and pieces' of gardening lore provided phil with the guidance he needed to make decisions about what would .. or could .. work in this garden .. there he'd sit .. poring over page after page for hours .. he'd scribble valuable tips and directions on scrap pieces of paper .. he'd mark pages and underline pertinent notations .. all of which eventually would be carefully culled and made into lists .. which he handed to me .. with instructions to 'bring home one of these or, three of those' .. i think the most of one plant i returned with was five .. five 4" pots of cyclamen .. a few weeks later i'd be sent after five more .. i learned .. again, later .. that phil knew with one .. or two .. or three of any plant he had access to hundreds .. and he wanted hundreds .. even if he wasn't going to be here to see it happen .. he knew they would spread .. or be spread accordingly around the garden .. over time .. especially cyclamen .. i think, in his mind's eye, he saw them happily scampering from one end of the garden to another .. and so we bought extra to help them along their way ..

cyclamen coum ..

hellebores were started from the seedlings spit out by the half a dozen 'mother' plants accummulated earlier in the garden's life .. i'd gather seedlings up with a trowel .. plant them in gallon pots .. and place them in the 'nursery' phil and i had created in the back yard .. i think at one point we had forty three gallon pots encircled by branches i'd found on the property .. these hellebores lived in their little nursery enclosure until we deemed them old enough to take their places in the garden .. this could take two or three years of growing in the pots, depending on the age of the seedling when they were gathered .. we didn't care, on the one hand, how long it took .. hellebores were also a favourite that we delightedly spread around the garden ..

helleborus orientalis .. 

all the decisions phil made created the garden that i continue to have the pleasure of caring for thirteen years later .. all the plants that were brought to this garden were placed according to their future potential size .. each and every plant we put into that soil was given the space it would need to flourish and grow .. in time .. over the  years i have had such pleasure watching those spaces fill in .. seeing plants that were once to so small .. or that had been placed seemingly so far apart .. gradually spread and grow into the space that phil gave them ..

since phil passed away .. and because i've been given the privilege of continued work in this garden over many years .. i've come to greatly appreciate this gift of spatial awareness he passed along to me .. as i walkabout the winter flowering shade garden i am able to look ahead .. and watch a dream unfolding in time and space ..

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

wordless wednesday ..

winter lovelyness ..
prunus subhirtella 'autumnalis' in bloom ..
february 18/13 ..

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

hazel nut trees in bloom ..

these catkins hang from a hazelnut tree .. another of the winter flowering wonders in the garden .. a trio of these trees live on the boulevard outside the garden ..

i didn't take much notice of them when i first began working with phil .. they were coming into leaf then, and to my uninitiated eye they were simply 'the trees on the boulevard' .. my focus was on the inner garden .. and phil .. not so much on what was growing around the edges ..  i was doing my best to encompass all plants in the garden,  but it wasn't until six months later that the hazelnuts came within my range of vision .. i'd been working underneath them and upon glacing up noticed what, i was informed by phil, was a nut .. from that point on i brought the hazel nut trees under my care ..

a couple months later, phil came to me and said he wanted me to see something .. so i followed him .. 'look there,' he said, pointing to the bare twigs of the hazelnut tree .. i couldn't see what he was pointing out .. 'the flower,' he said, emphatically .. i looked .. and looked .. and then suddenly i saw one .. !! ..

and then another one .. and another one .. brilliant tiny red sparks of light bursting off the twigs .. wonderfull ..

ever since then i've kept a close eye on these guys .. from the unfolding catkins .. to the miniscule flowers .. to the beautiful full nuts .. all in sync with the rest of the winter flowering garden ..

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

cyclamen coum ..

the first time i encountered these delightful beings .. cyclamen .. i had wandered to a familiar woodland setting on the grounds of the university of victoria .. taking a break between classes i was sitting on a bench i'd sat on many time before .. on this day, though, something was different .. my eye was drawn to the leaf litter surrounding the base of the bench .. while taking in a visual of the colour and texture and decompositon of the leaves, i saw points of colour .. brilliant sparks of magenta pink .. jumping out from under the debris .. upon closer inspection i saw cyclamen ..

i didn't know at the time that what i was looking at were cyclamen .. i also don't recall whether it was late winter or autumn .. as the time of year determine whether they were cyclamen coum .. or cyclamen hederifolium .. what i did know .. as soon as i witnessed their colour .. was that i was in the presence of magic ..

the only other cyclamen i'd ever come across were those found in florists' shops .. meant for indoors .. to sit in the centre of the kitchen table .. or on the windowsill in the kitchen .. or on the coffee table in the living room .. what i was seeing now was an exactly like those beautifull houseplants .. but so much smaller .. and growing outside .. it wouldn't be until i started working in phil's garden .. the year after my graduation .. that i came to know these little beings more intimately ..

in the winter flowering shade garden cyclamen are part of the foundational planting .. they started out in two of the beds .. under the hamamelis mollis 'pallida' .. under the daphne odora and the helleborus corsicus .. over the years they have managed .. one way or another .. to make their way around the garden .. even out to the far end of the boulevard .. by bird, i'm thinking .. there's even a cluster growing at the base of the fence post in the side yard ..

phil loved these little guys .. twelve years ago he sent me to a nursery .. just south of town .. where the owner grew and propagated cyclamen .. of various kinds .. i came back clutching a box of five plants .. in 4" pots .. and so we planted these five .. and he sent me back for another five .. cyclamen coum .. cyclamen hederifolium .. we attempted cyclamen graecum .. cyclamen persicum .. cyclamen trochopteranthum .. cyclamen libanoticum .. we weren't successful with all varieties .. however, along with the cyclamen coum .. a little later in the spring .. one cyclamen libanoticum shines brightly .. and boldly .. it's beautifully decorated leaves are twice or three times the size of coum's .. a stunning little guy ..

my attempts to handpick the most wonderfull of them all for my friend seems to have worked .. these days .. years after planting those first few there are hundreds of   cyclamen coum growing in the garden .. from the opening buds of january through to the brilliant blooms of pinks, magentas and whites of february and onward these wonderfull little flowers add yet another dimension to the performance .. on now .. through the drabber months of winter ..

are you familiar with these hardy cyclamen .. they are very hardy .. and seem to be extremely adaptable .. from part sun to shade .. in the open .. under shrubs .. perhaps they could find a place in your garden .. and if not c. coum there are many other varieties that grow and bloom throughout the year .. maybe there's a lovely cyclamen out there that would fit beautifully in your garden ..

Sunday, January 27, 2013

colours of winter ..

forgive my gloating .. it's just that i'm so thankfull to i live where i can watch so many  gardens growing throughout the winter .. thankfull to have helped phil plant this garden which he designed specifically with winter in mind .. and thankfull to observe the magic of growth here from january right through to december .. i know, i know .. i'm a blessed gardener .. (aren't we all) .. sometimes i wonder why i waited so long to get here .. ah, well .. all things in their time, i say ..

"there's so much to say"
so i've been keeping an eye on the winter flowering garden over the last couple of weeks .. through foggy .. damp .. wet .. and cold weeks .. knowing that the time has come for this year's performance .. watching the prelude .. waiting patiently for the main performance .. and now my reward .. the winter flowering garden's beginning to ooooze more and more colour .. despite the weather ..

i have to tell you again, too, that i've had a wonderfully enlightening time with the witch hazels in this garden this year .. two in particular .. below are pictures of hamamelis x intermedia 'diane' .. who deemed to begin her act way back in november .. i was delighted .. "such early colour," i thought .. "i can hardly wait until she drops her tendrils" .. well .. i waited .. from november last year until now .. and actually .. i am still waiting ..

buds crack end november/12 .. 
around january 10/13 ..
january 23rd .. or thereaabouts 

movement has been slow .. to say the least .. especially when comparing 'diane' to her cousin just across the way .. below is a picture of what the buds of hamamelis mollis 'pallida' looked like in november ..

around november 28th ..

then in december .. the buds are as tightly wrapped as they were a month ago ..

december 24th ..
but then .. come the new year .. there's a shift in the atmosphere .. colour breaks .. and   comes tumbling out .. beautifull ..

january 16th ..
a mere week  later .. voila! .. tendrils tendrilling .. red flowers emerging .. wonderfull ..

i don't recall ever being so aware of the difference in the movement of growth between these two beauties before .. it fascinates me .. and yet .. that's why this garden is here .. to bloom during the winter .. to entertain the senses ..

and, it isn't just the witch hazels that are playing their part .. the cyclamen coum have arrived, too .. i love these little beauties .. they're clustered throughout the garden .. under shrubs .. around hellebores .. and they pop up here and there .. like this very light pink variety growing under an abeliophyllum distichum in the back yard ..

cyclamen coum ..
and this lovely darker pink one which grows en masse in the front garden .. this one opened right up just the other day .. the first of many yet to come ..

pink cyclamen coum ..
not far away in the same bed under the witch hazel 'pallida' are these beautifull  snowdrops .. this particular one comes very early in the winter ..

snowdrops ..
all these little guys, who live closer to the ground, create patterns of vivid colour under the shrubs throughout the garden .. throughout the winter months .. little by little there are splashes of brilliant colour coming .. through these darker .. dimmer days ..

and truly .. it's only january .. there's a couple of months of winter to go ..

how about your garden? .. do you have the opportunity to watch it growing during the winter? .. or, is it quietly encased in snow ..

Saturday, January 12, 2013

hellebores emerge ..

in the winter garden hellebores are a foundational plant .. they provide an evergreen backdrop for many of the other perennials' performances .. from spring into summer .. autumn into winter .. they are steadfast in their presence .. and .. they have their moments of glory as well .. this one above .. helleborus niger 'white magic' shines more brightly every day .. it's a real trooper .. beginning with it's white buds rising up out of the earth as early as november it heralds the appearance of other hellebores to come ..

like this one .. helleborus foetidus .. who recently dropped its first bud from an tightly woven elongated green cluster .. 'foetidus' meaning 'stinking' in latin .. thus, this is the stinking hellebore .. i, however, wouldn't be able to testify to any unpleasant fragrance coming from these .. maybe i'm too wrapped up in their visuals .. i find the foetidus spectacular performers .. they provide me with months of peering as they ever so slowly come into their own ..

below is another variety of helleborus niger .. this one is actually growing in the new hellebore/twin flower bed in our back garden at home .. i found this little beauty in the local grocery store's floral department on sale last autumn .. it had a lovely cluster of flower buds which i've been watching for weeks .. anticipating the cracking of the bud .. the revelation of itself as a flower .. wonderfull ..

there's quite a lot going on in the winter garden these days .. even though all the movement that is going on is barely visible it won't be long before entry to the garden will evoke a sense of springtime .. even in our winter months .. along with the hellebores, a few other perennials and shrubs are beginning to awaken .. there are flower buds presenting themselves all around the garden ..

like these cyclamen coum buds that soon will be standing up straight .. like little soldiers ..  pink buds will begin their unfurling .. transforming the little soldiers into a whirling .. twirling .. ballerinas ..

meanwhile .. the witch hazels carry on with their own dance of life .. amazingly enough, the first one to present its colour .. back in november .. was hamamelis intermedia 'diane' .. she cracked open her buds and flashed out a tease of brilliant red .. then sat in that pose .. for weeks .. now, two months later she 'suddenly' looks like this ..

as brilliant .. as red .. as before .. yet now you can see how the tendrils are going to unfold out of that incredible confined space .. isn't it intriguing how they tuck themselves up inside there ..

then .. there's the hamamelis mollis 'pallida' .. whose tight little buds have remained tightly closed .. even though they've been present as long as diane's .. until just in the last week they've cracked their buds open and the yellow tendrils have already come out to begin the performance .. relatively speaking, the quickness with which the 'pallida' has appeared is like lightening speed in comparison to 'diane' .. it's magical really ..

it's brilliance in action .. i love it .. and how wonderfull to peer at these mysteries .. to observe the movement of life through a witch hazel ..