Fragrant Cloud rose

tall purple aster fading

Final Flowers

The last blooms of the season…

Purple delphinium

Purple delphinium (although it looks blue in the photo). Grown from seed last spring.


autumn crocuses

Autumn crocus, lavender purple (true crocus, not Colchicum)


"Fragrant Cloud" rose fallen petals, fruit bowl, purple African violet

Last bloom from rose “Fragrant Cloud”


Moving forward…

cotoneaster leaves and berries

Cotoneaster berries.



Happy Halloween!

King Tut, Hori-Hori and Fragrant Cloud

After an epic battle with tree roots — a whole network, from 1/4 to 3/4 inch diameter, with sponge-like wads of feeding roots — I prepared a spot for a plant new to the garden:  papyrus! Specifically, Cyperus papyrus “King Tut.” It now resides in a small boggy area next to the pond. Although a dwarf variety of the famous plant used in Egypt, it’s supposed to reach 4 or 5 feet. It’s not frost-hardy, of course, but I understand it’s easy to root new plantlets by inverting the flower stalk in water, which is what happens naturally as the plant dies down. The small plants may be wintered indoors and set out the following spring.

Papyrus "King Tut"

Papyrus “King Tut”


Added to my garden tool kit this week is a Hori-Hori Knife, a tool which originated in Japan, and combines features of a knife and a trowel. Its original purpose was plant gathering in the wild. It’s a formidable thing, with a thick blade and sharpened edges, one of which is serrated for root cutting. Suckers, look out!

Hori-hori knife and its sheath.

Hori-hori knife and its sheath.


While all this was going on, the hybrid tea rose “Fragrant Cloud” opened two of its six buds to perfection. It is truly well-named, exuding an intense, true rose fragrance. The plant is a scrawny, feeble-looking specimen that lives in a large pot. It had a bad case of black spot earlier this spring, which totally defoliated the old wood, but put out new growth that is free of black spot, and six buds.

"Fragrant Cloud" bud #1

“Fragrant Cloud” bud #1


Bud #1 fully opened

Bud #1 fully opened


Bud #2, leaning against Olympic Mullein (Verbascum olympicum)

Bud #2, leaning against Olympic Mullein (Verbascum olympicum)





The Ex-Veg Patch

I used to have a vegetable garden. It occupied a space of about 15 by 25 feet across the path from two perennial beds. It was (and for that matter, still is) laid out in a pattern of diagonally bisected squares I had copied after reading an article about Rosemary Verey’s garden in England. (By the way, the triangular beds that result from this are the devil to dig and plant).

There is an apple tree (Yellow Transparent) almost but not quite in the centre of the back part of the patch. It’s surrounded by different kinds of mint, with a solitary clump of fennel to one side.  A triangle in the middle of the layout is occupied by plants of lavender, hyssop and thyme. Others host rue, oregano, echinacea and more mint, while one triangle is given over to a couple of rhubarb plants. Vegetables (tomatoes, spinach, chard, lettuce and peas) used to grow in the space that remained.

After a few years, I noticed that the tomato plants were smaller every year, and less productive. The soil was always dry. The obvious reason was the two Norway maples 20 feet to the west of the veg patch, and the Ailanthus (“Tree of Heaven”) to the north. These tough, pushy trees were sending roots into the patch and hogging the water and nutrients.

The obvious cure for this unhappy situation was removal of one or all of the trees. Tree removal, however, is costly and disruptive. The trees are still there and the vegetable patch is now the ex-vegetable patch. Self-sown quasi-weeds (campion, toadflax, echinops and mulleins) have moved in, along with plants I’ve moved there for lack of better places, such as spare echinaceas and a big mauve dahlia whose old spot had become inhospitable. I’ve also parked some potted delphiniums and lilies near the feeble (but intensely fragrant) rose “Fragrant Cloud,” which also lives in a pot.

Right now, despite the drought and possibly because of the hot summer, the ex-veg patch looks pretty good.

Potted Delphinium and potted "Stargazer" lily

Potted Delphinium and potted “Stargazer” lily

Transplanted mauve Dahlia and self-sown Echinops.

Transplanted mauve Dahlia and self-sown Echinops.

Second set of blooms on rose "Fragrant Cloud" and new growth on potted Delphinium.

Second set of blooms on rose “Fragrant Cloud” and new growth on potted Delphinium.

The Ex-Vegetable Patch today

The Ex-Vegetable Patch today

What about vegetables, you ask? Well, there are four potted tomatoes, along with all the other stuff. (Of course, tomatoes are technically fruits, but that’s OK).


The Garden in Early Summer, and Life in the Shoe

Technically, summer is just beginning, but after a warm, dry spring it feels more like late July than June. Happily, the seediness of mid-late summer has not yet set in.

The area near the pond looks deceptively lush. I’m delighted that the calla lily bloomed quite well this year.

Calla lily by the pond

Calla lily by the pond

The rosebuds I noted a few weeks ago have burst into bloom, with more to come.



The rather feeble potted rose “Fragrant Cloud,” grown from a cutting (and thus on its own roots, not grafted) managed to produce three luscious blooms. Here are two of them.

Rose "Fragrant Cloud"

Rose “Fragrant Cloud”


More "Fragrant Cloud"

More “Fragrant Cloud”

The mulleins are getting into their rather lengthy season of bloom, lighting up the garden like yellow torches.

Mullein (Verbascum chaixii)

Mullein (Verbascum chaixii)

Big mullein (Verbascum olympicum)

Big mullein (Verbascum olympicum)

With almost no rain since April, and the hottest weeks of the summer soon to come, this may be as good as it gets…

The back garden in full bloom

The back garden in full bloom

Note all the campion (Lychnis coronaria), mostly white but some magenta. The ideal way to treat these plants is to remove each spent flower individually — an impossible task with this many plants. They seed extravagantly, which is why there are so many.

Remember the Shoe Bird? The shoe is now full of little Bewick’s wrens, with the parents busily bringing in bugs and removing waste. I wish I had a picture of this activity, but they come and go so fast they’re gone by the time I pick up the camera. It was easier during the incubation period.

Bewick's wren on nest in shoe

Bewick’s wren on nest in shoe

What with the wren family, a gang of sparrows in the garage birdhouse, and raccoons methodically flipping rocks over at night, the garden is full of life.



Revivifying a Rose

Years ago, I grew a plant of the rose “Fragant Cloud” from a cutting. Grown on its own roots, rather than grafted onto a vigorous rootstock, it was always rather a feeble plant, but managed to bloom modestly most years, even when plagued by black spot. It went into last winter looking pretty bad, probably because of the ferocious maple and Ailanthus roots that have turned my garden into a challenging site for all but the toughest plants.

This spring, the poor thing put out some new leaves, which were promptly chomped by the visiting buck. They didn’t even have a chance to develop black spot. Deciding that Something Must Be Done, I dug it up and planted it into good soil in a big pot I happened to have on hand. I rather botched the digging up business, leaving very few roots on the unfortunate rose plant. It sat there for weeks looking skeletal, and I gave it only a fifty per cent chance of survival. About midsummer, I was happily surprised to see new growth — nice dark green leaves without a trace of black spot. It grew several new stems, each with 3 or 4 buds. A dozen buds in all, more than this plant had ever managed, even at its former best. Now it’s in full bloom, perfuming the late summer air and providing a small splash of lushness in the generally desiccated scene here, after nearly two rainless months.

Sometimes things work out better than expected.