garden photos

Pink dahlia and blue Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro)

Summer’s End

It’s over…

Yes, I know summer doesn’t officially end for another 2.5 weeks. But according to the meteorological reckoning of seasons, as opposed to the astronomical one, summer ended with the month of August.

I am happy to kiss it goodbye. Summer had a late start here, but once it got going, it delivered a moderate heat wave almost every week. Nights were relatively warm too, so cooling the house (no a/c here!) was a bit of a project. It worked like this: first thing in the morning, open every window and door and get fans going to pull in the cool air of dawn. Once the outside temp starts to climb, shut all those windows and doors as well as curtains and blinds. This would keep the house at least 5 (Fahrenheit) degrees cooler than the peak outdoor temp. As soon as the outdoor temp dropped below the indoor one (usually by 7 or 8 p.m.), we opened everything up and got fans going again. Tedious, but fairly effective.

Now, I recognize that temperatures in the low to mid 80s (degrees F) are not considered super hot by many, but our “normal” maximum high temperature is 22C (72F). And most of us lack air conditioning. Hence the whining. And while I’m doing that, I’ll just add that there has been no rain at all since early July, so I’ve been best friends with watering cans, hoses, and sprinklers.

Blue Lacecap Hydrangea August 2022
This hydrangea now has its own soaker hose, so performed beautifully this summer.
Blue Lacecap Hydrangea August 2022

The Scarlet Bishop

Red Dahlia "Bishop of Llandaff"
Dahlia “Bishop of Llandaff”

One of my two dahlias (the other is the pink one in the featured image at the top of the post) is this scarlet variety called “Bishop of Llandaff.” It’s named after an actual person, and has been cultivated in gardens since 1924. The contrast between the bright flowers and the dark foliage adds to its appeal.

I have several plants. Three are planted in the ground, and have survived the winters. The ones in pots winter in the basement. They grow much better than the ones in the ground; this year the tallest branches exceeded 5 feet (pot included).

Red Dahlia "Bishop of Llandaff" closeup
Red Dahlia "Bishop of Llandaff" closeup with bee
Bees like the Bishop too!

I know there will likely be more warm days, but the sun sets earlier and rises later. The fog bank in the Strait of Juan de Fuca is swelling and drifts onto the land at times. Autumn is on the doorstep, and I’m ready to welcome it.

Pond bench, hostas, with Athyrium niponicum var. pictum (Japanese painted fern) in foreground

May Into June

I looked through the garden photos I took in the past few weeks. These are the ones I liked best.

Blue Siberian irises
Siberian irises. I think they’re purple, but the camera sees them as blue.
Blue Siberian irises closeup
Woolly sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum) with wallflower Erysimum "Bowles Mauve"
Woolly sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum) and wallflower (Erysimum) “Bowles Mauve”
Columbines, yellow and pale red, heuchera "Green Spice" in background
A frolic of columbines; Heuchera “Green Spice” in background
Single columbine, yellow and pale red, long-spurred
Swimming through the green…
White chairs near bird bath with dog fence and gate

Those Hoses, Those Chairs!

I don’t know if anyone has noticed this, but many of my garden photos include parts of green hoses or white chairs. Like the chairs in the featured image. They’re cheap plastic items we bought 30 years ago. Since then, one has perished, but I inherited another, fancier one from my mom.

Chairs are useful in the garden, for setting down things like tools, watering cans, and balls of string. There’s less chance of those items getting lost if they’re on a chair. And occasionally, the gardener sits on one to rest for a few minutes, until the sight of a weed or leaning plant demands action.

Back garden, spring, bird bath, ugly white chairs

The chairs, although cheap, are adequate for the purposes described. But they become a problem when I take photos of the garden. Not in close-ups of individual plants, but in shots of larger areas, there is often the suspicion of an incongruous white object, which turns out to be a chair leg. White is an uncompromising colour that jumps out from surrounding shades. It contrasts splendidly with green.

In this case, the late Zeke Cat was the star of the show.

Then there are the hoses. Two of them connect rain barrels to the pond, so overflow rainwater can help to top it up, rather than soaking into the ground near the barrels. The hoses run alongside two paths, and want to be in as many pictures as possible.

Part of back garden path showing part of green hose, foliage of Geranium sanguineum and lamb's lettuce in bloom
I took this picture because of the contrast between the dark green foliage of Geranium sanguineum and the light green and white of blooming lamb’s lettuce. But there’s the artificial green of the hose adding its rather incongruous note.

Hoses used to be uniformly this shade of green that is rare or nonexistent in nature. I guess the idea was they would blend in among the greens of the garden. They don’t. Recently, hose makers seem to have realized that and now colour their products so as to be visible. Lime green, blue, turquoise, and even purple hoses are available. Maybe too many of the green ones were blamed for causing people to trip, or were mangled by lawnmowers whose operators failed to see them.

The path behind the pond, with hose.

Some of you may be wondering why I don’t crop out the chair legs from the photos, or fiddle with filters to disguise the hoses. The truth is, I’m too lazy to bother, and even if a hose’s colour were modified, the shape is pretty uncompromising. My garden photo sessions are unplanned. I see something beautiful or interesting and run inside to grab the camera. If I see a piece of chair anatomy edging into the scene, or a hose intruding itself, I reposition myself so as to eliminate the offending item from the field of view. But that isn’t always possible. Later, when I’m reviewing photos for use in blog posts, I avoid the ones with the worst intrusions.

Pacific Coast Iris, white
This Pacific Coast Iris is blooming just like this right now (photo from 2021). And not a hose nor a chair in sight!

Back garden, April 2022

This Garden, this Spring

Every spring is different. Now that I’ve gardened this same patch of ground for nearly 30 years, I think I’ve experienced the full range of variations. Except that with a changing climate, there may be shocks and surprises along the way.

This has been a slow, cool spring, quite different from 2021 (the year of the Heat Dome). Last spring was dry, with April temperatures in the 20s (degrees C; that’s 70s F). This year we’ve had more rain than normal (and that after an extremely wet fall and winter), and below normal temperatures. On April 12, wet snow fell for several hours. Strong winds from all four directions (on different days) battered plants and scattered twigs.

But late April and most of May are the best months in this garden. Spring bulbs are in bloom and there’s lots of fresh foliage. Things are green and juicy. The cool weather means tulips, narcissi, and other flowers have remained in good condition for weeks.

Bluebells, narcissi, ajuga, hellebores in north circle bed April 2022

A few months ago I was unhappy about my hellebores, which seemed to be suffering the effects of excessive autumn wetness followed by severe cold at the end of December. I am happy to report that they shook off the doldrums (assuming hellebores can get doldrums). Most bloomed as usual, and are now approaching the stage where I remove the flower stems to prevent seeding.

Yellow grass Milium effusum "Aureum," hellebores, Brunnera "Looking Glass" in side bed April 2022
Hellebores and companions in the narrow bed to the west of the house.

Inevitably, there are a few disappointments. The pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) that used to bloom together with white candytuft and flowering currant seems to have vanished from the scene. It appeared to be in decline last spring, so I thoughtfully dug it up and reset it in improved soil. Either it didn’t appreciate that treatment, or the June heat wave did it in. For whatever reason, there is no sign of it this spring, which is both sad and annoying.

purple anemone and flowering currant
Blooming well in 2017, now dead.

On the other hand, the gentians (Gentiana acaulis), which sulked last spring, are doing really well. Half a dozen flowers opened this week, with twice as many buds still forming. (I sometimes berate myself for counting buds and blooms, but do it anyway.)

Gentiana acaulis
The bluest of blues.
Gentiana acaulis single flower

This is really the best time to be a gardener here. Cleanup and mulching are done. The miserable business of pruning is finished and the tyranny of the hose and watering can hasn’t yet arrived (although soaker hoses are in place and ready). The hardest job is mowing the grass, which looks deceptively good right now. The gardener strolls around, admiring and self-congratulating. Even common, weedy plants look good.

Lunaria annua, Money plant, Honesty
Money plant, also known as Honesty (Lunaria annua)

Whether because of the excessive heat last June or some other reason, huge numbers of laburnum seedlings have appeared. I must have pulled up hundreds of them by now, and I see more every time I visit certain parts of the garden. Some of Nature’s excesses demand intervention by the gardener. Others are to be invited and celebrated.

Kerria japonica double form
Kerria japonica, like an explosion of sunlight.
Pink and white tulips
Reliable tulips.
Dryopteris filix-mas, Male fern, Fiddleheads
Also reliable is this fern (Dryopteris filix-mas). The clump gets bigger every year and has developed a kind of topknot.

One plant that’s doing better than usual is the Bleeding Heart (now called Lamprocapnos spectabilis by botanists, although I still think of it as Dicentra spectabilis). Mine has always bloomed on disappointingly short stems, but this year it looks more or less as it should. When I see its dangling little heart-shaped flowers, I always think of garden writer Henry Mitchell’s description of them: “Like Valentines hung out to dry.”

Lamprocapnos spectabilis, Dicentra spectabilis, Bleeding Heart
Lamprocapnos spectabilis, Dicentra spectabilis, Bleeding Heart
Lamprocapnos spectabilis, Dicentra spectabilis, Bleeding Heart, single flower
Pink tulip close-up
This one tulip’s colour is the same shade of pink as the bleeding heart. It’s been blooming for weeks.
Hellebores and Pieris japonica new foliage
Hellebores again, this time with the new pink foliage of Pieris japonica.
Primula auricula variety unknown
Primula auricula, variety unknown. Doing well this year in larger pots.
Photinia x fraseri and Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii
Photinia x fraseri with lots of new red leaves following pruning in February, with Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii. Self-sown bluebells nearby.
Yellow grass Milium effusum "Aureum" and bluebells
Bluebells again, this time with yellow ornamental grass Milium effusum “Aureum.”

When I’m feeling grumpy about the look of the garden after hot, dry weeks in August, I should look at this post and tell myself it will be like this again.


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Early daffodils February 2022

Early Spring in Bloom

Finally! Some photo-worthy garden sights in this rather drab month. The highlight is a wealth of crocuses that haven’t been eaten by the mysterious garden raider that has decimated the hellebore buds.

Algerian iris Iris unguicularis February 2022
Algerian iris. This is the only flower so far; the first was beaten down by snow and two others were chomped by “something.”
Iris reticulata and skeletonized leaf February 2022
Iris reticulata and a wisp of skeletonized leaf I didn’t think to remove before taking the picture.
Early daffodils February 2022
Reliable small early daffodils.
Photinia after trimming February 2022
Photinia trimmed to an ice cream cone shape (okay, a melting ice cream cone) with the help of my wonderful tripod ladder. Euphorbia wulfenii at its base setting up buds.
Purple crocuses closeup February 2022
Sunlit crocuses.
Pink winter sunrise

Colour and Texture

The garden is entering its quiet time. Drab, even. But there are a few sights worth looking at. And winter sunrises are often spectacular, probably because they arrive late enough to be observed.

Perennial bed in front garden December 2021
Mixed colours and textures in this perennial bed brought out by morning sun.
Top of birch tree in back garden with a few remaining leaves
Last few yellow leaves on the birch.
Ornamental grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) "Little Bunny"
Ornamental grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) “Little Bunny” looks good even when dormant.
Winter jasmine yellow flowers on trellis
Winter jasmine is in full bloom. (Photo from last year, but it looks just like this now.)

Early bulbs are poking their noses up and new buds are visible on shrubs and trees. Soon there will be fresh colours and textures to see and admire.

Postscript: Remember the condemned rubber plant? It has had a reprieve. One cold day I brought it back inside. Since then we have had at least one frosty night that would have done it in. My new plan is to air-layer a new plant next summer, and to cultivate that new plant in a way that will make it look better than its predecessor.

Rubber plant left outside by shed, 2021
Reprieved and still alive inside!
Last orange leaves of Cotinus cogyggria (smoke bush)

Finale

It’s been a rainy, windy fall so far here on Vancouver Island. We’ve had none of the crisp, sunny autumn days that are some of the year’s best. In fact, it feels like we skipped from summer (hot and dry) to winter (rainy and windy).

The garden is a mess. I haven’t managed to do any edge-trimming or much end-of-season cleanup. I’m not obsessive about raking up every leaf any more, since I’ve heard that fallen leaves are a valuable resource for bugs and birds. (Let’s hope the bugs aren’t the kind that cause problems for gardeners.)

But there are always a few things worth looking at…

Amanita muscaria mushroom
This Amanita muscaria mushroom popped up by the pond
Pink oriental lily, last lily of 2021
The last lily of the year. This is the first time I’ve had a lily bloom in November.
Yellow chrysanthemum flowers
The always reliable yellow chrysanthemum, not eaten by deer this time.

I see it’s raining again, so back to the work in progress!