Jul 24, 2014

My Home Away from Home: Cedar Spring Nursery

I thought it was a precipitous time to let readers of my blog know where it is that I work. I have been employed at Cedar Spring Nursery in Elora for the past two years. After six years in the industry I was ready and looking for a change! My current employers have allowed for my passion for all things perennial to shimmer to the surface once again, and in these past two years, I have been able to assist in the creation of a number of new display gardens. I am a firm believer that if a potential customer [gardener] is able to see what a plant will look like, and more importantly, how it will perform in a garden placement, it will make it easier for them to decide exactly what form of garden it is that they would like to create. The nursery is blessed with both sunny and shaded dispositions, allowing for us to offer our clients a number of exciting garden vignettes to offer inspiration as well as to occasionally toss the expectation of 'what is a garden' on its ear!

We have two water features on the property, one being a two tiered pond, as well as a meandering stream that culminates in a second pool. It is this second water feature, and its surrounding gardens that have drawn visitors to the nursery like moths to the proverbial flame. Jon [one half of my employers] wanted to create something big..... I think the word Jurassic was tossed around, and as such, I could not help but suggest that perhaps the plants might range from our grow zone up until, oh maybe Z 8-9! We were going to become the Kings of Zonal Denial!

 There is everything one could ever imagine growing: Agapanthus, Brugmansia, Albizia 'Summer Chocolate', a truly funky Bismarkii palm, as well as a monstrous Cycas revoluta, a number of Alocasia and Colocasia.... and you will also find my trusted septentine Blue Atlas Cedar! Its definitely a case in point of expect the unexpected. I love watching first time visitors as they spot any one of the above numbered plants and then scurry over and stand in amazement! I do have to say it has totally surpassed any expectation I might have possessed when we were first contemplating such an endeavour. Lucky for us, we have an empty heated hoop house wherein we store all of the more tender hearted selections - which, not surprisingly, seem to increase with each passing year! 

At the end of the Jurassic Border is our bumble bee and butterfly garden. Its residents are more commonly grown here, and includes a rather stunning Salvia sclarea var. Turkestanica which has caused more than one motorist to slam on the brakes, turn round and come back for a second glance!

One might come to the conclusion that this border, our shaded woodland is my personal favourite. It is here where Sasha [boss numero dos] and I have created a magical space between a pair of majestic Crimson Kings. Its chock full of many of my favourite woodland gems, and includes a sublime dwarf form of the prehistoric Gingko biloba. There are four Japanese Maples [Hana Matoi, Mikawa yatsubusa, Villa Taranto and Shishigashira] which help to lend an Oriental atmosphere. If I am not to be found in the retail space, you need only look out yonder beyond the fence! 

Hydrangea 'Twist n Shout' is one of the signature plants that always translate into my having to reorder, especially when it is blooming like it has been this year! This garden consists of Compost Plus - nothing more, nothing less, and as such, its acidic content results in these staggering blue-mauve blooms. Many of my resident woodlanders actually appreciate a more acidic content.

The remaining border at roadside is more of an Arboretum, where we have highlighted some of our more unusual specimen trees which include Fagus sylvatica 'Roseomarginata, Cercis canadensis 'Covey', Acers shirasawanum and Red Dragon, as well as a few notable conifers including Sciadopitys verticillata 'Joe Kozey', Abies concolor, Metasequoia 'Miss Grace' and a delightful fernspray Chamaecyparis! I love that we are able to highlight what are the essentials to any well structured garden border.

 The last border is at the side of the retail store and here is where I wanted to create a simple narrow border using only three plants - all of them variegated. I must preface and say that the first ten or so feet is home to what are proving to be two bestsellers for us - Hosta 'Empress Wu' [she of the gargantuan elongated foliage] and a fully hardy reblooming Wisteria! 

Back to the experiment..... I chose three popular shade perennials: Hosta [2] and Polygonatum falcatum 'Variegata'. I repeated their placement down the narrowly long length. Of course one of the Hosta that we chose also happens to be the most sought after plant of all of the display gardens! Hosta 'Hi Ho Silver' was one that we snagged on a trip to one of our suppliers. Of course we bought them out, thinking we would see how our customers responded, and if need be, we could always order more. Ummmm..... No!  Apparently from the people I have communicated with over the past season, he, a charming sport of Ginkgo Craig, was reputedly a weak performer and has since disappeared from commerce. He is the one pictured below. If this is what people call a weak performer...... I love the wide, pristine white edges to foliage that is narrow and pointed. Not a dwarf, but definitely one of the smaller selections. We are ever so patiently waiting for him to bulk up, where upon we will see about propagating him so that we can satisfy the ever growing number of customers who have requested him via our seasonal 'Wishlist' program. I would hate to disappoint my loyal clientele! And No. I do not have a half dozen sequestered in my own garden. Not yet at least!

And there you have it, this is where I spend my time when I am not in my own garden. I have the greatest employers a plantaholic geek like myself could ever dream of. It has helped revitalize my passion for all things perennial [and yes, I'm slowly finding an appreciation for annuals as well!] and has allowed for me to use the display gardens to help introduce the world to the fascinating wonders of woodland and zonal denial gardening - essential items in a world that thinks they are satisfied with Petunia and Geraniums. Silly people! 

Jul 23, 2014

A Season In One Day!

Having been away from this blog for the better part of two months, I have decided that I will try and recapture the excitement of the growing season that has been thus far! No one needs to be reminded of the 'winter that was,' so I fill forego the whinging and head straight into the photos. As usual, Blogger has already inserted them into this post in an order other than what I specified so it will likely appear as if I am jumping all over the board -and yes. I am! As only a Gemini can be forgiven for! I was staggered at how late it was [the first week of July] before I saw Arisaema consanguineum 'Perfect Wave' emerge from his winter slumber. He then seemed to morph almost overnight into the photo above. He must be .5m in height, and still maintains his stunning whorled leaf arrangement, not to mention the gorgeous pewter inlay of each rippled leaflet. Does it sound as though I am in love? Indeed. Completely besotted!

An aerial view of the various textures, shapes, colour that all make up the area between my and the neighboring house. This photo doesn't really do justice to how lush it looks, thanks in large part of our unseasonably cool, somewhat moist summer that we have been blessed with. Yes. Blessed! Damp, cool, overcast.... my ideal summer conditions.

I have quickly learned that the longer one obsesses over a specific genus [one being himself] the more expensive the selections become. I fell to my knees in supplication when I stumbled across Epimedium 'Windfire' last summer, ignoring the fact that it set a personal record insomuch as the price I have willingly paid to maintain my Epiphile status! I was stunned equally so this Spring when I discovered that my meagre plant had trebled in size and is also a rebloomer!

The preceding three photographs help to sum up my less than conventional planting style. I refer to it as the Plantaholic Layering method. Usually only one of each plant, but positioned in such a manner as to accentuate each plant's best attributes. I adore Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' and knew he would look best positioned against the burgundy siding of the house. He had spent the entire growing season last year contained in a pot on my veranda, but come winter I knew his only chance of survival was if he was transplanted into the garden. 

Joy, the two preceding photos are for you! I knew I was being a tempestuous vixen when I sent them to you with no ID. Bastardio! He was a lonely orphan sitting my his lonesome on a visit to Whistling Gardens this past June. I'd tried to order one in earlier in the season from a different supplier, but they were short shipped, and with heavy heart I put it on the 2015 wish list, not really thinking I would be able to find him anywhere else. Surprise! Acer pseudoplatanus 'Eskimo Sunset' is a sublime smaller species with stunning foliage that is a creamy greenish white heavily mottled as the foliage opens, with a jaw droppingly beautiful reverse to each leaf that morphs into a sublime wine colour. His heavy variegation demands that he have a placement in dappled shade. He currently resides in a pot. 

The above two pics are without a doubt two of my favourite plants that reside here at Teza's Garden! Although Paeonia mlokosewitschii [lovingly referred to as 'Molly the Witch to those in the know!] is supposed to emerge a pristine, clear yellow, there are also clones who open pink before morphing to a rose-yellow as it ages, which as the photo can attest to, is what I am blessed with. It is her foliage that I am entranced with. Blue, grey, ovate shaped leaves actually emerge from the ground looking like rich velvet claws! And I cannot help but squeal with delight every Spring when I am blessed with the satiny poppy-esque flowers of Glaucidium palmatum. It is actually more closely related to the genus Paeonia that Papaver!

Once upon a time there lived a precocious lad who, on weekends, ventured into the 'Darkling Wood,' with his Grandparents, where he was introduced and initiated into the magical, mystical world of woodland gardening. Forty some odd years later, he remains equally besotted with the allure of those shaded woodlands. Arisaema will forever be one of my all time favourite genera, and as such, when I was given the chance to grow Arisaema griffithii early this Spring, I jumped at the opportunity. The following photos do not do justice to the serpentine beauty that it afforded me over its transformation! 

 Two of my other favourite species include Arisaema thunbergii var. Urashima [above] and my all time favourite Arisaema candidissimum, that beguiling species with the pink, white and green spathe that stops visitors dead in their tracks. It emphasizes the importance of sequestering a diva or two for the woodland garden! 

 I despise being labelled as a trend follower, but who didn't add a Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame' or two to their summer garden repertoire this year. I will admit though, it failed miserably in impressing me as compared to Lilium napalense which is the photo that directly precedes 'Flame.' I can hardly wait for it to attain its 1.25m height, capable of carrying 15-20 flowers per stem. I will not be the trend following lemming, I will not!

And what better way of closing out this post than with what is blooming at this very moment here at Teza's Garden. 

Jul 21, 2014

Looking Back: A Return to where it all began!

I had a free day to myself this past Sunday, and decided it was time to slow down the somewhat hectic pace that has been the garden season of 2014, to actually take the time and look backward over my shoulder! I was up early and on my way back to the very first garden nursery who employed me - what is it now, seven years ago? Those of follow my blog, will know that I mean Lost Horizons, a sublime woodland plant nursery just this side of Acton, Ontario.

 I promised myself that I would make a return trip when time allowed, if only to see if I could relive the excitement I felt on that day, when, on a search for Corydalis flexuosa 'Blue Panda' [what has since become my signature plant] I found myself at the gates of this botanical magic kingdom. It was very much a case of deja vu all over again! There was one glaringly noticeable difference this year - the absence of so many of the tall, majestic trees that alluded to the feeling that you were entering some hidden away botanical hideaway - but sadly, not even such magical kingdoms are exempt from Mother Nature's icy fury! I had also momentarily forgotten about the bug issue! Big time. The fact that it was overcast and was drizzling didn't help the situation in the least, but for me what was a dozen or so mosquito bites when I could bask in the glory that are the display gardens!

I noticed that the staff was new, and asked for one of the two plants I was hoping to locate. Glancing at the 'plant locator' I discerned that it said 'STK' which in LH jargon means that it is in the stock bed. Not to worry. There is always next year! The sales associate said she would go track down Larry and see if she could find it for me. I didn't have the heart to tell her it was unlikely that we would locate said plant, but I let her strike off and find Larry - I was looking forward to our 'yearly' catch up. Soon enough we spotted one another, and for the next half hour we discussed the trials and joys of the business. He pointed out a couple of his newest treasures, including a stunning Actaea that must have been eight feet tall. We pontificated over a Dracunculus that had just finished flowering. [Mine has not made a return appearance this year after gifting me with a staggeringly bizarre yet beautiful, if somewhat putrid smelling bloom last year!]
And then he was gone, disappearing among the supple textures of foliage that are the bones of why his display gardens are as magical as they are. It was almost like a botanical illusion. Here one minute, gone the next. It was so rewarding to be able to bask in his knowledge and passion of only for such a short time. I found a new member of what is one of my favourite genera - Polygonatum verticillatum 'Himalayan Giant' - and deposited it at the cash desk before crossing over the instantly recognizable footbridge into what can only be described as paradise!

The drive home was filled with nostalgic silence - a part of me will forever refer to 'Lost Horizons' as my first 'home' when I decided I was ready for a career change those seven short years ago. It was there where I was immersed in the intoxicating world of Botanical latin, and it was there, where under Larry's generous and genuine tutelage that I first crossed over to what I now jokingly refer to as 'the dark side!' I learned that for most shade gardens, its more about structure, texture, hues of green and placement, than it is about colour or even presence of flower. I also learned that more is always better. Plant one truly hortgasm worthy specimen, and then fill in with other botanical wonders. The display gardens helped to encourage within me the so called 'layering' method of planting. 

Arriving home again with new plant in tow, I decided to sit and quietly observe my own garden - to look beyond what are undoubtedly my favourite plants and seek out the undeniable connection that links it with Lost Horizons. It didn't take long!

Thank you Larry for taking me under wing and opening my eyes to the undeniably intoxicating world of woodland gardening and the vast array of plants that it encompasses! I like to think that my garden is my homage to your skills, knowledge and generosity!

** On a different note I have decided to focus my energies on my FB and Pinterest pages. I will still publish here periodically, but I find that the Blogger platform is so not user friendly and without my WLW [its all about MAC now don't you know!] it is simply easier for me to post to my FB or Pinterest pages. You will find a link to both of them in the right sidebar. Thanks! **