Sunday, June 6, 2021

Perennial Bed Progress

On April 25, I posted about working on my perennial bed, and I shared this shot of how things looked after I'd dug out all the matted grass and a lot of weeds:

Yesterday, on June 5, the same bed has come along quite well, and here's how it looked (ignore the plywood in the background - that's another project underway!)

I'll give you a little guided tour!  Along the front, in the first picture, you can see some lavender plants, which have now begun to put on new growth and are looking relatively good. There are some red tulips that are finishing.  To the right of the lavender, you'll see a new plant I put in yesterday.  It's a Heuchera "carnival watermelon" that has kind of pinkish-gold leaves.  

Here's a closer shot of the heuchera and surrounding plants.  I like the interesting colour pop and heuchera seems to do quite well for me.  To the left is a cranesbill geranium that wasn't yet up in April, and to the right is a perennial ornamental grass. The cranesbill has dark purply-blue flowers on it that should start showing up fairly soon.  There's a volunteer foxglove coming up just behind the heuchera, and then I've put in a couple of marigolds for summer colour. You can also see the jostaberry in the background, now that its leaves are out, whereas in April it was just twiggy bits!

Here you can see a closer shot of a daylily that is on the rear left side that was barely starting to come out of the ground in the first picture.  The climbing hydrangea on the trellis has now leafed out.  I planted a couple of new Echinacea called "Cheyenne Spirit." The tag showed a bold yellow, but I've since learned that this particular strain can have different flower colours including yellow, orange, cream, and purple.  I hope it is more in the yellow/orange range on the plants I bought because I'm trying to make this bed orange/yellow/red themed.  I'm really not at all fond of red and pink mixed together in one bed, so I prefer to keep my beds in the pink/purple/blue range or the orange/yellow/red range.  There's another blackcurrant on the back left, next to some yellow loosestrife.  I also planted (in the front right of this picture) a coreopsis called "Uptick" that is supposed to be a light yellow with a reddish centre.  If the Echinacea comes out in a colour that doesn't work for me, I'll move it elsewhere in the garden.

On the far left of the bed, I have a lovely geum called "Mrs. Bradshaw" that my mom shared from her garden.  It is already blooming well, and is in the right colour range for this bed.  Over time, it will get bigger and I should be able to divide it. To the right of that, I've planted two Rudbeckia "Toto Rustic" which as you can see, is a two-toned bloom in the yellow/rust colour range.  There is a coral-coloured poppy coming on well in the middle of the shot below, and I put a couple of small heuchera "Bressingham" for their nice mounding habit.  Again, you'll see a few more marigolds (orange and yellow) tucked in the edge of the bed. There is a bachelor's button plant that will bloom soon, but I don't mind the dark blue/purple colour with the orange/yellow flowers, so it can stay there.  There is some purple in the rear right but that's just ajuga (bugleweed) in the lawn.  I leave it for the bees.

Here's a close-up of the Rudbeckia. I thought it was rather pretty at the garden centre, so I couldn't help buying a couple to try.  They only grow 10 to 14 inches tall, so I put it near the front of the bed.

We'll see how things come along with time.  No doubt I'll move some things around or add things over time, but for now, I'm happy to see that it has a bit more organization and will hopefully give good pops of colour over the season.  The volunteer foxgloves will likely be pink, which isn't going to work in the colour theme, but some of mine are a soft apricot colour, so if the seeds came from one of those, I might get lucky and have one that does blossom in the right colour range.  

I'll try to do another update later in the season when things have filled out a bit more.  It will help me next year to look at these pictures and figure out what needs to move or change, and what worked well.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Springtime in the Woods

This post is just to share some of the beauty that I see on my walks in the local woods these days.  I'm so lucky to live close to beautiful trails where I can experience such peace and tranquility, and be surrounded by so much to see. Each time I go, I try to find new and interesting things.  These days, there are starting to be a lot of mosquitoes too, so I have to keep up the pace, but I try to snap some pictures while I'm there.

Sometimes I know the species I see, and sometimes I have no idea.  These tiny mushrooms are an unknown species for me, but their warm colour stand out.  The first picture is a more mature one, about 1.5 cm across, and the bottom picture is a tiny one just forming, about the size of a green pea.  

I love how they are nestled in a bed of mossy green.

  I love the patterns in the grain of wood in some of the fallen trees.

This one has such interesting wavy patterns.  It reminds me of a stream, meandering through the woods.

Here's a real stream, meandering through the woods.  I love to stop and listen to the gentle sounds of the water flowing over rocks and around tree roots.  

There are loads of painted trillium (Trillium undulatum) in bloom right now where I walk.  They're a short-lived flower that only blooms in spring, so it's a delight to see them while they're out.  The flower is stunningly beautiful.

There are other spring flowers just starting to open, like this threeleaf goldthread (Coptis trifolia). These are really tiny, so you have to be willing to stop and focus on the ground and really look around for them. Such an exquisite structure.

This is a rock covered in Baeomyces rufus, brown beret lichen.

The green mosses are so vibrant now, and the deciduous leaves are just starting to emerge.  It is a lovely time of year for walks in the woods.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Perennial Bed Clean-up Effort

I have a few existing perennial beds in my yard that really need some TLC.  The last couple of years have been quite busy for me and I just haven't had the time to do them justice.  As a result, they have a lot of weeds and grasses in them and the existing ornamental plants get lost in the mess.  It's difficult to do the clean-up later in the season when things are all the more lush and mature, so I wanted to try to get at least one bed done this spring if I could.  The one I chose to tackle first is the middle-sized one, and it had a really bad case of grass and creeping jenny, which is a cute groundcover but is way too invasive for my liking.

Here's the matted grass and weeds that I started with.  It was dreadful, except for my poor little daffodil, in a sea of grass and mess.

I had to start somewhere, so I began in one little corner. You can see the buried tub where I put my mint so it doesn't take over the world.

The weather was really ideal for doing this work.  We'd had enough rain that the soil could be worked, but the sun was out for much of the weekend, and it was good to be out in the yard.  I saw this lovely little crab spider (not sure on species) scurrying away when I was digging.  So far, there aren't a lot of insects visiting.

The work was pretty daunting.  I used my heavy garden fork to lift all the soil in chunks, and then hand lifted it to pull the matted weedy layer off the top.  I shook out the soil from the root mass and then smoothed over the surface.  I used several carrying buckets to take all the root bundles to the compost heap.  My shoulders are pretty sore this evening, but it was a good 2 days work.  As I uncovered things, I found some good perennials that I left in place.  At times though, it seemed overwhelming.

But by the end of Sunday afternoon, the results were pretty clear.  I even lifted some of the edging rocks and cleaned all the moss off them.

I don't know how many times I went to the compost pile and back, but I know that my fitbit racked up way more steps than usual!  I feel that I now have more space to plant some new, interesting plants that will fill in some of the spaces.

I rescued this cute little Virginia ctenucha larva and popped it back into a leaf pile.  I won't see the adult moths for some months yet.

The plant at the back with the post at the base is a climbing white hydrangea.  On the other side of the trellis is a clematis.  There are some currant bushes in this bed - two blackcurrant, a red currant, and a jostaberry.  There are some tulips just coming in at the front.  There are several lavenders, a large clump of daylilies, two poppies, some yellow loosestrife (also really invasive), a couple of irises that have never bloomed, some pink and white phlox, and an echinops.  I think there might also be an ornamental grass clump. The purple wire chair-like thing accommodates a coir liner in which I usually plant some colourful annuals.

It doesn't look like much right now, but keep in mind that our snow has really only melted recently, so it's just the beginning of the season.  The daffodil is the only one up - the rest out front aren't open yet.  The crocuses have just finished.  I think it could do with some nice clumps of salvia, maybe some heuchera, and perhaps some echinacea or other low-maintenance perennials that will just get on with the business of growing.  I put a few flat rocks down through the bed so I can more easily access certain areas without having to compact the soil with each step. 

Ideally, I'll get some fertilizer in the next week or so to top-dress this bed, and then a few bags of mulch to put down so that hopefully the weeds won't get quite as rampant this year. I would use some of my compost but it needs more time to mature.  I'll have to keep an eye on the weeds and grasses but at least it's possible to see, now, what I've got in there.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Walk in the Woods

I went for a walk in the woods today, in the hopes that the trails I had used for snowshoeing this past winter would be clear of any remaining ice and snow, and also not too boggy, since we've had a bit of a wet spring (as usual).  I did end up having to cross a few boggy areas, but in general, it was a successful walk.  I had only discovered the trail this winter in my efforts to get out more, so it was a new experience for me to walk this trail in anything other than snowy conditions.  I was delighted with the beauty all around me in this spring season.

In particular, the trail is absolutely packed with vast areas of Cladonia species of lichen, which are commonly known as reindeer lichens.  They are an important winter food source for many small animals.  I'm not sure which species this is....there are a quite a few.

This one is Giant Cladonia (Cladonia maxima)

As you can see from this photo, there are large patches of Cladonia along both sides of the trail.

I love the mixed greens that are beginning to show in the mosses and lichens.

Some areas are almost entirely sphagnum moss species, and are wonderfully green and spongy underfoot.  You can see the blue markers on the trees that help mark the trail when the snow covers the path.

The scenery is very peaceful and I find it calming to walk here.

The club mosses are also emerging now.  

As I came to the end of my walk, I spotted an interesting critter!

I don't often see snakes on my walks.  This is a Maritime garter snake.  Totally harmless, and quite exciting to see!  

I don't think it was all that happy about being photographed, so I retreated and let it go on its way.

I then came home and managed to get my snow peas and sugar snap peas planted in my raised beds.  I noticed that I had some parsnip foliage beginning to show from some leftover parsnips from last year.  I wasn't quite expecting this harvest though!

There are lots of big ones, too!

I think there's some parsnip soup in my immediate future!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Ski Improvements

Well, I'm progressing with my skiing adventures, and honestly, I'm managing reasonably well for being 51 and having creaky joints (the body kind, not the smoking kind).  I've now been out skiing half a dozen times I think, or thereabouts.  I started out with loops on a relatively flat trail, which gave me some confidence in getting myself where I needed to go, and in staying upright while doing so.  

After my initial disaster run, which was the subject of the last blog post, I learned that "waxless" skis do not actually mean "never-have-to-wax-them" skis. While you don't have to wax them as regularly as classic skis, they still benefit from waxing, especially when the weather is close to the 0°C (32 F) mark.  The light wax coating helps them glide, rather than get stuck in the clumpy snow, which is what happened to me on the first day.  So, I bought a product called Swix F4, which is a "universal glide wax." (Yes, there's a llama in the background of that picture.  It's a pet bed.)

So you might notice that, like all products sold in Canada, the label is in both French and English.  Thus, you might also grasp that the word "fart" is French for wax.  So now, my juvenile mind thinks of this product as ski farts.  (We're in the midst of a global pandemic...we have to find humour wherever we can these days!) Swix F4 is applied similarly to a deodorant.  The cap comes off to reveal a little sponge and you squeeze the container until a bit of liquid comes out, and then the sponge applies it on the bottom of the ski.  You wait 5 minutes and take the cap off the other end of the ski farts container, and you find a nice little felt polishing pad.  You just buff it up a bit, and you're ready to go.  

Naturally, the second time I went skiing, not that long after the first, I went equipped with ski farts, and let me tell you, it was FAST!  And I fell down again....a LOT!  And this was when I learned my second crucial piece of information.  When it's close to the freezing point, you need the ski farts.  When it is really cold, you DO NOT need ski farts.  So now, I am more judicious about the application of the ski farts and only use it when the weather is on the warm side (for winter, obviously).  

Here's a map of my local ski trails.  
For my first few outings, I went on the "Le Rond" trail, which is the purplish coloured loop slightly to the left.  I can do that loop a couple of times in an hour, plus the bit to the parking area, which is a good beginner run.  Today, I made the bold decision to go to new trails.  I started on Le Rond, took the Coombs road junction from the top of Le Rond, and then proceeded on Cy Pass to the birches, past the Sugar Brook Lodge, and around the corner to the Gastug trail, which has some steep uphill sections.  Then I went back along Cy Pass and finished off the last leg of Le Rond.  I only fell down once, and that was on an uphill section, and I think my legs were just really tired by that point.  But the scenery was glorious and it was a really lovely day to ski.

It wasn't too warm (not sticky) but we also had fresh snow last night, which makes it a little slower. I'm extremely lucky to live so close to such a great trail area.  I'm looking forward to exploring more of it over time.  

In addition, this skiing adventure business has given me a better mental viewpoint on winter.  I don't hate winter quite so much now, and I do try to appreciate the beauty of my local winter scenery. Plus, I get to wear my knitting (the headband, not the sweater....I don't have THAT much free time!)

To add record-keeping capacity to my newfound winter activities (skiing and snowshoeing), I recently charged up my Fitbit.  I actually bought it over 1.5 years ago, but never charged or used it before.  Probably this was because I was just a bit too intimidated to discover the actual extent of my sedentary-ness.  I have actually found it to be useful because my little snowshoeing and skiing adventures are adding up in "steps" and I feel quite positive about it.  Even though I may not get 10,000 steps every day, I'm not doing that badly.  I also feel good that I typically get somewhere between 7.5 and 8 hours of sleep every night. Today I had over 12,000 steps....yay me!  

That's all for now.  I hope all my readers are staying well and keeping healthy in these uncertain times.  

Monday, January 25, 2021

Cross Country Ski Adventure

Today, I made the exceedingly bad decision to go cross-country skiing for the first time since my teen years.  I had downhill skied in my 20s, and had enjoyed that, but hadn't been back on cross-country skis in probably 32 years or so.  The winter before last, I had purchased second-hand waxless cross-country skis.  I didn't try them last winter.  Having found local trails that seemed appropriate, I thought this would be the right time.  

I journeyed up to the trail with my skis and easily remembered how to do the bindings (yes, they're the very old 3-prong sort that require zero skill to use).  I stood on the skis and surveyed the trail ahead of me.  How delightful.  This would be great exercise and perhaps even a bit of fun as well. 

So off I went, full of vim and vigour, trying to get that easy stride motion back into my 51-year-old limbs.  I thought I was sort of getting the hang of it at one point, but things rapidly began to decline.  First of all, I was using waxless skis.  Now, when I was a youngster, my Dad would wax our family skis and he knew what colour wax to put on and did it all for us, so I never learned much about the waxing process.  When I learned (2 years ago) that waxless skis existed, I was pleased at the thought that I didn't have to go through that whole process of waxing and removing wax from skis.  All very convenient, I thought.  And I suppose it would be, if I went out in the right temperatures...which did not cover today's outing.  It said -2C on the weather station, and "feels like -4C," which I thought would be OK.  Wrong!

So, just a short period of time into my ski experience, I began to feel unsteady, and noticed that I was developing significant build-up of snow under the foot area on the ski.  This made it sort of like walking in high heels on snow, but high heels that had a v-shaped point on the bottom that aligned in the direction of one's foot, such that on each step, the tendency for the ankle to veer far to the left or right, was equally likely.  It got to a point that every 3-5 steps I took, my ankle would twist completely out to the side, sometimes on both legs at once.  I began to worry that I was going to break an ankle.  However, the folks who kindly groom the trails really frown on walking on the ski trails, so I carried on, trying to scrape the undersides of my skis off on trees every so often. Not very helpful for more than 3 or 4 glides.  Speaking of glide, there really wasn't any.  It was more just a matter of walking with skis on, after a while, but with the high-heels-ankle-twisting-outward-to-90-degree-angles-with-my-leg aspect.  This was really putting a dent in my enjoyment of the experience. Someone who had been before me (see the nice trails below) seemed to have no difficulty at all, but I was definitely not sharing their experience.

Then, there was the hill.  I came to a hill that was a wee bit steeper than I had expected, but given that I had no glide and given that my skis had so much build-up of snow on them, I figured I could just sort of walk down the hill.  I guess there's a point at which some principle of physics kicks in...might have been gravity...momentum...path-of-least-resistance.  One of those sorts of things.  Anyway, after a step or two, suddenly, I was no longer looking down the hill.  I was looking at the sky, shortly after having the wind knocked out of me when my back solidly hit the ground.  I had that "what just happened...?" feeling for a moment, and then had to sort of re-orient myself so that I could stand up again, having made it some way down the hill on my backside.  It took me some effort to actually get upright again, and I felt like a drunk ostrich, limbs all splayed around and a total lack of coordination.  I finally managed to orient both skis in the same direction, find a tree willing to assist with the uprighting process, and gather the contents of my spilled pockets (why, oh why did I not wear the jacket with the zipper pockets this time?).  I stood up and began to brush some of the snow from my backside and...suddenly, with a tremendous sense of deja vu, I was looking at the sky again.  Drat.  A few bad words may have slipped out.  I once again righted myself and slowly, sideways, eased down the rest of the slope.  

The longer I went on the trail, the more the build-up on the skis persisted, and the more I was twisting each ankle.  It was a wonder I made it to the end of the trail at all.  I'm sure it took me at least double the normal time to complete the trail, and it was definitely not a fun outing.  So today I have learned that I will not go skiing again when the temperature is too close to zero (Celsius) and I will not wear my jacket with the zipless pockets.  I may be sticking to walking for the next little while, until it gets quite a bit colder again. I'm at home for now with sore ankles and an offended back and shoulder.  This is not particularly helping with my quest to find ways to enjoy winter that are more active than snuggling under a blanket with my knitting and an audiobook.

Of note, since I was spending some considerable time flailing about on the ground, I did notice that the snow fleas were out in abundance.  If you're not familiar with snow fleas, which are not actually fleas, but rather springtails of the Hypogastrura genus, you can read more about them here.  They are very helpful little soil critters.  They only come out on warm winter days, another sign that it was too warm for good skiing.  They're actually dark blue, but they mostly look black against the snow.  Anyway, that was probably the highlight of my ski adventure.