Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I love the chives in my garden! I grow them mainly for the wonderful violet flowers that bloom in spring. But chives belong to the onion family and can be used as an herb to flavour many culinary dishes. In our climate they die back each fall and re-appear in early spring. It is the first herb I can harvest after a long winter. And nothing tastes better than some fresh chives on a baked potato shortly after the snow disappears. They can be grown from seeds and can easily be propagated by divisions.

Chives are the smallest species of the onion family. They are a bulb-forming herbaceous perennial that grow in clusters. The leaves are hollow and can be cut to their base without damage to the plant. New leaves will grow back as the summer progresses. Bees love chives and this plant can be used to lure bees to the garden to fertilize other plants. The plants themselves, however, contain sulphur compounds which repel other insects. Chives are rich in vitamin A and C and contain trace amounts of calcium and iron. But eating this plant in large amounts could cause digestive upsets. Early gypsies believed that hanging bunches of dried chives around the house would ward off illness and evil spirits.
Family: Alliaceae. Genus: Allium. Species: A. schoenoprasum
Common Name: Chives

Monday, June 29, 2009


I realize that I have more plants than I can handle at the moment. Lots of things are coming into bloom right now. I will show you my Wisteria. For years and years I wanted a Wisteria, but could not figure out how or where to grow it. I was afraid that our climate would not allow me to grow this gorgeous plant. But boy! Was I wrong!

About 4 or 5 years ago I bought a small wisteria plant. I planted it near the fence, thinking that it could climb up that. A few days later I found that my plant had been dug up and was lying in a wilted heap on top of the soil. It was a mystery. I never found out exactly what happened to it. I replanted it, but unfortunately it never did well after that. I bought another plant the following year and watched it carefully. It started to grow and grow and grow! That sucker grew at least five feet that first summer. The following year I had a single drooping grape-like bloom! I was ecstatic! My neighbout was not! He kept cutting every new shoot that came over the fence into his yard. He had had a wisteria in his yard a few years prior to this. It was a present to his wife from their daughter for Mother's Day. It had many wonderful blooms on it the second summer they had it, but he cut it down because "it was growing too fast". That silly man does not like plants!

I bought a trellis for my wisteria, but it soon became too small. The plant has intertwined in it and I guess I will have to leave it there, but next year I am going to have my husband build an arbor for it to properly grow on. I love this plant and think it will look so amazing with all the flower clusters hanging down. I can already imagine myself sitting under it! Wisteria is a woody herbaceous perennial vine. It grows by entwining itself either clockwise or counter clockwise on anything that is available.
Wisteria is considered to be a weed in many parts of the world. And it certainly can be invasive. Its vigorous growth can choke out other plants. But it can easily be pruned to keep it in check. I plan to give mine a place of honour in the garden!

There appear to be two kinds of Wisteria. One is a Japanese Wisteria. (W. floribunda) It grows in a clockwise direction. There is also one that is a Chinese Wisteria. (W. sinensis) It grows counter clockwise. Mine grows clockwise so it must be the Japanese variety.

The blooms are borne on racemes - long pendular clusters -around the middle of June. They are a light lilac colour. Very beautiful! The leaves are pinate. There are about 9 to 15 leaflets on each. The seed pods look very much like beans, but the seeds are poisonous! This plant can live for 50 years! It'll be around a lot longer than I will.

Family: Fabaceae. Genus: Wisteria. Species: W. floribunda.
Common Name: Wisteria


I planted this plant in my garden three or four years ago. I don't remember what it was called. I just liked the way it looked This year I went back to the garden centre to ask about its name. I was told it is an Angelonia. That is all they could tell me about it. So I looked it up and found that it definitely does look like Angelonia, but Angelonia is only a perennial in zone 9 and 10. I live in zone 5a. It should be an annual here. But it keeps coming back every year since I planted it. So I'm a little confused. Edit: Well the mystery is solved. This plant is a Penstemon. And that explains everything.

There are two different colour of Penstemon in my garden. They were in the same pot when I bought them. One is a purple-blue one. The other is pink.

I have to look this one up, because I don't know too much about penstemon. I'll be back.

Family: Plantaginaceae. Genus: Penstemon. Species:
Common Name: Beardtongue

Friday, June 26, 2009

Maltese Cross - Lychnia chalcedonica

Maltese Cross is a herbaceous perennial. Mine are a deep reddish-orange, but many other cultivars have been developed. Maltese Cross will grow to three feet in height. I grow mine in a peony cage to keep them from falling over. These plants are easy to take care of and don't need special conditions. In my garden they are growing in some of the worst soil that I have and yet they are doing well. Maltese Cross originated in Central and Eastern Russia, from Kasakhstan to Mongolia and Northeastern China. They were brought to North America by early settlers.
The flowers are borne on tall stems in clusters containing many florets. The florets are shaped like a cross, hence the name, Maltese Cross. The seed pods are dry capsules which contain many seeds. I usually remove the spent flowers in order to make this plant flower throughout the summer. Also, if left to self seed, it could become invasive. But it is not difficult to keep this plant under control. In early spring it is easy to identify Maltese Cross. Then they can be removed or transplanted.

Family: Carophyllaceae. Genus: Lychnis. Species: L. chalcedonica
Common Names: Maltese Cross, Jerusalem Cross.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Weed is a Weed

Meet my Goutweed! This plant is doing a number on my garden and I didn't even plant it here! It came over from the garden behind ours. My neighbour thinks it's nice. And I will admit that the leaves are very pretty and it does look nice in the dark corner of the garden. But now that it's here, it is my job to try to keep this herbaceous perennial under control. If I don't, it could take over my entire garden. They don't call this plant a 'weed' for nothing. Goutweed spreads by rhizomes. If I dig them out and leave even one small piece of root, it will grow back.
It is a member of the carrot family. This seems strange until you see the flowers which are borne in umbrella-like clusters. They have never flowered in my garden, but I think that is because they are growing in a dark, shady spot and don't get enough sunlight. Apparently it is possible to pick the leaves of this plant in early spring and eat them much like spinach. I have never done this. Goutweed just doesn't sound appetising to me. There is also evidence of this plant's early use as a treatment for gout and arthritis. Hence the name 'Goutweed', but a weed by any other name is still a weed! Hours of back-breaking weeding fun are in my future!

Family: Apiaceae. Genus: Aegopodium. Species: A. podagraria
Common names: Goutweed, Bishop's weed, Snow-on-the-Mountain, Ground Elder

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bleeding Hearts - Dicentra Spectabilis

I mustn't forget to post my Bleeding Hearts. These lovely plants have been blooming for weeks and they don't seem to want to stop anytime soon. I have a lovely pink one that has been divided many times. Bleeding Hearts are easy to divide in early spring. My plant's clones are growing in many gardens around these parts!

These plants are native to Japan, but they do very well in our climate. They love a shady spot in the garden and they are perennial. Their deeply divided, fern-like leaves stay on the plant long after the flowers die back. The flowers are heart-shaped, hence the name, Bleeding Hearts.

Family: Fumairiaceae. Genus: Dicentra. Species: D. spectabilis.
Common Name: Bleeding Hearts

Poppies - Papaver orientale!

The Oriental Poppies are blooming in my garden! There is nothing that I don't like about these gorgeous plants. I know that their blooming time only lasts about two weeks, but when they do bloom, they are the highlight of my garden!

In spring they grow into a large mound of the most beautiful lacy leaves. Then the buds start to grow with the promise of great things to come. The flowers never fail to provide inspiration for me. I love the colourful blooms that defy description! Their crepe-like flowers are borne high above to leaves, to a height of 3 or 4 feet! The bright red-orange ones take centre stage to everything else.
I also have a white one that might just be my favourite. My DD bought it for me about 10 or 12 years ago for Mother's Day.

It has never failed to rapture and inspire me! After flowering the delightful seedpods begin to ripen. I think they are just as interesting s the flowers themselves. In the heat of summer the plants die back, but as soon as the cooler fall weather arrives with some much needed rain, the leaves begin to grow again. I used to have a lovely salmon coloured one too, but it has not come up this year. I think I will go out and buy a new one next spring. Oh! I can hardly wait!

Family: Papaveraceae. Genus: Papaver. Species: P. orientale.
Common name: Poppy, Oriental Poppy

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Block #5 of A Tale of Two Cities

Are you ready Keiko? Here is block #5 in the Yokohama/Toronto wall hanging. It is pretty straight forward, I think.

First cut a piece of background fabric about 7 inches by 10 inches. This will later be cut down to measure 6 1/2" X 9 1/2". The finished block will measure 6in. X 9in.

Then trace the pattern pieces onto the paper side of the freezer paper, cut them out and iron them onto your desired fabrics. Then cut out the fabric leaving a seam allowance of 1/4 inch around the pattern.

Baste each piece. Leave the stem piece open at each end. (Baste only along the sides.) Leave the flower pot bottom piece open at the top. (Baste only on three sides.) Now pin your pieces onto your background fabric as in the picture. The flower pot bottom piece should be placed behind the top of the pot. The stem should be placed behind the top of the pot and the tulip. Hope this makes sense. If you have any questions, email me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Geraniums! Pelargoniums! What Do You Call These Things Anyways?

Geraniums are confusing!

The name, Geraniums, is commonly used for the big, colourful annual plants that are available in garden centres in springtime. Most people are familiar with these wonderful plants that bring a burst of instant colour to the garden! But these are not true Geraniums. Although in the Geraniaceae Family, They actually belong to the Genus, Pelargonium. Pelargoriums are easy to grow and are great for beginners. They love a sunny location, are drought resistant and continuously blooming. They can be propagated by taking cuttings from the parent plant. These Geraniums are usually not frost hardy and need to be taken indoors or treated as an annual.

Family: Geraniaceae. Genus: Pelargonium.

Common Name: Geranium

The plants that belong to the Genus, Geranium, are a huge group of over 400 species. Sometimes called Cranesbills because of the shape of the seed pods. These pods look like a crane's bill and are specially designed to spring open when ripe in order to disperse the seeds. These true Geraniums are hardy perennials. They spread by rhizomes as well as seeds, but they are not invasive. They like a partly sunny location, but are not fussy as to soil conditions. They are happy to grow in just about any kind of soil. Their leaves are a pretty light green colour and have a wonderful toothed appearance which provides an interesting contrast to other garden foliage. If the flowers are cut back after blooming, these plants will continue to flower right through to the fall.

They are available in many colours ranging from pinks to purples and blues. I have two kinds in my garden. I love the blue-coloured ones. I find them so inspirational.

Family: Geraniaceae. Genus: Geranium.
Common Name: Hardy Geraniums, Cranesbill Geraniums.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


The Columbine are blooming in my garden at the moment. These are one of my favourite plants. Oh, who am I kidding? I love all plants, but these hold a certain fascination for me. I love the five-petaled flowers and the long spur that grows to the back of the flower. Hummingbirds are supposed to love the nectar of these flowers. But I have not seen any yet this year. Columbine have such lovely delicate foliage. Even after they have flowered, I love to look at the leaves of this plant amongst my other plants. This is a pretty double pink variety.

There are about 70 species of Columbine. They are in the buttercup family - Ranunculaceae. I love this white one. It looks so delicate - almost see-though.

This yellow one is a fairly new acquisition. I just can't keep myself from buying a new plant every once in awhile. They look best in a sort of woodland setting, but they can be grown anywhere.

The wild Columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis) is Scarborough's official flower. Scarborough is the area of Toronto where we live. Because of that I have always devoted a special place in the garden for these wonderful herbaceous perennials. Isn't this pink one gorgeous?

Family: Ranunculaceae. Genus: Aquilegia. Numerous varieties.
Common Name: Columbine

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Back to Nature Part 4

I have a couple of other naturalized plants in my garden, but the photos are not very good. This is Jack in the Pulpit. There are about 5 or 6 of these plants now. I planted only one a few years ago. This patch that I have is totally covered in leaves - many leaves of a very large size. And they all seem to be facing the back of the garden. I don't know why this is, but it meant that I was not able to get a good shot of them. Jack in the Pulpit can be poisonous if ingested.

Family: Araceae. Genus: Amsaema. Species: A. triphyllum.

Common Name: Jack in the Pulpit

And here is my Lily of the Valley. I have thousands of these plants. But to get a photo, I had to drive my scooter into my neighbour's backyard. On my side there is a huge pile of gravel that is supposed to fill in the pool. Yes, sadly we are taking it out, or rather, filling it in.

Lily of the Valley is a fragrant, hardy, shade-loving perennial. It can be invasive as it reproduces by sending out uderground stems called rhizomes.

Family: Ruscaceae. Genus: Convallaria. Species: C. majalis

Common name: Lily of the Valley

I also have a lovely red trillium. I planted one many years ago and only one keeps coming up. I bought it at a garden centre, so no worries about taking it out of the wild. I think I will have to revisit this garden centre sometime in the future and purchase some more - maybe some white trilliums too. I love those.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Eeeee Gadssss - A Weed In My Garden!

Look at what had the nerve to plant itself in my garden! A Yellow Goat's Beard! This is all because no one did any weeding last year. The garden was allowed to do whatever it wanted! This plant started life as a small inconspicuous grass-like plant last year. Yellow Goat's Beard, you see, is a biennial. This spring I noticed its reddish grassy leaves. I thought that perhaps my daughter had planted some kind of ornamental grass in my garden last year. I decided to leave it until I had asked her about it. But it soon started to grow... and grow... and grow! It is now almost three feet tall! And it is starting to bloom! It even has some spit bugs on it. That is how I always think of this weed in the wild - with spit bugs! It is actually not an ugly plant, but the spit bugs... Yuk! Now is the time to pull it up! Because it has grown so quickly and really doesn't distract from the rest of the garden yet, I decided to feature it here, on my blog. Sort of as a last farewell! It is coming out later today!

This weed is kind of interesting. It's a biennial, but I already said that. It has large yellow dandelion-like flowers, only much bigger, about 2 inches across. It belongs in the aster family because of it's composite flowers.

Another interesting feature is that the flowers open in the morning and close again by around or a little past noon. This has given this plant the common name of 'Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon'. That's kind of cute. Another common name for it is Meadow Salsify. The seeds on this plant look a lot like that of a dandelion too, except much larger! They are spread by the wind, floating through the air just as a dandelion seed would. But that will never happen to my Goat's Beard! It is coming out...now!

Family: Asteraceae. Genus: Trogopogon. Species: T. pratensis
Common name: Yellow Goat's Beard, Meadow Salsify, Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Colour in My Garden?

My garden is very green right now. Most of the flowering bulbs and early spring flowers have come and gone. I neglected to show you my violets. In late April, my whole garden was covered in these wonderful herbaceous perennial purple violets! The flowers are edible. My DD picked them and made candied violets for a cheese cake she made for a staff function. I wish I had a photo of the cake. It was breathtaking!

I have no idea which species of viola I have in my garden. They have all been there for such a long time that their name tags are long gone. I also have some white violets. I love these!

And then there is this large clump of speckled violets. They are light blue with darker speckles.

Family: Violaceae. Genus: Viola.

Common Names: Violets, Common Violet.