Thursday, July 30, 2009

Catnip - Nepeta cataria

This is a photo of a bumble bee on a catnip flower.

A bumble bee - a bug.

A catnip plant - a weed.

Obnoxious things? I know this is what it looks like, but my thinking has changed over the years. Most people don't want catnip in their garden and I didn't either in the past. It can be very invasive! But bees love it and anytime I can lure a bee to my flowers I am happy. They are amazing pollinators.
Although it is a weed, catnip has several good uses. It has been boiled to remove the oils. It can then be used to produce an insecticide. It has also been used by humans for its medicinal effects. It has been made into soothing teas, tinctures and poultices. It has also been mixed with tobacco and smoked. It apparently has a minty flavour and a mildly intoxicating effect. I am not a smoker, so I have never tried it. So why do I have it in my garden? Because it is a 'recreational substance' for my cats - mildly hallucinogenic. Kind of like dope! Nice, eh Mimi?


I used to spend hours pulling this stuff out of my garden. I really didn't want my cats rolling around and eating it. I dug many of the plants up in springtime and gave them to my sister who said that she wanted this stuff so she could dry it and use it in cat toys. I had my entire garden clear of this weed, but then Mimi objected!

She wanted me to go out and get her some. She wanted a 'high'.

So I looked this plant up on the internet and found out that it is non toxic to cats. So I asked my sister to bring a couple of plants back to me, so that I could re-introduce it into my garden. Now I have several plants. Funny how the circle of plants goes around, isn't it? Apparently only 2 out of 3 cats are affected by the scent of catnip. Well, I have three cats and they all go crazy over this stuff! Here is a photo of Mimi. She has not had any catnip before I took this picture. She really doesn't need any. She can be quite silly without anything hallucinogenic! Give her some catnip and she goes absolutely insane! But she is still my sweet kitten!

Family: Lamiaceae. Genus: Nepeta. Species: Nepeta cataria.
Common Name: Catnip, Catmint.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lilium - A Garden Tour

I love lilies! I have several in my garden. Come take a walk with me and visit them. Lilies are summer-flowering herbaceous perennials. They grow from bulbs. The bulbs are scaly. Some lilies are grown for their edible bulbs, but mine are just for show. And it is quite a show that they put on each summer!

The first on our tour is a white variety. I have three different white lilies in my garden. Here is one of them. This is the one that had its buds chewed off. (on a previous post) There were still several more stalks of them, so it didn't really matter. This one has a fantastic fragrance, which is especially noticeable in the evenings.

This is another one in a different area of my garden. This one has brown speckles. Can you see the damage done by the lily beetles? Those holes in the petals. I will have to be more observant next year and make sure I get all the beetles and their larva before they can do so much damage.

This third one is very beautiful. There were no beetles on these plants. I have no idea why not. Perhaps they just hadn't gotten around to these yet. This one also has a lovely scent.

I also have a few of the pink variety. In this photo it is easy to recognize the sexual parts of the lily plant. The stamen is light coloured 'knob' in the centre. It sits on top of the style. These are the female reproductive organs. The stamens are the six, brown rod-shaped anthers, each held up by a filament. These are the male parts which contain the pollen.

These salmon-coloured ones are really pretty. They are speckles with dark brown flecks and remind me of the old-fashioned tiger lilies. These plants are really tall. I love the way the petals curl to the back!

Here are some more salmon ones. For some reason these plants are shorter. All of my lilies go dormant in the winter and come back up in the spring. There are about 110 species of lilies within the genus Lilium.

And last, but not least, are some huge yellow trumpet-shaped lilies! Fantastic, aren't they? I love this one! I only have three stems of this variety. But that could change. Next year I plan to put a lot more lily bulbs into my garden. I can hardly wait!

Family: Liliaceae. Genus: Lilium.
Common Name: Lily

Friday, July 24, 2009

In the Eye of the Beholder

Sometimes gardening can be difficult. Oh, I don't mean the digging and planting. I mean trying to decide what is a weed and what is a garden plant - what should go and what should stay. Here are two pretty purple flowering plants. They are both blooming at the same time, just feet from each other. This first one is a Creeping Bellflower. Nice, eh?

The next one is a Hosta. So what's my problem? Well, you guessed it. I am sorry to say that the Bellflower has to go. I doesn't really seem fair. Both are pretty. Both are similar in shape. Both come up every year without any fuss.
But the Hosta will stay and the Bellflowers will be pulled out. But I know that won't be the end of them. They are very hardy. You can read all about them here, on a post I wrote a couple of months ago on my other blog. I know I will be battling these things for many years to come.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Rose By Any Other Name.......

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - 1594
I only have a few roses in my garden. The first one is a shrub rose. I am not even sure if the rose that keeps blooming in early summer each year is actually the rose that I planted. I think we had to cut the original rose down and the suckers that came up from the root are now what are flowering. I planted this so long ago that I have forgotten what it was.
I also have a cute little mini rose. A friend gave it to me several years ago. It is growing in a protected spot, so it has continued to come up each spring. I love the light salmon colour!

And finally a beautiful hybrid tea rose called "Woman". I love this rose! It comes up year after year. It has a fantastic fragrance. It is a wonderful light peach colour! The roses are huge, on long stems! This a gorgeous rose to pick as a rosebud and put in a vase. I planted this one over 25 years ago. It keeps coming year after year, even without winter protection. I think it is such a hardy rose because it is called 'Woman". That is the only reason I can think of that makes this plant such a winner!

Roses have sharp prickles. These are often called thorns, but thorns are modified stems, whereas prickles are modified epidermal tissues. The leaves are pinnately compound with toothed oval leaflets. Some roses produce an edible fruit called a rose hip. These rose hips can be made into jams and jellies and are a good source of vitamin C. Aphids are the rose's main destructive pest. They suck the sap and weaken the plant. Lady Bugs are predators of aphids and should be encouraged in the rose garden. It is not a good practice to spray roses with insecticides (and it is now against the law to do so in Toronto) because beneficial insects will be destroyed along with the bad insects.

Family: Rosaceae. Genus: Rosa. Species - There are over 100 species of roses.
Common Name: Rose

Friday, July 17, 2009

Yarrow - Achillea millefolium

I have had Yarrow growing in my garden for over 25 years. It's a herbaceous perennial and comes back every year. I cannot say that I am extremely fond of this plant. I fact, I have often thought of taking it right out of my garden.

The only thing that stopped me from doing so was the cat we had some years ago, called Tobi. He was our favourite cat back then and he loved to sleep in my yarrow. It has long, feathery leaves that provided an inviting spot for this tabby. There he would spend his hot summer days - comfortable on the soft yarrow leaves, shaded by the towering umbrel-like blossoms and watching the butterflies and other insects who were attracted to this plant. He was a happy cat!
Here he is on an Easter morning!

We had Tobi for almost 19 years. He was a wonderful cat - no bad behaviours, just a faithful furry 'boy'. He even helped with the laundry! Tobi lived a long happy life in our family until his kidneys gave out. He passed away quietly in our solarium one New Year's Day.

We had him cremated and the following spring, we buried his ashes in the garden, under the Yarrow plants that he loved so much. Now I look at my Yarrow plants with a smile, thinking of that wonderful cat who graced us with his presence for so many years. I will never dig it up!

Yarrow is drought resistant and will grow in even the poorest of soil. There are many common names for this plant and it has a long history of medicinal use. It has even been grown as a food product. The young leaves have been cooked like spinach. It has a history of being used for everything from an astringent, a tonic, a stimulant and as a dressing for open wounds. The Genus name of Achillea is based on the belief that Achilles carried this plant into battle to treat his soldiers. Yarrow can be used as a beneficial companion plant. It supposedly keeps away bad bugs and attracts good ones. It is also said to improve the health of the plants around it.

The yarrow I planted is a light pink colour. But this year I noticed that I also had some white yarrow growing right next to the pink. It was much shorter and came into bloom a couple of weeks before the pink yarrow. Also, it's leaves are smaller. I think it might be a wild variety. I have no idea how it got there, but I am going to let it stay - in Tobi's honour.

Family: Asteraceae. Genus: Achillea. Species: A. millefolium.
Common Names: Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Nosebleed Plant, Soldier's Woundwort.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Peony - Paeonia

The last of my peonies are still blooming, but they will soon be gone. They are growing in a shaded part of my garden, so they are cooler. Peonies do much better in a full-sun location. But my garden has more and more shade each year. I would love to move these plants to a sunnier location, but peonies are kind of finicky. They don't like to be moved and will refuse to bloom for several years if transplanted.

Mine have been in bloom since the middle of June.

I have three different peony plants. They have been in my garden for so many years that I don't remember which species I have. They range in colour from light pink to fuchsia to an even darker pink. All of my peonies are herbaceous perennials, although they can also be a woody shrub. I love their deeply lobed leaves which last all summer and I often use them in floral arrangements when I need some fillers. Peonies have been used in ornamental culture for centuries and are the official flower for several countries and states. They can be dried and used in dry arrangements.

The peony or paeonia is the only genus in the plant family Paeoniaceae. It got its name from Peaon who was a student of the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius. Asclepius became jealous of his student and wanted to harm him. Zeus saved him by turning him into a flower.

Many peonies are fragrant. I love to bring them inside to enjoy their heady perfume! Peony buds are covered in a nectar that attracts ants. I always check them carefully for ants before bringing them indoors. In years when we have a lot of earwigs, I always shake them out. I hate earwigs, especially inside the house! Peonies also come in a yellow variety. It is on my wish list and I hope to add one of them to my garden in the future.
Family: Paeoniaceae. Genus: Paeonia.
Common Name: Peony

Monday, July 6, 2009

What is Happening to my Lilies?

I have several lilies in my backyard. When I went out into the garden a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that one of my lily stalks had all its buds chewed off. You can see the stems that had once held the promise of gorgeous white lilies! I found the buds on the ground under the plant. They had not been eaten, just chewed off. I don't know what would do this. I have never had squirrels cause this type of damage, although they love to eat my tulips and crocuses in the springtime. I thought that perhaps raccoons had been chewing on my lilies. We have had a lot of raccoons in the yard this year. I am still puzzled.
But I have noticed some Red Lily Beetles on some of my lily plants this year. They are a very pretty red beetle with a black head and black legs and antlers. (The following photos are from the internet.)

When I first spotted them many years ago I thought they were too pretty to kill and I left them alone. Needless to say, many of my lilies died. Now I know the extensive damage these little beetles can cause. I have been picking them off and killing them every time I see them. Today I was in the garden and I noticed that several of my lilies were almost leafless. I looked for the tiny red beetles, but could not find any. All I could find was some gooey black substance on the underside of the leaves. I picked this off . It was slimy. Inside the black goo was an orange larva. I killed a few dozen of these disgusting things. I went to the internet to look up some information about these beetles and found that the black goo is actually fecal matter which the larva coat themselves in to avoid detection by predators.
These things are freaking me out! I have washed my hands many times since coming inside, but they still feel 'gooey'. Tomorrow I am going on another lily beetle larva hunt. Yuk! They are not getting my lilies! These beetles live in the soil over winter. I want to make sure there are none left to survive the winter. They can fly, so I am not going to be completely safe from them, but it's the best I can do. Cute, aren't they?

Class: Insecta. Family: Chrysomelidae. Genus: Lilioceris. Species: L. lilii.
Common Name: Red Lily Beetle.

Block #6 of A Tale of Two Cities

This is Block #6. Cut the background fabric approximately 7in. by 10 in. Trace and cut the applique pieces and follow the tutorial below to help you. After appliqueing the block will be cut to 6 1/2in by 9 1/2in. Use any colours you want. It does not have to look like mine.

Tutorial - Making Leaves with Pointed Tips.

Applique can be fun! But it can be difficult to get nice pointed tips on flowers and leaves. This is a tutorial on getting those leaves to look great!

Trace the desired shape onto the paper side of the freezer paper and iron it to the wrong side of your chosen fabric. Cut out with a scant quarter inch seam allowance. This seam allowance will be turned to the back of the shape and basted in place.

Start at the centre edge of the shape. Notice that I have cut the top and bottom corners off so that there will not be too much fabric in the tips.
Continue to fold the fabric to the back while stitching it in place. Stop when you reach the point. Now fold over the tip.

Then fold the other side of the shape in so that a tidy point is made.

Now continue to baste the remaining side. Do the bottom tip the same way.

And....Voila! A basted leaf shape!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Lady's Mantle - Alchemilla mollis

Lady's Mantle is an herbaceous perennial. It does well in my zone 5a garden! I needed a plant to shade the roots of my clematis. I chose Lady's Mantle for its ability to grow in a semi-shaded area and for its almost inconspicuous leaves and flowers. It is not a plant that you will notice right away when you come to my garden. But that is what I like about it. Here you can see it with clematis flowers peeking through. This plant is way in the back of my garden and it is difficult for me to get close enough to take a photo.

Lady's Mantle leaves are large and palmately veined with a lobed and serrated edge. They are a beautiful blue-green colour that blends nicely with other foliage in the garden. This bluish colour has given this plant it's common name of Lady's Mantle. It is named for the Virgin Mary's cloak. After a rain or early in the morning, droplets of water will sit on the leaves. The plants' ability to have water pool on its leaves like that has given it its botanical name - Alchemilla. Early alchemists believed that these little droplets of water were the purest form of liquid and used it in their quest to turn base metals into gold. Folk lore has it that these droplets were used by early women as a facial application. The roots are supposedly edible. This plant has been used for all sorts of medicinal reasons, including menstrual irregularities, bruises and sores and digestive disorders. The chartreuse flowers are held in dense clusters above the leaves. I love this lime-green colour! This plant may not be loud and showy, but it is one of my favourites. Apparently it can become invasive, but mine has never been a problem.

Family: Rosaceae. Genus: Alchemilla. Species: A. mollis
Common Name: Lady's Mantle

Friday, July 3, 2009


The main purpose of this blog is to keep a record of the plants in my garden. I wanted to publish a post whenever something was in flower. But that has not been easy to do. Life keeps getting in the way. I didn't show you my Rhododendron when it was in bloom. So here it is now.

Rhododendron means 'rose' (rhodos) and 'tree' (dendron). It belongs to the family Ericeae. Azaleas are part of this family too. There are over 1000 species.

I have no idea which one I have. I planted it many, many years ago and never expected it to survive in our cold climate. It is evergreen, but very cold winters can turn the leaves yellowish-brown.

Each year it seems to have less blooms on it. I wonder if it is happy where I have planted it. No....I know it is not happy! The Sweet Cicely is crowding in on it. And the goose neck loosestrife is taking over this entire bed. (but more about them later) I am going to have to do some serious weeding in order to save my little Rhodie. But I know it will be worth the hard work!

Many rhododendrons are poisonous. For grazing animals and especially horses, this shrub can be fatal.

Family: Ericeae. Genus: Rhododendron.