Spring Visit to Alpine Garden, MBG

Remembering a visit to the Montreal Botanical Garden, May, 2018.

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Beaux Arbres will have Shooting Star (Dodecatheon) for sale in the spring.
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Rock Whitlow-grass at the Montreal Botanical Garden
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Eastern Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

The Alpine Garden at MBG is divided into areas planted with species from different regions of the world. I was delighted to discover that there was an eastern North America section and that it was planted with many of the species I have been promoting for rock gardens.

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Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) at the Montreal Botanical Garden.

Beaux Arbres has offered Prairie Smoke for several years and it is always a popular choice.

A wonderfully showy flower in the South American section, Sisyrinchium striatum or Pale Yellow-eyed Grass is related to our native Blue-eyed Grasses. I was amazed to find this plant from Chile and Argentina growing in Montreal (Zone 5B)l. I started a flat of this species from seed — easy to do — and we’ll see how it does in our Zone 4B garden.

Pale Yellow-eyed Grass in the Montreal Botanical Garden.

Stocking Stuffers for Gardeners on your List

We have packaged a selection of seeds from some of our showiest flowers in time for holiday gift giving. They will be available for sale at the $100 and Under Sale of the West Carlton Art Society in Carp this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The seeds are sharing a table with Michael’s hand-crafted baskets. If the gardeners you know would prefer to get plants*, we have Gift Certificates available, redeemable for nursery stock and other Beaux Arbres items.

The $100 and Under Sale is rather small but full of good stuff from local artists. It is happening almost next door to the much larger Carp Christmas Market. Plan to visit both to find the locally crafted gifts you’ll want to give this Christmas.

*Hey, they are gardeners. Of course they want to get more plants.

Late Colour in the Hoop House

On a dreary November day, with the golden tamaracks providing the only colour in the landscape, the interior of the hoop house is only a couple of degrees warmer (still quite chilly) but colourful fall leaves still linger. The brightest colour comes from the leaves of Wild Geranium. I like the green and red carpet of Prairie Smoke. The lovely soft apricots of Bowman’s Root have mostly faded to brown but one plant is still glowing.

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Prairie Smoke
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Bowman’s Root
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Wild Geranium

September Highlights

Rock Pink

Rock Pink (Talinum calycinum) has been in bloom for weeks and it just got better and better, as long as the warm weather lasted. I love the bright magenta of the flowers against the natural greys of the rocks and stone mulch. I hope it proves to be hardy, here in western Quebec, but even as an annual it is worth growing for mid to late summer colour in the rock garden. Small bees love the flowers.

Ironweed

A useful contrast to all the tall yellow daisies, the bright saturated purple of ironweed (Vernonia sp.) glows in the autumn sunshine. This plant is tall and rugged.

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Ironweed and Switch Grass.

Tall Sunflower

Of the many tall yellow daisies for late summer and early autumn, my favourite is Tall Sunflower (Helianthus giganteus). It can be very tall – to 3 metres. That’s a plus. If you are going to do tall, do it! Even small gardens have lots of room in the vertical direction. Tall Sunflowers flowers are a lovely clear yellow and the purple stems are a nice contrast. On warm afternoons the plants hum from the volume of pollinators. After the flowers fade, the seeds are relished by goldfinches.

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Heart-leaved Aster

Now, I warn customers that pretty Heart-leaved Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium) is a pushy native that spreads, but let’s face it: most gardens have spots where a tough, pushy plant is just the thing. We have an ancient clump of common lilacs, as do most old farmyards. The lilacs are fragrant and lovely and visited by Canadian Swallowtail Butterflies, for about a week in the spring, and then, for the rest of the summer, they are a big, boring green lump with no fall colour. Heart-leaved Asters are willing to grow in the dry root-filled conditions under the lilacs and bloom in a beautiful pale blue ruff at their feet. Like other asters, they are important for late-season pollinators.

Closed Gentian

Daisy-form flowers dominate late-season wildflower gardens. Native plants with distinctive and unusual flower shapes are always interesting and even more welcome when they bloom in the fall. This is a white-flowered garden selection of the native Closed Gentian (Gentiana clausa).

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Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar

First spotted as a tiny hatchling, by Mo Laidlaw, about three weeks ago, this caterpillar of Giant Swallowtail seems a little bit bigger each time we check on it. It had eaten all the leaves on its seedling Hop-tree (Ptelea trifoliata) so I moved caterpillar and denuded seedling into the hoop house underneath a larger Hop-tree. The caterpillar moved over handily. We hope that the added protection of the hoop house will allow it to get up to size before cold weather sets in. This species overwinters as a chrysalis.

Giant Swallowtails have only recently moved north to the Ottawa Valley. They are still an unexpected sight this far north. They are the largest butterfly in Canada. Their caterpillars eat plants in the citrus family. Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) and Hop-tree are the host plants in Ontario. We saw what was probably the mother of this cat checking out the Gas Plant (Dictamnus), a decorative European flower in the citrus family, in our garden but it seems she preferred the Hop-trees in our nursery for her nursery.

Prickly Ash is common in some parts of the Ottawa Valley, especially on calcareous soils, but it is a large, thorny, suckering shrub unsuited to almost all gardens. The Hop-tree, native to the Carolinian zone of southern Ontario, is a neat, non-suckering, tree-like shrub with scented flowers. It is hardy as a garden plant in the Ottawa area and is a more attractive option than Prickly Ash for gardeners wanting to entice beautiful black and yellow Giant Swallowtail butterflies to their gardens.