Winding Down

Our Hypertufa Trough Planting workshop was the last planned event of the season. Some wonderful troughs gardens were created. We are still at the farm until mid-November but we are winding down sales. The soil is getting to be too cool to install warm-season plants, and many herbaceous plants are entering dormancy.

I want to thank all our customers for helping us get through this challenging season. I am especially grateful to the repeat customers. Some folks took a chance on our prepaid order/pick-up scheme early in the summer, and then ordered more. I am also especially grateful to some old friends, and a new friend, who allowed us to use their driveways for pick-up locations across Ottawa, so we could reach customers in diverse neighbourhoods.

Predictions for next spring

I may be wrong, but I do not expect the Ottawa Seedy Saturday and Ottawa Valley Seedy Sunday, indoors and in early March, will happen in 2021. And even if they were to be held, I don’t think I would want to participate as a vendor. The spring plant sales are another matter. I am very much hoping and expecting the Friends of the Farm Sale (Mothers’ Day Sale), the Fletcher Wildlife Garden Annual Sale, and the Westboro Farmers’ Markets will happen next spring, outdoors, and with appropriate protocols. I am sure we will all be very eager for these cheering events after what may become a very grim winter.

So, with this in mind, I am taking a bit of a holiday this year from seed cleaning and packaging. I don’t enjoy cleaning seeds, and our Seedy Saturday seed sales were always meant to be local and to augment our plant sales. In other words, we are not going to be moving towards a big mail-order seed presence. I may have some species available in seed — I’ll post on the website.

We did find the prepaid orders and pick-ups to be a good way of getting our plants to our customers and we will continue with that in 2021, even as we get back into the sale days and farmers’ markets.

We introduced some interesting new species this summer, such as Ditch Stonecrop, Water Plantain, and Downy Wood Mint. I did not find time in the growing season to add their species profiles to the website, so over the winter I shall be adding pics and info on our new species. Please check in from time to time.

Newly-planted Fen/Alvar Trough: Pitcher Plant, Dwarf Canadian Primrose, Early Saxifrage, and Stitchwort.

Hypertufa Workshop

The first part of our two-day hypertufa workshop produced some fine small bowls and troughs.

If you didn’t participate in the first half, you can still come to the planting workshop on Sunday, September 27th. Purchase one or more of the troughs I have made up and have on hand, and plant up your troughs with little arctic or alvar cuties. I will have an assortment of planting media, grit, clay, stone mulch and thin rocks for creating crevices. Four plants — easy, hardy stalwarts all — are included for each trough, and I have other plants to chose from.

The cost for the one day workshop is $65. Troughs are priced individually by size – $25 to $50.

Participants limited to 8. The location is at Beaux Arbres, 29 Ragged Chute Bristol , Quebec. (Map) Register by contacting me via the form below:

primevère du lac Mistassini

May I Introduce: Dwarf Canadian Primrose

My first encounter with this charming little native primrose was on the wave swept shore of Lake Huron, on the Bruce Peninsula, where limestone pavements shelve incrementally down to the water’s edge. Nestled in tiny, moist cracks in the limestone, never far from the spray, were some small pink flowers with yellow centres, Primula mistassinica. I have since encountered this plant in other locations in eastern Canada, almost anywhere there is damp limestone, such as in seepage areas on limestone cliffs. Primula mistassinica is named for Lake Mistassini, the largest lake in Québec.

Limestone coast of Lake Huron.

Brought into the garden, this little primrose flourishes and has many more flowers in each cluster. The buds form the previous year, visible but nestled deep in the basal rosette of leaves, and ready to bloom very early in spring. This is a charming little plant for a damp spot in a rock garden or a trough.

Dwarf Canadian Primrose
Dwarf Canadian Primrose growing in a seep on a limestone cliff.

When I initially encountered Primula mistassinica, I called it Bird’s Eye Primrose. I have since learned that that name is perhaps better reserved for a very similar species, with a slightly more eastern distribution, Primula laurentiana, and P. mistassinica should be called Dwarf Canadian Primrose, although getting folks, including me, to alter the common names they learned in childhood is not an easy task. From their written description, I find it difficult to know exactly how the species differ. I decided the thing to do would be to grow them side by side. I was able to acquire some wild-collected Bird’s Eye Primrose seed, from the Ontario Rock Garden Society Seed Exchange, in 2018. The little P. laurentiana seedlings have not yet bloomed for me, and, honestly, did not look that different from P. mistassinica for most of the summer. However, by November, there were some differences apparent: Bird’s Eye Primroses have fewer and broader leaves and they are less persistently evergreen, as we can see in the photo below. Both plants have buds in their centres, ready for next spring’s early bloom.

Bird’s Eye Primrose (left) and Dwarf Canadian Primrose (right).

Miniature Crevice Garden

This hypertufa trough, planted only weeks ago, is doing remarkably well. I used a technique I read about in the North American Rock Garden Society quarterly, and sandwiched  a thick clay mud between vertical slabs. One would think that the little Erigeron pinnatisectus or Feather-leaf Fleabane, perched at the top, would not have had a hope of surviving, but this is a plant of steep slopes and high ledges, and it seems to be thriving. Let’s see how this little garden survives the winter.

Fun with Hypertufa Troughs

The hypertufa troughs I made last fall weathered over the winter (to wash out alkali from the cement) and now comes the fun part: Planting them!

This trough, which broke along one side when unmoulded, was especially fun to do. I call it “Strata Garden.”  It is modelled on the popular Crevice Garden style but with horizontal strata. The plants are all native to local alvars and include: