Peg Bier’s Leafy Virginia Oasis

I first met Peg Bier this June at the opening party of our Garden Bloggers’ Fling at Willowsford Farm in Ashburn, Virginia. She looked lovely! It was fun to think we were going to be seeing Peg’s garden a few days later – the Fling write-up called her a “local gardening legend”.

Peg Bier-Willowsford Farm

Later in the tour, I spotted her chatting animatedly with another Fling attendee, Gryphon Corpus, soaking up the garden vibes at Meadowlark Botanical Garden in Vienna, VA.

Peg Bier & Gryphon Corpus-Meadowlark Botanical Garden

But the best sighting of Peg Bier was in the driveway of her own home in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, where her large, 2.5 acre woodland garden appeared a leafy oasis in a neighbourhood of neat and tidy lawns.

Peg Bier

Even in the driveway, there were clues that this was not just the domain of a gardener, but a collector and artist as well.

Peg Bier-Succulent Display

Peg has lived in this pretty house for 58 years, raising four children with her late architect husband Richard and teaching her twelve grandchildren the fine art of gardening.

Peg Bier-House

As for that “local gardening legend” billing, for 25 years (1990-2015) Peggy had been a television personality on the show Merrifield’s Gardening Advisor produced by Merrifield’s Garden Center, (which we visited on the Fling, below), where she continues to work part-time as a garden specialist.  Imagine having this as your plant source…….

Merrifield Garden Center-plants

…. and this as your outdoor furnishings resource! (I could have spent a lot of $$ here, but contented myself with a sweet purple birdhouse and some windchimes.)

Merrifield Garden Center-decor

P.S. – A big thank you to Merrifield Garden Centers for hosting the garden bloggers.

Merrifield Garden Center-Garden Bloggers Fling

Here’s a little taste of Peg on the show, chatting with host Debbie Warhurst Capp about shade plants inspired by her own garden, which she calls a ‘nature preserve’ with its foxes and opossums.

Back to our tour.  As we moved into the back garden, I gazed up and saw a canopy of mature oak trees….

Oak canopy-Peg Bier

….and some tulip poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera) as well.  Keep in mind that this miniature forest is a literal ‘island of wild’ in a ‘desert of tame’. Residential development swallowed the land surrounding the Bier home, but Peg held on under her big trees.

Tulip tree-Liriodendron tulipifera-Peg Bier

Immediately behind the house is a roomy deck with a table big enough to seat a lot of family. And I loved the deck boards placed on the diagonal.

Peg Bier-Table & sundeck

And a comfy chaise for reading and relaxing.

Peg Bier-green chaise

If you took some time to watch the video above, you’ll know that Peg has hewn lots of paths out of the shade-dappled understory. This is her favourite path material: crushed ‘red stone” on top of landscape fabric. And look at that textural shade planting!

Peg Bier-Crushed red stone path

But it’s not all about the plants. Over the years, Peg has created little sitting areas out of the woodland. This is one I loved, atop a flagstone patio.

Peg Bier-patio

Much of her seasonal colour comes courtesy of inspired container combinations. Look at these cobalt-blue accents – and of course, the perfect complementary colour contrast in the orange Bolivian and Rieger begonias!

Peg Bier-Blue glazed accents

And I loved this little vignette, with French bistro table and chairs painted aquamarine. What a lovely place to have lunch!

Peg Bier-Aquamarine bistro table

With such a large property to tend, I wonder if Peg ever has time to sit in one of these lovely Adirondack chairs?

Peg Bier-Red Adirondack chairs

Another sitting area featured bricks laid around a mature tree.  The understory in the woodland includes natives like redbud (Cercis canadensis), fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) and dogwood (Cornus florida), as well as shrubs and small trees Peg has planted including aucuba, mahonia, camellia, nandina, sweet box (Sarcococca), Japanese maples (many grown by Peg from seed), hydrangea and boxwood everywhere.

Peg Bier-circular brick patio

Everywhere there were containers of tropicals mixed with luscious shade plants.  And more of those lovely orbs!

Peg Bier-Alocasia & tropicals

And loads of grasses! Variegated Japanese sedge (Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’) is a particular favourite of Peg’s.

Carex morrowii 'Ice Dance'-Peg Bier

Speaking of grasses, she loves dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), too – and what a spectacular use of it, below.

Peg Bier-Mondo Grass-triangle

At the far end of the property, in the sunniest spot, there was a deer-proof enclosed garden filled with sun-loving perennials, vegetables and herbs, all mulched with pine needles.

Peg Bier-Deeproof veggie garden

Tomatoes are grown in containers here.

Peg Bier-Tomato-in pot

And there’s even the odd rooster.

Peg Bier-Rooster Art

I wanted to walk every path, but time was running out!  How beautiful is this?  Imagine those hellebores in early spring.

Peg Bier-Flagstone path

I found a bathtub with a spouting frog….

Peg Bier-Bathtub Fountain

…. and a few fairies. (Peg loves fairy gardens.)

Fairies-Peg Bier garden

This pretty path was near the front of the property…..

Stepping stone path-Peg Bie

…. where I found concrete stepping stones embossed with the handprints of all Peg’s grandchildren. Isn’t that lovely?

Grandchildren steppingstone-handprint-Peg Bier

At the very front where the neighbours can see them was a glorious profusion of sun-loving perennials…..

Sun perennials-Peg Bier

…. as if celebrating colour and fragrance on the edge of this shady forest…..

Colourful perennials-Peg Bier

…..and the grace of bees.

Bumble bee on echinacea-Peg Bier

The bus was loading and I made my way along a split-rail fence, sniffing this luscious trumpet lily as I took a last look at Peg’s garden.

Trumpet lily-Peg Bier

But as I was climbing up the bus steps, I heard her cry, “Oh, no. I forgot to show everyone my special garden.”  I wondered where that could be, since every part of this big garden had seemed “special” to me.  I thought it wouldn’t hurt to run back for two minutes, so I followed her back into the woodland. And there it was, her beautiful little memorial garden to her late husband.

Memorial garden-Richard Bier

Having spent time with Peg, talking with her and learning a little about her, I thought how special that marriage must have been, and how his presence must still be so strong in this lovely garden where family is cherished above all.

Memorial stone-Richard Bier

And then it really was time to go.

In the Garden with Barbara & Howard Katz

Barbara Katz and I became Facebook friends a few years back, drawn to each other by our mutual love of colour combinations in plant design and also our great admiration for Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf. In fact, it was on Barbara’s recommendation and with her introduction that Piet was commissioned to design a meadow garden for Delaware Botanic Gardens, being planted this fall. So it was with great anticipation that I made plans to attend the 2017 Garden Bloggers’ Fling in the Washington DC Capitol Region, a 3-day event that included a tour of Barbara & Howard Katz’s Bethesda, Maryland garden. We even decided to have dinner in a Washington restaurant before the tour, meeting face to face for the first time. (Our husbands got along famously too!)  And when our bus pulled up on Barbara’s street a few days later, it was easy to see which house was theirs for Barbara and Howard, an architect, were there waiting to welcome us.

Barbara & Howard Katz-Bethesda

But even if they hadn’t been out front, we would have known the house. Their luscious front garden (below) presented a welcome right at the street with a generous bed of summer perennials, carex grasses and succulents arrayed around an old ‘Halka’ honeylocust tree. Barbara, who has 30 years experience in garden design with her company London Lanscapes LLC, said that this bed, installed in mid-April while creating a new flagstone path, gave the front a needed facelift and some interest and pleasure for passersby. It was also a way to reduce the amount of front lawn and provide a buffer against dogs and snow.  But most important, as a plantswoman: “I needed MORE space to play with plants.”  Not surprisingly for a designer who knows how to use colour, there is a clever and subtle use of red flowers in this garden – the gaillardia at front and the echinacea in the rear – that carries the eye up and back toward the red chairs on the porch, the oxblood-red door, the red window shutters and even the Japanese maple.

Barbara Katz-Street Garden & House

Barbara worked the soil in the street garden to make it free-draining. “It gets baked in the afternoon,” she said, “So now I can use plants I hadn’t been able to before” (like the yuccas, below).

Sun-loving plants-Barbara Katz

I adored the beautiful iron scroll edging – staking out the property line with airy elegance. Barbara found it online at Wayfair

Gaillardia-Barbara Katz

The ‘Blue Boa’ anise hyssop (Agastache hybrid) was attracting lots of bumble bees.

Bumble bee-Agastache 'Blue Boa'

The veranda, below, is everything a good front porch should be: an attractive welcome for visitors, a well-appointed anteroom to the house itself and a place to relax comfortably with a view of the garden and street. Too often we restrict our seating areas to the privacy of a back yard where none of the neighbours can spot us reading a newspaper or sipping a glass of wine. But why?  A covered veranda is a sanctuary in the rain and obviously has a completely different outlook on life (and the neighbourhood) than the sitting areas we create out of view. Let’s tote up the good things about Howard’s and Barbara’s version. But first of all, a little background. When Barbara first saw this house, it was as a designer for the owner, who would have her redo the entire garden, including the complex topographical challenge at the back (more on that later). The year was 1995; the garden was installed in 1996. Fast forward six years and the house was for sale and Barbara and Howard bought it, including the garden she’d designed, worked with over the years, and come to love. As for the veranda, it was bigger then, with small wooden posts and railing, and a concrete bases and steps. Howard needed an office, so they took half the veranda and incorporated it into the house; removed the railing; used Azek (a plastic-wood product) to make the posts chunkier; rebuilt the steps to give them generous 18-inch treads with stone risers; then refaced everything with stone veneer. Add some Arts & Crafts lights, pots of easy-care succulents (can we get a cheer for iron plant stands?), a few handsome pieces of sculpture; and comfy chairs and it’s one of the prettiest makeovers ever.

Veranda-Barbara & Howard Katz

All the succulent containers, by the way, are Howard’s creations. He was born in South Africa where many succulents are native; they add their own textural note to Barbara’s herbaceous side of the ledger.

Succulents-Howard Katz-3

Wouldn’t you like to fall asleep in one of these Adirondack rockers? And another little colour tip, courtesy of the glazed green pots (as devotees of the artist’s colour wheel know): red and green are complementary contrasts and they always combine nicely with each other. I can only imagine how beautiful this foundation planting must look as the Japanese maples turn colour in autumn!

Adirondack Rocker-Barbara Katz

Let’s head around to the back, passing a little treasure trove of Howard’s succulents as we go.

Succulent collection-Howard Katz

The back garden is where the challenge lay for Barbara when she first saw it more than two decades ago. With a 12-foot elevation change from the back door up to the property line, it called for creative terracing. In the photo below, (when I got home, I realized I didn’t have a workable shot of the slope and asked Barbara to take a photo, which shows one side), you can see how beautifully the rich tapestry of perennials and low evergreens creates a frame for the cascading water feature.

Slope-Barbara Katz

In my experience, a designer who loves plants and knows how to combine them while also mastering the art of hardscaping is a rare individual. Barbara is skilled at both. Plants with purple, white and orange flowers and leaves are on one side….

Slope-Plantings-Barbara Katz

…including this butterscotch combination of carex and heuchera with peach echinacea and anise hyssop….

Heuchera & Carex-Barbara Katz

….while blues, yellows, pinks and maroons (below) are on the other side….

Echinacea & Coleus-Barbara Katz

…. along with a cool-green pairing of heuchera and euphorbia….

Euphorbia & Heuchera-Barbara Katz

But it’s the stone workmanship on the hillside that really impresses me. Let’s climb up the stairs, which have an excellent tread:riser ratio that makes navigating the slope easy…

Stairs-tread to riser ratio-Barbara Katz

We’ll pass some more of Howard’s delectable succulent confections on the way, like this one…

Succulents-Howard Katz-2

….and this one….

Succulents-Howard Katz-1

…. as well as a more traditional container, below.

Pot-Brugmansia-Barbara Katz

Halfway up, we’ll stop on the cool little grassed terrace, the only lawn in the back garden, with a sophisticated edging of boxwood and….. .

Lawn Terrace-Barbara Katz

…shade-tolerant plants above and below the sinuous retaining wall that supports the top terrace. The wall is impressive, and features little plants tucked into the crevices.

Retaining Wall-Barbara Katz

Even Howard’s succulent container is green.

Jade Plant-Katz

Reach the top, enter past the tall plume poppy (Macleaya cordata), and you’re rewarded with a cool rest in the gazebo with its green mosaic-tile-topped table, green mosaic candle-holder and green-cushioned chairs.

Gazebo-Barbara Katz

The woman knows colour!

Barbara Katz-Mosaic table

I’m not sure how many people would take note of this small detail, but for me it stood out as a superb way of disguising the necessary nuts-and-bolts of slope retention. The concrete block wall between the Katz property and the one behind them has been stained dark green – and presto! it vanishes. Well, except for the sweet little plaque to pretty it up. That airy iron trellis above it is Howard Katz’s effort to keep leaf-munching deer from leaping from the neighbour’s garden into theirs.

Stained Concrete Block Wall-Barbara Katz

There are lovely little touches of art in the garden, like this ‘bluebottle fly’….

Bluebottle Fly Art-Barbara Katz

And a wire grasshopper, among many other pieces.

Grasshopper Art-Barbara Katz

But the big focal point in the back garden is the terraced water feature. From the stone patio behind the house, this is what it looks like gazing up the slope.

Waterfall-lower-Barbara Katz

There are tropical waterlilies in the pool at the bottom, and goldfish.

Waterlily & goldfish-Barbara Katz

Climb back up those stairs a little, and you see how it courses down the rocks, mimicking a natural waterfall….

Waterfall-upper-Barbara Katz

…with a bubbling fountain in the very highest pool, below. Barbara wanted the effect of a series of birdbaths down the slope and it worked perfectly, since the Katz garden is now on the migration route of myriad birds, both spring and fall.

Fountain-Barbara Katz

I would have loved to linger a little, perhaps in the comfy seating near the house. Doesn’t the soft kiwi green look gorgeous with the sage green of the wall?

Sitting area-Barbara Katz

But it was time to get on the bus and head to our next garden.  Thank you Barbara and Howard, for your generosity and creativity. You are both inspiring!

Muskoka Wild – Gardening in Cottage Country

Gardening in cottage country.  Ah, the whispering white pines, the towering red oaks and sugar maples, the lacy hemlocks, the shimmering trilliums… and the pee-gee hydrangeas?

It is a strange paradox that when people head to their summer retreats in Muskoka, Georgian Bay or the Kawartha Lakes (or any other wilderness area), they often feel the need to recreate the type of manicured city landscape they left behind – one that fails to capture the unique sense of place inherent in the spectacular, rugged terrain of cottage country.   After all, don’t we seek escape to a granite island or forested shoreline in order to appreciate nature in the wild, not to subdue it with our own sense of urban decorum?

Natural shoreline-Lake Muskoka-kayak

But when that decorum includes a Kentucky bluegrass lawn sweeping down to the lake’s edge, one that needs fertilizing to stay green and mowing and edging to stay neat, it seems to me that we have not only turned our backs on the notion of wildness, but threatened it as well.  We should all be aware by now that fertilizer runoff has a harmful effect on water quality, increasing the phosphorus levels, encouraging the growth of algae and adversely affecting the shoreline habitat for fish.  But apart from the environmental effect of a lakeside lawn, the idea of having to replicate the humdrum chores of an urban back yard at a place where you should be snoozing in a hammock,  reading the latest bestseller, and kicking off your summer sandals just seems wrong.

Book and hammock at Lake Muskoka

Of course, the ideal cottage landscape is the one that’s been altered the least, the one that retains the native low-bush blueberries, blackberry, black chokeberry, wild raspberry, bearberry and myrtleberry, below .

Myrtleberry-Gaylussacia baccata-Lake Muskoka

It’s the landscape that respects the bush honeysuckle, the creeping dogbane, white meadowsweet and common juniper, while rejoicing in the mayflower, wild strawberry, violet, Solomon’s seal, trout lily, trilliums and red columbine.

Aquilegia canadensis-eastern columbine

It appreciates the bracken and marginal shield ferns in the dry places, the cinnamon and royal ferns in the damp spots and the sensitive fern and lady fern in the shady forest.  It’s the one where children and grandchildren run down paths carpeted with pine needles; where the shore is edged with white turtlehead, blue flag iris and swamp milkweed, below.

Swamp Milkweed-Asclepias incarnata-Lake Muskoka

The place where wild goldenrod and an assortment of asters offer up an easy bouquet for the Thanksgiving table.  And it does all this under trees that grow in familiar communities – red maple, white pine, beech, red oak, paper birch, hemlock, moose maple, staghorn sumac and trembling aspen – while giving shelter to songbirds, chattering jays, chickadees, barred owls and woodpeckers.Woodpecker-staghorn sumac-Lake Muskoka

Gardening Between a Rock and a Hard Place

But what if leaving the cottage landscape au naturel is not an option?  Construction doesn’t always leave the land in pristine condition, and sometimes a cottage property has been “tamed” by the people who owned it before you came on the scene. What then? For me, it was necessary to come up with a fast landscape plan after we built our Lake Muskoka home in 2001-02, a construction project that left the sloping bedrock exposed and barren of vegetation. But perhaps I should back up a little here.

Davis Cottage-Lake Muskoka-Slope-2001

Our south-facing property was the driest, hottest patch of land on a little peninsula jutting out into a small bay on the southeast part of Lake Muskoka.  Except for a row of towering, white pines at the shore – survivors of a fire that razed parts of the peninsula ridge decades earlier – and some red oaks here and there, the vegetation was scrubby, its growth constrained by shallow, acidic, sandy soil formed from the granite and grey gneiss rock underlying much of the region.  Sloping on a moderate angle to the lake, it was a challenging site for construction of a four-season house big enough to accommodate children, friends and far-flung relatives for family reunions.  With no road access, all supplies arrived by barge, including the concrete truck that poured the foundation, massive steel beams, roof trusses, lumber, appliances and furniture.

Equipment on barge-Lake Muskoka

When all was finished, we were delighted with the cottage (that’s the rustic euphemism we assign to homes of any size on Lake Muskoka); the views were spectacular from all sides and a screened porch extended the hours we could be outdoors dining and reading.  But our ecological footprint had not been light.  Much of the bedrock on either side of the site had been scraped bare of vegetation by tractors and line-trenchers.  Worse, the front of the cottage dropped away sharply onto sloping granite, making exiting the doors on the lower level to reach the lake a treacherous exercise.

Lake Muskoka Cottage-before terracing-2002

My objective in landscaping was not simply to re-green the site, but to re-shape the contour of the land, adding a front plateau to let us safely access the hillside.  It would feature a new woodchip path to replace the path that meandered across the property long before we built there.  We would also need stairs leading to the lake and dock, and I played with various concepts, below, as we worked on the house.

Cottage-Lake Muskoka-Concept Sketch for stairs

But beyond the structural changes, I wanted to return our land to a richer, more complex diversity than it possessed before we began to build.  I knew that the pines and oaks would eventually re-colonize the property, along with blueberries, junipers and sumacs.  In the meantime, there would be years of vibrant sunshine to nourish whatever I chose for my palette.  And even as I transplanted tiny pine saplings, I began to dream about those wild, flower-spangled meadows I had grown up with as a child in Victoria,

White Pine Seedling-Lake Muskoka

It wasn’t just a desire to naturalize an already natural site that appealed to me.  I was also pushing back against the way I’d been gardening in the city, rebelling against the need for constraint and order that comes with beds and borders and neatly-mown lawns.  It made no sense to think that way about a cottage landscape; not only would it be out-of-step with the natural environment, it would be out-of-synch with how I had changed, physically and philosophically, as a gardener.  More and more, I wanted a landscape that was not just for me and my kind, but one that would appeal to other species:  the bees, katydids, butterflies, birds and chipmunks that would soon call the meadows home.  I also wanted that sense of aesthetic pleasure that comes from observing a truly changing canvas with a roster of plants to provide a shifting tapestry from April to October.  Most of all, I wanted my meadows to be low-maintenance.  

Katydid on Rudbeckia hirta-blackeyed susan

After the last of the construction equipment was removed from the site, a barge arrived loaded with a tractor and different kinds of soil.  For the most conventional garden beds – the spaces between the four doors on the lower level – rich triple-mix consisting of equal parts of loam, peat and manure was chosen.  For the open meadows on either side of the cottage and the sunny hillsides in front of them, we settled for a local, low-grade, sandy soil, emulating the environment found in natural sand prairies.  On the steep bank dropping from the newly-shaped path under the old white pines in front of the cottage, we elected to spread a locally-sourced forest soil called “trimmings” that contained the roots and seeds of whatever might be found naturally growing in similar conditions nearby. 

Lake Muskoka-Cottage Landscaping-2002

My objective that first summer was to prevent the new soil from washing down the slope in rainstorms.  As a fast-germinating cover crop, I seeded the meadows and hillsides with a combination of creeping red fescue grass (Festuca rubra) and black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta), mixing about 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of the wildflowers into 4.5 kilos (10 pounds) of grass seed.  A few weeks and many hours of hand-watering later…..

Lake Muskoka Cottage-watering seeds-Summer-2002

….the first blades of grass emerged, followed closely by the first tiny leaves of countless blackeyed susans.

Lake Muskoka Cottage-Blackeyed Susans-2003

A biennial, it makes a rosette of foliage in its first season and sends up flower stems the following summer, before setting seed and dying.  I still laugh at the photos taken of me in year two standing amidst thousands of cheerful black-eyed susans.

Janet-in-blackeyed-susans

Into the rich soil of the doorway garden beds went big golden yarrow (Achillea filipendulina ‘Gold Plate’), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) and switch grass (Panicum virgatum).  This is how the path and a doorway bed looked a few years later.

Lake Muskoka-Cottage Path & Bed-2007

At the base of the richest meadow, I planted an assortment of prairie grasses, including big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium),Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) and switch grass (Panicum virgatum), below.  And over the next few years, I did an autumn sowing of seeds of a roster of tallgrass prairie perennials that would become the flowery backbone of the meadows: foxglove penstemon, heliopsis, monarda, gaillardia, sweet blackeyed susan, gray-headed coneflower, asters and showy goldenrod to add to goldenrods already on the property.  That plants were native was not as important to me as their drought-tolerance, a vital attribute for a landscape that would rely on rainwater — while acknowledging that dry summers would take their toll on plants growing in shallow soil.

Panicum virgatum-switch grass-Lake Muskoka

The Meadows Mature

Now, fifteen years later, my meadows and garden beds provide a bounty of flowers (and beautiful bouquets). There is something in bloom from the first daffodils of April…..

Daffodils-Cottage-Lake Muskoka

….  to the last goldenrod and asters of autumn. This is showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa), down by the lake in late September.

Solidago speciosa-showy goldenrod-Lake Muskoka

Monarch butterflies lay eggs on the butterfly milkweed….

Monarch ovipositing on Asclepias tuberosa-butterfly milkweed

….producing beautiful caterpillars and a new generation of the iconic butterfly…..

Monarch caterpillar on butterfly milkweed-Asclepias tuberosa

….which, when it prepares to fly south to Mexico in early September, sometimes stops on our dock to soak up a little salt from the feet of sunbathers.

Monarch butterfly eating salt on toe-Lake Muskoka

Myriad pollinating insects and hummingbirds visit the flowers, like this ruby-throated female on my crocosmia flowers (which, amazingly, have overwintered for years)….

Ruby-throated hummingbird on crocosmia-Lake Muskoka

…while goldfinches enjoy the monarda seeds….

Goldfinch eating monarda seed-Lake Muskoka

…..and ruffed grouse are regularly spotted in late summer wandering through my meadows.

Ruffed grouse-Lake Muskoka

Though there are a few deer on our peninsula, they seem to prefer the young sumac shoots to my perennials….

Deer-Lake Muskoka

….. but groundhogs enjoy purple coneflower and coreopsis from time to time.

Groundhog-eating coreopsis-Lake Muskoka

In truth, the meadows are so profuse that I am happy to share a few plants.  Yes, there are exotics some might call “weeds”, e.g. oxeye daisies, buttercups. birdsfoot trefoil, musk mallow, cow vetch, hawkweed and quackgrass, but they are kept in check by the vigorous prairie plants.

Weedy wildflowers-Lake Muskoka

The only work required is to use a trimmer twice each season to keep the path across the property clear.

Path-cutting-meadow-Lake Muskoka

In November, I need to cut down the meadow grasses to reduce the thatch that builds up and to keep things neat for the daffodils that emerge each April.   And, of course, to prevent the meadow from transitioning naturally to bush, it’s necessary to keep out any blackberries and sumacs that might want to jump the path from the steep slope to the lake.

Autumn cleanup-Lake Muskoka-meadow grasses

My cottage neighbours know where to find a bouquet of fragrant daffodils in springtime.

Daffodils-Lake MuskokaThe bumble bees know where to find beebalm with sweet nectar.

Bombus-impatiens-on-Monarda

And I know where to find photographic inspiration and beauty all season long, like this single day, July 7, 2013, when I collected all these flowers at the cottage.

July flowers at the cottage-Lake Muskoka

Let’s take a little tour of the property.

A Tour of My Muskoka Garden Today

Coming down the stairs from the cottage, we see the little patch of wildness I call the “east meadow”. The soil here is shallow and the plants — tall cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) at the bottom of the stairs and beebalm (Monarda fistulosa) and false oxeye (Heliopsis helianthoides) in the meadows — tend to suffer in a dry summer.  On this side of the stairs is a large stand of Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ and other plants.

Janet Davis cottage-Lake Muskoka-East Meadow-2017

Here’s the view of the cottage through the beebalm and heliopsis in the east meadow.

Cottage-August-2017

Here’s the stairway to the lake, below, with a little viewing deck part-way down. The slope, composed of soil called ‘trimmings’, features plants native to Muskoka, including sumac (Rhus typhina), meadowsweet (Spiraea latifolia), common juniper (Juniperus communis) and wild blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis). Oaks and maples sprout on the slope as well; some are encouraged but it’s necessary to thin the forest a little here.

Slope to Lake Muskoka-Janet Davis cottage

In early summer, that little section below the bench is a lovely confection of foxglove penstemon (P. digitalis) and lanceleaf coreopsis (C. lanceolata). Both of these native perennials share a love of dry, gravelly soil.

Pentemon digitalis & Coreopsis lanceolata

Here’s a short video of foxglove penstemon at the lake shore.

On a grassy part of the slope to the lake, I combine butterfly milkweed with blackeyed susans.

Rudbeckia hirta & Asclepias tuberosa-Lake Muskoka

Looking west down the path past the scented ‘Conca d’Or’ lily (one of the strongest Orienpet or Oriental x Trumpet hybrids), it’s amazing to me that this flat terrace was created from a once steep and treacherous slope.

Llium 'Conca d'Or'-Path

Moving along the path, the bed (using the word ‘bed’ very loosely) at the eastern end of the cottage is filled with more fragrant Orienpet lilies.  Over the years, I’ve discovered that certain perennials exhibit good drought-tolerance, like Veronica spicata ‘Darwin’s Blue’, just finishing below. This bed also contains English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint (Nepeta racemosa) and ‘May Night’ meadow sage (Salvia nemorosa).

East garden bed-Lake Muskoka

The most satisfying garden section at the cottage has been the small, sloping west meadow, aka the ‘monarda meadow’ for its predominant wild beebalm, Monarda fistulosa. This is how it looks today,as the large prairie grasses at right are just beginning to fountain.

East Meadow-path-Lake Muskoka

In early August the west meadow features some good perennial partners with the monarda, including ‘Gold Plate’ yarrow (Achillea filipendulina)….

Monarda fistulosa & 'Gold Plate' Yarrow-Lake Muskoka

…. gray-headed coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)….

Monarda fisulosa & Ratibida pinnata

…. and false oxyeye (Heliopsis helianthoides)…..

Monarda fistulosa & Heliopsis helianthoides

In June, the monarda meadow features the odd wild lupine (Lupinus perennis), now less populous than they were a few years ago, when their blue candles glowed in the grasses.

West Meadow-Lupinus perennis1

I made a little time capsule video to remember my meadows this week, in a summer when rain was plentiful (to say the least) and the flowers all reached for the sky.

Bouquets from the Meadows

The cottage beds and meadows have yielded lovely bouquets for the table, whether in June with the lupines, false indigo (Baptisia australis), oxyeye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) and large-flowered penstemon (P. grandiflorus)…

Bouquet-Lupines-June-Lake Muskoka

….or later in summer, with cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum), gray-headed coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), blue Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), purple blazing star (Liatris spicata) and the many goldenrods (Solidago sp.) that flower at the cottage.

Bouquet2-Midsummer (2)

Sometimes I add stems of Allegheny blackberry (Rubus allegeniensis) and nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) to the summer wildflowers, like the little nosegays below.

August meadow flowers

20 Great Cottage Perennials for Bees & Butterflies

Except for the fragrant lilies, which are just for me, my criterion for including plants to the cottage beds and meadows is that they must be useful to foraging insects and birds. Here are twenty of the best:

1. Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) – Ironclad, low-maintenance native perennial attracts bumble bees at a critical time in late spring when bumble bees are provisioning their nests.

Bombus-on-baptisia-(6)

2, Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) – Bumble bees are the pollinators for this native perennial, which flowers in June.

Bombus on Lupine perennis-Lake Muskoka

3. Blackeyed susanRudbeckia hirta – Lots of small native bees and butterflies enjoy foraging on biennial blackeyed susans.

Rudbeckia-hirta-with-native

4. Blanket flowerGaillardia x grandiflora – Provided it’s regularly deadheaded, blanket flower will bloom until autumn, attracting myriad bees.

Bombus griseocollis on Gaillardia x grandiflora

5. CatmintNepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’ – Long-flowering and a bee magnet, catmint has aromatic foliage that discourages deer.

Bombus on Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low'

6. Lanceleaf coreopsis (C. lanceolata) – One of the easiest, most drought-tolerant perennials for early summer, this coreopsis attracts lots of bees and its seeds attract hungry goldfinches.

Bombus on Coreopsis lanceolata-Lake Muskoka

7. Foxglove penstemon (P. digitalis) – Another easy, adaptable native perennial, this penstemon flowers at the same time as coreopsis, above, and enjoys the same rugged conditions – dry, gravelly soil.  Bumble bees forage on it extensively.

Bombus on Penstemon digitalis

8. Hoary vervain (Verbena stricta) – This vervain epitomizes “hardy and drought-tolerant” and is the most foolproof perennial in my dry meadows. Guaranteed to bloom and attract bumble bees.

Bombus on Verbena stricta-Lake Muskoka

9. False oxeye (Heliopsis helianthoides) – In the ‘be careful what you wish for’ category, this one is easy from seed and likes to take over the meadow. A negative is its attraction to rosy-apple (red) aphids, but lots of native pollinators enjoy the flowers, including the wasp below.

Wasp on Heliopsis helianthoides-Lake Muskoka

10. Wild beebalm (Monarda fistulosa) – Easily the most valuable perennial in my meadows, attracting bumble bees, hummingbirds and the lovely clearwing hummingbird moth, below.

Hummingbird clearwing moth on Monarda fistulosa-Lake Muskoka

Bumble bees are plentiful in my meadows during the blooming period of the wild beebalm. This is my west meadow today, August 7, 2017.

11. Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) – I have blogged at length about this plant, named the Perennial Plant Association’s 2017 Plant of the Year. It attracts many types of pollinators, including the monarch butterfly, which lays its eggs on the plant to be foraged by the developing caterpillar.

Asclepias-tuberosa-Monarch-butterfly

Butterfly milkweed is also very popular with bumble bees of all kinds. Here’s a video I made of a bumble bee nectaring while a red squirrel scolds and a Swainson’s thrush sings in the background.

12. Gray-headed coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) – With its willowy stems, this perennial is the most graceful in my meadows, and attracts small native bees.

Native bees on Ratibida pinnata

13. Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) – The tallest of my meadow perennials, this one is a colonizer, but so popular with bumble bees that it can be forgiven for laying claim to as much territory as it can.

Bombus on Silphium perfoliatum-Lake Muskoka

I was surprised one year to see which animal was snacking on the 8-foot tall seedheads of my cup plant. Not a deer, but a…….

14. Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) – Hardy with aromatic leaves that repel deer, this sub-shrub is an excellent companion for big golden yarrow. Bumble bees and honey bees adore the tiny, lavender-purple flowers.

Bee on Perovskia atriplicifolia

15. Blazing Star or Gayfeather (Liatris – many species, esp. L. ligulistylis, below, and L. spicata) – I adore all the blazing stars, and so do the butterflies. Rocky Mountain blazing star, below, is particularly popular with monarch butterflies and with the great spangled fritillary shown.

Great Spangled Fritillary-on Liatris ligulistylis-Lake Muskoka

16. Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) – Preferring more moisture than many of the prairie natives, this tall perennial (the one below is the cultivar ‘Fascination’) is a magnet for bees and butterflies.

Painted Lady on Veronicastrum virginicum 'Fascination'-Lake Muskoka

17. New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) – Wherever there’s an extra bit of moisture, this tall ironweed thrives in late summer. It attracts bees and many types of butterfly, including the painted lady, below.

Painted Lady on Vernonia noveboracensis-Lake Muskoka

18. Sweet blackeyed susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa) – A tall, easy-going perennial – and my favourite of the rudbeckia clan, this late-summer beauty attracts its share of native bees and wasps.

Native wasp on Rudbeckia subtomentosa

19. Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) – There are at least a half-dozen species of goldenrod that thrive on our property. Some are invasive enough to be nuisances, like Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis). Others are rare enough to be prized, like Solidago nemoralis. But my favourite is one I seeded myself, showy goldenrod, Solidago speciosa, below.  One of the latest-blooming perennials, it is often in flower well into October, nourishing the last of the bumble bees before our long Muskoka winter.

Bombus on Solidago speciosa-showy goldenrod

20. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) – At the very end of the season, around Thanksgiving time in Canada, the various asters provide a late, vital source of nectar for all the bees.

Agapostemon virescens on Symphyorichum novae-angliae-Lake Muskoka

***********************************

Adapted from a story that appeared originally in Trellis, the magazine of the Toronto Botanical Garden

Botanagrams and Facebook Fun

A few years ago, I launched a series of plant-based puzzles with some of my plant-obsessed friends on Facebook. As an admin of a group called Plant Idents – a page where members can either post photos of plants whose identities they don’t know and wish solved, or plants whose identity they do know and wish to challenge other plantaholics – I thought it would be fun to start something a little different.  The basic idea: using Photoshop, I created a numbered puzzle using my own plant photos. As a stock photographer of plants, I have thousands of photos organized by Latin name. The puzzle had a name or solution — often regarding something that had happened on that day – which I kept secret, the name being spelled out with the first letter of the genus (botanical name) of each plant. To make it much tougher, I mixed up the letters/photos anagram-style, and told members what they were looking for, e.g. 4-word puzzle.   After the members (often with lots of clues) guessed the plant genus (sometimes, to be mean, I made them guess the species too), I’d put the first letters of the guessed plants together. Then it was time to solve the anagram and the puzzle. (there are good anagram solver sites on the web).

I stopped doing the puzzles on the Plant Idents page when the members became too numerous, since it involved a lot of rapid-fire guessing and meant everyone had to be looking at the same guesses and answers minute by minute, so fast broadband speed was vital.  Running the puzzles was like being an air traffic controller at a very busy airport! But I came across them in my files and thought it would be fun to gather some of them here in my blog, to commemorate a particular time and friendships that Facebook has enabled amongst like-minded people who, without meeting each other in person, share a passion for plants and a fanaticism for fun.  So here goes…..

Holiday greetings! I explained the rules – but the points were virtual….

"MERRY CHRISTMAS" 9 Marrubium vulgare - Horehound 5 Eucharis formosa – Amazon Lily 12 Restio quadratus – Square-Stalk Restio 3 Ruellia humilis – Wild Petunia 5 Yucca filamentosa - Adam's Needle 13 Chamerion angustifolium – Fireweed 7 Hydrocleys nymphoides – Water Poppy 6 Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Lo’ – Fragrant Sumac 11 Illicium floridanum – Purple Anise 2 Schisandra sphenanthera - Schisandra 1 Tacca chantrieri – Black Bat Flower 4 Metapanax delavayi – Delavay’s False Ginseng 14 Ajania pacifica – Pacific Chrysanthemum 10 Stewartia rostrata – Upright Stewartia

“MERRY CHRISTMAS”
9 Marrubium vulgare – Horehound
5 Eucharis formosa – Amazon Lily
12 Restio quadratus – Square-Stalk Restio
3 Ruellia humilis – Wild Petunia
5 Yucca filamentosa – Adam’s Needle
13 Chamerion angustifolium – Fireweed
7 Hydrocleys nymphoides – Water Poppy
6 Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Lo’ – Fragrant Sumac
11 Illicium floridanum – Purple Anise
2 Schisandra sphenanthera – Schisandra
1 Tacca chantrieri – Black Bat Flower
4 Metapanax delavayi – Delavay’s False Ginseng
14 Ajania pacifica – Pacific Chrysanthemum
10 Stewartia rostrata – Upright Stewartia

But, as a Canadian, I felt it needed to be done in French too!

"JOYEUX NOEL" 5-Justicia carnea 4-Orlaya grandiflora 6-Yucca filamentosa 3-Enkianthus campanulatus 2-Urtica dioica 10-Xeranthemum annuum 9-Nyssa sylvatica 7-Omphalodes cappadocica ‘Starry Eyes’ 8-Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’ 1-Leucoryne coquimbensis

“JOYEUX NOEL”
5-Justicia carnea
4-Orlaya grandiflora
6-Yucca filamentosa
3-Enkianthus campanulatus
2-Urtica dioica
10-Xeranthemum annuum
9-Nyssa sylvatica
7-Omphalodes cappadocica ‘Starry Eyes’
8-Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’
1-Leucoryne coquimbensis

This one  commemorated Martin Luther King Day: “I HAVE A DREAM”. And you can see that here I recorded the FB friends who guessed correctly.

6-Isotoma axillaris - Alys 5-Hardenbergia violacea - Jo 1-Abutilon striatum -Rebecca 11-Veronica ‘Eveline’ - Liberto 7-Euryops acraeus – Liberto 9-Alocasia cuprea – Sven 3-Diervilla lonicera – Jo 2-Rodgersia aesculifolia - Jo 10-Erinus alpinus – Liberto 4-Alkanna tinctoria-Alys 8-Melinis nerviglumis – Jo

6-Isotoma axillaris – Alys
5-Hardenbergia violacea – Jo
1-Abutilon striatum -Rebecca
11-Veronica ‘Eveline’ – Liberto
7-Euryops acraeus – Liberto
9-Alocasia cuprea – Sven
3-Diervilla lonicera – Jo
2-Rodgersia aesculifolia – Jo
10-Erinus alpinus – Liberto
4-Alkanna tinctoria-Alys
8-Melinis nerviglumis – Jo

Then came Valentine’s Day, and I thought a little Fred-and-Ginger was in order:

A DANCE STEP (for Valentine’s Day) 6-Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ – Japanese spikenard 8-Dicentra spectabilis ‘Valentine’- Bleeding heart 10-Amaranthus caudatus – Love-lies-bleeding 2-Nigella damascena – Love-in-a-mist 9-Catanache caerulea – Cupid’s dart 7-Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’ – Love Grass 3-Sutera cordata - Bacopa 4-Tilia cordata – Little-leaf linden 1-Euonymus americana – Hearts-a-busting 5-Pontederia cordata – Pickerel weed

A DANCE STEP (for Valentine’s Day)
6-Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ – Japanese spikenard
8-Dicentra spectabilis ‘Valentine’- Bleeding heart
10-Amaranthus caudatus – Love-lies-bleeding
2-Nigella damascena – Love-in-a-mist
9-Catanache caerulea – Cupid’s dart
7-Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’ – Love Grass
3-Sutera cordata – Bacopa
4-Tilia cordata – Little-leaf linden
1-Euonymus americana – Hearts-a-busting
5-Pontederia cordata – Pickerel weed

 

 

 

Birthdays were fun to commemorate. This one honoured the father of reggae (note the Rasta colours)….

" BOB MARLEY" - RBBALEOMY 3. Bouvardia ternifolia 7. Oncidium goldiana 2. Brugmansia aurea 8. Malvaviscus arboreus 4. Allamanda cathartica 1. Rhapis excelsa 5. Licuala spinosa 6. Euphorbia pulcherrima 9. Yucca aloifolia

” BOB MARLEY” – RBBALEOMY
3. Bouvardia ternifolia
7. Oncidium goldiana
2. Brugmansia aurea
8. Malvaviscus arboreus
4. Allamanda cathartica
1. Rhapis excelsa
5. Licuala spinosa
6. Euphorbia pulcherrima
9. Yucca aloifolia

And here he is:

Bob Marley-Rasta plants

This one sang the blues, in honour of Billie Holiday’s 100th on April 7, 2015:

LEUSBBLESILI = BILLIES BLUES 6-Brunnera macrophylla 10-Iris sibirica ‘Bennerup Blue’ 7-Linum perenne 11-Lobelia erinus ‘Sapphire Blue’ 12-Ipomoea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’ 8-Echium vulgare 9-Scilla siberica 5-Borago officinalis 1-Lithodora ‘Grace Ward’ 3-Utricularia resupinata 2-Eryngium planum 4-Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’

LEUSBBLESILI = BILLIES BLUES
6-Brunnera macrophylla
10-Iris sibirica ‘Bennerup Blue’
7-Linum perenne
11-Lobelia erinus ‘Sapphire Blue’
12-Ipomoea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’
8-Echium vulgare
9-Scilla siberica
5-Borago officinalis
1-Lithodora ‘Grace Ward’
3-Utricularia resupinata
2-Eryngium planum
4-Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’

 

There was a bonus photo that day…..

Billie Holiday-Gardenia-Janet Davis

The birthday could be of a writer, like……

"EZRA POUND" - DRNOEAZPU 5-Euphorbia pulcherrima 'Maren' 2- Rotheca myricoides 7 - Z - Zantedeschia aethiopica 6 - A - Acanthus hungaricus 8 - P - Penstemon barbatus 'Rondo' 4 - O - Olea europea 9 - U - Ulex europaeus 3 - N - Nepenthes sp. 1 - D - Datura metel

“EZRA POUND” –
DRNOEAZPU
5-Euphorbia pulcherrima ‘Maren’
2- Rotheca myricoides
7 – Z – Zantedeschia aethiopica
6 – A – Acanthus hungaricus
8 – P – Penstemon barbatus ‘Rondo’
4 – O – Olea europea
9 – U – Ulex europaeus
3 – N – Nepenthes sp.
1 – D – Datura metel

Or perhaps a modern writer like…..

"VONNEGUT" - GETUVNON 5 – Vriesea carinata 7 – Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Ogon’ 6 – Nyssa sylvatica 8 – Nephrolepis biserrata ‘Macho’ 2 – Encephalartos villosus 1 – Glaucium corniculatum 4 – Ulmus glabra 3 – Taxodium distichum

“VONNEGUT” – GETUVNON
5 – Vriesea carinata
7 – Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Ogon’
6 – Nyssa sylvatica
8 – Nephrolepis biserrata ‘Macho’
2 – Encephalartos villosus
1 – Glaucium corniculatum
4 – Ulmus glabra
3 – Taxodium distichum

It might be a performer, a favourite comedian.  I had fun with layered meanings on this botanagram, for as we know, the legumes or “bean” plants make their own nitrogen from the soil via nodules on their roots. Thus the inclusion of an atomic number in #2.

"MR BEAN" (so legumes) 4. Medicago sativa – Alfalfa, Lucerne - Alys 5. Robinia pseudoacacia – Black locust – David & Amrita 6. Baptisia sphaerocarpa ‘Screaming Yellow’ – Yellow baptisia – David & Amrita (& Liberto’s clues...) 1. Erythrina caffra – African coral tree – David & Liberto 3. Amorpha canescens – Lead plant – Amrita & David 2. Nitrogen – atomic number 7 - Liberto!!

“MR BEAN” (so legumes)
4. Medicago sativa – Alfalfa, Lucerne – Alys
5. Robinia pseudoacacia – Black locust – David & Amrita
6. Baptisia sphaerocarpa ‘Screaming Yellow’ – Yellow baptisia – David & Amrita (& Liberto’s clues…)
1. Erythrina caffra – African coral tree – David & Liberto
3. Amorpha canescens – Lead plant – Amrita & David
2. Nitrogen – atomic number 7 – Liberto!!

I liked marking the seasons.  This one was June 21, 2014. School’s out!

SUMMER…. 4 –Stapelia gigantea 8-Umbilicus rupestris 14-Myrrhis odorata 7-Menyanthes trifoliata 11-Encephalartos horridus (steward’s enquiry) 6-Rubus cockburnianus ‘Golden Gale’ SOLSTICE!!! 9-Salvinia auriculata 12-Olearia x scilloniensis 13-Limnanthes douglasii 3-Scilla peruviana 2-Tapaeinochilus ananassae 1-Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’ 5-Catalpa bignonoides ‘Aurea’ 10-Erodium manescavii

SUMMER….
4 –Stapelia gigantea
8-Umbilicus rupestris
14-Myrrhis odorata
7-Menyanthes trifoliata
11-Encephalartos horridus (steward’s enquiry)
6-Rubus cockburnianus ‘Golden Gale’
SOLSTICE!!!
9-Salvinia auriculata
12-Olearia x scilloniensis
13-Limnanthes douglasii
3-Scilla peruviana
2-Tapaeinochilus ananassae
1-Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’
5-Catalpa bignonoides ‘Aurea’
10-Erodium manescavii

And school’s heading back in so it must be…..

"SEPTEMBER" (marking the first day of Sept. 2014) 5-Staehelina unifloscuosa 6-Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’ 2-Poncirus trifoliata 9-Tedradium danielli 7-Eumorphia sericea ssp. robustior 8-Marrubium vulgare 1-Barleria cristata 3-Eurybia furcata 4-Reseda odorata

“SEPTEMBER” (marking the first day of Sept. 2014)
5-Staehelina unifloscuosa
6-Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’
2-Poncirus trifoliata
9-Tedradium danielli
7-Eumorphia sericea ssp. robustior
8-Marrubium vulgare
1-Barleria cristata
3-Eurybia furcata
4-Reseda odorata

Not far into autumn, and it’s time for Thanksgiving when we express our….

"GRATITUDE" - For Thanksgiving 5-Gunnera manicata-Jo Astridge 9-Rhodotypos scandens-Liberto Dario 7-Actaea erythrocarpa-Liberto 1-Trochodendron aralioides-Liberto 3-Illicium floridanum-Liberto 8-Trachelium caeruleum-Liberto 4-Urtica dioica-Jo 6-Deinanthe bifida-Liberto 2-Erodium chrysanthum-Rosemary Hardy

“GRATITUDE” – For Thanksgiving
5-Gunnera manicata-Jo Astridge
9-Rhodotypos scandens-Liberto Dario
7-Actaea erythrocarpa-Liberto
1-Trochodendron aralioides-Liberto
3-Illicium floridanum-Liberto
8-Trachelium caeruleum-Liberto
4-Urtica dioica-Jo
6-Deinanthe bifida-Liberto
2-Erodium chrysanthum-Rosemary Hardy

Winter in Canada is cold and snow, so I like to do a little……

CALIFORNIA DREAMING 7. Calandrinia spectabilis 8. Arctostaphylos spp. 17. Layia platyglossa 6. Impatiens omeiana 15. Ficinia nodosa 14. Ozothamnus diosmifolius ‘Pink’ 16. Retanilla ephedra 13. Nicotiana glauca 11. Iochroma cyaneum 1. Amsinckia grandiflora 2. Dodonea viscosa ssp. cuneata 18. Ruta chalepensis 3. Erica patersonia 5. Azara dentata 9. Maianthemum flexuosum 12. Isopogon anethifolius ‘Curra Moors’ 4. Nothofagus obliqua var. obliqua 10. Greyia radkoferi

CALIFORNIA DREAMING
7. Calandrinia spectabilis
8. Arctostaphylos spp.
17. Layia platyglossa
6. Impatiens omeiana
15. Ficinia nodosa
14. Ozothamnus diosmifolius ‘Pink’
16. Retanilla ephedra
13. Nicotiana glauca
11. Iochroma cyaneum
1. Amsinckia grandiflora
2. Dodonea viscosa ssp. cuneata
18. Ruta chalepensis
3. Erica patersonia
5. Azara dentata
9. Maianthemum flexuosum
12. Isopogon anethifolius ‘Curra Moors’
4. Nothofagus obliqua var. obliqua
10. Greyia radkoferi

The botanagram below suited a day that appealed to mathematicians. Why? Because March 14, 2015 at precisely 9:26:53 = the famous equation 3.141592653 = π (and yes I punned with “pie” which, of course, is round).

PIE ARE SQUARED 12- Paradisea lusitanica-John Lamin 13-Isatis tinctoria-Bradley Newton 9-Eccremocarpus scaber-Bradley Newton 7-Abelia mosanensis-David Mason 8-Rostrincula dependens-John Lamin 2-Echium wildpretii-John Lamin 6-Symphoricarpos albus-Rebecca Alexander 4-Quercus agrifolia-Davis Mason 5-Uncarina grandidieri-Bradley Newton 3-Reseda luteola- ? 10-Eumorphia sericea-? D-Dombeya wallichii-?

PIE ARE SQUARED
12- Paradisea lusitanica-John Lamin
13-Isatis tinctoria-Bradley Newton
9-Eccremocarpus scaber-Bradley Newton
7-Abelia mosanensis-David Mason
8-Rostrincula dependens-John Lamin
2-Echium wildpretii-John Lamin
6-Symphoricarpos albus-Rebecca Alexander
4-Quercus agrifolia-Davis Mason
5-Uncarina grandidieri-Bradley Newton
3-Reseda luteola- ?
10-Eumorphia sericea-?
D-Dombeya wallichii-?

How about plant parts? Instead of boring terms like stamens and stigmas, I made a puzzle for……

"THE VITAL SEXY BITS" 9-Tibouchina urvilleana 15-Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’ 8-Epimedium x rubrum 13-Vicia cracca 7-Inula helenium ‘Goliath’ 12-Turnera ulmifolia 1-Amorpha canescens 16-Lobelia siphilitica 6-Sinopodophyllum hexandrum ‘Majus’ 14-Eremurus x isabellinus ‘Cleopatra’ 5-Xerochrysum bracteatum 4-Yucca rigida 2-Bauhinia kockiana 10-Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’ 11-Thalictrum rochebrunianum ‘Lavender Mist’ 3-Silphium perfoliatum

“THE VITAL SEXY BITS”
9-Tibouchina urvilleana
15-Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’
8-Epimedium x rubrum
13-Vicia cracca
7-Inula helenium ‘Goliath’
12-Turnera ulmifolia
1-Amorpha canescens
16-Lobelia siphilitica
6-Sinopodophyllum hexandrum ‘Majus’
14-Eremurus x isabellinus ‘Cleopatra’
5-Xerochrysum bracteatum
4-Yucca rigida
2-Bauhinia kockiana
10-Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’
11-Thalictrum rochebrunianum ‘Lavender Mist’
3-Silphium perfoliatum

…. and one that featured those interesting leaf-like and flower-like parts…….

"LOVED THOSE BRACTS" (yes, they're all bracts) 10. Leucadendron ‘Jester’ 12. Ochna serrulata 7. Vriesea carinata 1. Eryngium planum 15. Davidia involucrata 9. Tillandsia cyanea 13. Heliconia rostrata 6. Euphorbia fulgens 5. Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ 14. Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ 2. Bougainvillea glabra 4. Rhodochiton atrosanguineus ‘Purple Rain’ 16. Aechmea fasciata 3. Clerodendrum thomsoniae 8. Tacca chantrieri 11. Spathiphyllum sp.

“LOVED THOSE BRACTS” (yes, they’re all bracts)
10. Leucadendron ‘Jester’
12. Ochna serrulata
7. Vriesea carinata
1. Eryngium planum
15. Davidia involucrata
9. Tillandsia cyanea
13. Heliconia rostrata
6. Euphorbia fulgens
5. Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’
14. Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’
2. Bougainvillea glabra
4. Rhodochiton atrosanguineus ‘Purple Rain’
16. Aechmea fasciata
3. Clerodendrum thomsoniae
8. Tacca chantrieri
11. Spathiphyllum sp.

…. and one for summer’s end, so I could fill a…….

"FRUIT BASKET" 6. Fagus grandifolia –Alys 8. Rhodotypos scandens – Liberto 11. Ulmus glabra –Jo 7. Ilex verticillata ‘Afterglow'-Marcel 1. Thuja occidentalis-Jo 2. Bismarckia nobilis –Liberto 10. Ailanthus altissima – Liberto 4. Sambucus candensis – Alys 3. Koelreuteria paniculata –Amy 5. Euonymus sachalinensis –Jo/Alys 9. Taxodium distichum-Liberto

“FRUIT BASKET”
6. Fagus grandifolia –Alys
8. Rhodotypos scandens – Liberto
11. Ulmus glabra –Jo
7. Ilex verticillata ‘Afterglow’-Marcel
1. Thuja occidentalis-Jo
2. Bismarckia nobilis –Liberto
10. Ailanthus altissima – Liberto
4. Sambucus candensis – Alys
3. Koelreuteria paniculata –Amy
5. Euonymus sachalinensis –Jo/Alys
9. Taxodium distichum-Liberto

As a music lover, it was fun to find fellow music-lovers to challenge. This was a fun one of a favourite old song with a colour theme…..A Whiter Shade of Pale

“PROCOL HARUM” – (Colour theme: A Whiter Shade of Pale) 11-Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Albus’ 4-Rodgersia aesculifolia 9-Orlaya grandiflora 5-Crataegus mordenensis ‘Snowbird’ 10-Ornithogalum saundersiae 1-Lysimachia clethroides 12-Hosta ‘Hoosier Harmony’ 2-Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal Virgin’ ** 6-Rehderodendron macrocarpum 7-Umbilicus rupestris 3-Mukdenia rossii * Odd one out is #2 – Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal' for Vestal Virgin

“PROCOL HARUM” – (Colour theme: A Whiter Shade of Pale)
11-Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Albus’
4-Rodgersia aesculifolia
9-Orlaya grandiflora
5-Crataegus mordenensis ‘Snowbird’
10-Ornithogalum saundersiae
1-Lysimachia clethroides
12-Hosta ‘Hoosier Harmony’
2-Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal Virgin’ **
6-Rehderodendron macrocarpum
7-Umbilicus rupestris
3-Mukdenia rossii
* Odd one out is #2 – Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal’ for Vestal Virgin

I’m just mad about saffron, yes I am…..

"DONOVAN" (Mellow Yellow) 3-Draba brunifolia 6-Osterospermum 'Summertime Breeze' 4-Nuphar lutea 7-Opuntia humifusa 'Lemon Spreader' 2-Verbesina helianthoides 1-Aeonium 'Voodoo' 5-Narcissus 'Tamar Fire'

“DONOVAN” (Mellow Yellow)
3-Draba brunifolia
6-Osterospermum ‘Summertime Breeze’
4-Nuphar lutea
7-Opuntia humifusa ‘Lemon Spreader’
2-Verbesina helianthoides
1-Aeonium ‘Voodoo’
5-Narcissus ‘Tamar Fire’

And as a child of the 60s, I tried a different puzzle – one that combined actual music with plants. Not sure it worked so well, but it was a hoot(enanny) to do.

This one was more of a logic puzzle, and required both Genus and Species names.

"ALPHABET" (not an anagram, a logic puzzle) 1 – Melinis nerviglumis 2 – Encelia farinosa 3 – Kalmia latifolia 4 – Ophiopogon planiscapus 5 – Clematis dioscoreifolia 6 – Iris japonica 7 – Quercus rubra 8 – Geranium himalayense 9 – Astrantia bavarica Ab, Cd*, Ef, Gh, Ij, Kl, Mn, Op, Qr (* I went with the plant label, but learned after I made up the puzzle that Clematis dioscoreifolia is a synonym for Clematis terniflora)

“ALPHABET” (not an anagram, a logic puzzle)
1 – Melinis nerviglumis
2 – Encelia farinosa
3 – Kalmia latifolia
4 – Ophiopogon planiscapus
5 – Clematis dioscoreifolia
6 – Iris japonica
7 – Quercus rubra
8 – Geranium himalayense
9 – Astrantia bavarica
Ab, Cd*, Ef, Gh, Ij, Kl, Mn, Op, Qr
(* I went with the plant label, but learned after I made up the puzzle that Clematis dioscoreifolia is a synonym for Clematis terniflora)

Finally, a little homage to the honey bee, or as we say in Latin…..

"APIS MELLIFERA" - Latin for honey bee 9-Asclepias syriaca 5-Pycnanthemum virginianum 8-Ilex verticillata 11-Silphium perfoliatum 2-Malva sylvestris 10-Eremurus 'Cleopatra' 3-Lychnis flos-cuculi 6-Lathyrus latifolius 13-Iris pseudacorus 12-Filipendula ulmaria 1-Eranthis hyemalis 4-Ruta graveolens 7-Althaea officinalis

“APIS MELLIFERA” – Latin for honey bee
9-Asclepias syriaca
5-Pycnanthemum virginianum
8-Ilex verticillata
11-Silphium perfoliatum
2-Malva sylvestris
10-Eremurus ‘Cleopatra’
3-Lychnis flos-cuculi
6-Lathyrus latifolius
13-Iris pseudacorus
12-Filipendula ulmaria
1-Eranthis hyemalis
4-Ruta graveolens
7-Althaea officinalis

Touring Casa Mariposa with Tammy Schmitt

Tammy Schmitt is one of the most positive, open-spirited people I’ve ever met. A grade school teacher by profession and a funny blogger on the side, her generosity and can-do nature is on display beside her home for her entire Bristow, Virginia neighbourhood to see.

Sign-Garden Sign-Tammy Schmitt

But then Tammy’s garden is a little different than most in her subdivision. Not only is Casa Mariposa an invitation to any and all pollinators that might be feeling a little thirsty in a desert of nearby lawns…..

House Front-Casa Mariposa-Tamy Schmitt

…. it’s also home to her family and a posse of rescue dogs, including the one posing with mama below.

Tammy Schmitt

Tammy took the lead in organizing the Garden Blogger’s Fling that I enjoyed this June in the Capital Region, and she and her committee did a fabulous job of finding us wonderful private and public gardens to tour. One of them was her own, which she was overly modest in describing to us. For though it’s the kind of suburban property many of us have, Tammy has turned hers into a flowery oasis filled with plants (many native) to lure pollinators and songbirds.  Let’s walk under her funky arch and take a little tour of some of those plants.

Garden arch-Tammy Schmitt

I love garden with birdhouses and Tammy’s got ‘em in spades.

Birdhouse & daylily-Tammy Schmitt

Aren’t these sweet?  One of Tammy’s houses actually hosts a lovely wren.

Birdhouses-Tammy Schmitt

As a bee photographer, I adore gardens filled with the buzz of bumble bees, like this one foraging on Tammy’s lavender beside echinacea, also a great bee and butterfly plant.

Echinacea & Lavandula-Tammy Schmitt

…. and honey bees, which love her drumstick alliums (A. sphaerocephalon)……

Bee on Allium sphaerocephalon-Tammy Schmitt

…. and swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), below with a light-pink Knautia macedonica.

Asclepias & Knautia-Tammy Schmitt

There were hover flies on the blackeyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta).

Hover fly-Rudbeckia hirta

Speaking of blackeyed susans… isn’t the one below beautiful? The gorgeous selections of this native are called gloriosa daisies – this one looks like ‘Denver Daisy’..

Rudbeckia hirta-Gloriosa daisy

This is a classic combination: blackeyed susans and beebalm.

Monarda & Rudbeckia-Tammy Schmitt

A self-admitted pot addict, Tammy cures herself by… buying more and more…..

Containers-Tammy Schmitt

Arraying them up the paver steps to her house…..

Pots-Tammy Schmitt

I was taken with Tammy’s choice of natives, including this fabulous royal catchfly (Silene regia).

Silene regia-Tammy Schmitt

The garden was packed with bloggers and it was much too short a visit. After a filmed demo and interview with one of Tammy’s favourite products, John & Bob’s Smart Soil Solutions, who were generous sponsors of the Bloggers’ Fling, it was time to say goodbye. And just on cue, Tammy’s little wren popped out to sing farewell.

Wren-Tammy Schmitt