Thursday, April 17, 2014

A week in the life of a peripatetic gardener (Toronto sojourn...)

Iris cf. narbutii
I took the picture of the iris the day before I left for Toronto. Gotta love those Junos--this one from Beaver Creek nursery many years ago.

Prunus subhirtella
The Japanese cherries around town bloomed most of last week--good thing because the snow and frost on Sunday night put an end to the show. Someone has planted many Japanese cherries along Cherry Creek (and Speer Boulevard) which is rather amusing, since the "Cherry" in Cherry Creek is actually a Chokecherry. This is the most stunning Japanese cherry I know in Denver, at an apartment complex near my home. I dote on this every year..

The flowers up close are immense, and a wonderful melting pink color. I would love to see a lot more of these around town!

Paeonia coriacea
This was blooming as well before I left, and came through the snow (under a bucket of course): it's a collection from Morocco by Mike Kintgen. Surely the earliest Peony in any garden?

Marion Jarvie and Daphne mezereum
I'd not seen Marion in 11 years (since she had the misfortune to be in Denver for the colossal March snowstorms in 2003): I was thrilled to see how vibrant and good she looked: her job as a garden designer and lecturer obviously agrees with her. Her garden was stunning, even in late winter. Here she was showing off an incredibly dense specimen of Winter daphne that was ready to pop.

Helleborus thibetanus
I know it's out of focus, but I still loved this incredible plant: mine is alive at least!

Iris x 'Katharine Hodgkin'
Every one of the Katharine Hodgkin's iris at my home garden was seemingly killed by the extreme cold of last winter. They fared better at Denver Botanic Gardens--and Marion's were fabulous as you can see. Not that I'm jealous....or anything....much. They seem to do better on the flat in richer soil than in a gravelly rock garden soil I venture.

Bella and Barbara's garden
My hostesses for the trip have a wonderful garden and welcoming home: Bella Seiden and Barbara Cooper (shown a ways below) are program chairs for the Ontario Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society, who made me feel very welcome: I loved this simple garden sculpture that reminded me of fern croziers unwinding.

Andrew and Sue Osyany and me
Andrew Osyany and his wonderful wife Sue drove a long way for my talk later on Sunday: Andrew started the ORGS many decades ago, and our paths have crossed repeatedly over the decades, including a wonderful field trip we took together to the Bighorn mountains and Wyoming decades ago. In addition to being a passionate gardener, Andrew is a lawyer, and his incisive intellect has kept the North American Rock Garden society on course more than once over the years. Traveling for talks is really about reconnecting with special friends like this for me more than anything. Except perhaps for seeing great new plants like the one below...

Adonis amurensis 'Chichibu beni'
One of numerous treasures in Barrie Porteous wonderful Toronto garden: I'd never seen this burnished orangy bronze form of Adonis before: Barrie has promised to divide this for Bella, and perhaps a piece can come my way?

Barrie Porteous and giant Daphne mezereum
Barrie standing behind the largest Daphne mezereum I've ever seen: this was about to bloom: I was amazed by the number, variety and size of daphnes in Barrie's garden.
Cyclamen coum at Barrie's
 I have to show a few of the masses of Cyclamen coum all over Barrie's Toronto garden. They were obviously in peak form. 

And yet more Cyclamen coum! Barrie had a terrific career in business--gardening is just a sideline: but what a sideline! I've never been privileged to see his cottage garden near Muskoka in the the country where there are no end of treasures as well. He's headed out to the Penstemon Society meeting this June and we spend a wonderful morning looking at potential stops he might take in Utah and Nevada--making me terribly jealous. Barrie has explored more than many botanic gardeners, and grown more plants than many botanic gardens: so much for amateurs! (And did I mention that he's a fabulous speaker with the most wicked sense of humor I've ever encountered?) Yes, time with Barrie and Jane was time I shall remember fondly.
Barbara Cooper, Merle, Jane Porteous, Bella and Barrie Porteous
Some of my wonderful Canadian hosts: I've been spoiled terribly over the decades by the tremendous community of horticulturists in Toronto. I like to think I'm a plant person, but the friendliness and good humor of gardeners is just as compelling as the simple majesty of plants. We need more of both in this world of too much asphalt and concrete.

Post red full moon setting over the Rockies from my living room window
I returned to a full moon (it was actually a "red moon" in the middle of the night, but I didn't think my camera was up to photographing it). Turns out my Nikon Coolpix 620 has much better optics than my old Sony point and shoots (despite their famous Leica lenses), and I could have gotten that wonderful bloody moon. Dang it! What a great week!


  1. I think the key to growing spring bulbs in the interior is mulching. Our weather is just too manic to not make good use of insulating mulch. I have two beds with hyacinths. One has a thin layer of peat moss over the soil. The other is mulched with a few inches of chopped leaves. The leaves did a great job insulating the soil from our early warmup. The hyacinths mulched with chopped leaves are still two weeks from blooming. The hyacinths with a thin layer of peat moss are in full bloom, but all the largest flower stems were killed by a recent snow storm. Using an insulating layer of chopped leaves really helps delay emergence thereby preventing damage from spring cold snaps.


  2. Seeing pictures such as that peony always remind me how amazing the wild world is. I can only imagine coming across a patch of that in some mountain valley!
    ...and the Adonis isn't all that shabby either.


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