March of the snow drops... and skunk cabbage

It's that time of year when we're all eagerly anticipating warmth and lush greenery. To mark the official start of spring two very different plants are on the scene to cheer us on: Snowdrops and Skunk cabbage.

  Galanthus nivalis -  Snowdrops

Galanthus nivalis - Snowdrops

Both plants are ephemeral and disappear by summer but that's where the similarities end. One is a bulb from Europe most commonly found in cultivated gardens while the other is native to North America in wet and mucky woodlands.

  Symplocarpus foetidus  - Eastern Skunk Cabbage

Symplocarpus foetidus - Eastern Skunk Cabbage

Skunk cabbage is wondrous in that it generates its own heat, literally melting through frozen ground! When in bloom it attracts the earliest of pollinators by releasing a carrion-like odor.

 Skunk Cabbage found in its preferred habitat: wet woods

Skunk Cabbage found in its preferred habitat: wet woods

Forest bathing

The Japanese have an expression: shinrin-yoku 森林浴. It means “forest bathing” and refers to a therapeutic, mindful and guided walk through the forest. You can even get a prescription for it.

Recently I visited one of Ontario's few old-growth forests where some of the trees are 250 to 300 years old.  I was instantly reminded of this beautiful metaphor. The mature maple-beech forest, intermixed by birch and hemlock, is typical of the ecoregion's mixed woods. These species have co-evolved together, a glimpse into what pre-settlement woodlands across the area might've once looked like. It was also a gentle reminder of the therapeutic benefits we reap, both physically and mentally, simply by dipping our feet in a woodland bath.

 Forest canopy

Forest canopy

 Co-evolved woodland species of  Acer  (maple),  Fagus  (beech)   and  Betula  (birch)

Co-evolved woodland species of Acer (maple), Fagus (beech) and Betula (birch)

  Betula alleghaniensis    (Yellow birch)

Betula alleghaniensis (Yellow birch)

 A green sock in the snow

A green sock in the snow

The prairies in October

Visiting the prairies in October feels a bit like traveling to the future. The temperatures have long ago dropped below zero and the trees lost most of their foliage. Yet the landscape and its immense sky above never fail to thrill me. In this expanse your eyes take in the large and then focus slowly on the small. Here then a sampling of both and a place close to my heart. 

Shorter days cheered on by dahlias

In July I turned my attention to my own garden and set out to trial some new Dahlia tubers that I'd purchased back in the spring. It was late in the season for planting but I've been rewarded with this jewel. Every year I trial new plants and this one's a keeper. 'Totally Tangerine' Dahlia is a short but dapper one that pairs especially well with the dark foliage of Penstemon digitalis and airy Calamintha nepeta. Dahlias need to be dug up and stored indoors for the winter. I never mind the extra work though because they continue to cheer on every once of sun before the frosts definitely mark the change of seasons.

Brit + Co

A big thanks to Brit + Co for their feature article on my journey from industrial to landscape designer.

Click on the link for the entire article:

https://www.brit.co/how-to-quit-your-day-job-and-become-a-landscape-designer/

My own green space

As a gardener and landscape designer my own personal garden receives a fair share of neglect; save for watering the trees in this year's drought I gravitate more towards the hammock than the tools after a long day outside.

Over the years the perennials have crowded out the weeds and I deliberately let the young Cercis tree sprawl to screen the patio with its immense leaves. Yet, for all the neglect the garden is a gift that I cherish, a giving and green oasis in a big city. On this long weekend the dahlias finally got planted- late yes! Compost got spread, a rose moved and the last of the peas, haskaps, currants and serviceberries all gleaned. I still haven't got my beans planted but for now I'll content myself with all the volunteer tomato plants that have emerged and return to the hammock. Happy Canada Day weekend.

Micro-gardening: product design for gardens

My first career was in product design; I worked in Germany at adidas then came back to Canada to design hospital furniture, packaging and housewares. All to say that when I see good product design it makes me happy and even happier when the goal is helping others garden.

 For beginners this looks like a great introduction to "Square Foot Gardening", a concept and book written by Mel Bartholomew.

For beginners this looks like a great introduction to "Square Foot Gardening", a concept and book written by Mel Bartholomew.

Nourishmat, by Earth Starter, is the perfect kit for urban edible gardening: you get the seeds, the planting plan and a weed barrier all in one. With a footprint of 4'x6' you can then harvest 15 to 20 pounds of food in one small garden. They're currently looking for funding on Kickstarter!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/earthstarter/nourishmat-changing-the-way-wethink-about-food

Spring harbinger

Two years ago I planted a Witch hazel in my backyard. I strategically placed it so that it'd be viewed every day from the kitchen window. And it has not disappointed- it shimmers and glows in both the sun and cloud. I can't highly enough recommend this shrub for a shot of exuberance that beats back the winter doldrums!

Witchazel.jpg