I wanted to say that the wild columbine is my favourite native flower in bloom around late May but even narrowing it down seasonally is too lofty a claim to make. Let’s just say, I like it very much, and leave it at that.
I’ve decided to take the plunge back into the world of sunflowers. Anyone gardening in public space knows that sunflowers have a time-sensitive contract out on their lives beginning the moment they bloom. Their big beautiful blooms inspire grabbing hands that MUST rip and tear and have them all to themselves. I’d like to think those grabbing hands are taking the decapitated, stemless heads home and cuddling with them at night, clutching them with joy. The hands are lonesome. They need beauty in their life! Odds are that those ripped flowers don’t make it down the block — tossed into a City planter as soon as the hands realize the awkwardness of a stemless flower head.
The sight of enormous decapitated plants poking from the back of the garden is too heartbreaking. I got fed up years ago, throwing my arms up in defeat and announcing “A sunflower will never bloom in my garden again!”
And so I have remained since, living in denial that sunflowers exist. Allowing myself rare moments to enjoy them in other peoples’ gardens but never allowing myself to look at seeds or varieties. It’s all very sad and heartbreaking.
I let my guard down in a moment of weakness on our trip to Austin last month. We had soldiered through the rain and across a highway to visit Big Red Sun garden center. I refused to leave empty-handed having put in such great effort to get there! As soon as I saw this pack of ‘Chocolate Cherry’ Sunflowers from Renee’s Garden I knew I had to grow them. I had been withholding from sunflowers for so long that I had completely missed out on all the rich, burgundy varieties available. Now that the door is open I’ve also got my eye on ‘Cinnamon Sun’ and ‘Junior.’
You can bet I will not be starting any of these in the street/guerilla garden. No ma’am, I am saving a nice sunny and safe spot on the roof for these babies and I MIGHT attempt to grow one in my plot at the community garden where their safety is less secure but much greater than their chances in the Garden of Doom.
I took this photo of a field of Gaillardia growing on a hillside on the Leslie Spit back in July before The Worst Drought in Fifty Years took a hold and sent lots of plants into hiatus on a short term or permanent basis. On a return visit in late August I found only a few blanket flowers blooming and many of the plants looking half baked. Gaillardia are an excellent drought tolerant flower but even the heavy hitters have their limit.
We went back to this spot yesterday afternoon on what is reported to be the warmest Canadian Thanksgiving on record reaching over 30 degrees C here in Toronto. In fact we’ve had an amazing Fall overall with plenty of sunshine, warm temperatures, and enough rain to bring our gardens out of the late summer’s drought-induced coma. Evidence of this turnaround is everywhere. The Gaillardia, among other flowers at The Leslie Street Spit have made a turnaround with a second coming of colourful blooms and lots of fresh new growth.
I’ve still got basil and other tender plants in-ground and producing new growth in both my community garden plot and out on the roof. Amazingly, I haven’t even brought my citrus trees indoors to overwinter and they are both still producing tiny fruit.
While I am enjoying a delay in putting my summer gear away I have to admit that I do find the warm temperatures a little bit disturbing since it is a continuation of a trend we saw last year with winter staying mild and rather un-winter-like until well into January. From another vantage point I am fascinated by the way the plants are adapting (or not) to a warmer Fall — instead of going dormant as many of them would at this time of year, plenty of plants just keep keeping on. And some, like the tomatoes and curcubits have either prematurely succumbed to poor conditions early on or are experiencing a second wind after a short break. The sole surviving zucchini plant living in a pot on my rooftop deck has started making flowers again. I have never had a zucchini plant shut down for a while and then come back with a brand new set of leaves and another harvest! As bad as this warm weather may be for the long term, I am learning a lot from really getting first-hand experience of how an extended growing season works in warmer climates. While I have done my homework and know what to expect and I have even experienced second harvests from some early-producing plants in the past, this whole experience is quite different and has been really educational.
This shifting nature of… well… nature is one of those things that makes gardening so interesting and challenging — no matter how much you know you can never know everything. And just when you think you’ve working things out and have got the perfect system in place, nature throws in a curveball or two. Gardening from year-to-year is never, ever the same. As intimidating as that can be, knowing perfection is unattainable is also very freeing and the unpredictability is certainly never boring.
I bought this Hibiscus rosea plant back in May at the Parkdale Horticultural Society Annual Plant Sale. At the time the plant was a wee cutting but just today it opened its first bloom with two buds on the way. I generally dislike the over-bearing tackiness and waxy leaves of tropical hibiscus plants, reserving my interest for ‘Red Burgundy’ okra, a relation that produces delicious fruit and beautiful, yellow flowers with crimson centers. The delicacy of the Hibiscus rosea plant and its’ pretty variegated foliage (white and green with pink splashes) is what drew me in, and, well, the frantic nature of the plant sale is very conducive to out-of-character impulse buys.
The tag states that the plant has variegated foliage with pink flowers but I would describe the flower more closely as shades of red. It has a dark red spot in the center, gradating from light pink to pale red along the edges. Don’t be fooled by the photo, my plant is only 12″tall with 3″ wide flowers. Isn’t it cute? And with its red, white, and green coloration it makes a slightly-less-than-typical change from the usual holiday season plant fare.