Loving Lavender

The other night DH and I were watching an episode of Downton Abbey. One of the  characters, (Daisy), was busy in the kitchen stripping the dried flowers from lavender stems. She mentioned that the flowers were going to be made into sachets which would then be used to scent clothing and linen cupboards. Lavender scent famously repels moths as well.

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It was a long, cold winter and I worried that my English lavender plants would be killed off. Happily all three survived, are in full bloom, fragrant and abuzz with wild bees.

Feeling confident about their ability to thrive in our less than optimal growing conditions I thought I’d try an experiment to see if I could propogate lavender from stem cuttings. I found abundant  information on the internet  with directions to do this.

The first step was to take a few woody stem cuttings using a very sharp knife:

After stripping the leaves from the bottom 5 cm and removing the flower from the top end I dipped the bottom end into root stimulator; natural unpasteurized honey.

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I had prepared a clay pot ahead of time by soaking it overnight in water. When I was ready to take the cuttings I filled the pot with potting soil.fullsizeoutput_68

The prepared cuttings were then inserted into the soil, evenly spaced around the edges of the pot.

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Finally, I enclosed the entire pot in a clear plastic bag and placed the pot in a bright window.

 

Only time will tell whether my experiment is successful.

June Garden

Flowers have bloomed and faded away over the course of June. Early in the month, our wisteria actually bloomed for the second time in sixteen years. flowers-1

Unfortunately, its flowers were all at the bottom of the plant!

Irises bloomed profusely. They will need to be divided next spring.

This Columbine had been growing wild along the road last year until I rescued it. The town insists on  mowing down all the wildflowers which grow beside the road and make walking such a pleasure.

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Bachelors buttons and bridal wreath spirea came into bloom at the same time as the irises.

 

I’m not sure whether chives are grown for their flowers, but I do like them.flowers-6

Encouraged by the success I had with the two rose bushes I planted in 2015, I splurged and added two more plants this spring:

The purple one is a floribunda and the pink one is a David Austen.  It is thrilling to see their first flowers.

Coinciding with the first day of summer,  hollyhocks behind the house began to bloom.

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The lavender flowers are ready to be harvested and dried.

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I love hydrangeas and have several plants. I try to encourage the flowers to turn blue by adding aluminum sulphate to the soil at the base.  It appears that this plant needs a little more.

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Finally, after all the digging, lifting, planting, watering, and weeding, we can take a break  and enjoy the garden.

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Garden Inspiration

Until last weekend, it has been perfect spring for plants growing and thriving in our garden. With the continuous cooler temperatures and moist grounds, the flowers have never looked better nor held onto their blooms as long as they have this year. The cooperative weather motivated me to be outside puttering in my flower beds and herb garden.

Regretfully, I do not have the proverbial green thumb but I have found inspiration by visiting some  famous gardens including Butchart Gardens in British Columbia,  the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario and the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture near Niagara Falls Ontario. However, the one garden I found most inspiring was a not-so-famous garden outside Waterford City, Ireland.

Abbey Road Gardens is only open to the public by appointment, but in my naivety, I wandered through the open gate leading off Abbey Road. I was greeted by a friendly ginger cat who encouraged me to further explore the delightfully arranged gardens. Shortly, the owner came from her house to explain that the garden wasn’t open to the public for another month. I apologized and explained to her that I couldn’t visit then. We talked for quite awhile about gardening and her plants. Several times she apologized that the garden needed straightening up and several times stooped to pluck out an errant weed. (The sign of a true gardener.) I asked about the soil, which looked so easy to work with. Apparently it was clay soil that had been enriched with decades, even centuries of sheep manure. The property had been the site of a monastery where sheep had been kept.  After seeing how interested I was in her gardens she graciously invited me to take as much time as I needed to browse around.

While, my pictures do not do Abbey Road Gardens justice, I hope you’ll have an idea of its charm:

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A Rite of Spring

Way back, when those lovely spring days seemed to last forever, one simple pleasure in our garden was to pull out a stalk or two of this beautiful vegetable, called rhubarb. We’d dip its end in a handful of sugar and munch away enjoying the lovely combination of tart, sweet and crunch.

I suppose it is this nostalgic fondness for rhubarb that made me delighted when a DC offered to dig up a few crowns from his patch so that I could grow my own. Now my rhubarb has been in place for  three years and is well established and vigorous. This past weekend I pulled a large bundle of stalks, discarded the noxious leaves and proceeded to prepare my version of Rhubarb-Strawberry Crumble.rhubarb-1

The Recipe:

6-8 rhubarb stalks

1 quart strawberries, sliced (I used frozen ones)

1/3 cup cornstarch

1 cup sour cream

1 cup granulated stevia (for baking)

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Trim  the root ends (the white-ish part) from the rhubarb stalks, and discard.  Chop the stalks into 1/2 inch pieces. Combine the rhubarb pieces with the strawberries in a greased 1 1/2 quart ovenproof casserole dish. Mix together the cornstarch, sweetener, cinnamon and sour cream and pour over the fruit mixture.

Crumble together 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten free all-purpose flour), 1/4 cup Demerara sugar, 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon with 1/4 cup softened butter ( or coconut oil), until the mixture is well blended. Distribute evenly over the fruit – sour cream mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

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This makes about 6 generous servings. Enjoy!

Tip: When using a stoneware or pyrex-type baker, place it on a metal baking sheet before putting in a pre-heated oven to avoid thermal shock.

What childhood memories do you have, if any, about enjoying the spring garden?

Spring Decorating

We have had record amounts of rainfall so far this spring, and cool temperatures. Together these have given us the most beautiful burst of spring flowers ever. Scilla and wild violets were first, followed a few weeks ago by daffodils. I took photos of some over a week ago:

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The daffodils are mostly done but not before a profusion of forget-me-nots appeared in the background! (I wonder where those came from since we didn’t plant them!) The tulips which began to flower a week later are still looking lovely, thanks to daily temperatures around 10 degrees celsius.:spring flowers-1-2

It was surprising to see the flowers on our two ancient lilac bushes come into bloom  last week , as it seems a bit earlier than usual. It might be my imagination, but there appears to be many more blooms than in other years, too. Their fragrance is so sweet, I love burying my nose into a bunch of them to take it all in.

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Not the best picture, but I wanted to include the chickadee.

There are so many lilacs this year, I don’t mind cutting a few:spring flowers-5

Our old apple trees are just beginning to blossom now, but I worry  with the  lack of bees whether they will be pollinated:

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The birds have found this tree, but will the bees?

I have placed a “spring wreath” on the front door:spring flowers-4

I guess I can do my part to help Mother Nature with the spring decorating.