Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fun with Plants

(post by  Jason) After what seems like months of interminable cold we finally crossed the threshold a few weeks ago and it is beginning to look and feel a lot like spring. The soil is warming up and drying out and I have been taking advantage of the conditions to overseed all the pastures and harrow in manure at the same time. The cool season grasses are beginning to grow while the warm season grasses are still thinking about breaking dormancy. The horses are enjoying the warm weather too as Melissa's pictures attest.

Unfortunately for most of our blog readers this post really doesn't have much to do with horses. Instead, it has much to do with one of my "secret" hobbies which is horticulture. I've had a secret fondness for horticulture ever since I worked on a landscaping crew for a local nursery back in high school and college. As time permits I have been taking advantage of the weather to add some beds and begin to add shrubs and trees to the yard around our house. Frankly this is taking quite a bit longer than I anticipated mostly because there are so many varieties of shrubs and trees from which to choose in this climate. We are toward the southern edge of the zone at which many northern plants will thrive and we're also in a place where some truly southern and subtropical things will do well. I seem to find myself wanting one or more of each which makes choosing very difficult. I am particularly enamored of all the species that bloom from late fall through the winter into early spring. I also get fired up about some of the subtropicals that are fairly easy to grow here, particularly hardy palms and hardy bananas. 

The neatest thing about living here are all the spring blooming wild trees in the woods and the crowning glory of all of them is the eastern redbud in my opinion. Their purple blooms can be found everywhere in the woods in mid spring.....usually starting a few days either side of the first of April in this climate. My mother recently reminded me that when I lived in Ontario I wanted an eastern redbud so badly I could taste it. They grow in the very southernmost parts of the province and if you live in any of the cities at low elevation near Lake Ontario (USDA zone 5/Cdn Zone 6) and are judicious about where you plant it there is some chance it might survive. Alas they weren't and aren't hardy where I lived. One of our neighbours had one and it lived with protection (and gave me hope) through a number of exceptionally mild winters. But then we got a winter more in it's season and the first time the temperature got down to -30 the tree was toast. Given this background maybe I can be forgiven my horticultural whimsies when you consider where I came from. If it wasn't hardy in USDA zone 4 there wasn't much point in me trying to grow it. Not many subtropicals and winter bloomers in that climate ! 

Of all the plants I have to choose from the ones that I miss most from Canada are the majestic evergreens, particularly blue and Norway spruce as well as eastern white pine, hemlock and red pine. And the smell of lilacs will forever remind me of late May and early June in Ontario. Lilacs thought our central Ontario soil and climate were pure heaven and they spread along the roads like wildfire.  We are too far south to grow any of these plants easily although some people try with blue and Norway spruce. I am mostly going to refrain but of course you know I had to have a hybridized lilac planted somewhere in my yard. 

Once I get started on this topic I could talk on and on for days until everyone was bored. At this point Melissa says I have done enough. I'd sure be interested in hearing about what you have planted in YOUR yards. 


Johnny and Lighty

Dolly, Traveller and Cinnamon

Calimba and Maisie

Renny and Sam

Flyer, Lotus and Romeo waiting for breakfast

Gibson waiting for breakfast

Leo, Trigger and Baby




Anonymous said...

No redbuds here . . . they are lovely :(

lytha said...

i love this topic! i come from "the evergreen state" and really miss the trees that stay green. germany is covered in beech trees and they are utterly boring. my favorite discovery was the larch, i had no idea "evergreens" could change color. i have one baby larch and this year it's taller than me.

it seems that everyone feels they must have a forsythia in their yard, and right now the neighborhood is full of yellow. i think they look like scotch broom, a horrible weed. (and just this week people started hanging plastic easter eggs in their yards, a cultural eccentricty that i've finally adopted.)

two of my favorites in our yard - amelanchier (service berry) and flowering currant. both of these are getting ready to bloom and there are no leaves yet.

now that we've removed every single blackberry, the remaining scourge of our land is hollunder - elderberry? horrible things, they won't just grow up, they spread out so you can't walk, and trimming them causes their revenge, much much more growth.

there is a lot of hazelnut here, also growing like weeds, and illegal to remove (for bees). we have an incredible specimen, it's purple/black. but i'm not adverse to ripping them out, the way they spread.

i can't get enough of lilacs and i love rhododendrons just cuz they stay green in our winters. i hate tulip trees but love dogwood and star magnolia.

having my own yard (my own trees!?) is such a wonderful thing, still new for me. i'm still learning how to trim boxwood round.

we're hiring a horticulturist to come look at our "nursery" and help us figure out how to thin the birch and ash trees. the equines will be thrilled with the results, they get to eat what we remove.

show us some images of your gardens!

Jenny said...

Oh i love me some beautiful gardens.
Hydrangea in blue and pink, Azalea in hot pink, Lilac in dark purple, Lupins, Bee balm, Blue spruce, mountain ash tree, red maple are some of what in yard. And my veggie garden, don't get me started! LOL My husband has to help me expand it again this year.

foffmom said...

We are zone 6 in Lexington. Redbud paradise. They actually are pretty invasive, not that I care. I am not above digging and moving volunteers to where I want them. We have planted 4 burr oaks (landmark tree of Bluegrass, live for 500 years), yellow woods 2, chaste vitex 2, Japanese Maple 1, winter berry 4, and beauty bush 2. OK, now Jason, tell ME what grass mix you overseed with? Do you include clover in your mix?

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

We're zone 8(1/2) down here on the island, bordering on 9 depending on where you plant. Except this winter we got down to 15 one evening, and stayed below freezing for several days in a row - twice. SO much for zones...

Our palette of plants is somewhat limited, because of soil (sandy in the alkaline range) and the fact that everything gets doused with salt. We make do though.

Jason said...

Long term low temperature records including the coldest weather we had this year suggest complete safety by planting for zone 7A down here by the Alabama border. In sheltered spots with good cold air drainage that could almost certainly safely be pushed to 7B. Zone 8A flirts with the Alabama border twenty miles south of us. I wouldn't be afraid of the hardier 8A plants in sheltered spots with possibly some winter protection on the coldest nights.

Laura said...

Living that far south must be a gardener's delight! ;-) I agree with Lytha - we need some pics! ;-)

Lots of lilacs on the farm growing up. My house in the city didn't have one, so shortly after we were married, hubby brought home a spindly little lilac stick from Cdn Tire. I planted it, it grew like a weed and I brought two runners from it to our new place in the country. Slowing working on spreading them out!

I grew up in zone 6a and now live in 5a/4b (according to Ag. Canada) and I've noticed the change in plants and growing season.

Going to try and plant some raspberries and blueberries this year... I also like roses - need to find some nice hardy ones and plant more. We have 8 red maples in the "yard" and a few blue spruce. The rest of the trees are whatever grows in the forested small back acreage.

sorry for the long comment!