Monday, April 26, 2010

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

I was amazed on Sunday that I was able to take in three (3!!) plant sales. The "big one" was the plant sale at Van Dusen Garden in Vancouver, BC. Since the weather was not looking good, my husband consoled me with two local plant sales on the way to church, one operated by the Burnaby Rhododendron and Garden Society (BRAGS), and the other by the South Burnaby Garden Club. But after lunch, the weather improved, and I convinced my mom and daughter to join me at the Van Dusen sale.

I bought a number of treasures at each sale, some of them already on my mental "wish list" of plants, and others just struck me at the time as something I just needed to have. Some of the more exciting catches for me were Acanthus spinosus (Spiny bear's breeches), a trillium, a stunning purple oxalis, Lobelia cardinalis (I've tried to start it from seeds in previous years without success), and a monster-sized Bergenia and Japanese Anemone.

On the day of the annual sale, admission to Van Dusen Gardens, a picturesque 55-acre botanical garden in the heart of Vancouver, is free. So after plant shopping, we enjoyed a short walk through the gardens before it closed at 4PM. I wish we had a few more hours to explore it all. Here are some photos I snapped with our small camera on the way.  I love the bright yellow euphorbia in this scene:

The bench looked very inviting, but we had no time to sit, we still had lots of garden to explore.

You need to get down low to appreciate the beauty of this Erythronium.
Fresh cones on a Picea abies (Weeping Norway Spruce).
The lighting is not good, but I liked the look of this Clematis meandering through the reddish Berberis.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 2010 Garden Mosaic

I have been following with delight the wonderful mosaics hosted by Mary at little red house, and thanks to Mary for recommending to me the Mosaic Maker at Big Huge Labs, I have now given it a try.  This is a sampling of April blossoms from my garden.  Enjoy!
Spring blossom mosaic
For more wonderful mosaics posted this week, see this post.

Note that with a free membership at Big Huge Labs, you don't need to have a Flickr account, you can upload photos directly from your computer, and also save them for future mosaics.

Monday, April 19, 2010

More April Flowers

In my blossom parade in the last couple of posts, I didn't get to any closeups of my Italian plum blossoms, so here goes:
Today when I stopped to photograph the first few blooms on my weigela ("Wine and Roses", I think - but I'm too lazy to dig up the plant tag from my drawer), this ant emerged from the inside, to get his photo taken also:

I am thankful for wonderful weather this weekend.  It meant that I was able to spend a number of hours in the garden on Sunday afternoon, while the kids played near me in the yard.  It was funny how it progressed from them asking if they could get wet (Me : "No, it's not warm enough for that"), to changing into their bathing suits, to hauling the kiddie pool out of the shed (yes, they're 11 & 9, but a kiddie pool is still good fun), filling it with very cold water, then jumping and finally sitting and laying down in it.  It felt wonderful to have the sunshine, and enjoy the warmth from it also.

I just had my lawncutter / landscaper come and organize my raspberry patch on Friday, so the kids and I were anxious to water it. (Now that I see what can be done with my flagstone path project, I will be asking him to do various small projects around the yard which are too heavy or difficult for me.  I'm quite excited at the prospect to have this occasional help around the yard, and see some good progress.)  The kids discovered that the dirt between the raspberries quickly turned to a slippery mud, so had fun sticking their feet in it, and making "mud shoes".  I wish I had gone inside for the camera, but was too busy gardening.

The raspberry patch was getting messy and full of aggressive weeds (some of which I planted as a filler before the raspberries filled in), so I decided to have them dig the whole thing up, and plant two straight rows, with posts and wires to maintain the structure.  The poor raspberries should have been moved a few weeks ago when it was cooler, when they weren't leafing and budding out, so they look pretty sad right now, and there is a bit more work to finish up, but here it is so far:
I plan to make an informal path through the center with wood chips, to keep it from getting muddy in future (I guess the kids will be disappointed).  Hopefully the raspberries will forgive me for the rough treatment, and still bear this summer.  If not, we can wait.  Fruit trees and bushes are an investment, but they sometimes require patience.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April Garden Delights

This is the time of year I visually feast on the blossoms of my 12 little fruit trees (soon to be 14 or more, if I have any say in it).  Such as these apple blossoms on our espalier apple tree:
I so love this little tree - it bears a lot of fruit for its size, and looks so beautiful to me.
The espalier asian pear is fully in bloom also:
The Lapin cherry is loaded with blossoms this year:
There are many other delights in the garden also, such as this narcissus which is planted below my Rainier cherry tree:
I have 3 different colours of periwinkle; this one is the standard "periwinkle" color, but with variegated leaves:
I have a pink and a yellow flowering epimedium.  These are delightful little plants, which must be enjoyed from close range:
My Cornus canadensis took a number of years to really establish itself, but this year it is looking really good:
I forgot the name of this flower, but it has delightful dark leaves, and such a cheery yellow flower (the green leaves are from my climbing hydrangea, which not only climbs the wall, but has climbed across the bed also):
This Galium odoratum (sweet woodruff) is not exciting, but is a delicate contrast to the rock behind:
Finally, my Gunnera manicata was trying to push its way to freedom from underneath the rotten Winter protection of last year's foliage.... I set it free, to the horror of a million pillbugs which scurried away once exposed to the light:
All the best to everyone in their gardens this month!  For more Garden Blogger Blooms Day posts, be sure to visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Planting Decisions - More Fruit Trees, and Front Yard

My 12 little fruit trees have been an absolute delight to me, so I am scheming this year to plant some more.

Look at these wonderful cherry blossoms - with all those flowers, I'm sure to get some cherries this year!
The photo above shows my Rainier (yellow) Cherry tree, with my Fuju Persimmon (underplanted by daffodils) behind it on the right, and my Lapin (dark) Cherry in the distance (near the center of the photo).

After we bought the Frost Peach last year, I seem to recall it had only had 1 blossom.  This year it is sprinkled with pretty pink blossoms.
The Italian Plum surprised me with quite a lot of very tasty fruit last year, and this year it is even more full of blossoms.  I hope there are enough pollinators to go around, at this time of year!
In addition to these, I have 3 espalier trees, each one bearing 3 varieties of fruit : 3-apple espalier, 3-asian pear espalier, and a 3-european pear espalier. Then there is a Montmorency sour cherry, and a Japanese Plum which we removed during the garden reno since it has been sickly for a few years now, cut off its branches and stuck it beyond the fence, but I see that it is trying to regrow, and has even a few blossoms.

I am so pleased with the fruit trees, that this week, as I wandered about the yard, I picked out two more spots which could be appropriate for more fruit trees. It is now just a matter of deciding which types. I'm inclined toward another apple or pear or plum or cherry. Any suggestions?  What would you plant?

I have placed some stakes where I'm thinking of putting the two trees, so I can walk about and see how that works, before digging the holes. I've drawn in the future trees in orange, in the photo below.
You're probably wondering about the trees drawn in purple, standing on 3 sides of the chess board... I am toying with the idea of trying my hand at arborsculpture or tree shaping, as skillfully demonstrated by Peter Cook and Becky Northey, using their "Pooktre" methods to produce whimsical tree people such as these:
It may take some 10 years to create people trees such as these, but that's why I need to get started sooner rather than later. I'm inclined toward apple trees and plum trees for these, and fruit bearing. I think that would look really cool. Happily, my husband also agreed to the concept, as long as I didn't place the trees too close to the chess board. I will be moving the upper one away by about a foot, to allow for a bench there eventually - there is a beautiful view of Burnaby Lake from there, so it is just a matter of time before we set up a bench, and with the tree standing behind it, I think that would look perfect.

The other planting decision I have, it what to add to my front yard. It's funny, I really don't spend much time at all planning or working the front gardens, which are the most visible. So last Spring, after our harsh Winter, I noticed that our two Choisya ternata "Sundance" bushes were pretty hard hit. I cut them back aggressively, and they sent out new growth, but they never really looked good. And previous years, they have grown too leggy, and I have not succeeded in pruning them to look compact and balanced. Finally this Spring, one of them looked pretty dead. So I used the opportunity today to hack them both down. I noticed that two of the branches I pruned last year & stuck into the ground have rooted and are now small bushes, but I think I will relocate and use them elsewhere.

I want to find something to plant there instead, which will provide a nice backdrop to the garden, but not completely block the beautiful granite work, which I also enjoy. Here are some photos of the spot.
The bare bush in the center is a Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon), the large green one on the right a Euonymus alatus (Burning Bush).

I was wondering about some large ferns... It is a NorthWest facing location, so gets evening sun, but is in shade most of the day. Any suggestions for me?

I suppose the spots don't really look bad, even as is, but I prefer a more fully planted (bordering on overgrown) look.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sam and the Terrible Twos?

I knew it would be interesting when we chose a baby rat as a pet one week ago, but I didn't realize how interesting, or challenging.  Sam has overnight gone from being a sleepy little baby, content to sleep on our hand for hours (or lick our hand, as in the photo below), to being lightning fast and exhibiting the stubbornness and independence of a two-year old.

It happened on the weekend.  I think it was Sunday that I opened her cage to let her crawl out onto my hand, and as I reached behind her to assist her, she turned on my finger.  She didn't bite, but I could feel it was teeth, not her little pink nose, which touched me.  Then she didn't want to stay in my hands, so I let her out in the empty livingroom, and placed lots of boxes and crumpled papers and balls and such around for her to explore.  I touched her every so often, just so she wouldn't forget me, and think she was running completely free.  But when I went to catch her to return her to her cage, she turned on my hand again.  Again no biting, but she was not going willingly.

When I brought her to her cage, she jumped in, and then promptly jumped back out again.  I placed her back in, but she was climbing all over the walls, so I tied a string with ends which hung down almost to the floor of the cage.  She attacked it with enthusiasm, pulling and climbing it.

Yesterday, she was again restless, despite a number of excursions out of the cage, and her usual toilet rolls and other objects in her cage to play with.  (Her favourite object is a little dome-shaped sleeping box which I created from an old file folder, which she has plugged up with paper towelling.  When she's not running about, she disappears into it, and probably sleeps there.)  So I threaded a number of Cheerios onto a string, and hung it hammock-like from the top of the cage, so that it is reachable from the ground.  I see today that she has been chewing off the Cheerios, only 1/3 of them remain.

Today she did some more exploring and running in the living room, and I made sure I caught her several times to let her know I was still there.  Finally, I gave her my pullover sweater, which she crawled in for probably an hour, next to me while I worked / surfed on the computer.  When she came near the opening of a sleeve or neck, I pulled back the sweater and said "Hi Sam", to which she would dart back inside.  When it came time to pull her out, it was a small challenge to find her in there, and catch her again.

Wow, I didn't know it would be so interesting.  She seems too young to be "trained" to come when called, or to know to return to her cage (it is still on a stand, so not even a possibility), but seems too old to be content with small paper rolls and other toys, and the confines of her hamster cage.  This is an interesting stage.  I hope it doesn't last long.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Weekend and More Photos of Sam

Easter eggs
Happy Easter everyone!  I had intended to draw something Easter-related to post on my blog, but didn't get to it.  So instead I am posting a beautiful Easter egg (the red one in the photo) which was created by my 11-year-old daughter at school, using the Ukrainian egg decorating techniques.

I think she did a very impressive job, and she tells me that the second egg, which unfortunately was not finished in time to bring it home for Easter, was even better.

This weekend I am thankful for the opportunity to relax, spend time with the family, and sleep in!  With math and/or soccer on Saturdays, and church on Sundays, I can't remember the last time I was able to sleep without an alarm, and wake up as late as I wanted to.  With activities cancelled this weekend, and the day off work Friday, I was able to sleep in two days in a row!  It was a very special treat for me.

My mom and nana
4 generations of girlsAlso a treat was seeing my Nana, visiting from the Okanagan area of BC, who is nearing her 92nd birthday.  She is staying with my parents, and all 3 of them visited for dinner this evening.  Since the rain held off until later in the evening, I was able to take her on a tour through my yard.  On left, she is with my mom, next to my new flowering cherry (Prunus "Snofozam" or "Snow Fountains"). 

On the right is a photo of 4 generations of the "girls" - pretty special.

I am trying to hold back on my photos of Sam, and leave the blogging of our new pet rat to my daughter, but I can't resist posting 2 photos from today, from within a paper bag.

Since it happens to be a Saturday, I am also posting for the first time on Camera Critters - check them out for other weekly critter shots.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Meet Sam, the Newest Member of our Household

On Tuesday, I took my daughter (and son) to the pet store to look for a replacement hamster, since her dear Hammy died the previous Wednesday, at almost 3 years old.  We played a bit with the hamsters, but couldn't decide on any, and whether we wanted one of the teddy bear ones (to me, they looked messy) or a dwarf hamster, which the store would need to order in for us.

Then before we knew it, we were each holding a baby rat, and actually quite taken by them.  I liked one which was part mostly brown, with a white diamond on his forehead, and some other white patches, and distinctly curly hair - and curly whiskers.  My daughter immediately liked a little beige one, mainly because it climbed into the crook of her arm and promptly fell asleep.

I remember a number of years ago, visiting a friend of a friend, who had 3 rats in her apartment.  They roamed freely, were litter trained, and came when she called them by name.  I was impressed by that, and by how they climbed on her shoulder or sat next to her on the sofa.  Then about a year ago, we saw a teenager with big messy hair at a Quiznos, and as she stood in the lineup ordering her sandwich, a rat peeked out from behind her hair from the hood of her hoodie.  That intrigued me.

Then a while back, I saw a TV documentary about rats, and how they communicate and learn and it was quite impressive how they are quite a bit more intelligent than mice or other small rodents.  At the pet store, the hamsters and other creatures ran around in their cages, oblivious to us.  But when I lifted the lid on a container holding some adult rats, they all looked up at me, and stared at me intently until I replaced the lid.

Then we were holding this adorable little baby, so soft and tiny, with such big feet.  Suddenly it all caming rushing together, that this could be my daughter's ideal pet.  Unlike a hamster, it can learn to be her friend, and learn to ride in her hoodie, and go places with us.  Unlike a puppy, it is very quiet. 

After bringing Sam home, I've been reading intently about care and diet and behaviour of pet rats, and I am more and more convinced that this is the ideal pet.  I've even read that since they are social animals, it is better to have 2 or more (of the same gender, since they can become pregnant as early as 5 weeks old, and bear up to 7 litters per year of 8 to 22 babies each!!).  So in my more crazy moments, I wonder if we should buy a second one while we're at it.  We'll see how it goes.

My daughter April, who is 11 years old, has started a blog about Sam.  I hope you will stop by and encourage her.
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