Friday, May 30, 2014

May Garden ... A Rambling Post

The last two to three weeks have brought spring full on here ... the weather has been beautiful with sunny days and a light breeze.  My garden finally came out of hibernation and what survived the harsh winter is doing not too badly.  I did lose a few things, which I put down to the extremely low temperatures we experienced.  The lilacs are out fully now, and the entire yard smells heavenly!  There are lilacs in my yard and all three yards that border ours, so we even get the beautiful scent indoors.

The above lilac is the oldest, and although the blossoms aren't quite as spectacular as last spring, I'm happy it survived being hit by two very thick and heavy pine branches last year.  There's a little redbud tree beside it (and below photo), which lost three of the four sections, and is now down to one spindly trunk.  This was transplanted from my country home by my mother, so I hope it comes back a little bit stronger as the summer progresses.  To the right of the redbud is our ginkgo tree planted a few years back.  It's finally fluffing out a bit, but it sure is a slow growing tree.

And did I show you the hole that has been gouged out of the base of my beautiful pine tree?  How on earth is it to survive?!  So many of the needles have turned brown and dropped off the tree.  It breaks my heart to see it so damaged and possibly in its last year with us.
One of my new favourite plants is Solomon's Seal (below).  I transplanted this from my mother's garden a couple of years ago, and it's really doing well in this spot against the fence.  I didn't know if it needed sun or shade, and apparently it prefers shade to light shade.  Well it gets almost full sun in this spot, so I'm surprised it does so well.  It's native to North America, which I didn't realize, and it has very interesting foliage and flowers.
It looked like this (below) a week ago ... I like how the leaves unfurl.  It's a very sturdy upright plant, and the leaves nod over at the tops.

And this week the flowers are in bloom ...
I'm slowly making large groupings of flowers that do well in my garden.  Bleeding hearts seem to grow everywhere here, so I put them in their own special shady garden and tore everything else out of this spot.  This is what they looked like last week ...
And now today ...

I didn't used to like the white hearts, but I find that white flowers seem to glow a bit in a shady garden, so I decided to put some in with the pink.  Both are doing so well.

I've been working on this area again this week (below).  It's the entrance to our backyard, and I've ripped out the bush that grew alongside the wall.  It just wasn't getting enough sun anymore, and it was growing quite scraggly each time I trimmed it back.  I've decided to get rid of quite a few bushes this year.  I spend a lot of time trimming bushes that I'm not overly fond of, and I think I'd rather have some bright flowers in their stead.
Looking underneath the tall (unknown) bush in the left of the above photo, you can see the lovely ferns growing in the shade there (below).  I'm so happy that the ferns have established so well here!  I'm going to transplant some of them to the spot where the bush was as it's quite shady most of the day there too.  The ferns are a bit hidden from view when we sit on the patio, and I'd like to see more around the patio.  I love the smell of ferns and they remind me so well of my old home where they grew between three and four feet high along the creek there.  It smelled so fresh and woodsy down there by the creek.
The fiddleheads a couple of weeks ago ...
 Here is the one and only one token tulip that bloomed in my backyard this spring (below).  Obviously, this is not my strong point!  I think in the fall I'll plant some daffodils to welcome spring, as I understand they will spread, whereas my tulips just seem to die out.
Alongside the other side of my yard, I have my border of iris.  I read in Stacy's blog that iris need room to breathe.  I didn't know that, and when I had a closer look at them today, I realized all my black-eyed Susans were invading their space.  I ripped out some of the black-eyed Susans, and have some vague plans in my head to get the iris into a better situation.  I usually split the corms in August, but I didn't do that last August, and now they are all a bit shorter than last year.  I'll take better care of them this year.  They're just about ready to bloom now.
My butterfly bush still shows no sign of life (it's the two-foot long sticks in above photo on left).  Very disappointing since it blocked my neighbour's annoyingly high deck.  They sit in their deck and have a full view of my yard, which is not great because we put our pool up on this side of the yard, and now there's no privacy at all!  I'll be visiting the gardening store this weekend to see if there's some fast growing bush that can block this area a bit better.
There's a black aster alongside the fence too, but it took a beating this winter.  I'm not sure I like it there anyway because it interferes with my iris (which I like better).  And the aster has an odd smell to it that I don't like.  I have to figure out something better with this garden.
This is the little garden in front of the shed.  Once the clematis gets going (top right), it looks great, but right now it seems a little lacking.  Ideally, I always thought the clematis needed more sun, but it seems to thrive quite well in this spot despite being in shade for a good portion of the day.
At this part of the fence my blackcurrant or gooseberry bush came back really well after suffering from shock from a transplant two years ago.  My mom's clematis is coming back well too (on the left in below photo).  I transplanted some daylilies last year, and they've all come back quite healthy looking too (on the right). 
My son's pond area hasn't been touched yet this year.  The pond needs to be drained, scrubbed, refilled and stocked with his goldfish again.  I want to remove a large juniper bush here (turning brown this spring), as it's just getting ugly and crowding other plants which I like better.
Here's a view of the ferns from the other side ... I love the effect with the sunlight on them, which is only in the morning.
The columbine are doing well again too ...
A little lenten rose (below) that I gave to my mother many years ago.  It comes back each spring, although it doesn't seem to be spreading at all.
My son gave me this lovely windchime for Christmas.  The bamboo chime I brought from my parents' home eventually dried out and cracked, thereby losing it's musical tone.  This metal chime is deep sounding and I really enjoy listening to it.
Well, that's the tour of my spring garden!  I hope you enjoyed it, and that it wasn't too long of a post for you all.  As I say, my goal this year is to get things simplified back here and have large groupings of flowers rather than little pockets here and there.  I transplanted quite a few things from my mom's garden when she passed away, and I was a bit overwhelmed with all the new plants and unsure where to fit everything in.  Now that they've established themselves better, I can see where they do well, and I'm going to shift things around to keep it a bit less chaotic than it's been in the past.  Lots of work ahead of me though, and I will have to enlist the help of my husband to remove some more bushes (here and also in the front yard, which will be a post for another day I think).  Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New Canoe!

After purchasing a new canoe way back in February, we finally got the call from the canoe store on Saturday morning to say that our canoe was all made and ready for pick up!  My husband and I have really been looking forward to making a day trip up to the Algonquin Highlands to pick up our canoe ever since we heard the ice was off the lakes.  The weekend weather couldn't have been better either ... hot! with a strong refreshing breeze.  I think our summer weather has finally arrived. 
Early Sunday morning, just the two of us got in the truck and headed north.  It's a three-hour drive to Algonquin Park, and the canoe store is just outside the park.  We made it there in good time and stopped for a little treat at the famous Robinson's General Store in Dorset.  We were amazed at how empty the highway was, and how empty the store was.  We've never been in this area before July normally, so we were well ahead of summer crowds.  If you've never been to Robinson's General Store, it's worth stopping at if you're in the area. 
Finally at the Swift canoe store, which is part of Algonquin Outfitters, our lovely new canoe was ready and waiting for us.  We quickly took it out for a paddle on Oxtongue River to make sure all was good, and then strapped it down to the top of the truck to head into Algonquin Park.

We decided to paddle around Cache Lake since it was rather windy and I didn't want to be on a big lake in this unfamiliar canoe.  Our old canoe was very long and very stable, and I never felt unsafe in it.  But it was rather hard to paddle in a strong wind because it was so big.  We soon found little things different about this new canoe.


 It doesn't sit in the water as deeply as our old canoe, so when the strong wind hit us, it had a tendency to skim sideways across the water.
It's very light (35 lbs) and when we sat it on the ground, the wind started blowing it across the ground!  Never had that trouble with our 65 lb canoe.  But the new canoe is much easier to lift, and much easier to handle in the water.  We really powered along so quickly, and felt like we were ten years younger ;)
It was nice to get back on the water again.  The lake water was freezing!!  But it felt good with the sun beating down on us and then to put your hand in the water was so refreshing.
We saw a few pairs of loons on the water too, and this pair followed along with us for a while.  We didn't see any babies yet, but we often see babies later in the summer, riding on the mother loon's back.
We were going to stop at a very tiny island (in the background in the photo below), but we had our shoes and socks on (usually we're bare foot with sandals), and there was no way to get onto the island without taking off our shoes, so we decided to just continue on.
We really couldn't have asked for a better day to return to the park and paddle around for a bit.  The deciduous trees were still not full in leaf yet, but I'm sure this week, all the leaves will be unfurled again. 
After about an hour's paddle, we headed back to the truck and strapped our little beauty back on top ready for home.
We stopped in at Canoe Lake's Portage Store to enjoy a delicious Backpacker's Burger and chocolate milk shake ... MMMMmmmm!  We sat with a view of the lake and docks below us.  So odd not to see the docks teaming with people heading into the backcountry for camping.  But there was a lovely breeze blowing through the windows while we ate.  The drive home was nice and quiet and we even made a stop at a gardening centre just outside the park.  Lots of fun things there, but very pricey, so we left empty handed.  We'll stop there again in the summertime, and then I'll remember to take a few photos of it.
That's all for today!  I haven't been around everyone's blogs much the last little while ... the weather has improved so much that I hate to waste a moment indoors!  Today started off really hot, but our afternoon has alternated between fierce sun and thunderstorms, so I decided to hop on the computer for a bit.
Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Do You Warble?

This past weekend was our Victoria Day long weekend.  It has become traditional to open the cottages up this weekend, and a lot of people refer to it as May Two-Four weekend, referring to the beer that will be consumed rather than the date of May 24.  We don't have a cottage, so no need to hit the highway with throngs of others to air out the cottage and see what damage Old Man Winter has done to it.  I imagine there were some unexpected surprises in cottage country after all that snow we received this past winter.

I visited my dear old (so old!) dad on Saturday, and visited a nice park on the lakeshore.  He can barely walk now, and he toddled over to a bench with cane in one hand and our arms linked to save him falling.  He's one stubborn man, and like he always used to quote to us "there's no fool like an old fool".  If he would agree to the use of a wheelchair, a more adventurous visit to the park awaits him.  "Don't make me into an invalid!" he barks, so we resort to the canes and the wobbly shuffle which will carry him 20 feet if he's lucky.  We look at the lake.  We watch cormorants fly by in V-formation.  We comment on the lack of people at the park (which I thought was good, and he thought was a shame).  We eat the bananas he grabbed from the café bar at his retirement home, "One for you and one for me".  It isn't the best of days between us, but it ended on a positive note.

Back at home, after the long tedious drive, I always feel so exhausted now.  Maybe it's age.  Maybe it's stress.  Maybe it's just the horrible drive trying to stay out of the way of those drivers who will forever drive at speed trying to be first in line.  I went to my bedroom to lie down, and went to open the window to let in some fresh air.  A sudden flash of orangey red caught my eye in our "stinky bush" just outside my bedroom window.  We don't know what the name of this bush is, but the flowers absolutely stink! and it has forever been the "stinky bush" to my family.  Even the leaves stink in the fall.  But back to the orangey-red flash!  It was a warbler!  My little rest was forgotten, and I grabbed my camera and headed out to the patio instead.  I took over 200 photos (thank goodness for digital, eh!), and most of them looked like this ...

Lots of green stinky bush leaves and branches with just a smidgeon of bird.  See that pretty warbler in there?  The warblers never sat still for more than a second it seemed as they flitted every which way catching tiny bugs, and they're so tiny I could barely get the camera to focus on them. 

Eventually, I got lucky, or else the little warblers took pity on me and sat still and in full view, and I was able to get some very decent shots.  I had my bird book handy, my binoculars and the camera ... oh, and tea! ... to help me identify these birds that I'm not all that familiar with.  My weekend was perfect, as I watched these very active little beauties flit around eating all the bugs that are so prevalent right now.  They're not biting bugs, but there are clouds of them to inhale when you walk into a dark corner or out your front door.  The warblers loved them!!  They had a feast all weekend long.  Where are the nice shots you ask?  Well, say no more, and enjoy ...

American Redstart

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler ... warbling!

Blackburnian Warbler ... he's hitting a high note here
Myrtle Warbler

Myrtle Warbler
Male Chestnut-Sided Warbler ... I like how he's nicely camouflaged here ... and also his grumpy face
Chestnut-Sided Warbler ... catching a bug!
Chestnut-Sided Warbler
Female Chestnut-Sided Warbler ... I love all the markings on her back
Female Chestnut-Sided Warbler ... love, love, love!!!

Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird taking a rest in the redbud tree
Nashville Warbler who would not come out in the open, and this was the best shot I got of him
 I hope you enjoyed the photos.  The last photo of the female Chestnut-Sided Warbler is my favourite.  This little sweetheart sat in a mock orange bush right beside me and allowed me to go crazy with the camera.  She is so tiny!!  Maybe two inches long in the body ... and you can't beat her for utter cuteness!
These miniature beauties graced us with their presence for the entire long weekend.  Now they seem to have all moved on again in their migration to more northern woods.  I also saw a Least Flycatcher too, but his photos didn't turn out.  A great birding adventure for me, and I didn't even have to leave the comfort of my home!
Thanks for stopping by!
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