Friday, 2 August 2019

Gardening at Riel House in 2019

As in any historical situation, times change.

Since we started volunteer gardening at Riel House in 2013, our volunteer group has grown and adapted to to the challenges that we have undertaken. We have learned a lot:

  • about gardening and how we must work with nature and not just attempt to impose our desires on the landscape

  • about history, about the history of Riel House and more generally about the history of the Americas

  • about each other and what it takes to work as an effective group

We have decided to focus our activities for 2019 on native plants at Riel House, both in the formal areas that we have created - the Road Garden and the Parking Lot Garden and the Berm, but also in the Woodland Area where we wish to encourage native plants to take hold.

Other groups will take up our responsibilities regarding the non-native areas of Riel House and we trust that they will benefit as we did from the horticultural opportunities at Riel House. 

Thanks to all who have followed us this far on our gardening journey. We trust you will keep in touch as we keep gardening here. Thanks!

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

A Weeding Challenge

We have been reasonably successful in minimizing weeds on the property. 

Burdock has been kept at bay by deadheading the flowers/burrs before they go to seed. Since it is a biannual, the amount of burdock is considerably less than when we started with this procedure in 2016. 

Motherwort has been minimized over the last couple of years by handpulling it before it goes to seed. So far, so good.

BUT this one is a different story. Can anyone tell me the name?

A Weeding Challenge
In the areas where we were able to handpull it this spring, none of it has grown back. However, in spots that we overlooked or were distracted by higher priority tasks, it has flourished and has now gone to seed. We pulled quite a bit on Wednesday but, as you can see above, the burrs are very aggressive. We may have to abandon these areas until next spring. I will try this once more using rubber kitchen gloves. Perhaps the burrs will not stick as readily.

Perhaps rubber gloves will work better?

Plant Tags: Keeping Track of Plants at Riel House

Plants Tags in a Trading Cards Page Holder
There are many planting areas at Riel House and it has become quite onerous to keep track of what has been planted where and if there are specific maintenance tasks that need to be carried out. Putting the tags next to each plant is fine when the plant  is new, but after a couple of years of growth, mulching and potential removal, tags have a habit of disappearing. Placing the tags in an envelope encourages the envelope to be lost somewhere in the shed.

A solution: plant tags stored in the page holders used by collectors of trading cards (thankyou to woodyoak zone 5 Canada). As well, I will also attach a photograph of each page holder to the description of the bed in question.

Every spring, one reviews the details on each tag and then schedules any maintenance.

That's the plan!

(and of course, some of the larger plant tags require some judicial trimming and folding)

Blossom Time

If you recall my earlier post of June 13 titled Gardening by Walking Around, there is always much to see in a garden. If we consider the period of time when a plant is in blossom, or when it displays interesting foliage, it is time to walk around again.

Blossom Time in the Right Entrance Bed

We are going to create Blossom Time charts for each of our planted beds. In our first example seen above, the Weigela shrub is an early bloomer in the garden along with Columbine, Cranesbill and Bleeding Heart. Our goal is that over the summer, something will always be blossoming in the bed, the last being the Powwow Wild Berry Coneflower. Blossom times are represented by the purple boxes. 

Foliage, the green boxes, can also be interesting. The Nannyberry, Ostrich Fern and Virginia have colourful foliage until the end of October.

The Seasonal Interest page contains the blossom time charts for each bed.

Refreshing the Entrance Beds

Since their initial planting in 2013, the Left and Right Entrance Beds had started to lose their vibrancy.  Last winter took a toll on plants in many gardens including our Entrance Beds. The left bed lost its yarrow and most dianthus (pinks). The right Entrance Bed has suffered over the years from underplanting": few plants scattered across wide areas of mulch. It was time for a refresh.

The refreshed Left Entrance Bed
Here are all the refreshed plants in the Left Entrance Bed:

Bachelor's Button
'Bowl of Beauty' Peony
Clematis Jackmanii
Creeping Speedwell
Dropmore Blue Catmint
Dwarf Spike Speedwell
English Lavender
'Frosty Fire'  Pink
Perennial Sage
Powwow Wild Berry Coneflower
Purple Dome Aster
Three Flowered Avens

The refreshed Right Entrance Bed

Here are all the refreshed plants in the Right Entrance Bed:

Black Leaved Thrift
Bleeding Heart
'Bridal Falls' Hosta
Dropmore Blue Catmint
Dwarf Spike Speedwell
English Lavender
'Gold Standard' Hosta
Little Trudy Catmint
'Loraine Sunshine’ Heliopsis
McKana Giant Columbine
Mourning Widow Cranesbill
Ostrich Fern
Powwow Wild Berry Coneflower
Prickly Rose
Virginia Creeper
'Wishing Well' Hosta

As we have learned from our native plant beds, we intermixed species while recognizing that shorter plants should be closer to the viewer, larger ones further back. From a techniques perspective, we positioned the taller ones first so that we could gauge their impact on the overall viewing of the planting area. Our goal is to deliver an impact of lushness to the viewer. Nothing is more depressing than seeing a single plant stuck in the middle of a sea of mulch, unprotected from the wind and the sun.

Finally, the plants we selected blossom at different times during the year, May through September. There is always something of interest to see in the garden.