Sunday, July 30, 2006

Ripe seedpods already?- Paeonia steveniana

Somewhat earlier than expected, the carpels of a Paeonia steveniana plant opened today. The plant is specifically of the "high altitude form" which in flower and in foliage seemed identical with the rest of my plants, to me. But the seed seems to have ripened faster than on the rest of them, which may be a factor of the shorter growing season higher up.

The shiny black beads are viable seed, whereas the red ones are seeds which aborted development before becoming mature. They are actually more red than the photos show; very bright and showy, moreso on a gloomy day than in bright sunlight (due to competing glint off the shiny leafs).

I believe today was the first time in about 2 months when the Environment Canada data for Halifax didn't show any overnight hours with relative humidity at less than 100%!! Fortunately that fog doesn't make it up my "mountain".

Thursday, July 27, 2006

That Orchid again

A face-to-face view of the orchid flower written up yesterday. This was as close as the macro of my camera allowed me to get.


Spent today removing a few cc's of asphalt from my bike tires after riding into a repaving job (no way around without backtracking, which would have been too far to go (maybe)). I can't tell you how much fun it was riding uphill from St Croix for 6km (about 200m of ascent) with sticky tires trying to re-merge with the road!

During the ride it seemed to me that the stretches of road being resurfaced were not really the worst sections - and believe me, on a race bike you really notice where the pavement is rough, really rough, or not so rough. I am forever perplexed as to how paving priorities are set (at least, after the ballots are counted).

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Wild Orchid

I'm not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to seeing the unexpected popping up in the garden. I had seen an upright plant with greenish-yellow flowers in a raceme in one of the species peony beds, and dismissed it (without a close look) as just another seedling of Digitalis lutea, the Small Yellow foxglove (a nice enough plant, but I've got lots of it). Then, this weekend a nursery customer saw it and commented on the wild native orchid amongst the peonies. Good grief, it was indeed!

Further discussion about how the peony beds were mulched with hardwood bark, and how numbers of the native orchids appreciate that kind of a growing medium. Always nice when the hitch-hiking seeds in a load of organic material are desireable rather than weeds! This is also a benefit of not weeding until the weeds show their flowers (well, that's my excuse; it's actually more like: not weeding until banks stop making obscene profits).

Addendum: I went looking for an identity of it, and have settled on it probably being Epipactis helleborine (common name Helleborine). It is wild, but not native, in North America, having come from Eurasia, possibly brought along by early settlers for its herbal properties (possibly involved in a putative cure for gout). It is perhaps a relatively recent immigrant to Nova Scotia, having been first reported only in 1985, and is slowly spreading from the few sites where it has been observed to date.

Monday, July 24, 2006

And Yet Again More Peony Seedpods- Carpels

For an introductory discussion of these things, see my weblog entry of July 21. This is the last set until the "fall show".

Today, peonies of the Caucasus.

Carpels of Paeonia caucasica.

Carpels of Paeonia mlokosewitschii (the Golden Peony).

Carpels of Paeonia tomentosa.

Distinctive carpels of Paeonia steveniana. Much like those of obovata (of 2 days ago) but fatter and green rather than blue-green.

An observation: P steveniana is also called P wittmaniana subsp macrophylla and less commonly P wittmaniana subsp nudicarpa (appropriate to the obviously nude carpels!); and P tomentosa is also called P wittmaniana subsp tomentosa or just P wittmaniana. It's not obvious from the carpels that the two deserve to be part of the same species, but of course there is more to botanical classification than that (please don't ask me what though).

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Still More Peony Seedpods- Carpels

For an introductory discussion of these things, see my weblog entry of July 21.

Carpels of Peonia officinalis subsp villosa.

Open carpels of Paeonia mollis. I was rather suprised to see that the seeds of this species are apparently ripe, since the carpels have opened. However the seed doesn't quite have the look of fully developed seed so it is possible that they are all aborted seed, causing the carpels to open earlier than would usually be the case.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

More Peony Seedpods- Carpels

For an introductory discussion of these things, see my weblog entry of July 21.

Today's photos are of the Asian species I have.

Carpels of Paeonia anomala subsp intermedia

Carpels of Paeonia veitchii.

Carpels of Paeonia obovata. Very distinctive.

Carpels of Paeonia lactiflora (plants from wild-collected seed) These are smaller because they are less weeks from flowering.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Peony seedpods- carpels

The seedpods of Peonies are called carpels. They are generally large and obvious, and can add some summer interest to the foliage groups of peony clumps. Some become quite outstanding in the fall when the seed ripens and the carpels open. Of course, not all the flowers will develop a seed pod, as there is sometimes a failure to pollinate for reasons of weather etc. And not all flowers of a species will have the same number of carpels, so where you see two they may actually have from 1 to 4 or sometimes 5.

The next few postings will show photos of carpels of most of my species. I've separated them by the general characteristics of the plants. Some of them are very similar, some are quite distinctive. Photos were all taken on the same day.

Today's photos are of the Mascula-type grouping.

Carpels of Paeonia mascula.

Carpels of Paeonia tomentosa.

Carpels of Paeonia ruprechtiana.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

An Ornamental Clover - Trifolium rubens

Large showy flower heads in mid summer make this a valuable perennial in colder climates, as it is hardy to USDA zone 3. Common names for this plant are Red Feathers or Red Feather Ornamental Clover, an apt name. Hight 1-2 feet.

It's native to central Europe from northern Spain through to Romania and central Russia; it tends to grow in dry open woods and scrub, but in the garden is best in full sun.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Last Peony of the Year

At last today a bud has opened on my shyest seedling. Not quite fully open yet but enough to see that it is a white double.

There are some additional buds yet to open on several other plants, but essentially the Peony season is over here -- until the seed pods start opening. 14 May to 11 July plus a few days: a nice long peony season.

This weblog will continue to meander along for the rest of the summer but with a lesser update frequency than during the height of the peony season. But discerning readers will already have figured that out over the last few days!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

That Elusive Holy Grail- Blue Poppies

The Himalayan Poppy, a common name encompassing Mecanopsis betonicifolia and Mecanopsis grandis and their hybrids and maybe a few other species... Depending on where you live on this great world, they may be easy for you to grow. In Nova Scotia they are one of those frustrating things that grows well in the odd place but not at all just across the property line.

For years I would diligently acquire seed of the above 2 species and try to start some. Most years the seed germinated and then expired through a bout of cold or hot weather, or sun or cloud, at just the wrong time. If all the stars were in proper alignment and everything was good with them my mind would wander and they would dry out the day before I brought the water to them... The few that made it to a spot in the ground in my great outdoors would be eaten by night critters.

Then, 2 years ago I was given a few small plants and some useful advise which has resulted in flowers last year and this! The trick was, a moist partly shaded location, but not wet; and I had just managed to create one by dumping dead pots of sand/compost mix in a mounded heap over a boggy part of the yard. And then the real advice: weak soluble fertilizer applied every week during the first summer, to encourage the poppies to grow offsets from the single crown of the initial plants. The idea (working so far) is that the oldest crowns will flower and probably die in any given summer and then the secondary crowns will survive into the following year-- and so on.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Rhododendron x fortunei "Cadis"

This is my latest Rhodo to begin to flower each year, and usually is not near as good a show as this year. It's a marginal plant in my zone and often has a lot of winter-killed buds, but I find it worth growing because the species R fortunei is a tree rather than a shrub, and because it is one of the few Rhodos with fragrant flowers which is at all hardy enough for my region. And what a great fragrance, too.

Photo from 26 June, when this plant was in peak bloom. It's still loaded with blossoms today.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Temperature affecting colour

The first photo is of a flower of Paeonia lactiflora which opened on a hot sunny day (well, we did have 4 sunny days in June!!). Second photo is a second flower of the same plant, but one which opened on a cooler cloudy day. (It's more pink, in case your monitor colour is off.)

For those wondering which cultivar this is, it's name is PSMT0629. That is, it is one of my unregistered seedlings. I think I'll keep it.