Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Duckweed is a great Mulch!

Duckweed is a floating aquatic plant that just showed up one day in this pond. The plant probably hitched a ride on some water fowl which frequented the pond in early spring. Since then, Duckweed - a species of Lemna, has been gift: a floating food source for our Koi. We're thankful and allow it to do it's other thing: shade the pond - to help control algae. And it is a great means of camouflage for our frog, Kermi - who patiently waits for his next meal.

It has many aquatic benefits, but when the summer heat of August peaked 35ºC for several days and the humidity stuck around, the duckweed numbers exploded.

Too much and the pond would be overly shaded and the water lilies would suffer from lack of light. Even the Koi couldn't keep their numbers down! Gathering enough weekly, so that 1/3 of the pond was open for sunlight, I would usually skim it off the pond into a bucket and off to the compost heap.

However, I lazily tossed several screens full around some perennials and let them sit there a few weeks ago.

Going away for a few days, we realized how beneficial the dried out Duckweed became. It acted as a mulch. Retaining moisture levels and kept that section of the perennial border hydrated.


Now, Heidi gladly places it under Hostas, Ligularia, Peonies, Clematis....well you get the idea.

An inch or so of Duckweed knits together like a blanket of sorts, when dry. It's been ideal.

Kermi - our frog enjoys the pond as much as we do! He comes for a dinner call every time. 

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Biodiversity Booklets From Toronto's Public Library - Trees, Shrubs and Vines of Toronto

I'm beginning to realize so many folks don't know about the City Of Toronto's great resource booklets that have been published since 2009.

I've been collecting them ever since they were first released. They are free and the recent publications are available at any Toronto Public Library.

Great collections of photographs, drawings and specific ecological info relating to Toronto's biodiversity.

More info:  Biodiversity Booklets from Toronto's Public Library

Just recently, they released "Trees, Shrubs and Vines of Toronto".

What a great little booklet. I won't give away any spoilers, so - go out and get your own!

Soon to be available:

  • Mushrooms of Toronto
  • Bees of Toronto
Can't wait! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Plant Profile: Rudbeckia triloba

Move over Rudbeckia fulgida! If you want abundant flowers, with a taller habit, well you've got to get some Rudbeckia triloba.

There is a love/hate relationship with this plant, but I am not sure why. It's done nothing but perform for me.

Rudbeckia triloba is a native plant to North America. Seen in a lot of fields or even roadsides in Central/Eastern United States. For me it's a welcomed performer in the perennial border - specifically in the tough areas where you need height and long blooming periods.

In this photo below, R. triloba is grown in the back. Nearly a foot taller than its relative: R. fulgida.

Rudbeckia triloba has smaller flowers than other Rudbeckias.  I have a real fondness for their delicate petals. They are wonderful to dry - great for craft making.

Be aware: it is an herbaceous biennial, acting somewhat like a perennial. I've had limited success in keeping the same plant growing for about a year or two, then having to be reliant on seedlings for the following year. I've seen it reach about 5 feet in height, but here: it's around 3 1/2 feet tall.

Alos known as "Brown Eyed Susan", its flowers can nearly bloom for 3 months!

In my experience, it has better drought tolerance than R. fulgida, R. hirta and a little less tolerant than R. laciniata. Very few pests are attracted to R. triloba. Just some spider mites when it gets really hot in the summer and some leaf minor.

Here are the differences:

Distinct tri-leaves - 3 lobed shaped leaves which give it its name. They develop by May and you'll see the growth rate is much faster than the other Rudbeckias.

Rudbeckia triloba is a fabulous pollinator plant. Providing pollen and seeds for nature. Not to mention winter interest with their brown centres.

If you are growing R. triloba in a lot of shade, it stretches thus requiring some sort of support. An odd twig or peony ring would suffice.

Here is a sample of a small R. triloba seedling: easy to transplant in early spring to relocate. Similar looking to the fulgida baby plants, but less pubescent (less hairy).

A good helping of leaf mould or compost around the root level in spring-time, and it'll perform beautifully.

If you have concerns of it spreading uncontrollably, then remove the spent flowers (if left will naturalize the garden).

Note, when handling:  wear long sleeve shirts when the plant is gaining height. I find I get an itchy arm (similar to Juniper itch) if I weed around the base. Thankfully, it grows quickly and once it reaches 2 feet in height, the growth will choke out any room for germinating weeds!


Monday, August 08, 2016

Save Your Money - Don't Buy Plant Supports

I can't help but be frugal. I hate waste and I dislike spending money needlessly. I rather save funds to buy more plants.

Here are some ways to promote waste diversion and help to support/stake plants:

1. Chop sticks. I love Asian Food and when we order take out, we ask for chop-sticks. I may not use them to eat dinner, but my plants benefit from them!

Now, we do use them for eating as well. We just give them a good wash before using them as stakes.

Because I am so busy in the spring with outdoor gardening, several of my houseplants stretch for light in the summer.  As the shade tree casts dimmer light in my living room, I sometimes forget to turn the plant and it winds up growing off to one side. Chop sticks are fabulous for that extra prop.

2. Stems and branches from pruning shrubs and trees:

A pony tail support of sorts, this grass took a beating one night from a nasty thunderstorm.  The grass was smothering the begonias beneath and they needed rescuing. In a few weeks the undergrowth will hide the binding. I used birch stems from a recent dead birch take down (you probably have some from your old winter planter creations, no?), they are great supports. Better than bamboo sticks. IMO anyway.

Tucked in behind, they do the trick!  You can use dogwood, pussy willow stems and any that are sturdy enough to bear the brunt of some wind. Tie them into a teepee formation. It will work great with sisal or raffia bindings.

3. Coat Hangers:

Now that my amaryllis has flowered, I patiently wait until leaves start to yellow and whither, to start the whole process again.

With a simple cut and twist, this ?-shaped plant support is soooo handy. From holding up cactus, to divisions, to orchids - it's been used a LOT. So easy to make.

4. Dead evergreens: ie Taxus (Yew)

Unfortunately, a large Taxus Yew lived here. To dig out yews, well - the retaining wall around it may have been damaged since the roots are really deep. So instead of cutting it from the base, we placed some pots around it and have grown Morning Glory's that are nicely covering and give visual interest.

I've seen dead trees miraculously transformed by Ivy, Clematis and Creepers. Bringing new life to what was dead is pretty cool.

5. Plastic Utensils: I added this one to just prove a point (you can use ANYTHING!)

Having removed baby plantlets from below, and repotted, this Haworthia needed a little propping up for a month or  so. A plastic fork works great!

What do you use?
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