I took this photo back in October (Is it really very nearly the end of the year already?) on our trip to the Montreal Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately, I can not recall which plant this is. I might have known what it was when I took the photo having more of the plant for context. And there is always the possibility that I might have known it based on a photo of the flowers rather than the seed pods. I have never been very good about keeping track of the plants I take photos of, relying on what I always think is a good memory only to realize later that I have no idea what the heck this thing is.
I’m excited about a plan to add a regular photo feature to the site in the New Year as a way for me to actually use some of the countless plant and garden photos I take during the growing season. I am especially excited about showing more of my film photography because that is actually where my heart is. It is a big part of my life (and my gardening life) but has never really felt like it had a home here. I’ve got to do a separate design for it since I want to be able to post those photos larger than 450 pixels wide hence the wait until after the New Year.
While out on the Leslie Street Spit this past holiday weekend, I noticed that most of the tansy flower heads were turning black. I don’t grow tansy in any of my gardens and have never observed this detail while out walking the railroad tracks in my area where tansy grows wild and abundantly. In the past I’d swear they aged towards a warmer, less haggard shade of brown as the season wrapped up. But maybe I’m wrong and what I really need to do is get myself started on a daily regimen of Ginkgo biloba supplements and craploads of omega-3 fatty acids, stat!
Tansy is known for being distinctly disease and pest resistant, a feature that makes it a great herbal pest spray when brewed into a tea. I have been unable to find any information about possible tansy diseases and am chalking this up to the drought and humidity we experienced in late august when the plants were in full bloom. But of course tansy is also known for being incredibly drought tolerant and I think their survival in the wasteland along the railroad tracks is good evidence of that. So maybe circular logic is bringing me back to my original conclusion which is that I have simply stumbled upon an observation that I either failed to make in the past or one that was previously made but forgotten.
In conclusion: I smart.
Regardless, I really liked the look of fields dotted with thin clusters of blackened tansies poking through wild grass and aging goldenrod.
I took this photo of a field of Gaillardia growing on a hillside on the Leslie Spit back in July before The Worst Drought in Fifty Years took a hold and sent lots of plants into hiatus on a short term or permanent basis. On a return visit in late August I found only a few blanket flowers blooming and many of the plants looking half baked. Gaillardia are an excellent drought tolerant flower but even the heavy hitters have their limit.
We went back to this spot yesterday afternoon on what is reported to be the warmest Canadian Thanksgiving on record reaching over 30 degrees C here in Toronto. In fact we’ve had an amazing Fall overall with plenty of sunshine, warm temperatures, and enough rain to bring our gardens out of the late summer’s drought-induced coma. Evidence of this turnaround is everywhere. The Gaillardia, among other flowers at The Leslie Street Spit have made a turnaround with a second coming of colourful blooms and lots of fresh new growth.
I’ve still got basil and other tender plants in-ground and producing new growth in both my community garden plot and out on the roof. Amazingly, I haven’t even brought my citrus trees indoors to overwinter and they are both still producing tiny fruit.
While I am enjoying a delay in putting my summer gear away I have to admit that I do find the warm temperatures a little bit disturbing since it is a continuation of a trend we saw last year with winter staying mild and rather un-winter-like until well into January. From another vantage point I am fascinated by the way the plants are adapting (or not) to a warmer Fall — instead of going dormant as many of them would at this time of year, plenty of plants just keep keeping on. And some, like the tomatoes and curcubits have either prematurely succumbed to poor conditions early on or are experiencing a second wind after a short break. The sole surviving zucchini plant living in a pot on my rooftop deck has started making flowers again. I have never had a zucchini plant shut down for a while and then come back with a brand new set of leaves and another harvest! As bad as this warm weather may be for the long term, I am learning a lot from really getting first-hand experience of how an extended growing season works in warmer climates. While I have done my homework and know what to expect and I have even experienced second harvests from some early-producing plants in the past, this whole experience is quite different and has been really educational.
This shifting nature of… well… nature is one of those things that makes gardening so interesting and challenging — no matter how much you know you can never know everything. And just when you think you’ve working things out and have got the perfect system in place, nature throws in a curveball or two. Gardening from year-to-year is never, ever the same. As intimidating as that can be, knowing perfection is unattainable is also very freeing and the unpredictability is certainly never boring.
Let’s all agree right now to stop pretending to hate cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) and (Cosmos sulphureus). Let’s agree to stop telling ourselves we are too good for it. Or that it’s too easy. Let’s agree to admit right here, right now that we think it’s a pretty flower. Let’s stop telling ourselves it doesn’t have delicate, ferny foliage and soft petals. Let’s put the breaks on our own inner elitist whispering in our ear that a plant that can come up from a sidewalk crack and still put on a show is too embarrassing to grow.
Can we all just agree right now that we are in fact delighted to find one of these tough, resilient flowers dancing on a thin and graceful stem in a light late summer breeze with a puffy bee set on top busily enjoying its pollen?
Whomever says tomatoes can not and should not be grown in pots has not witnessed some of the surprising discoveries I have made over the years. While out biking yesterday afternoon, I happened upon this fully mature, volunteer cherry tomato growing up from the dusty earth beneath a pile of discarded parking lot blocks. I was on the ball enough to stop and snap a few photos but realize in hindsight that I have got to go back and collect a few fruits for seed-saving. Because a tomato plant that can make it there, especially in the middle of what some are calling “the worst drought in Toronto in 50 years” can surely make it in a pot of soil. Never mind if that pot of soil is tended and watered now and again. A pot would be like moving into a full-service luxury spa complete with Swedish seaweed serum treatments, warm sage-infused towels, and full-body herbal body wraps after that kind of hard-living, right?
I love a lush, abundant garden as much as the next but I think the plants that best capture my respect and inspire the greatest sense of awe are those that are resilient and remarkably determined.
- Broad Ripple Yellow Currant – One of my favourite heirloom varieties because of their delicate, golden translucency and their dramatic risen-from-a-sidewalk-crack back-story. Who can resist a plant with a history of triumph over adversity? Not me, sappy sucker that I am.
- Secret Gardens – An alley tomato farm discovery that has become a perennial favourite and a great source of inspiration.