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Archive for April, 2012

A few years ago I planted a sharp-loped hepatica — a native woodland flower– to add to my front garden.  I made the mistake of leaving it in  the coir pot, which I thought would biodegrade.  Later, I found out  that the amount of moisture needed to decompose the pots might rot the roots of the plant. The containers need to be constantly wet, otherwise they will dry out and take water away from plant roots. Also, when they decompose, they deprive nitrogen from the soil.

Sharp-Lobed Hepatica

When I didn’t see the flower last year,  I thought that it had died. But lo and behold, I spotted one small flower this year coming up through the leaf litter.  What a beautiful surprise!

The flower opens  first while the furled, hairy leaves are still just peeking out of the ground.  When the flowers disappear, the leaves open out.  These small brownish leaves are blending in with the leaves in my flower bed, which makes me think they may have been there last year, but I didn’ t notice them.

Sharp-Lobed Hepatica Leaves

Sharp-Lobed Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. acuta) like well-drained, rich soil, with dappled sunlight in the spring and shade in summer.  Mine is growing in sandy loam at the edge of the shade of a Norway maple.  Hopefully, it will continue to thrive and multiply there. Luckily, I hadn’t given up and planted something else at that spot. Sometimes it takes a year or two for a perennial plant to adjust to its new surroundings and show its lovely blossoms. So don’t give up on your flowers after one year… you may get a welcome surprise.


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This past Monday,  April 16,  I was hanging out enjoying my front garden when I noticed a fluttering overhead, and a flitting about in my garden.  There were dozens of butterflies — more than I’ve ever seen together at once — flying in and past my garden.  “Could this be part of a migration?” I wondered.

Monarchs were not among these butterflies. The majority I saw were Red Admirals. They were on the go, and  they didn’t stop long enough for me to take a picture.

After a little research, I found that there are probably more than ten species of butterflies in Ontario that make an annual migration.  Why don’t we hear as much about these migrations as the Monarchs? Could it be that, unlike the Monarch, there is no one overwintering location known for them?

Apparently I wasn’t the only one to notice these butterflies. The ROM Blog has a post about these Red Admirals being spotted all over southern Ontario on Monday.  One of the butterfly watchers on the blog said it was the largest migration of Red Admirals he’s ever seen.  They migrate from the US every year.

So watch out for these Red Admirals: they may already be laying eggs on those nettles in your garden which you had meant to pull last fall but, lucky for the butterflies, didn’t.

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Are you are looking for something to bloom along wiith the bulbs in your garden?  Two delightful plants in my garden fit that bill nicely:  bloodroot, and virginia bluebells.

Both of these plants are native to our woodlands and bring fleeting colour in our gardens before the leaves come out on the trees. Thus, they are called “spring ephemerals”.

Bloodroot (Sanguineria canadensis) gets its name from the red liquid that oozes from its stems and rhizomes when broken.  This red liquid was used by the First Nations for dye. Be warned, however,  that the rhizomes (type of root) are very poisonous, even fatal, when eaten.

Like all woodland plants, bloodroot likes to have a layer of leaves as mulch. They come up through the leaves in spring.  Bloodroot does spread, but not extremely quickly in my garden. I planted one plant and by the third spring, there are nine flowers.

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia Virginica) also grow on the forest floor;  but they don’t necessarily need to be planted under a tree.  I discovered them several years ago at a native plant sale in High Park. I planted them nowhere near a tree and they thrived.  They are a lovely delicate blue and have soft, green foliage that disappears after blooming.

Last year, the first year after planting them at my new garden, they did not bloom, and they got totally devoured by an unknown insect.  But, much to my surprise and pleasure, they reappeared this year with flowers.  They too will spread in your garden, but are not aggressive.

These are jut two suggestions for flowers to complement  the spring bulbs in your garden.

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Passageway 1

Link to New Neighbourhood

Have you ever seen someone walk out of or into a place where you thought there was no way through?  These apparitions may be hints that there is secret neighbourhood passageway nearby.

A walk around a neighbourhood will often reveal a way to get to somewhere else that was hidden from your knowledge.

These secret passages are accessible only by foot or by bicycle.  They can take you up or down a set of stairs, underneath a railway, through a schoolyard or park, to different part of the neighbourhood.

These passages make a community more walkable as they create shortcuts where no motorized vehicles can go. Often there are no signs to indicate that there are links to other parts of the neighbourhood, so when you come upon them, it’s like a wonderful surprise discovery.

Passageway Beside Railway

Pedestrian Path Beside Railway

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