Wednesday, July 19, 2017

a visit to Kingsbrae

In June, the Garden Club of PEI hopped a bus and visited Kingsbrae Garden in St.-Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, a mere 4.5 hour drive from home.  The long ride was worth it.  Over 50,000 perennials, shrubs and trees, goats, alpacas and ducks, and a wonderful restaurant.  It was a wet day, but the misty rain just added to the otherworldly feeling of serenity and magic.
So many varieties of Japanese maples I have never seen.  This one, Acer palmatum dissectum 'Waterfall' truly lives up to its name.
The red-leafed Japanese maple makes a lovely contrast with the pale varigated foliage.
Huge potted dracena dot the property.  I'm trying to imagine how much work it would be to bring them in for the winter.  
A big peony flower has been coaxed to bloom from a tiny plant.
Brugmansia, a tropical tree, produces huge drooping flowers.
Why is this tree in a cage?  

An interesting idea:  creating a "stream" with glass pebbles.

The resident goat reaches for a meal.

A lovely view with a bubbling water feature.

An old grindstone repurposed as a fountain.

A series of raised vegetable beds was covered with netting
 to keep the deer from munching the salad greens.

This obelisk mirrors the plants and the photographer.

A raised spiral is an interesting way to display a plant many don't like growing in their lawns:  wild creeping thyme.  

A fanciful sculpture of a hard-working gardener
a perfectly manicured knot garden

the perfect symmetry of culver's root (centre)

an enticing walkway

no - this isn't a tree.  It's a cast-iron frame crammed full of begonias.

another year, another visit to the Lieutenant Governor's garden

Canada 150 tulips at the PEI Lieutenant Governor's garden.

In June, Larry Hughes, the head gardener of the grounds of the PEI Lieutenant Governor, was kind enough to show me and my gardening class around the place again this year.  And what a magnificent place it is!

First of all, the grass:  thick, almost no dandelions or other weeds, and he uses no pesticides.  His secret?  Aerating every few years, applying the right amount of the right fertilizer (high first number for nitrogen) and cutting no shorter than 3.5 inches, which shades out the weeds and allows the grass roots to go deep.
Beautifully manicured boxwood hedges frame roses and other perennial plantings.
Larry crafted this greenhouse with a wooden frame and PVC pipe curved to form a dome that supports plastic sheeting. The plants are easy to access - just tip it up.

The greenhouse holds a surprising number of tomato, squash, pepper, and other frost-sensitive plants until the weather warms.

Hundreds of annuals are waiting for warmer weather to find their place in the many ornamental beds around the grounds.

A native North American weed, pale jewelweed (Impatiens pallida nutt.), has completely taken over the shady forest floor. This seems to be everywhere this year.  The stems are very easy to pull out, but with thousands crowding the area, it's a lost cause.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

a beautiful bug

I was weeding a shady bed behind the house when I came upon this lovely guy.  At 3 cm long, and black trimmed with purple, it's a real eye catching catch!  

It moves really fast, and in fact in German it is called Laufkafer, which means running beetle, certainly a perfect description.  It can be found in gardens and wooded areas, and is said to be common, although this is the first one I have seen.  It is native to Europe, and now has spread all over North America.  

Carabus nemoralis is a beneficial predator whose favourite meal is slugs.  Any bug that goes after slugs is a friend of mine!

We released him back where he came from right after his photo op.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


I consider myself to be a nature lover.  I'm not afraid of wildlife.  I wasn't scared last summer when a fox sat down within 3 feet of me.  I was fascinated by the snake who crossed my path while I was walking a trail.

But finding a tiny mouse with two babies in my compost bin made me scream like a baby.  Not that it did me any good.  My neighbourhood is full of houses.  My husband was inside doing the income tax return.  Even though I screemed as loud as I ever have, no one came galloping to rescue this fair maiden.
In the 25 years I have kept a compost bin, I have never had trouble with critters, except for a racoon incident I fixed by wrapping plastic netting around the bin opening.  But this was different.  I was shovelling out the bin and spreading the compost on the garden when this mommy mouse appeared in amongst the finished compost.  Two babies half her size were nursing.  She dragged herself and those heavy kids out of the bin and into hiding about as fast as she possibly could.  I was consumed by compassion for her predicament, and imagining her pain as she dragged them out.  What moms won't do for their babies!

In total, I found 10 mice in my two compost bins.  The cat was no help - the mice sat perfectly still, so he didn't even notice them.  I guess cats are more like dinosaurs than I realized.  They can't see stuff that isn't moving.

I'm thinking we are going to have a plague of rodents this year.

ticks are on our island

Image result for black legged tick engorged  source:

Last night, I attended a meeting of Nature PEI that left me itchy and scratchy.  The topic was black-legged or deer ticks, the kind that can transmit lyme disease to the animal (including people) it bites. Lyme disease is a debilitating disease which starts with flu-like symptoms and then progresses to facial paralysis and very sore joints that mimics arthritis.  It is very hard to diagnose, but if it is caught early, a long dose of antibiotics can stop the disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a type of bacteria that lives in the gut of ticks.  Ticks need a blood meal to move on to the next stage of their life cycle and before they can produce viable eggs.  When they bite an animal or a person, they insert their mouth parts deep into the skin, and end up with their posterior up in the air. First they inject an anesthetic, so that the host never feels the tick on their skin.  They are just after the protein in the blood, which they are able to separate from the rest of the blood and inject back into the victim.  As they inject the fluid back in, what also comes along for the ride is a type of bacteria called borrelia.  The bacteria is shaped like a corkscrew.  When it is injected into the bloodstream, it  looks for nerve or muscle tissue.  It corkscrews into that tissue and begins to multiply. 

Cases of lyme disease are on the rise.  It is common in the northern US, and is becoming more prevalent along the southern border with Canada.  Nova Scotia is particularly hard hit along the coast.  We on PEI think we are immune because we live on an island and we have no deer, but there have been many confirmed cases here.

"The risk of Lyme disease is rapidly increasing in Canada as the climate changes and tick populations expand," says Kami Harris, PhD candidate at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown.  "Due to the many waterways in our region, which are favourite haunts of tick-carrying birds, the Maritimes have an increasing density of ticks."  

Ticks hitch a ride on migrating birds.  They are also very fond of mice and meadow voles.  After a blood meal, they drop off and live in leaf litter.

We are most likely to catch lyme in May or October-November. 

Ticks can be as small as a fleck of pepper.  When they catch hold of a person, they will crawl up their leg looking for a place that is dark, warm and moist (think armpits and genitals).  Most often, a person is not aware they were bitten.  In only 8 percent of cases, a tell-tale bulls-eye shaped rash appears at the site of the bite. 

Black-legged ticks don’t seem to like cats – they bite them, but soon drop off.  But dogs are a very much at risk.  Dogs will quickly react to the bite by becoming lethargic, refusing to eat or drink, becoming lame, and losing weight.  There is a test called the “snap test” that is an indicator that a dog may have contracted lyme disease.  But it takes at least two weeks from the time of the bite before the antibodies show up in the test.  Antibiotics, when administered promptly, will cure the disease.
With people, unfortunately, the story is not as positive.  Doctors have very little knowledge of lyme disease, because they don’t know it is prevalent here.  In people, the disease can have no symptoms at all, or someone can suddenly come down with arthritis-like symptoms or facial paralysis.  If the course of antibiotics is not started promptly, there is no cure.  The blood test for lyme disease used on people looks for just one type of bacteria, and will miss the other types which also cause the disease.

There are a few doctors in Massachusetts and Maine who are experts in this field.  Many Canadians who have not been able to get help in Canada have resorted to getting treatment in the US.  At the meeting, an audience member spoke about their grand-daughter, who was a very fit athlete who did a lot of cross-country running.  Now she is on crutches, and is so weak she can hardly feed herself. 

Lime disease can be transmitted from one person to another through sexual contact.
When out in the woods, try to stay on bare pathways away from tall grass.  Don’t handle leaf litter without gloves, because that’s where ticks live.
When walking in the woods or in tall grass, be sure to wear long sleeved shirts and long pants.  Tuck your pant hem into your socks.  Wear white socks and light-coloured clothing, so that you will be able to see the tiny black ticks.  If you find one embedded in your skin DO NOT burn it off.  This may leave the mouthparts behind, which can cause a nasty infection. 
Instead, use tweezers to get as close to the skin as possible, gently squeeze and then pull straight up.  The skin will be pulled up too, because the tick hangs on tight, but eventually it will let go.  Try to keep hold of it and place directly into a plastic baggie or jar.
Take it to your nearest veterinarian, who will send it to the lab at Mount Allison University for testing.

The more we know about this critter, the better we can deal with it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

recycled amaryllis

Last year, I bought two amaryllis bulbs that bloomed beautifully months after Christmas.  I couldn't bear to throw them out, as I do other years.  A woman in one of my gardening classes said that she leaves them on her widowsill year-round, and they bloom every year.  So I decided to follow her advice.  I gave them almost no water during the summer, and obviously, they thrive on neglect.

The bulbs became even dryer and more papery their second year.

This one has formed a bulblet under the soil and put out its own leaf.  This will eventually become a full-sized bulb.

Notice that the red and white plant has put out a second stalk, so there will be flowers for weeks to come.

It's the second week of March, a strange time for these amaryllis to be in full bloom, but there you have it!

I will save the bulbs again, and see what happens next year.

This last burst is the second stalk, which was just a bud in the last shot.  And behind is the spent flower from the first stalk.
This bulb has given me a lovely surprise, with so little effort on my part!

A close up of the knobby seed heads

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

more pretty plants in punta cana

We didn't get to go to an official botanical garden while in the Dominican, but our resort was beautifully landscaped with all sorts of beautiful specimens, many identified with a plaque noting their latin and common names.

Wayne and Heidi with bananas


a slingle palm tree leans precariously out to sea

Euphorbia grows a lot taller than at home

King palm