Busy, Busy!

My apologies for the long delay since my last post back on May 1. This time of year is like Christmas for gardeners – busy, busy! I was out of town up north for the last weekend of April and was astonished at how green things had gotten in Ottawa over just the two days I was away. Suddenly, all the branches had taken on the colour that signals the start of leaves budding out.

My little oak tree (R) is just starting to show colour from leaves budding out and the blossoms on the serviceberry (L) are already starting to open. Photo by R. Last.

Wildlife is busy, too. A couple of robins are building a nest over the light at the front door. From my observation, robins are casual about parenthood, so they may not settle on this spot for raising their brood. The chickadees who have moved into a birdhouse behind my pond are likely to be more constant in raising their chicks. Did you know, it can take 6,000 to 10,000 soft-sided insects like aphids and caterpillars to raise one baby bird? I hope these bird parents find enough bugs in our ‘hood.

Robin’s nest above the front door light. Clever birds have a built-in incubator! Photo by R. Last.

So, while Mother Nature is accelerating the rush into summer, we gardeners are madly hardening off seedlings, digging up surplus plants to donate to plant sales and, of course, finishing our garden clean up. As a Master Gardener, I have to set aside time to help out at our seasonal advice clinics, which are also now up and running. This year, we’ve invested in a new look for our advice tables. Here’s what to watch for…

Master Gardeners advice table at Parkdale Market. Photo by Barbara Long.

Friends of the Farm Annual Plant Sale

Next Sunday, May 14, is the annual sale hosted by Friends of the Central Experimental Farm. If you’re in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, this is a great opportunity to buy plants. Many of the vendors are local horticultural societies so you will find well-established plants, hardy to our area, and often at very reasonable prices. As a bonus, your purchase helps to support local garden clubs. Master Gardeners of Ottawa-Carleton will also be there, both selling plants and offering to answer your gardening questions.

Hardening Off

Every spring, all my houseplants and seedlings come outside to be hardened off. Hardening off is the process of acclimatizing plants that have been grown indoors so they can thrive outside. Just like us, plants can get sunburned. Where we turn pink (or red, like me), plants that have been sunburned develop whitish patches on their foliage. While rarely fatal, these white patches reduce the ability of leaves to photosynthesize. Exposure to bright sunlight and the cooler temperatures we still get at night can set back the growth of seedlings and kill tender ornamentals we have nurtured as houseplants.

Inside the gazebo “greenhouse”. Photo by R. Last.

So, every spring, my husband and I do the “great plant migration”. Every plant and seedling from inside the house gets moved outside and into our gazebo. Then I wrap the gazebo in tarps to protect them all. They will live in this cozy environment for the next week to ten days until they are better acclimated to the outdoors. Then it will be time to distribute them around the garden for their outdoor summer vacations.

And now the garden is calling… Here are a few more shots of my garden in spring.

A little PJM rhododendron was weighted down by snow over the winter. As a result, it’s buds were protected from harsh winds and squirrel predation so it’s putting on a spectacular show this spring! And those plastic jugs on the left? Those hold my efforts at winter sowing. I got a great crop of sunflower seedlings, and the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) seeds sprouted beautifully. The lupin seeds were less successful, but I still got a couple of baby plants.
A couple of several varieties of species tulips I planted last fall. I love the contrast of the yellow tulips with the shy purple violets. The deeply lobed leaves in between belong to Canada anemone, which will be blooming by the end of May.