Friday, 2 December 2011

"special microclimate?"

Being a palm enthusiast in the PNW, you often hear the words, "I have a really good micro-climate."  I have often wondered, is this just wishful thinking or is it true.  I have often held myself out to have one of those climates. We have large overhanging trees that often wards off frosts, we have trees and houses blocking the easterly winds, and until this morning there were trees to the west of us leaving just southern exposure and sun.  But how much of a difference does it really make?  Well, I resurrected my thermometer and weather system and have been monitoring just how "micro" my micro-climate really is.  Am I just full of crap?! Well, I'm happy to report, the airport on December 1st recorded -1.5C (29F) while I was 0.5C(33F).  This morning at 8am the airport was 2C (36F) and I was 4C (39F).  I don't say this to brag, because in my opinion those are saaad saad temperatures, and its often colder at airports weather stations; that being said I feel a little more justified in my "micro-climactic"claims.  Do you have a "special micro climate?"  I feel like I have been upgraded from full of it to only slightly crazy?!

In the meantime, I'll enjoy some morning sun and my "special" diggs.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Un grand voyage à Paris

Well it's December 1st and the winter realities are becoming nightmares. So once again I am going to pause and look back on previous garden adventures to lift my spirits. I've already talked about my trip to the UK and Europe in May, but it appears I've been holding out... Paris!  To be honest, I didn't do nearly as much garden lurking as I would have liked but Paris was surely a great place to spot quite a bit of interest. The traditional "french" gardens seemed to be very uniform and balanced compared to the english garden we experienced in London.

This view from atop the Eiffel Tower illustrates the symmetrical patterns consistent with gardens in France.

These were just some street flowers I couldn't help but stop and look at.

One of the highlights of the trip was heading out to Versailles.  We chose a tour that included the gardens.  This was the only day we had rain while in France and of course it happened during the garden   visit.  But it only lasted for a little bit and we did manage to get some sunny photos :)

Date Palms and Citrus!! Versailles had an entire garden of citrus trees and date palms in huge planter boxes.  I believe they take these into greenhouses in the wintertime. This seemed to be very common.

Imagine taking care of that grass patch!? no thanks :P

I can admire the commitment... it's beautiful, but really not my cup of tea.

France had been experiencing really hot dry weather as evidenced by this browned out grass. Funny thing is, I really enjoy that sun drenched kinda look.

some rather extravagant fountains....

In as much as I love mediterranean gardens these ginormous grecian(?) urns were beautiful! Throw in some palms, agaves and opuntias ... dirty up those urns a bit and take them off there pedestals and then we'd be talking!

I love how the garden almost makes an announcement here.

this felt like home.

I really don't know what this was all about... they called it a "bath"

This is almost like christmas tree yard!  It kind of made me uncomfortable... like a scene from Alice and Wonderland, I was waiting for the Queen of hearts or something

All in all, the Versailles gardens were really wonderful.  One of the biggest surprises for me was Luxembourg palace and gardens! This is one of the displays on the periphery of the gardens.  It was a really hot and muggy day when we visited and this shade was a kind retreat.

Unfortunately, it took me a while to realize... stay off the grass! It's great for picture taking.

Luxembourg seemed to have the same ginormous planters with Canary Island Date palms.  I was ecstatic!  It made me feel justified in my use of potted zone 9-10 plants all over the yard.  If the French are doing it, it must be right!

I wonder what gardens I will visit next year!? maybe that's how I will pass the sad days of winter, dreaming of spring/summer garden tours!!  What gardens do you plant on visiting in 2012?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Canadian zone 9

Canadian zone 9, I know, it seems kinda crazy; however, much of our southwest coast is actually USDA zone 9a. Places like English Bay, Victoria, Tofino, and the Gulf Islands are a large part of what first made me want to grow plants like palm trees!!  To me, one of the best zone 9a locations would have to be in the town of Ganges on Salt Spring Island.  I try to get out there once every winter/spring for some inspiration.  As some of you know, the Gulf Islands benefit from the rain shadow of the Olympic Peninsula and in turn receive significantly less rain than other coastal locations in the PNW.  That coupled with protected warmer waters around the gulf islands, and you have the Canadian Riviera! Here are some pictures from last February.

This photo is looking back towards the mainland

Approaching the Gulf Islands from the ferries

Check out this Eucalyptus tree in downtown Ganges! SSI seems to plant Eucalyptus trees all over!  That is certainly something we do not see very often on the mainland.

A very excited me had to jump in front of it for a picture!

If you ever visit SSI, you have to check out the plantings at Grace Point just off from the main shopping area in downtown Ganges.

Can you spot the Jubaea Chilensis in the back there?  They also have mediterranean fan palms, sabal species of some vartiety, butia capitata, and obviously many many trachies!

The shaved trunks sure give a tropical feel on these palm trees.

The boardwalk is another great place for some great sights and serious plant lust!

Crystal clear waters of the gulf islands!

I forget which beach this is, but there are many!

One of the best reasons for visiting Salt Spring Island in late winter is that you will see some of the first blossoms of the season! its like a little glimmer of hope (until you get home and realize you are two to three weeks behind!)

Trachys can be spotted in almost every private garden it seems.  People on the island have certainly embraced the "riviera" feel

SSI also offers magnificent Arbutus trees!!

This orchard really caught my eye!  I believe it was an apple orchard, however, rumour has it, there is a large olive grove being planted on SSI this year! it is certainly my kind of place!!!!

I'll certainly do a 2012 update in the next couple of months.... can't wait :)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

bloomday - or lack thereof

So its bloomday and there are very very few blooms in the yard! If it were decaying blooms day, then this would be easy. But alas, there are a few things that are still kicking.

Geraniums have not been fazed by the cool weather.  I appreciate that about them. Though entirely ordinary, they seam to handle heat and cold better than many other annual flowers.

I forget the name of this plant, but it seems to think its spring?

"Old Faithful" that is what I choose to call my fatsia japonica.  When everything else in the yard seems to wind down in the fall, fatsia just begins its show.  I can't say enough about this plant.

I love how glossy this foliage is too! It's my version of a tropical philodendron!

salvia elegans... apparently the flowers are edible... maybe a salad garnish!

This little rose has been flowering non stop since may and is super fragrant!

I know, this is not exactly blooms... but its sure a picture of whats going on in the yard.  I just can't believe how fast those darn leaves are piling up on the patio!!!

Monday, 14 November 2011

How do you deal?

How do you deal with the "w" word ... winter that is?  I have been asking myself this for the past few days now.  Essentially, how will I cope with yet another winter swiftly upon us.  My natural inclination is to look back to the last days of summer, when everything was in its full glory.

I look back to summer evenings along the water...

wishing summer would never come to an end.

Dreaming of a world without fall, winter or early spring (late spring is okay in my books).

But inevitably the sun will set on summer.

So what do you do? Do you plan tropical vacations? Usually that follows in my decision process.  If winter is thrust upon us in the PNW, surely Hawaii or South Florida is not all that bad.

So I dream of great snorkeling...

unforgettable diners on the ocean,

Spectacular vistas,

enchanted water falls,

and all the wonders of an exotic island getaway.

Though it may relieve the winter blues and "fill the sun tank," as I like to say, inevitably, the sun does set on tropical vacations too.  There will still be a whole lot of winter to deal with.

We can try to get inspired by our own natural wonders.

 If you're like me, you'll brew never ending pots of tea and purchase hand warmers in bulk... You'll also dream of spring, reminding yourself that some years, winter ends early.

you'll remember that bananas can grow in February,

you'll remind yourself that palm trees always exude summer

and maybe this year you'll be playing beach volleyball in February.

Or maybe you will start to make plans for next years garden.  What will change? What plant lust will come home with you? Will it be another agave?

Or will you plant succulent art?

Whatever it may be, however it may look, the question remains, "how do you deal?"  I for one am not ready for the "w" word.  Bananas got chopped down, burlap is on hand for emergencies, but my heart, my summer loving heart, is not ready for winter.