Enter the Matrix: New Perennial Planting Stratagems

It feels like forever since I’ve been able to post photos of an actual garden of my own.

Let me change all that with spring fresh images from the past few weeks of my new pond garden up at our cabin in Mono, Ontario. It’s zone 4b at elevation, so we’re a month or more behind Europe.

There’s been ceaseless rain in a cool extended spring, helping my young woodland garden find its feet. I’ve been planting up adjoining areas and getting busy with my Dutch hoe while watching this section burst to life. Continue reading

The Rites of Spring: Awakenings

Up in our neck of the northern woods, you catch the first signs of spring in the mosses on the forest trails. On a dank cloudy day, they appear to glow like emerald velvet clouds come down to earth to hug the rocks.

By the time you hit mid-April, life has erupted in micro with the first ephemerals and sedges poking their heads up from the tapestry of the woodland floor. Continue reading

Designing with Remarkable Plantsmen: Piet Oudolf & Roy Diblik

Over the past six months, I’ve been utterly absorbed in the making of a woodland garden on the edge of our one-acre pond in the rolling hills of Mono, Ontario.

Early in the process, I was doubly fortunate to get advice on my plans from two maestros of modern planting design, Piet Oudolf and Roy Diblik.

My last post on this topic introduced them as plantsmen and people. This time, it’s about the design process and how they helped push my ideas forward with some stellar advice and insights. Continue reading

Small Mercies: Denizens of the Woodland Floor

Out of nowhere, the ice storm hit. Freezing rain for two days straight in late March that encased entire forests in an icy prison of frozen glass, well over an inch thick.

Legions of ice-laden trees were toppled, crushed, and tossed about like the toys of an impudent child – leaving a scene of devastation as deathly as it was beautiful.

How strange then to hike into the forest a few weeks later and looking beneath the battlefield of shattered branches and limbs, find the forest floor surging back to life.
Continue reading

Sleeping Beauties: In Search of Spring Ephemerals

It’s become a first rite of spring: after the eternity of a northern winter, I head to the woods to find the first sleeping beauties that awake from the forest floor.

To chance upon the powder-soft buds of purple liverworts (Hepatica nobilis) fluttering their long white lashes into flower; or to marvel at the tightly-wrapped cones of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) that unscroll their virgin-white blooms; or to wander through vast carpets of mottle-leafed trout lily (Erythronium americanum) with downward-cast yellow trumpets as poised as any orchid.

And then, there’s the familiar sight of trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum) raising their white tricorn hats in unison to follow the arc of the sun across the sky.

It’s love at first sight—all over again. Continue reading