Thursday, April 26, 2012

Down by the Speed River

Down by the Speed River by scosborne
Down by the Speed River, a photo by scosborne on Flickr.
I didn't go for a walk yesterday and I really should have, so today, even though it was still cold and windy and grey, I walked along Arthur Street (one of my favorite streets in Guelph). This was a moment of sunshine when I was watching the river.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Speed River sunset

Speed River sunset by scosborne
Speed River sunset, a photo by scosborne on Flickr.
I went for a walk along the river this evening to see if the muskrats were around. Alas, they were not, but there was a soft sunset after a moody, chilly April day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Guelph Arboretum wander

Guelph Arboretum wander by scosborne
Guelph Arboretum wander, a photo by scosborne on Flickr.
we took a break from thesis work yesterday to go for a walk in the arboretum, maybe see some wildflowers. We also came across a hedgehog, out for a "prowl" with his owner (if hedgehogs can be said to prowl... It was more of a snuffling browse).
Arboretum hedgehog by scosborne
Arboretum hedgehog, a photo by scosborne on Flickr.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Beauties in the backyard Part 2 - Bunchberry

cornus canadensis

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) covers the ground so delightfully in our woods. I have been wondering for the last couple of years if I could use it purposely as a groundcover, rather than just enjoy it in our woods. I'm ashamed to say I have some vinca and Boston ivy growing in the front bank (a family request at a time when I was not thinking about alternatives). I have been eyeing both for years with suspicion, and I hack them back every spring, but last year both plants were clearly starting to think about world domination. I think it's time to give them the heave-ho.  This will give me the opportunity to try out a few test patches of Cornus canadensis, so I can see how long it takes them to cover ground, and if they will tolerate the almost-full-sun-but-quite-damp conditions of where I intend to trial them.

The colour swatches I picked out just for fun (maybe I will have a cornus-themed room some day), but I also hope they will lead me to ideas for planting design. Of course, colour is just one of criteria for choosing companion plants. I already know that ferns+bunchberry=awesome, but what other plant is going to grow in a way that complements, rather than runs roughshod over, the bunchberry? I found an interesting German website that shows bunchberry planted with boxwood and what looks to be a Japanese Maple, and this English website that shows them growing with rhododendrons and something grass-y. Unfortunately, the front bank where I am thinking of testing out the bunchberry is more of a mixed border/perennial border, so I want to think of compatible perennials as well as shrubs. Something to keep thinking about.

I could write more about my enjoyment in seeing it climb over 80-year-old tree stumps in the woods, but Portland Nursery talks with love about growing it in the garden:
In the lives of gardeners there are some plants that are so beautiful and special that they are worth the extra effort they may take to establish or care for; can be forgiven their idiosyncrasies and neediness in the face of the simple pleasure they bring. Cornus canadensis should be high on this list.
I just hope that, since bunchberry grows so enthusiastically in the wilder parts our yard, it actually won't be as "idiosyncratic" as Portland Nursery claims it is.

Bunchberry fall colour

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Beauties in the backyard - Part1

sheep laurel and moss colour swatches

Whenever I get the chance to walk through Ontario woods in the spring, I marvel at the wild ginger and the trout lilies and the bloodroot. "Ontario has such cool native plants!" I think, "not like the boring, normal plants that grow in the scrubby balsam/sprucewoods around my house." Then I think, this is crazy! They are only boring because I know them. When I look at the same plants with different eyes -- say, of a landscape designer looking for uncommonly used plants, or perhaps with the sort of spiritual elation that L.M. Montgomery viewed the exact same kind of woods -- I start to reclaim the "ecological aesthetic" of my childhood.

So, I have been thinking lately about some of these plants that grow in the coastal Acadian forest woods that I grew up with, that I subsequently took totally for granted.  For instance, sheep laurel/lamb-kill. I love coming across a happy hillock of sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) when it is in bloom. It's such a little trooper and native pollinators love it.  If I could get moss this colour to establish under it, I would plant it in my garden in heart beat. So, that's what I'm going to attempt this summer, and that is the point of this little blog project; take a second look at the native plants I take for granted, and think of ways I can use them in gardens or larger landscape projects.

sheep laurel macro

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Three Slides and the point of the thesis.

Over a week ago now, my MLA class had our conference day to present our thesis research. My presentation was a bit of a let-down, as the Powerpoint presenter notes disappeared somewhere between my computer and the presentation computer. I froze. It was not pretty. Fortunately, I had time for one question, and a lovely classmate asked me a question I could answer, and show that I really have been researching and thinking about the subject matter.

Anyway! (aside: I really think "anyway" is my signature word. I use it ALL THE TIME, in my head, in my emails, in conversation. What does it mean that "anyway" is my word? Is it a strong, unseen undercurrent influencing my life and my decisions? Who knows)

Anyway, it's been a while since I posted anything here and I don't have much extra brain power right now to experience 'life' in a way that I would actually have anything to talk about, so I thought I might share three of the slides from my presentation. If you click on them, I think it will take you through to my Flickr page so you can see them embiggened.


These motifs are taken from Elizabeth Epperly's book Through Lover's Lane: L.M. Montgomery's photography and visual imagination. In my thesis, they represent just one aspect of LMM's landscape aesthetic.


This slide was a prompt for talking about the other aspects of LMM's appreciation of nature that made up her landscape aesthetic - but again, with the freezing, it was more of a prompt for me to wave at the screen and say, "L. M. Montgomery liked to garden. In the spring. And the summer. She really liked... to garden." Seriously, it was really unusual for me! Normally you can't get me to stop talking.

heritage/literary comparison

This was my concluding slide where I was supposed to draw together the point of my thesis. I think I sort of did. Anyway, (anyway!) the point of my research is that if landscape architects understand the literary landscape, practice 'reading' the landscape, and can incorporate this knowledge into their landscape analysis and design, then we will just have better designed landscapes all round, that truly speak to the meaning of a place and to the people experiencing it.