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Fun with Plants

(post by Jason) After what seems like months of interminable cold we finally crossed the threshold a few weeks ago and it is beginning to look and feel a lot like spring. The soil is warming up and drying out and I have been taking advantage of the conditions to overseed all the pastures and harrow in manure at the same time. The cool season grasses are beginning to grow while the warm season grasses are still thinking about breaking dormancy. The horses are enjoying the warm weather too as Melissa’s pictures attest.

Unfortunately for most of our blog readers this post really doesn’t have much to do with horses. Instead, it has much to do with one of my “secret” hobbies which is horticulture. I’ve had a secret fondness for horticulture ever since I worked on a landscaping crew for a local nursery back in high school and college. As time permits I have been taking advantage of the weather to add some beds and begin to add shrubs and trees to the yard around our house. Frankly this is taking quite a bit longer than I anticipated mostly because there are so many varieties of shrubs and trees from which to choose in this climate. We are toward the southern edge of the zone at which many northern plants will thrive and we’re also in a place where some truly southern and subtropical things will do well. I seem to find myself wanting one or more of each which makes choosing very difficult. I am particularly enamored of all the species that bloom from late fall through the winter into early spring. I also get fired up about some of the subtropicals that are fairly easy to grow here, particularly hardy palms and hardy bananas.

The neatest thing about living here are all the spring blooming wild trees in the woods and the crowning glory of all of them is the eastern redbud in my opinion. Their purple blooms can be found everywhere in the woods in mid spring…..usually starting a few days either side of the first of April in this climate. My mother recently reminded me that when I lived in Ontario I wanted an eastern redbud so badly I could taste it. They grow in the very southernmost parts of the province and if you live in any of the cities at low elevation near Lake Ontario (USDA zone 5/Cdn Zone 6) and are judicious about where you plant it there is some chance it might survive. Alas they weren’t and aren’t hardy where I lived. One of our neighbours had one and it lived with protection (and gave me hope) through a number of exceptionally mild winters. But then we got a winter more in it’s season and the first time the temperature got down to -30 the tree was toast. Given this background maybe I can be forgiven my horticultural whimsies when you consider where I came from. If it wasn’t hardy in USDA zone 4 there wasn’t much point in me trying to grow it. Not many subtropicals and winter bloomers in that climate !

Of all the plants I have to choose from the ones that I miss most from Canada are the majestic evergreens, particularly blue and Norway spruce as well as eastern white pine, hemlock and red pine. And the smell of lilacs will forever remind me of late May and early June in Ontario. Lilacs thought our central Ontario soil and climate were pure heaven and they spread along the roads like wildfire. We are too far south to grow any of these plants easily although some people try with blue and Norway spruce. I am mostly going to refrain but of course you know I had to have a hybridized lilac planted somewhere in my yard.

Once I get started on this topic I could talk on and on for days until everyone was bored. At this point Melissa says I have done enough. I’d sure be interested in hearing about what you have planted in YOUR yards.


Johnny and Lighty

Dolly, Traveller and Cinnamon

Calimba and Maisie

Renny and Sam

Flyer, Lotus and Romeo waiting for breakfast

Gibson waiting for breakfast

Leo, Trigger and Baby



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