Saturday, November 30, 2013

Holiday Decorations

Red Dogwood in Chimney Pot
     A few weekends ago, CC went out with a good friend of ours, LB, to do some "pruning" and came back with a load of Red Dogwood (Cornus sericea) and evergreen boughs and to decorate the outdoor urns, and some Canadian Holly (Ilex vertcillata) for the indoors.  He has since been out again to get more boughs and Dogwood to fill out the urns as they were looking a bit sparse.  Christmas lights will go on some of these a bit later so they show at night, and hopefully the tree rats (squirrels, for the uninitiated) will leave off chewing the cords like they did last year.

     I like the "natural" look of the arrangements, which CC always does a great job of.  No spray-painted, dried-out husks of dead plants here, and certainly no plastic or glitter - can you say tacky?  They especially look good when the snow partially covers them with the red twigs sticking out and a bright, blue sky serving as the backdrop.  Winter never looked better!

     This past Thursday, I spent the night in Toronto to attend my book club, and had a chance to walk around the city beforehand and check out the urban decorations that are so prominent this time of the year.  They are not natural-looking in any way, but they do provide a warmth of light in the cold, often-grey, cityscape.  I met up with a friend ahead of time and she took me down into the PATH, the subterranean maze of shops and services that "moles" frequent.  Again, it is not in the least bit natural looking, but at least it provides some warmth and light for the season.

     Ultimately, I know which of the two styles I prefer, but then think of all the clear-cutting that would take place if everyone, including malls and big businesses, decided to use natural decorations.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Fall Colours

     So, it's the time of year when most of the leaves have fallen off the trees and everything is looking a lot more monochromatic, especially when there is a dearth of blue sky and even the old-reliable lawns are starting to look like old polaroids.  I decided to look for some colour to brighten up the days.

     Most of our fruit-bearing shrubs have been stripped of their colourful food sources by the birds.  In fact, last weekend, a flock of robins came to our back garden and ate every single Carolina Allspice berry of one shrub in about an hour!  Still, there are Rosehips which always add a splash of colour to the garden, and the hungry critters seem to leave them alone.

     This is the time of year when it's important to have flowering house plants.  We had a bumper crop of Christmas Cactus blooms (see last blog entry) and now the African Violets are flowering.  The one above is my personal favourite colour, but we also have one in purple and two miniature ones that are either white or variegated white and purple.

     Down in the greenhouse, we have three bonsai Azaleas that spend the summer in the garden.  Two didn't look so hot by summer's end and CC debated about tossing them, but luckily didn't.  The one above was one of the consumptive shrubs that has now rewarded us with masses of pink flowers.  Of course, the healthiest looking one has nary a bud to be seen.

     Finally, the above shot was taken in the Speed River. Flowering? No.  Colourful? Yes!  And amusing to boot.  "Bye bye Hallowe'en, hello Christmas!" it says to me.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Christmas Cactuses?

     For some years now I have had a couple of different Christmas Cactuses, one is mostly white (see below), while the other (pictured above) is pink and white.  What amazes me about them is the complexity of the flowers that emerge from the tips and the joints of the stem.  Christmas Cactuses are from the genus Schlumbergera and the six species are found within the coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil.  Plants grow either on trees (epiphytic) or on rocks (epilithic) in habitats that are shady with high humidity.

     Cultivars of the Schlumbergera fall into two main groups: the Truncata group which have pointed stem segments, horizontal flowers and yellow pollen, and the Buckleyi group which have rounded stem segments, flowers that hang down and pink pollen.  Both of the above are of the Truncata group, which also tend to flower earlier.  My experience is that they often bloom in October or November, so I like to think of them as Birthday Cactuses.  Flowers can be white, yellow, orange, pink, red or purple or bicolored.  In addition to the two pictured above, I also have one in orange (Truncata) and three that have pink flowers (Buckleyi group) - the latter have set bud but have yet to flower.

     In addition to the four types of Christmas Cactuses, I have two Easter Cactuses (genus Hatiora) which have very similar leaves, but daisy-like flowers that hang down and bloom around Easter-time.