Monday, 6 May 2019

May 4, 2019
  Well today on the radio I heard that there was a new report out by the United Nations saying that we are at risk of losing about 1 million species of living organisms in the near future as a result of human- caused changes to the planet including habitat loss, climate change and pollution and that this will have profound consequences for our own species.  Not new information but significant in that so many scientists were involved in the analysis and that it was broadcast world wide by the United Nations. On the one hand I am sure that this information was received by most people as another wake-up call about how dire our situation really is but that other darned hand points to the fact that world-wide there seems to be a disturbing trend toward choosing hard right leaders who, for reasons beyond my comprehension, have a strong anti-science and anti-rational bent that includes a real disdain for concerns about the environment.  Rational self interest doesn't seem to top their agenda. In the U.S there is, of course, Donald Trump and Dutarte in the Philippines, Orban in Hungary, Bolsonaro in Brazil etc. etc in and endless stream of populist carpetbaggers who seem to have missed out on the enlightenment. Making things even worse for me is the fact that even in Canada there seems to be tide of irrationality washing over the country with far too many ultra-conservative populists being elected. In Ontario we have Doug Ford trying his best to undermine any progress that has been made in environmental protection and the issues of climate change while in Alberta Jason Kenny is also thumping his fists over the evils of addressing climate change with a carbon tax. They don't seem to care how inaccurate their rhetoric is and don't really seem to care about the probable outcomes of doing nothing about these issues. Now I know that sometimes the lust for power can cause some individuals to spout any lie that seems convenient but what really worries me is that for them to come to power what is needed is for a significantly large number of angry, uninformed and mean-spirited taxpayers to feel that the nastiness and irrationality suits them and so they come out in droves to elect the purveyors of simplistic, uninformed and downright dishonest drivel. This causes me some despair because I am left wondering about what the value of coming to a better understanding of how the universe works is if that knowledge is ignored in favour of the lunatic hate-speech of the day.  I have been told that I need to try and understand that those voters are somehow feeling that they have not been heard or helped in their own personal life struggles but it is hard to feel empathetic when it would be just as easy for them to seek help through making an honest effort at understanding the science involved and  acting in not just their own self-interest but also the interest of the societies that they depend on for their own survival.  I am going to spend some time trying to make sense of all this and also trying to talk about some underlying issues and ideas about what is at stake.

Monday, 27 January 2014


April 20, 2014. OK - I have to start somewhere and since it is beginning to look like spring - no new leaves yet but some warmer night temperatures - I am anticipating the call sounds of all the frog species that occupy our farm - and I am thinking about flowers. Right now we have some of these Violas in bloom. This is Viola corsica - a European species but plenty tough enough for our climate. They overwinter well and begin to bloom quite early but also manage to stay pretty respectable all summer
(from some trimming back) and will flower on and off throughout the season with a fall rebloom if they are happy.
  I thought that I would try to provide some ideas and information about some plants that I am fond of ( actually that would be almost all plants) - in fits and starts as the notion strikes me. I originate from southern England and to me spring is heralded by primroses.  It turns out that there are plenty of Primula that are quite hardy in southern Ontario and they perform quite well. You just have to be a bit choosy about what types you try. Here are a few suggestions.


  Hardy Primroses

Primula capitata ssp. mooreana.
  A great performer in the garden, this primrose will tolerate sun or shade and even grow well in dry soils. It forms very thick rosettes  of dark green leaves with silvery powdered undersides. The flowers are usually a dark violet blue in tight clusters with silvery stems.  I have found this species to be very hardy and long-lived, providing a long season of lovely bright flower display.

Primula denticulata
   One of our favourites, this rock -hardy, long-lived primrose  grows with nice tidy rosettes that  make it look very attractive in mass plantings but when it blooms it is a truly gorgeous display of ball-like clusters of flowers held well above the foliage  in shades of blue pink white and reddish -mauve. Primula denticulata is best in light shade but will tolerate full sun or medium shade. It is also not very fussy when it comes to soil moisture.

Primula veris
 This is the cowslip of the English countryside.  A tough and enduring performer/ Typically P.veris has yellow flowers but there are a number of different cultivars with red to orange shades as well as bicolours. Able to tolerate full sun or shade and even quite dry conditions, this plant is a good performer in the landscape.

Primula pubescens
 A very different kind of primrose, P. pubescens has broad smooth leaves with a very fine covering of tiny hairs that help give the plant an extra tolerance for drought or very hot dry conditions. The flowers are very distinctive with eye markings and a very wide colour range. Another long-lived species that forms dense rosettes making it another good groundcover.

Primula Wanda strains. The original Wanda is a deep reddish-purple - a vivid colour and a reliable grower - but now there are many more options as seed strains have been developed that come true to individual colours. The two strains that I am currently enjoying the most are deep blue and deep velvet red flowered types. These primroses have beautiful tight rosettes of very ribbed leaves that stay nice and deep green all through the summer so they are not bad as an all purpose groundcover in semishade.

This next plant is not a primrose but it fits in really nicely with a primrose planting - same kind of tidy ground-hugging foliage and spring blooms but with some other nice features.............

Saxifraga X Urbium “London Pride”.
 I always enjoy seeing this plant growing in my garden. Beautiful rosettes of gold-splashed foliage made up of spoon-shaped leaves with wavy margins make this Saxifraga an ideal groundcover. In the spring it sends up tall wiry stems covered in small white/pink flowers that persist for quite  a long period. London Pride will gradually creep along and tumble over ledges forming a fairly dense mat in shade or sun. The foliage is evergreen and glossy and makes a great combination with small spring bulbs such as scilla and muscari.