At 10 a.m. Saturday morning I was walking on the Leslie Street Spit. (We’re so lucky to have the Spit.) The day was foggy. So foggy that the usually striking view of the city skyline was obliterated. On both sides, the sky and lake were reduced to translucent beach glass in milky shades of white and blue. The air was still. Not a leaf moved. All the wild vegetation stood out in damp brown silhouette against this gessoed landscape.
A perfect day to notice shapes.
My eye was first caught by black zigzags of chicory. Without the distraction of its sky blue flowers or green stems, what an interesting form it adds to the picture, like rooted Ikebana.
Then other shapes started to distinguish themselves. I noticed the nubbed heads of tansy, which had lingered as one of the last bits of fall gold only a week or so ago.
Tansy is one of my favourite wildflowers. Its leaf crimps and pleats offer a texture not often found in the garden.
Sturdy stems hold up bunches of yellow buttons that retain their colour for a long time. In the brown of late fall, plates of dried tansy heads offer strong horizontal contrast to upright forms.
Next on my radar were puffy white-grey explosions of ripe goldenrod, made more dramatic by infinite drops of foggy dew. Another dependable fall “wildflower,” our native goldenrod is embraced by Europeans as an excellent garden flower in its tamer forms. One of our garden-crazy aunts from Wales once exclaimed on a visit to Canada, “Solid-ah-go grows wild here!” In Canada, this cousin of daisies tends to be much-maligned (no, it is not ragweed; no, it does not cause hay fever).
I read once, and now can’t find the reference, that there are more than a hundred species of Solidago, some shaped like feathers, some flat, some like fireworks. Most are tall.
On the Spit, they swayed their cloudlike seed heads — seeming most appropriately named inflorescences — above the darker stems of other wildflowers.
I didn’t see any teasel on the Spit that morning. However, I want to leap out of the car to collect some every time I pass them in the wild meadows along the DVP. Talk about garden architecture! When the snow comes, they’re nature’s own garden sculpture. Someone whose garden is as small as mine values that.
Fog is usually blamed for restricting visibility. I’m happy that this time it had the opposite effect. Blotting out the long view helped me see things a little more clearly.
Except for the cover girl, Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), all pictures and more weed details from OMAFRA’s venerable weed guide Ontario Weeds, aka Publication 505. For the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture & Food’s online weed gallery, see: