Fighting invasive tree-of-heaven

This summer, I’ve been battling tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) like never before. We’ve written before about this struggle, but I’ve never seen it keep coming back so aggressively from the root – till now. Ailanthus is an alien species (read more about it in our previous post), that has become a regular citizen of Toronto’s unguarded laneways and unclaimed […]

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Invaders I wish I’d never planted

This is not a picture of a spring garden. No, it’s a stand-off between the Hatfields and McCoys, with Prokofiev’s ominous Dance of the Knights as the sound-track. To the left, the Hatfields, wearing purple. To the right, green-clad McCoys. Each creeps towards a battle in the middle – and takeover of my garden. What is an invasive plant? […]

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Clematis tangutica: Careful what you wish for

I have lusted after Clematis tangutica, the late-flowering beauty with the common name golden clematis or sometimes orange-peel clematis due to its thick petals (really: sepals). And I have planted Clematis tangutica. And, like many of the clematis I’ve grown, I have killed Clematis tangutica. You can imagine my surprise, then, when researching this post today I […]

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The rosy (and not-so-rosy) Rose of Sharon

A hedge of Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) near us used to look absolutely show-stopping in late summer – a time when flowering trees and shrubs are rare, and rarely so generous with their flowers. Tired of being stopped by people asking what it was, the homeowners resorted to posting a sign: It’s called Althea!* Althea is another of […]

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Stop the spread of invasive Phragmites

It has become so common, you might pass invasive Phragmites without recognizing it as a problem With all the excitement over ornamental grasses, you might not even recognize this towering escapee growing in many of the city’s wet spaces as an invasive species. The picture above is of a huge stand of European common reed […]

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Star-of-Bethlehem: A little can go a long way

Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) looking dainty among some Hosta ‘Golden Tiara’ Sometimes you need plant thugs like the disarmingly pretty Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum). A difficult spot (dry, maple-root-filled and shady, perhaps) might thank you for the toughness that brings on these bright spring flowers. Luckily, their enthusiasm has been held in check by the sandy, dry […]

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Weed? What weed?

Viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare) – in Canada, a weed; in Europe, a fairly respectable wildflower. I also happen to be rather fond of the fairy-ring flowers of narrow-leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata). Photographed on Toronto’s Leslie Street Spit. Many common North American weeds are aliens that piggybacked here accidentally with agricultural settlers. An interesting timeline in […]

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Warning: Dog-Strangling Vine in bloom

The star-shaped brownish-maroon flowers of dog-strangling vine. This picture makes them seem almost pretty. Don’t be taken in. One of Toronto’s worst – if not the very worst – of weeds is now making babies. Millions and millions and millions of them. It’s an ideal time to nip all that fecundity in the bud. Dog-strangling […]

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Love/Hate: Lily of the Valley

Oh, sure. They look cute, their nodding white flowers, crimped and curled at the edges, like fairies’ cloche hats. In May, they shake those little bells, and perfume fills the air. Plus, they’ll grow anywhere, in sun, shade, wet or dry, with minimal attention. What’s not to like? Grrrrr. Lily of the valley. Convallaria. Muguet […]

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Porcelain vine: Might need careful handling

Oh, how I love those mouthful names: Ampelopsis brevipedunculata Its pretty, many-coloured blue and purple berries give porcelain vine its name. I had one of these members of the grape family – the one with the variegated leaves – in the wrong spot in my garden. Please note the use of the past tense. It’s […]

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