Revisiting FWR Dickson

Business took me to Wellington County yesterday, I stopped in for coffee at my cousins’s in Kitchener, and then decided, since I was relatively near to FWR Dickson, about which I have been blogging, I would revisit the area. The day was so beautifully warm and sunny, it could have been early September, but there were indications that this visit was later in the year than the day in September,2001, when I photographed all the fruit. This visit much of the fruit was gone, already eaten by migrating birds, bare stalks remaining. Two bright red fruits that persist into winter were still present: American high bush cranberry, and winterberry holly. Wild grape and grey dogwood had fruited with such abundance there were still lots left although much had been eaten. Other fruit that I knew was there was just about gone. I had to look carefully to find even one or two remaining fruits of carrion flower, running euonymus, maple-leaved viburnum, mayflower,or  Solomon’s seal. I did find a few porcelain blue fruit of silky dogwood and I again tried to photograph the odd, pretty blue.

Fruit of silky dogwood, FWR Dickson CA, October 4, 2011.
Fruit of arrowwood viburnum, FWR Dickson CA, October 4, 2011.

Carrion flower

One of the prettiest wild plants this time of year is the unfortunately-named carrion flower (Smilax herbacea). Blue berries in large, round clusters on long stalks on a herbaceous vine that gets about 6 feet high – what’s not to like?

Carrion flower fruit, FWR Dickson CA, Sept 17, 2001.

Planting more fruit for birds

In my trove of old photos were several dozen prints taken on September 17, 2001 at FWR Dickson Conservation Area near Paris, Ontario. FWR Dickson has a nice assortment of plant communities in a relatively small area: sandy hills with open oak woods. mesic woodlands with maple beech forest, swamps, open kettle lakes, and old fields. Hiking through there one fall day, I was struck by the diversity and sheer amount of wild fruit, all crying out to migrating birds ” Eat me, eat me.” I started snapping photos. This was before I had a digital camera, so a few dozen exposures was extravagant. Today I would probably take several hundred pictures, and a few might actually be good photos. I have pics of wild grapes, and nanny berries, and the bright red clusters of highbush cranberry viburnum. I tried to capture the porcelain blue of silky dogwood fruit, not successfully.

Alternate-leaved dogwood laden with fruit, Sept 17, 2001, FWR Dickson CA.

The alternate-leaved dogwoods growing in full sun at the edge of the kettle lake were heavy with dark blue-black fruits. Alternate-leaved dogwood also grows in the valleys and ravines of Toronto. It reproduces well in city conditions so there is still quite a lot of it around. In the city, the dogwood’s fruit are stripped as soon as they start to ripen in mid-August. The ravines in Toronto are major migratory flyways. There is simply not nearly enough food for the birds. There is not enough food because the native understorey has been so largely replaced with invasives, such as European buckthorn, whose bitter, cathartic fruits the birds cannot use, and because of the stingy, Eurasian plant based landscaping of the homes along the ravines. The fruitful abundance of southern Ontario autumn, which evolved with the native birds and upon which they depend, is just not there in urban and suburban spaces. Continue reading Planting more fruit for birds

Planting a garden densely and diversely

As part of my goal to dejunk, I have been scanning old prints and slides and, once scanned, tossing the hard copy. I am of course keeping the impossible-to-replace pictures of friends now gone and babies now grown, but I have literally thousands of fifth rate photos of plants, landscapes, bits of gardens, and such, that if I am ever going to need again, I am going to need in easily-findable electronic versions.  I’ve used photo-organizing software to sort these scans by subject and location and date.

Hairy beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus) growing at the edge of the driveway.

One of the things that emerged from all this was a record of my late mother’s garden, the way it changed over the years as I added more native plants, and tore up more lawn, and the plants grew and matured and sometimes disappeared as they were shaded out. FaceBook and blogging didn’t exist at the time. I would have enjoyed blogging about the garden, I think. Over the years, the number of native plants that grew in that tiny garden in a big city swelled into an impressive total. In my mother’s garden I put into practice the concept of making every square inch count.

It was a garden, not a restoration, so my concept of “native” was a bit loose, as I still think is quite appropriate for gardens. For example, tall ironweed, which is not native to Toronto, is native to southern Ontario, so in it went as a native plant and very successful it proved, feeding many butterflies and seeding gently into the edge of the lawn. I learned to distinguish it, and many other natives, as very small seedlings, rescuing them from the lawn, or the spaces between the paving stones, and moving them to other gardens. Continue reading Planting a garden densely and diversely