We will be at Seedy Saturday in Ottawa and, new this year, Seedy Sunday in Perth. Both events happen in March – I’ll post more details closer to the date.
In the meantime, you can order seeds by post. Minimum order: 6 packets. All seeds: $3.50 per packet or 3 for $10. Prices in effect until January, 2016. Please mail cheque and order to: 29 Ragged Chute Road, Bristol Quebec, J0X 1G0.
If you are thinking about growing Blue Flag Iris from seed this year, ordering seed early is a good idea. I find this species needs a longer than usual period of cold moist stratification — I like to get my iris seeds into the fridge by January 1st.
Beaux Arbres Native Plants will open the 2016 season by participating in the Rare and Unusual Plants Sale on Sunday May 15th at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa.
Two weekends later we will be hosting our own Spring Open Garden Day at the farm, with guided tours of the native plant gardens, demonstrations and really good coffee from Art Brûlant. That happens Sunday, May 29, from 11 am to 4 pm.
The Rare and Unusual Plant Sale has been held on Mothers’ Day in past years. This coming year, Mothers’ Day is early and the organizers decided to hold the sale the following Sunday. We have experienced two brutally long winters in Ottawa the past two years, and it was challenging to get nursery stock to saleable condition by Mothers Day. Last year, three weeks before the sale, I had NOTHING. Then we had two weeks of unseasonable warm weather, and the plants emerged and leaves unfurled in time.
I will posts more about the Sale closer to the date.
The Nursery Catalogue 2016 is available for download. We won’t be bringing anything like the complete list to the sale. We expect to bring mostly early spring bloomers like violets, pussytoes, early saxifrage, and prairie smoke and later spring flowers like penstemons, golden Alexanders and wild columbine and a small selection of shrubs and summer bloomers. It is always great to see the spring blooms but for the full selection, plan to visit the farm.
Thanksgiving Sunday morning, Jacques Cayouette, a senior botanist for Agriculture Canada – Biodiversity division, and some of his colleagues, came to Beaux Arbres on a quest for rare ferns. They were interested in our farm’s infertile and abandoned pastures as likely sites for Botrychium (now called Sceptridium) ferns.
The pastures on the farm were abandoned more than sixty years ago. Sumacs and raspberries are creeping in, followed by black cherry and white pine, at the edges nearest to remnant woods, but most of the pastures remain open. The sandy soil is so dry and infertile that lichens dominate and the old field plants – common milkweed and goldenrod, black-eyed Susans and tower mustard – struggle.
I had invited a few botanically minded friends from the Pontiac, and we joined Jacques’ group as they spread out over the nearest old pasture. They soon found two species: Grape Fern (Sceptridium dissectum) and Leathery Grape Fern (S. multifidum). They are small ferns, a few inches high, with one green frond and one upright fertile frond each. These are the two commoner species. We were able to find quite a number of each, which allowed us to get a good feel for the considerable variation found within each species.
Feeling chuffed, the professional botanists kept their keen eyes focussed for grape fern. The prize was St. Lawrence Grape Fern (S. rugulosum), a genuine rarity that only grows in open sites on fine sands in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence area. Eureka! The botanists found some specimens they were quite sure were the rare St. Lawrence Grape Fern. Jacques bagged a specimen to take back to the lab for confirmation.
Given the variation within the species, especially within S. dissectum, and the rather subtle differences between the species, I am not at all sure I have a good feel for what marks a plant as St. Lawrence Grape Fern. It is more rugulose than the other two. Okay. I think I have it. I will have opportunities to revisit our fern site – hey, its just beyond our farm pond – this fall. The grape ferns have an unusual growth cycle. The fronds emerge in late summer – St. Lawrence Grape Fern emerges later than the other two – and last into the winter.
I am very grateful to Jacques for showing me the ferns I would otherwise have overlooked. I used to think the old pastures were not that botanically interesting as they seemed highly disturbed and dominated by common early succession species. I thought the lovely lichens in the lichen crusts were the most interesting thing about them. Now I know that what might well be the rarest species we have on the farm is there in the old sandy pastures.