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Kate's Blog

Feb 8

The gardening spirit

A trayful of pots filled with seeds and soil mix, ready to go. I dig down into the snowbank and clear a flat space on the frozen ground. I line the pots up, each with its little white label that I’ve cut out of yoghurt containers, the names lettered in thick black marker. Then I shovel the snow back on and the pots disappear. Almost. There’s not as much snow as I would like. I have to go down a small incline to get more and the task is completed.

Under the snow, it will be cold enough for the seeds to get the message – it’s winter. These are the seeds of native perennials, shrubs, or trees. They are complex. They won’t break dormancy unless the conditions are right. And in this northern land, the first condition a seed must go through is winter - the process is known as stratification. Some species have specialized requirements. It appears that germination for Wild Sarsaparilla is significantly higher if the seeds are taken from Black Bear scat - a 62-93 per cent success rate compared to 27-28 per cent for uneaten seeds. I’m grateful that USDA biologists investigated the matter (it’s actually not a crazy idea as, in the wild, bears are an important disseminator of the seed) but, in the absence of a helpful bear, I shall have to settle for the lower germination rate.
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Aug 30

Website issues

My website was down for a few days due to circumstances originating in the United States. I have lost some content but I will be restoring it.
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Jun 2

The history behind that pretty face

There's a pretty flower that's popping up over the countryside in shades of white and pink and mauve. I dug some of it up many years ago and was happy when it flourished on my property. Now that I garden with native plants, I'm not so pleased with its enthusiastic self-seeding ways, and I'm busy pulling it out.
Locals call it wild phlox, but its proper name is Dame's Rocket and it comes from Eurasia. A similar plant will be in flower soon, pale pink, harder to pull up if it arrives uninvited because of roots that send out runners – it's called Bouncing Bet and is native to Europe and western Siberia.
The wildflowers that we enjoy as an expression of nature and wilderness are more likely to be a manifestation of colonization – the wilderness of other continents, disrupting native ecosystems. This was bought home to me when I made a list last June of herbaceous plants in bloom at Tiny Marsh, part of work for a two-year biological inventory led by environmental consultant Bob Bowles. Only one quarter (7 out of 29) of the plants we tallied were native; the rest were introduced, mainly from Europe.
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