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Cornus canadensis

Cornus canadensis

Cornus canadensis (Bunchberry, Dwarf Dogwood)

Yesterday during a late morning walk in Pacific Spirit Regional Park, I turned a corner of Swordfern Trail and unexpectedly came across a bunch of bunchberries. A happy meeting between thriving, flowering plants and delighted human. We spent a few moments together face-to-face, sometimes with a camera lens in-between.

At home later, I wanted to learn more about Cornus canadensis so I consulted my favourite book on native flora and found a few new online resources. I especially like the description at Paghat’s garden:

This dogwood (Cornus canadensis) only grows to around eight inches tall. If you get down on your belly, a patch of it looks like the tiniest imaginable dogwood forest. The leaves are the same, the flowers are the same, everything about it is like a big dogwood, only teency.

A shade-loving Northwest native woodland groundcover, it can be a bit fragile in gardens if its needs are imperfectly met, but spreads by underground runners & by seeds thriving marvelously if it finds itself in the right situation.

Yes, fragile…and eventually dead. This is one of those native woodland plants I wanted in my balcony garden a few years ago. But C. canadensis needs moist, shady, cool conditions and prefers to grow near rotting stumps. So unsuitable for my balcony — like trying to grow a fern in the desert. Today I am more than content — I actually prefer — to appreciate their beauty in their natural habitat.

Here are three more excellent links for botanical facts:

Bunchberries of British Columbia (UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research)
Boreal Forest
Cornus canadensis (from Flora, Fauna, Earth and Sky: The Natural History of the North Woods)

Note: Bunchberries are edible so I can legitimately include them on this blog if not in my actual edible balcony garden.

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My security system

Parapet of Violas
Any would-be intruder trying to gain access to my apartment by scaling the walls or climbing a ladder will be thwarted and likely injured by trying to vault over the violas (owwwwww, pulled muscle), avoid the hanging baskets (ouch, head injury), and clear the rows of pots completely covering the front three-quarters of my deck (ow-ow-ow-ow, twisted ankles and bruises to the knees and butt). Plus a fierce Westie guards the balcony door.

(1) Viola cornuta ‘Starry Night’:
Viola cornuta 'Starry Night'
and (2) ‘Explorer’ Sweet Peas:
Sweet peas_1532

But not for too much else in my garden. All the seedlings I started last month are really struggling. I may have to cheat and buy some plants at the garden centre this weekend.

Rock star

Lewisia cotyledon forma alba_1396

I probably shouldn’t feature this plant on a blog called The Edible Balcony Garden because (#1) it’s inedible and (#2) it’s not even in my garden. This Lewisia cotyledon forma alba is happily soaking up the sun and heat in my Mom’s south-facing rock garden. But I’d like to write about this “happy camper” anyway because it’s exactly that: the right plant in the right place. This is an important concept that’s taken me many growing seasons to accept because…

…My favourite ornamental plants are full or partial shade dwellers. And no matter how often I water or try to shelter them from mid-morning to late-afternoon sun, they do not thrive on my south-facing balcony with its heat absorbing deck. I learned this costly, disappointing lesson a few years ago when I tried to grow native woodland plants. The experiment, not surprisingly, failed — unless you considering adding more plants to the compost a goal. Put the wrong plant in the wrong place and you will use far too many inputs to keep it barely alive, effort contrary to a low-impact garden.

So last year, I finally gave in to my habitat, even if it’s not my first choice. The new attitude I’m trying to cultivate is the gardener’s equivalent of “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”

This season I’d like to add sun-seeking, drought-tolerant succulents to the hayrack planters and hanging baskets at the front of my balcony. But now I have doubts about including Lewisia. In doing research for this post, I learned about its growth requirements and I’m not sure I can create rock garden-like conditions. According to one reference, “brought down from their subalpine heights to sea level gardens, they easily fall prey to root-rot.” That doesn’t sound good! I really don’t want to stress another plant or myself — or our precious planet’s resources — by trying too hard to make something work.

For now I can be quite happy enjoying alpine plants by visiting this botanical garden more often. And I will continue to take photos and make plans for my future rock and shade gardens.

But if you are seeking a showy specimen to fill a bare spot in your rock garden, you may want to consider this pure white-flowering Lewisia with its abundant blossoms.

Wooo-hoooo. YES!!! It’s here. Friday evening. And today, finally, good weather. A dream gardening weekend begins NOW and doesn’t end until midnight on Monday. Thank you, Queen Victoria.

You Grow Girl Buttons__1351
Part of my weekend wardrobe: You Grow Girl SUPERfantastico buttons, a Lillie & Coe hat and new, still-clean-but-not-for-long gardening gloves.

Photos of the gardener’s helper adding removing worm compost to from the containers this afternoon:


No wonder cleaning up takes more time than any other gardening activity.
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Yesterday morning — a weekday off work plus three more blissful things, all before breakfast:

1) Sunshine
2) An easy drive from city to country (ie, light traffic, no roadwork, no construction zones — this is rare)
3) A greeting from exuberant ‘Angelique’ when I pulled into Mom’s driveway:

Mom's favourite tulip_1324

No surprise that my favourite tulips are the same colour as cherry blossoms. You can see a close-up of another Angelique’s beautiful face here.

So if you were limited to just one tulip in your garden, which one would you grow and why?