Nature’s Time Clock is Amazing

nature's time clock

Have you ever wondered how flowers and plants know when it’s time to grow in the spring after being dormant all winter? I find it fascinating how perennial plants can do this. Buried under snow and ice one month, then popping up through the thawed ground the next. How do they do it? They follow nature’s time clock.

Wildflowers Bloom According to Nature’s Time Clock

Wildflowers, such as bloodroot, trout lilies, trilliums, Dutchman’s breeches, and many others follow nature’s time clock, blooming as soon as the soil warms up. Each species has its own timeline. For example, dandelions and lilacs bloom when the soil reaches 15 degrees.

Captive (non-native) Plants

Captive or non-native flowers like daffodils, tulips, and crocus live in an artificial or foreign climate, so are less predictable or stable. They certainly are pretty though, with new varieties out every year.

nature's time clock
admiring the tulips

Farmers Have been Using Nature’s Time Clock for Years.

Farmers have been relying on this planting clock for many years, since 800 BC. My mother grew up on a farm and told me a funny story about potato planting and how it always interfered with her birthday every year. She could care less about nature’s time clock.

Mushroom Pop Up When the Clock Says So Too

Recently I read this blog post about mushrooms from the Calabogie hiker. I learned that black morels, the mushrooms I’ve discovered on our cottage property, pop up from mid-April to mid-June, first poking through the ground when the wild lilacs bloom. As mentioned previously, that’s when the soil temperature reaches 15 degrees. Now I know exactly when to start looking for them. Unfortunately, that timing coincides with the first lawn cutting of the season.

Another of her posts talked about mother nature’s time clock which inspired this post on my own blog.

Conclusions for Nature’s Time Clock

I love spring because of the changes in my garden, some almost daily. As the soil temperature warms up or even after a well-needed, (like the one we received this past weekend) soaking rain, I love wandering through the gardens every day to see the new growth. When I’ve been away for a few days, that’s the first thing I have to do upon my return.

Update on Wildflower Garden

update on wildflower garden

To start off this season I want to provide an update on a wildflower garden I started at the very end of last garden season. It was an experiment I convinced management at our local hospice to permit me to try.

I called it the lasagna method.

Surviving the Winter

Today I visited the site to see how it looked now that winter is (hopefully) behind us. The leaves are long gone as expected in such a windy area. Watering them down did not do the trick as hoped. Wildflower gardens in my future plans will be sure to include an additional layer of soil on top of the leaf layer. I thought of that for this one but the budget did not permit it as it is a huge area.

The good news is that the soil is all still in place with no cardboard peaking through.

update on wildflower garden
update on wildflower garden

There are no new green sprouts yet but it’s still a bit early to expect those. Especially considering we had a few snowfalls as recent as three days ago! There are a few dandelions, of course, something you have to expect from bulk orders of soil.

Winter Sowing Experiment

I do however have sprouts in the other half of this garden experiment. Remember my post on Winter Sowing of seeds? I was ambitious and started seeds in 22 clear plastic containers. They lived out in the elements on my back deck for the winter. We had lots of snow and extended stretches of cold temperatures, so I was leary on how successful this experiment would be.

update on wildflower garden

Permanent Markers not so Permanent

The biggest problem with the experience was that the permanent marker I used to label the containers with was not so permanent. Fortunately, I recorded the numbers in several spots on each container. With the help of my strongest reading glasses, I was (barely) able to decipher the numbers. Phew!


I did discover a few sprouts in some of the containers, also with the help of my reading glasses. Amazing! I cannot wait until the sprouts are big enough to transplant into their new home. Sorry, these pics are so blurry, the condensation within each container prevented clearer shots. The white squiggly things are sprouts, the last two even have green leaves reaching for the sunlight at the top.

Starting Seeds Indoors

I also started seeds indoors. This I have done before, although I have never had much luck. To increase my chances of success, I purchased two warming mats to keep the seeds and seedlings warmer. Especially as I have them growing in my basement in front of a sunny window…

Designing the Wildflower Garden

In the meantime, I plan to create a design for the placement of the new plants within the sections of the wildflower garden created by the stepping stones. Each type of plant has been assigned a code (A2 or C4 etc) based on the plant’s height at maturity as well as flower colour and bloom time. This way the RSH garden team can simply follow a detailed diagram.

In the center of each section, I will plant tall yellow sunflowers, boneset, purple aster, cleome, and Joe Pye Weed. The next layer will consist of plants a bit shorter in stature. Think purple and grey coneflowers, red sunflowers, various colours of poppies, cosmos, milkweed, goldenrod, steeplebush, and bugbane. A bit shorter yet, black-eyed susans, penstemon, rudbeckia, and verbena will be planted. The final layer will consist of edging (short) plants such as lavender, heuchera, salvia, stonecrop, lamium, and more.

Can you picture it? I can!

I will post another update on this wildflower garden when planting is complete.

Stay tuned!

Beware of Wild Parnsip, but Leave the Goldenrod

wild parsnip

Beware, wild parsnip has made its appearance in Eastern Ontario, introduced from Asia and Europe for its edible root.  A tall wildflower or weed with yellow flowers, it can cause severe blistering and burning when the sap within its stalks comes into contact with skin that is exposed to sunlight.  As Goldenrod is also a tall wildflower with yellow flowers and is very common along roadways in Eastern Ontario, I thought I would compare the two…

Wild parsnip has lobed, sharply toothed leaves, a grooved stalk, and yellow flowers that form a flat-topped, umbrella-like, seed head…

Goldenrod has elongated, swordlike leaves, a smooth stalk, and plumes or spikes of yellow flowers.  Once you compare the two, the only thing they have in common is the color of their flowers. Goldenrod is harmless, and growing in a field or along a roadside can be quite beautiful.  Some claim it is the cause of their seasonal allergies in late summer, but others claim its leaves and flowers have medicinal properties, even helping to alleviate seasonal allergies.

Armed with the details of what these two plants look like, I searched through our cottage lot for signs of wild parsnip.   I did not find any wild parsnip, but did find several clumps of goldenrod.

I have seen clumps of wild parsnip in the vicinity of several gardens I work in though, the largest area is within the Beaverbrook area of Kanata, behind Borduas Court and Carr Crescent, between this residential neighbourhood and the Kanata Lakes Golf Course.  This clump of wild parsnip has gone to seed, meaning the flowers have faded to a beige-brown color and the seeds are blowing in the wind, spreading through the neighbourhood.

There is a path between the two streets with wild parsnip close to the edge of the path.  The plant growth along the path appears to have been mowed recently, but mowing often causes the dangerous sap to leak out of the stalks, especially if a weed wacker or whipper snipper is used.   I would hesitate to let my dog or children walk along there!.

If you spot any wild parsnip in your neighbourhood, notify your local authorities, and do not attempt to eradicate large patches of it yourself.  To remove one or two plants, you can try to dig up the long taproot, but be sure to wear long pants, sleeves, and waterproof gloves.  Try not to break the stalk, place it in a black plastic bag, and leave the bag in the hot sun for a week to kill the plant.  Remove the gloves last and wash them several times with soapy water.  Clothing can be washed in the laundry.

Beware of wild parsnip, but leave the beautiful and harmless goldenrod.