A rosemary tree makes for a festive hostess gift, don’t you think? Its conical shape resembles a miniature Christmas tree (although its boughs aren’t sturdy enough to hang ornaments off of) and its fragrance is just so herby and delightful.
This morning the sun was shining, it was mild and the birds were singing in my weeping mulberry. I decided it was the perfect time to go outside and put together my holiday urn. The sun promptly disappeared, but I was already in the mood to create, so I didn’t care. My urn is a mix of materials I bought (though I hate paying for stuff I can find in the woods for free) and things I gathered from my yard (and garage).
Here’s a list of what went into the mix:
- I started by cutting a birch branch I found while on a hike (it was on the ground!) in two and stuck both branches firmly in the soil that was left over from my fall urn. There’s a nice fork in one of the branches, so I’m technically following the rule of threes! I added a bit more soil to anchor them in.
- Next, I placed my pine boughs around the exterior. This was the only greenery I purchased (I grabbed a small bunch), since I don’t have anything like this on my property.
- I also bought sticks. But only because I don’t know where I can covertly snip red osier dogwood in these here parts. My house sits up a bit from the road and my urn could look like a big blob of green, so I wanted a pop of colour with the red sticks. I placed these around the birch branches.
- Then I took a walk around the yard, snipping two types of cedar branches, which I interspersed with the pine boughs.
- I wanted to add a wee bit of sparkle, so I stuck three silvery stars on sticks around the birch. I had more, but I wanted to keep it subtle.
- I crowned the centre with three enormous pinecones that I bought at the Toronto Christmas Market last year.
And that’s it! I fiddled a bit with all the branches to make them just so, but I’m happy with the result. Here are some pics:
There’s a whole lot of whispering and sneaking and wrapping going on around here, and I can’t help but hope someone heard my loud hints about getting me some new secateurs. However, there’s a piece of me that hopes they didn’t notice. Why the conflict? I want someone to get them for me, so I don’t have to dither any longer about justifying the expense, but I’d really like to pick them out myself.
I’m horrible. I know. I should just be grateful, no matter what. And I’m pretty good about that when it comes to most things– get me a scarf, or a book, some music, or a fairy for my collection, and I am pretty much guaranteed to be genuinely grateful. But garden tools or garden decor can be such a matter of personal taste and needs. Not everyone wants a grinning resin turtle to cavort among the flowers. You’d better know your recipient pretty well before you go there.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d be pleased to receive many of the gifts on this lovely new list, but I’d be just as happy–maybe more–to get a gift card for my favourite greenhouse. They might carry a hint of cop-out, but in this case, and my case, it would be welcome.
If you’re set on giving a gardening gift, but the person “has everything,” is a little picky (like me), or you’re just plain drawing a blank, there’s always the option of a gift in kind: a donation to Plan Canada or World Vision (among others) can help plant fruit trees, start a quinoa crop, set up a family farm, or establish a schoolyard garden in developing parts of the world.
Anything given with love and thought is a great present, right?
Today’s 2-second garden tip was first printed in the Winter 2006 issue of Canadian Gardening. It has been on the website ever since and every year I remind our readers of this clever trick. Here is a link to the original article that has a bit more info: Keep your paperwhites upright. And, here is our Pinterest-worthy tip:
I’ve been enjoying all the great ideas for winter planters, holiday flower arrangements and wreaths that have been popping up lately. When we were down in Kalispell two weeks ago, I noticed cute barn wood planters all over the antique shops, stuffed with juniper branches. Some were long and low, some tapered and carved, but they all had one thing in common: they were ridiculously overpriced. I said to Chris, “I bet we could throw one of those together in less than an hour.”
And this morning we tried. And got two done in less than an hour.
Of course, Chris is a confident woodworker, and we have loads of old fence board just laying around. But it’s still an easy project for anyone to try.
Choose wood that has aged nicely, but be sure it isn’t so aged that it is splitting. Interesting knots or grain are a bonus. For easy building, we used plain old but joints, and made the base the width of our board, and the height the same. For the end pieces, we measured the width of our board and added the thickness of each side piece. Use a coloured pencil to mark your measurements–regular pencil disappears on barn wood.
If you intend to use live plants, you will want to be sure to build your planter to fit your container. I chose to do a dry arrangement, but 3 standard 5 inch pots (or old sour cream containers!) will fit just right when I decide to change it.
Here’s what I did with one of mine. I did resort to using some artificial flowers; it’s protected in the porch and I don’t want to assault my junipers or dogwoods until they get a little bigger.
Evergreen’s Give Green, Be Green holiday gift program is amazing! I’d love to give this to a fellow gardener or eco-minded pal.
Check out the Plant Green category. You can have a native sapling planted in a Canadian city or a pollinator garden planted in a public park or school; you can adopt an apple tree and Evergreen will share the fruit with a community in need or have a community garden planted in an urban space. It’s so simple: You donate and Evergreen does all the dirty work (quite literally). Your recipient will receive an e-card letting them know that a donation has been made in their name (and you get to avoid the hectic shopping mall – talk about a win-win).
Other categories include Play Green, Build Green and Eat Green.
Today’s tip comes via garden writer Veronica Sliva. Veronica and I have known each other for a few years as members of the Garden Writers Association. In fact, Veronica was the regional director when we first met. We usually see each other throughout the spring and summer months at various gardening events, from Canada Blooms to the Toronto Botanical Garden’s annual Through the Garden Gate tour. That is, if Veronica is not off leading tours around the world for GardeningTours.com.
A prolific garden writer, Veronica creates columns and articles for both print and web (including CanadianGardening.com), as well as for her own website, A Gardener’s World.
Here is Veronica’s autumn-based 2-second tip:
With Remembrance Day behind us and Halloween firmly in the past, it is time for many of us to get into the full swing of all things Christmas.
I’ve never grown an amaryllis or anything like that, but this year I thought I’d try paperwhites. I’m a die hard daffodil fan, so these cousins (Narcissus papyraceus) aren’t too far outside my comfort zone.
The little gift pack I stumbled across at Walmart for five bucks actually came with a pot and a disk of compressed coir, but many people plant the bulbs in a dish of water topped up with pebbles or marbles for stability. My kit says to plant them six weeks before you want blooms; most people on the Interweb say three weeks, so I’m doing it today and we’ll see.
I did find an intriguing tip for keeping blooming paperwhites from getting top-heavy –get them ever so slightly drunk. But as to why paperwhites are thought of as a Christmas flower, I couldn’t find any clues other than they bloom in December in warm climates. There doesn’t seem to be any special symbolism.
Poinsettias symbolized purity to the ancient Aztecs, and there’s the usual holly and ivy to represent eternity and resurrection. Evergreen trees fall into the same category. But amaryllis? Christmas Rose (Serissa or Helleborus, depending on who you ask)? Christmas cactus? We just seem to be looking for something alive and lovely in the dark winter months.
Fair enough. We were pretty excited when Chris got a zygocactus (Schlumbergera) blooming again.
At least, he’s the one who rescued the poor little guy. It was languishing in a corner after being relocated during the ever-present renovations, and he moved it to his studio where it gets bright, indirect light. He’s taking full credit for the transformation; I think he accidentally did exactly what it needed.
But I’m not complaining. It’s pretty exciting to have so many things growing when there’s carols on the radio and four inches of snow.
Halifax-based garden writer Niki Jabbour and I met at the annual Garden Writers Association luncheon at Canada Blooms two years ago. Since then, we’ve been corresponding, mostly via social media like Twitter and Facebook, and I’ve been a guest a couple of times on her radio show, The Weekend Gardener.
Niki is the author of the upcoming book Groundbreaking Food Gardens, which will be released by Storey Publishing in March 2014. She also penned the award-winning book The Year Round Vegetable Gardener, which is a fantastic resource for those gardeners who don’t want to confine their edible gardening to our short, Canadian summers. It’s also the name of her blog.
It seemed logical that Niki provide our next 2-second garden tip, which speaks to extending the harvest. I know I’ll be on the lookout for unwanted punch bowls from now on!
Image courtesy of the Year Round Vegetable Gardener, Storey Publishing.
One of the bizarre details of my past is that I starred in a filmstrip for Parks Canada when I was a kid. It was called “The Aspen Curtain” and was all about the various species of trees found in Elk Island National Park. My nine-year-old noodle absorbed all kinds of little facts, one being that tamaracks, though a conifer, are deciduous: they turn gold and shed their needles in the winter.
That little nugget of knowledge was sleeping in the back of my brain when we were given a bunch of cast-offs from a tree planting expedition a few years ago. Not being ones to let a tree die without giving it a fighting chance, we put them all in the ground. Many of them died back anyway, turning brown or yellow. But one of these came back in the spring, with healthy, bright green growth. I was mystified. I had assumed all the baby conifers were spruce or pine or fir, and had not taken the time to ID them (and honestly, when they’re that little, they’re a lot alike. At least to me.).
How exciting! A tamarack of my very own!
Then a neighbour happened by and got pretty excited when he saw it. “That’s a larch!” he said, “I love larches. They’re my favourite tree!” We stroked its lovely soft needles and exclaimed about its airy structure. I agreed that it is one of my very favourite trees, and respecting his backwoods knowledge more than my moviemaking memory, mentally christened the little gem a larch. Larches must be another deciduous conifer, I thought, and left it at that. No research, no verification.
I really can be horribly pedantic when I want to, but apparently I wasn’t in the mood that day.
That changed when we went to Kalispell, Montana this last weekend.
As we crossed through the Flathead National Forest, we started seeing brilliant yellow trees dotted amongst the pine and spruce. Disease crossed my mind, but just as quickly I realized I was looking at larch trees. Hundreds of them. Maybe thousands. Being used to seeing my one solitary specimen, this was like a big golden early Christmas present.
I’m sure I’ve been looking at them constantly when I’ve been in the mountains, and just didn’t realize it: this week my timing was right to see their golden colour. When they’re green or naked, they kind of disappear into the forest. Even in the four days we were there, we saw them fade and begin to drop.
But what about the big question: tamarack or larch? The lovely people we asked called it a ‘tamarack larch’ which I found completely unhelpful at the time, but turns out to perfectly accurate.
A tamarack larch, or American larch (Larix laricina), is likely what we were looking at in Montana, which is a species of the genus Larix, which includes several European and North American species. So all tamaracks are larches, but not all larches are tamaracks.
Kind of like all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.
As for exactly which larch mine is, I’m done with being pedantic today. I’m just enjoying the colours.