{ Archive for December, 2013 }

Happy holidays…

This is as close to gardening as I get today. And I’m okay with that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A happy thought for blustery days

It’s been a stormy December all across Canada, with heavy snowfalls and frigid temperatures, even by our standards. We’ve had close to hurricane-force winds (110 km/h) here in Southern Alberta a few times in the last weeks, with another blizzard due to blow in today and tonight. It’s not easy on us or on the garden either, though the old adage “whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” hopefully applies equally to plants and to people.

Which reminds me of a little poem I heard a while ago, by Douglas Malloch:

Good timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger wind, the stronger trees.
The further sky, the greater length.
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

Stay warm.

DIY holiday gift idea: Terrarium ornaments

I first discovered air plants at the Tropical Expressions booth at Canada Blooms a few years ago. I was fascinated that they do not require soil, and I learned that air plants collect water from the rain. They also attach themselves to and derive nutrients from other plants (though they’re not considered parasitic).

I incorporated air plants into an article about quick and easy holiday terrariums for Canadian Living‘s January 2013 issue. Because of their minimal care requirements, air plants can be popped into one of those clear, plastic or glass ornaments you can purchase at craft stores. I also created another option, which involved planting succulents in a larger glass ornament. All the how-to information can be found in the Crafts section on CanadianLiving.com.

These ornaments make great gifts, but be sure to make a few for yourself!


photo by Joe Kim/TC Media

Christmas for the birds

Monday night was our community Christmas party, an annual event involving hayrides, hot chocolate, tree lighting, and an appearance by Santa. It’s a fun night, and the kids come home with a paper bag full of tooth-rotting goodness from the Head Elf.

This year, the candy bags included a handful of peanuts in the shell. I remember enjoying just such surprises as a child (long before the days of rampant nut allergies) and was disappointed when all of my children, as well as many of the others, turned their noses up at the nuts. They were all about the sugar.

Not being one to let anything go to waste, I insisted the peanuts be brought home. “If you don’t want them,” I said, “I know someone who will.”

That got their attention.

So we sorted the candy from the nuts, and I set a little container of them out on the front steps (the feeder is under a snowdrift). Sure enough, Tuesday morning the kids found it, tipped over and surrounded in delicate bird prints. I was expecting blue jays, as they go (ahem) nuts over this special treat, but I haven’t seen any yet: it’s a big fat flicker helping himself as far as we can tell.

It seems fitting to pass on these castoffs to the birds, as many European Christmas traditions mention Saint Nick and his various cultural incarnations giving special attention to animals. There’s the whole animals-talking-on-Christmas-Eve thing, too, and in Lithuania, grain and peas scattered on the barn floor at Christmas time was said to ensure healthy, productive animals in the new year. So I’m kind of thinking Santa would approve.

This is our Playmobil Advent calendar, a forest scene with Santa feeding all the animals. So far we've got deer, badgers, squirrels, mice, and a crow.

 

 

Hostess gift idea: Rosemary tree

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Putting together my holiday urn

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:

It took a bit of fiddling to get the branches just so. I like the pine because it drapes nicely over the sides. The one type of cedar I used is a bit more one-dimensional, so it fits nicely in between, while the other type of cedar is fuller, adding depth and a bit of height here and there.

Here you can see the contrasting greenery a little better.

And this closeup shows the silvery stars--they're not that bad, right?--in contrast with the red branches, giant pinecones and birch.

Ruminations on the gardening gift

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?

Just don’t buy me any of these.

 

 

 

 

2-second garden tip: A trick to keep paperwhites upright

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: