{ Author Archive - Anja Sonnenberg }

Tweeting houseplants

Have you ever wondered what you’re houseplants are thinking? Well, thanks to this cool gadget, your houseplant can now tweet. By using Twitter, your houseplant will communicate with you via the Internet. The Botanicalls DIY Plant Twitter Kit easily translates all dialect of ‘houseplant’ to English.

add2_botanicalls_plant_twitter_kit_inplantSo how does it work? The original breakthrough was made when the chief scientist at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) was trying to communicate with a patch of catnip by using a super computer.

“I CAN HAZ TWITTER?” said the plant. This confused the scientist, but his granddaughter was able to figure out that the plant wanted to Tweet! Plant who tweet don’t have much to say, but they do request that you water them and thank you once you have.

Fact or fiction? Who knows, but this fun toy is perfect for a techie gardener who is feeling stir crazy during the long winter months!

Plants with curls

Now that my garden is fast asleep, I fulfill my gardening urges by sorting through my garden photos. We all admire plants for their colourful blooms and interesting foliage, but what about their other unique attributes.

Take curls for example. I found these two examples of plants with curls in my garden photos, but I know there are many other plants that showcase these curly tendrils. Of course I admire the plant’s ”whole package’, but sometimes it’s fun to focus on one interesting aspect. So today, it’s all about curls!

Yucca tendrils

Yucca tendrils

Pumpkin tendrils

Pumpkin tendrils

Are you scared of your houseplants?

eyesIt’s not often that gardening is chosen as a topic to be portrayed in main stream media. That’s why I was thrilled to watch this video clip from Saturday Night Live. Christopher Walken stars in this short comedy sketch. He’s the host of a fictional gardening show ‘Indoor Gardening Tips from a Man Who is Very Scared of Plants.’ To help ease his fear of plants, he glues googly eyes on all his houseplants. If you’re in the mood for a chuckle, I highly recommend you watch this video clip!

Mums the word

A look back at the 2008 Annual Mum Show

A look back at a few photos from the 2008 Annual Mum Show

The 89th Annual Mum Show recently took place in Hamilton this past week. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to enjoy the artistic splendor. If it was anything like last year, then I really missed out. Not only does the event showcase new varieties and traditional favourites, the creativity involved in designing elaborate displays filled with mums is impressive. Last year’s show included water features, gazing balls, and other artistic installations strategically placed amoung the thousands of potted chrysanthemums.mums3

Aside from the sheer beauty of the Mum Show, another thing I love about the show is the smell. There’s something about the smell of mums that I love. I don’t know if it’s just me, but the smell of mums is irresistible.

mums

Timber…look out below!

timber2This past Sunday, we were enjoying a quiet family breakfast, when all of a sudden we heard two chainsaws rev up. Now it was almost nine o’clock, but seriously it was SUNDAY morning!

Apparently our neighbor was having a tree removed. I didn’t think arborists worked on Sunday, but obviously these guys do. Aside from being slightly annoyed at our traquil morning begin interupted, I couldn’t help but admire the grace and agility of the aborist clamoring up the tree. The tree is question was a Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima). It hadn’t been in good shape several main branches were dying and it had barely sprouted any leaves this spring. From the time the two man crew started, it took them two hours to cut the tree down. One man was in the tree cutting the branches off it sections, and the other was on the ground, cutting up the branches into smaller pieces.timber

I had to take an aboricultre class in school and we did several field trips where we had to climb (or attempt) a tree using all the gear. Let me tell you it’s TOUGH! I really admire how easy they make it look. Not only do they have to make sure they’ve got a safe roosting spot in the tree, but they also have to wield a chainsaw and direct the falling branches to a safe location below. I’m impressed …. even if it was Sunday morning!

Spooky Halloween horticulture

With the arrival of Halloween tomorrow, the houses in my neighborhood are becoming ghoulish haunts. Front yards are littered with tombstones and zombies and skeletons are lurking in the shadows. I love when homeowners make the effort to create haunted gardens, even if it’s a traditional jack-o-lantern greeting children as they scream “trick or treat?”

Haunting my front door this Halloween is the Headless Horseman.

Haunting my front door this Halloween is the Headless Horseman.

Have you ever wondered why we crave pumpkins for Halloween?

The tradition dates back several centuries to Ireland, where a lazy farmer named Stringy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. When the time came to pay for his drink, Jack convinced the Devil to transform into a coin, but instead of paying with it, he put it the coin in his pocket with a silver cross to prevent the Devil from transforming back. When Jack finally decided to let the Devil go, he made the Devil promise that the he wouldn’t take his soul.

Unfortunately for Jack, he died the following Halloween (of unrelated causes) and was turned away from the Heaven because of his sinful lifestyle. Turning to the Gates of Hell as a last resort, he was turned away by the Devil because the Devil had promised not to claim Jack’s soul. Poor Jack was alone in the darkness, but the Devil took pity on him and gave him a glowing piece of coal to light his way. Luckily Jack found a turnip and put the burning coal inside. To this day, Jack is roaming the earth, carrying the turnip lantern to find his way in the darkness.

Although there are many different versions of Stringy Jack’s story, all lead to the tradition of carving turnips. Since pumpkins were more plentiful then turnips in North America, Irish emigrants decided to hollow out the large orange gourds when making their Jack-o-Lanterns for Halloween.

To read more Halloween horticulture, check out Charmian Christie’s article ‘Halloween Plant Lore.

Fabulous fall foliage

treeIf you haven’t been outside lately, you’re missing the fabulous fall foliage. As the days get shorter and the temperature drops, trees sense the approach of winter. During the fall, the green canopy of summer transforms into a colourful smorgasbord of reds, oranges, and yellows. Have you ever wondered what triggers the leaves to change colour?

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This is the maple tree in my backyard. Each fall, it becomes an incredible shade of golden yellow. When the afternoon sun hits the leaves, it glows!

During my horticultural studies, my ornamental plant professor explained it best. Leaves change colour because of a chemical shift in the foliage. During the summer, leaves produce chlorophyll, which is used to absorb sunlight, which is then turned into glucose in other words, photosynthesis. As the tree prepares to hibernate chlorophyll production slows down and the glucose and nutrients from the leaves are absorbed by the branches, trunk, and roots. Since chlorophyll makes the leaves green, the remaining pigments in the leaves take over. Yellow and orange leaves contain carotene (the same pigments that give carrots their bright orange colour). Red and purple leaves contain anthrocyanins (which give radishes and red roses their vibrant red colour).

Pretty technical, I know, but it does shed some light on the chemical shift that the leaves are experiencing. Of course, there are other factors that influence how vibrant the colours become including temperature and soil moisture. In southern Ontario, our fall colours seem to pop after we enjoy several consecutive warm, sunny days and cool nights. I can’t imagine living somewhere in the world where they don’t experience changing seasons. As we transition into each new season, the garden is filled with new splendors to explore!

Bulb planting made easy

4-001I finally managed to find some time to play in the garden on the weekend. Although my gardening to-do list wasn’t completed, I did manage to plant all my tulip bulbs. Every fall, I wait till the bulbs are on sale by mid-October they’re normally reduced by 40 to 60% off the regular price. This way I can buy more bulbs, while sticking to my gardening budget.2

When I worked at the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in Burlington as a student gardener, I had the pleasure of planting tulip bulbs in the Rock Garden. Each year, the Spring Bulb Display showcases over 100,000 bulbs, which are brought in from growers in Holland. After they bloom, the bulbs are dug up and sold at the RBG’s bulb sale. Now consider planting 100,000 bulbs each and every September….now that’s a lot of bulbs.

4Instead of using a trowel to plant the bulbs, we used a bulb planter. Now this handy little tool saves a lot of time. Basically you rotate the handle as you push it into the soil. Once you’ve reached the specific depth, you pull it out. The soil is securely grasped in the cylinder, leaving a perfect hole to plant your bulb. Once you’ve nestled the bulb in its new home, you squeeze the spring-loaded handle, and it releases the soil, tucking the bulb in for the winter. If you’re wondering how far to dig the hole, the cylinder has gradation marks on the side for easy measurements.

5This handy device makes bulb planting a breeze. I spent 20 minutes planting 40 bulbs on the weekend and that included watering the bulbs and cleaning up. Now all I have to do is wait for spring!

Spectaular ornamental grasses

grass22One of the first gardening projects my husband and I tackled when we first moved into our house was dig up an old Privet hedge in our backyard. The hedge grew between the upper and lower patio I think the original homeowners wanted a screen between the house and pool, but when we moved in, it was unkempt and burly. I had thought we could salvage it, but my husband wanted to remove it (Yes, honey. You were right!)

It took a whole weekend to dig out the bushes and deep roots. When we were done, we were left with a sloping L-shaped bed. Once I saw the blank canvas, I envisioned a small rock garden. I built up the bottom of the slope with rocks to create a foundation and then amended the soil with compost and topsoil. The next step was deciding what to plant. Aside from a variety of succulents planted in the rock crevices, I also added a bunch of perennials including sedum, lamb’s ear, coreopsis, creeping phlox, and Scotch moss. To add some height, I decided to plant a few ornamental grasses. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Goliath’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Titian’, Carex pendula (Drooping Sedge), Carex flacca (Blue Sedge), grass333and Festuca amethystina.

Two years later, the ornamental grasses have stolen the show. They’re not that showy in the spring, but by midsummer they’re quite impressive. By early fall, they skyrocket and bloom, and are quite spectacular. During the winter months, they create interest in the garden when everything else is hidden underneath the snow.

If you haven’t tried growing ornamental grasses, I highly recommend adding them to your garden. They’re easy to grow, versatile in the landscape, and incredibly showy. I’ve become addicted to ornamental grasses and have dabbled with a few in the front yard. I also want to design a new bed under a huge maple tree at the back of our yard. Ornamental grasses are definitely a good thing!

Don’t forget the flowers!

happy-bunch-227If you’re attending Thanksgiving dinner hosted by friends or family this weekend, don’t forget the flowers. Cut flower bouquets make a great hostess gift. You can either stop off at your local florist to choose a lovely arrangement or you can create your own. Either way, they’ll make a lovely addition to your Thanksgiving dinner table!

For a few ideas on festive arrangements you can make yourself, check out these bouquets.

A lush fall centrepiece

A happy bunch of fall flowers

Three fall centrepieces for the harvest table

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