{ Author Archive - Tara Nolan }

Spring has officially arrived with Canada Blooms

beleaf2-finalYesterday I checked out Canada Blooms for the first time–what a delight! Between the inspiring gardens, the informative and interesting seminars and the shopping, I can’t decide what I liked best. More to come on my blooming adventures, but I’ll leave you with a photo of one of my favourite gardens. Designed by Be-Leaf Landscape Design, this sweet little space was whimsical and inspiring and totally my style! I love how they’ve brought life to a normal stone patio by creating a narrow ring of space to add a pop of colour and greenery.

What I'm excited to see at Canada Blooms

Last year's gorgeous tulips!

Last year's gorgeous tulips!

This Budding Gardener has never been to Canada Blooms before. I know, I know… what a gardening sin! This is the 13th year of the show and I have to make up for lost time! I was going through the website to plan my day and was overwhelmed with everything there is to see–from the feature gardens to the shopping to the seminars. I will definitely be there on Wednesday shooting some video for CanadianGardening.com and checking out the booths, but I also want to see some of the presentations.

These are some of the reasons I’m excited to visit Canada Blooms:

  • Creating an organic perennial garden of continuous bloom
    (Speaker: Lorraine Roberts)
    Because perennials are my best friends–they come up every year no matter what–and in my quest to be greener, this should be a very helpful seminar.
  • Gardening with Mother Nature the natural way
    (Speaker: Marjorie Mason)
    Because I want my garden to be an eco haven. Marjorie has written a great book called Ecological Gardening: Your Path to a Healthy Garden. It's trade paperback-sized, perfect for the subway, except I also need a pad and pen to take notes while reading!
  • Vertical vegetables
    (Speaker: Kenneth Brown)
    Because I'm planning on planting a square-foot garden and I need all the advice I can get to ensure I actually have something to eat at the end of all my hard work.
  • No more chemicals in the garden
    (Speaker: Jeff Lowefels)
    Because I need to know how to keep my ant population down without grabbing for a can of Raid.
  • Dramatic containers
    (Speaker: Paul Zammit)
    Because I need some fresh ideas for this year's pots. I will be filming a step-by-step video next week of Paul planting his gorgeous containers at the Toronto Botanical Garden! Stay tuned!
  • Since I love to travel, I'm looking forward to checking out the VIA Rail Garden Route and Tourism Ireland's Garden Travel area. Aldona did a portion of the Garden Route out west last fall and it sounds amazing!
  • The City of Toronto's 175th Anniversary Garden — to celebrate my city's birthday.
  • The Heart and Stroke Pulse Garden and the Canadian Cancer Society: Cancer Connections urban gallery for inspiration.
  • Pick Ontario Avenue because I can't resist shopping!

Share your seed storage tips

kitchengardenboxA few years ago I went to PEI and bought a packet of lupin seeds. When I got home, I put them in a “safe” place and couldn't find them for two years. I now try to keep everything gardening-related together in a little desk drawer, but this sweet little box turned up on my desk recently and I just had to share.

The Kitchen Garden Box from Quirk Books is like a recipe organizer, but the “recipe” cards not only hold veggie recipes, there are other helpful seed-planting tips and tricks, as well. There are 10 reusable seed envelopes, but you could also file your own in there and keep everything together in one place.

How do you keep your seeds organized? Post a comment below and you could win a Kitchen Garden Box of your own. I'll randomly pick two winners next week.

Note: Open to all residents of Canada, except those in Quebec. Not open to any Transcontinental Media employees, their families, or any other persons with whom they reside.

My seeds: The chosen ones

My sister and I chose our seeds from the heirloom seed house and plant nursery, The Cottage Gardener in Newtonville, Ontario. It was important to us to choose heirloom and organic varieties.

It would have been easy to go crazy and pick one of everything, but we had to realize that we can't start everything from seed. I simply don't have the space, and as Anne Marie said, not everything does as well from seed. So, I'll be hitting the nurseries, including my usual spots–the heirloom vendors at the Evergreen Brickworks Farmer's Market and Richters–for the seedlings of the veggies I'm not starting early.

But back to my seeds. My choices include cosmos, one of my favourite flowers, and experiments like white-stemmed pak choy and Detroit dark red beet. My sister chose a lot of herbs, which I'm game to try out, as well. Here is a list of what we're planting:

• Dill
• Florence Fennel
• English Thyme
• Black Calypso Beans
• Common Chives
• Roman Chamomile
• Cilantro
• Champion Collards
• Black Hungarian Hot Peppers
• Arugula
• Cosmos
• Detroit Dark Red Beet
• White-Stemmed Pak Choy
• Mesclun mix (a gift from Canadian Gardening writer Lorraine Flanigan)

Taking a deep breath and perusing the seed catalogues

I have never started my seeds indoors before. Sure, I've thrown a few in the ground over the years to see what would come up, but I always worried I didn't have enough space or light to sow them inside. I had varied success with my veggies last year, but my sister and I both realized that the long wait for our peppers and tomatoes had a lot to do with planting them too late in the season. This year we're determined to get a head start.

We decided to order seeds together, but plant in our own respective homes. I'm going to sacrifice the windowsill in my home office and the space around it. My sister's apartment is a virtual greenhouse–her lemongrass is a tree!–and her husband built her these awesome shelves for her seed pots. I figure my odds of fresh herbs and veggies increase with both of us planting the same thing. If one of us fails (most likely me), we have backup.

But where to begin? I find seed catalogues so overwhelming–especially when looking at 10 tomatoes with the same description. Cross-eyed and confused, I turned to Anne Marie for some advice in choosing what to plant.

Here are her helpful tips:

• Look for flowers and vegetables listed as award winners. These are some of the best ones to grow.
• Good plants to start from seeds indoors include tomatoes, marigolds, sunflowers, squash, geraniums, lettuce, sweet peas, cosmos, morning glory and basil.
• Sunflowers, squash, lettuce, sweet peas and morning glory are also good to sow directly outside, too.
• Not all plants are worth starting from seeds. Some are better divided or started by cuttings. (Good call, I'll reign in my list!)
• Buy the size of package you can use in one year.
• If packets contain less than 10 seeds then expect to pay premium prices because they have to be collected by hand, the plant is rare, or the plant only produces a small number of seeds.
• Beware of packets that contain 1,000 seeds for a low price such as $2.49.
• After your seed list is assembled a little time searching on the Internet can give you the specific details about how to sow them–when to sow i.e. days before planting them outside, to cover or not to cover (light vs darkness), ideal temperature for germination, days until germination, etc.

Someone recommended a seed company to my sister, so we both compiled a list and our seeds are in the mail! I just have to buy my little seed starting pots and I'm good to go!

Forcing branches and other ways to start spring now!

Elaine working her magic

Elaine working her magic

Sunday morning it was almost as though Mother Nature was mocking me by throwing snowflakes every which way as I headed into the Distillery District in downtown Toronto. How dare I think about spring! But despite the wintry day, spring awaited me inside Tappo Wine Bar & Restaurant. I was there to attend “A Cabin Fever Breakaway: A festival for gardeners longing for spring.” I was invited by Elaine Martin, owner of Vintage Gardener and the organizer of the event.

Brilliant yellow forsythia branches and daffodils, multicoloured primula, deep purple hyacinth and candy-coloured tulips surrounded a table filled with the amazing vintage pots and vases that Elaine sells in her store. I was feeling inspired already!

So what were forsythia branches, one of the first signs of spring, doing inside when it's clearly still winter? That's what Elaine focused on for the first part of her talk—how to force branches (forsythia and magnolia work best) into thinking it's spring. This is something I'm definitely going to try—I have two forsythia bushes in the backyard. And it seems so easy!

With this planter, Elaine explained how to gently bend the pussy willow branches to create a handle!

With this planter, Elaine explained how to gently bend the pussy willow branches to create a handle!

According to Elaine, all you have to do is wait for a sunny day when the temperature goes up by 10 degrees. Cut some branches—longer than you need—and bring them indoors. Once inside, trim about six inches from the bottom and then take a hammer and crush the bottom or make cuts up the stem. Then place them in room temperature water and wait for the magic!

Make sure your branches are in indirect light. Elaine says it can take anywhere from three days to two weeks for blooms to appear.

The next part of Elaine's presentation involved creating planters with the rainbow of flowers she had brought. I took some pics because they were so beautiful and definitely the perfect way to bring spring inside your home during the last days of winter.

Elaine has lots of great workshops coming up in her store. Stay tuned to our events page for details!

Alphabet soup for gardeners

We had a faint whiff of spring a couple of weekends ago–it was sunny and mild, the snow disappeared and there was that amazing dirt smell you get when the ground is wet and things are ready to bloom. I felt so hopeful, but alas this budding gardener had to talk some sense into herself. Spring does not begin in February in Southern Ontario. I will not be able to head outside in my old clothes and new Gloveables to spring clean my garden.

However there is lots still to do indoors–I need to order my seeds already (which I'll be doing with my sister), plant those seeds and start planning what I'll do in the garden when spring finally does arrive.

Looking for planting inspiration? Our shutterbug forum members have been busy posting photos in their annual Alphabet Soup. Started a few years ago by forum members Patty and Jean, users can post up to three photos that correspond to a new letter every other day. We are currently at the letter “N” and you can even go back and post on the other letters if you want to share your snaps.

And the winner is…

I drew a name this afternoon to win a pair of Gloveables and the winner is Brenda! Thank you to everyone who entered. I wish I had a pair for all of you. Please check in once in awhile as I’ll be doing more giveaways throughout the spring and summer months.

Brenda, please email me at hgwebeditor@transcontinental.ca with your mailing address.

Diva-worthy gardening gloves

On Monday, a package arrived on my desk that brightened my day. I got these amazing pairs of multi-coloured gloves from Gloveables. These cheerful, waterproof gloves are similar to what you'd use to avoid dishpan hands, but with a fashionable twist. They come in several colours and have a lovely cuff detail in a variety of designs, including polka dots, gingham, leopard and lace. I've posted a photo from the website for you to take a look.

Now they may not be suitable to tame my rosebush, but these will definitely come in handy in the garden for most other tasks that don’t involve sharp thorns — they're so pretty I won't want to get them dirty! My favourite pair is pink with zebra cuffs and a cute bow.

Suddenly I’m inspired to trade my normal grubby garden gear and dress instead like Bree on Desperate Housewives, who has worn Gloveables on the show. What would the neighbours say!

Furthermore, while flipping through the catalogue, I learned that Gloveables` parent company, Grandway, built a wooden fabrication facility and a sewing factory to employ residents in Cholutecca, Honduras, a rural city with few employment opportunities. So by purchasing these gloves, you are helping to support the community where they are made.

Just another reason I can't wait for spring!

I have a pair to give away to one lucky reader. Tell me what you'd use your Gloveables for by posting a comment and I'll randomly choose a winner!

Note: Open to all residents of Canada, except those in Quebec. Not open to any Transcontinental Media employees, their families, or any other persons with whom they reside.

My lonely Christmas cactus bloom

One of my favourite holiday plants is the Christmas cactus. When in full bloom, they are an absolutely gorgeous contrast of colour and interesting leaves. I've had mine now for a few years and the last two, I got one lonely bloom. So I asked Anne Marie what I can do to bring back that riot of colour next year. Here is what she had to say:

Christmas cacti are plants that respond to cooler temperatures and the length of the day (short days and long nights) to trigger them to flower. Keeping them slightly dry in the fall may also help, too.

To get them to form buds in early winter or late fall, put them where they will get night temperatures near 15 deg. C (55 F) and day temperatures below 18 deg. C (65 F). After about six weeks at this temperature, buds will form at the end of the branches. Placing the plants where they can get 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night also helps bring on the flower buds. Once the flower buds are formed, the cooler temperatures and long night darkness can be stopped.

But, don't let the plant get too hot, too dry, too cold or experience a sudden change or else the flower buds might drop off.

It's going to be a long wait, but I look forward to the challenge to bring on the blooms!

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