{ Author Archive - Tara Nolan }

Gardening gift of the day: Grow Great Grub

I really wish I knew about Gayla Trail’s first book, You Grow Girl: The Groundbreaking Guide to Gardening, when I first bought my house. Gayla has a way of making gardening sound so fun and easy and attainable. Her fantastic follow-up, Grow Great Grub, inspires readers to grow their own fruits, veggies, herbs and edible flowers. Teeny tiny yards and balconies are no obstacle, you just have to work with what you have. That might mean growing tomatoes upside down or raising kumquats in your living room. Delicious, interesting recipes make full use of your harvest and a helpful section shows you how to preserve your bounty so that nothing goes to waste. Gayla’s DIY ethos and conversational tone make you want to reach for your gardening gloves and start planting, salvage containers for plants and grow something you haven’t tried before—like potatoes in a metal garbage can!

Price: $24.99
Available at: Chapters Indigo and Amazon.ca

Gardening gift of the day: An art nest

This little gem caught my eye at the One of a Kind Show (if you’re in Toronto before Sunday, it’s at booth P4). It’s an art nest that can serve double duty as a suet feeder and as a building supply shop for the birds – the wool is enticing for nest building. According to Tracey Martin, half of Martin House Garden Art with her husband Derek, it’s always been a best seller and by the end of day 3, they had almost run out. Derek apparently made more last weekend. I believe it was Derek I spoke to at the booth and he said they would ship the nest if you call or email to place an order.

Price: $48
Available at: Martin House Art in Barrie, Ont. or by special order.

Gardening gift of the day: My Garden, A Five-Year Journal


When I first moved into my house, a couple of neighbours would point out certain plants, tell me their name, give me tips on how to care for them. While I managed to retain most of the information, sometimes I wish I had written it all down. Keeping a garden journal is a great way to chronicle your successes and failures, ideas and advice, all in one place.

This journal by seasoned gardener Mimi Luebbermann allows you to record all the nitty gritty, inspirational details about your garden throughout the four seasons. Quick tips serve as gentle reminders of what needs to be done, instructive how-tos help you do everything from choosing the right tool to picking the right plant, and handy checklists ensure no essential tasks are missed. There is also plenty of room to include sketches and ideas, and an expandable envelope at the back will hold plant tags and other loose bits of paper nicely.

Price: $24.95
Available at: Chronicle Books, Chapters Indigo and Amazon.ca

Gardening gift of the day: The Thoughtful Gardener

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Thoughtful Gardener Watering Can, $39.99

Sometimes it’s really hard to find garden gear at this time of the year – a lot of stores have packed it all away for the season. With that in mind, Chapters Indigo has come out with these charming tools and accessories featuring whimsical quotes just in time for the holiday season.

The secateurs have rubber-coated handles and a non-stick, coated blade. The tool set features a trowel and fork made of stainless steel with weatherproofed ash handles. If your green thumb is already all geared up, the watering can is not only functional, it deserves a spot on a shelf – indoors or out. And I bet your favourite gardener doesn’t have a twine tin. Family, if you’re reading this, the twine tin is on my list!

Price: as per photos
Available at: Chapters and Indigo stores across Canada and online

* Check back every weekday until December 23 for more great gift ideas!

Thoughtful Gardener Tin of Twine, $9.99

Thoughtful Gardener Secateurs, $24.99

Thoughtful Gardener Tool Set, $29.99

Gardening gift of the day: Ethel Gloves

In June, I received a pair of Ethel Gloves to try out after attending a GWA luncheon. I was excited because Martha Stewart had recently tweeted the stylish gloves, so I was curious to put them to the test. I have to admit – the gloves were so pretty I didn’t want to get them dirty. But then reality set in when more than one finger started to poke through the cute pink pair that I got for my birthday from my parents last year. And I was tired of digging dirt out from under my fingernails. So I pulled the pretty Ethel gloves out of their pretty box and wore them every day I was out in the garden this summer.

And they survived – even through my extensive front yard reno. Reinforced fingertips mean that I can wear my gloves next year because I haven’t worn them out. An extended cuff prevented dirt from sliding into my glove throughout all my digging. If I really want to, I can throw them into the washing machine. And, even beneath all that dirt, they’re still really pretty.

Price: $20 US
Available at: RONA stores across Canada

* Check back every weekday until December 23 for more great gift ideas!

The box was so pretty, I had to take a picture. The style I received is called Jubilee.

It’s that time of year! The One of a Kind Show – do you want to go?

Retail stores may start thinking Christmas the day after Halloween, but I start thinking Christmas once I’ve been to the annual One of a Kind Christmas Show & Sale. For the last few years, my friend and colleague Heather and myself have made it a tradition to attend together. There are always three reasons we go: to discover interesting gift finds for the publications we write for, to inspire ourselves to come up with our own creations as we’ve been known to be pretty crafty ourselves, and to Christmas shop. Ok, I lied, four reasons. We may sometimes pick up one or two treats for ourselves. How can you not? While a few of the artisans now recognize us, there are always new treasures to discover. What are you looking forward to seeing at the One of a Kind Show? Drop me a line below to tell me, and I will randomly draw one name to receive two tickets to the One of a Kind Show that runs from November 25 to December 5. I’ll be drawing tomorrow at noon. Good luck!

*Contest closes November 25, 2010 at 12 pm EST. 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.*

From grass to garden part 4 – fall colour and a path closeup

It wasn’t intentional, because I really just planted what I had on hand, but my new front yard garden has some brilliant fall colour. I took photos last weekend as we were painting our trim. It’s been a busy summer as we first got a new door, then new siding and then the garden makeover. Because our windows are old, we’re giving them a fresh coat of white paint until they can be replaced. That’s why you can see the 3M Blue Tape lining the windows and front door. Up next? In the spring we’d like to work on the other side of the yard!

Even after a couple of months, some of our plants have started to fill in a bit and others have provided unexpected pops of colour.

Our path was lined with red bricks that used to divide our side garden from the front lawn. Originally we were going to go for more of the cobblestone look, but decided on these colourful pebbles instead.

From grass to garden part 3 – after photos!

Based on our rough garden plan, my mom, dad, husband and I got to work on the Saturday of the August long weekend. While the boys worked on the wall, my mom and I worked on shovelling dirt and mulch to the new garden and placing the plants we had on hand.

Here, the wall is partially finished and you can see the big rocks we got from our neighbour that divide the existing garden from the new one.

I had put aside a few that I received at gardening events and the rest we divided out of my collection of perennials.

Here’s what we planted:

1. ‘Starbright’ mock orange: I picked this out at the annual President’s Choice Lawn & Garden preview.

2. This is a lovely ornamental grass that I planted after last year’s PC Lawn & Garden preview. I was able to divide one plant into three.

3. This rhododendron was shaded by a purple sand cherry and a couple of big trees in my neighbour’s front garden, so we rescued it and placed it front and centre. Hopefully it comes back next year because it has very pretty pink blooms.

4. The two shrubs you see pictured were planted in the original garden that was decimated after our sewer pipes were replaced. Luckily the workers dug them into another garden, so they weren’t lost forever–unlike my poor hens and chicks.

5. You can’t see it very well, but I bought this Proven Winners Black Lace Elderberry for about 80% off at an end-of-season Loblaws sale.

6. It’s not in this picture, but we later planted a Crimson Butterflies Gaura from Sheridan Garden Classics– courtesy of a Garden Writers Association luncheon I attended at the Toronto Botanical Garden. It took awhile, but these gorgeous magenta blooms finally appeared in late summer.

7. This is a type of sedum that my mom calls Dragon’s Blood. It is a lovely spreader in her Port Perry garden, so she had lots to spare.

8. This Autumn Joy sedum was transplanted from one of my back gardens.

9. Ellagance Ice lavender from Freeman Herbs: I also received this plant from my GWA luncheon where Freeman Herbs was a guest speaker.

Not shown in the photo are a couple of boxwood we planted at the very end of the yard by the sidewalk, a Silver Mound Artemisia schidtiana, a pink rosebush tucked up against rocks, some scented geranium from my mom’s garden and a couple of chrysanthemums that were tiny little seedlings when we first dug them up that developed into gorgeous, flowering fall blooms.

We celebrated all our hard work with a big family barbecue!

There are definitely still some holes to fill and once some of the smaller plants take root and grow, that will fill things in nicely, too. We are really happy with the results – and it seems the neighbours are, too, after all the compliments we’ve received. What feels so nice is the fact that we designed it ourselves.

Hopefully everything survives the winter!

From grass to garden: Part 2 – the garden plan

This past summer, after having our sewer pipes replaced, my husband and I decided to give up on grass and turn our front lawn into a garden.

It’s been a long time coming, but I wanted to share what we accomplished that long weekend in August. While my dad and husband worked on building a low stone wall to cut the yard in two and add a bit of depth, my mom and I worked at spreading new dirt and mulch, and deciding where all the plants were going to go. You will see below the rough plan that we were working from.

After finally sitting down one night and drawing up a plan on a piece of scrap paper, my husband and I discovered that we had pretty similar ideas when it came to our vision of the garden.

1. I love window boxes and the idea that I could change them up according to the seasons. Since our windows are so old, we’ve put that plan on hold for now. Once we get new ones, we’ll consider adding window boxes to the new sills.

2. Even though there was grass there before, we’ve always used this area as a path to get around to the side of the house – and the mailman (depending on who it is) will use that route to get next door. We were originally going to use small paving stones, but modified our plans by using stones we already had to create the border and filling it in with pebbles.

3. Our neighbour is an engineer who works for a company that owns several quarries. These are some stones he had leftover from his own landscaping, so we knew we had those to work with.

4. My husband and I both agreed that we wanted some type of retaining wall to separate the upper garden from the lower area.

5. We originally thought we wanted a path curving around the front of the wall and joining the one at the top. We realized our yard might be a bit small for that, but may add some small stepping stones next spring.

6. The quarry stones mentioned above were used to separate the current garden from the new one. My husband would eventually love to add a garden bench as drawn.

Pick the perfect gourds for Thanksgiving decorations

I love hearing about it when an article on the site inspires a reader. Last fall, the talented Jennifer Roos created a Thanksgiving centrepiece and table accessories. Our advertising sales director, Julie Wiggins, emailed me to let me know she saw the idea featured in our newsletter and decided to create a similar centrepiece for her Thanksgiving table. The photo is below!

What are you creating to decorate for this weekend’s feast?

I love those large acorns nestled around the gourds and mini pumpkins!

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