{ Archive for the ‘trees and shrubs’ Category }

An ode to trees

Had to share with you a podcast I listened to this week from CBC Radio’s Definitely Not the Opera. It gets people from all over the country telling their stories about the trees in their lives.

Here’s a few of my stories. What are yours?

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was really morning sick, all day. I worked on the north end of Edmonton and rode the bus home to the University area. The driver on the route I took really liked to take the corners tight, and by the time we got over the High Level Bridge, and took that little twist at the end, I was turning green. I would hold it in until I got off the bus, but I would more often than not succumb to the nausea about half a block east. This neighborhood is/was full of mature leafy giants planted in the boulevard that give the streets that lovely canopy of shade. There was one tree I would lean against while… taking care of business. This might sound goofy, but I swear, it held me up. It felt like it was letting me suck a little energy out of it. More than once I saw people giving me funny looks, and I’m pretty sure they thought I was dead drunk at 10 pm, but I’d just hug my tree, say thank you, and carry myself home to bed.

My grandparents’ weeping birch I told you about earlier this summer has lots of memories. We lived with Grandma for awhile after Grandpa died, when I was in high school. That tree had great branches, and I would climb up there and wait for rides. I was totally hidden in the branches. I’d jump down to the ground when my friends drove up, appearing out of nowhere, and pretty soon the running joke was that I lived in the tree, not the house. That was okay with me; I loved that tree. We were buddies.

We hired an arborist in the spring of 2009 to rescue our mature poplars (been topped one too many times). He gave us a free estimate, worked fast and neat, left us loads of wood chips to use, and came in under his quote. Then this spring, after they’d leafed out, the same poplars were attacked by the power company’s “arborists.” It looked like one side of three of them had been shaved. I think they’ve killed one; they took probably 60-70% of the growth off of it. I swear, give me a bucket truck and I would have done a better job. Don’t get me wrong, I have a very healthy respect for the situation–my sister is an arborist and she’s married to a power linesman, so I’m pretty well educated. But I was raging for weeks. I want to hire my guy back and bill the power company. How do you think that would go over?

Anyhow… trees. Love ‘em. This podcast also helped me commit: I am going to quit threatening and actually plant an apple tree this spring. I’ve had my eye on a Prairie Sensation…

Cool things to plant from PC

This past weekend marked the official launch of the President's Choice Insider's Report (Lawn & Garden edition). And as we head into the long weekend, you may want to check it out and make a list of all the great new flowers, trees, bushes, herbs, fruits and veggies that will be stocked at a Loblaw-owned store near you.

I had a bit of a sneak preview a couple of weeks ago at the annual President's Choice Lawn & Garden event. This year's plant preview took place in Beamsville where we had the opportunity to tour the greenhouses at the family-run Linwell Gardens and Freeman Herbs.

At Freeman Herbs: This particular greenhouse was All basil! I'm sure you can imagine how wonderful it smelled!

At Freeman Herbs: This particular greenhouse was All basil! I'm sure you can imagine how wonderful it smelled!

Here are some of the plants and products that I took an interest in for my own garden or that were too cool not to mention:

Sunpatiens
Impatiens no longer have to be confined to those shady areas of your garden. There's a new hybrid in town that does well in full sun.

Tumbler tomatoes
I had a nice chat at Freeman Herbs with Bob Martin from Martin Farms. I met Bob last year at a Stokes Best and President's Choice tasting event. He was excited about their tumbler tomatoes, tomatoes that were bred for hanging baskets–genius! I remember them being quite delicious. It's really neat to see something go from the test garden to the store. Another tomato that made it into this year's product lineup was red candy. It was one of my favourites from last year and I recently took one home after our magazine editor Erin did a veggie presentation. Also worth trying, the Kapelo peppers.

Starburst surprise petunias
I'm not partial to any one colour in the garden, but my favourite colour in everyday life is pink–pale or fuchsia, it doesn't matter. So I fell in love with these gorgeous, two-toned petunias and was lucky enough to take one of the luxuriant hanging baskets home. Last night as I was buying soil, I grabbed a couple more individual plants to go in my front garden along with some pale yellow beauties.

A pink Starburst surprise!

A pink Starburst surprise!

Starbright Mock Orange
We have a second story going up on the bungalow behind us, which has killed our privacy. My fingers are crossed the owners build a fence, but in the meantime, I'm going to build a living fence. Currently we have cedars (not including the ones I planted last year that died) and a mulberry tree (which is pretty, but messy). This mock orange will fill one of the vacant spots beautifully–the Insider's Report says it will grow to be about 10 feet tall–here's hoping!

They don’t look plastic!
Rather than sell their pots in something generic that you'll have to hide in one of your own pretty pots, PC has these fantastic, decorative planters that you can just plunk right in front of your house without shame.

Can you believe this is only $30!

Can you believe this is only $30!

Check out the PC Garden blog, written by City Gardening writer Lorraine Flanigan. It will give you even more ideas on what to plant from President’s Choice.

p.s. Many apologies for the delay between posts! I've been under the weather for the last two weeks. On the mend!

My forsythia in bloom

I was in my yard every day this weekend, but my forsythia waited until Monday to explode with its yellow blossoms. No matter, I will still have time to enjoy it for another week or so!

I wish these blooms would last at least a month longer!

I wish these blooms would last at least a month longer!

Adopt the right tree for your yard

tree-atlas2The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has recently created a Tree Atlas. This helpful tool allows you to choose your region on a map and then provides you with a list of trees that will thrive in your area. Each tree’s page features photos, optimal growing conditions and interesting facts. Surf around a bit and you will find there is also lots of helpful information about the environmental importance of trees, as well as Ontario’s pledge to plant 50 million trees by 2020. You can make your own pledge to plant a tree by filling out a special form on the site. My lot is not particularly huge, but once we decide how we’re going to block out the new two-story house going up behind us, I will be ready to make my pledge!

My garden fail!

A couple of weeks ago, I enthusiastically gave the flowers I planted in my garden this year almost straight A's in a little gardening report card. This was not only a fun exercise to reflect on the season, it will also help me remember what to consider for next year. Sadly, I have a garden `fail` to add. I was very excited about finding some mid-sized cedars this spring to go along my back fence. For some reason one of them completely died on me… I'm still not sure what I did wrong. But next year, whatever I choose to plant in its place will be coddled and very well taken care of.

My sad little cedar

My sad little cedar

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!

Trees for Toronto

trees-for-torontoWhile I'm on the subject of Toronto, as I was driving over the Bloor Viaduct on my way to yesterday's event, I was admiring the gorgeous canopy of trees in the Don Valley that are just beginning to turn. Living in the city you sometimes forget just how much green space there is.

Queen's Park is another gorgeous `green` area in the city and last week, William Thorsell, Director & CEO of the ROM along with Toronto Parks and Environment Committee Chair Paula Fletcher unveiled new interpretive panels and tree identification signs as part of Trees for Toronto. The aim of TFT is to renew the urban forest in Queen's Park, which originally opened in 1860. It is home to 47 varieties of trees, including red and white oaks, butternuts, Norway maples, lindens and pines.

Has anyone seen these panels up close yet?

Touring wild rose country

alberta-wildroseI'm currently in Northern Alberta taking in all the pristine, untouched wilderness this lovely province has to offer.

Kodak lent me one of their new EasyShare M381 digital cameras to capture the gorgeous sites. My old camera had a big docking station you had to plug into the wall and then the computer to upload photos. This one just takes a USB cord and was pretty easy to use out of the box.

alberta-jackpinesI haven't seen any wild roses, but I love the trees pictured here. I'm not sure why, but I call them scrubby pines. They're actually Jack Pines and apparently they are one of the first trees to grow after a forest fire. This is what Wikipedia says about them: “It is fire-adapted to stand-replacing fires, with the cones remaining closed for many years, until a forest fire kills the mature trees and opens the cones, reseeding the burnt ground.”

These would be perfect to line the back of my yard to give us privacy from the giant house going up behind us. The soil in my yard is pretty dry and I wouldn't have to trim as they grow fairly straight. I'm wondering if it's something I could buy at a nursery…

Gotta love the city’s street tree planting program

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Of the 36 trees to choose from, I picked a Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) to be planted in my front yard by the City of Hamilton's Street Tree Planting Program.

Shortly after moving into my house, I called an arborist for a quote on having an old maple tree removed from the corner of my property. It had been dead for sometime and was leaning precariously towards my driveway. The arborist came to look at it and told me it would cost $350 to remove it, but then he mentioned that since the tree was on city property, I should call them to see if they would remove it free of charge. I certainly appreciated his honesty and willingness to save me some money, even if it cost him the job.

After calling the city to enquire about removing the tree, they came out to verify it was on city property and it was! They came back a few weeks later, removed the tree and left behind some brochures on the city's tree planting program. Not only did they remove the tree and stump free of charge, they also offered to plant a new one. I was surprised I had never heard about the tree planting program. Occasionally the city will canvas neighborhoods to plant trees in suitable locations, but otherwise, it seems the program is one of the best-kept secrets in the country.

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The gingko, also known as a Maidenhair tree, has an angular crown and erratic branching pattern. The fan shaped leaves are truly unique.

Whether you live in Kelowna, Simcoe, Kingston, or Charlottetown, most Canadian cities offer a tree planting program. These programs were created to plant trees on city owned street allowances fronting residential properties for free. Homeowner are able to choose from a variety of trees native to North America, imported from Europe and Asia and hybrid varieties. Some cities have taken the program a step further by offering residents subsidized backyard tree planting. LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests) is a non-profit group dedicated to improving Toronto's urban forest.

A final note

img_30251Happy Canada Day, everyone. While economic times are still uncertain, those of us lucky enough to live in this country have much to celebrate tomorrow.

After I stepped down last January as editor-in-chief of Canadian Gardening, I promised myself a lazy gap year before I returned to the fray of the working world. So the second half of 2009 will be spent–doing whatever I feel like. This means less writing, more reading. Less talking, more listening. Less looking, more seeing. You get the picture. This entry will be the last one before my blog goes on hiatus.

But how can I leave you without showing a few more photos of my garden, and making an observation or two? The large image at the top of the page is a little corner filled with various pots. It looks a bit messy but there’s a reason for it. The winter brought with it a leaking roof underneath an old deck off my bedroom. This meant the deck needed to be demolished and the roof replaced, with everything that had been up there brought down. It was a big expense, so I did it in two stages. Stage one was the installation of a new flat roof last winter. Stage two was the building of a sturdy and handsome new deck a few days ago. Little by little, some of the myriad pots dotted around my garden will make their way up to my roof. But there will be far fewer than normal this year, and no veggies. Oh well, there’s always next year. Gardening is for optimists.

There are many things I’m enjoying about my garden right now (not the least of which is having some time to sit in it). Here in Toronto, it’s been a coolish and wettish early summer, and my garden has made huge amounts of lush, verdant growth. There’s very little weeding to do, because the plants are so densely packed together. So far, I’ve seen very little insect damage. There have been a few snails about, but the giant leaves of my ‘Frances Williams’ hostas are intact. Fingers crossed this may continue.

img_29881The plant shown here is my Chinese flowering dogwood (Cornus kousa chinensis), which is bursting with health and absolutely covered in starry white flowers. Divine. I heartily recommend this small tree for narrow urban Zone 6 gardens like mine, as it truly offers four seasons of beauty. Smooth, grey bark and graceful, compact form in winter, followed by attractive leaves and white flower-like bracts in late spring/early summer. These bracts (“flowers”) persist for many weeks, turning pinkish as they mature. Their berry-like centres go a brilliant red and are relished by squirrels and birds. And the leaves go a lovely burgundy fall colour as well. If the flowers were scented, it would be perfection.

Lastly, a word about containers. Don’t be afraid to combine shrubs, perennials, annuals, grasses and herbs to create the look you want. One of my favourite shrubs for this purpose is the ubiquitous purpleleaf sandcherry (Prunus x cistena), which is overused in the landscape but seldom seen in pots. Cheap as chips, open and spare in habit with showy burgundy leaves, it’s hardy (Zone 4) and easy to plant under because it’s not a space hog. (Whatever shrub you choose for a container, be sure it’s at least two zones more cold-hardy than where you live. Here in Zone 6, this means Zone 4.) Yes, the sandcherry overwinters outdoors in its pot.

img_29911And try growing some of your invasives in pots as well. Seen here is an old galvanized washtub (be sure to add drainage holes in the bottom with a drill) filled with various types of mint. I harvest the leaves to make fresh mint tea: take a generous handful of leaves and stems, rinse them, put them into a teapot and bruise well with a wooden spoon. Cover with boiling water and steep to taste. Pour into cups and float a few mint leaves on top for colour. Sweeten with honey, or not. This makes a lovely clear drink that’s delicate and refreshing. You can do the same thing with lemon verbena, which is another rambunctious plant.

Or use fresh mint leaves in mojitos or as part of the quintessentially British drink of summer: Pimm’s number 7. You can find recipes on the internet.

So that’s it from me for now. Cheers to you and happy gardening. And thanks for reading my blog.

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