{ Archive for the ‘trees and shrubs’ Category }

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.

What a difference a long weekend can make

Despite the rather chilly temperatures this past long weekend, I still managed to get out in the garden and cross a few tasks off my list. It's not very often I have two straight days in a row to get things done. So with a new pink pair of gardening gloves that I got for my birthday, I set out with my basket of tools to weed, plant, prune and dig.

This is what left me with a sense of accomplishment:

  1. We planted two five to six-foot cedars: I bought these about a month ago and have been waiting for a chance to dig them in. Fingers crossed that they make it. They still look lovely and green.
  2. I dug out a ton of dandelions and other annoying weeds that magically appeared after all that rain we got these last couple of weeks. Talk about eco-friendly pest control, it was also a workout!
  3. Give my boyfriend a pair of loppers or pruning shears and I come back to a twig with a root, so I kindly pointed out what I wanted pruned and how. Lorraine Flanigan`s article on how to prune spring-flowering shrubs, was helpful for my forsythias.
  4. I spread around some compost in a couple of my beds to prepare them for the lovely plants I have in store for them.
  5. I'm not sure if it was the fungus gnats or the fact that they'd outgrown the little peat pellets, but all of a sudden, my seedlings were looking sad and limp–and they didn't need water. So I transplanted my seedlings into bigger pots until I'll be able to plant them right into the garden.
  6. I have always felt bad about tossing away those wooden mandarin orange containers, so this winter I kept them because I knew they'd come in handy for something. And in one of them I planted salad greens. Yesterday the squirrels made a couple of holes in it, but if things start to grow, I’ll take a picture.
  7. I had some herb plants I was trying to protect from frost, but I just couldn't wait any longer, so I planted them.
  8. I dug out a ton of lily of the valley and their network of roots–they are so pretty and smell so nice, but they're a pain in the butt every spring when they're in the middle of my garden and I'm wanting to plant things. So I had to be ruthless.

And that sums up my list. A few tasks down, a few hundred to go!

Majestic landscapes, amazing plants

img_2737Located some 50 miles east of Phoenix off Highway 60 (and much of it a spectacular drive), the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is a worthy stop for plant lovers who are visiting Arizona. (I do think the name is a bit of a misnomer, as this place felt more like a botanical garden than an arboretum, which I associate with being mostly about trees.)

img_27491Literature about the arboretum says its chief attraction is its system of more than two miles of nature trails that weave through various garden areas.

These areas offer a diverse palette of plants–some 3,200 different types belonging to 306 genera in 76 families–on a 320-acre site. And it’s a butterfly magnet and bird-lovers’ delight, attracting hundreds of species.

img_26932The day I was there, wildflowers and spring blooms abounded in the demonstration garden (one view shown here), proving the desert landscape isn’t just all cacti and offering plenty of colourful inspiration to Arizona homeowners for their own gardens.

img_2697Hummingbirds flitted around the penstemon and Mexican redbud (above). Elsewhere, Lady Banks’ rose literally smothered several arbours with its dainty yellow, though unscented, flowers. Magic.

I spent several happy hours hiking the main loop trail that took me up and down through hill and dale and several microclimates.

High up was true desert mesa (the elevation in the garden is 2,400 feet) with sweeping vistas and plants that tolerate extreme drought, while lower down I saw lush stands of various trees, including olive and pomegranate (flower shown here), along the more temperate edge of Queen Creek.img_27521

The main trail is fine to tackle if you’re reasonably fit, though there are easier, shorter trails, too–some are wheelchair-accessible. A bottle of water, sunscreen, sturdy walking shoes and a broad-brimmed hat are musts–the sun is fierce!

The arboretum is open every day except Christmas. To find out more, visit www.ag.arizona.edu/bta

Below are more photographs from my visit. Next up: the magic of spring.

Chilean palo verde (Geoffrea decorticans)

Chilean palo verde (Geoffrea decorticans)

An allee of river red gum trees (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)

An allee of river red gum trees (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)

Boojum (Idrium columnaris)

Boojum (Idrium columnaris)

Easter lily cactus bloom (Echinopsis spp.)

Easter lily cactus bloom (Echinopsis spp.)

Monstrose totem pole (front)  (Lophocereus spp.)

Monstrose totem pole (front) (Lophocereus spp.)

My first heavy-duty garden purchase of the season

I felt so proud of myself this evening when I purchased two healthy-looking cedar trees for my backyard along with my groceries. You see there may or may not be an enormous second story eventually being built on the house behind us and I need to start planning (and planting!) some extra privacy pronto. Currently there is an old chain link fence separating our yards with some sad, spindly little cedars steadfastly growing around the middle of it. I want to eventually fill in that whole back area and these shapely cedars seemed to be a good start.

However for some reason my garden ambition clouded my judgment and I didn’t realize quite how tall and heavy these cedars would be. A very helpful young air cadet graciously left his money box with a friend and helped me drag the first cedar into the back floor of my little hatchback. After much maneuvering we finally got it in. I thanked him profusely even though he called me ma’am and decided I’d come back with some strong arms for the second tree.

Both are now safely in my backyard awaiting their destiny as a privacy fence. And I am hoping I can lift my arms tomorrow.

Hollis Garden, Lakeland, Florida

Once the third largest city in Florida, Lakeland is a quiet, pretty place with three lakes within its downtown core. This is a college town, home to the University of Southern Florida and Florida Southern College, where the latter’s campus boasts a number of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. It’s also been the spring training camp of the Detroit Tigers baseball team for 70 years.

Known as the “city of swans,” Lakeland is also home to Hollis Garden, a formal, neoclassical-style beauty spot located on the shores of Lake Mirror and a very pleasant place to spend a few hours.

Established in just 2000, the garden has matured well and packs some 10,000 plants on its 1.2 acre grounds. There you will find Florida natives, as well as annuals, fruits, vegetables and herbs in some 16 garden rooms, along with water features, grottoes and more.

The garden has other, quirkier, charms. A number of offbeat sculptures keep the space from looking too prissy. And I was especially enchanted by the historical Trees of America section. There, pollarded to maintain a manageable size, are trees with a direct connection to their famous owners–some of them come from seedlings or the original trees found in their gardens. You can admire the Abe Lincoln overcup oak (Quercus lyrata), the Elvis Presley weeping willow, the George Washington tulip poplar and the Patrick Henry osage orange, to name just a few.

Seldom-encountered curiosities, such as this Buddha’s hand (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylus), above left, from China may also be seen. Yes, it’s a citrus and loaded with Vitamin C, but according to our guide Stacy Smith (shown in middle photo, above, with sugar cane) it must be cooked before it’s eaten. Another interesting plant is the popcorn cassia (Cassia didymobotrya), above right. Native to South America, it’s so named because it really does smell like buttered popcorn.

Once you’ve strolled around the garden, you might want to head over to the nearby Hotel Lakeland Terrace, which also overlooks Lake Mirror, for some refreshment. Originally built in 1924, the hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. Its impeccably restored interior, including the beautiful pecky cypress ceilings, makes it a fine spot for a relaxing drink or a full meal.

Some gardens need more space than a mere blog can give them. To explore central Florida’s historic Bok Tower Gardens, view Lorraine Flanigan’s slideshow.

(www.terracehotel.com)

Next: Citrus groves and more

My sand cherry's a sucker

Ok, I lied. My sand cherry has suckers. Let me explain. I have a sand cherry tree in my front garden. It's very lovely–especially in the springtime, but lately, there is new growth coming up in the form of tiny little trees all around the base. These little guys are very hard to pull out–probably because they're attached to the roots of the existing tree. I turned to Anne Marie to find out how to get rid of my baby trees without harming their mama.

The new growths from the base of your sand cherry are suckers and they are still attached to the roots of the tree. Most sand cherries are shallow rooted and are prone to producing suckers since they naturally have a tendency to grow in dense thickets. They will also sucker, especially if the roots have been damaged from digging around the shrub or tree.

If you want your sand cherry to be a single trunk and not have the suckers, they can be dug up, severed from the mother plant if they have plenty of roots and given away to friends. Or, dig down to where they are attached to the root, grab hold of the sucker, twist and pull. Cutting them off at the soil level or below will not stop them from returning. Like rose suckers, the growing bud must be removed totally by twisting and pulling it out.

While I was on the subject of sand cherries, I thought I'd ask Anne Marie a question a reader had.

“Hello, I planted a sand cherry tree this spring and it's not looking good and has lots of chew holes. What should I do?”

According to Anne Marie, the sand cherry is going through a little transplanting stress and is feeling the effects of either a fungus disease called shot hole or an insect attack by any number of pests; from caterpillars like sawflies to Japanese beetles. Take a look at the leaves and if you don't see any pests on them, this is a good sign and they may have moved on. Also you don't see numerous brown spots on the leaves (the beginning of shot hole disease), Anne Marie recommends focusing on keeping the plant healthy and not worry about what caused the chew holes.

Don't fertilize the tree until it gets a little more settled, but do make sure it has enough water and that drainage is good. Also it should be planted at the same depth as it was growing in the pot, with just a small increase (2.5 cm) for mulch over the root area.

Adopt a tree in your neighbourhood


My furry grandsons, Boomer and Lindy, are visiting for a few weeks while my daughter and her partner are in Europe. Both are rescued dogs and what I call Bitsas–bits of this and bits of that. Boomer is mainly Pomeranian, but I swear there's a dash of Jack Russell thrown in just for fun, and he's a little scamp. By contrast, Lindy is Mr. Chill–a lovely, laid back dog, possibly a cross between a Malamute and an Alsatian, with maybe a bit of chow. He has a huge double coat like a mastodon that Amy keeps shaved down, which makes him look like a puppy even though he's 12 or more–we think.

It's a treat having dogs in the house again (it's been several years since Star the wonder dog went to that big doghouse in the sky, and I still miss her). But I like being the grandma–having them over for visits, spoiling them with extra doggy treats, then giving them back. I'm not ready yet for another full-time commitment to a dog and all that entails, though I will be one day.

Having the furries here also means I have a perfect excuse to go for nice long aimless walks again in the morning and evening. These jaunts give me the chance to be nosy and look in people's gardens (and windows) as we go past. It's a great way to get ideas.

Happily for the three of us, there's a pretty park just a few minutes` walk away that has morning and evening off-leash hours. Strolling along this morning, I was admiring the beautiful trees in my neighbourhood. Here in Toronto, and despite all the long-range predictions for very hot weather, so far it's actually been a pretty cool summer with a fair bit of rain–lovely for the garden and for gardening, too. I'm especially pleased for the trees, which look particularly healthy and perky. In past summers, long dry spells made them look dusty, faded and sad; some distressed maples dropped their leaves early. This year, it's so far, so good. (There's an old Lithuanian saying, though, which roughly translated means “don't praise the day before the sun sets”–there's plenty of summer left and we ain't done yet, folks.)

If it's hot and dry in your neck of the woods and no rain in the forecast, please remember to water the trees, especially those that are a couple of years old or less. They need a good deep drink at least once a week just as much as your other plants do. If you see trees that are planted by the city or your municipality that are being neglected, how about adopting one and watering it until it gets well established? Even a bucket of water or two a week would really help. It makes me sad to see poor saplings make a brave start, only to struggle then give up the ghost through ignorance or neglect. Especially since it's so easily prevented.

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