Gardening Blog

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!

How should I carve this year’s pumpkins?

I love that Halloween falls on a Saturday this year. Usually it’s such a rush to carve something the night before (anything sooner is squirrel supper). Last year we got creative and scooped an idea from Martha Stewart’s Halloween issue (here is her gallery of jack-o’-lanterns). This year we have three pumpkins. Not sure what they’ll be transformed into, but we’ve got all day to figure it out!

If you’re not into pumpkin carving, try this neat idea from Mark Disero at gardentoronto.ca. Mark uses orange spotlights to turn his house into a jack-o’-lantern!

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

My pumpkin from last year - infested by rats and creepie crawlies!

My pumpkin from last year - infested by rats and creepie crawlies!

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!

Dining between the charcuterie and the olives

Two nights ago I attended the launch of A Taste of Ontario, a cookbook jointly published by the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers and Foodland Ontario. The dinner was hosted by Mark McEwan and held at his new 23,000-square-foot grocery store, McEwan (located in The Shops at Don Mills). Between the European-style meat, deli and dessert counters, we sampled some of the delicious recipes conceived by award-winning chef Anthony John Dalupan.

Besides launching this free cookbook (which you can also download as a PDF here), the event was meant to showcase the fresh local produce from Ontario greenhouse growers. And what a difference the lack of distance between your food and your plate can make. I received an amazing basket of vegetables from local greenhouse growers — the taste and quality are amazing!

So in the dead of winter when you're trolling the grocery store for healthy local produce, keep an eye out for greenhouse-grown produce from a local grower.

Also, stay tuned as I will be posting an excerpt from the cookbook on our site!

It was pretty neat eating dinner in a grocery store, especially McEwan - I will definitely be going back to treat myself to some of the amazing cuts of meat, salads and produce!

It was pretty neat eating dinner in a grocery store, especially McEwan - I will definitely be going back to treat myself to some of the amazing cuts of meat, salads and produce!

I'll be cracking open A Taste of Ontario to use up some of these delicious peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes I received!

I'll be cracking open A Taste of Ontario to use up some of these delicious peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes I received!

Mum-ma mia!

I can't take credit for planting them, but I love the dependable, gorgeous colours my chrysanthemums bring to the yard each fall — white, pink, yellow, orange. Still covered in bees, these are not delicate flowers. The frosty temperatures we had last week didn't harm their little faces at all! I haven’t done it yet this year, but I love to snip a short stem full of blooms and place them in water, low to the vase. It’s like a ready-made, elegant bouquet! Just make sure they aren’t covered in little bugs. I made that mistake last year!

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!

A bumper crop of teeny tomatillos

The tomatillos that managed to escape my broiler and blender last year reseeded themselves and produced three plants this spring. There could have been more, but I think I inadvertently pulled some out. Anyhow, they are finally ready and survived this frosty week. They are much smaller than last year, but made a delicious salsa verde last night. Last year I mentioned a recipe I found on CanadianLiving.com, but I also really enjoy the variation I’ve created with a recipe from the old Wish magazine site because it calls for honey. A delicious addition to the tacos I made last night… yum!

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