Gardening Blog

A week ago today…

I wish I knew what kind of butterfly this was!

I wish I knew what kind of butterfly this was!

A week ago today I was in Las Vegas and amid all the casinos, glitz, monuments and fountains, I managed to find a botanical garden at the Bellagio.

This cute ladybug was made of carnations! Or were they roses? It was hard to tell...

This cute ladybug was made of carnations! Or were they roses? It was hard to tell...

With “140 horticulturists on staff,” the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens changes its exhibits about five times a year and I have to say their current display was one of the highlights of my trip–and best of all, it was free!

These watering cans were really cool!

These watering cans were really cool!

I had to tear myself away from the butterfly exhibit–they were magnificent and so much bigger than the butterflies you see here in Ontario. My pictures certainly don’t do this imaginative space justice, but I thought I’d share some anyway to give you a peek.

Take a look at the website linked above for more fab photos. You can even see past exhibits.

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.

Holy jumpin’ cholla!

img_2669I’m sorry I’ve been offline for so long. My trip to Arizona was abruptly aborted when I had to rush to my mother’s hospital bedside in California. She’s now stable and I’m finally home in Toronto, and in the right frame of mind to bring you up to date on my travels.

In the next little while, I’ll post a few pages on the stunning topography and plants of Arizona. Although my trip was cut short, I did manage to visit an interesting arboretum east of Phoenix, take several walks in the desert and see the Chiricahua National Monument with its fantastic rock formations.

img_2671img_2672My friends Karen and Michael made me very welcome in their home in northern Scottsdale. Some of the barrel and prickly pear cactuses surrounding their property were just starting to bloom, although I was a week or two too early for the full-on spring bloom of the desert.

img_26731Their garden has a pretty pool and a spa (main photo, above), and right outside its walls is the open desert landscape, with its wonderful plants, including majestic old Saguaro cactuses (left), but also rattlesnakes, coyotes and javelinas, or collared peccaries. These nearsighted, smelly, sometimes aggressive omnivores look a bit like a wild boar, but aren’t really a member of the pig family. Although I didn’t come across one, it’s always a good idea to carry a long, stout walking stick just in case.

On one of our morning walks, Karen cautioned me not to get too close to the jumping chollas (pronounced CHOY-yuh). Legend has it this spiny group of cacti can sense your body heat and launch themselves at you, sinking into your skin with long, barbed, painful spines and tenaciously hanging on. Ouch. While this isn’t strictly true, they do propagate by attaching plantlets to anything–animal or human–that even lightly brushes against them.

img_2674The photograph I’ve posted here (left) is of the teddy bear cholla (Opuntia bigelovii). If you look closely, you can see a few plantlets around its base that are taking root.

The best defence against chollas is to give them a wide berth. If you do get one stuck on you, it’s recommended that you use a comb to catch and flick it away. As for me, I got some stuck in my walking shoe and had to use stout pliers to pull out the spines. Michael had a cholla attach itself to his calf while playing golf–at first he thought he’d been bitten by a rattlesnake.

You’ve been warned.

Next: Majestic landscapes, amazing plants

Hey, what happened to spring?

crocusblueflowersYesterday was a beautiful and sunny day, so I took a stroll around my yard with my camera to see if anything was growing yet. My irises and tulips are peeking through the leaves in my garden and I snapped this little crocus poking up on my neighbour’s lawn! In the backyard I found these sweet little blue flowers growing against my fence. I started dreaming of finally being able to get outside and preparing my yard for spring.
And then this morning, alas, it was snowing. I knew there had to be at least one more storm before we were allowed to enjoy spring, but things were looking so promising I thought we might escape winter’s last gasp.

daffodil3Luckily, I purchased daffodils last week to support the Canadian Cancer Society, so spring still exists in my kitchen. They were certainly a welcome sight this morning when I woke up to a raging storm!I just hope those little flowers survive this frosty weather.

Starting my seeds

Our seed packets

Our seed packets

My seeds finally arrived and last weekend my sister and I split them up so we can each test our green thumbs and nurture little seedlings into food this season. Today I got around to planting some of the seeds that can be started indoors (and as an experiment, some of the ones that recommend you start them outside–what can I say, I'm impatient!). I'm so excited to see what will decide to grow!

Here's what I have started:

  • Chives
  • Florence Fennel
  • Black Hungarian Hot Pepper
  • `Champion` Collards
  • Cilantro
  • Mesclun Greens
  • Black Calypso Bush Bean

Container planting inspiration at the TBG

The gorgeous set the TBG put together for our video shoot

The gorgeous set the TBG put together for our video shoot

Yesterday morning I headed to the Toronto Botanical Garden with our videographer Ryan Da Silva for a video shoot with the new director of horticulture, Paul Zammit. Paul is known for his stylish containers and showed off his talent to lucky visitors at Canada Blooms last week.

We wanted to capture step by step how Paul puts together his containers. Paul is a natural as a video host, because not only does he explain his design ideas as he puts everything together, he incorporates so many helpful tips into his presentation.

Every year I put together a few pots and a hanging basket. They are pretty enough, but after yesterday, this year I am so inspired to use all the great ideas I learned from Paul and really plan out my containers and spend more time on their arrangement.

Stay tuned for Paul's video, which we'll be publishing online next week! I'm certain you'll be inspired, too!

Arizona update

A quick hello from Arizona, but no photo this time as I haven’t quite figured out how to upload them onto my little notebook. However, there will be plenty to show you when I do–the flora here is so interesting, and so new to me. I have bought a couple of books to help me identify some of the cacti and other plants I’ve come across on my travels, and I’ll share this information with you as well.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum off highway 60 just west of Superior–I was enroute from Scottsdale to Globe–a little town in the copper mining district east of Phoenix in the Tonto National Forest, where I spent the night. I’ll be posting a separate entry on this arboretum as it covered everything from sonoran desert to riparian landscape, and is well worth a visit if you’re out this way.

I’m off to look at Indian ruins and more canyons today. There’s breathtaking scenery all around me. And it feels so good to feel the warm sun and see the big, blue sky. So stay tuned and there’ll be more from me soon…

Seed storage tips winner

After a random draw to determine the winners of the seed storage box, the winners are… Sandy and Corky! Congratulations! Please email me at hgwebeditor@transcontinental.ca with your full name and address and I will mail you your prize.

Shopping for garden treasures at Canada Blooms

The shopping made me leave Canada Blooms–but only because my arms wouldn't let me carry anything else! My first purchase was… jam! I’d tried this delicious Pears & Pansies jam that my mom bought at The Culinarium. The woman who makes these unexpected combinations, like mixing pears with pansies, had a booth, From These Roots. I had to try three more flavours. I bought Apricot HoneySuckle, Black Currant & Wild Violet and Mango Jalapeno.

Next a stunning bunch of violets caught my eye, so I grabbed one in bright crimson.

At Your Creations Hostas and Perennials, I was eyeing the hellebores when I saw these huge hibiscus rhizomes. Hibiscus is one of my favourite flowers, so, despite its tropical provenance, I'm going to try my luck at growing one this summer.

At Tropical Expressions, a bonsai retailer, I saw these small, spiky and hairy sprigs. They were in a basket–no dirt, no water. Called Tillandsia–or air plants–these little specimens are epiphytes, meaning they can be placed on any surface and will grow there without needing soil to take root. All they need is to be misted with water a couple of times a week–or so I was told. My little guy is currently on my kitchen windowsill. I will try really hard to keep him alive with his minimum care requirements.

My last purchase was a little stone cabbage for my garden from this great booth that has a store in the Eglinton Town Centre in Scarborough. I can’t wait to put it outside amongst my plants! With that weighing down my bags along with some of the literature I picked up from various booths and Mark Cullen's new book, The Canadian Garden Primer: An Organic Approach, which I had received after hearing Mark speak at the press event, it was time to head home.

I could have kept going, but this Budding Gardener is on a budget!

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.

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