Gardening Blog

Tabouleh from the garden

Last night while I was pondering what side dish I could make out of some tomatoes that were on my windowsill, I remembered a “Super quinoa tabouleh” recipe I had tucked away from Body of Knowledge Healing Arts. Now usually I wouldn’t have had mint or parsley just hanging out in my fridge, but then I remembered, “duh, they’re growing in my garden!” Out I went with my little snips to cut my fresh ingredients from the garden.

It may be awhile until I see a veggie, but it was very satisfying making great use of my herbs in the meantime.

Taming my rosebush and treating its spots

After three years of basically avoiding my monster rosebush, I got a pair of Wells Lamont rose gloves for my birthday from my sister. Now I'd already made a few cursory cuts here and there to try them out, but the last couple of days, after reading Stephen Westcott-Gratton's really helpful article from the June issue on renovating roses, I decided to tackle this thorny task wholeheartedly. There were no thorns scraping my wrists or spikes under my fingernails. I could get right in there with my pruners grab the scary-looking canes and chop them up in my yard bag.

One thing I did notice, however, is that a lot of the leaves on my rosebush have these weird orange spots under the leaves. After a quick Google search, it appears I have rust, a fungal disease that can actually overwinter, so I'll have to be careful to get rid of all the offensive leaves and treat with wettable sulphur. One thing I want to look into first is that the treatment I choose is organic…

My yard is abuzz!

Yesterday during my mid-week holiday (Happy Birthday Canada!), I was able to get out in the garden for several hours. Amid the weeding and trimming and edging I noticed that a few of my tall, yellow wildflowers that seem to have bloomed overnight were a little bent over. As I tried to lift them, not one, but several little bees flew out. This made my day. And as I looked around, I saw bees on my other blooms, as well. I've been reading a lot lately about the importance of bees in the garden and about their alarming decline in Canada. Knowing that I'm attracting these vital pollinators to my garden makes me want to plant more bee-friendly blooms.

Here are a couple of articles on CanadianGardening.com about how you can make your home a healthy habitat for bees:

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.

My alien succulents–find your own at a succulent and cacti show this weekend!

This past spring at Canada Blooms, I attended one of Marjorie Mason's seminars where she spoke about xeriscaping. It was inspiring to hear how some of Marjorie's land was originally very sandy and through continuous mulching she was able to feed her soil and make things grow. Part of the magic is also knowing which plants will thrive in drier conditions. That's where xeriscaping comes in — choosing plants that can adapt to a dry environment and finding native varieties that have already adapted to the growing conditions in your particular area. This was a really helpful seminar for me as the soil tends to be very sandy in front of my house and I came away with some great ideas.

hensandchicksSucculents, such as hens and chicks, do very well in dry conditions as they retain water in their leaves, stems and roots. Last year I planted some hens and chicks out front in an area that gets a lot of sun and that can become rather dry. I've included a photo to show how they've spread and spawned (I say `spawned` because these sweet alien-looking flowers sprouted out of my little cluster and ‘spawn’ seems to be an appropriate description).

You can look for your own interesting succulents and cacti this weekend at the annual Ontario Cactus & Succulent Society (OCSS) Show at Sherway Gardens. Hundreds of rare, unusual and expertly grown cacti and succulents will be on display and there will be experts available to give you more information about xeriscaping and to provide valuable growing tips. Maybe you, too, will be able to find that perfect succulent for a dry spot in your garden.

The irises I thought would never bloom!

I finally grabbed these photos off my camera after writing about how I was worried my irises wouldn’t bloom. As you can see, they did just fine. I wished they would last the whole summer!

These ones I knew would bloom, but I thought I'd share them anyway!

These ones I knew would bloom, but I thought I'd share them anyway!

The blooms on these purple beauties are magnificent! And they get so top heavy, they fall right over!

The blooms on these purple beauties are magnificent! And they get so top heavy, they fall right over!

Did your irises bloom for you this year?

A few weeks ago my leaves on my irises were lush and green, but not a bud was to be found. Then one little bloom made it's way up in a completely different place in my garden, so I was wondering why I didn't have any blooms on the others! In a panic (OK, I’m being overdramatic–I’ll say out of curiosity), I consulted Anne Marie, who gave me some very helpful advice. Then, lo and behold, a couple of rainstorms brought forth the giant purple buds on my beloved irises and they’ve been blooming ever since.

In any case, I thought I'd share Anne Marie's tips for any readers who were not lucky enough to have blooms this year.

These are probably a type of bearded Iris. They should bloom reliably for you each year unless…

  • They have been moved or were divided last year (they take about three years to get back to full bloom again).
  • They are now too shaded; they need at least six hours of full sun.
  • The soil is too rich or too lean; too much nitrogen fertilizer can cause them to have little or no bloom and lots of foliage.
  • They are planted too deep; the rhizome should be peeking through the surface of the soil.
  • They are overcrowded; this will cause fewer blooms.
  • They have been attacked by an iris borer–look for shriveled or sunken rhizomes where the iris borer has done its damage.
  • They are being grown in too soggy of a location; they prefer to be slightly dry.

I definitely need to thin mine this year and will be following the tips in this article to divide them.

Too much of a good thing?

blogimage32All of us rejoice when a plant in our garden does well. But sometimes it does too well–who among us doesn’t have a surfeit of one thing or another? Take wood anemone (Anemone nemerosa) at left. Now this is a lovely woodland plant, but it’s a rambunctious one. A gardening friend passed some along to me a couple some years ago, and I’ve been yanking ‘em out ever since. The plant has leaves very like that of masterwort (Astrantia major), which is another plant I grow, so it fools me into thinking it’s the more polite plant. Until I see its pretty white flowers, which are a dead giveaway. I do like wood anemone, but it spreads like mad with running, underground roots that form new plants even if only the tiniest bits are left in the soil after you yank it out.

Like many of my other invasives, I’ve moved some wood anemone to the front garden where only the very toughest plants survive in the rootbound soil under the Norway maple. Survive? The darn thing is colonizing! Meanwhile, the area out back that I thought I’d thoroughly cleared last year has a fine new crop of plants. Sigh. You have to give it marks for perseverance.

A few weeks ago, I was volunteering at an advice clinic at Islington Nurseries in Toronto’s west end–part of what I do as a Master Gardener. One man came in clutching a small fistful of leaves. “This noxious weed is everywhere in my lawn and in my flower beds,” he fumed. “I don’t know what it is and I want to know if there’s anything I can put on it to kill it dead.”

blogimage2I took one look and saw that he was holding a handful of as-yet-unbloomed forget-me-nots. I was able to reassure him that these plants are self-seeding annuals, and if he didn’t want any next year he could simply mow them down before they set seed. There was no need to spray them with anything.

Personally, I love forget-me-nots, which sow themselves merrily in my garden hither and yon. Once their bloom is past its best and the plants look almost mouldy and seedy, I simply pull them out and shake the seeds where I want them to come up next year. It’s as simple as that.

blogimage1Sweet woodruff is another plant I was delighted to welcome but now slightly less so. This is a pretty little groundcover that’s at home in a woodland garden and covers itself with starry white flowers every spring (seen left, with a few forget-me-nots thrown in for good measure). It has a dainty, almost frothy appearance.

Unfortunately, it’s also a rampager in my garden, though easier to keep under control than the wood anemone. I foolishly planted some in a little semicircle area where I wanted to create a patchwork of low groundcovers in different colours and textures, and the sweet woodruff is trying to muscle them all out, including the expensive clump of Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense). Naughty, naughty! I’ll have to get out there next week and show it who’s boss. (And yes, there’s plenty growing in the front garden as well.)

I never knew there was such a thing as seed tape!

Do you ever find that you discover a word or a new invention and all of a sudden, you see it everywhere? Well yesterday, Anja, CanadianGardening.com’s web editor, was telling me about seed tape, a handy little invention that allows you to quickly and easily sow your seeds in a row, equally spaced, no fuss, no muss! Well today as I was scanning some design blogs, I came across a way to make your own. Linked from Craftzine.com, this slideshow on the instructables site shows you how to do it step by step. I wonder if this would keep my squirrel “neighbours” (I say “neighbours” in lieu of the expletives I call them in private), away or if they’d have a field day pulling out these strips and dragging them around the yard…

Canada Blooms finds a new home

This morning it was officially announced that next year, Canada Blooms will take place at the Direct Energy Centre located in Exhibition Place. This is a fabulous choice of venue, most notably because of the accessibility for visitors and vendors alike. I can just picture gorgeous floral displays in the vast, sunny hall. And you won’t feel like you’re descending into a cave when you head into the show.

It was also announced that the theme will focus on passions, whether it be a passion for plants and gardening or a passion for the environment, food, design, etc. I find this a little ambiguous as everyone who attends is quite obviously passionate about gardening and everyone who is involved with creating the gardens is passionate about their craft. It will be interesting to see how this theme is interpreted visually among the exhibits.

Pages: Prev 1 2 3 ...39 40 41 42 43 44 45 ...51 52 53 Next

Follow Style At Home Online

Facebook Activity

Contests

Latest Contests

more contests