A garland is a wonderful way to showcase a window, a door, a mantelpiece, wall art or anything else that strikes your fancy. They are pretty easy to make whether they are made from scratch or if you doll-up a simple fake evergreen bough from the dollar store. Add sprigs of cedar, pine and other fresh flora to make it more realistic, lush and fragrant.
Select branches from numerous evergreens, including ones such as evergreen magnolias. Cut all the branches into 6 to 10 inch pieces. Gather numerous ones together into small posies, making sure you have a nice mix. Wire their stems together and continue to make these little leafy posies until you have an adequate amount to cover the length of the garland. The next step is to attach these small bouquets with wire to the garland.
Start at one end and add one of the bouquets to the garland. Use a thin gauged wire on a paddle to wrap around the stems and to attach the posies to the boughs. It's easy to find were crafts are sold. Overlap the bouquets so the bases are covered.
Once the wee bouquets have been attached to the garland, it's time to add some pine cones and other ornaments. Wire pine cones then attach them to the bough or hot glue them on. Real flowers and berries don't last long and are messy, especially the berries, so I like to use authentic looking faux ones. An added benefit is they are wired so they are easy to insert and secure to the garland.
I like to keep my colour palette simple as it is more elegant and easier on the eyes than a cacophony of colours, but that is my preference. Have fun with your creation and I hope this blog has inspired you to make your own garlands.
Oh, and one last word, garlands aren't just for Christmas. You can make them for special occasions such as weddings, birthdays and garden parties. All the same rules apply, just change up the Christmas theme decor to whatever is appropriate and have a garland for every season and occasion!
The most memorable gardens in Vancouver were on display during the Heritage Vancouver Annual Garden Tour. This fundraiser provides the public with an insider view of private grounds in celebrated areas of Vancouver such as Point Grey and Shaughnessy. Proceeds go towards this worthwhile society that celebrates and treasures Vancouver’s cultural heritage and diversity. To check out their website click here.
I attended this self-guided, two day garden tour last year as well and wrote a blog about it here. Many of the gardens belong to restored heritage homes that span the decades. Such wonderful gardens should be shared so I wrote a blog about it here.
This year's gardens did not disappoint. Each one had something to offer with creative and functional designs that ranged from carefully arranged formal to casual cottage. June is the perfect time of the year for such things as garden tours are bursting with blossoms - especially roses! I love to visit other people's gardens as they never fail to inspire me to be more creative. There's always so many imaginative ideas, funky garden decor, brilliant colour combos and innovative substitutes for lawns that it is certainly worthwhile the price of admission. It's only $35.00 per person and the money is going to a worthwhile cause.
As with last year's blog, I have included a small description of each garden along with pictures that I hope do the gardens justice. Some of the homeowners requested that no pictures were allowed, therefore, I have not included their gardens in this pictorial essay.
Garden # 1: A Topiary Garden
Built in 1946, this quaint house and garden has evolved with the help of reclaimed and recycled plants, hardscaping and garden accents. The entrance to this delightful but somewhat unusual garden, begins with a rose covered arbour atop a skillfully made wooden path. But that’s not what caught my eye; it was the dramatic grouping of blue delphiniums framed by a huge green cloud-like evergreen topiary. There were numerous larger than life tightly clipped evergreens throughout this small manicured garden. The giant topiary of a martini glass, stir-stick and olive included, was a whimsical and humorous touch. A bit of whimsy continued into the back yard with an upcycled, pretty blue ‘she-shed’. It was the perfect accent to the circular paved patio that provided an idyllic spot to enjoy this well-thought out garden.
Garden #2 Botanical Treasures and Old World Charm
Walking into this 1910 property’s garden felt like going back in time. The mossy old flagstone path is lined with a plethora of plush plants that thrive in the shady, moist conditions. It meanders to the back fence and exits into an enchanting sunken garden reminiscent of an old fashioned museum display. Instead of antiquities, the boxes are filled with edible botanical treasures. They poke their way through the wooden display boxes that are topped with matching lids. Flowers awaits those that climb the stairs to the spacious upper deck. A grapevine laces its way overhead with dangling grape clusters. It extends beyond the covered area and wraps around the walls enclosing a bevy of beautiful dahlias, miniature hostas, begonias and a glorious clematis. This truly is a garden full of delightful botanical treasures - oh and no lawn included!
Garden #3 Riley Park Community Gardens
It was such a nice surprise to find a community garden participating in the tour, especially one with so much to offer. Riley Park Community Garden is not just a vegetable garden, it produces organically grown veggies, fruit and flowers whilst educating the public. The many demonstration gardens show off drought tolerant plants, ground covers as lawn replacement alternatives, a pollinator garden, herbs, espaliered fruit trees, native berries and much more. Functioning compost bins, rainwater harvesting, upcycling of used items are a few of the innovative and exciting ideas that make this volunteer run garden a gem among those on the tour.
Garden #4 Small But Functional
A tiny garden sits at the back of a townhouse that was once part of a 1930 Craftsman house. Its entrance begins with a bold black planter full of coleus, fuchsias and other shade loving lovelies. An amusing frog statue begrudgingly guards the way to the back yard. Every inch of space has been utilized to its full potential, including the small strips of earth at the bottom of the fences. They are planted with hostas, astilbes and other suitable shade loving perennials that aren’t going to become too unruly. To maximize space and to accommodate the needs of the owners, the backyard consists of two small but well-appointed areas - a sunny garden and a sunken patio with comfortable seating to enjoy year round. Just goes to show that limited spaces can functional and beautiful.
Garden #6 No Lawn Needed
There’s no need for a lawn when perennials provide colour, texture and form. A simple bistro table and chairs are nestled into the scene by surrounding plants. They provide a diverse palette of greens, purples, whites and bright chartreuse. Leaf textures and shapes are combined to either complement one another or make others become the star like the soft pink filipendula that rises above its lower companions. An elegant urn sits at the corner of this refurbished house that was originally built in 1907 – imagine that! The urn points the way to a back yard full of sunny perennials including a stunning salmon pink cape fuchsia and blue veronica spires. It’s obvious, there’s really no need for a lawn.
Garden #7 An Artist’s Palette
This simple garden doesn’t boast a plethora of floral beauties and rarities, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. The owner, Rae Mate is an artist and her studio in the backyard sits under a magnificent twisted trunk of an old plum tree. Below the tree a table is decorated with deep blue bachelor buttons atop a matching blue and white tablecloth. A red climbing rose accents the door to the charming studio. Yellow and white daisies and yellow loosestrife work perfectly with the many blue accents; the birdbath, starry sky petunias, clustered bellflower and blue-black petunias. It’s an effective use of colour and with added ornamental features artfully placed and arranged, it’s easy to tell an artist lives here.
The twisted trunk of an old plum tree provides accent to the patio.
Garden #8 No Lawn, No Problem
Instead of a lawn, pale blue stars of the aptly named blue star creeper, hug the boulevard and flow between the stepping stones. After many years of losing the fight against chafer beetles, the owners decided to scrap the lawn. To take its place, the front garden consists of geometrically arranged heathers and boxwoods. They form strong lines among the perennials and shrubs. There’s no lawn in the backyard either, but there’s a striking rectangular pond. Japanese Forest grass, a sweet Japanese maple and happy hostas work to accent strategically placed large rocks, which are fringed with round pebbles. The garden is designed by Radina Jevdevic.
Garden #9 Gothic Romantic
Old, discoloured recycled red bricks from days gone by surround this romantic style garden. The bricks, salvaged from around the city, were selected for their patina resulting in old English gothic charm. The enchanting brick wall not only encloses the garden, it provides for intimate seating that’s shyly placed for solitary contemplation or a romantic rendezvous. With such a setting, plants act as features that invite attention. The theme continues into the backyard with old moss covered pavers and generous stone stairs. They lead the way to the raised brick vegetable beds and patio, which features a simple fountain that pores water from grey blocks into a hollow below. It a harmonious garden that blends the softness of the plants with the aged brick and stone. It’s a delightful visit into another time and another place.
Garden #10 French Formal Sophistication
This garden is one of French formal elegance that showcases perfect pink roses, sky blue hydrangeas and deep green tightly clipped boxwoods. It’s a sophisticated design with a colour scheme that pairs well with the blue framed windows. Spiral topiaries in elegant urns, life-size statues, rose covered arbours and mass plantings of roses surrounded by boxwood hedges are the epitome of elegance.
Formality is left behind when proceeding to the back garden. Hostas, ferns and other shade loving perennials casually line the path that opens up to a spectacular back garden. We are greeted by an ornate French-style white pavilion that dominates the rear of the garden. A spacious circular seating area, fire pit included, sits in the foreground. Garden beds attached to the house repeat the pink and blue from the front garden, but instead of a formal design, it's charmingly casual. Loose and feathery hot pink astilbes, sky blue delphiniums and creeping bellflowers work together to create a French masterpiece. The pavilion and fire pit was designed by Tammy Anne Garden Design.
Garden #11 A Garden of Many
the The original Mock Tudor house was built in 1922, but both house and garden were totally redone in 1999. An expansive English styled garden greets visitors upon arrival. It's replete with a large circular pond and fountain. There are many themes within this garden including a rockery, a Mexican patio or ‘terraza’, a vegetable garden, herbs, fruit trees and berry bushes. It has it all. The owners are avid gardeners with collections of rhododendrons as well as hellebores and other perennials. It doesn’t stop there; as with many enthusiastic and able gardeners on the tour, they’ve also taken over the back and side lane!
Garden #12 Art and Roses
It’s the little things that make this garden unique, as unique as the sculptures that grow among the greenery. They were made by the owner herself, Judy Osburn, who is not just an accomplished artist, she’s also a passionate gardener. Roses fill the beds, scramble up the 1910 Craftsman house and tumble over arbors. Nestled among the vegetation and artfully arranged sculptures is a pond swimming with golden koi. The garden doesn’t stop within the fence, but extends to the neighbouring lane for everyone to enjoy.
Garden #13 – A Cottage Garden
This cottage style garden is replete with a white picket fence, roses and hollyhocks. It is the perfect match to this 1912 house for the nostalgic design and use of plants. There’s so many flowers including a plethora of shrubs and a vast array of perennials. Plants are featured in blocks and en masse to make a big impact. The robust shrubs and perennials are no shrinking violets. There’s an impressive goatsbeard plant, a standout variegated red twig dogwood, a darling pink and a white hydrangea. This well-thought out sumptuous cottage garden is simply stunning.
My neighbour’s Hicks yew must be on steroids. This previously inconspicuous, sane little yew grew a couple of feet last year - seriously. I gather it liked the weather, but for whatever reason it decided to morph into a big green blob. What to do? It was tempting to take the hedge trimmer and give it a haircut, but it would still look ugly, especially at that location, and let’s not forget the maintenance of trying to keep it small. It would be a shame to chuck it out, but converting into a wee tree is certainly doable. After a brief discussion with my lovely neighbour, it was agreed – and the metamorphosis began.
To convert a large shrub into a tree is not difficult. Keep the biggest branches but remove all others, including all the lower branches. Don’t go mad chopping away. Assess each limb and take your time and remember to step back.
As you can see from the picture, the previously blobby yew is now a little tree with reddish-brown stems. Rhododendrons, which also can become rather large, are also good candidates for this pruning method. They also have reddish smooth bark and an attractive vase-like form.
So instead of topping and shearing plants that have become too big for their britches, consider removing their lower limbs to reveal their charming bones.
If you want to learn how to prune plants in your garden, I will show you how to prune or I can do it for you. Click here to book an appointment.
I have been to many rose gardens in my time throughout Canada, England, Italy and Florida, but I have yet to see anything like The Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon. It surpassed all my expectations and I look forward to visiting it again as there is so much to see.
To read more click here.
Being creative and making a seasonal planter is a great way to thwart winter's bleak, grey skies. If you already have some planters outside that look sad, just add some evergreen boughs, maybe some ornaments and battery operated fairy lights, and voila, it’s done.
If you don’t have an existing planter to doll-up, use any container large enough to accommodate some branches. Fill with evergreen boughs, twiggy branches and berry stems. Add some pine cones, a weatherproof bow and anything else that suits your fancy. Don’t know how to make a pretty bow? Check out the dollar stores – they have all kinds.
Festive Planter Steps
Step 3: Add floral oasis, or mulch or potting soil into the container so it is 3/4 full. Moisten the mulch or soil. Add water to the cans in temperate climates where it doesn't freeze, or omit the water altogether. It's best to use mulch or soil for areas that freeze.
Step 4: Place shorter evergreen boughs in first to cover the base of the arrangement. Be generous as it not only looks better when its full of lush foliage, they help keep everything upright.
Step 5: Add more branches from other evergreens including evergreen magnolias, yews, boxwood, pines, junipers etc.
Step 6: Follow with interesting and colourful stems: red twig dogwood, Emerald & Gold wintercreeper, curly willow, Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, Stewartia and white birch.
Step 7: Spray paint does a great job converting boring bare stems into colourful vertical accents. Same goes for evergreen branches; they take spray paint quite well. Turn green evergreen branches, gold, silver - any colour you like.
Step 8: Use dried hydrangeas, leaves, ornamental grasses, interesting seed heads and pine cones. Go for the natural look or spray paint them gold, silver or any colour you fancy.
Step 9: Add stems of red holly berries or purple beauty berries or purchase faux ones from a dollar store.
Step 10: Add ornaments, or just finish it off with a simple bow. For nighttime sparkle I like to use battery operated Christmas lights
Christmas trees are pricey so it makes sense to do your homework before you shell out your hard earned cash. Here’s some information on cut, flocked and living Christmas trees (they have not been cut and are grown in containers) and their care.
Cut Christmas Trees
Tree farms grow a variety of coniferous evergreen trees for Christmas. They often clipped in summer to create denser branches and better form. Picking out the right tree is a tricky thing. Mostly everyone wants an ideal shaped tree with full sturdy branches that don’t droop with heavy ornaments. Good needle retention is essential, while fragrance is a bonus.
Measure: Measure the area where you will be placing the tree. Don’t forget to include space for the tree topper and its tree stand. Include the available width of the area, as some trees can engulf a room. It’s a good idea to bring the measuring tape when you go tree hunting. It’s uncanny how a perfectly sized tree miraculously grows to twice its size by the time you get it home.
Needle Test: They should feel supple, not dry or crispy and they shouldn’t snap easily when bent. Give the tree a shake to check for excessive needle drop.
Concolor Fir, White Fir
Flocked Christmas Trees
Snow covered (flocked) Christmas trees are coated with an anti-flammable, non-toxic mixture made from fiber, corn starch and boron. The boron is a flame retardant. Flocking locks in moisture extending the tree's freshness.
Christmas Tree Care
Disposing Of Cut Trees
Living Christmas Trees
A living Christmas tree has not been cut and is grown in a container. Once the holidays are over either plant it in the garden or keep it in the container for next year. Container grown Christmas trees need to be either root pruned or repotted into a larger pot as they will outgrow their pot.
I love expanding my burgeoning plant collection by gathering seeds from my favorite plants. It’s cost effective, extremely rewarding and very mysterious yes – mysterious…
Seeds often don’t resemble their parents, just like people are not exact duplicates of theirs. I’ve grown some pretty cool hellebores from my Lenten roses that don’t resemble their mother plant. That’s how new exciting varieties come about from plant breeders. These plants are referred to as hybrids. How do you know if the seeds you have will grow into exact replicas of their parent or a different version? Seeds from hybrid plants will not be identical to the parents, however, seeds from plants that are non-hybrids should look like their parents. If you don’t know what you have, experiment and enjoy the mystery.
How to save Seeds
Tomatoes & Cucumbers
The Heritage Vancouver Society offered up a fundraiser I couldn’t resist; a self-guided tour of 15 exclusive gardens in the prestigious Vancouver's West Side. A special thank you goes to all the homeowners and designers that allowed me to feature their gardens in this blog. For more information on Heritage Vancouver Society click here.
The tour started with an unassuming shady front garden, which did not hint of what lay beyond. The back garden is long and languid. This huge lot, 66 ft x 342 ft, has a huge main grassy area in the back garden bordered by undulating beds filled with trees, shrubs and perennials. In the centre, a golden Julia Child rose invites visitors to come closer and enjoy its fragrance and beauty. In contrast, a shady narrow path runs along the fence providing another perspective. Harmonious colour schemes, complimentary plant shapes and varying leaf textures give this garden an easy and relaxing feel.
A self-confessed plant addict, the owner has adorned her garden with some lovely specimens, especially roses. It was a spectacular rose, the Pink Martini, which grabbed everyone's attention. It was smothered with fragrant, brilliant, deep pink blossoms. Right beside it was the Carefree Delight rose donning scented, large single soft pink flowers. The long narrow back garden was accented by a rustic arbor accented by a deep red rose called Take It Easy. Hostas, astilbes and other shade loving plants filled the beds – and more roses wherever the light allowed, took center stage.
There are two basic gardens surrounding this 1940 CBK Van Norman tudor styled home. A large ceramic urn in the front garden provides a focal point to the lush woodland shade plants. Stairs flanked by a smooth barked eucalyptus invites people down the stone steps to the garden below where the woodland theme continues. The sumptuous garden is punctuated by unusual plants such as the Spotty Dotty Podophyllym with its huge flat crinkled leaves and the funky Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant. The woodland settings gradually evolves to a more formal scene. Trimmed boxwoods define a large seating area under the white hanging lanterns. A dining area with an Asian feel hides under the balcony. It’s intimate and restful with a rustic stone head as its focal point. Trimmed boxwoods edge the deep garden beds to provide a loose formality. Feathery astilbes peak out among the greenery, a bold gunnera pairs well with white trimmed hosta and tall ferns compete with rhododendrons. It’s an appealing loose formality.
This sculptural Japanese themed garden is dramatic in its use of rocks, water and plants. It was designed as a miniature Japanese landscape with rocks mimicking mountain ranges. The water features simulate waterfalls, streams and lakes. Stark pines replicate wind ravaged evergreens atop craggy mountaintops. It’s so well done that this garden has been featured in movies, television and magazines.
There’s no lawn in front of this delightful Craftsman house, but it does have a meadow. It consists of numerous low growing sun loving perennials, but it was the Mexican Feather Grass that stole the show. Its flaxen, silky, hay-coloured stalks partnered well with lavender, blue cranesbill geranium and yellow stonecrop sedums. A turquois ceramic urn topped with red geraniums provided a dramatic focal point. A productive vegetable garden plus raspberries and blueberries takes up the back yard. This lovely garden was designed by Linda Shulman.
Blue accents bring harmony to this creative and colourful garden. It starts with a deep blue bench atop thyme rimmed flagstone taking the place of a lawn in the front garden. It is repeated out back with cobalt blue planters, blue and yellow striped cushions, the flowing azure starry flowers of the Waterfall Serbian bellflower and the deep navy spires of the Royal Candles speedwell. There’s a charming pond in the back yard, replete with a water sprouting frog. Artistic and colourful combinations of plants and ornaments are used throughout.
There’s no need for a lawn when food and flowers take priority. Raspberries, blueberries and veggies take up one side of the front garden while a birdbath surrounded with bluestone pavers provides a focal point on the opposite side. Ornamental grasses, flowers and shrubs comprise the rest of the gardens including more veggies in the backyard. Designed by Linda Shulman.
As visitors enter the ivy covered arched pergola, they are transported into a magical world of gnomes, dragons, moss covered statues and other old world ornaments. The path made from recycled old red bricks winds its way throughout this gothic English style cottage garden. Lush green plants intertwine, cascade and intermingle with the art pieces and drip into the numerous water features. The piece de resistance is a black Victorian gazebo. A wisteria and rose drape across the top providing a green lacy ceiling. Inside there’s a small table draped in a white tablecloth and two chairs inviting visitors to sit and enjoy the enchanted surroundings.
The owner and the designer, Anne-Talbot Kelly, worked together to create this eclectic garden. It has touches of industrial, Asian and West Coast beach, and practically everything is recycled. The most impressive feature is the waterfall made from an old air duct pipe with bins atop to collect rainwater. Water cascades down the chains into a large elongated metal bin below. It was made by Robert Delahanty, a bike mechanic and welder. Cooking oil cylinders and semi-truck wheel drums make unusual but effective planters. This garden has numerous areas to entertain, but the crushed shell beach area is a cool place to hang out. There’s even a fireplace for chilly nights made out of an old barrel with a gas insert. It’s an ingenious and very functional garden made for entertaining.
The Arthur Erickson Foundation is the sole owner and caretaker of this iconic home and garden. The foundation offers tour from July to October. Click here for more info. "A clearing in the forest." is how Arthur Erickson, famed architect, described the garden he enjoyed for over fifty years. It's more of a contemplative retreat rather than a traditional garden as there are no floriferous, colourful garden beds, nor a veggie bed waiting to be harvested. Instead there is a stand of Douglas fir and dogwoods framing the pond. Glossy green water lily leaves coat the serene water. Rhododendrons become bold statements especially when combined with the tall graceful bamboo. Large ferns sprout from the bare undergrowth in the dappled shade. It's a serene setting, with simple rustic benches placed to view the artistic vistas made by the light playing upon the scene, changing slowly with the moods of the sun.
An arbor shadowing the style of the house provides an entrance to the front garden. Jasmine’s sweet fragrance fills the air. Their pure white star-like flowers drape over the wooden fence enhancing the attached bench accented with lime green cushions. Designed by Anne Talbot-Kelly, the numerous seating areas are cleverly placed to enjoy this multilevel garden.
This 1908 house still has the original wrought iron fence that wraps around an old fashioned garden, but it doesn’t stop there. The garden spills out with all sorts of shrubs and some small trees past the fence, much to the delight of people passing by. A memorial bench located at the corner of the lot is dedicated to the previous owner and avid gardener, Diana Snow. It is tucked in and wrapped by a lush green hedge for passing pedestrians to rest and view the ocean beyond. Within the fenced area the garden lends itself to comfort and conversation with two curved, green wooden benches arranged in a circle. A huge and original magnolia provides a rich green canopy overhead. Its dappled shade extends far and wide creating lacy speckles of light below.
Outdoor living is the focus on this design and installation by De Haas Landscape Design Ltd. A clipped formal yew hedge is accented by black granite pavers that leads to the back garden. An elegant white covered patio looks over this inviting garden designed for entertaining. There are numerous areas to sit and enjoy the flora including a separate seating tucked up against the wooden fence.
A number of large trees shade this 1925 Craftsman home and the accompanying small paved courtyard. It features a rock fountain that gently cascades into a quaint pond. Tall bamboo becomes a striking form against the pale walls and wooden fence. The Italian inspired patio is is dotted with pottery and art from the owner’s travels. In addition to the delightful art and keepsakes, Keith Rice-Jones sculptures were discretely displayed among the ferns, the hostas and coral bells for this special event.
It was a hot and sunny Father’s Day in June when the Vancouver’s, Dunbar Garden Club had their annual member’s garden tour, which I gleefully attended. I was impressed as well as inspired by the five very different gardens. Although many plants were in flower, it seemed to me that it was the roses that stole the show. The many creative flower combinations brought out the very best of each individual. I couldn’t get enough of the many wonderful peonies, roses and clematis combinations.
If you want to take the tour with me follow below. I’ve written a few things of note for each garden and theirs lots of pics as per.
Hope the photos inspire you as much as the real gardens inspired me.
Thank you to all the garden tour hosts for their generosity and kindness.
Nola Frost - A Garden of roses
If you are not a lover of roses, this garden might just change your mind. Unlike most formal rose gardens with blocks of roses surrounded by boxwood hedges, Nola has incorporated bold, beautiful and floriferous roses throughout her garden. They are artfully interspersed between vibrant peonies, lilies, clematis and other garden beauties. Climbing roses are an obvious favorite of hers as they have been accommodated by the many trellised covered walls and arbours.
Nola’s roses are virtually blemish free, but such healthy and beautiful roses must need lots of care, right? Well, that is just not the case. There is no spray program except for an occasional application of dormant oil/ lime sulfur mix in the winter. Fertilizer is applied yearly in early spring and a layer of a rich organic mulch on top of the soil is applied every other year. They really are easy care roses.
As a member of the Vancouver Rose Society, Nola knows her roses and makes a point of growing those that are resistant to black spot and mildew. This is why she likes the new modern roses that are bred to be disease resistant as well as the reliable and tough Old Garden roses.
When asked which rose were her favorite, Nola responded with three different ones ‘Dublin Bay’, ‘South Africa’, and ‘Summer Wine’. Sadly Summer Wine was not in flower during my visit so I don’t have any pictures.
Although I already love roses and have a few in my garden, Nola inspired me to grow more. I have no idea where to put them in my bursting garden, but I just can’t resist. Oh no!
Helen Smith – A Tale of Two Gardens
A tall retaining wall greets all that pass Helen’s garden. Rugosa roses cover one end of the rock wall and bright yellow creeping jenny and stonecrop sedum provide a brilliant groundcover at the entrance. It’s only when you walk up the stone path that you get a sneak peak of what’s to come. There’s a circular sunken patio with chairs and table inviting visitors to sit and enjoy the sunshine. It was a nice surprise. This patio becomes the main focal point when viewed from the house, but relaxation isn’t the only intent of the front garden. There’s a path that winds its way around the patio with vegetables and ornamental plants blending together in harmony. Asparagus, pole beans, squash, basil, garlic, chives and other edibles are mixed in with peonies, spirea, ninebark and other ornamental plants including a stunning deep purple clematis.
When walking from the sunny southern facing front garden to the back yard, the bright sunshine gave way to coolness and shade. Green leaves of different hues, shapes and forms dominated the small but well-appointed garden. And it is full of life. A netted fish pond sits below an ivy covered wall and active bird feeders hang above in overhead tree branches. Helen has added many lovely little touches to amuse and delight. A stone frog, a bunny by the stairs, a wee frog in water-filled rock, a rustic birdhouse tucked in behind Japanese forest grass and at the front, there’s a clay pot on its side spilling out succulents. Helen has artfully created two distinct gardens that are both functional and innovative.
Larry and Margaret Moore – A Garden of Rooms
This heritage home has been in the family since it was built in 1924. The large 84ft x 120ft lot is divided into numerous rooms to serve specific functions. The front garden display gardens wrap around the large lawn and the garden’s perimeter. A concrete garden urn provides an accent and a touch of formality while the wood wheelbarrow with a container of Bishop’s weed provides country flair and breaks up the large lawn.
The backyard is a whole different ball game, literally as it opens up to a vast lawn with a basketball hoop on one end. With generations of the Moore family growing up in the house, the garden must be multifunctional. There is a kitchen garden full of edibles that doubles as a play area for small children that includes play house. As Larry explained, the kitchen garden opens up to the living room where people congregate and sit. Tucked away in the 'living room' is a serene pond laden with fish and waterlilies for everyone to enjoy.
For privacy and to rest, another garden awaits on the other side of the property. It’s shady, intimate and features green and white plants that adds to the serenity. A striking stained fence provides a warm, fresh backdrop to the white goats beard, hosta and other shade plants. A bucket of blue campanula seems to flow aimlessly out of an old water pump. It provides a fine accent to the stylish bench beside it.
This garden is one for all ages, which is evident with the garden rooms that perform specific functions for every member of the family, no matter what their age.
Jennifer Buckland - Art in the Garden
If you love roses but are afraid of taking the plunge or just don’t want the extra maintenance, new shrub and landscape roses as well as old garden roses, may change your mind. They are all beautiful, easy to grow and most need little maintenance depending on your climate.
The following roses do well in the Pacific Northwest, specifically Vancouver, BC. Winters are wet; sometimes it snows but mostly its green and wet. Summers are not very hot, but they are quite dry. Most of these roses do well here, despite the lack of sun and heat for much of the year. Black spot is a problem, so is mildew, never mind the aphids. We need disease tolerant roses that don't mind wet, grey days and cool temperatures.
No matter where you live, select roses that grow best in your area. Most of the roses mentioned here do well in most of North America and the UK. If it is difficult to grow roses in your neck of the woods, go to your local nursery, ask your rose growing neighbours and check out rose clubs and societies in you area.
For more information on types of roses, click on the following subjects:
Hybridizers and breeders have worked diligently to develop continuous flowering, pest free, hardy, dependable roses that are beautiful. Flower clusters replace the traditional romantic single rose. Tresses of flower laden canes throughout the summer translates well as a reliable garden shrub. Many are also fragrant. Canadian breeders have developed hardy roses for the north with their Canadian Explorer Series, named after explorers of note. Other easy roses that take the worry and stress out of rose growing include Parkland Roses, Meidiland Landscape Rose, Flower Carpet Rose, OSO Easy Roses by Proven Winners and Knock Out roses.
Other easy care roses are Old Garden roses: Alba, Centifolia, Damask, Gallica, Moss, China, Bourbon, Hybrid Perpetual, Noisette and Tea roses are made of tougher stuff. Some bloom only once, but when they do, they drip with beautiful and bountiful blossoms. Flowers are usually fragrant, come in a myriad of colours and either bear 5 petals to blossoms bursting with them. Some bear colourful hips come fall, which also feed hungry birds during the winter.
Species roses (wild roses) have been unaltered by plant breeders. They grow on their own roots and are not grafted like the hybrid teas, grandifloras and floribundas. This makes them hardy and pest resistant especially when grown in their native habitat. The Nootka rose hails from Nootka Sound in BC, others include Lady Banks’ rose, Alberta rose, Musk rose and the Multiflora rose.
Worthy of a mention are shrub roses Hybrid musk and the Rugosa rose. They are also easy care and bloom more than once, are fragrant, bear nice rose hips and tolerate partial shade. They are tough, hardy and the bees and birds love them.
Billowing and blossoming shrubs, stately towering trees and drifts of flowers greet visitors at the Dart’s Hill Garden Park. From its conception, a mere 70 years ago, this garden park has matured into a beautiful oasis. This 7.5 acre garden has something for everyone. There are numerous plant collections including rare plants for us plant lovers, heritage trees, an old but well-kept apple orchard, a pond, stream and borders crammed with plants of all kinds.
Huge rhododendrons thrive underneath the expansive tree canopies. The lush undergrowth features swaths of pink primroses, blue bluebells and yellow leopard’s bane daisies.
Although Darts Hill feels and looks very natural, the gardens were created by Francisca Dart. With help from her husband Ed, Francisca laid out the gardens and filled them with rare and unusual trees and shrubs. It’s a plant lover’s utopia with old-boned trees providing living walls and ceilings made from their leaf laden branches. The resulting dappled shade are the perfect conditions for many plants, especially rhododendrons, camellias, primroses and azaleas.
It was a sunny day in May when I visited Darts Hill with the Dunbar Garden Club. The timing was perfect as the rhododendrons were on full display. It was breathtaking. I especially loved the path lined with blue-flowering Rhododendron augustinii... and the pond.
The pond is so serene. Its babbling brook spills over strategically placed rocks into the still pool below. It is beautifully landscaped with a perfectly situated bench to admire the view. My pictures do not do it justice.
For those that need a retaining wall, check out the dry-stacked stone wall. Although it was just installed, it looks like it had been there for centuries. The accompanying garden was being planted as we passed, labels included. Since this is a gardener’s garden with many rare plants and plant collections, most of the plant are labelled. This takes the guesswork out of plant identification and notes specific varieties and cultivars.
The Darts house still stands and rises above a vast expanse that includes a heritage apple orchard. But it's the humongous heritage walnut tree (Juglans cinerea x J. siebolidiana v. 'Cordiformis'), that steels the show. Its branches are so long and heavy, they are supported with metal braces.
Eventually Francesca had to give up the garden but instead of selling the property to developers, Francesca donated it to the City of Surrey in 1994. Along with the city, the non-profit Darts Hill Garden Conservancy Trust Society, work together to educate, protect, maintain and cultivate this little piece of paradise in South Surrey.
The garden is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in April, May, June, July, and September. They also have special open Houses on May 26, September 22, and October 20. Tours are also available, which I recommend as there is so much to see. Become a member for extended openings and opportunities to volunteer. For more information go to Dart’s Hill.
It was the end of April when my daughter, Jessica and myself, visited one of my favorite places, the VanDusen Botanical Gardens. It was a pleasant sunny day; a perfect day to enjoy the many beautiful flowers that were strategically featured throughout the 55 acres.
Going to any garden or park is always good for the soul and VanDusen doesn't disappoint with its natural plantings as well as its more formal designs. I took lots of pics, grabbing ideas as we sauntered through the displays.
Since our visit was about a week ago, I am sure most of the shining stars of that day have passed on, but others will have surely taken their place. It's this month that the laburnum and allium lined path, as well as the large rhododendron collection, that takes centre stage. If you miss it, don't worry as there is always something stunning at VanDusen.
I like to grow kale because it is easy to start from seed, it does well in my garden and it is tasty. Spring kale's new leaves are delicate with a more subtle flavor than the mature foliage from fall. An added bonus is they flower their second year and they are delish. They are great in a stir fry and salads, so are the tender new leaves and stems.
Kale is a biennial, and flowers only in its second year, then it dies. The first year it throws out robust foliage, but in the following spring the centre of the plant elongates producing a loose cluster of simple yellow flowers. Bees love them. If you don't want huge plants, but still want the flowers and baby leaves, harvest the main stem as it elongates. The remaining plant with pump out more delicious stems and flowers.
So here are my kale plants. I have a few since I love them so, but no one else in the family is as keen. All the more for me!
The Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, February 2018
The Northwest Flower & Garden is THE place to go for the latest in garden trends, landscape design and new plant introductions. Garden enthusiasts, horticultural gurus, landscape designers, plant collectors and crazy plant nuts, like me, flock to this exciting expo of what is new and exciting in the plant world.
This is the 30th year Seattle has hosted this five day event, which is held every February. Gardening is not just celebrated, it is explored, re-imagined re-invented and celebrated.
I have linked most of the pictures below to the vendor's and designer's website for your convenience. Just click on the pictures and it will take you to their websites.
This year’s theme; The Garden Party, went beyond pretty teacups nestled among floral finery. All kinds of wonderful plants at their peak of loveliness were used to create competing gardens by the pros. Designers, growers and nurseries brought gardens to life within the walls of the Washington State Convention Center. Twenty professionally designed gardens vied for gold, silver and bronze awards. There were gardens fit for bees, fantastic container garden combinations and ones echoing the Cascade Range. Ancient forests with waterfalls, indigenous plants in natural settings, elegant geometrically designs, winter bloomers, edible landscapes and Zen inspired gardens were part of the contest.
New plant introductions were featured in many of the contestant gardens, as well as many of the over 350 vendors in the Marketplace. One plant that caused quite a stir was the Edgeworthia chrysantha, with its round, drooping flower clusters on leafless stems. This was also the place to grow for mushroom kits, edible plants, miniature conifers and dahlias.
Glass was a huge garden trend. Spirals of vividly coloured vertical glass spires boldly broke through the competing designer gardens. They reminded me of the beautiful and dramatic coloured blown glass of the American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. There were many vendors that carried these dramatic glass pieces.
It was good to see emphasis on sustainable gardening, urban landscaping, container gardening, biodiversity and food growing by vendors and designers, and the festival's organizers alike. To inspire and educate, 100 free garden and plant related seminars were offered by professional gardening gurus, authors, prize winning landscape designers, horticulturists and naturalists.
There were many lovely things to see and buy. It is not for the faint of heart or the light of wallet. For us Canadians, there was a special booth that provided information, documentation and forms to get through Canadian customs. Organizers had thought of everything to make the process easier.
Here are some photo highlights of the show.
Award winning Garden Designs from the Pros
From the Marketplace
There’s a few thing to keep in mind before cutting back your trees and shrubs this winter. Here’s a list to follow to make things a tad easier and more doable. Keep in mind that winter pruning promotes growth as well as watersprouts and suckers - so don't go crazy. If you want to restrict growth while reducing watersprouts and suckers, then go easy now and prune in summer.
Not all trees and shrubs need to be pruned. If it is flowering well, looks good, isn’t in the way and is doing what it is supposed to do, leave it alone.
For more on pruning click here to go to my website. For rose pruning, click here.
What To Remove
What To DO
Where TO Cut
Tree too tall?
Don't be worried about a tree becoming too tall and falling over. Nature isn't stupid. A tree's roots are at least the same size of its canopy. In fact roots reach out far beyond the canopy especially if there is room for the roots to spread out. When you prune off the top, the roots also die back in proportion to what was removed. So if your worried that your tree is too tall, cutting the top off is going to make an otherwise safe tree - unsafe.
If it a tree is interfering with any overhead structures such as power lines, then cut back the offending branches to a side branch or removed the entire limb. Don't behead it! Cutting back or removing all a tree's branches encourages even more growth. The tree needs foliage to make food, so it pumps out suckers to replace the lost stems and leaves. Suckers originate from the dormant buds from under the bark, not from the tree's core. They are easily broken off, especially in high winds and as they get longer. Suckers are not branches.
Pruning is to maintain health of trees and shrubs and should not be used to continuously reduce the size of a plant. If constant pruning is necessary, consider removing the plant and replacing with a plant of smaller stature keeping in mind its width and height at maturity. Select the right size of plant for the space.
Pruning grapes is not a fine art as they are tough little cookies, but they are more productive and less unruly with correct pruning and training. Harvesting becomes easier, grapes are fewer but are larger, there's less problems with diseases plus they ripen faster.
Let’s start at the beginning when you first bring a grape plant home. Although it is maybe tempting to give it a good haircut, don’t. It is important for the plant establish a good framework and a good root system before any trimming takes place.
Grape plants are woody vines and need a support such as a fence, arbor or horizontal post system. I have mine growing along a 6 foot fence and it works quite well. I initially used a thin gauge wire to train the vining stems, however, this proved inadequate. In just a couple of years, the wires sagged and broke under the weight of the fruit laden stems. Arbors are another alternative and evoke images of a Mediterranean garden as the grape clusters dangle down from a leafy canopy. Pruning and securing the plant is more arduous though as you need a ladder to maintain it.
An efficient grape support is a wire trellis. To make one, sink sturdy posts into the ground 10 feet apart with intermediate posts every two feet. The posts should be 5 feet above the ground. Run one 9 gauge wire horizontally between the posts a couple of feet apart at the top. Add another one about 2 feet above the ground if you wish to another level for the vines to grow upon.
The first pruning should be done in winter. This is to establish a basic framework. Select the sturdiest stem that is growing more or less upright to become the main trunk. Tie it to the main support. Once the main stem reaches the top wire, cut it back to two strong buds. Those buds will become the 'arms' reaching in opposite directions along the wire. As the buds develop into stems, tie them to the wire as they grow. If you have a two wire system, look for two strong stems that arise closest to the lower wire and tie them to their support.
As the 'arms' grow, new shoots will grow along their stems. These new stems will grow with gusto producing many grape clusters. If they are not cut back, the grapevine will become a monster and the grape clusters will be many but the grapes themselves will be small. To increase the size of the grapes and to control its growth,cut back any side shoots to a couple of buds (nodes) on each of those side stems.
If your grape plant is more mature, and it needs remedial pruning, determine which stem is your main upright trunk and which are its ‘arms’. Select the most vigorous stems. Remove all other growth; just keep the main trunk and the horizontal arms. Tie them to their support if they are not secure. Cut back all the side branches emerging from the arms to 2 to 4 buds. These buds should develop into fruiting spurs, where the grapes will develop. Once all the side shoots are cut back to a 2 to 4 buds, thin the side shoots so they are about 10 to 12 inches apart.
When it comes to training a grape vine on an arbor, pergola or other overhead structure, plant at least one on each side of the structure. That is all you need if the structure is small, however for larger ones, consider planting one at each support post or every other one depending on the distance between the posts. Prune the winter after planting. Cut back the main stems to just beyond where you want the plant to branch out, about 2 feet off the ground. Remove all the remaining side shoots. When the main trunk starts to branch out, select the most robust ones and tie them to their support. For remedial pruning and training for older grape vines, select the healthiest main stems. Keep one or two main stems on each plant and tie them to their support (or just twine the vines around their support). Remove all the side shoots of the main stems to a 2 to 4 buds (nodes). If any of the main stems are long enough, guide them over top the trellis and secure.
There are numerous methods of pruning grape plants, but this method is not too complicated and it works. More on pruning grapes as the season progresses.
To control overwintering insects and diseases on fruit trees and other deciduous (non-evergreen) trees and shrubs, spray them with a mixture of dormant oil and lime sulfur during their winter’s sleep. This organic pesticide works to kill any exposed insects AND diseases. Common targeted insects include scale insect, spider mites, caterpillars and their exposed eggs. It also does a great job controlling common diseases on fruit trees such as peach leaf curl, apple scab and powdery mildew. Use on roses to reduce black spot.
This dormant spray solution is less harmful to pollinating insects and other beneficial bugs as they are not around this time of year. And unlike other pesticides, the insects and fungi do not develop a resistance; a common issue especially when using fungicides.
Apply while plants are still dormant and have not yet sprouted foliage or buds. Spray when there is no rain, snow or frost predicted for 24 hours. Temperature should remain at 0°C (32°F) or above for at least 24 hours. Avoid spraying on evergreens (cedars, rhododendrons etc.) as it may injure them. Apply in the morning so the plant will be dry by evening. Don’t apply if frost is predicated overnight.
Although this sounds like the window of applying this organic pesticide and fungicide is rather narrow, it's usually doable. And it works. I have noticed a huge difference in my apple tree especially when I neglect to get the dormant oil solution in time - like last year. My poor apple had lots of issues, much more so than previous years when I managed to get the job done.
Usually the end of January to the beginning of February is the window of opportunity, however, since I live in the temperate climate of southern British Columbia, spring sometimes come early, catching me off guard (in a nice way). There's been a couple of years when I the plants sprouted at the very beginning of February. Oh no! For most of Canada the window of opportunity is usually late February and into March.
Look for the dormant oil, lime sulfur duo packaged together at home hardware stores and garden centres. Get an extra box for next year as sometimes they are not in stores in time for us here in temperate and balmy B.C.
Also don't store dormant oil/lime sulfur outside during the winter. I kept mine in my shed and it froze, becoming totally useless. With any product, read the label thoroughly for how to use it, rates of application and cautions etc. Don't spray on a windy day for obvious reasons and avoid getting in the way of the spray while applying. Don’t mix more than you need as you cannot store it for later use. It will stain stone and concrete so cover them with a tarp or plastic before applying.
Avoid using dormant oil, lime sulfur on beech, hickory, Amur, sugar and Japanese maples, walnuts as well as redbuds and evergreens, especially Colorado blue spruce and holly. If you are worried about spray drift getting on these sensitive plants, temporarily cover them before spraying with a tarp or plastic.
Although dormant oil/lime sulfur is not 'toxic' to humans, cover yourself up as it's rather stinky. Wear rubber boots, cover your arms and legs, a hat, wear glasses (don't want it in your eyes) and rubber gloves. Wash your hands and face after applying even if you use a face mask.
Cover the plant entirely so it is dripping off and spray the ground too as it also harbours overwintering pests and diseases. To apply this product to tall plants, I use a trombone sprayer, but a backpack sprayer would be suitable. It makes a fine mist that goes quite high into the tree canopy. You can also use a hose end sprayer for smaller plants, but use the mist setting.
This one time application per year works wonders so consider it if you have buggy and diseased fruit trees, roses and other deciduous shrubs and trees.
How come my Christmas cactus didn't flower at Christmas?
Hi Kathy, I’ve also had a few Christmas cacti that didn’t flower at the right time or not at all. The reason why was because I was not providing adequate darkness at night and not restricting their water at the right time of year. It’s not difficult to give them what they need to set bud, but you do have to mindful.
In October, allow the top inch of soil to dry before watering and keep them in total darkness for 12 to 14 hours. Cool evening temperatures also spur on blossoms, although I've found it's not essential. After 6 to 8 weeks pink buds should be on the ends of their leafy stems. Once in the plant has lots of buds, increase its water and don’t worry about keeping the lights off at night - but don’t move it to another location as this is a sure-fire way to make them all fall off – oh my! Bud drop and a lack of flowers may also be caused by full sun. Surprisingly, these succulents from the jungles of Brazil don't like it. They prefer bright filtered sun as though they were sitting in the tree canopy of their native habitat.
There also could be another reason your Christmas cactus doesn’t flower at Christmas besides their care, maybe it isn’t a Christmas cactus at all! It could be one of its cousins the Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaetneri) or the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata). Thanksgiving cactus flower in fall, about a month before the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii). Easter cactus bud in February and flower around Easter. There are also hybrids, which are a combination of any two of them, especially the Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus.
Although all these Holiday Cacti and flower look the same, they are not identical. All bear similar leaves, which are actually stems that look like links on a chain. The Christmas cactus leaves are the smallest and have the smoothest edges. The Thanksgiving cactus leaf edges are hooked, resembling claws hence their other common names - the lobster or crab cactus. The Easter cactus distinguishing feature is their bristle-like hairs that are located between the leaf segments.
Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus flowers are very similar, but the Christmas cactus anthers are a brownish purple. The anthers of the Thanksgiving cactus are yellow. The Easter cactus has a totally different flower resembling a star. They all require similar care to promote flowering. Give them 12 to 14 of darkness and limit their water for two months before they are supposed to flower.
All holiday cactus are easy to propagate. Just snap off a a leaf and stick in a pot with sterile soil or vermiculite.
If you decide to purchase another holiday cacti, I suggest you keep the label. Not only will it identify the plant for you, it will list its care. This takes the guesswork out of growing these lovely long-lived houseplants.
I hope this helps. Good luck.
Time and money seem to be at a shortage this time of year. Quick festive ornaments from the garden help with the budget and make pretty decorations.
Swags are easy to make as they are essentially a bouquet made of evergreens and such that are tied together with a bow. Just one pine or cedar branch with some ribbon will do for a really simple but effective swag. If you have lots of different types of branches, like I have, combine them for a lush look. A mixture of different types of foliage of conifers (pines, cedar, spruce etc.) with boxwood, rhododendron and other broadleaf evergreen branches steps it up a notch.
To make a swag, cut a number of branches approximately the same size. Place the branches on a table and stack them on top of each other. The longest one goes on the bottom, which become the back of the swag, then place shorter ones on top so you can see the layer underneath. Stagger one on top of another so a quarter of the bottom one is uncovered. If they are all the same length and aren't staggered, it lacks definition and doesn't look artsy.
Once happy with your arrangement, tie the ends together with wire or a zap-strap. Hang it on the wall and look for any stray and unruly branches. There’s no need to remove them, just snip them off where you need to. Alternately, if you need to add a branch or two, just wedge them inside and push them up into the base of the swag. Even when tied together there's usually some 'give', so adding some small stems isn’t an issue.
When done, finish off the swag with a ribbon. Wrap it around the cut ends, hiding the wire and tie it into a knot, making sure the ribbon is long enough that the ends hang down. Cut another length of ribbon and tie it around the base again, but this time make a bow. To make a puffy bow, use a wide ribbon or fabric and cut it two and a half times larger than the desired bow size. Make a circle with the ribbon overlapping the ends. Cinch the middle of the circle together and secure with wire. Cover the wire with another piece of ribbon, tying it around the wire. Attach it to the ends of the swag and puff up the 'bow' part of the ribbon, making sure it looks nice. And that's it. Your done.
Have fun trying different ribbon as it will change the entire look of the swag. First I tried some fancy silver and white fabric, then tried a canvas type red ribbon. I liked the natural look better, so I went with the red. A nice big red satin bow would be quite elegant. Add a few baubles or spray paint some funky twigs and the look changes again.
A few caveats. If you are hanging the swag on the door or where people come and go, avoid using thorny plants. If placed on a door, avoid dried flowers and berries as they easily fall off with the motion of the door opening and closing and with people passing by.
To help prolong the life of the swag, keep it outside, mist it daily or spray it with an antidessicant such as Wilt-Pruf. Hairspray also works if you have any handy.
Cleaning up my garden beds became a priority after a recent bout marred some plants while others succumbed. Plus it's time as it is November. The veggie beds were cleaned up a few weeks ago, but yesterday, I managed to put the rest of the garden to bed for winter. It's a dirty bit of business but necessary if I don't want to inherit the work in spring. There was lots of weeding, cutting back perennials, discarding diseased plant parts, transplanting and applying mulch.
It's a great time to move plants around the garden. The air is cool, the soil is still warm and the rain is back in town. I have been busy transplanting those that are either too big, too small, engulfing others, ones that need more light and those that need less. I have also tossed the ugly and the sickly. It happens. Perennials (bearded iris, daylilies, phlox) that have multiplied and have overstepped their bounds were divided and potted up to sell or give away in spring.
To finish off the beds, I like to use a nice thick layer of leaves. I got a good haul of them, 20 bags in fact, when I raided my neighbourhood during recycle pick-up day. Ironically at the same time I was applying leaves to my beds, a neighbour was raking up and bagging her lovely Japanese maple leaves that had fallen onto her lawn and garden.
I took advantage of a fair weather day by dumping and spreading 18 bags of leaves, mostly from maples, on my garden beds. I think it looks marvelous. I know some people don't like the look, but I do. Besides it is so beneficial to plants and soil. It provides food for the soil food web that everything in the garden depends on. Not only that, winter weeds will be foiled. Erosion won't be an issue even with heavy rains. Plant will be toasty too. A blanket of leaves insulates the soil from temperature fluctuations which dislodges plants roots especially spring flowering bulbs. I'm so glad it is done, and so is Cocoa our kitty, who helped me with the mulching. As you can see she loved the leaves and I swear she actually gave me two furry thumbs up!
Soggy soil, saturated beds and floating lawns are a result of poor drainage. A French drain is a simple, low tech method to removing water from an area by the use of a trench and gravity.
You will need:
An Open French Drain
I could write about all the wonderful, educational, intriguing beautiful gardens with their plant collections and features, but it is expertly explained on their excellent websites. And since pictures say a thousand words, I thought I would let my pictures do the talking.
the tucson botanical gardens
This opulent and educational five-and-a-half acre botanical garden beats in the heart of Tucson. They have many garden collections to educate, enlighten show the history of agriculture in the area, the history of its indigenous peoples: Cactus & Succulent Garden, the Herb Garden, Xeriscape Garden, Zen Garden, Shade Garden just to name a few. I was delighted to meet lots of lovely butterflies at the Cox Butterfly & Orchid Pavilion, but it was the metallic blue poison dart frog that was a pleasant surprise. For more information and features click on The Tucson Botanical Gardens.
The Arizona-Sonoran Desert museum
This immense 98-acre living museum features animals as well as plants. Over 1,200 plant varieties and more than 230 animal species are displayed in their appropriate ecosystems. Research, conservation and education is their obvious objective. The Hummingbird Avery brings hummingbirds close-up and personal. Their plant collections included Desert Grasslands, Palo Verde Trees, Cactus Garden and Tropical Deciduous Forest were a few of the generous and sprawling gardens. For more information and features, click on The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
If you admire the look of tropical plants in the garden but live too far north, you can bring the tropics to your garden with hardy banana plants (Musa basjoo) and Chinese windmill palms (Trachycarpus fortunei) in the temperate zones of 7 and 8 in British Columbia, Southwest Ontario and parts of the Maritimes.
Although these plants are tough cookies and can be left outside all year long in the warmer parts of Canada, they still need winter protection. If they are not too big, bring them inside and use them as houseplants. Place in front of a sunny window and water when needed. Don’t keep them too dry as that promotes spider mites, whilst keeping them too wet promotes rotting. If you don’t want to use them as houseplants, an alternative is to store them in a basement with grow lights, in a heated garage or greenhouse. Check on them often to make sure they are not too dry, too wet or having health issues.
If your container grown banana or palm trees are too big to bring inside, there are ways to protect them. Container grown plants are more prone to winterkill since their roots are in pots and are not protected by the thermal heat of the earth. If you can bury their pots in the ground, do so, or wrap the pots with insulation, layers of cardboard, carpets, anything that will insulate them from the cold, the wind and temperature fluctuations. Place at least 6 inches of leaves, mulch, straw or even soil over the crowns (where the stem meet the roots). Follow the rest of the instructions below to protect the upper portions of the plant
Protecting Banana Plants outside
There is no need to try to protect banana stems as they are just temporary anyway. Technically, banana plants are herbaceous perennials, which means they are non-woody. New stems arise from the underground rhizomes (similar to bamboo, iris and grasses). Once the new stems produce fruit the stem collapses and dies, so don’t panic when this happens; it will be replaced soon enough. Therefore we are not trying to protect the stems, but the roots. As long as the roots are alive, new shoots will energetically emerge in spring.
To protect their roots/rhizomes, cut off any stems and cut them into 1 foot pieces. Surround the root area with a cage made of chicken wire or hardware cloth to make a tube a few feet high or higher. Lay cut up banana stems and leaves of top of the roots inside the cage. Add more layers of fall leaves or straw if you wish. If they are located in a sheltered location where they don't receive rain, check on them often to make sure they are receiving adequate water. Plants drying out during the winter is just as bad as sogging out too wet
Protecting Palm Trees outside
The most tender and important part of a palm tree is the central bud that grows at the very top of the plant. If that dies, so does the rest of the plant no matter how toasty warm the roots are. That central bud is where all the new foliage originates from. An easy way to protect that growing tip is to gather the surrounding fronds and tie them together over the bud. Continue to wrap with many layers of burlap, cloth or other breathable fabric. Don't wrap too tightly though as this reduces the insulating effect of the fabric.
Protect the crown and roots with at least 6 inches of organic mulch such as leaves, straw or wood chips. Wrap the base and trunk with a breathable fabric, fiberglass or even cardboard. If the palm is small, protect it with a cage as mentioned with the banana. For a simple fix, tie the top fronds together with twine then wrap them with non-LED Christmas lights. The heat from the old fashioned lights should keep that central bud adequately warm.
Rain & Rot
In our rainy climate of the Pacific Northwest, the fear of plants becoming rain sodden and rotting underneath their winter protection is a concern, so they are often put under the eaves away from the rain. This is a good idea as they also receive protection from the house, however, if the soil dries out, this also promotes winter damage. Check on them occasionally and add water if and when it is needed.
Plastic is often added on top of insulating fabric or even used alone to keep the relentless rains from rotting the plants, however, since plastic doesn’t breath, it holds any moisture in. This actually promotes decay and has little insulating value. To prevent soggy fabric, place plastic over top of the fabric etc., but poke a many holes in the sides to let air flow.
Good luck with your tropical plants this winter. Cross your fingers that Old Man Winter will be kind to us.
I no longer dig up the lawn to make a new bed, instead I make a raised bed right over top. Not only is this method easy, it results in a nice fertile soil. Removing the grass not only is time consuming and painful, it also takes away all kinds of beneficial microorganisms and organic matter from the soil.
Here are some of my previous blog postings. They cover a wide range of topics from bugs to my botanical excursions and conventions. Click on whichever interests you on the titles below for easy navigation.