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.
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.