Tuesday, April 19, 2016

MOON GARDEN UPDATE - spring 2016

Above is the most up to date map of my Moon Garden, where 99% of the plants are white with the exception of the orange daylilies and the purple hardy geranium, making the bench a great place to sit and take in the garden in the evening.

Since the last update there have been a number of changes. No longer will you find Allium, Daffodils, Foxglove, Candytuft, Iris or Hyacinths.  Instead you will find more of what was working well, such as Bleeding Heart, Astilbe, Daisy and Goat's Beard.

To reduce the overall number of plants and focus in on those that work well in a garden's specific conditions is a natural process and far from missing the plants that did not thrive in this space (whether due to soil, light or moisture conditions), I am pleased to have found those plants that are thriving and to build on what I have learned about the space.

You will also find a couple of non-white plants!  I had extra Hardy Geranium and Forget-me-nots and did not think that their purples and blues would stand out too much. We shall hopefully see this spring/summer.

Below are some photos of the garden from last year to give you an idea of what I am expecting.

Each year fewer Impatiens will be required to fill in between Astilbe, Hosta and Bleeding Heart. 

Liatris may not be getting quite enough sun and Obedient Plant in the foreground was a new edition last year so we shall see what year 2 brings for them all...

Peonies, Bleeding Heart, Coneflower and Shasta Daisy are all doing well, whereas white Nasturtium turned out to be more pastel-like and is not welcome back. Impatiens fill in as needed.

Goat's Beard and Lamb's Ear take over at this end of the garden where foliage rather than blooms rule.

Sharing with Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, Maple Hill Hop, Outdoor Wednesday

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

TRAVELLING GNOME - and our first ever contest winners

I painted this cute little garden gnome as a fundraiser for the upcoming Winnipeg Home & Garden Show, where it will be auctioned off along with 9 others to raise money for the very worthwhile Winnipeg Harvest food bank.

Given how much we all know gnomes like to travel I thought I'd better show mine around town while we still had some time together but before I set him in his butterfly field.

Here he is buying tickets to the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

Then off to the Manitoba Museum 

Followed by a stop at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre
Getting his caffeine buzz on at Parlour Coffee

Checking out the Artspace building to wrap up his cultural whirlwind tour of Winnipeg.

 A well deserved rest with his pal Suzie

I also asked readers of my Facebook page to share what they loved about spring, and I got some really great answers that I want to share with you below to get you excited (as if you are not already!) about the change of season:

 It's a fresh start....

...a time to learn and change last season's trials.

...feeling that sense of community again...

...the smell of rain.

Spring is a blank canvas and a full pallet of colors just waiting to create a new "one of a kind" work of art.

I love to watch all the beautiful flowers wrenching their way out of the ground, grasping towards the warm sun.

Such promise for the season ahead in the spring.

I love the way colour creeps back into the landscape - from the first soft green blades of grass to the hint of green in trees as leaves begin to unfurl and then a symphony of all kinds of shades of pinks as shrubs and trees blossom punctuated with the bright cheery splashes of reds and yellows from tulips and daffodils...ah, spring is fresh colour!

I look forward to the wonders of spring.

I can't wait to get in the garden, with soil under my nails and the sun beating down on me.

...seeds starting to sprout...

I love opening all of the windows in my house while I'm spring cleaning!

 I love the thought of renewal, and a new beginning.


Thanks to everyone who entered, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your eloquent and inspiring responses.  Congratulations to Heather Lewis Neill & Janice E Cournoyer, who have each won a pair of tickets to the Home & Garden show in Winnipeg.

Monday, March 28, 2016

'NATURESCAPING' - good for the environment, good for me

Fort Whyte Alive is an extraordinary space in Winnipeg; originally quarry and clay mine for the Canada Cement Company, the land has been reclaimed and since the 1950s and in the 80s
the Fort Whyte Foundation with a focus on environmental education was established.  There are wetlands, forest and grassland with a network of trails and programming and I was fortunate enough to be the summer camp director in 1995.
Now I am proud to have be a part of their innovative "Naturescape" program. To grossly paraphrase their brochure, the program encourages people to increase biodiversity in their own backyard. They actually pay me to do it, by giving me a $20 coupon for their gift shop, as well as discounts from major garden shops across the city.  Below are the conditions I had to meet, which I hope makes it clear that the program is fairly accessible with a little planning.

Section 1: Clean Water, at least 2 sources

(Birdbath; backyard pond; drippers, spitters, or decorative pots and barrel containing water; damp spot for butterflies)

Small recirculating water feature on cantina wall

Decorative fountain

Bird bath

Section 2: Food For All Seasons, at least 5

(Nectar feeder; 3 types of nectar plants; Flowering trees, shrubs or perennials ; Rotting fruit feeder for birds or butterflies; Organic garden, a food source for your family!)

Nectar feeder

3 types of nectar plants (Rudbeckia, Coneflower, Milkweed)

Perennials for pollinators (Blanket Flower & Helenium)

Organic garden (I prefer perennial fruits over vegetables)

(Birdfeeder; Nut or suet feeder; Seed or nut bearing trees and shrubs; Seed bearing perennials left through the winter; Tree, shrub or vine that retains its fruit/berries into the winter months; Vines such as Virginia creeper and riverbank grape)


Suet feeder


Seed bearing Japanese Lilac tree

Seed bearing perennial left through the winter

 Grape vine that retains fruit through winter

(Compost bin [food source for decomposers]; An area of undisturbed leaf litter under trees or shrubs)

Compost bins 

3: Shelter

1 of: Plant a native tree or two; Layered planting (Tree layer, shrub layer, ground layer); Thicket (tangled cluster of tall and medium height shrubs)
Layered planting

+ 2 ofEvergreen tree; Hedge; Nesting cavity in a tree; Wood or brush pile; Rock pile or open stone wall; Nest box or nesting platform; Old log or snag (standing dead tree); Winter roosting box for birds; Bat roosting box

Nest box

Snag (standing dead tree)



 When my all-weather placard arrives I will proudly place it in front of my home for curious passerby, in order to help promote this worthwhile program.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Each year I am surprised by how green some plants are when they are uncovered by the retreating snow. 
I expect them to have withered away and disappeared altogether, but here they are, Campanula and Forget-Me-Nots aplenty, looking somewhat bedraggled but ready to rock and roll if the warm weather were to continue.

Instead of more shots of soggy half-buried gardens I will share some photos of a garden from the hotel I recently stayed at in Mexico. 

While the plants between the bungalows were lush with bright bird-of-paradise blooms, the garden was more arid than tropical and I felt like I could have been in Arizona with all the cacti.

 To me it looks almost like a museum and I expect to see cards indicating the type of plant and a bit about the history of the area.

The restaurant under the eaves was well positioned to take advantage of the garden and courtyard.

With no change in the seasons as we know it in zone 3, there is always something blooming in this tropical paradise.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


One of the main reasons I started blogging was to keep records of my numerous gardens and their myriad plants, still, time can be elusive and here I find myself  2 years since my last updated map of the west-facing 'Monet Garden' in the front yard of our zone 3 home. 

While the general colour-theme endures much has changed.

The entire front bed was dug up in the fall of 2014 and removed for foundation work. 
I raised the portion between house and path by 8 inches while adding tall Ostrich Ferns and Tree lilies since there is no shortage of tall plants in the front of this garden.  The Ostrich Ferns are a final acceptance of how shady this space is,

In fact I would have thought it too shady here for gorgeous, enormous tree lilies if there had not been some living here before I arrived on the scene (back left).

I was not kidding about taller plants in the front of the garden!  Next year the Echinops will also be tall on the left of the path (mixed with the Herons) and the gap in the bottom right of this photo will be filled by Echinops, Monkshood, or both. 

One way to attract people into the gardens is to almost hide some plants behind others, rewarding the explorers. I pruned back this path last fall in the hopes it will invite more foot traffic. 

You begin to see above how smashing it will look in two more years with the taller lilies sprouting up from amongst the tall Ostrich ferns, creating a dense canopy reinforcing the height of the raised bed to the left of the path.  I also lined the path with transplanted Forget-me-nots, which incredibly bloomed not just in spring, but all summer long. 

 Forget-me-nots now rule where once Lamium formed the densest of mats.
Columbine have been moved out - they are pretty when viewed close up but were totally lost in this hot mess.
White Pulmonaria (though thriving here) were moved to the more appropriately coloured 'Moon Garden'.
A dozen dwarf yellow Foxglove will add discrete contrast to the dominant blues and purples.
Calla Lilies will not be back as I focus on (native) perennials to build habitat as much as a beautiful garden.

Every year I am able to whittle down the variety of plants further in this part-shade bed, capitalizing on its specific conditions such as its rich, moist soil and pockets of sunshine.  There are still 18 different plants on the map but the longer I am here the smaller that number will get: the Pasque Flower and Siberian Iris are still in their testing phase and the Dumstick Allium are not so gradually on their way out.

The Lamium and Daylilies are perfect: low maintenance, aggressive, but boxed in and easy to control.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

2 YEAR MOVE - rose of sharon

Some landscaping requires longer term planning, in this particular case a two year move but three or more years before the desired look could be achieved.
Good thing perennial gardeners have patience.

Both a blue and pink Rose of Sharon graced our back yard in Toronto, and while they looked lovely apart, when the Dogwood in the back left corner passed, I bet that they would look even lovelier if I could get their pastel blooms mingling together.

That fall I started a sort of rejuvenation pruning and cut back the Rose of Sharon by one third, I let it grow in the same place for one year before cutting it back again by one third the following fall, then finally transplanting it.

The space left by the Rose of Sharon seen above was quickly filled in by transplanting some of the yellow Rudbeckias closer to the fence. I also pruned back the lower limbs of the Japanese Maple, letting more light to the understory.

They say that shrubs are the skeletons of the garden and if so, apparently I like mine 'bear bones'. To me it felt a bit cramped before, even though I like a full garden.

The Blue Rose of Sharon looked comfortable in its new home, however I moved away and will never be able to know for certain if it got enough light and intertwined with its pink sister. 

Hopefully I did enough to help it along:
- I pruned back branches above it (from our neighbour's tree) quite extensively to give it more light, 
- I pruned it substantially to lessen the overall foliage the roots would need to support post-transplant
- I used a root-stimulating fertilizer post-transplant and kept it well watered

Perhaps I will just have a peak over the fence next time I am visiting Toronto in the summer...

Sharing with Outdoor Wednesday

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Last summer I began to use the needles from our large Spruce trees as mulch.  

Aesthetically I like the natural look (once the plants fill out one cannot see the the garden floor in any case) and functionally this reliable source says not to worry about acidity levels.  So I don't.

There is something rewarding about making use of the bounty from my yard, even the parts that others may think of as waste. Why pay with my taxes to have this taken away only to go out and buy a different type of mulch?

For the same reason I compost yard waste and burn the wood I prune in our outdoor chimney.  It just makes sense.

Are there any other 'urban homesteaders' out there?