Sunday, April 13, 2014

TALLER IN BACK, SHORTER IN FRONT - north deck garden

The North Deck Garden is at our Ontario cottage outside of Toronto (zone 4). Like it sounds, the garden is beneath the deck, so it features shade tolerant ferns as well as daylilies, all harvested from roadside ditches in the area.
As per previous post, the daylilies had to come out because they were not going to fulfill their purpose of hiding where the fence meets the ground; they grow too much towards the lake and its sunlight. On top of that, the further under the deck they are, the less likely they are to bloom.

So I decided to move them to the front and change the garden from a 'fern patch', with ferns randomly filling the space, to a more traditional design with the big ferns at the back and the shorter daylilies in the front.
The daylilies are laying down in this photo after transplant but will come up fresh and vigorous next year, hopefully with enough sun to get at least some blooms. 
(Just fyi - at the base of every pillar are two Clematis: one white and one purple.)

The three of five ferns I had to transplant were all massive and extremely heavy, my guess is fifty pounds.

To keep earth from covering the lawn I always place transplants on a nearby tarp. Having them all collected also helps me to get a sense of how much material I have to work with.

Along with the ferns I added Viper's Bugloss, but I do not expect it to come back, it has such a large tap root it is not a good candidate for transplanting.

I will post some progress photos in early July, by which time I expect it to have filled out quite nicely and a previously muddy patch will have been transformed into lush greenery.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

NATURE NOTES - red squirrel

You will have to take my word for it that there is a little red squirrel in that dark patch foraging.  You will notice that above the patch is a bird feeder and therefore that the patch is made uip of a season's worth of sunflower seed shells that keeps growing as the snow melts.

Last year after the thaw there was an enormous amount of grass and unwanted growth beneath the feeder from all of the dropped birdseed.  Subsequently I chose to go with only sunflower seeds this winter because I will not care if sunflowers choose to take root in my garden, yes, even yellow sunflowers in my white Moon Garden will be allowed to stay!

Not that I expect to see many, the sunflowers appear to be an absolute smash hit with all the local critters.

Sharing with Nature Notes

Monday, April 07, 2014

GARDEN TOUR - greenhouse

This past Saturday I went for a tour of a greenhouse operations at Shelmerdine, one of Winnipeg's biggest garden centres.

We started in the 'glass house' where it is warm and humid. New cuttings are kept warm from below and are kept most with frequent automated misting. 

Fun facts I learned include the astonishing amount they grow at Shelmerdine in a season:
9,000 hanging baskets
20,000 perennials
20,000 Poinsettia
20,000 Chrysanthemums
30,000 six pack annuals
150,000 4" annuals

I also learned some other interesting tidbits:
- warming temps at night can slow growth
- they are not making as many lilies as they used to; thanks the arrival of the lily beetle in the area, people (including myself) are simply not buying as many as they used to
- they work with mostly cuttings vs. seeds to speed up the process and not have to heat the greenhouses throughout the cold Winnipeg winter

If you get a chance I highly recommend such a visit to a local garden centre to see how they are able to have so many  plants ready for all us 'spring-crazy gardeners' come warmer weather.  Plus, seeing all of these plants happily growing in their warm homes was a bit like time traveling 2 months into the future - a taste of what is to come to whet the appetite...

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


What do you see? 
Some would say "dirty snow" but I see the changing seasons. 

As the snow melts it uncovers layers of detritus, discarded needles like so many matchsticks spread out beneath the spruce. Which were discarded at the hands of stormy winter weather and which by the slow and inexorable passage of time?
We will never know.

Soon we will have a whole season's worth of 'tree droppings' soggy at our feet.
  Hopefully by the end of April I will have switched shovel for rake, but only time will tell...

Sharing with End of the Month View & Outdoor Wednesday

Tuesday, April 01, 2014


I initially had transplanted Lily-of-the-Valley in the red rectangles under the Spruce on the other side of the path from the Sun Garden. Given it is a big tree, I assumed it would be shady underneath, but the way that the sun comes up keeps it quite well lit and by the end of the summer I had switched to adding sun-loving Heliopsis.  
Now the Heliopsis runs not just the length of the Old Sun Garden but curves around the path to encircle the New Sun Garden as well.  Using these tall, bright, long-blooming perennials as the border will really pull both the Old Sun Garden and New Sun Garden together into one Sun Garden.

Having taller plants on both sides of the garden should contribute to the feeling that one is cutting through the garden when walking the grass path. The Heliopsis may also keep people in the front yard from seeing too much detail in the Sun Garden; I want people to have to come into the space to really appreciate it.

In those red rectangles I also added 15 orange Hyacinths, as I did at the opposite end under the Cherry tree, to tie it all together.

Sharing with Tuesday Garden partyGarden Tuesday

Sunday, March 23, 2014


The Sun Garden is broken into two distinct parts. The new garden on the left, which I created by putting in a lasagna garden on top of the lawn within a month of taking possession of our home, and the bed that existed when we moved in, on the right-hand side of this photo and what I am now calling the Old Sun Garden. 

Early spring I noted what was coming up, late spring I transplanted the Iris out, summer I removed the composter and added a tree and in late summer I divided the Hardy Geranium, but I did it all without an overall plan, after all I was mostly just monitoring in my first year.

It turns out that there was lots in there, but as with any garden that has not been kept up it required some maintenance. The blackberry bush needed to be kept in check to give the lilies on this side enough light  -

and this substantial Phlox Paniculata which was hidden on the other side.  

In September I removed both and transplanted them to my Corporate Guerrilla Garden, because they were pink

While some people recommend a hand's off approach to learning about existing garden beds in a new home for the first year, I say "why wait?" if you identify key changes. Getting these plants in to their new bed with enough time to settle in and put down roots was the first step in figuring out what I wanted this bed to look like next season.

Obviously it had to work with the new Sun Garden to make one harmonious experience, though to be honest I had not really thought of that when I put the new bed in.

My preference is for lines of colour rather than clumps in a long and narrow bed such as this. In the photo above you can see how I dug up both the Peony and Heliopsis which were large, healthy and perfect candidates for dividing, and spread them about along the side of the house.  The Peony in front of both window wells and the Heliopsis all along the wall under the windows where it will serve as a vibrant, long-blooming backdrop.  

(The blackberry bush came out and went into a box in my garage where it sits to this day.)

In the newly-created, empty 'front' of the bed I planted 80 purple Liatris that I had to move from the Monet Garden, where they clearly had not been getting enough sun.  Among them I added three Phlox Orange Perfection.  I have been striving to find more orange plants, and purple is the contrast colour in this otherwise sunny-coloured bed; hopefully the bloom time of these two will overlap in a gorgeous purple/orange display.  
Also under the windows are 50 Darwin Hybrid Tulips (a bulb I tried once without luck but not in as sunny a spot), and a dozen or so orange Hyacinths under the Cherry Tree.

There are no low growing plants at the front of this border, it is filled with big, tall plants because I want those walking along the path to feel immersed in it.


Thursday, March 20, 2014


My friend's massive and ever-blooming gardens have lots of beautifully contrasting colours.

 Low growing annual petunias and perennial ground covers are found at the front, with mid to large sized  plants next and larger plants to the rear.  The slope of the garden and size of the plants allow one to see even  those at the very back.

Plenty of blooms and wonderful colour combinations abounded even in August.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014


My friend's gardens are so large that I am going to share them with you over three weekends. Done single-handedly by one very determined fellow not only are they expansive he has some plants bigger than any I have ever seen before.

The beds are nicely raised at the back to allow for maximum visibility from the home's back porch.

Wide, mulch-covered paths guide you through gigantic annual Canna Lilies and posts covered in glorious Clematis.

Late August and no shortage of beautiful flowers.

Despite their size and vigour the beds are relatively new, only a few years old. This means my friend has been workign like a maniac to get it all done. 
A man after my own heart.

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Friday, March 14, 2014


This week I am spending my evenings in nature, building a quinzee in my front yard before the 
weather turns completely warm and the opportunity is lost.

To support my end-of-season efforts I am accepting $5 donations 

Outside in.
I am spending the week getting my exercise outside in nature each evening to raise money for the Winnipeg Bulb Project and it is giving me achy muscles in places I was not expecting, but it does feel invigorating to be outside each night!

Inside out.
If you think it is a great idea to spend time outside in nature then please consider a donation of $5 at to help connect people living in downtown Winnipeg with nature and build community.

Sharing with Fertilizer Friday

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


After many, many hours perusing catalogs I have narrowed down my choices to $500 worth of plants. Trouble is I have given myself a budget of $300.

I buy online because I can get exactly what I want; leaving my choices on colour and plant up to this whims of my local Rona garden centre manager is just something I cannot do. Not with Sun, Moon and Monet colour-themed gardens.
Vesey's Wish List
I have $270 on my Vesey's list and $212 on my Breck's list. I like Breck's lifetime plant guarantee, so I would favour them but Vesey's has the better selection.

Breck's Wish List

Now is time to make the tough choices:

  • Vesey's, you say your "Sunglow Crocosmia" is good to zone 3, but I dare not believe since every other Crocosmia says zone 5. 
  • Saved $50.

  • Ordering online is best for bulbs and plants I am unlikely to find locally: goodbye Leonora Tradescantia & Grecian Rose.
  • Saved $15 & $30 respectively.

  • Little Blue Wonder Sea Holly: I cannot be sure if you will get enough sun. Reduced from 3 to 1.
  •  Saved $16.

  • "Garden Emotion" and "Hot Summer": last year my coneflowers were all nibbled by rabbits and never bloomed. I will not throw good money after bad no matter how stunning you look in the cataolgue.
  • Saved $26.

  • I should not over-invest in a plant that is untested in my garden; so long Mauve Younique Phlox. Reduced white Hardy Geranium from 9 to 3!
  • Saved $9 & $13 respectively.
<I submitted my Breck's order while writing this: the rest of the savings must come from Vesey's>
  • Virginia Blue Bells: true you are blue and you bloom in the shade, but I have always found you expensive for 'oversized bluebells'. Reduced from 6 to 4.
  • Saved $6

  • Pam's Choice: surely I can find white Foxglove locally? Hedge my bets, reduced 6 to 3.
  • Saved $15

  • Discovered separate shipping charge for seeds with Veseys' ($6). Cancel Nasturtium seed order.
  • Saved: $9.
  • Dalmatian Peach Foxglove: Perfect colour but I do not have room for 6 of you. Reduced to 3.
  • Saved $15.

There you have it, I have cut $204 from my initial bill.  Do you recognize this struggle as something you also face each year when ordering your plants online: dreams bigger than budget?

<15 minutes later>
I went to purchase my Vesey's order when I realized my coupon was for saving $100 with a $200 order.  I had to backtrack and add items back again until I hit $200!

Sunday, March 09, 2014


Last spring when this gorgeous green sphere appeared I was thrilled; so vibrant and not even in bloom yet.

It gets very large and it transitions beautifully to some lightly coloured "Blue Angel" clematis growing up the trellis.

It also gets scraggly later in the season. I had read that it could benefit from a pruning but I had never tackled a plant this bushy before that wasn't woody. 

I cut it back and was surprised to find that there was effectively a mini plant - the basal growth. I read up on it and found out it was the natural place to cut it back to. Phew!  I also learned that next year I will do it mid summer (as opposed to late) to give it time for a second blooming.

I cut it in half and spread it out. I removed the small strip of grass that had separated the garden from where the composter had been and where the cherry tree now sits.

  The geranium will cover the uneven edge of the lawn until I get around to shaping it.

This is what it looked like a few days later. No worries, I expected that since I was cutting right through its root system with a spade.

With the dead foliage removed they looked much better, though admittedly still bedraggled. Fear not, it is what is beneath the soil that counts and I am confident they will recover next year and cover the base of both trellis and tree.


Thursday, March 06, 2014


Last May I described day one of our major project of bringing all of our cedars together into one place and never got around to finishing the story until now.

Small ceders lined each side of the front yard but felt lost under the towering elms.

May 22nd

I used them to create a barrier between driveway and back yard, staggering them and for some overlap since many were quite skinny and others misshapen. If they really respond well to our loving care in their new home I may have trouble with them being too close together, but that can be the price one pays when looking for immediate impact.

The snow is now at least twice as high and has buried the smallest one completely. We need to add a fence next year to accommodate Suzie our bird watching dog and whatever we get is going to have to be quite high because as the snow piles up from the driveway plowing it effectively shortens the height of the fence. It will have to allow for snow to pass through it since there is nowhere else to put it.

I have some ideas.
Come back in June to find out.

Sharing with Fertilizer Friday

Monday, February 24, 2014


While the influence of the sun in gardening may be obvious to most, I had clearly underestimated it in a number of places last summer, especially how it effects the direction in which a plant will grow. 
Here are 3 examples.

I prefer to hide the functional aspects of a garden and I planted these daylilies to do just that by covering where the fence and the ground meet. In my mind they were going to mound, as daylilies tend to do, but instead they were clearly reaching for the sun, growing out towards the lake.
If I wanted them to cover up the base of the fence I would have had to plant them slightly behind it to anticipate their forward motion. 

At the base of this chain link fence I planted peas and Morning Glories. I knew I would need to help guide and wind them through the fence but I had not really appreciated how much I would be fighting the vines' natural tendency to grow away from the fence and towards the light.  
Next time I will plant them on the north side of the fence and use their pull to the south to my advantage.

Once I took note of the lessons above I started looking for other examples around the yard and noticed this shrub whose branches only grow in one direction - towards the lake and the light.

In the retelling it seems obvious, but thinking ahead to how your plants will grow takes practice. Wish me luck, I hope I now have this one licked but sometimes I need to learn things in the garden more than once!

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