Friday, September 12, 2014


This is the one, this is the plant combination that broke the camel's back, this is the one that has made me officially soften my stance on my strictly colour-coded gardens.

Sea Holly and Liatris make for a fantastic combination in both colour and form.

I have been headed in this direction since reading Piet Oudolf's absolutely fantastic book this winter, 

Planting: A New Perspective. After he proclaimed that understanding why anyone would rely primarily on colour as the foundation of their garden design was beyond him, given how many attributes there are to consider with every combination, it got me thinking.

Quite a bit. 
After all I think the man is genius. 

There were other signs that this change was coming:

Last week when I extended my gardens to beside our new fence, I combined yellow Heliopsis with an underlay of purple Lamium.

 While these purple Liatris were originally moved from the Monet Garden because of lack of sun, I could not be more happy with the improvement they have made to the Sun Garden - and I will be moving the scraggly Sea Holly there to join them! 

My gardens will probably always carry their colour-coded heritage with them, but a world of possibility has just been opened and I am certain that the inclusion of more variety will only improve them.

Come back next year and see for yourself! 

Sharing with Green Thumb Thursday, Today's Flowers, Floral Friday Flowers

Saturday, August 23, 2014


This is the second summer I am leading a group of volunteers at my work in an act of illegal guerrilla gardening on a 150 sq ft slice of dirt in the middle of a concrete desert - and we are having great success.  

Have a look at the before and afters and I hope you will agree we are making a difference in our neighbourhood.
May 2013
August 2014
One of the wonderful things about perennial gardening is the difference a year can make

Sept. 2013
Even at the end of last year summer it was not as full as it already is now and next year many plants such as the Peony, Phlox, Ninebarks, Stella D'oro Daylilies, Lamb's Ear and Hardy Geranium should all be back and bigger than ever.  

The new mulch this year must certainly be helping and it does not hurt that every day there is a volunteer to water the gardens by hand with a couple of watering cans and a  faucet on the building next door. 

Did I  mention I have a dedicated team of volunteers behind me?

The quotes in the garden are encouraging comments from readers of this blog after last year's posts.
Keep 'em coming!


Thursday, August 14, 2014

GARDEN BLOGGERS BLOOM DAY - seriously beautiful

Today I had the privilege of having a private tour of an absolutely beautiful garden by a friend of mine, who happens to be the landscape architect behind the design.   

These are simply some photos I snapped with my iphone to share with you all for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

If only I could share the gorgeous scents wafting about the yard on the warm breeze, some familiar some exciting and new...the buzzing of the bees...


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

RAISING THE WHITE FLAG - lily beetles win

Now that I have started to focus more on the back yard I am somewhat surprised by the extent of the decisions that need to be made. For example, I generally like to try and work with existing flora to reduce costs and respect whatever planning was initially in place. In our backyard this means working with the chives, mint, Lamium, daylilies and Asiatic lilies.
However the aggressive mint was pulled out this spring and the chives followed suit just recently, and now I am officially done with the Asiatic Lilies as well - through no fault of their own, mind you.

The Asiatic Lily Beetle have won two consecutive summer battles and I do not need three strikes to know I am out...if the lilies looked like this because I had been ignoring them that would be one thing, but I have been as vigilant as I am prepared to be and yet still they look horrible at this point in the season.

Not only that, dealing with the beetles is unpleasant work.

So while it is with some sadness that I bid my lilies adieu, there is a silver lining: I will be opening up space in the backyard where there is less sun than the Sun Garden but more than the Monet Garden and opportunity abounds.

Sharing with Outdoor Wednesday, Garden Tuesday, Green Thumb Thursday & Tuesday Garden Party

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

END OF THE MONTH VIEW - july sun garden

The Sun Garden is far and away the most eye-catching garden at the moment.  
I did not imagine when I started them from seed two years ago how large and plentiful the Rudbeckias would become, dominating the whole Sun Garden.

I believe the seed blend was called "Chocolate-Orange".

My favourites are the ones that have a bronze hue to them rather than a golden yellow colour.

This dwarf dwarf variety is an improvement over last year, but I have enough yellow in the garden and next year will look for strictly orange Nasturtium.

Fertilizing Nasturtium can make the leaves grow without additional blooms, so this year I have not fertilized them and I have been deadheading the leaves on occasion.

The Milkweed is just starting to bloom as well.

The Gaillardia are blooming but not as profusely as last year, could it be that the Rudbeckia are stealing some of their sunshine?

Lots of Rudbeckia in vases inside the house as well as at work, there are just SO many.

The red Monarda did not bloom at all last year in its first year so I am glad to see it showing off this year.

The purple Liatris in the old Sun Garden are looking magnificent intermingled with the golden Heliopsis.

There is plenty more blooming in other gardens at the moment. Stay tuned for further updates.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Last week I explained that I would be renewing my focus on the backyard gardens which up to this point have been lower priority.

My how fast things can change - as you can see, the garden is quickly filling up!

The first step was to remove the enormous quantity of chives which immediately made it look much cleaner.

The biggest source of plants to fill the void have been:
  • those that the deer eat in my unfenced front gardens
  • those that I find on sale once they are past their best for this year
  • those that are unsuited to where I originally planted them

Deer rescues include:
- lovely orange Oriental Lilies that were completely eaten by the deer last year and heavily pruned by them again last week when they were just about to bloom!
- a few Malva and the lone Lupine from the Monet Garden that the deer also snacked on last week

Sale plants include:
- 5 "Popsicle Mix" Lupine.  Regular price $11 on sale for $3.50, done blooming for this year. I have  to admit it feels quite freeing to purchase a colour mix and it will be exciting to see what comes up next year!
- 3 red and white carnations that would not have fit into my colour-themed gardens, which after a hard pruning should come back for a second bloom this fall. Also on sale for $3.50 from $11.
- 5 Primula with a great spike of purple bloom for the Monet Garden where I have created space by taking out the deer-chomped Malva.

Plants getting a second chance include:
-5 or 6 Rudbeckia that have grown much larger than I imagined when I direct sowed their seeds last spring
- 5 or 6 large-flowering, yellow Primula that have been completely overshadowed by their enormous Rudbeckia neighbours and need to see the sun again

Next I need to dig up the Dutch Iris that clearly did not get enough sun in the Monet Garden. While they may have been the perfect colour match but that does not matter if they do not bloom, does it?

Sharing with
Home Sweet Garden PartyGarden Tuesday, Tuesday Garden Party, Outdoor Wednesday, 
Green Thumb Thursday

Sunday, July 20, 2014

EPIPHANY - back yard priority

The other week, sitting in the back yard with my sister who was visiting from Victoria BC, it suddenly became clear to me that I needed to switch my attention to the back yard, after all we are spending a lot of time there once the dwindling daylight forces us to shelve our gardening tools for the evening.

My sister brought fresh eyes with her and because she did not know that the backyard did not have the same priority for me as my other gardens, she suggested moving the gorgeous Calla Lilies from the front into the back where they could have a highly visible place of honour, right beside the seating area.  
I never would have thought of it but they look smashing, holding court between the two trellis.

Prior to this moment almost all of my planning has focused on the front and side yards: the Sun, Moon & Monet gardens I have been so busy writing about. In fact readers of this blog might wonder if I even had a  backyard!

The plan for the backyard garden is to have no plan.  
To move plants here when there is no room for them anymore in their original bed, to put gifts from friends that do not work in my other gardens and to incorporate the daylilies, Asiatic Lilies, and chives that were already so plentiful here.

Given the symmetry of the trellis and windows I have so far been repeating plants in a balanced way, however I am wondering if I should not just go wild and abandon principles of balance in both colour and form and see what appears...a place to put plants that are not working where I had initially hoped they would thrive could come in handy, and undoubtedly I would learn from seeing plant combinations that I would not otherwise have planned.
Let me know what you think, do you have a bed for mismatched plants from tests, gifts or overflow?  Do you ever stop and think how well it is working, or does it always look like an "unmade bed" to you?

Sharing with Home Sweet Garden Party, Garden Tuesday, Tuesday Garden Party, 
Green Thumb Thursday,

Thursday, July 17, 2014

YEAR TWO - first blooms

Given that last year was the first summer here in Winnipeg for me there were quite a few perennials that I started last year but that did not bloom until this year, plus more new plants added this year than I had expected. 

So this post focuses exclusively on plants that are blooming for the first time in my gardens.

These orange oriental poppies were planted last year but no blooms made an appearance. I am very glad to see them as I have actively been looking to add more orange in the Sun Garden.

Last year's Foxglove did not survive the winter, these were just added this year. Despite the blooms I will wait until next year to make any judgment of success or failure.

I added ten of this primrose to the Sun garden this spring  and while it may be yellow that is about as far as as the similarities between it and the Sundrops I have at the Ontario cottage.  There are fewer blooms but they are substantially bigger, while the plants are substantially smaller.

Of the 25 Dutch Iris I planted last fall only 2 have bloomed including this white one and a purple one.  I suspect they are not getting enough sun, the same issue I had with Liatris in the same place last year, hopefully I have learned my lesson this time!

The Sea Holly is just beginning to turn blue. I have two different kinds, both planted lat year but neither accomplished much to speak of in year one, in fact I am happily surprised to see both of them back in year two at all.

This Delphinium was planted in the Monet Garden last year as a test and since it was coming along healthily I added two more this spring, however they are not doing as well so I may no longer pursue these notoriously high maintenance plants anymore.

These Malva were given to me by a friend last year but they struggled and I had all but forgotten about them, but this year are seeming quite healthy.

Petite Allium Graceful in the foreground were added last fall while the pale purple spires of Campanula were direct sown as seeds last year but never got around to blooming until this year.

Friday, July 11, 2014


'To mulch or not to mulch', that is not much of a question for most gardeners, including myself, and many blog posts have been written on the subject already, extolling its virtues to retain moisture and aid in the never-ending struggle with weeds.  Despite this I have not put down much in my own gardens to-date.
Why not? 
I have been too busy planning and planting.

I think of mulch as the icing on a cake, insofar as it should be the last thing I do once I am comfortable with the overall make up of my garden.  For example in my Sun and Monet Gardens which I created in the fall of 2012 there was simply too much movement of plants last summer as I refined my plans, and digging through mulch every time I made a switch would have made the whole process unbearably slow.  

In their second full summer however many areas of the garden are now feeling full, properly planned and ready for mulch.
Yet still I hold off.

I still need to add a layer of bulbs in most places now that all of the perennials are in place, and until I do the idea of digging through an additional layer of mulch this fall is simply too much, so I will hold off - for now.

While most people seem to agree that mulching is worth it, not everyone agrees. The other day my neighbour mentioned that he did not mulch because it did not actually hold back the weeds and while he is correct that it will not eliminate them completely, it certainly makes a difference as evidenced in the photo below.

On the right-hand side is an area that was thick with Creeping Bellflower that I covered with cardboard and mulch last year and as you can see some of these attractive but aggressive weeds are poking through, especially at the edges.  However when you compare it to the left-hand side, where no mulch was laid and every inch is green with weeds, the benefit becomes crystal clear.  

Over the course of the course of the summer, in areas where I will NOT be adding spring bulbs in the fall, I will be adding in a layer of mulch.

So while mulch is not a silver bullet in the war on weeds it is an important tool in the gardener's toolkit and I look forward to the help it will provide in keeping the weeds at bay. 

How about you, do you mulch extensively, strategically or not at all?


Friday, July 04, 2014

BOOK REPORT - taming wildflowers

Taming Wildflowers is a book I bought after reading a review by Donna at A Garden's Eye View.  

What was a grand book for her is one that leaves me wanting more.

The biggest fault for me is that Miriam Goldberger has not included any details on zones. She has made room for light, soil, germination and moisture, but not zone. She has even made room for how long cut flowers will last in a vase, which feels like putting the cart before the horse if one does not know what one can grow.  I do not want to use this book as a starting point for further research on every appealing plant - I want all the information I need in one place.

Zone is right at the top of my list for deciding if I have the time to read further; I do not have time for fantasizing about growing plants hardy to zone 7 (though I can be easily seduced by a handsome zone 4).
Zone 5 Crocosmia in my zone 3 garden

In addition, the final 30 pages or so faltered for me due to personal taste. Donna tried to warn me by saying "The last two chapters deal with how to harvest, use and design floral arrangements with wildflowers.  She even includes some wedding ideas.", and yet I was still disappointed to have so much space dedicated to topics that do not rank in my personal 'top 100 things to learn in the garden'.
Instead, my increasing interest in natural gardens, brought on in large part by my Ontario lakefront cottage landscaping, drove me to think that any book on the subject of wildflowers would be a sure-thing.

With that said, I am happy to leave this book behind at my cottage where it will play the important role of signaling to our renters that the Daisies, Periwinkle, Ferns, Aquilegia, Aster, Cranesbill, Iris, Loosestrife, Lily-of-the-Valley, Daylily, and Rudbeckias that may look casually placed are in fact quite purposeful. 

Even a quick flip through its plentiful pages of beautiful photos is enough to raise the readers appreciation for the natural beauty surrounding our cottage, and really what more could I hope for from a coffee table book?

I suppose I had just been hoping for more of a text book.

Sharing with Garden Tuesday, Green Thumb Thursday & Fishtail Cottage Garden Party

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

UPDATES - iris and calla lily

Two weeks ago I expressed concern about having mixed up my Iris and I was clearly right; you can see the taller purple and shorter white/purple both in the Sun Garden

Clearly they are enjoying their conditions and they look good will I ever follow up on my plan to move the white/purple to the Monet Garden?

Not for a while anyway: I would need to be there in person to see them bloom in spring and mark the ones to be transplanted in the fall, which means at least a year and  half before they can be moved.

The Calla Lily my friends' gave me is doing well and according to my mother (and a contractor doing work at our house!), it is a real stand-out in the Monet Garden.

I can see why.