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

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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

GIFT FROM A FRIEND - calla lily

Despite working long hours in the garden and not shying away from big tasks, I am in some ways still a lazy gardener.  I prefer to do things once, so I tend to stay away from annuals and tender plants that need to be lifted in the fall.  This means I have missed out on certain plants but I have been okay with okay in fact that I have wondered if people who do plant tender plants requiring all that extra care aren't a little bit cucko-bananas.
 Lucky for me I have a friend who is one of those cuckos and he gave me some Calla Lily which I have added to the Monet Garden based on sun & soil requirements rather than on colour. 

The Callas' yellow and orange tinged flowers should contrast beautifully with the purple/blue of the Hyacinths, Pansies, Salvia, Speedwell, Monkshood, Iris and Campanula.  No matter how well they might fit in, I still warned my friend before departing with his generous gift that this would likely be their last summer since I am a lazy gardener. I made sure to seek the acknowledgement in his eyes of what was at stake and gave him a moment to take leave of his babies which he did with nary a tear.

Now they sit in the Monet Garden, a full season ahead of them in which to beguile me so much that I add lugging them inside to my already long list of fall chores.
We shall see.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Last year when I moved about all of my Iris, I was confident that all the white with purple falls ended up in my Monet Garden, while the full purples landed in the Sun Garden where they would contrast with the surrounding oranges and yellows.

The trouble with moving Iris in the fall of course is that they all look the same and at least one has ended up in the wrong place.  It is the first to bloom in the Sun Garden making me wonder if I have them all reversed or if this is indeed an outlier.

Stay tuned, I may learn tomorrow; with all the beautiful warm sunny weather we are having the rest look ready to burst.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


Finally there are plants growing and flowers blooming for this end-of-the-month view after the coldest winter in living memory here in zone 3 Winnipeg.  As you look at these shots it is hard to imagine that there was still snow on the ground a month ago.

 Thankfully some of the Tulips were later-blooming so the deer did not get all of them, perhaps just over half.

I find Euphorbia interesting because I can't tell if the plants themselves 'bloom' or if the leaves just turn a delightful hue.  One had a rough winter but four of them are clearly back in fighting form.

 A single Marsh Marigold that was given to me blends in nicely with Leopard's Bane in terms of bloom colour, bloom time and even foliage.

 The Orange Hyacinths are decidedly pink. There was some salmon hues but not close enough to sell these as orange in my book.

Friday, May 30, 2014

SUCCESS - guerrilla gardening in my neighbour's yard

If it has not occurred to you to ask permission to garden in your neighbour's yard before, I say what have you got to lose? All they can say is "no".  If you can see it, consider planting it and if you are able to afford it offer to contribute the plants themselves.

In this case the vacant tree ring turned garden bed is behind our bench, which is a focal point, so I wanted to adopt it. 

 With our late spring this year the early-blooming "Ice Follies" daffodils are just now blooming and they look smashing. Next year I hope to see them blooming before the daylilies get so big, but this year I am just happy to see them at all.  "Pink Pride" daffs, randomly and equally mixed with the Ice Follies, will bloom after the latter are done.

Last fall I detailed this guerrilla gardening episode in my neighbour's front yard. Not the first time I had gardened in a neighbor's yard, but the first time without permission. 

It will be interesting to see if the daylilies get enough sun for any blooms. 
I will keep you posted.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


The tulip – Ottawa's official flower – was given as a gift in perpetuity to the Canadian people for having provided safe harbour to the Dutch Royal Family during the German Occupation of the Netherlands. 

Today, over 1 million bulbs bloom throughout the Tulip Route.
A traditional 'Canadian' look in front of the parliament buildings.

 Across the river in Quebec the displays continue.

While the tulips get most of the attention in their coloured-themed beds, I prefer the naturalized look of the daffodils that were also blooming along the banks of the canal.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


I told myself that putting the tulips at the side of the house instead of in the front garden would keep them safer from the deer, but I may have just told myself that because their colours matched my orange/yellow/red theme in the Sun Garden.  

I also could have just tried 25 in the first year instead of 75, but some times you just have to go for it.  Maybe next time I try something so risky I will scale back on the size of experiment.  

Prints are clearly visible amongst the tulips stubs.

The weight and shape of them clearly indicating (hungry) deer.

What they left behind was actually fairly interesting from a close up perspective.

Even beautiful.  

But not as beautiful as the tulip in bloom.

If only I had planted them in the fenced-in back yard they may have survived and I would not be faced with this conundrum: do I rip them out on the assumption the deer will be back each spring and they are not worth saving or do I transplant them to the apparent safety of the back yard knowing they will not look as good in their second year? Any assumption that the deer will not be back next spring is foolish and leaving them in is not an option; their foliage is too distracting once it is passed its best to justify without the normally attendant vibrant splash of spring colour.  

In other words they need to pay their way.

What would you do?


Monday, May 05, 2014


Since I still have no blooms in my yard I thought for the 'end of the month' meme I would share some photos I took in the middle of the month, to demonstrate how much can change in two weeks.

The yellow branches of this unknown tree really stand out when they are surrounded by white.

Canada Geese are some of the first birds to return up north and don't seem bothered by some snow.

Two weeks later they have been replaced by puddles and bicyclists.

No more crossing the river; clear channels of open water were running down each back.

While further downstream an ice jam had formed. Really quite spectacular to see close up.

A bit of snow can brighten up any spot.

While the time between clean fresh snow cover and lush green new growth can look rather drab.

At least we are heading int he right direction and hopefully soon I will be able to share actual blooms from my gardens!


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

ALPINE GARDEN - tender lovin' care

How succulents can survive in zone 3, let alone our coldest winter in living memory amazes me, but there are definitely signs of life (as well as a couple of casualties).

Last May I introduced you to the Alpine Garden, which is made up of flat rocks that must have been the old concrete sidewalk before a new path was put down. You voted to mix Sempervivum and Sedum together, which I tried at first but eventually split apart because the Sedum just covered the poor little Hens 'n Chicks right up.

As the season wore on last year however the mounds of earth I had topped with the Hens 'n Chicks shrunk as the earth settled, so in the fall I needed to build them up again.
Upon close inspection I could see that some were beginning to rot due to moist conditions since Sempervivum typically prefer dry locations.

So I dug it all up and put them aside in a container.

Then I added lots of sand, mixed it up and planted them all back again.  
Labour intensive perhaps, but I had not planted them in the right conditions in the first place, so the responsibility was mine to fix it.

It will be very interesting for me to see how well they come back this year and if more sand is needed or if they take off and start spreading under the big Blue Spruce as planned.

Sharing with 

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Since there are still no blooms of my own here in zone 3 I will finish the series I took at my friend's beautiful gardens last August.
Clematis and pale mauve Asters in the foreground, grasses and Nicotiana in the back.

A selection of drought tolerant plants like Sedums, grasses and Rudbeckia.

Karl Foerster grass, Echinacea and Rudbeckia steal the show between sidewalk and neighbour's driveway. 

Annual Sweet Potato vines frame the view  of the meadow-like front yard.