Tuesday, June 23, 2015

YEAR 3 - what a difference!

I am entering the third full summer at my new home in Winnipeg and what a difference it makes as a perennial gardener. There is undeniably much more happening even without my help, and while I have been busy in the gardens I have been making minor adjustments compared to the work required in the previous two years.

Herons wading through purple German Iris. 

Suzie enjoying the sun and the scent of blooming Jacob's Ladder.

The Sedum in the rock garden is back and blooming like never before.

Mulch in the Sun Garden is clearly helping keep the weeds at bay. 

The Sun Garden this year will be dramatically different from previous years with the addition of Allium, Coneflower, tomatoes & peppers, Pansies & Marigolds, Karl Forrester & some type of Blood grass, Scabiosa, and a whole lot of hardy geranium and Chives along the border.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


When I first planted the Monet Garden I thought there would be more sun than there is. Last year I moved out many of the sun lovers and this year I am finally and fully embracing its shady nature with the introduction of dozens of stately Ostrich Ferns.
There is however an interesting exception.

As apparent as the streak of sunlight cutting across the garden may appear in this photo, it has taken me two seasons to recognize what has been there all along.

Now that I have 'seen the light' (ha ha) and understand where more sun-loving plants can sit in my otherwise shady garden I have a fantastic opportunity to expand my plant selection and introduce something one would not expect to see thriving surrounded by shade plants.

Something like Echinops, which explains how mine have done so well, even though I have resigned myself to the fact that the Monet Garden is generally quite shady.  Five or so have come back from last year and I am direct sowing others, using this 'slice of sunlight' as my map and my inspiration.

This is a wonderful example of the interplay between gardener and environment and how experience with a specific property reveals its idiosyncrasies and opportunities to optimize on a micro-level.

For example, last fall I moved Monarda into two different parts of the Monet Garden in order to see which would do better and I could quickly see that the Monarda in the 'slice of sunlight' was 2-3 times the size of the Monarda in the other part of the garden (which has since been moved into the slice).

I had been  prepared to be satisfied with just the interesting foliage of these Iris but was pleasantly surprised to see them bloom last year. Now it all makes sense since they are in the 'slice of sunlight' and I will definitely add more now that I understand the reason behind their success.

Sharing with Garden Tuesday, Tuesday Garden Party, Nature Notes, Catching Light, Maple Hill Hop

Monday, May 18, 2015


Despite a mild winter our spring blooming bulbs are still coming up relatively late. These tulips are the first splash of colour in the Sun Garden and it will certainly be into June before we will see blooms from our daffodils.  

Apeldoorn Tulip

Apeldoorn Tulip

Marsh Marigold is the earliest perennial to bloom.

The cherry tree is bursting with white blooms which bodes well for pie making.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Although I have transplanted many ferns onto my cottage property I have focused alongside the path it became apparent to me just last year how much of a need for them there was closer to the lawn, where guests spend most of their time.  

The evergreen shrubs had not taken off like I had planned, so it was time to accept it and move on and infill with native ferns.

 How many of the 10-12 new plants can you spot in this photo?

A different perspective helps to shed light on the gaps.

It certainly demonstrates how easy it is for a landscape to gobble up plants by the dozen and still have room for more.


Friday, May 01, 2015

PROGRESS REPORT - driveway woodland garden

In August of  2013 I first posted that "my ultimate goal is to make it feel as though the driveway cuts right through my garden" which meant converting a significant piece of forest hillside covered in dead leaves and fallen tree branches into a lush green expanse of Lily-of-the-Valley, Periwinkle and natives including Ferns & Columbine. 

I love our staircase and the thick carpet of green on either side.  Last year for the first time from this perspective the green seamlessly jumped from below to above the driveway (directly in front of the car).

While upon close inspection there are still patches that need to be filled in, the fact that it can make the hillside appear comfortably 'green-from-a-distance' is a major milestone.

 Thousands of individually transplanted plants are transforming the space.  
Quite a dry hillside initially, my hope is that the dense root mat being formed will help to retain more moisture in the soil.

 Nature may not always plop a gorgeous Ostrich fern in the middle of a decaying stump, but I do.

 More ferns will be added at the base of trees with lights to take full advantage of their nightly display.

 I have learned from Piet Oudolf to move away from the practice of random individual plantings and instead I place the plants in groups to increase their impact, as with these wood ferns in the foreground.

Even if I were never to lift another finger (other than annual raking!), I feel that I have nudged it to a tipping point and it will continue to fill in with little help from me, which is great since most of the summer we have renters at our cottage and I am only there twice a year to maintain the gardens.

Are there any other lovers of woodland landscapes out there?

Sharing with Floral Friday Fotos, Weekly Top Shot, Today's Flowers, Nature Notes, Garden Tuesday, Maple Hill Hop, Tuesday Garden Party

Sunday, April 26, 2015


In less than a month we will be going to our Ontario cottage again and I have not even posted about what we saw there last year, other than a look at how I redid the 'garden-on-the-lake'!

Last year we had trees cut down that will allow more light to this garden.
The Forget-me-nots & native Columbine blooming in this photo will be followed by hardy Geranium & Oriental Lilies in  summer.

By September it was clear that the transplanted native Asters from last year's test were doing well  and so I harvested and transplanted two dozen more from the side of the road.
My vision: late summer 'purple haze'.

 Admittedly it feels a bit odd raking the rocks sometimes, but it is well worth it to uncover the dry creek bed each spring. Every spring I am committed to adding a few more ferns, thickening the 'fern hedge' running along the far side of the creek bed.

Would you guess that I have planted every one of those ferns, or does it just feel natural? My goal is the latter in case that is not clear.

Ideally guests do not even notice that the ferns happen to cluster around focal points like the creek bed and that they naturally trend to grow alongside the path.

The daylily/fern combination has recovered from the last time we saw them, freshly transplanted and looking rather bedraggled. I can be confident they will fill in as planned, a perfect no-maintenance solution, but unless our renters help by snapping some photos I will never know how well the daylilies bloom under there, if at all!


Sunday, April 19, 2015


Recently Gardens Manitoba held "Gardening Saturday" to kick off gardening season here in Winnipeg (and by gardening season I mean starting seeds indoors or trimming tree branches outdoors but certainly not planting anything for at least another month up here in zone 3).

The more interesting of the two speaker's I attended was Getty Stewart who inspired me to buy her cookbook, which I swore I would never do once I got used to getting my recipes from sites like allrecipes.com.

There is however much more to the book than recipes including tips on harvesting, storing, dehydrating and preserving.

In fact is has given me so much confidence that I will be able to make use of their fruit in delicious and healthy ways that I have gone out and bought two new fruit trees today for the back yard.

 On the left an espaliered apple tree with four different kinds of apples grafted to the stem, and on the right a similarly unusual pear.
(Apple / pear pie - yum!)

The session got me to realize that while I am not a vegetable grower I have in fact invested in quite a bit in fruit production: grapes, cherries, Saskatoon berries, blueberries, and now adding pears and apples plus I will add some rhubarb and more Saskatoons this year.

Luckily I will have time to prepare since it should be a few years before full fruit production for most of them - I may need it to learn all about pectins!



Tuesday, March 31, 2015

SPRING FEVER - shopping edition

It will be a while yet before I plant anything in the ground but I have just placed a large order with Vesey's and a smaller one from Botanus and my husband just came home from CostCo with bags of Calla lilies and Gladiolus.

My Vesey`s coupon said spend $200 and save $100.
So I did:

Plant      #/pack#/packs$/packTotal
Tuberosa Butterfly Flower (orange)31$10.95$10.95
Ostrich Plume Astilbe (red, tall)33$12.95$38.85
Blazing Stars Liatris (purple)301$10.95$10.95
Blazing Stars Liatris (white)301$10.95$10.95
Blazing Stars Liatris (purple)101$4.95$4.95
Crocosmia (red, orange, yellow)451$21.95$21.95
Garden Affair Lily (white w/ red, tall)91$21.95$21.95
Beverly Ann Giant Hybrid Lily (white, tall)31$11.95$11.95
Royal Wedding Poppy (white w/ plum)31$16.95$16.95
Humpback Whale Hosta (blue, large)11$18.95$18.95
Shaker's Prayer Iris (purple)61$21.95$21.95
Harvest Moon Oriental Poppy (orange, ruffled)11$7.95$7.95
Carnival Oriental Poppy (orange w/black)11$7.95$7.95

The Callas we loved getting last year as a gift from friends while the Glads can fill in between perennials in our newly planted "Old Sun Garden".  While I have not had much luck with them in the past I am willing to try them again this year given we need annual filler while our newly planted perennial garden grows out.  

The final order from Botanus has ferns and grasses. Grasses for the "Old Sun Garden" are as planned, but the ferns indicate a change in direction for the front of the house where I have been pretending there is more sun than there is.

I have decided I would rather have gorgeous green and healthy plants that can take some sun than struggling colourful plants that fight the shade.

So why not start with some interesting and uncommon varieties of ferns for the front and watch them thrive?


Monday, March 23, 2015


In hindsight, it is not surprising my first attempt at a Lasagna Garden was not successful, after all, the Chicory and Bugloss were in mid-bloom and their long tap roots do not transplant well. 
Viper's Bugloss

Last summer, with some experience under my belt I redid this new bed in what I hope will be a lovely naturalized perennial bed...now if only I can recall what I planted 6 months ago!

 First step this time was to build some edging to keep the soil in place then build up the bed.

To keep the amount of soil I had to bring in to a minimum I added quite a bit of organic material - just look at all that gorgeous free organic soil amendment washed up on shore in spring alongside an old railway tie.  The small bits of twigs, bark and pine needles will breakdown quickly in the soil.

 The soil resembled a forest floor as much as a typical garden bed, and why not? The Lakefront Garden is a very natural, low maintenance design and the appearance of the soil will become a moot point once the plants fill out.

I planted tall Asclepias at the back, alongside the tree, and Purple Liatris immediately behind the daylilies, both purchased at end of season 50% off pricing as they were both past blooming but should come up fine this coming season.

Buttercups and Daisies (and possibly some Rudbeckia) harvested from the side of the road round out the planting. It was not much to look at last summer but I hope that this summer it provides some  relatively maintenance free blooms for our renters.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015


To celebrate the return of Daylight Savings and the imminent arrival of spring-blooming daffodils I used the extra daylight after work to create "Hungry Bunny".

In a few weeks daffodils planted via the Winnipeg Bulb Project (WBP) will be blooming throughout north Winnipeg -- time to start getting ready for spring 2016!

A $5 - $50 donation to the WBP gets spring-blooming bulbs into the hands of people eager to pick up a trowel and proud to make a difference in their neighbourhoods but who otherwise cannot afford to invest in landscaping.

Let's show Hungry Bunny how generous the blogosphere can be in the few short days before he is gone.

Sharing with Our World Tuesday, Outdoor Wednesday & Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Monday, March 02, 2015


It surprises me how many times I have noticed how strong an influencer the sun is on a plant's health and how surprised I can be to realize that each time.  This time the evidence is clear, these two plants were bought at teh same time but the one on the right which has lived in front of a south facing window has all large lovely leaves while its sibling has half big and half small and looks conflicted.

 I have switched their places but before I did I cut back the lanky one as an experiment and will now have the pleasure of watching it fill out. Will it come back as before or like its sibling, now that it has the preferred vantage point?

I took the palm fronds and placed them in a vase in the living room where they look smashing without any need for flowers at all.

Sharing with In A Vase Mondays

Sunday, March 01, 2015

PLANNING SESSION - old sun garden

Today while relaxing in the tub I planned the replanting of the Old Sun Garden, i.e. right-hand side, beneath the windows.

Unfortunately it had to be ripped out last fall due to construction. I committed to preserving its idea and building on it, after all, it was (ironically) the one part of the garden I felt I had right.
Nevertheless this is still an opportunity to purposefully improve on where I had casually ended up. 

Heliopolis grow window-height but no more, are easily pruned (for variable bloom times) and are prolific self seeders (which for now is good but one day I may regret), all solid reasons to retain them, limiting them to the back, immediately below the windows to keep them in check.

In front of the their bright yellow, daisy-like blooms a row of taller, transparent grasses. Height v. transparency? No question. I choose height; the taller the grass the better, certainly some Heliopsis will manage to show through. Along with the grass will be purple Iris from the Sun Garden and of course daffodils for spring interest.

In front of the grasses: a combination of Purple Liatris and Blue Sea Holly.
I first saw these two beauties together in a garden designed by my friend Jess Dixon.  
I think my heart actually skipped a beat
I wanted it. A lot of it.
Now I shall have it.

They are tall plants for the front border but I would like it to be clear to everyone they are not passing between gardens, but rather passing through a single garden, and height is one tool to reinforce that feeling.

Check back with me in the summer to see if I am true to my vision.

Sharing with Today's Flowers

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


I don't know about you, but this is how I personally like to plan my gardens.  
The more relaxed and meditative I am, the more creative and thoughtful I am.
Pen and paper are an absolute must.

Sharing with "Our World Tuesday"

Thursday, February 19, 2015

INA VASE - valentine's day, sorta

My husband and I do not celebrate Valentine's Day.
It is not that we take an anti-commercial stance but rather we feel it is more romantic to celebrate February 12th, the evening we met across a crowded dance floor, 15 years ago last week at a Valentine's Day party.

A single additional flower is all it can take to make a 'bunch of flowers' into an 'arrangement'; in this case I added a single lily.  A different colour would have been nice but sometimes you just have to roll with what you find at your local florist.

One week in and some of the lilies are just opening - what great staying power!

In the dining room I added the remaining yellow lilies into the 'winter vase' left over from our Winter Party.

(I may leave the greenery and baby's breath in place and just update the other flowers for the remainder of the winter!)

Sharing with Today's FlowersFloral Friday Flowers & In a Vase on Monday 

Sunday, February 08, 2015

IN A VASE - party time

Last weekend we hosted the party that I had done 'practice vases' for in my previous post and here is a look at how the final flowers turned out.  The photos were taken a few days after the party, in other words don't be too harsh on some of the wilting blossoms.

To achieve something different with a dozen white roses I cut them back to about 6 inches and placed them in a small bowl with water-absorbing florist's styrofoam.  The only greenery was the roses' leaves and the addition of just two daisy-like flowers provides a simple, off-center focus.

What could be simpler than spruce branches harvested from my own back yard and baby's breath?  
An arrangement with a "wintery" feel for only $4!

From simple to very busy; this one certainly had an impact in the downstairs washroom where people were not expecting to see a grand floral arrangement, which is of course all the more reason to have one there.

Accents like white glittery palm fronds and silver pine cones combined with Asiatic Lilies and asters. The lilies I cut back to 6 inches and 'planted' their long spiky, flowerless stems to add some greenery. 
'Waste-not, want-not' as the saying goes.

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