Tuesday, December 31, 2013

HOLIDAY URN - bring back the apples!

This spring I transformed my front door planter into a woodland scene by transplanting a small spruce, some moss, lily-of-the-valley, and even a large stone from the woods around the Manitoba cottage (then added Violets for colour).  
The intent is for it to be a fairly permanent arrangement.

 When it came time to turn it into a holiday arrangement I waffled about what to do until the soil froze, thus making the decision for me that I would not incorporate the 'apples-on-a-stick' that looked so great last year.

Instead I added some over-sized red ornaments and birch sticks to the existing woodland scene. 
   
 It certainly looked wintry enough when it was covered with snow.



However with the ornaments in the background rather than the foreground and the container frozen into place and no way to turn it around...let us just agree does not compare to last year.


Meet me back here same time next year to see how I will have incorporated the apples once again into my little woodland scene.

Happy New Year!

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

STOWAWAYS - a story of survival

This past spring digging about in the front lasagna garden I came across live plants buried within on three separate occasions.  According to plan they should have composted over the winter but I have since realized that most articles written about lasagna gardens have not been written by zone 3 gardeners and not much composting happened for 5 frozen months.

The lone plant in the bottom right corner (above) was quite substantial and  healthy in a bed where I had not planted anything yet. Eventually I found a second one as well.

Then some lovely variegated Vinca started popping up as well.
Curious.


 What I had put into the bed however were the discarded plants I collected from the generous folks at Jensens' Nursery, where they allowed me to cart off loads of plant material they had pulled from their display gardens to use in the construction of my lasagna gardens.

 
I transplanted to the Moon Garden what turned out to be white Dianthus, where they fit in perfectly with the all-white theme (don't worry, those "Broadway Lights" Shasta Daisies above faded from yellow to white).

These stowaways had clearly not only survived the winter but had somehow 'hibernated', and with some warmth from the composting lasagna garden spent the winter without dying back.

Stowaways - who would have thought?

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Friday, December 20, 2013

GUERRILLA GARDENING - it pays to be selfish

There are two compelling reasons to Guerrilla Garden close to home:


1) The first is pure selfishness and I proudly admit to employing it regularly. 
There can be no denying its motivating potential; while I have aspirations to change the whole city in the long, long run, one of the best places to start is in my own back yard where I will be able to do it at the drop of a hat, see the evidence of my efforts on a regular basis and know that change is possible.  For example, when I planted daffodil bulbs around my Toronto neighbourhood it may have appeared random to the casual onlooker but I planted them along the route my husband and I walked our dogs on a daily basis.

 2) The second is more practical: a garden needs tending, especially watering. 
I learned this past summer what every gardener (including myself) already knows. A plant-and-abandon strategy is not a winning strategy. 


The garden that I had helpers keeping moist flourished; it was as simple as that. 

This close-to-home survival strategy paid off this fall when out of my peripheral vision I spotted some flashes of white driving past the stump at the end of my street where I had earlier planted Allium.  
Sure enough, some squirrel had been excited to find freshly dug earth but disappointed to find a member of the onion family and left the bulbs scattered but uneaten.  I was able to replant them only because I was able to check in on them.

So there you have it, no need to feel guilty if you want to brighten up your own neighbourhood - there is a sound logic behind it. 

And what if you want to make a difference in another, less-fortunate community rather than your own?
Great idea, I highly recommend it and suggest you donate to the Winnipeg Bulb Project and we will get the job done for you.

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Sharing with: Garden Tuesday, Inspire me Mondays

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

YARD ART AS SNOW GAUGE - december

These herons sure stand out in the snow more than they ever did during the summer - and I love it. 

In the summer they were quite discreet agasint a vibrant and lush backdrop but now that they stand out I will be using them to report on how much snow we have.  Consider this shot the benchmark and each month I will post another photo from the same spot for comparison.


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Saturday, December 14, 2013

THE FORGOTTEN MONARDA - update to the monet garden map

My Monet Garden will be purples and blues and my Sun Garden is already bursting with yellows, reds and oranges.
So where does this Monarda fit in?

In the photo above it looks pink and below it looks more purple. In either case I think it clashed with the Sun Garden. What do you think?


Between wanting the Sun Garden to stay true to its palette and needing both more height and colour in the Monet Garden I made a last minute decision to transplant it just before freeze up.


There are two Monardas in the Sun Garden, both bought at the Friends of Gardens Manitoba annual plant sale and both labelled "red".  The other stayed relatively small and never bloomed so let us hope that it is actually red, while this plant grew so vigorously in one year that I divided it into three.
 By surrounding it with blues and purples I hope to make it seem more purple and less pink.  I added it in the green rectangle otherwise reserved for Delphinium (top left), where they should get as much sun as any plant in this garden.  Nothing to do for now but hibernate and wait.

Do you think this colour of Monarda was better suited for the Monet Garden or the Sun Garden?


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& Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Saturday, December 07, 2013

WINTER INTEREST IN THE GARDEN - birds

Today it is -22 Celsius and there is not much going on in my gardens.  
Do not get me wrong, it is very, very pretty out but there is not that much activity, no buzzing bees or butterflies wafting through the air.  

There are however birds, and the best way to get to see them is by providing them with food. After all they are so small they could use our help; did I mention it is -22 Celsius out?

I placed this suet feeder just outside our kitchen window where we can see them every day. Today I had what appears to be a little woodpecker of some type as well as the usual Chickadees.

Quick tip: freeze the suet before you place it in the feeder or be prepared to get very greasy fingers!
Lesson learned.

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Sharing with Nature NotesOutdoor WednesdayCamera Critters & Saturday's Critters

Sunday, December 01, 2013

ANATOMY OF MONET GARDEN - 3 of 3

In my first post about the Monet Garden I detailed the plants I initially added this past spring.
Now I am writing about the plants yet to join in and enhance the purple-and-blue theme that defines the Monet Garden.

By-and-large last spring I planted the lasagna gardens I built and left the pre-existing beds alone.  Therefore  next year's additions are primarily in areas that existed before we moved in. I spent time observing and now I am ready to plant.

I learned that this garden does not get as much sun as I had hoped but I still think that these plants will work given the back left corner is the sunniest part.
The green rectangle will be filled with Delphinium, 5 blue in as many shades as possible and 2 purple, also different shades.

The pink triangle was originally Blazing Star and its replacement is still up for debate|:  
More Dutch Iris (I'll know this spring if they work).
Monkshood is high on my list but also highly poisonous and I have a new puppy dog; better safe than sorry. Salvia would be quite nice: long blooming, mid-sized and purple. I just need to find a variety for the shadier side.

In the green oval Ostrich ferns will encircle the bottom of the Lilac run behind it providing a backdrop for Astilbe and a tall compliment to the Heliopolis that will border it in the Sun Garden.

The orange blob will be fluffy purple Astilbe. I have never grown them successfully but I have not yet tried since reading up on their care - and that of course should make all of the difference. 

The yellow splotches will be Primula, hopefully I will come across some drumstick varieties in a mix of purples.


Some suggestions from Facebook I am will one day incorporate include Forget-Me-Nots (which I tried unsuccessfully from seed last year but am not giving up on), Phlox stolonifera (Creeping phlox), Jacob's LadderGiant Lobelia.



When you put it all together this is what it looks like. 
At least for now.

Suggestions for other purple and blue plants for zone 3, part shade are welcome.

Parts 1 of 3 & 2 of 3
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Saturday, November 30, 2013

DEER ARE WELCOMED GUESTS

I know many gardeners feel differently about deer and that I only have one year of gardening with them under my belt, so perhaps my frustration with them will grow. 
For now however, I just love seeing them.

We were never going to see a deer in our neighbourhood in Toronto. Being closer to nature was one of the reasons we moved from Toronto to Winnipeg and seeing these awesome animals while out on my evening stroll I feel happy to be back home.

Tonight I saw three different deer during my dog walk the first two in the large park nearby.

Then, surprisingly, another with substantial antlers rubbing them against a neighbour's tree in their front yard. I walked up the street and it moved parallel for quite a distance until it came to this tree where it could reach up and eat the leaves that had never fallen to the ground. It stopped there and I must have watched it graze for 5 minutes before heading home.
Hope to see you again soon deer. 
Oh, and by the way, everything I planted this fall is rated deer resistant.

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Sharing with Nature Notes & Our World Tuesday

Monday, November 25, 2013

FACEBOOK - give it a whirl?

If I am behind publishing a new post (like I am right now!) I am still often active sharing links and photos on Facebook. 
https://www.facebook.com/aStudentGardener?ref=hl

I have made five Facebook posts since I shared my last blog post eight days ago, including photos of flowers from my recent trip to San Fransisco and the launch of my first ever bulb-forcing experiment.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

THE STRIP II

If necessity is really the mother of invention then she had a hand in this.  
I had extra daylilies - lots of them - and nowhere to plant them.

But a gardener can always find somewhere...

It occurred to me that there was nothing distinguishing about where our driveway enters the street.
High shrubs on either side but plain old flat lawn in the middle.  Adding the daylilies is really all about the foliage; while not quite an urn on a pedestal the height & weight of the daylilies' foliage will give it a somewhat grander feeling whether or not it gets enough sun to bloom under those elms.  It will also help to define the borders which is inherently more formal than two properties that simply blend into one another.
Since it is 100% on my northern neighbour's property I made a proposal which she thought about for a couple of days then happily agreed to. So far we have removed less than a quarter of the grass that will eventually go. 
This is a case where bigger will be better and adding some depth to the dayliliy row will increase that sense of formality as the border lengthens. The red line denotes a natural break where the pavement changes colour. Stopping there feels right, like the two lines may subtly reinforce one another.

Even when they have shrunk down in late summer I can see the potential next year of this no-maintenance garden bed.

Since daylilies bloom later in the season I felt obliged to add something to the mix that will give back earlier in the season.  This week I added 25 daffodils randomly mixed between these two gorgeous varieties:

Centannees Split Cup DaffodilTiritomba Split Cup Daffodil

Centannees Split Cup and Tiritomba Split Cup.


The soil was pretty serious clay. 
I have no fear for the daylilies, who seem able to thrive anywhere, but I am concerned for the bulbs. 
Only time will tell so look for a follow up post next April.


Check out the story of the first time I took over the strip of grass between my neighbour and I.

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ANATOMY OF MONET GARDEN - 2 of 3


Earlier this week I posted about the first of three stages in creating my "Monet Garden" by describing what I planted last spring.  This post is about what I just finished planting today. The third post will detail what I am going to plant next spring and pull it all together in one terribly messy map.

The pink rectangle are 5 purple Nicky Phlox. I hear they can get by with part sun but will there be enough?

phlox paniculata nicky
Stay tuned.

Yellow oval represents 25 Atropurpureum Allium which may bloom at the same time as the surrounding Iris.

Allium atropurpureum. Pure love. The grass underneath is Festuca glauca, a cool season grass.
Stay tuned.

In the odd orange shape with a 90 degree angle are 200 Pearl Blue Species Crocus  If they work well there will be many more.

Stay tuned.

Purple circle top left is a random mix of 25 each of Delft Blue and Peter Stuyvesant plus 3 other shades of blue in quantities of 12, 10 & 8, all randomly mixed together. Plus 6 from the second mix below.
Hyacinth Flowers   

Left hand circle has 42 randomly mixed Sky Jacket and Blue Jacket which may have been planted too late in the season to survive!
Hyacinth orientalis 'Sky Jacket'   Image of Hyacinthus orientalis 'Sky Jacket'
Stay tuned.

The small bright blue circle represents 25 Dutch Iris which are a fitting addition to my Monet colour palette.  I would have loved to put in up to 200 right away but I am still learning how much light this bed actually gets and I need to see some proof before I dive in.

Dutch Iris Blue & White Blend

 This is what it looks like when fall is added on top of spring.
The Blazing Star have been removed from where the Iris and Hyacinths are, I have already transplanted as many of the 80 as I could find to where they will get more sun

Parts 1 of 3 & 3 of 3
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Thursday, November 14, 2013

ANATOMY OF MONET GARDEN - 1 of 3

I loved my original plans for the front garden but it turns out that there is not enough sun getting to this bed for quite a number of the plants I had chosen to live there, let alone thrive, and "thriving" is how I envision all my gardens three years out.

So it is time for what we call at work a COE or Correction of Error.  The 'error' of course was planting so much in my first year rather than waiting and observing, but honestly this is how I learn. Even still I am one year in and still unsure whether the garden is part-sun or part-shade, but now I know it is certainly not full-sun, and next year I will learn even more.
 I have everything planted and  planned but since I have been remiss about documenting what has happened in the bed since moving in let us take it a step at a time. In the end the design is not that different in many ways from what I had originally planned (above).

We will start with a look at what I planted this past spring after having built the garden the previous fall.

Small triangles are lilies: some incredibly tall ones that were here already and some gorgeous cream coloured ones I planted with dinner plate sized flowers.

Bright blue are Iris. Those in the far left oval are white with purple falls that I bought at a Friends of Gardens Manitoba annual plant sale.
The long pink oval along the front is made up of two kinds of Bellflowers that I have grown from seed. 

Green crosses are Verbascum that came from the garden of a work colleague (thank you Rhonda). Apparently they need full sun and flop over in rich soil so I am going to move them into the backyard where the bed is mostly original soil as compared to this freshly made lasagna garden.

Yellow heart is a lone blue Lupine.

Green circle were 80 purple Liatris that definitely did not get enough sun but whose bulbs all still looked very heavy when I moved them into the Sun Garden.

Blue stars are Bachelor's Button from Shelmerdine's that I got just before I admitted to myself that this garden was not getting as much sun as I had hoped and planned for.  Happily I was able to use a gift certificate I had gotten for Christmas (thanks Joyce & Gerry)

I did not include a marker for the Bachelor's Buttons I started from seed but they are spread along the front, and while they make for gorgeous close-up photos they are lanky and spindly and I do not hold much hope for them long-term here.

Nor did I include markers for Flax or tall purple Asters, both of which I planted in the spring but neither of which are getting enough sun to have much of a future in this bed.
 


White circles are one of the few contrasting colours, yellow somethingorothers.

Bright green oval is Lamium that was previously growing in the original part of this bed but has really taken off in the new soil since transplant.

Yellow vertical rectangle is Globe Thistle. Stunted this year, but perhaps that is normal for its first year from seed? Or perhaps it did not get enough sun - also very possible.

Blue vertical rectangle and blue horizontal rectangle I believe to be tall purple German Iris, the same as in the Sun Garden, but I cannot be sure until they bloom one day.

Also in the horizontal one I planted a 50 tiny Iris Reticulada as soon as we moved in a year ago, about 20 of which came up last spring.


 The red smile is made up of Allium Molly, another of the few yellows. Whether Hyacinth or Geranium it should have some contrasting companions sharing its bloom time.

Odd purple shape is made up of about a dozen Hardy Geranium which should fairly quickly take maintenance for that whole part of the garden off of my hands by filling it all up.

The light grey-ish purple circle to the far right are 3 blue Columbines which may very well get overrun by the Geranium. 

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 describing what I planted this fall and what is on the menu for next year respectively.
 
 Parts 2 of 3 & 3 of 3