Monday, December 31, 2012

TUXEDO OVERVIEW - the cantina

We have settled on calling the 2-sided structure attached to the garage our "cantina".

In white stucco and covered by a grape vine it feels practically mediterranean, and I know we will sit and have some drinks in cooler weather around the chiminea.  
So 'cantina' it is.

I would have left the open wall facing the backyard, but it is what it is and I appreciate its quirkiness.

And one thing it is is cute. 
Great detail like this round window with wrought iron bars.

And its matching curved gate seen here from the backyard.

There is a garden bed around it on both sides.

I am going to have to learn about and then write a post about how to prune a grape vine.   I certainly did not expect to find one in zone 3 where I did not know they survived.  

This south facing bed has daylilies on either end that need to be divided and Asiatic lilies in between. 
Who knows what else I will find next spring and summer?

Also whatever this low growing plant is.
{later removed as a weed}

In the east-facing bed I do not see much other than some Lamium, the vine and the tall wispy blue-bell-like plant that I consider a weed. Do you know what it is?
{Jan 10 update: thanks to a reader for identifying Creeping Bellflower for me.  Definitely a weed.}

I just love how lush it is with that grape vine. I may add in some morning glories or clematis to keep it blooming longer, though not a big priority to add to it in the grand scheme of things.

Here is an overview of our new front yard in case you missed it.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


When we first moved in on October 15th I knew I had little time and big goals...and as the days shortened so did my list, but the days somehow moved faster and with the possibility of snow in November more real than it had been for me in 15 years I let it define my priorities.  

What could I not do after the snow fell?

Planting bulbs - once the money is spent on them it is a crying shame to not get them in the ground and I think we can all admit to having made that mistake.

Second on the list was my lasagna gardens - a big undertaking for my first fall - which I finished just in the nick of time.

Then of course there was weeding, the sooner I got rid of those things and their seed pods, the better.

Somewhere down the list was pruning the dead branches off the large fir trees, particularly the one on the street since it is so public.  But one day when there were still bulbs to plant, gardens to build and weeds to pull I got out the ladder and saw, climbed pretty high (but not foolishly high, I hope) and rid the front tree of its lower dead limbs.

While it technically could have waited until after the snow, or even until the spring, they just seemed so obvious. Something I would notice right away elsewhere.  A symbol.

So down they came.


And now when I look out at the beautiful snow covered yard?
I am very glad I made the time.
While having a plan and sticking to it is generally a great idea, sometimes you just have to strike when the spirit moves you.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


One could debate how Christmas trees fit into a gardening and landscaping blog, but heck it is Christmas, and they are trees after all.

This the our main tree in our living room.  A great looking 7' tall pre-lit in red and gold.   

And this is the tree that was our main tree in our last home where it seemed plenty big, but is now our second, smaller tree in the den.  
Red and silver colour scheme; I ran out of ribbon half way through, but it will do.

It feels a bit decadent to have two trees, but Winnipeg is such a Christmas-y place that it works well here.


Sharing with A Return to Loveliness 

Monday, December 24, 2012


An important part of landscape design is the lighting, not just in summer but year round.  

We are lucky to live in a neighbourhood where people go to great lengths to decorate their trees for the holidays.
I can not take any credit for these lights, completely my husband's doing.  I just added the ice candles up the walkway for entertaining.

It's a winter wonderland.


Sharing with Christmas Cheer at "the view from right here"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

INSPIRATION - city hall

My new job in Winnipeg is in the heart of downtown not far from city hall where they have these beautiful displays.

Thanks Scott for letting me know those huge plants in the middle are Castor Beans, they were very popular around the city and at the rate they grow in our short season I can see why. 
Clearly not a perennial...popular nonetheless.

 The scale is dramatic and in a city with as long a winter as Winnipeg I think it makes a lot of sense to have those evergreens as a base.  With the variety of shapes and shades it holds enough interest; I remain a  fan of green on green.

I am not considering the huge plants despite their dramatic scale; I have enough to learn just focused on perennials for now.  

I am inspired by the grasses.  I need to incorporate them into my gardens now that I (should) have enough sun.

It will be interesting to see next year if this is city's 'typical' set up or whether landscapers change up what is in the center occasionally.  
Or if there are bulbs, as eager for spring as I am.    

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


One night in the dark I was busy spreading newspapers on top of mulch I had placed on the lawn as I started my lasagna garden when my new neighbour drove up.  Earlier he had seen me collecting the tree leaf debris from the gutter, which I had been gathering for the same purpose.  

A friendly fellow, he stopped by to check things out and as I explained what I was doing he referred to my hobby as 'extreme gardening'.  And it was.  And it is.  

And I was quite flattered.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Like many of you, I am sure, I cannot help but evaluate landscapes rather than just observe them.  To think of how the park on the corner could be improved, or what I would have done differently at a friend's newly landscaped yard or drawing inspiration from something I judge to be particularly well done.

Often times they are just fleeting thoughts, but there are other times, times where you d not want to forget and this blog is in part to help me remember.

The tennis court below is at a park halfway between my home and my parents.  Public courts, no fee. Not usually that busy and somewhere I hope my husband and I might start playing next year.

There is a single vine growing up the far side of the fence and I stopped and took this shot because I imagined it with more vines.  
Why not?

A highly public place to do a little guerrilla gardening.  
I am thinking of morning glories.  They are colourful and easy to grow and should self seed year after year.

I picture a variety of colours, deep purple, white, pink, heavenly blue. As if that will somehow feel more natural than a wall of solid colour.

Hopefully this post will keep me motivated and committed to follow through next spring.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

MACRO MONDAY - moss part 2

I absolutely love old moss covered stumps and transplanted many from the forest onto my property this fall.


Sharing with Macro Monday

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

TREE FOLLOWING - north, part 2

The other week I did my first tree following to share with
 The photo I shared was taken in the fall after all of the foliage had fallen and I thought the opportunity to see this particular tree with all its bushiness intact and would be past by the time spring comes round given my plans for winter pruning. 

Then I found this pic. 
I took it before we actually took possession of our home in the fall but had forgotten to download it - there are more to come!

And I found this pic too, which I took to share with more experienced gardeners to help me identify the tree, which I think a friend has done already!  

I had dinner guests over and one happens to be a landscape architect.  How he could tell in the darkness that this was a Japanese Lilac Tree is beyond me, but there you go, I think he was right the way he described the horizontal lenticels on the bark (see below) and the seed pods (see above).

I am very happy to have  a lilac tree, and now that I have that in mind, the leaves do look like a lilac even if the shape of the tree did not make me think of the shrubs I am familiar with.

The Japanese Lilac blooms slightly later in June and has a fragrance that I am eager to get to know and which means its placement by the front door should pay sweet dividends.

Sharing with Garden Tuesday & Nature Notes

Monday, December 03, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Here is the area in front that I also am turning into a lasagna garden, like the south facing garden
Also quite big.

When I needed organic matter for this garden I went to Starbucks for coffee grounds.  Their normal summer program was over but the managers at two locations were easy going and gave me what they had in their bins as long as I did not mind that the filters were mixed in, which of course I did not.

Before, with grass.

After, (with grass clippings).

The amount of grass clippings you see on the far right is from my father`s 75` x 120` lot which I think helps to put into perspective just how much plant matter I needed.

To finish it off I spread a soil & compost mix on top and then the snow came, so hopefully it is all brewing as I type.

Not that I do not like winter. I do.  
But I am excited for spring already so I can see the results of this grand experiment.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Sure it is just mulch, but there is a pleasing, haphazard symmetry in it.


Sharing with Macro Monday

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I discovered a site that aggregates blog content about trees.
Amazing.  I love trees.

One of the things that I found is that people "follow trees" by sharing photos of a tree throughout the year.  Interesting idea, and today is the first of a few of these posts that I am going to do this year as I get to know my new property and its trees.

This is the first one I am going to document because it is in desperate need of a trim.  

It looks like a very bushy shrub with some decent sized trees in the middle but should really be just a few of the bigger trees.  In fact it should probably just be one tree, but I like a clumping look.

I do not even know what kind of tree it is, but nonetheless I can tell it needs some pruning and have an idea on how I think it should look.   
As soon as I know what it is I will share, or if you know, fill me in.

Soon I will take my secateurs and cut back the smallest stuff and then share another photo.
Then I will get the loppers from the cottage and cut back the next size, and share another photo.
And then I will take out my hand saw and get rid of a few of the bigger trees, and share a photo.

It will be an interesting project, one that I can actually do in the winter and I look forward to sharing and getting feedback.


Sharing with Outdoor Wednesday

Sunday, November 18, 2012


It has been a few weeks since my first post about my lasagna gardens, but fear not I kept at it and got them done just before the snow arrived.

The biggest challenge was the amount of material required for the size of gardens I was staking out; I went to buy some peat moss at Jensen's nursery when I saw this:

 Piles of their season's annuals pulled out of the ground and waiting for disposal (behind the rock and in front of the raised beds).  I asked if I could take it and they obliged.  Fantastic.  I was really running short of green material, after all it was the end of October already.

The strange look I got from some people who slowed down to watch as I was cramming all this 'plant garbage' in to my truck made me chuckle.   Once again, people thinking I am crazy.
Thanks goodness I had laid down a tarp!

I put 2 bags (8 cubic feet) of peat in each garden.  Even with a truck full of green material I could have used more.  But it was a big help.  

Gives perspective why I needed so much material.

About two thirds of the way through the city came and cleaned our street.  Oh no. 
I was not done collecting material. 

So I had to start using the car instead of the wheelbarrow to go further afield.  Picture me driving slowly around the neighbourhood, throwing on the hazards then pulling out garbage cans which I quickly shovel full of dead leaves and a season's worth of accumulated soil and gunk, then driving off again.  I am sure people looking out their windows were curious.  I know I would  have been.

Friends asked "Why not just use the bags of leaves neighbours have lined up in the back lane?" and here is the difference. Those bags don't weigh very much since they are just full of dried leaves.  These garbage cans on the other hand got so heavy I could barely get them back into the truck sometimes.  Much more moisture, and some soil, overall a better, gunkier mix.



Thursday, November 15, 2012

I BEAT THE SNOW - barely

In my last post I was in the middle of moving around 9 yards of soil and compost that had arrived on Thursday morning, with 30 centimeters of snow forecast for Friday night.

Talk about a deadline.

I worked from after work until 11:00 Thursday and again until 12:00 on Friday.  It gets dark here early now, so most of this was in the dark, and in fact the first night I wasn't sure which was soil and which was compost and ended up spreading soil where I wanted compost!  It won't be the end of the world, but once I tried the pile of compost I learned that there is an easy way to tell.
The compost does not stink, but it does smell like, well, like it is composting.  
Oh yes it was also much heavier than the 4-way mix soil and it steamed when I dug down into its guts.  So next time there will be no mistaking it.

And this is what we had on the ground by the end of the weekend -- 30 centimeters as promised!

And it will stay now until spring, so it was definitely worth the overtime so my neighbours don't have to stare at a big pile of frozen compost on my lawn all winter.


Sharing with Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and Garden Tuesday, Outdoor Wednesday.  There may not be blooms but there is still gardening!

Thursday, November 08, 2012


Today I had 6 yards of compost and 3 yards of soil delivered.  

12 cm of snow is forecast on the weekend and it just might be the start of the snowy season and stick around.  So I need to take advantage of all the time I have before things freeze.   

And that means gardening at night.  

It is not the first time I have thought how handy a headlamp would be to extend the time I can spend in the garden.  I will be sure to add it to my Christmas list.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


In a previous post I talked about the Crocus and Allium I bought, but it wasn't until recently that I finally got around to planting them all.  Late in the season, so we will see how they do next year.  

The ground was not frozen, so they should survive, right?
Let us hope so.

I planted the purple Allium in front of the house on the North side.
(The white Allium that were part of the purple and white collections I bought have been planted in the South garden, more on that later.)

I started digging individual holes, but with 39 Allium to plant I quickly realized how much wrist-busting work this was going to be.

So I put aside the trowel and grabbed a shovel and a tarp. (I previously learned not to put soil directly on the lawn to avoid a mess.  I dug a big trench in front of the hedge, deep enough for the smaller Allium (Atropurpureum and Purple Sensation), and then I used the trowel again to make 9 deeper holes for the larger Allium (3 Globemaster and 6 His Excellency).

I took the 10" apart direction seriously.  In the picture above I already planted the larger bulbs. Having dug the trench allowed me to place the bulbs first then shift them around before covering them with soil.

After covering them I put down some bone meal and then another light layer of soil.  

And then I put down 80 Mixed Crocus.  
It is the first time I have ever layered bulbs like this and I have to say that digging the trench in the end was much easier than trying to plant all of the Allium and then the Crocus in the same small area.  
A highly recommended strategy.

Stay tuned for a colourful update in June.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

OLD STUMP - new life

Back before we had digital photography, one actually had to have multiple shots developed in order to see what a shot would look like from different angles.  I know it sounds crazy to you young folks.

 New life from a burned out log.
The new Cedar is oblivious to how precarious its place is, perched in the middle of a river.

I thought it would be appropriate to share these here since I have already written a number of posts about old stumps and have even been using them as planters.

These shots are from 1992; their symbolization of the circle of life has clearly appealed to me for a long time.

Monday, November 05, 2012

MACRO MONDAY - uprooted tree

Have you ever wondered what tree roots look like under the ground?  
Thought "What exactly is holding that thing in place?"
Now you know.

 I took these canoeing in Northwestern Ontario in 1994.  Slightly out of focus but fascinating.


Sharing with Macro Monday and I Heart Macro

Saturday, November 03, 2012


At the Manitoba cottage there has been a space between the screened porch and the road that has been empty of trees ever since a very large evergreen died a few years ago.  

Empty space?
An invitation!

 Over the years Spruce have sprouted up too close to the cottage to let them grow to any significant height.
So once again here I am doing what served me so well landscaping the Ontario cottage                                   - moving around existing plants.

Is it a conundrum that I want my natural looking yard to be "perfect"?  Not at all, I want each tree to have a good chance to grow and be healthy so when they are not growing in an optimal spot and an optimal spot is empty...well, wouldn't you do the same?

Step one was to prune the dead lower branches getting rid of the 'scraggly' look on the surrounding trees.
 I just love pruning; removing  the dead stuff leaves it looking that much cleaner. And by cleaner, I mean I got rid of that pile later that same day.

I often forget to take 'before" pictures before I start working, and this was once again the case here, so I have highlighted the trees I added before taking the shot to illustrate how barren it was to begin with.
Seedlings at the front, saplings further on and the biggest trees I can reasonably transplant with my own 2 hands and a spade (about 4 feet tall), at the back toward the road.  A nice steady progression which should look natural to the untrained eye but in fact would be a grand coincidence were it to happen naturally.

While 8 trees was not a lot for one day considering their size, I was just getting warmed up with what I actually wanted the spot to look like. 

With the season coming to a close I targeted the area above to be included and filled with trees this year.  And the area highlighted below to follow next year.

How far did I get before the end of year?

Stay tuned.


Sharing with Fertilizer Friday

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