Wednesday, May 23, 2012


One day I will need to create a map and a key to make sense of the cottage gardens. 
In the city it is much easier.

There is the front yard.

Small but bursting; a lot of the plant material was there when we moved in, but of course I have added a lot more.  Originally there were some vegetables and herbs which I removed, the mint was the toughest but seems to finally be gone.  It may be the only place that gets enough sun, but I just don't trust people walking their dogs to keep them out, so no veggies in the front for us.

And there is the back yard.

This pic is taken through a screen, but you get the general idea.  Typical Cabbagetown-sized space. I am of the "let's not see any dirt" school of planting and am getting closer to my goal. 

Monday, May 21, 2012


Between us and our neighbour to the North is my lily garden, sporting Asiatic, Oriental, Giant Tree and common orange day lilies.

When we first moved in there were no lilies there at all, just Ferns and Sundrops; where the day lilies are in the pic below was just earth.  Perhaps the leaves from the lawn had been raked and left here? 
I liberated day lilies from elsewhere on the property where they were growing in the shade -  healthy foliage but no blooms - and I added a few rocks to wrap them around and add more curve.
(I am not one for straight lines.)

I wanted something in there quickly to green-up the spot, uncertain if they would get enough sun to bloom and in fact they don't bloom as much as those along the driveway or on the water. 

May 2012
Starting last spring, I gathered up all of the forget-me-nots that were showered across the lawn and transplanted them in amongst the rocks making the border that much better.  Some came back in place while others self-seeded nearby which was good enough for me. They are easy to transplant.

August 2011

This photo is too close up and blurry, but it shows the wild asters I gathered from the side of the road last year and transplanted, giving the whole thing I nice purple shimmer.  Hopefully they will come back this year. It was a bit of an experiment.
[December update: we left the cottage in July and I never got to find out if they bloomed, though I could see many of the plants returning in July.]

I know I should not have moved them when they were in bloom, but it was like I had somehow never noticed them before in the 4 years we'd been coming here and I couldn't wait another season.  There were just so many that I took a chance.  This year I'll be able to recognize the plant before it blooms to add even more and give it a better chance of survival.

Spring 2011

Pretty similar this year but if you look closely you can see that there was a layer of Braken Fern growing in there providing an unneeded layer of shade that I have since removed.  I love most ferns but find this one to be too common and hard to transplant with its deep tap root - so out it comes!

Sunday, May 20, 2012


I've just come back from a harvesting mission with a trunk full of ferns.  Two dozen and three or four kinds, including Ostrich, Wood and some others I will have to look up.
It is amazing what you can find growing in the ditch.

I'll be planting all day, and needing to create deep holes in the forest floor to-boot for some of the bigger ferns, which is no easy task.  But it is only 10:30, already scorching in the sun and despite the cool water my neighbours are out swimming so I'll likely take some breaks in the lake today too.

All in all, not a bad day to get a lot of work done. 
Wish me luck.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Right after the picture below was taken I said to myself "Sh*t, what have I done?" It was not the first and will not be the last occasion I buy more plants than I have time to get into the ground.

It may not look like much, but you have to keep in mind that digging up the lawn for this flagstone path is not the same as tucking something into a nicely prepared bed.  This involved some serious digging.

In addition I've started adding annuals to my garden, previously a no-no: 'Who has the time to invest in things that won't come back next year?' I thought. 
The exception has been these barrels at the road which we moved there a few years ago from beside the water up to the road.  Here they keep people from turning around on the soft, muddy edge and diverting the ditch away from the creek out onto the road.  They have worked pretty well and as with the other containers this year have been planted with simple white impatiens and ferns (that have come up again from last year).

The inevitable slide to include annuals began last year when my husband added planters to the cottage deck.  I was not interested previously given how much there was to do already and how beautiful and green the surroundings already are, but I have to admit that bringing a little greenery up onto the deck was a nice addition.  Last year he planted pansies and since the deadheading mostly landed with me, I took over the planters from him this year to avoid that fate again.

I have mostly woodsy containers but added white Impatiens to make them a bit more elegant than the surrounding woods, a good compromise for those who prefer flowers in their pots.

The next day I brought home snapdragons to add to the day lilies and iris in the Lakefront Garden - where they look amazing now, long before the rest will bloom - and Cosmos which I have added to the evergreen patch at the end of the gravel path, and purple Alyssum which I added to the very old stump.  Hard to see now, but I'm sure it will look great as it fills out, with the sparse white Alyssum at the top defending against the encroaching and more plentiful purple from down below.

One day the evergreens will fill in, but for now I think that area can use some help and as long as the Cosmos poke out from the leaf mulch I hope that they will keep with the wild feeling of the place.  I need to triple the number in there so far, but it is quick and easy work.

With the Ostrich Ferns coming up nicely behind them they'll provide some wispy colour in the foreground.  We'll check in on them again later in the season.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Two years ago the top half of a tree that sits right on the water came down during the winter and now just a scraggly half with few branches remains.  There has been some pressure here to remove it, but given I am a lover of trees I lobbied that it is habitat, and the tree remains.  This year we have been rewarded with the return of a woodpecker family that has made the tree its home in the past.  Additionally, I think the staggered height and interesting windswept shape actually improves the overall look of this tree clump.

Knowing however that the family doesn't always see it that way, last year I planted a Silver Lace Vine at its base. Risky in zone 4 right on the water, but it has come back this year and will hopefully grow up to the branches and out, I can just picture it cascading down above the water.

This year I am also going to plant a Blue Moon Wisteria from Spring Garden, which they claim will bloom up to three times annually and survive zone 4.  Excellent, though I understand that Wisteria can take many, many years to bloom so I will be patient. 

After all, I have the Silver Lace to keep us entertained in the interim.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


You'll find references throughout this blog on harvesting wild plants. I couldn't afford what I have accomplished if I was not doing this, and I am interested in learning about and using mostly native plants.  However I always try and and follow these guidelines from

"Wild collection of plant resources shall be conducted at a scale and rate and in a manner that maintains populations and species over the long term."

Most of the info I have found on the web relates to the global practice of harvesting medicinal plants, but the general thinking about sustainability and permission still applies.  If you know of any sites for less commercial harvesting, please let me know.

Aside from the above, I also try and follow the practices below:
  • dig up plenty of earth around the roots
  • don't keep them out of the ground for too long before planting again
  • pre-dig your holes if possible, it can be easy to forget how much work the re-planting can be, (often more work that the original harvesting) if you are planting back on the forest floor full of roots and twigs and stones
  • watering quickly afterwards and more than usual for the fist while
  • try and replicate the environment as much as possible
  • regarding leaving mature plants to carry on, I don't take more than 25% from any specific grouping

I take as much as possible from the side of the road where it would get mowed down by the municipality.  The ditches at the side of the highway/road have lovely ferns, buttercups, asters, jack-in-the-pulpit, even small evergreen trees that will one day surely meet their demise unless I save them and bring them home.

This is a pic of me coming back from a harvesting trip earlier this spring.  Those evergreens were all either overcrowded or at the side of the road where they will eventually get mowed down, or both. The ferns were from a ditch at the side of the road that the municipality regularly trims back.


I've got a few things I consider our features at the cottage that I'd like to introduce you to. Let's start with the awesome stone staircase down from the driveway.  We can take no credit for it, it was here when we bought, but I am making sure I plant around it to really make it the focus it deserves.

When we first bought there was not as much periwinkle on the left side, so I am filling that in all the way down the stairs and the path that runs from it down to the water.

Here you can see how the stairs connect to the path to give you an idea of flow.  We planted a bushel of large trumpet daffs in the fall of 2008 throughout the property and plan to add another this fall we love them so much.  I'm working on that periwinkle gap beneath the pine...

And now you have an idea of how the whole stairs/path work. 

In the foreground you'll see about 200 red trillium that I have gathered from the woods and transplanted on either side of the path at the bottom.   There is a myth that this is illegal in Ontario, but it is not so.  Picking them, while also not illegal, is not something I do since it damages the plant, which after all takes a very, very long time to bloom.

Below is a glamour shot of our staircase.

The daffs on the right side are Kedron that I planted last fall from Vessey's.  I absolutely love them and will be doubling my order again this fall to really get an amazing show.  Each bulb has 4-6 flowers and they smell wonderful in a citrus kind of way. Quite different from our trumpets and blooming later, though with some overlap as you can see from the trumpets to the left of the stairs.

Below is a closer look at the Kedrons.  Imagine twice as many next year!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


This old stump is in a prominent spot near the side stairs so yesterday I hollowed out parts of it, added some soil and  red trillium I gathered from the woods. 
 Today I added a few white impatiens as well that will take the stage once the trillium dies back.  Later in the summer it looks great surrounded by ferns and last year I added buttercups amongst most of my ferns which looks amazing. 
[Summer 2013 update: Buttercups did not get enough sun to come back amongst the ferns]

I have also been filling up my planters with materials from the woods, not only is it free but I think it looks great and I know it should all survive in low light conditions given it all came from the forest floor.

Aside from the ferns, Jack-in-the-pulpit, trillium, solomon's seal, pine tree, lily of the valley and others I can't name yet, I have added white impatiens.  Enough colour to draw the eye once they develop, but not enough to overpower the natural beauty and beautiful greens. 
So many types of moss!

In the foreground is an old stump, a very old stump.  This year I am dressing it up with some simple Alyssum, pairing it somewhat with the white impatiens I have planted in my natural planters above. 
[Fall 2012 update: Decaying wood dries out much more quickly than soil and the Alyssum dried out and died out]

And finally, I also added some white impatiens into this old stump.  It is off the path a bit, so we'll see how many people notice and appreciate it, but as long as we know it is there I'll be satisfied.

I almost forgot! Today was the first day I saw my new Baby Boomer Daffodils in bloom.  

These late bloomers are tiny and I will clearly need to infill in the fall in each of the three areas I planted them, to really get the visual impact I am looking for.  They are very cute and apparently bloom for a long time which will be amazing considering they are just starting now in mid May.  If you know periwinkle you'll get an idea of the small stature of these daffs.