Monday, October 29, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Digging up sod is hard.  Really hard in fact, when you also include the effort to make this compacted soil into something more usable.  Lasagna gardening is a way to avoid digging up the sod, though it still means bringing in soil amendments.

I started some lasagna gardens last week at our new Tuxedo place.  Sure there are already plenty of garden beds that need attention, but I if am going to eventually expand the gardens I may as well do it sooner than later-- and fall it the optimal time for getting started so the beds can compost all winter.
There is nothing wrong with a lawn, but I have always been a shade gardener and am willing to put in a great deal of work to create a sunny garden, expand my learning and give me more choices for bright summer colours.
This south-facing garden is already planned to be bright summer colours: oranges, red and yellows in plentiful combination.

Having just moved cross-country we had plenty of cardboard boxes at hand.  I put these down first to kill the grass and keep in the moisture which will help with decomposition and bring more earthworms into the mix.  I dug the leaves up from the gutter where they were nice and moist and partly decomposed already rather than raking dry leaves into a pile.  It looked like great stuff for this purpose, and all free for the taking.

It was about this point that I began to realize how much work this was and how ambitious my goals were.
 It takes a lot of mulch to cover this, a lot of wheelbarrows full. I cleaned in front of my house and many neighbours' houses in both directions.  

At this point I changed my mind from turning this all into garden and decided to leave a strip of lawn down the middle so the garden can be walked through.  I decided based on how much work it was (I am making a second one out front!) and how much material it would take, but in the end I think it turned out to be the right aesthetic decision as well.
Shortly after taking this picture I pulled back the material from the far end so the lawn/path would loop back to the driveway.  It has now all been covered with a brown layer, a green layer and a bit of soil, but I need to purchase some compost and peat to layer in.  
There just isn't enough grass clippings around for the space I am staking out.

Tomorrow I will be back at it bright and early, even with a bit of snow on the ground.

Sharing with Fertilizer Friday


Thursday, October 25, 2012


I am in the midst of creating two new garden beds at our Tuxedo home.

While there are plenty of existing beds that need attention, I
wanted a garden outside the south-facing living room window, and thought that grass between the sidewalk and front of the house seemed...well, unnecessary.  

I also wanted to try making them via the "lasagna garden"method vs. digging up the sod, which can be back-breaking work.  And the lasagna method is best done in the fall, so despite the mad rush I am taking on the challenge.

The beds I am making are big and require a lot of organic matter.  This means that I am putting on my rubber boots, grabbing my wheelbarrow & snow shovel and taking to the streets.

Before dropping their leaves the trees form a gorgeous connected arch over the road.
There are loads of wet, mushy leaves in the gutter at the side of the road and I am taking all I can get.  They may not be that rich in nutrients but they are plentiful and allow me to started.  

 I have "cleaned the streets" in front of my own house and those of my neighbours up and down the block.

And that is why they must think I am crazy.

Did I mention that by the time I am home from work and had dinner that I am "cleaning the streets" in the dark?  I know that if I didn't have the context and saw my neighbour doing the same, I would think they were obsessive-compulsive.  

Whereas I am just enthusiastic ;)


Sunday, October 21, 2012

CROCOSMIA - the three year wait

When I planted the Lucifer Crocosmia in the fall of 2009, I had not yet bothered to check what zone the Ontario cottage was, I just figured it was close to zone 6 (Toronto), so it was probably zone 5.  
Silly me.

The Crocosmia are not the only thing I planted at the cottage that was not meant for zone 4, but it is one of the few things out of its zone that has managed to not just survive, but to take off - it just took time.  Funnily enough  my neighbour in the city had a similar experience with his Crocs taking 3 years to really bloom well, and that was in zone 6.  
So maybe it is just the nature of the plant?
For the first 3 years the leaves came up with no blooms, (from about half of the bulbs I had planted). Since I like the foliage so much, I left it and let it grow up around the base of the tree with the hammock attached.  
It was interesting even if it didn't bloom.

2 years ago there were some blooms, but not many and they were scraggly, not like the vibrant ones above.

But this past summer they were there in all their glory.

Crocosmia is something I will miss now that I am in a zone 3, but I have a feeling that I may just try them one day here anyway, afterall people here say it is not so hard to push to zone 4...


Friday, October 12, 2012


The other weekend I went to the Manitoba Lily Society's annual fall sale despite 'trying' not to spend more on plants this year.  Oops.
I am liking attending these local plant sales.  Sorry Vesey's and Becks, but I do not need to order anything from you this fall!

That was after I had already returned to Costco's for more Bulbs to Blooms bulbs.  After all, I had to buy some stuff to plant at the cottage - as opposed to our new city home.

I purchased 17 assorted lilies from the bulk bin at the sale, so it will be a surprise to see what comes up.

I inter-planted them with 'Split Coronoa' daffodils of mixed colour.
In the city I do not want pinks, but at the cottage there is more leeway.  Bulk purchase gives up control of the colours but gives a great discount - and Winnipeggers, including me, love a good deal. so if there are pink lilies, so be it.

The bulbs looked very healthy and large and many of them ready to divide and multiply already.

At this point I am done buying plants or bulbs and just need to spend on some compost / soil mix and have a few yards delivered to the new house in the next few weeks.
I will be glad I did come spring.

Do any of you freshen up your soil in the fall?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

YARD ART - The Shady Lady

We bought the Shady Lady a few years back at a going out of business sale at a garden centre - a good bargain since statuary can be expensive.

In Toronto we had her in the far back corner, so one really had to be out seated at the table to see her in all her glory.

The brown spots at her neck and near her hand are from a failed attempt at encouraging moss to cover her using a beer slurry.
But I have not given up yet.  
Once we find her a home in Tuxedo I will be back at it and try again, this time covering her with plastic and keeping her warm and damp indoors while the initial moss takes root.

While she will lose some of the finer details I definitely want to see her covered from head to toe
in fuzzy green.  Well, maybe I will leave her eyes uncovered so she can see...


Monday, October 08, 2012

MACRO MONDAY - between a rock and a hard place

Such hope, a tree deciding to grow in this tiny crevice. 
Will it prevail, grow large and healthy roots and eventually split open its host?

Boulder or a stone?
Without context one can only guess the tree's chances...


Friday, October 05, 2012

TUXEDO OVERVIEW - front yard

Front Yard

75' Wide Lot
Planning the landscaping for Tuxedo is very different from creating the Ontario Cottage Garden.  That garden almost seemed to create itself once I decided to use the whole property and take my cue from the woodland environment. The Tuxedo yard has more opportunity to hold distinct gardens vs. being one large garden itself.  
It is a bit daunting to be honest.   

One day when I was wondering where to start, I picked up a copy of Canadian Gardening from 2006 and came across an article called "Demystifying Design" offering advice from Thomas Sparling on how to approach planning.
Perfect timing and good advice.

As per his advice I have taken photos and measurements so I can map the whole thing out on graph paper to ensure proportions while I plan different options over the winter.

Below is a photo overview of the front yard.
12.5' between gardens
 I am not sure about why the Globe Cedars are here, but I wonder if the they get progressively  more sun from left to right.  Assuming they were planted at the same time, it is not a bad hypothesis.  Otherwise I can not understand why one would want to draw the eyes from smallest to largest in this configuration.

South Front Garden

The potentially invasive Bishop's weed is well contained.  I do not know what the shrubs are. Check out the pictures below to see if you recognize them.
Pruning out the dead material will be a priority for the fall, nothing particular, just what will have accumulated over the years.  It will breathe more easily come spring.  [editor's note Dec. 30th, it will have to wait until spring]
Any ideas what this plant is?
If it blooms, great, if not, it's days may be numbered - or I may add Clematis to it.
[thanks the Master Gardeners of Manitoba for letting me know this is a Weigela which should have long lasting deep rose coloured blooms in spring]

Once again the Goutweed is remarkably well contained, the edging must go down fairly deep.  I have actually noticed well contained Goutweed at more than a few neighbours on the block.

Any ideas what this plant is?
[Thanks to the Master Gardeners of Manitoba for letting me know that this may be Amur Maple]

North Front Garden

Daylilies, some sort of mini-Solomon's Seal and Goutweed under the Blue Spruce.

Daylilies have likely not been divided in years and years.
Only a couple of bloom stalks lead me to believe these either have a) not been divided so long they are terribly overcrowded, b) they do not get enough sun here, or c) a combination of both.

How high I trim up the tree is a big decision.  Just the dead ones, or more?

The lawn extends beyond the gardens out to the street.  I may push the globe cedars out there.

Goutweed and a couple of small cedars are not particularly exciting, but the peony seems to have bloomed and that gives me hope for how much sun it gets here, after all, despite the mature elms around it is south facing after all.

I am seriously thinking about undertaking the very big project of using these cedars to create a hedge between our driveway and our backyard.

There are so many white flowers that I might be able to have this entire long garden white.  
Or as they say, a night garden.
Spring, summer and fall.

Hostas all in a row in front of the hedge would be nice, but this is one of the sunnier places and I have no shortage of shadier spots for them.  This will better serve as an opportunity to explore more sun-loving plants after my shady Toronto gardens. [editor's note, Dec. 30th, the hostas have been moved into the north garden]
Any idea on what this hedge is?

Very tall Asiatic Lilies are growing south of the entrance as well as some Lamuim.  Interesting mix since the former prefers full sun and the latter part shade or more.
I'm not crazy about the red mulch but eventually it will break down.

There is no question for me that the first thing I am going to do is to create a "Lasagna" garden (one that does not require removing the grass first) in order to get rid of that grass between the sidewalk and the current garden.
Those big shrubs casting shadow shade will need some serious pruning. 
Are they even needed at all?
Any idea what these shrubs are?

I have decided that this is where I will learn about Alpine gardening.  I already bought of Sempervivum and assorted succulents at the local plant society fall sale. And I will be able to gather stones of decent size from the side of the road on the way home from the cottage.

These daylilies have likely not been divided for years.  I will have lots of material for Guerilla Gardening.