Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I should stop calling my feeders "bird feeders".  
They are equal parts squirrel and rabbit feeders.

Squirrels eat bulbs and tip the feeders so I do not love that they dine on my dime.
Bunnies are cute and they just hang out below the feeders, so I do not mind, but check in with me in the spring when tender new shoots will make a delicious bunny buffett and see how I feel about them then.

In an effort to make the feeders less accessible to the squirrels I removed a lot of the lower dead branches close to the feeders.  I am probably kidding myself that it is the solution since squirrels can launch themselves through the air a fair distance, but I could not come home to a spilled feeder one more time with our trying something.

Despite having lots of trees I do not have too many places for feeders, so they are both on the same tall spruce in the backyard at the moment.

Good exercise and to be honest perhaps I am proving a point that gardening does not have to stop because of the cold weather.

New and improved?
While I hope to have put a dent in the squirrels' use, the bunnies do not care how inaccessible the feeders are.  This little guy was back grazing the next day. 
The remaining lower branches are scraggly with some greenery that I have been using for my urns and centerpieces but come a warmer day they too will come down leaving it a little tidier and less shady under this tree

Sharing with Nature Notes


Saturday, January 26, 2013

WILT - Positioning, positioning, positioning

The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live. 
~Mortimer Adler

I have had to learn over and over to pay attention to exactly how a transplant is sitting in its new home before I bury it, step back and appraise   Often I am so caught up in the transplanting process, especially when adding things to the forest floor where digging a hole is hard work, that I just want to get it done and move on to the next.

But making sure you have positioned the plant properly can make a huge difference.   
In a previous post I shared my goal with this space, to make a triangular fern garden leading the eye up to the big rock in back.  When filling in the gap above I first placed the ferns facing away from the path.

Oops, it did not really serve its purpose of filling in the gap when facing away.

I then quickly jumped back in and turned it around.  What a difference!

 Heck, I like my neighbours but I did not plant this fern for their benefit, it really needed to be facing me.  Of course it seems obvious but the real trick is thinking of that when you are in the trenches, so to speak.

Sharing with Fertilizer Friday

What I Learned Today (WILT) is a recurring series of posts about those thing I tend to learn over and over, and seem destined to keep repeating.  The basics.  
The simple things that are not so simple.

Making a record of the error of my ways is designed to help me to kick the habit.

Time will tell.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


As every gardener soon learns, priorities in the garden are always changing.  
I allow myself to become distracted by creative ideas; maintenance can wait.

Despite proclaiming in a previous post that the first thing I was going to do was to create my lasagna gardens, it turns out that the very first thing I did was  to hang a bird feeder.  Not quite the same as a creative distraction but it did share a certain instinctual decision making process.  It was just something I had to do.
Sometimes you have to do things when they occur to you or miss the moment.
I find that to be particularly true in the garden.

An important part of gardening for me is creating a landscape that is both beautiful and that contributes to its environment.  Feeding the birds is an enjoyable obligation. I have the resources and the time if I choose to and those little Chickadees deserve my respect...how those tiny things do not freeze is one of nature's miracles.

So despite having a long list of actual work in the garden to do it surprised me, and it did not surprise me, when the first thing I did was hang up that feeder.


Sharing with Nature Notes & Outdoor Wednesday

Thursday, January 17, 2013

WEED WAR - who would win?

How about this for a plan to get rid of all of the Creeping Bellflower in my front garden:

I pit it against another well-suited aggressive plant that I like better, like Obedient Plant (left). Since the bed is edged all of the way around we could consider it a cage match...

In a war between these aggressive beauties, who would win?
Lay down your bets.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


The list below is taken from a permanent page on my blog.  Today I am adding plants that I came across in my T&M Seed Catalogue.  I am not sure if they are the best place to order from or how they got my name, but I am glad they did.  They got me thinking about seeds whereas I have only used plants in the past.

I am not going to be afraid to try zone 4 plants (but will have to be sure to remember which they are so I do not plant all the risky ones in the same area) and I am going to keep a Buy list (B) and a consideration list (C) for next year and not buy everything I would like this year since I am just learning and it could all go awry.

So wherever I end up buying them from, these are the winners that have piqued my interest:

 Watermelon, Yellow Baby - random I know, but I want to integrate some 'veg' in my perennial garden, have always wanted to try my hand at watermelon and I will have more room this year before the garden fills in too much. (B)

Aconitum (Monkshood) 'Carmichaelli' - Whenever I have seen this live it has been less impressive than in magazines, I will hold off for a year. (C-3)

Asclepias (Milkweed) - "Gay Butterflies Mixed". Orange with red and yellow accents, perfect colours for my new south-facing lasagna (SFL) garden; it seemed "appropriate". (B-4)

Aquilegia (Columbine) 'Firecracker' - more orange/red/yellow for the SFL and I grew to like Columbine at the Ontario cottage where they volunteered. (C-3)
'Caerulea' - a shorty for the front of the front border. (B-3)
'William Guinness Doubles' - Without spurs they look quite different. (B-3)

Catananche (Cupid's Dart) 'Caerulea' - Never heard of this plant before, but I have room to experiment with blue/purple flowers/ (B-3)

Coreopsis 'Presto' - I already have some Coreopsis from last fall's local plant sale.  Let me see how they do before I invest in more. (C- 4)

Delphinium 'New Zealand Hybrids' - The one exception to the rule where I will accept a mix that has pink.  I have loved this plant for a long time but it has been years since I had a sunny enough garden for it. (B-3)

Dianthus 'Crimsonia' - I am not usually a fan of Dianthus, I think they are too plain, much like I feel about carnations as cut flowers. But these red beauties have frilly edges.  I would not have guessed what they were by the bloom. (B-3)

Echinacea 'White Swan' - I have some already from the fall plant sale, let us see how they do first. (C-3)

Echinops (Globe Thistle) - Sure their foliage makes it look like a roadside weed, but what is a weed after all? (B-3)

Foxglove 'Pam's Choice' - I am thinking that this could work well under the spruce near the house in the front yard, behind the alpine garden. (B-4)

Helenium 'Sunshine Hybrids' - Bright colours later in the season is something every garden can use. (B-4) 

Heliopsis 'Golden Double Hybrids' - Something I have never grown before. (B-4) 
'Sunburst' - This one has variegated foliage. (B-4)

Ipomea 'Hazlewood Blues' - About the only annual I am getting this year, though I know they self seed enthusiastically. (C)
  'Heavenly Blue' - for Guerrilla gardening - I know just where to put them. (B)

Lobelia 'Queen Victoria' - These 3 foot plants will be very different from the trailing annual I think of when I think  'lobelia' now. (B-4)

Malva 'Snow White' - Never heard of Malva before but I will  a lot of variety with my whites so I will happily try it out. (B-3/4)

Perennial Geranium 'Buxton Blue' - They served me well at the cottage I think they will like having a bit more sun here. (B-4) 

Poppy ' Brilliant' - A classic red. (B-4) 

Primula 'Noverna Deep Blue' - I need to check on this more since the catalogue says in blooms 'summer into fall' but I thought they bloomed exclusively in the spring. (B-4)
'Camelot Cream' - Will look good in the moon garden.

Prunella ' Freelander Blue' - I had never heard of it before; though it is short it blooms from May to October so I am in. (B-4)

Physotegia (Obedient Plant) ' Summer Snow' - I already have this listed on the page, this particular one is supposed to be less invasive than some. (C-4)

Sedum 'Turkish Delight' - Another later summer bloomer. (B-3)

Veronica (Speedwell) - Blue on blue. Catalogue says zone 4, but web says some are zone 3. (B-4)

Okay, so the list may be a bit too long, but at least I have step 1 done.  Step 2 will be to get feedback from locals on which of these zone 4 plants actually have a chance here.  That could really narrow down the field.

Here is the list as it as before these latest additions:

Old favourites I could not do without:


Creeping Jenny
Ferns of all kinds
Asiatic / Oriental / Day Lilies



Saturday, January 12, 2013



A warm bath, a glass of wine, jazzy music and the new Thompson & Morgan seed catalogue (and a pen)...what a great way to spend an evening.

I have come to the realization that with the size of garden beds I now have and the full gardens that I prefer the only financially feasible thing for me to do (even with great prices at the local plant enthusiasts association),  is to learn to plant from seed.  There is no comparison, I can buy a single perennial for $4 or a pack of 25-500 seeds.

I have never planted seeds before, so I have some research to do.  

Feel free to provide any advice.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

CREEPING BELLFLOWER - the pretty weed

Thanks to a reader for identifying the pesky weed I mentioned in a previous post as Creeping Bellflower.  I had seen it around before, but never in such numbers.

Really, there is a lot of it!

It was practically the only flower in my north front garden in the fall.

Oh my.

 According to the Alberta Invasive Plants Council I have many years of hand pulling ahead of me. 

The Vancouver Courrier suggests that I could nuke the whole area by laying down some tarp and cutting off sun to the area for a few years.  I can't see myself doing that since I do not know whet else could be growing there that I would like to keep.  

And of course I suppose it will respond well to the compost I covered it with in the fall.  This could be why it is suggested to wait a season to get to know your gardens before doing too much, LOL.

At least I know now; feel free to pass on any advice.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


The bunny rabbits that are plentiful in my new neighbourhood are terribly cute, like this one marching down my sidewalk.
As I understand it I will also find them to be terribly hungry come spring.  

Not surprisingly I did not have to worry about rabbits in downtown Toronto, nor did we have them at the cottage.  They present a new challenge for me; like the deer I love having nature in my yard, but knowing they will want to snack on my hard work come warmer weather I am classifying them as "frenemies" (friends + enemies).

Nestled under a Christmas tree decoration on our front porch.  Too cute!

Do you have a love-hate relationship with critters who consider your gardens their buffet table?


Sunday, January 06, 2013


There is no time like the present, so today when refilling the bird feeders I took the opportunity to try and set them up in a less squirrel friendly way.  I just go through the seed too fast when they tip it over; the feeders are meant to be a bird feeders, not bird, squirrel, bunny feeders (the bunnies love to scavenge beneath). 

It involved pruning back a bunch of the dead branches at the base of the tall spruce in the back.   Who says you can not garden in the winter?
I was outside at a balmy -9 for a few hours (before and after pics to follow another day) and I just want to state for the record what a nice way it was to spend the afternoon outside in Winnipeg, in January. 

Saturday, January 05, 2013


At the family cottage outside of Winnipeg we have a cute little bunk house for guests.
Between the bunkie and the main cottage is this cute little strip of fir trees that have been there for quite a while despite their small stature.

My mother has been 'topping' the trees to keep the height manageable since she does not want them growing up and splitting the yard entirely in two.  Personally I think it would be okay to let them grow as tall as possible but not too high to be able to top them still, which would give the bunkie more of a sense of privacy from the rest of the cottage.  

They self seeded there and are so dense that when I was looking for evergreeens to transplant I could not take any from here because digging out one or two meant disturbing the roots of many because they are so tightly packed.

Last summer I harvested and transplanted Forget-Me-Nots and Asters and planted daffodil bulbs in and around the strip to really make it more of a focal point all season long.

I am a big fan of working with what you have instead of starting from scratch.  Not just because starting from scratch is for people who have a crew of helpers and infinite budget, but because there is something to be said for respecting and working with what nature has put there first.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

TUXEDO OVERVIEW - north side

This space in back of the daylilies at the side of the driveway may become part of the alpine garden I am going to start at the base of this big old fir with the succulents I bought at the local horticultural society fall plant sale.

I have surmised that the stones currently under this tree are made up of the old sidewalk once it was replaced by interlocking stones.  I can easily harvest other rocks from the side of the road en route from the cottage to add to the Alpine look.

This shrub outside the front living room window will get a severe pruning since it appears to be blocking the window substantially.

And the same goes for this one outside the southern living room window, even more so.

Currently it blocks light from a whole pane of the bay window. 

Of course to understand how best to prune it I should probably know what it is, so if you know, please speak up.

An odd shaped block of grass has now been cut up and left as a strip/path with the introduction of my new lasagna garden which I put in this south facing spot to allow me to explore more sun loving plants.

The cedars are on my hit list.  Don't worry that just means I will plant them somewhere else, I would never just kill them off.

Originally just a minimally sized bed along the wall.

It has been expanded, the new bed at least twice the size of the old bed, leaving a path between two gardens.

And the cedars now awkwardly protrude from the garden's edge.  Figuring out this garden will take up a lot of my time this winter planning and this summer getting it planted and up and running. 

Hot colours to celebrate the sun is the general idea for colour scheme.  Appropriate or too obvious?  I guess we will have to wait and see how it turns out.
I love reds, yellows and particularly oranges, so I will run out of plants to try out.