Sunday, April 28, 2013


I find that a good way to ensure I follow up on plans to guerrilla garden is to make a public commitment, so here goes.
I am going to plant some Allium Molly under this tree, in the brown patch where they should not get cut down by city lawn mowers.  This path is right along the river and yesterday there were plenty of cyclists and joggers using it and the numbers will only increase with the warm weather.

They deserve to some spring blooming plants, do they not?

I am choosing Allium Molly for two reasons:
1) I can buy them from the Vesey's fundraising catalogue in support of the Winnipeg Bulb Project, a not-for-profit I have recently started whose goal is to get people in urban areas connected to their natural environment. (Why not support it by "liking" our Facebook page?)

2) They can be planted this spring for blooms this same season. They will not be as robust as they will be in future years but I am feeling impatient. I want to make my neighbourhood more beautiful now, so they will do fine.

WEEKLY TOP SHOT - viper's bugloss

I just love this shot. I think it is the contrast between the rough gray bark it the background and the colourful and delicate blooms.



Yesterday while I was out enjoying the +18 degree weather and pruning some trees, I spotted some ants, this ladybug and even a few butterflies.

So I was right. Spring has officially arrived.

Sharing with Macro Monday

Saturday, April 27, 2013


While this sure looks like cobwebs, it is unlikely that Manitoba has a spider so hardy she burrows under the snow spinning her webs at -35.
 It is mold. Snow mold. It is not a big danger but the sooner the ground is dry enough to be raked, the better to get some air in there and get the dead stuff out.

The streets feel particularly empty without the massive piles of snow along the curbs and 3 feet of snow spreading across the lawns as far as the eye can see. There is noticeably more space here now. I do not expect seasoned Winnipeggers to notice it in the same way but for a recently transplanted Torontonian, it makes a difference.
Underneath the back spruce we have a winter's worth of accumulated bird feed detritus. Aside from the bird seed a tree this size loses lots of needles and even some small branches over the course of the winter and you can tally them all come spring; 6 months of natural decay laid out before you on a white blanket is not anything we got to see in Toronto. 
A unique measure of the passing of time.

With a few flying insects making their appearance and plenty of geese overhead & ducks in the river, and the thermometer not even dipping below zero last night for the first time, I declare that spring has officially arrived in Winnipeg. 

How do you officially recognize spring where you are?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


 While I have already written a few posts about my two new lasagna garden beds here in Winnipeg, I actually tried my first lasagna garden at the Ontario cottage last summer.  It was much smaller and I did not research it as thoroughly, meaning I hope the plants come back but I will not be surprised if I have to redo it. 

I rushed it and it may not have enough newspapers, is likely not deep enough and without layers of green and brown material.  But you have to start somewhere; live and learn.                                                                  

The white really pops between the taller Bugloss & trees as backdrop and the slightly smaller greens in front. The Yellow Loosestrife are in great contrast to the more numerous and more subtle blue Bugloss.
(When all of these are done blooming the daylilies take over.)

I wanted to extend the Lakefront Garden back to the Old Broken Tree. What use is that particular strip of grass in one of the sunnier locations I had (city or lake)? I love greens but I wanted more colour.
Step one, lay down newspaper. 
In hindsight probably not as thick as I should have laid it.

Steps 2 and 3, soil and plants. A proper lasagna garden would have alternating layers that would compost and help to break up the grass underneath, here I just have some paper and soil. 
In went Daisies and Chicory from the side of the road . Here they are being stored in water in the paddleboat until they are ready to be planted. Keeping their roots in water is very important, when there are so many to plant it can be a while before they are back in the ground. 
It was still missing some 'oomph' and some height so I brought in the Viper's Bugloss, which due to its long taproot was a poor choice to put into this rather shallow bed, but there you have it, one could almost say the same for the Chicory.
In the short term it looked amazing, then quite a bit of it died back, after all I was transplanting them in full bloom into a too-shallow bed. I got carried away.

I am thinking about finding a place for this trifecta in my new front yard garden: Viper's Bugloss, Chicory and Daisies

Previous lasagna garden posts

NATURE NOTES - ducks, duck, rabbitt

The ice on the river has given way to open waters, and those specs of ice you see floating down the middle are not ice at all but Mallard Ducks.  You will have to trust me since you cannot hear them quacking.
 Canada Geese have been here for awhile, but these are the first ducks I have seen. Clearly we are making progress towards actual spring weather.
 It is hard to make out but look closely and you will see a small bunny rabbit having a rest under our front bench.  Compare that pic to this pic form an earlier post and you will see clear proof that the snow is slowly, slowly receding.


Sunday, April 21, 2013


This is the third post about this Lilac tree. Following a tree through the seasons I got from
When we bought our home in August it looked like a shrub. Rather bushy, not much personality.

October when we moved in I could see why. It was in need of a serious pruning and had been improperly pruned in the past, trunks cut a few feet up resulting in lots of suckers giving it its overgrown, shrub-like look.

In January we had some mild days, not many, but one was all I needed. 
So I got to work with my secateurs.

A good start.

There, tidier already.

Now that the snow around its base has receded I was out at it again yesterday, this time with a handsaw. 
 The bigger trunks are slow by hand but it is good exercise and I am eager to be outside after a long winter.  A trunk-per-weekend for the next few weeks will have a it ready for spring blooming.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


There are lots of options for septic systems at the cottage, not many of them pretty.  Ours is not so bad, buried tanks somewhat above ground given the slope. A wooden retaining wall that jumps out at me as unnatural. 
Functional? Yes.       Fashionable? Hardly.  
There is something unnatural about perfecting straight parallel lines, like right angles they are exceedingly rare in nature. I need to plant vines in front of it, I am just having trouble deciding which: Virginia Creeper? English Ivy? Shade tolerant Clematis??

  Nothing deep rooted should be planted above them but that still leaves plenty of options. The pink flowers below were part of a wildflower mix the previous owners added years ago and the majority of the daisies are ones that I have transplanted from the side of the road, mostly last year after trying a small number 2 years ago and being happy with their success rate.
There were a fair number of Trumpet Daffodils blooming in the septic garden before this photo was taken. 
And afterward Black-Eyed-Susans from roadside harvesting and Purple Coneflower that I have transplanted from the city where they were seeding into The Strip where I did not want tall plants growing.

Now that I have discovered the world of seeds I will take some Echinacea and Rudbeckia seeds with me for this space when I am at the cottage at the start of May. It may officially be too early to direct sow there but I only have one shot since I live at a distance and it is definitely worth that shot. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

DRY CREEK BED - part 2 of 2

In part one I described the process of adding a lovely dry creek bed beside the main path at our Ontario cottage.  I loved the organic process I went through. No mapping out the full vision in advance, instead seeing incremental changes that could make it better when I had time to work on it.

Once the heavy lifting was done I got to "dress" it. The stones are the bones but there was much more to be done to really highlight and take full advantage my efforts.

May 2012
  • First I removed the wood ferns that were on a hump between the Periwinkle and the creek so they would not block the view
  • Then I added Ostrich Ferns along the far border to highlight define the creek. The ferns were  harvested from the side of the road
  • Then I added moss. 2 massive 'buttons' of beautiful, lush green moss that I harvested from the side of the road
  • I am adding small ferns and Astilbe. Not sure if the ferns are young or just small, time will tell. And not sure how the Astilbe will do here, but it is less dry than where they struggled before, and if they do well I think they will fit in and look natural even though they do not grow naturally here. 
July 2012
  • I also added Sundrops to the moss buttons. I hope they do not grow too big there since the reason I moved the ferns out in the first place was so they did not block the view. It is nice to have some colour though, that yellow really pops amidst the greens.
  • And finally I have started to add a moss border beneath the 'canopy' of the ferns to define the edge of the creek bed even further.

So while it will mean raking the rocks and moss border each year to keep it clear of leaves I am very happy with the final result.  Or perhaps I should say the result-to-date because you never know what I may think of adding next!

Part 1 of 2
Sharing with Foliage Follow Up, Nature Notes, 
Outdoor Wednesday, Rurality Blog Hop & Fertilizer Friday

Monday, April 15, 2013

SEED UPDATE - so far so good

As far as I can tell I am doing okay with my seeds. 

Almost all of them have germinated and while I am going to feel bad about thinning them down to one per cell, there are a few that I must admit look a little too leggy.

Far left: 20 Shasta Daisy
Middle: 8 white Lupin
Far right: 12 mixed Lupin

I will plant the rest of my seeds tonight. 
It does not feel like I should be rushed with weather like we are having but the clock is ticking nonetheless.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

DRY CREEK BED - part 1 of 2

For the first few years there was not too much 'garden-esque' south of our path other than the spring daffodils and some Periwinkle.

At the bottom of the stairs, a relatively prominent place, I began adding ferns alongside the path to green it up and provide some fill between us and our neighbour. 

June 2010
Many, many transplants later things were looking great.  The flat exposed stone in the center acted as a boarder keeping the Periwinkle in check, but it also became covered in a slippery and slimy leaf mulch.

June 2011
When more stones than expected arrived to bolster the slope in the Driveway Garden I saw an opportunity. 

At first I spaced the stones apart slightly; I liked being able to see the flat rock beneath them. 

However the best way to get water to my newly planted ferns was across the creek, a dangerously ankle-twisting proposition, so I added more stones.  Tightly packed stones do not move around nearly as much.

May 2012
Last year I extended the creek up to where it runs into a fairly large boulder where it feels more natural that it somehow disappears. 

July 2012

CAMOUFLAGE - what was i thinking?

While I am intrinsically drawn to more earthy, natural elements I have realized that there is a practical reason for choosing something like a colourful daylily for my iPhone case.
Like this shot.

Or this beauty.

In these days of mass customization it made sense to me to get something made from one of my own photos.  

I chose this close up of moss I took at the family cottage while making my new moss and spruce garden.  The juxtaposition of something so natural, age-old and static covering something so modern and on-the-go appealed to me.
I thought I was so clever until an observant, well-meaning critic asked me how I would find it after putting it down out in the garden.  Come to think of it I am not sure I will. 

I just might end up with 2 'seasonal' iPhone cases!

Sharing with Weekend Flowers, Blooming Friday, Floral Friday Fotos & Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

Thursday, April 11, 2013

TAKING STOCK - plans slowly coming together

With plants overwintering in my parents' garden and both seeds and plants ordered online, it is time I take stock of exactly what I have for each of my new gardens. Only then can I think about how to arrange them, how many I actually need and how much room I will have left for direct sowing (or more plants from the Friends' annual Mother's Day spring plant sale).

South Garden (hot summer colours)
Swiss Chard (seeds)
Columbine, Bordeaux Barlow - 30 seeds
California Poppy, orange  (seeds x2)
Dianthus, "Brilliant"- 250 seeds
Lupine, "My castle" - 100 seeds
Oriental Poppy. "Brilliant" - 200 seeds
This feels like quite enough, especially when you take into account that I can fill any 'empty spots' with seeds. There is a bit more yellow than I planned, so perhaps I will move some into the front garden with the purples.  

Moon Garden (all white)
Moonflower (seeds)
White Lupin (seeds) 
Shasta Daisy (seeds)
Alyssum (seeds)
Balloon Flower, "Fuji White" - 50 seeds
Candytuft, "Snowflake" - 100 seeds
Goat's Beard - 600 seeds
100 white daffodils
Here it also feels like quite enough, after all, this garden is rife with creeping bellflower so I should not plant too much this first year.

Front Garden (blue/purple with orange/yellow highlights)
Primula x5
Lots of spring seeds but not lots of summer or fall colour. This is where I need to focus my attention. I am thiking of adding Chicory & Viper's Bugloss seeds since I have fallen for these roadside weeds over the last few summers at the Ontario cottage.

Front Spruce (Alpine garden)
160 giant Crocus
I just need some more Foxglove seeds here.

"mystery plant" x6
Big Blue Hosta x2


Sharing wtih Fertilizer Friday

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I went to CostCo on the weekend and despite the three feet of snow in the back yard I left with more than a few dozen bulbs.  The prices of Bulbs To Blooms are just great.  They are the same brand I tried in the fall so I am putting all my eggs in one basket with my new gardens. 
I hope they bloom well!!!

Here is that I bought; each bag was just $13.50.
On the advice of one of my followers I am going to push my zone and try Crocosmia that I love so much in my zone 4 cottage garden in Ontario. I have a well protected south facing wall after all...
With 65 in a bag I will be happy if a third of them survive.

I have wanted Liatris for my own property since planting it at my in-laws last year. They can have a big impact en masse. I need to figure what how large an area 80 of them will cover spaced 5" apart. 
Any educated guesses?

I have a two bags of lilies. One Asiatic orange mix containing 9 each of Royal Sunset and Twosome (both orange) as well as a Tiger lily mix with 6 each of Henryi (orange) and Lady Alice a white lily with an orange centre that I have decided to add to the moon garden, to spice up all of that white just a bit.

If I am to allow any colour to tinge my Moon Garden, it will be orange.

Boy oh boy do I ever feel like planting them; I forgot just for a moment about the snow falling outside...

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS - grouping forget-me-nots

My most recommended (and oft employed) design strategy in the garden is '"Proximity"...  

Placing similar plants together (rather than leaving them spread out across the garden) is a fantastic example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. And how often does that happen in life? Take advantage where you can!

Given Forget-me-nots are such self-seeders some will not come back in exactly the same place year after year. Close, but not exact, so some transplanting will be required to get a look like the one below where the flowers group around a specific feature. 
In this case I moved small sprigs of FMN from the immediate area until they had the rock completely surrounded.  Just a single rock in the middle of Periwinkle Hill
Eye-catching but not ostentatious. 

This is the exact look I go for in my wild woodland garden: 
however unlikely it is the flowers naturalize this way, it is technically possible

Last year there were even enough FMN to surround all of the rocks to the right as well.
I choose to transplant them beside rocks for two reasons:

1) I am building off of the rock, already a beautiful feature on its own 
2) Quite frankly the FMN can use the help. They are very wispy and very light coloured and by providing an immediate backdrop their blooms pop.  

After all, the devil is in the details.

Sharing with Nature Notes & Outdoor Wednesday

Saturday, April 06, 2013

SEED UPDATE - i need help

Last weekend I finally planted seeds for the first time indoors since a grade 6 science experiment.

I have started on what feels like a long and arduous journey full of lurking dangers like drying out or  'damping off', but I have been lead to believe that it will have both financial and spiritual rewards.

I am already off schedule.
  The Lupins are sprouting after 3 days, not 20-30 and the Daisies instead of 10-20 are also sprouting at 6. Some Lupin have grown so fast they are already touching the top of the little plastic greenhouse seed tray.

What happened? Too moist? Does it matter?  Do I just leave them and hope the rest slow down? I will strive do more reading up on it but if you have any advice please do not hesitate.

What I planted:
Shasta daisies copy
20 White Shasta Daisies for the front moon garden.

16 white Lupine, also for the front Moon Garden.

A wild garden in the countryside containing spring flowering lupin and phlox. Stock Photo - 3378530
22 mixed Lupin for the cottage roadside.
Sharing with  Tootsie Time's Fertilizer Friday

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