Thursday, July 18, 2013


I am about to head out on three weeks of glorious vacation to our Ontario cottage which will include a number of visits with folks we have not seen since leaving Ontario almost a year ago, and of course gardening, lots and lots of gardening.

Without a computer at the cottage I will be relying on my iPhone to keep me connected via Facebook and Twitter (@astudentgardener) rather than updating this blog, so why not follow me on both or either?

They are quick ways to share photos and ideas.
When I am inspired I make a quick post, and in fact quite a bit of content that doesn't make it into a longer blog post makes it into these channels, particularly Facebook, so why not give it a whirl so we can stay in touch?

Last time I went on vacation I had some adventures.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Vee's was the first blog party I ever entered into and although it is not a gardening linky per se, I always find I have a few close ups of flowers that would make nice note cards.  

  Though the rules for Vee's party indicate that you should use photos you have already published, I wanted to change them up a bit and so I have added simple phrases you are likely to see on a note card. 
 Perhaps one day I will get around to actually making them available to order on Etsy.

 For now, I hope you enjoy.

Sharing with Vee's Note Card party

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

FOLIAGE MYSTERIES - plant identification

With so many plants in the world it is not surprising that we cannot recognize them all by their foliage. Even when we narrow it down to plants in our local area there is just too much variety, at least for me there is.

This is where the internet comes in because it allows me to connect with more knowledgeable
and experienced gardeners.

I rely most often on the following Facebook groups:
Friendly Facebook folks help me to identify this a Heliopsis.

If you are going to join these groups it is a good idea to follow this advice posted by Drew Monthie a Garden Consultant, advocate of "plant-driven design" and one of Plant Identification's frequent and helpful users:
Use a camera that can capture detail
Take a side shot of the entire plant
Take an overhead shot of the leaves
Take a closeup of a leaf
Note what other plants are growing nearby
This morning I downloaded two different free apps on my iPhone.
Leafsnap is an app that requires you to place a leaf on a white background for best visibility and then upload it to their database for recognition. I look forward to trying it.
Plantifier is a crowdsourced app where you upload a photo for others to comment on and you can comment and help identify plants that others have uploaded. I quite enjoyed browsing other photos and commenting.

I have also had luck e-mailing questions to my local Master Gardeners' Association - in Winnipeg to the Manitoba chapter and at the Ontario cottage to the Halliburton chapter.

And now let us discuss my most important online community - you, my readers. For example, you  helped me to identify the extensive and nasty Creeping Bellflower throughout my property.

Maybe you can do it again?

The plant in the centre is about 2 feet tall, in full sun in a perennial bed and does not show any signs of blooming quite yet. It is crammed between a black currant bush on the right and the darker green Heliopsis on the left.

Any and all thoughts are welcomed.



Sharing with Blooming Tuesday, Garden Tuesday, Nature Notes and Foliage Follow Up

Monday, July 15, 2013


 Bright, sunny daylily.

I believe this may be a Peony but I cannot recall for certain. This image is so soft and gentle I can picture it being used in a shampoo ad - wouldn't you want your hair to smell like this?

Rare colour for a Peony.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

RED LILY BEETLE - disgusting

I have red lily beetles on my lilies in the back yard and sun garden, though they do no appear to have made their way into the front garden and my six foot tall 'lily trees'.
 It looks like these lilies that came with my house will be orange, a colour I am happy with and will fight to preserve.

While the beetle itself is just a beetle and therefore not too disgusting, it lays its eggs in its own excrement which is the disgusting part.
 Here you can see them clinging to the underside of the plant and you can see where entire leaves are missing.  

Since there are not pesticides that target only the lily beetle and leave the beneficial insects I pick them by hand, the same way I tackled my slug problem in my shady Toronto gardens.
 I told you it was disgusting.

Sharing with Outdoor Wednesday & Garden Tuesday

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

NATURE NOTES - leopard frogs & deer

I feel like my new Winnipeg home is halfway between our old Toronto home and cottage. It is that much more green, peaceful and relaxed, our chiminea is a close second to the firepit and of course we have wildlife.  I have previously mentioned rabbits and deer and ducks and of course squirrels and birds. Now I have frogs to add  to the list; if I had seen a frog in my yard in Toronto I would have thought a neighbour's pet had escaped.  Seriously.

Frog #1 was down our window well, behind the Heliopsis and Lily-of-the-valley.  

Deep, dark, dank, but he seemed happy.

I fished him out with a bucket, showed him to the neighbour's kids and then released it into the thicket of daylilies out of the hot sun.
 I never would have found him except for the fact that it is important for us Winnipegs to ensure we have no standing water on the property. I know you may be thinking 'that is important for everyone', and that is what I would have said before moving here, now that I live here I realize it really is more important to take that battle seriously. Thank goodness the dragonflies are starting to make their appearance.

The next night I saw another, bigger frog in the back garden. I know we are only half a block from the river so maybe we should  not be so surprised, but seeing these frogs on our property was shocking and it really makes it feel we are living in the country.

Last night a doe and two fawns strolled down the opposite side of the street while I was in the Sun garden.

Perhaps they are the ones who have eaten my rose? 

I do not care, they can eat my rose anytime.

Sharing with Nature Notes and Camera Critters

Sunday, July 07, 2013


Today I learned about Nature Manitoba by going on their fundraising garden tour. Their stated goal "is to promote an appreciation and understanding of nature, and to preserve and enjoy it." which is completely aligned with the goals of my organization, the Winnipeg Bulb Project
My membership dues will be in the mail tomorrow. 

great cause and a beautiful day to explore some Manitoba gardening.  Of the 8 homes who volunteered their time and energy on the tour I am going to share two.

Twice in the last two weeks I have had the pleasure of seeing my friend Gerard's garden in bloom.  He has three acres only 10 minutes from my home but it feels like it is in the country and he has already had four different garden tours through this year.
Two weeks ago it was all about the poppies for me.  Even from a great distance the red ones in the upper right corner of the photo still pop.

Today so much had changed.
Yes there were still gorgeous Peony blooms, but now the Delphiniums were holding court, their delightful purple spires calling to me from across the spacious yard.

In particular they are splendid paired with Maltese Cross (which I put in my garden for the first time this year and am thrilled to see how it looks once established).
This enormous white Peony has solidified my thinking that white belongs anywhere. 
What an excellent foil to the surrounding riot of colour!
So elegant.

You are not dreaming, Gerard maintains a grass labyrinth, and not just any grass but beautiful ribbon grass.  I cannot wait to see it later in the year at its full height.
Tucked around one side of the house these vibrant shade dwellers appeared happy and healthy.

From Gerard's I also have some amazing macro shots.

So be sure to check back on Mondays when I link up with Macro Monday 2 and I Heart Macro.

Just up the street and also on the same tour was another house with amazing gardens.
This fish-eye shot is a little out of focus but you get the general idea of the incredible multi-faceted entrance. You can approach the house from the driveway three different ways, all of them beautiful.

Like the Peony at Gerard's this white Delphinium really speaks to me. I love the many blue and purple delphiniums, but if I was forced to choose...well let us hope it never comes to that.

I have never seen a bigger more healthy looking Delphinium. I may have to drive slowly by this yard for the next week or so to watch those spires fill out. 

I wish I had taken more photos because it was really stunning, both plants and sculpture, but I got caught up in enjoying it - and that is a pretty good reason I am sure you will agree.

Sharing with: 

Thursday, July 04, 2013


Toronto has a city-wide composting program, so separating my compostables from my trash has become second nature. Here in Winnipeg there is no municipal program, but there are two composters that came with the is in the lane and the other, presumably for convenience, is closer to the back door.
Too close.
 I mean really, what do I want to grab my guests' attention, the Blue Angel Clematis growing up the trellis or the "Mulcher 3000"?     

I am a proud composter but even I can see how it may be just a wee bit too prominent.  Since I am in the midst of making that whole side yard into my Sun Garden, the choice is clear.

The funny thing about moving into a new space is that it is someone else's old space. 
If we are not careful we can fall into their traps.  For example, when you look at the first photo above, does the composter jump out at you as being 'wrong'? How about after I mentioned it?  
I am glad I caught this rogue composter in our first year and moved it into the back lane before we 'got used to it'.

Walks to the lane at thirty below be damned, I am a gardener!

The lid top-half popped off almost as easily as the lid, which is to say very easily, and while the top half was not fully composted...
the entire bottom half was nothing but 'black gold'.

Actually moving the composter was much simpler than I expected it would be and resulted in more lovely compost than I imagined. Yeah!

In the space it left we could have continued the grass path but I chose instead to add a fruit tree. Rather than having the garden putter out ignominiously into the driveway I want it demarcated with a bang.

In this case a triad of three kinds of cherries: Valentine, Romeo & Carmine Jewel. At the base I am going to add hardy geranium by dividing the clump growing immediately beside it at the base of the trellis. Like all of the perennials here it has not been divided in years.  

Having the cherry tree shoot up out of the middle of the blooming geranium will look a-maz-ing! 
Can you picture it?


Wednesday, July 03, 2013

YARD ART - herons' new home

I found a new place for my herons. 
They appear to be walking out of the daylilies parallel to the front sidewalk into the rest of the garden, perhaps on the hunt for frogs?

It is hard to imagine that not that long ago they were up to their necks in snow!

Sharing with Outdoor Wednesday

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

ANATOMY OF A SUN GARDEN - breaking the rules

A virtual tour of my "South Lasagna garden" which I am officially renaming my "Sun Garden".

Although some experts suggest limiting use of the sunny colours to "no more than about 10 to 15 percent of really warm or hot colors for best design" I have my own ideas on this matter.  In my Ontario gardens I had too much shade to grow many of the most colourful flowering plants and now that I have sun I am embracing them wholeheartedly in what I am calling my Sun Garden.  It sure has changed a lot in the last month, including the removal of cedars that had come with the house.

My Sun Garden is primarily reds, oranges and yellows with perhaps 10-15 percent purples - so take that experts!
The second floor window is the best way to get an overview (literally).

Another rule I have read is that clumps look better than rows. But since my garden has such strongly defined borders being next to the driveway I have chosen to emphasize them by planting in rows all along the border. Nasturtium seedlings line the driveway and 11 Blanket Flowers line the grass path, alternating between "Arizona Sun", "Red Sun".
  1. The large triangle in the middle is made up of purple Iris and red Lucifer Crocosmia. Their foliage is so similar and their bloom times so far apart that they complement one another really well.
  2. The pale 'no smoking' symbols in the centre are Honeyberry bushes, the fruit of which has been described as a cross between a raspberry and a blueberry.  
  3. Behind them in the yellow circle I just planted a pack of burnt orange and yellow Marguerite Gloriosa Daisy seeds.
(Ignore the stones, they are only placeholders until I find something I really like to build up the edge.)

  1. Moving to the right we have three hearts representing orange Butterfly Milkweed. 
  2. The house shapes represent some kind of Bellflower that was here already, and that I divided into about 8 clumps. One of the few purples in this garden. 
  3. The red bullseye represent red Columbine, 4 plants and a pack of 'Bordeaux Barlow' seeds.
  4. Yellow lightning bolts represent yellow Leopard's Bane x 5.
  5. The dull purple "L"s could be Asclepias, I have not been sure since I bought them.
  6. The dark brown squares represent orange Iceland Poppies which have not bloomed so far this year.
  7. The small yellow bullseye mark where I have planted roughly 9 orange Asiatic Lilies, only 1 of whom has so far broken the soil 
  8. in that same space I also spread orange California Poppy seeds. I am not sure how their bloom times will coordinate with the lilies, but they could be spectacular together. 

  1.  On the left I have various Coneflowers represented by the small green shapes. Two each of "Hot Lava" and "Secret Desire".  Between the winter and the rabbits they are struggling.
  2. The light blue rectangle represents Rudbeckia GoldQuelle; bought three in the fall only 1 strong contender left.
  3. The red line in the middle left are three Helenium "Red Jewel".
  4. The blue triangles are red Lupine which are not happy in this continuously damp soil. I hope they do better in the sandy soil at the cottage.
  5. Yellow rectangle represents three red Bee Balm.
  6. Purple rectangle represents red Butterfly Bush - I think, but am not sure.
  7. Orange stars represent 2 Red Charm Peony 
  8. To the left, just out of frame, I have lined the border with Swiss Chard with its bright yellow, orange and red stalks.
  9. Over the entire left side, filling in the gaps between all plants and progressing really well are Coreopsis Roulette I direct sowed. Absolutely gorgeous; hope to have it 'take over' more than half the garden.

Spread across the whole garden (except for amongst the stalks of Iris and Crocosmia in the centre) are Scarlet Flax seeds.  
And finally, other seeds I tried but do not believe are germinating include a chocolate-orange Rudbeckia, Cherry Brandy Rudbeckia (red) and Brilliant Oriental Poppy (red) as well as some gentian blue Anagallis Mouron for contrast.

So as you can see, I am fully embracing hot summer colours in my "Sun Garden".  I will keep you posted with photos all summer and you can be the judge if it "sizzles" or is 'too hot to handle'. 


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