Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Last week I explained that I would be renewing my focus on the backyard gardens which up to this point have been lower priority.

My how fast things can change - as you can see, the garden is quickly filling up!

The first step was to remove the enormous quantity of chives which immediately made it look much cleaner.

The biggest source of plants to fill the void have been:
  • those that the deer eat in my unfenced front gardens
  • those that I find on sale once they are past their best for this year
  • those that are unsuited to where I originally planted them

Deer rescues include:
- lovely orange Oriental Lilies that were completely eaten by the deer last year and heavily pruned by them again last week when they were just about to bloom!
- a few Malva and the lone Lupine from the Monet Garden that the deer also snacked on last week

Sale plants include:
- 5 "Popsicle Mix" Lupine.  Regular price $11 on sale for $3.50, done blooming for this year. I have  to admit it feels quite freeing to purchase a colour mix and it will be exciting to see what comes up next year!
- 3 red and white carnations that would not have fit into my colour-themed gardens, which after a hard pruning should come back for a second bloom this fall. Also on sale for $3.50 from $11.
- 5 Primula with a great spike of purple bloom for the Monet Garden where I have created space by taking out the deer-chomped Malva.

Plants getting a second chance include:
-5 or 6 Rudbeckia that have grown much larger than I imagined when I direct sowed their seeds last spring
- 5 or 6 large-flowering, yellow Primula that have been completely overshadowed by their enormous Rudbeckia neighbours and need to see the sun again

Next I need to dig up the Dutch Iris that clearly did not get enough sun in the Monet Garden. While they may have been the perfect colour match but that does not matter if they do not bloom, does it?

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

EPIPHANY - back yard priority

The other week, sitting in the back yard with my sister who was visiting from Victoria BC, it suddenly became clear to me that I needed to switch my attention to the back yard, after all we are spending a lot of time there once the dwindling daylight forces us to shelve our gardening tools for the evening.

My sister brought fresh eyes with her and because she did not know that the backyard did not have the same priority for me as my other gardens, she suggested moving the gorgeous Calla Lilies from the front into the back where they could have a highly visible place of honour, right beside the seating area.  
I never would have thought of it but they look smashing, holding court between the two trellis.

Prior to this moment almost all of my planning has focused on the front and side yards: the Sun, Moon & Monet gardens I have been so busy writing about. In fact readers of this blog might wonder if I even had a  backyard!

The plan for the backyard garden is to have no plan.  
To move plants here when there is no room for them anymore in their original bed, to put gifts from friends that do not work in my other gardens and to incorporate the daylilies, Asiatic Lilies, and chives that were already so plentiful here.

Given the symmetry of the trellis and windows I have so far been repeating plants in a balanced way, however I am wondering if I should not just go wild and abandon principles of balance in both colour and form and see what appears...a place to put plants that are not working where I had initially hoped they would thrive could come in handy, and undoubtedly I would learn from seeing plant combinations that I would not otherwise have planned.
Let me know what you think, do you have a bed for mismatched plants from tests, gifts or overflow?  Do you ever stop and think how well it is working, or does it always look like an "unmade bed" to you?

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

YEAR TWO - first blooms

Given that last year was the first summer here in Winnipeg for me there were quite a few perennials that I started last year but that did not bloom until this year, plus more new plants added this year than I had expected. 

So this post focuses exclusively on plants that are blooming for the first time in my gardens.

These orange oriental poppies were planted last year but no blooms made an appearance. I am very glad to see them as I have actively been looking to add more orange in the Sun Garden.

Last year's Foxglove did not survive the winter, these were just added this year. Despite the blooms I will wait until next year to make any judgment of success or failure.

I added ten of this primrose to the Sun garden this spring  and while it may be yellow that is about as far as as the similarities between it and the Sundrops I have at the Ontario cottage.  There are fewer blooms but they are substantially bigger, while the plants are substantially smaller.

Of the 25 Dutch Iris I planted last fall only 2 have bloomed including this white one and a purple one.  I suspect they are not getting enough sun, the same issue I had with Liatris in the same place last year, hopefully I have learned my lesson this time!

The Sea Holly is just beginning to turn blue. I have two different kinds, both planted lat year but neither accomplished much to speak of in year one, in fact I am happily surprised to see both of them back in year two at all.

This Delphinium was planted in the Monet Garden last year as a test and since it was coming along healthily I added two more this spring, however they are not doing as well so I may no longer pursue these notoriously high maintenance plants anymore.

These Malva were given to me by a friend last year but they struggled and I had all but forgotten about them, but this year are seeming quite healthy.

Petite Allium Graceful in the foreground were added last fall while the pale purple spires of Campanula were direct sown as seeds last year but never got around to blooming until this year.

Friday, July 11, 2014


'To mulch or not to mulch', that is not much of a question for most gardeners, including myself, and many blog posts have been written on the subject already, extolling its virtues to retain moisture and aid in the never-ending struggle with weeds.  Despite this I have not put down much in my own gardens to-date.
Why not? 
I have been too busy planning and planting.

I think of mulch as the icing on a cake, insofar as it should be the last thing I do once I am comfortable with the overall make up of my garden.  For example in my Sun and Monet Gardens which I created in the fall of 2012 there was simply too much movement of plants last summer as I refined my plans, and digging through mulch every time I made a switch would have made the whole process unbearably slow.  

In their second full summer however many areas of the garden are now feeling full, properly planned and ready for mulch.
Yet still I hold off.

I still need to add a layer of bulbs in most places now that all of the perennials are in place, and until I do the idea of digging through an additional layer of mulch this fall is simply too much, so I will hold off - for now.

While most people seem to agree that mulching is worth it, not everyone agrees. The other day my neighbour mentioned that he did not mulch because it did not actually hold back the weeds and while he is correct that it will not eliminate them completely, it certainly makes a difference as evidenced in the photo below.

On the right-hand side is an area that was thick with Creeping Bellflower that I covered with cardboard and mulch last year and as you can see some of these attractive but aggressive weeds are poking through, especially at the edges.  However when you compare it to the left-hand side, where no mulch was laid and every inch is green with weeds, the benefit becomes crystal clear.  

Over the course of the course of the summer, in areas where I will NOT be adding spring bulbs in the fall, I will be adding in a layer of mulch.

So while mulch is not a silver bullet in the war on weeds it is an important tool in the gardener's toolkit and I look forward to the help it will provide in keeping the weeds at bay. 

How about you, do you mulch extensively, strategically or not at all?


Friday, July 04, 2014

BOOK REPORT - taming wildflowers

Taming Wildflowers is a book I bought after reading a review by Donna at A Garden's Eye View.  

What was a grand book for her is one that leaves me wanting more.

The biggest fault for me is that Miriam Goldberger has not included any details on zones. She has made room for light, soil, germination and moisture, but not zone. She has even made room for how long cut flowers will last in a vase, which feels like putting the cart before the horse if one does not know what one can grow.  I do not want to use this book as a starting point for further research on every appealing plant - I want all the information I need in one place.

Zone is right at the top of my list for deciding if I have the time to read further; I do not have time for fantasizing about growing plants hardy to zone 7 (though I can be easily seduced by a handsome zone 4).
Zone 5 Crocosmia in my zone 3 garden

In addition, the final 30 pages or so faltered for me due to personal taste. Donna tried to warn me by saying "The last two chapters deal with how to harvest, use and design floral arrangements with wildflowers.  She even includes some wedding ideas.", and yet I was still disappointed to have so much space dedicated to topics that do not rank in my personal 'top 100 things to learn in the garden'.
Instead, my increasing interest in natural gardens, brought on in large part by my Ontario lakefront cottage landscaping, drove me to think that any book on the subject of wildflowers would be a sure-thing.

With that said, I am happy to leave this book behind at my cottage where it will play the important role of signaling to our renters that the Daisies, Periwinkle, Ferns, Aquilegia, Aster, Cranesbill, Iris, Loosestrife, Lily-of-the-Valley, Daylily, and Rudbeckias that may look casually placed are in fact quite purposeful. 

Even a quick flip through its plentiful pages of beautiful photos is enough to raise the readers appreciation for the natural beauty surrounding our cottage, and really what more could I hope for from a coffee table book?

I suppose I had just been hoping for more of a text book.

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