Sunday, December 31, 2017

In The Bleak MidWinter - Not Bleak At All...

Yes, IT'S COLD!  But let's be thankful!

We had a true white Christmas! You can hardly tell we made up our winter planters with greens - the snow depth has been really great!

Southern Ontario and pretty much all the northern portions of Canada are experiencing a deep freeze.

Many are groaning over the extreme cold temps. I agree, it's been hard not to be outside for very long without your finger tips getting frost bitten. God help the homeless among us!

Plants are showing the effects too.  Several broadleaf evergreens are curling their foliage to keep in whatever moisture they can.

Seed heads and winter interest are stunning against a deep embankment of snow.

I shutter to think of what plants in the garden may succumb to the deep freeze. At least we have a good depth of snow to blanket and insulate them!

The GOOD NEWS:  this deep freeze is a GIFT. YES, a GIFT!

The increase of foreign invasive insects and diseases that are slowly pervading our landscape, will be hampered in this frigid winter.  Many insects, like Tics and Japanese Beetles will be reduced in number.  Molds and mildews will be less come spring. A true gift to the gardener.

Here's to hoping this deep freeze will benefit the garden in more ways than one.

Looking forward to the 2018 growing season.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christmas Flower Show 2017 - Centennial Conservatory (Centennial Park)

I had the great privilege being asked to work at Centennial Conservatory a few weeks ago.

Fantastic staff and plant material = a wonderful Christmas Flower Show display filled with delight. I had such a great time and was so thankful for the opportunity.

It was a wonderful experience seeing a house full of poinsettias that were grown from cuttings - being transferred into such creativity. Over 30 varieties of poinsettias were grown on site.

From Christmas trees designed with various poinsettias... arrangements....


...there's something that sparks your attention at every corner.

For those who can't make it, here are some videos for viewing:

Merry Christmas and I hope you get a chance to view the show!

Saturday, December 09, 2017

This Year's Christmas Containers

My outdoor Christmas Containers were rather varied this year.

....From making some for retail:

Even though I have been making these for ages, I never tire of it (until you make the 50th + :) !  The best part about making these, the choices for accents and greenery are always lush and full.

Yet they come with a price. The materials do cost quite a bit. Unless you have a wholesale savings option.

.....To making some personally for us:

I made a conscious decision to keep reusing accent materials and finding sustainable resources for greenery.  All the accents were reused from several years worth of collecting.

I clipped Sumac Pods from the roadside, Dogwood stems, Yew bush and Juniper clippings from our property.  The rest are all accents purchased years ago. The birch stems are from a tree we lost two years ago to Cytospora canker :(  At least we can benefit from using its branches well after the tree has been taken down.

I even saved thin stems from the birch to add to even this smaller door greeter and tiny cast iron urn below...

For the tiny cast iron urn, I made a square frame from (4 bound together) small birch stems and placed it on the rim of the urn and just layered some cones and boxwood clippings in between.

For these next two (below), I actually bought some artificial boughs.  My front area by the garage is in full sun for the entire afternoon and facing north. Evergreen boughs just brown out by January; no matter how much snow I heap on top to melt.  I decided to try artificial boughs and plan to reuse them time and again to keep the planter green.

Here's one I made for work below. I gathered Teasel dried seed pods.  You can find Teasel seed heads everywhere in Southern Ontario.  You could easily spray paint them different colours for a bit more impact. Just be careful handling them. They are prickly!

If you have a hard time coming up with inexpensive live green choices, my neighbour had a fantastic idea.  She went to the local grocery store and saw fresh cut Fraser Fir Christmas trees for $20.  Great deal.  She brought one tree home and then cut all the boughs from the entire tree and managed to make 4 containers worth.  Saving her a bundle!  Isn't that a great idea?!!!

What ever you do.... be creative and enjoy the process! If you're new to making them, here's a post I made a while back on the step-by-step DIY.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Drying Herbs For Pantry

The cold came fast in the GTA. Real fast. Minus -10º C overnight. Once weather reports warned of this onslaught, I took quick action and cut back our herbs growing in containers.

We love cooking with herbs and although, I do enjoy fresh, dried home grown herbs suffice over the long winter haul.

Here are just some of the methods I use to dry.

1.  Wash thoroughly. Even though we grew these organically, living in an urban environment (construction close by) I washed the cut herbs thoroughly.

2.  Laid the cuttings down on a clean towel.

 3. Covering them with another.

4. Gently wringing them, by rolling towels together.

(Be forewarned - this can get quite messy when you take cuttings from Rosemary and Thyme. They drop a lot of foliage if you squeeze too hard)

5. Tie them with an elastic on top and clip on to a drying rack. This is optional, but I find the best results are to dry the herbs over a gentle heat source - like a radiator.  Here, I just used a spare oven rack and leaned it on the window, on top of the radiator. I've seen folks use Sock Rack dryers, which work great!

(Note: Thyme and Rosemary can drop leaves when drying, so use a baker pan/sheet beneath to catch any fallen foliage.)

I left a few tougher herbs that I know weather the cold better, but not leaving them in their current position.

We tucked them in a vestibule, under cover, away from heavy frosts.

Results:  Within 5 days, the herbs are nearly completely dry.

You must thoroughly dry them to store. Slight dampness can cause mould developing in what ever container you use for storage.

Be creative.  When I ran out of room, I started to dry Peppermint and Lemon Balm by the window curtain rods!

Next step is gingerly removing them from the wrack and placing the cuttings in large paper bags and squishing them free from the stems till they become small bits.

Great for the spice cabinet in the pantry.

Some herbs can easily be chopped up fresh and kept frozen in freezer bags. I do this for parsley, dill and chervil.

Easy and simple.

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