Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Gifts for the Gardener

If you are looking for a gift for the gardener in your life, here are a few ideas:

a) Gardeners Hand Recovery Cream
- great for cold days working outdoors
b) InteraTarp - trunk and hatch back liner for gardeners who schlep a lot
c) Badger Balm - great for when your cuticles and knuckles crack due to winter temps
d) Gardeners Journal- gardeners help-mate; when your memory fails ;)
e) Leatherman MultiTool  - great tool for the garden shed; you won't have to run to the garage as often
f) Copper Plant Tags - copper tags weather green and never decay
g) Felcos - enough said: or parts like replacement blades and coil - they all are great stocking stuffers
h) German Garden Clogs I enjoy wearing these all the time, even in winter

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Outdoor Christmas Container - Little Fun

My colleagues call this one I made - "the galaxy".  lol :) We try to get a bit more creative with each one.

When you have access to great product, you get a little more inventive. Using outdoor ornaments (which tolerate frost and don't crack or have styrofoam burst overwinter) can add a burst of colour when dried accents start to fade. Plus, the outdoor ornaments catch the light, especially at night making your urns pop out a bit more in the dark.

Here I added sprays of lime metallic Christmas balls and one bronze ball, suspended between the birch stems. Fun.
Plant World has an array of styles, made by several designers. Come stop by!  If you want to make one yourself, we can help you too!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Outdoor Christmas Urn Container - One Sided

Here I made a Christmas Urn Design that is one sided.

One bonus to making one sided Christmas urns: less material is needed. With this design, all the accents are on one side, making a bolder view from the front. You use less materials and yet have the effect of seeing all the accents from the street.  They are easier to make and faster to assemble. Great for urns that are situated next to the front door or garage - where the containers are right up against a wall/door.


  • magnolia stems
  • red dyed strobus cones
  • red dyed nut
  • spray of outdoor Christmas balls
  • red twig dogwood


  • white pine
  • western cedar
  • silver fir 
  • oregonia (variegated boxwood)

Try it!  All materials are available at Plant World.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Outdoor Christmas Urn Container - Natural

Here I made a pair of urns with natural items.

These urns span about 2 and 1/2 feet apart. A little more than 3 feet tall from the pot rim.
I used:

Have a look at some other designs here
  • 3 birch stems
  • 7 stems of dogwood
  • white pine
  • douglas fir
  • western red cedar
  • boxwood
  • magnolia stems
  • sumac seed pods
  • seeded eucalyptus
  • strobus (white pine) cones
  • dried belani seed pods
  • bronze vine balls
  • dried bell cups
  • 13" fibre liner
  • sand to fill pot

Another pair:
These accents may look all natural, but the pomegranates are artificial.  Pretty good for artificial though. No squirrels will try to take these away! 

One of the funnest aspects of my job.
 In the above, I used:
  • pomergranates
  • strobus cones (with snow flakes)
  • magnolia
  • birch stems
  • dogwood stems
  • white pine boughs
  • western red cedar boughs
  • Ontario hemlock boughs
  • burgundy seed pods
  • oregonia

Materials all from Plant World Ltd. These urns are also available there. 

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Outdoor Winter Container Designs

The first couple of frost hits is the sign to prepare for winter containers.

Some folks empty out their containers - soil and all to prepare for Christmas decorating. No, no.... I just snip off the tops of my annuals and the leggy stem bits that are left after a good frost. The soil with roots, as long as it's not frozen and not too woody, is an ideal medium to sustain evergreen boughs and cut stems for decorating.  If the soil has become frozen, bring it indoors overnight to thaw, or drench with boiling water to thaw out. The roots of your annuals help stabilize cut stems in place, when arranging.

Like the above demonstration class; if you're starting from scratch and you don't want to fill an entire urn or container, (or you can't keep a ceramic pot with soil overwinter) just use a smaller insert pot and fill with sand. In the above photo, we used 6-9inch fibre liners. When filled with sand, the sheer weight of sand will help to prop up the insert and will also freeze like an ice cube when in your decorative outer pot. Two great aspects regarding a smaller container: 1) the smaller the pot, the less materials needed and 2) the tighter the stems will be to withstand strong winter weather.

Materials needed:
  • Pair of sharp pruners
  • Comfortable pair of gloves that allow you to design with good tactile ability
  • If you are working indoors, wear a bib or apron to avoid sap from coming in contact with your clothes
  • At least 2-3 selections of evergreen boughs. (my preference is white pine, western cedar and boxwood, although you can use any kind).  For a 6 inch pot, 3 bundles will do.
  • Leafy stems (magnolia, eucalyptus, boxwood, oregonia, holly, euonymus). 2 bundles ea.
  • Colourful branches (dogwood, red willow, pussy-willow, birch stems, alder stems) 20 stems.
  • Accent pieces: (cones, pomegranates, osage oranges, rose-hips, sumac pods, outdoor ornaments...etc). Minimum 7-10 pieces
  •  If you are working with an insert, use sand and dampen it well enough to make sure it stays firm and holds moisture for the stems

To begin, decide on how decorative you want the urn. Sometimes, simpler is more attractive. Too much material and it becomes an eyesore. Here in the photo below, it seemed fitting to have a simple design given the ravine backdrop.

Here, I only used 3 items (white pine, red dogwood and some ivy).

Next, decide on the shape, height and position of your insert/container design. One trick to lessen the material used, is to design a flat sided container. These are great for containers that are propped up against a wall or backing on to something else. Accents and more expensive materials only need to be displayed at the front of these designs. You will need almost triple the amount of accents if you want a 360, all around arrangement.

Begin with the tallest boughs at the back, working and cutting your bough branches down slightly in size as you come to the front of the container. Be sure to make a fresh cut on ALL your bough branches. This allows the boughs to draw up whatever moisture they can during the winter - keeping them green.

With all around designs, you need to start with the tallest material (usually your stems, like dogwood) in the center. Working your way around the stems with filler - evergreen boughs. Once you get a sort of triangular shape, begin adding your accents to bulk up the design.

Pretty easy.

Water your urn inserts and or planters once every week. It may seem odd to water them in the winter, but it just maintains the green and keeps them looking fresh.

Here is a design from last year.

Check out these other designs

More here and here!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Cold (Frost) Tolerant Annuals

One aspect of gardening that needs to be addressed when planning and using annuals, is furthering annual flower time with the onset of early frost. Mid October and November is really tough. Some days it's so cold outside, you'd think it was December. Other days, it's warm as September.

Outside of blowing huge budgets by replanting your beds with Kale and Chrysanthemums, there are other cold tolerant selections to choose in the spring when designing with annuals. Autumn in the greater Toronto area has rather cold spurts to start off the season, and with these choices, you'll be able to extend that bloom just a bit longer.

Here is a few examples in my photo collection:

Sweet William


Dusty Miller

Licorice Vine

Trailing Vinca




Dragon Winged Begonia

Many choices:
  • Helichrysum petiolare - Licorice Vine
  • Bidens ferulifolia - Gold Spark Bidens
  • Ageratum houstonianum - Ageratum
  • Pelargoniums - All annual Geraniums
  • Senecio cineraria - Dusty Miller
  • Salvia farinacea 'victoria blue' - Victoria Blue Salvia
  • Dianthus barbatus - Sweet William
  • Tagetes patula - Marigolds
  • Salvia splendens - Red Salvias
  • Viola x wittrockiana - Icicle Pansy
  • Antirrhinum majus - Snap dragons
  • Tropaeolum majus - Nasturtium
  • Vinca major -Trailing Vinca
  • Calendula officinalis - Field or pot Marigold
  • Gazania longiscapa - Treasure Flower
  • Lobularia maritima -Sweet Allysum 
  • Begonia x dragon wing - Dragon Wing Begonia
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