Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year Approaching; New System

Having not posted at all this December, I feel rather at odds. My creative flow is beginning to be fulfilled; having purchased a new computer system. I don't know where to begin with upgrades. I hope that 2015's posts will be far more visually appealing. Till then, I wish you all a very Happy New Year! 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rectangular Outdoor Christmas Container

I love working with various shaped containers.

This one was fun to work on. Here's how:

Depending on your birch branch supplier, some are cut to specific lengths, others not. Cut to your desired height.

Don't worry if you had annuals or veggies in your container, just work out the hardest plant debris and loosen the soil a bit. Soil works just as well as sand. Sand is great for smaller containers. This large container won't budge in the wind.

For this design, I decided to make a line of birch. You could stagger them, or clump them in the middle. Be creative! Skewer the birch into the soil, making sure they are fixed down deep enough to endure wintery winds.

Begin by selecting several kinds of greens. Here, starting from the top left and going clockwise are: Princess Pine, BC Cedar, Oregonia and Green Boxwood. Use what you like. My combos just seemed to work well with the beige tone of the container. I cut the boughs into smaller sections, this gives more of a bulkier look to the design and it saves some money in the long run.

Begin by skirting the base with pine and then add layers of other greens as you go.

I've been making Christmas containers for a long time and recently, the selections of outdoor accents have increased exponentially. The most important factor: use what you like. I prefer more natural tones and I try to find product that will last me more than just one season. There's so much selection out there. I've used (clockwise) Magnolia stems, cones, pods, pussy willow stems, and artificial berries.
Hoping the postal worker will enjoy delivering the mail this Christmas season! The neutral and more natural tones will also carry this container well into February. I am hoping the pussy willow stems will begin to show their fussy flowers come March.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cold (Frost) Tolerant Herbs

Since a wintery blast has come a fair bit earlier than anticipated, I was not prepared enough to rescue my herbs for culinary delights. Usually, when I know the temperature is going to change so drastically, I try to cut back, dry and store what ever I can save out of my herbs.

Thankfully, this demonstrates how resilient many of them are.

Whether you grow them in a pot...
...or in the ground - parsley handles the freezing temps quite well.
Last nights temps dipped to -5°C. Burr!

So does my oregano. It still has firm foliage.

So does my thyme!

I have better luck with growing rosemary in pots, this one I shall take indoors for winter use. It's fine. I will however, expect some needle drop from the shock once indoors.

(Sorry, out of focus because my hands were freeeeeeezing!) And of course, mint. Going to enjoy a wonderful mint and red beet salad - the last of the season!
Needless to say, with all my procrastination, I am thankful for being able to harvest the last of our yummy herbs. The snow has also helped to insulate the last of the usable foliage.

Some others I have had success in harvesting after frost:

Lemon Balm

Friday, November 14, 2014

Plant Profile: Fothergilla - The Unknown Shrub

Today, I witnessed a dreadful act: a pruning job gone wrong.

Of all things to prune improperly, I saw someone hacking at a Fothergilla shaping it into a ball. I was working across the street and it took everything in me not to go over there and say: 'What are you doing?' The reason I care, is you often don't see this shrub in many gardens. Another reason: in most cases, it is a dwarf form, growing so slowly with such a naturalized habit - pruning is essentially unnecessary, in my opinion.

Some folks think it's a form of witch hazel. True enough, Fothergilla gardenii foliage is similar. In October, the foliage turns bronze.

When most shrubs have begun losing their foliage, Fothergilla begin to dazzle you with their reds, and orange hues in November.

White, bottle brush flowers appear in late spring, as the leaves emerge. Quite fragrant and different than the witch hazel flower.

It attracts several pollinators to the garden.

Early flowering shrubs, like the Fothergilla, already have their flower buds on the stems at this time of year. Pruning such plants removes the flowering potential for next year. Please, if you do prune, thin out, tidy and prune after flowering. Preferably not in box or ball shaped forms. Please.

Thankfully, this one will grow to full maturity without being hacked into a ball.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Photo of the Month - November 2014

My Stolwijk Alpina Clematis seed heads are so beautiful right now. Having flowered in late May, they still bring interest to my little garden in November.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Composting Leaves - Mulching

By the time all the leaves have fallen, nearly 10 piles just like this will be raked from the backyard.

Before you service and put your lawn mower away for the winter, use it as a mulcher for that huge pile of leaves.

Be sure not to have the wheels set at the lowest level. Mid range is best, so that you don't lift stones and or larger branches that may damage the blades. We removed the clipping catch bag. This way the leaves are forced to cycle around the blade dome - mulching far more quickly. But if you prefer to use the bag attachment, just mow the lawn with the leaves.

Raising the back end and the front end whilst hovering over the pile really helps to break down the debris faster and won't overburden the motor.

Three passes and that pile is nearly gone.

This is worth gold to me. Pure carbon and an insulating winter blanket for the red-wigglers in the compost bin. Mulching the leaves this way helps to accelerate the breakdown their matter. Making compost quicker. It also leaves less air pockets, which means more room for more leafy mass.
As the growing season went on, we generously removed finished compost for the garden. Now it's near empty.

One leafy layer, now ready for a wet green layer (grass clippings).  Reserving some of the ready compost on the side, we will top dress the mulched leaves with it before putting the compost to bed. Hope our red-wigglers will be happy - toasty warm.

If you can, reserve a bushel or two of leaf mulch for evergreen hedges like this white cedar hedge. The chopped up leaves help insulate the roots and prevent weeds come spring.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Heidi's Helpful Hints #1 Baby Divisions or Seedlings

A late season score: I found these gems in a compost pile out for pick-up in my 'hood: rejects of Echinacea. My eye caught them before curb collection. Nine plants in total.

Be sure to examine all the leaves and the roots to find any issues; disease or possible rot. Discard if so.

This is the hint:  even though there are a bunch of tiny plants, instead of planting them separately and having to wait ages until they bulk up - group them instead. Here I've clustered the separate plants together, making two groupings.

Dig a large enough hole and place all the divisions together, making sure you don't squish them, allowing just enough space for adequate root growth. 

You can do this as well with the self seeded "plant-lets' that are generally around Echinacea in the garden. A great idea to pot them up as gifts for a friend. This method will allow for less wait time for the plant to establish and plentiful flowers for next summer.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hostas - Autumn Display

Not only should you choose the right colour of Hosta for summer displays; be also mindful about your choice for autumn colour in the garden.

I find, basic green and blue leaved varieties have true golden colours as autumn progresses.

The golden or chartreuse leaved hostas turn creamy yellow in autumn.

If you have evergreens as backdrops, or evergreen ground covers, choosing varieties like:

Hosta 'Halcyon' (colours up late in season, but well worth the wait)
  • August Moon
  • Paul's Glory
  • Big Daddy
  • Blue Angel
  • Sieboldii Elegans
  • Mouse Ears
  • Francee
  • Great Expectations
  • June
  • Krossa Regal
  • Royal Standard
  • Sum and Substance
  • Regal Splendor
  • Plantanginea 

Hosta 'Blue Cadet' (unfortunately, the slug damage shows up a fair bit - but from afar it lights up the shady garden)
...will really make a great display. I have experience with the above. Some turn early and some late. It's really fun to notice the changes.
The golden leaf colour is accentuated by the English Ivy's evergreen foliage.

If you want the autumn display to last, be sure to keep the hostas watered. Or like the above photo, tips will begin to dry out and become brown.
I find slight variegated varieties of Hostas colour up well too. The pale leaved varieties which have less chlorophyll (green) have less golden colouration in autumn. For the most part, all Hostas will yellow - some more than others.

Timing and frost free conditions are key as well. Once the frost hits, the leaves wilt - colour is gone.

Lots of colour still remaining in late October. Love my little hostas.
Enjoy them whilst you can!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Late Flowering Perennials

Nothing is bleaker than seeing your garden fade in October. When autumn foliage colour, leaf drop and the hint of frost on your lawn early in the morning show signs of winter.

However, there are these lovely plants that still shine through the darkness of seasonal change. Try some in your garden:

Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate' - Chocolate Joe Pie Weed

Tricyrtus hirta - Toad Lily

Nipponanthemum nipponicum - Nippon Daisy

Anemone x hybrida "Honorine Jobert" - autumn flowering Anemone

Actea racemosa "Hillside Black Beauty" -  This spliced photo is necessary to get the full spectrum of our Bugbane. Its spring foliage bears the name 'black beauty' - more than rest of the season. Fern-like, bronze foliage - really wonderful texture in May. Greening up in summer, it resembles an Astilbe. But just when you think it has given up any chance of flowering, in mid August the flower buds emerge and take ages to show any sign of blooming. Come late September, you get the first glimpse of these fabulous white bottle-brush blooms. Quite frost tolerant and will flower well into November in shade. (This plant gets evening sun.)

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Plant Profile: Bush Honeysuckle - Diervilla lonicera

This shrub has to be the most overlooked specimen in garden centres.

I have no idea why.

During the summer, this plant has such a fully balanced form of deep, shiny green foliage that sometimes can become confused with dogwood varieties.

Attractive attributes:
  • drought tolerant
  • full sun to shade ranges in exposure
  • not susceptible to bugs or disease
  • easy to prune
  • fabulous red fall colouring of foliage and seed heads
  • hardy (zone 3)
  • native (Ontario/Eastern USA)
  • seeds are food source for birds
  • bees and butterflies like their late blooming flowers

Not many shrubs have seed heads so rich in colour with contrasting blooms side by side.

This is just the beginning of the real autumn show. Leaves turn deep burgundy before their autumn shed. Brilliant red seeds provide winter interest.

Flowering from late July to October.  Give the shrub a harsh, rounded prune in early spring and it will provide more new growth for better flowering like above.

It's worth asking your local garden centre to order you one.
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