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.
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