Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Welcoming Christmas!

As always gardening is never far from my mind even with the snow on the ground.  Although the weather does limit one's gardening....ha! ha!....here, there are containers to be filled.
Nothing welcomes guests during the Christmas/holiday season than seasonal 'planted' containers on your doorstep or house front.
With temperatures hovering just below the Oc mark with no wind this past weekend I knew this was the perfect time to do my outside gardening.
I love the look of the birch trunks in the containers and although I have been using them for at least 4 years, this will probably be my last one.  They are becoming way too common now with them available for purchase at both Superstore and Sobey's.  Mine were brought from the lake using the trunks of dead trees.
My new finds this year were the 'light bulbs' that attracted me at Target in Scottsdale and my other find of the giant grapevine ball at Mori's Nursery in Niagara Falls.  As you see, I am always on the lookout for unique items all year long even if I don't quite know what I will be doing with them.  A challenge for the brain to think of what unique way for their usage.

Wishing all a Merry Christmas season and a 2013 that is filled with great gardening keeping us healthy and young!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Fruit Trees in the Desert

This is a very unusual topic for me who lives in Winnipeg.  But having family living in the Sonoran desert I found myself very interested in this topic especially when said family hinted to me that they would like to plant some fruit trees in their yard.

The Valley Permaculture Alliance of which I am a member here, offered a course on this topic.  I jumped at the opportunity for the knowledge and to help my family with their garden addition. 
I learned that almost every fruit tree will grow here in the valley but whether it will produce fruit is not always possible.  The most important factor for this situation is to look at the chill hours needed for the tree.  On average there are 300 to 400 chill hours in the desert.  Fortunately, all nursery fruit trees here are very well marked with proper information on their three labels.  Chill hours and the root stock are two of the most important factors.

We learned how to find the proper area to plant in for correct drainage, where to locate your chosen tree, how to protect if frost is a possibility, how to protect against sunscald and planting it correctly.  Surprisingly, no new soil should be added to the hole and the sides of the hole should be dug on a 45 degree angle to deter soil compaction and allow the roots to grow easily into the native desert soil.  All trees should be watered to a depth of 3 feet and I learned how to measure when this occurs.  And never stake the trees!

Now to discuss with the family what choices they have and what fruit produce they would most benefit for harvesting and using.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Maypole and Buck

As early fall arrives so have the voracious appetites of the neighbourhood deer at the lake.  Especially handsome is the marrauding buck.  As majestic as he is the battle of the gardener(moi), continues.
Alright, I managed to keep him out of the smaller vegetable garden for the past 6 weeks.  But he finally won another round by eating my mache, which I was saving for out of town guests, and my Heucheras which I had just planted in said garden for overwintering them.

I am hoping with my new maypole it is enough to let the poor Heuchera regenerate enough to survive.  It doesn't look beautiful, but then again I will not have to look at it as the cottage is closed for the season.  And it will greet me colourfully in the spring for when I want to see a maypole.  Do you think it will work?!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Favourite Tomatoes

The summer vegetable garden this year has been very productive and continues to do so into the beginning of September.  Every day now my basket fills with my favourite tomatoes.  I grow all of them from seed begun in April and initially they grow under fluorescent grow lights in the basement.  Once I have transplanted them from their seedling trays into larger containers, I move them outside into a cold frame where they are finished until planted into the garden.
My favourites are:  Sungold, Park's Seeds Whopper and the newest in my stable of likes, Black Cherry.  They cross over to satisfy all one's tastes....Sungold, tender skinned, very sweet and juicy, and a beautiful orange colour;  Whopper, ideal tomato slice size, good tasting and the perfect looking tomato with no black spot or disease; Black Cherry, although touted as a 'cherry tomato' it is a bit larger but still a 'pop in the mouth' or cut in half tidbit, sweet, juicy and a lovely jewel colour, again with no blemishes.

Hopefully, our first frost will come late this year and I will be able to harvest all these delicious specimens as they ripen on the vine.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Saginaw Rest Area

As a Master Gardener in Manitoba, I was awestruck by the fabulous volunteer work of the Saginaw Master Gardeners who maintain the rest area north of Saginaw.  It is spectacular!  We were enroute to Waterloo, Ontario for my dear lifelong friend's funeral.  This was a sudden passing and in my mind discovering such an oasis along the way was a treasure. 
The plants are unique prime specimens, both perennials and annuals.  Who would find a black and white themed annual garden at a rest area?   Here it is!  Hopefully, someone out there can identify a plant that I did not recognize.  It is black leaved in a maple shape with a single-petalled dark pink flower.  There were beautiful perennial specimens--black lace elder, ligularia, hostas, butterfly shrubs in white and purple to name a few.

Many thanks to those MG volunteers who dedicate countless hours to this lovely rest area for all to enjoy who stop along the route, a truly 'restful' area.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Victoria Beach Area Garden Tour

This past Saturday, the Friends of Gardens Manitoba organized a garden tour of this area with support from their local garden club.  I had always heard that there were numerous beautiful gardens in this area, so I was very excited to see them being offered this year.  Every expectation I had was fulfilled!  The gardeners of these gardens are truly dedicated and can certainly grow everything.

Three of the gardens were on the shore of Lake Winnipeg. This I am sure is a challenge in itself with the sandy soil and winds.  It was nice to see the gardens incorporating local rocks and driftwood of the area.  A lovely wind sculpture made of driftwood was intriguing.  Mushrooms made from the local rocks.  One garden had an outdoor 'pizza' oven.  Its design was taken from the Ukrainian bake oven style.  I came too late for the pizza sampling!  This garden was also the home of a stained glass artist with beautiful examples of her work.

Most of these gardens were built and are maintained by husband/wife teams.  One husband had a glorious Hosta garden.  I had not seen such a beautiful and extensive Hosta garden as this one since a tour in England many years ago.  Plus, on the hot day it was noticeably cooler, and a nice peaceful respite.  Being thickly planted keeps the weeds away and as he says....'more time for a beer'!  The wife's part of the garden is huge and could quite well compete with Assiniboine Park's English Garden. 

On reading an English magazine and their Open Garden program they have, any of these gardens could well have qualified.  The magazine even spoke of  the best garden to have a refreshment, tea and cake.  I could say the same for one of these gardens, a wonderful cherry/coconut slice with fresh raspberries from their garden.  Thank you to the gardener who also shared her recipe.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

String Gardens

The European plant/flower market seems to always be the forerunner in great plant ideas.  This spring my daughter sent me a link about String Gardens.  I instantly became fascinated with this new idea and wanted to try making some for myself.  The plants I used were a variegated ivy and a big leaf wire vine (Muehlenbeckia axillaris).  These are my first two attempts for my own 'String Garden'.  For more visual temptation try this link:

Thursday, 14 June 2012


Yesterday I visited a wonderful Canadian Iris Display Garden, Merlebleu.  I belong to the East Kildonan Garden Club and this was the location of our June meeting.  Actually not a meeting but rather a get together at a great destination.  It is located just outside of Winnipeg along the River Road to Lockport, a nice easy drive.

This garden has also been designated with the Historic Iris Preservation Society and the Dwarf Iris Society.  It is comprised of gardens on 3 acres with 500 different cultivars.  The gardens hold not only iris but also lilies, daylilies and a variety of perennials.

Although most iris were finished blooming due to the early spring, with her first iris blooming on April 30, a record,  there were still some looking glorious and along with many perennials in bloom the garden is more than well worth a visit.  The striking Peony'Prima Vere' with its beautiful perfume welcomed us along with the owner Sandy. 

Sandy gave us a very informative presentation on iris and the history of her gardens and showed us her real passion for these spectacular plants.  Who knew about the heels and toes of iris and that the toes should be planted to the outside.   Her website is:  www.merlebleu.net   This garden is well worth a visit and we thank Sandy for catching the iris bug.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Succulent Vertical Garden

My love for succulents led me to a wonderful succulent nursery/grower many years ago.  As I am preparing to give a presentation on succulents to the East Kildonan Garden Club I wanted to show the members the photos I had taken at the time of this spectacular nursery.  The nursery is Succulent Gardens in California.  Here is a great vertical planting youtube at the nursery:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=u4QksnFKPc0

Sunday, 1 April 2012

April Fool's Day

This was no April Fool's trick. Today I was planting up my overwintered canna rhizomes and dahlia tubers outside. At this time of year we would still have snow on the ground and temperatures hovering around the freezing mark. Not this year!!

Winnipeg had a very mild winter and this spring continues that trend and hence a first in my gardening career. Normally I am restling with the peat moss and deteriorated paper bags that have kept them in my cold room over the winter with dirt and dust all over my basement potting area. Today this planting was blissful....no mess anywhere except where it belongs, outside.

Still taking advantage of this gorgeous spring day, I pruned my Virginia creeper. I do this every few years and make a huge vine wreath with the trimmings. Now or in autumn is a good time to do so as the plant is very pliable and there are no leaves on it. After cutting I stretch the stems out on the lawn and then start making the circular wreath form. I begin with the thick stem portion and then near the end I take the thin stems and wind them around the circle to keep the wreath together. I leave it 'au naturel' but it can be decorated.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Jack Frost

As we in Winnipeg and surrounding areas are experiencing record breaking warm temperatures with little snow, we gardeners are still concerned about our plants. We know the colder temps. will arrive soon and with no snow to insulate them we could be in for a big plant loss in the spring.

Normally I only cover my Rodgersia pinnata and tender Heuchera with flax straw. But recently I gathered some oak leaves as all my flax was used, and covered one of my favourite perennials, Brunnera 'Jack Frost'. The plants I have were planted this spring to replace ones that I had for over 7 years which I lost 2 years ago to a very harsh, high plant loss winter/spring. It is one of my favourite perennials in my shade garden. Its electric blue flowers brighten the early springtime garden. The remainder of the summer is featured with 'Jack Frosts' silver variegated leaves....a great asset in a shade garden.

I am enjoying this weeks temperatures between 0C and 7C, but not without thinking of my perennials without their winter insulation to keep them warm and still here to enjoy this summer.