Saturday, 29 October 2011

visitors to the garden

This is a quiet time in the garden.  Gone are the buzzes and drones and hums of insect, gone are the chirps and whistles of the birds.  The sound of wind is still there, but it carries with it a chill.  Of course, the garden has gone from greens and showy colors to the colors of autumn.  I am in no hurry to strip away all the foliage, I prefer to leave at least some seed-bearing pods for the birds, such as the echinacea and sedums provide.  And why rush to cut down those amazing yellows and purples scattered here and there?  That being said, yesterday was a good day (warm and sunny) to remove the Morning Glory and Climbing Nasturtium vines from the fencing.  Because even the fencing is "seasonal".  This fencing encloses the front and side yards temporarily in spring, summer and fall.  As this house is on a street corner, that is all the town willl allow.  So, one day a year is spent putting it up and another day is spent taking it down.  Enjoying the amazing coverage provided by a few seeds is a three-season pleasure and well-worth the clean-up part!
The one constant throughout the year is the visitors; the mourning doves.  They arrived a few years ago, found my very rustic, home-made feeder, and decided to stay.  They have grown in number from one or two to about eight.  Must be the menu! 

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Spectacular Sedum, Sedum spectabile

Sedum spectabile, a true show-off in any garden, a treat to the eyes from the very first, tight little spring bud right through to the fall.  Unless, that is, your sedum has fallen outwards and buried the surrounding plants!

Here are some photos demonstrating the difference when a strong support is placed around the young sedum.

Simply create a circle around the young plant in the spring using plastic mesh, cut to a height of about 18 inches.  Hold it in place by weaving sticks through the mesh and into the ground.  In no time at all, shoots will grow, some of them through the mesh ... enough to hide it.  The rest of the plant will be forced into an upright growth.  Now your sedum will not be able to collapse onto the neighbouring plants and will look very bouquet-like throughout the season.

Note:  the sedum above is s. spectabile, 'Autumn Joy.'  A real bee magnet.  I have never seen a white-colored one, but they do exist.  Nor have I been able to find (yet) 'Matrona' , which has purple-green leaves and purple stems, along with darker pink flowers; similar to 'Vera Jameson'.

Monday, 17 October 2011

some helpful tips

The foliage in the garden at this time of year turns all shades of yellow and brown, contrasting with the still green, for example, columbine and poppy plants which have regrown after their post-flowering periods.  I like to clean the gardens gradually so that I can enjoy the show a little bit longer. Time to gather seeds and harvest herbs for drying, time to mark the plants I might want to move to new locations next spring with a stick and some colored duct tape.  Blue tape means dig up and give away, yellow is divide and replant, for example.  I also keep photos as is is hard to remember what will come up where.  After all, I am not a squirrel; and I suspect even they forget where every nut is buried!

Here are a few tips: 

. Pouring strong tea into a compost bin will help speed up the process and encourage more friendly bacteria to grow.
. Spread used tea leaves aroung rosebushes, then add mulch and water.  Tannic acid will benefit roses.
. Occasionally use brewed tea instead of water to feed ferns and other houseplants that like rich, acidic soil.
. A few used tea bags in the bottom of a planter can help the soil retain water.
(source:  Steve Graham,

Here is something I tried this summer for tomatoes with blossom rot, which is an indication of calcium-poor soil.  Give them a good drink of skim milk, diluted ten-to-one.  Apply once every couple of weeks.

Grow on, gardeners!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Work or Play?

Having a house on a corner affords me and all passersby full view of the gardens.  I have been told many times that "the gardens are beautiful, you work so hard....."  My response is always the same.  "I am not working, I am playing, thanks."  No joke; the garden requires care and nurturing, to be sure, but is that not a gift the garden gives to me ... a chance to do what nature needs me to do?  An opportunity to explore my capacity for giving outside of my comfort zone, sometimes?  Yes, there are many times I head out to care for the flowers and plants feeling less than whole, but guaranteed, in no time at all, I find that I am lost in thought, my beathing becomes regular, and I am immersed in the sounds of wind, bird, and insect.  There is nothing so soothing as the familiarity of my gardens.  The numerous required tasks such as mulching, weeding, and deadheading allow me to slip into a state of total relaxation as these tasks are carried out.  The sounds and smells surrounding me can take me to a place of my own. The other challenges, the constant decision-making required in a garden such as moving plants to better locations, color-scaping (I just made that up), who to keep and who to give up on ... surely these are more gifts, opportunities to grow.  I suppose that is the truth (for this gardener):  the garden is a two-way experience.

Awareness, instant and fully formed:  at (its) end was a most glorious place.  Somewhere she needed to be.  Somewhere safe where she could rest.  With a deep beath, Nell followed the Authoress across the threshold and into the most beautiful garden she had ever seen.  (from The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton)

Grow on, friends.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

To Raspberry or Not

Okay, raspberries ... a bit of maintenance, a lot of jam and raspberry lemonade and pies.
Some background here:
First of all, I did not plan to be a raspberry grower.  About twelve years ago I noticed the tiniest little shoot growing in the corner of my shed/patio and knew that it had been planted by a previous tenant.  I thought to myself, "oh, a raspberry plant, what harm if I leave it to grow a little?"  Well, twelve years later, as the picture shows, I have enough berries each summer to give away, use, freeze and even share with the birds.
This spring, after the snow melted, I saw that now my neighbour also has the tiniest little raspberry plants sprouting throughout his lawn, a good ten feet away from my patch.....panic set in quickly.  Would I have to herbacide (not an option, personally) or, maybe, would I have to replace his lawn?  Well, off to my local nursery to find out.  Their solution:  what jumps the boundary to the neighbor's yard is the neighbors problem.
Really? I asked.  Really, they said.  So I returned home with a plan.  I would get up earlier than the neighbor each morning and pull the little offenders by hand.  Soon enough, though, I realized full disclosure was needed as I could not actually enter the fenced off portion of his yard without explanation.  His response:  no worries, I will simply cut them with the lawn mower when I do the grass.  O.K. 
But, I ask, is it really true that my raspberry runaways are not my responsibility.  Do I risk becoming that horrible gardener who guerrilla-plants the neighborhood?
Thus the tale of an unplanned raspberry patch.  Note, this year I allowed some morning glory vines to get close to the raspberries and I have a sneaking feeling NEXT year there will start a new problem; maybe the morning glories and raspberries will have to fight it out; my money is on the vines winning unless I step in a pull, pull, pull.

Friday, 7 October 2011

a little privacy please

Here is a photo of the special place we installed for the dogs.  First we removed the burnt-out grass, then dug down about 8 inches, laid down a bag of charcoal, covered that with gravel, then river rock.  Voila, instant bathroom for dog; training them to use it only took a day.  Now they know where "to go" and the grass stays safe.

here is a photo of the pretty little bench my neighbor , artist friend, and co-veggie garden partner, installed in our joint veggie garden.  It is a little private place where we can sit and enjoy watching the unfolding show that is our garden.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

new day, next day

Yes, it is a glorious new day here on our island.  The sun is being brilliant and plans to be for the next five days.  Kinda makes me feel bad for my partner who struggled a giant hibiscus back into the house for the winter.  Okay, the weather report said frost, and maybe I panicked just a little given that the hibiscus spent her summer on the protected, very hot, back patio ... a closed in area that provides me a location for very early starts, i.e tomatoes in April as it is always five or more degrees hotter back there.  Oh, well, hibiscus is in the house now, a great deal larger than she was when we put her out in the spring.  Hopefully, this winter, the plant will NOT develop whitefly, requiring me to cut her down drastically.  We shall see.
I have of course been reading other garden blogs, primarily Crafty Gardener, Ontario.  Over time, just maybe, I can emulate her prolific abilities.  Like her, I love gardening, birds, photography.  I also enjoy kayaking, we have a beautiful area for such. 
The leaves are turning all colors this week, falling gracefully into me gardens, telling me to just enjoy it all for now, garden clean-up can wait until after the frost.  Partner agrees.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

This Week in the Garden

This is my very first posting.  This week it rained a lot so not much time was spent with the flowers and veggies.  I harvested more beans, the last of them; we have many many tomatoes.  Lots of chutneys and sauces have been put away.
This year is my first with a veggie garden; definitely will not be planting, next year, row upon row of radishes because none of them turned out bunch will do.  The lettuces were great success, even the mache. Brocolli, yes; cauliflower, no.  I am going to try to attach a photo now.  This will get more interesting for you, I hope, as the writer in me emerges.