Freeze/thaw cycles

Many people do not mind rain in winter, as they look forward to spring.  The problem is the freeze/thaw cycles that go with the rain can be very destructive to your plants and their containers.  I leave many container plants out on my back deck for a few reasons.

  • I love the look of plants blowing in the wind, especially the ornamental grasses.
  • Most of the containers are too large (heavy) to move inside
  • I have lots of them so would need a good chunk of time to move them.
  • For some reason time always gets away from me in the fall, so the snow arrives before I get around to moving the planters.

Whatever the reason you have left your planters outside for the winter, you can ensure they survive.  When it rains a lot (as it has been here for the past few days) or a thaw melts snow on top of the pots, be sure to dump out the excess water before it freezes again. If you cannot dump out the excess water, bail it out.   If you do not remove it, the excess water will freeze and your pots will crack.  I guarantee this will happen if the containers do not have drainage holes in the bottom.  If they do have drainage holes the pots may still crack when excessive rain turns to ice.  This happens often here in Ottawa.  One day it is raining and almost balmy, the next freezing cold.

 

Another trick to protect your plants over the winter is to ensure the plants stay snow covered.  Snow acts as an insulator, protecting plants from freeze/thaw cycles.  I always shovel snow onto my roses growing beside my garage at my front door.  This spot is sunny and warmer than the rest of my gardens because the brick wall retains the heat absorbed from the sun.  This extra heat means the snow melts faster there, so I have to keep shovelling more on.  If you do this, be sure to use snow that does not have salt (from your sidewalk or driveway) in it.

 

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Is it raining where you live?  If it is, make sure it does not collect on your planters if freezing temperatures are coming next.  Freeze/thaw cycles are brutal on your plants and their containers.

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Versatile succulents

Succulents are easy to grow plants, even for the novice gardener.  They can be planted directly into your garden or in containers for indoors and out.  In really cold climates, you may have to bring your container in for the winter.

These versatile gems also make great centerpieces for DIY decorations at weddings or showers.  Recently I selected a variety of tiny ones, painted their pots pale pink, and created a centerpiece for decoration at a baby shower.  As my guests left, I tucked one baby succulent into their loot (party favor) bags…

 

These versatile succulents can be purchased in pots at your local nursery, or as seeds through a seed catalogue or by clicking on the Amazon links below…

Purple jacaranda trees

These jacaranda trees, currently in bloom in southern Australia, are beautiful!  These pictures show how these spectacular trees line the streets in Adelaide…

 

The pictures remind me of our crab apple trees in the spring and our maple trees in the fall here in Canada.  The striking purple color of the jacaranda trees grabbed my attention of course because GRAY IS NOT MY COLOR;  I am a blatant  PURPLEHOLIC.

 

‘Tis the season for freelance writing

‘Tis the season, my freelance writing season, as Gardens4u is now officially closed for the winter…

 

Gardens4u is closed, freelance writing season is open

 

Although this past spring and summer were wet and cool, our summer was extended recently with the most marvelous fall weather.  Unfortunately, that has come to an end, and reality is settling in.

Now my other interests are able to take over, with a growing list (I am a list person for sure) of the things I hope to accomplish this winter…

  • reconnect with my freelance writing contacts.
  • finish the quilt I started for my grandson last winter.
  • start and finish a quilt for my granddaughter.
  • make nursery curtains for my new granddaughter due to arrive the end of February.
  • clean out the few remaining closets I did not get to the past few winters.
  • reorganize the walk-in closet in our master bedroom.
  • post more frequently on this and my other blogs:   WOW  and  LOL
  • spend more time with my grandson and granddaughter (and their parents).
  • visit with friends I never seem to find the time to visit during the gardening season.
  • read more books.  If anyone has suggestions for a good read, please let me know!
  • clean my house.  Although most people do their spring cleaning in the spring, I do mine in the winter (silly me) so when spring arrives I can get out and enjoy my favourite season.
  • update my business website, adding pictures from this past season.  Be sure to check them out and add your comments!
  • exercise.  Planks are my favourite exercise for maintaining muscle tone.  Without gardening to keep me in shape I have to work extra hard in the winter to keep pounds from creeping up on my bathroom scale.

 

Phew, with that list I should be busy until spring when I can start a new garden season!

 

Today was a good day

Today was a good day for applying a fall fertilizer to lawns.  Why?  Because it is still not too cold out, the grass is no longer growing but still green, and it was drizzling.  At least it was as I finished the five lawns I had to fertilize.  It’s raining harder now, which is also ideal because the rain helps water the fertilizer in.  However, try to avoid fertilizing before a downpour, so your hard work is not washed away.

Today’s conditions were ideal for fall lawn fertilizing.  Most experts will tell you that fall is the most important time to fertilize your lawns.  Fertilizer applied at this time of the year is to strengthen (deepen) the roots, repair the lawn from summer drought/stresses and prepare the lawn for winter, so it is important to get the right product.  These are two I frequently use for fertilizing lawns in the fall…

 

 

Both are pet and kid friendly, safe to walk on immediately after application.  They can be purchased at your local garden centers or DIY (Home Depot, Lowes etc) stores.

Apply the fertilizer as instructed on the bags.  I use a push spreader and apply the fertilizer in two directions to avoid patchiness (as pictured below).  For irregularly shaped lawns, block off the lawn (visually) in squares or rectangles to ensure even distribution of the fertilizer.

 

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Remember, a great looking lawn enhances the appearance of your garden.  We all know I appreciate beautiful gardens.  If you miss/forget any fertilizer applications, don’t miss the fall one!

 

I’m a snob

Ok, I will admit it, I am a snob, a plant snob that is!  Some plants I find just too common and boring.  For example, “Look at that beautiful hosta!” said no one ever.  Or spirea either for that matter, unless you are talking one of the bridal wreath variety, then you may just hear or think that, but only if it is pruned correctly.

So, if that makes me a plant snob, then so be it.  I appear to have developed an aversion to hostas, probably because people have overused them in their gardens.  The only time I enjoy them is in the very early spring when their green spikes are one of the first signs of new growth to emerge from the soil as it thaws out here in the Ottawa area.  In the summer they get eaten by slugs and earwigs, and in the fall they turn mushy and slimy…

 

 

So, what perennials do I prefer over hostas for the edges of my gardens in my GARDENS4U and home gardens?  Here are my choices:

For shady areas I like perennial geraniums.  They are one of the first perennials to green up in the spring, require no maintenance what so ever, and maintain their neat, non-sprawling (most varieties) mounded shape.  They do spread throughout the garden, but are very shallow rooted, so easy to remove.  These geraniums are great for planting under trees, even evergreen trees where nothing else will thrive.

Another good choice for an edging plant in shady areas is lamium.  It is one of my favourites with its variegated leaves, reblooming pale flowers, and tidy habit.

be a plant snob with a lamium border

 

For part shade to part sun locations in the garden, I am loving heucheras these days.  Some varieties tolerate more sun than others, so be sure to read the tags.  By the way, heuchera is pronounced with a hard c.  I will never forget that after I was chastised for mispronouncing it by a 93-year-old client.  Heucheras come in a variety of colors from palest green to bright chartreuse to orangy-brown to reddish brown to deep wine red.  Leaf shapes vary too from smooth and rounded, to almost maple-leaf-like, to curly, lettuce-leaf-like.  They look good all summer, need no fall cleanup or protection, and survive our cold winters with no problem.  A simple tug to remove any crispy leaves in the spring and they are good to go.

become a plant snob with heucheras for borders

My first choice for full sun edging plants are those in the sedum or stonecrop families.  As succulents, sedums and stonecrops are all drought tolerant, thriving in hot, dry areas, especially next to stone walkways where not much else will grow. They too come in a variety of colors and shapes.  These sedums and stonecrops look especially nice when several varieties are planted together.

So, next season think outside of your comfort zone. Become a plant snob by replacing those boring hostas with a little more pizazz!

 

Final garden chores

Well, our beautiful fall weather has come to an end here in Ottawa, so I am closing out my GARDENS4U season with some final garden chores:

  • cut back any perennials that get mushy or moldy (hostas, peonies, tall phlox)  Leave the rest for the birds, rabbits, squirrels etc.
  • mound clean soil (just plain, new soil,  no fertilizer) around the crowns of roses and any other less hardy plants.
  • mulch leaves and spread them around the plants in my gardens.  I will probably have to borrow some leaves from my neighbours or clients to do this as the trees in my yard are predominantly evergreens.
  • take any frost tender potted plants indoors (there are a few I overwinter)
  • put containers that are not cold hardy into the garage (those without drainage holes are especially susceptible to cracking) Store them on a shelf or other spot off the floor.
  • remove any cold sensitive decorations from the garden and store them (not on the floor) in the garage
  • pick any blooms still thriving; the frosty nights will kill them fast

 

 

 

That will probably end my garden posts for a while, I will have to look elsewhere for inspiration…