Cottage wildflower garden

We have a large space on our cottage property that acts as a buffer zone between the road (a major highway in those parts) and the cottage.

A 2-foot strip of vegetation along the road is cut by the township each year.   Adjacent to that there is a flat strip, then the land begins to slope downward for an approximate width of five feet before it levels off.   A row of cedar hedges was planted approximately 40 feet from the road many years ago, but the area between the bottom of the slope and the cedars is rarely maintained, left to grow wild.

Last season we planted several evergreen trees (pine and spruce) at the bottom of the slope.  This season we planted more, spaced throughout the flat area to create (eventually) a forest of evergreen trees as a visual and noise barrier between the road and the cottage.

I have always felt this whole area was wasted space,  What does a gardener do with wasted space?  Turns it into a garden of course, in this case, a wildflower garden.  This season I whippersnipped the flat area around the evergreens, avoiding all of the frogs (there were tons), then sprinkled seeds (pink and white coneflowers, Queen Anne’s lace, black-eyed Susans, pink and red beebalm to name a few) along the slope and flat strip close to the road. These plants are not exactly wildflowers, more hardy and tall perennials, but I mixed all the seeds in one large bag as I was collecting them to achieve a wildflower look.

I can’t wait to see what it looks like next season!

 

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Favourite and least favourite perennials

With all the gardens I visit in a season, I am bound to have my favorite and least favorite perennials.

Spiderwort, AKA tradescantia or widow’s tears are my least favorite this year.  They spread like crazy throughout gardens, flop over onto other plants and turn yellow and slimy as soon as the weather gets cool.  The only good things about them are their pretty color (purple) and the fact that they will rebloom if cut back after the first bloom…

 

pictures from Pixabay

 

My favourite perennials this season have been coneflowers, especially the newer colors available.  Due to the cool summer we experienced, the coneflowers have been blooming pretty much all summer.  I have peachy orange, red and a few shades of pink coneflowers that are still stunning in my gardens…

 

 

I am still in love with all of the ornamental grasses; there seem to be more beautiful varieties every year.  Blue oat grass is my favourite this year in my zone 4 to 5 gardens.  I love its steel blue coloring and the fact that it is much hardier, larger and sturdier than the blue fescue I have tried previously…

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What are your favourite and least favourite perennials of the season?

Blue and pink and purple hydrangeas

Some of my GARDENS4U  gardens have blue hydrangeas and some have pink hydrangeas.  A garden I was at recently had both…

 

 

and we all know that blue and pink together make purple, so I was not surprised to see a few pale purple blossoms…

 

purple

 

 

 

So, how do you know if your soil is acidic or alkaline?  Try this simple soil pH test using ingredients from your kitchen:

  • Collect soil from different parts of your garden.  If you have a large garden, you may want to label your containers.  Styrofoam cups work well.
  • put 2 spoonfuls of soil into each of several containers.  (Two containers for each location)
  • Add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the soil in one container.  If it fizzes, you have alkaline soil, with a pH between 7 and 8.
  • If it doesn’t fizz after doing the vinegar test, then add distilled water to the other container taken from the same location until the 2 teaspoons of soil are muddy. Add 1/2 cup baking soda. If it fizzes you have acidic soil, with a pH between 5 and 6.
  • If your soil doesn’t react at all it is neutral with a pH of close to 7.

 

pH-scale-courtesy-of-chesapeakquarterly.net_

 

 

If you prefer your hydrangeas to be pink, make your soil alkaline (pH of 6.0-6.2)  You can do this by adding garden lime to your soil.

If you would rather your hydrangeas to be a blue color lower your soil’s pH to the acidic side (between 5.2 and 5.5).  Acidic soil can be achieved by adding 1/2 cup wettable sulfur powder or other commercial soil acidifiers each spring.  Pine needles or pine bark applied as a mulch also creates acidic soil conducive to blue hydrangeas.  So does compost or composted manure.  Some gardeners have had success using coffee grounds to provide acidic soil around their hydrangeas.

Once you get your soil’s pH figured out, try adding the appropriate soil amendments to just one side of a hydrangea bush to see if you can get both pink and blue blooms on one plant; perhaps you will end up with purple!

In bloom this third week of August in my zone 4 to 5 Ottawa gardens

There is not much new in my zone 4 to 5 Ottawa gardens this third week of August, a  new (orange) color of coneflower, pink garden phlox and a new flush of roses…

 

 

 

The pink and red coneflowers are still quite striking (although they were a little beat down by the storm we had just before I took their picture) and the yellow pom poms are still brightening up the back of a bed…

 

 

This week in my clients’ gardens I took some pictures of some awesome containers of annuals.  Annuals are always great this time of year to fill in with their pops of color.  The shades of purple in the last ones really caught my eye…

 

 

 

In bloom this second week of August in my Ottawa zone 4 to 5 gardens

Here are the newest perennial blooms in my own zone 4 to 5 gardens this second week of August;

 

This ornamental grass is my favourite although it is only an annual here in zone 4 or 5.  It makes a beautiful centerpiece for a container or it can be planted right in the garden!

grass 1

 

Still strutting their stuff, these perennials are still looking great:

 

On their way out (unfortunately) are my gorgeous lilies.  They will return bigger and better than ever next year though!  Every client I have planted some of these lily trees for have commented on how spectacular they are, well worth the price.

 

I hope you are enjoying these weekly walks through my gardens…

whole garden

The case against commercial garden soil and mulch

I have learned over the years that commercial (sold in bags or delivered in loads) garden soil and mulch are not the most efficient products to improve the quality of soil in your garden beds.  Every time I have done so, I end up with more weeds in my gardens…

 

 

 

So, if you shouldn’t use the commercial garden soil and mulch in your gardens, what should you use?  Instead of the commercial garden soils and mulches that are available in bags from your local garden center or delivered in truck loads, I currently use the following plan.

In the fall I use shredded leaves as a mulch throughout my gardens, then in the spring, I spread composted manure around all my emerging plants.  Be sure to use well-composted compost or manure in this step to avoid stinking up your neighbourhood. The extreme heat levels in the composting process kills weed seeds too, so is very important.  You could use your own compost pile, but ensure it has matured to the weed free level.  For large volumes, I use this variety (available at Home Depot) of composted cattle/steer manure, particularly because it does smell bad:

compost

This process adds both nutrients and humus to my existing soil, improving its quality immensely.  The proof is in the beautifully healthy looking plants and lack of weeds!