‘Tis the season

‘Tis the season, my other season, (not quite the Christmas season) as Gardens4u is now officially closed for the winter…

 

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Although this past gardening season started off wet and cool, it was extended recently with the most marvelous fall weather.  Unfortunately, that has come to an end, and reality is settling in.

Now my other season is starting, with a growing list (I am a list person for sure) of the things I hope to accomplish this winter…

  • 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!
  • reconnect with my freelance writing contacts.
  • 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.

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 to hostas for the edges of my 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 from places you do not want them to spread to.  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’s variegated leaves, reblooming pale flowers, and tidy habit make it one of my favourites..

lamium (with daylilies)

 

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…

 

pictures on right from Pixabay

 

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, in fact, look especially nice (I think) when varieties are mixed together randomly.

 

pictures from Pixabay

 

So, next season think outside of your comfort zone, and 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…

 

Latest project by Gardens4u

As our fall weather was too nice to start garden cleanups and winter preparation, I (GARDENS4U) took on another (small) project last week.  This client lives on the same street as two other clients for whom I have recently reconstructed front gardens.  The client wanted a smaller footprint for the new garden with plants that require no maintenance and stay tidy looking all season.  I started by removing all of the existing plants, leaving the large rock as the focal point…

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before
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after the clean out

 

I replanted a ring of groundcover (lamium) around the tree to include the tree in the garden.  I added heuchera in various colors around the perimeter of the garden to define its new edge, including around the outer edges of the rock. Both of these inclusions make it easier for the lawnmower, removing the chore of trimming around the tree and rock.  The large and overgrown clump of Solomon’s seal was dug out from around the rock.  It was overpowering the rock and looked messy.  Instead, I planted three different varieties of ornamental grass strategically around the edges of the rock, with two tall ones at the corners closest to the house and a shorter one at the front, outer edge.  This will draw the eye to the rock, making it an integral part of the garden.

New plants included the heuchera, a dwarf shrub rose, a varigated and reblooming weigela, as well as several colorful and long blooming perennials.  I reused a few daylilies, some (a very small portion) of the lamium, and none of the aggressive Solomon’s seal.  Unused plants have been potted up in my ICU (home inventory of plants) for recycling (use in someone else’s gardens).  Grass seed was sprinkled on the bare spots where the garden used to extend to. After the past few days of rainy weather the grass seed should be well watered.  If the mild weather holds, the grass may even grow before spring.

The end result was a smaller, tidier garden between the rock and the tree.  As it is currently late in the season, the client will have to wait until next spring and summer to fully appreciate the new look…

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Unfortunately, this week looks like our great weather is behind us so I will be starting that cleanup and winterizing this morning (after it warms up a bit)…not nearly as much fun as designing a new garden!

Save your banana peels for bulb planting

Yes, you read that right.  Now is the time to save your banana peels for bulb planting.  Over the years I have tried many things to deter squirrels from digging up the bulbs I plant in my clients’ gardens as well as my own.

Placing a few strips of banana peel over the bulbs (or wrap each bulb in a piece of peel) in the hole you have dug seems to be the best method I have found, especially for single (and expensive!) bulbs like Lily trees …

 

 

Another trick is to plant daffodils and tulips in the same hole as that seems to deter squirrels too because they do not like daffodils…

We eat lots of bananas in my home, so I collect the peels (tear the peel from each banana into 6 pieces first) in a plastic baggie and store the baggie in my freezer until I am ready to plant the bulbs…

 

Try my banana peel trick and let me know if it works for you.  Now is the perfect time here in zone 4 to 5 for planting bulbs!

 

Never have I ever

Never have I ever seen lavender or clematis blooming in late October!  At least not in our zone 4 to 5 gardens here in Ottawa.   I have cut back June lavender blossoms before resulting in late August, even early September reblooming, and have seen spring blooming clematis rebloom in August, but never late October…

 

 

Ornamental grasses are at their peak, waving in the breeze.  Other perennials still in bloom or reblooming include clematis, lots of roses,  phlox, butterfly bush, Russian sage, periwinkle and more…

 

 

I am supposed to be doing fall cleanups on my GARDENS4U clients’ gardens this week, but their gardens are still so nice I hesitate to cut anything down.  I did get covered in burs and seed heads removing some weeds though; a peril of the job…

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Even the butterflies and bees are loving this warm fall weather; this butterfly bush was covered with both…

 

I am in no hurry for frost to send these beautiful perennials into dormancy.