What is a hospice?

Unfortunately, most people are not aware of what a hospice is until they have the need for one.  If you looked it up in a dictionary, a hospice would be described as a home for the terminally ill.  While hospitals are known for their goals of restoring health,  hospices are geared toward supporting (both psychologically and spiritually) a dying patient and their family.

Years ago I first learned about hospices when my friend was losing her fight with cancer.  A few times per week she attended a day hospice where she met with others in similar situations.  These outings offered her great comfort.  At that time there were no live in hospices in our community.  Today we are fortunate to have the newly expanded Ruddy Shenkman Hospice that currently has the capacity for ten live in patients as well as day services.

I volunteer at this hospice on the gardening team.  It gives me great satisfaction to help provide a beautiful setting for patients and their families living and visiting there. The gardens that were planted immediately after the construction were pretty boring, not to mention depressing, with rows of shrubs of which many were dead...

I spent a few days removing the dead sticks and replacing them with recycled perennials, then added mulch.  Much better…

hospice

These beds will look even  better in a few weeks when the recycled plants have a chance to get established.

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How not to plant shrubs

One of the garden projects I have been working on lately reminded me how not to plant shrubs. These shrubs were not planted deep enough so the root balls heaved out of the soil this past winter.  As a result, the row of shrubs were all dead, and very unsightly. When I dug them up (didn’t even require a shovel, they came out quite easily) the root balls were still in the shape of the pots.  So were the holes.

 

 

 

The correct way to plant a shrub (and most perennials and trees too) is to:

  • dig a hole twice as wide as the pot the shrub came in and the same depth
  • remove the shrub from the pot and loosen the root ball
  • if the shrub is very root bound, use a sharp knife or trowel to scarify (gently scrape/loosen) the roots
  • add water to the hole before and after planting the shrub
  • water daily until shrub is established, (one week) preferably in the morning
  • ensure plant crown is neither too deep or too far above ground.  Roses do prefer their crown just below soil level

 

 

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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Please be sure to visit my other blogs:
Laugh out loud (LOL) with me at Your Daily Chuckle
and
Be inspired and motivated by famous words of wisdom at WoW
My gardening website can be viewed at gardens4u.ca

‘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!

 

It’s not the temperature

“It’s not the temperature” is a common Canadian phrase, followed by either “it’s the windchill” in the winter, or “it’s the humidity” in the summer.  We Canadians tend to be very weather obsessed.

In this case,  however, I am talking about why I cover the base (crown) of my roses in my gardens…

It’s not just the cold, although it is advisable to choose plants hardy to your area, that affects (kills) the roses. It’s the freeze and thaw cycles very common to Ontario weather that do them in.  The mounded earth helps prevent the rose crowns from heaving out of the ground in these freeze/thaw cycles.  Be sure to use clean soil for this purpose.  I purchase plain garden soil in easy to manage bags to avoid introducing mold, mildew, bacteria or insects and their eggs to the roses.

I counted twenty-two rose crowns to cover in my own gardens, with lots more in my GARDENS4U gardens.

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 garden project by Gardens4u

.As our fall weather was too nice to start garden cleanups and winter preparation, Gardens4u took on another garden project last week.  This client lives on the same street as two other clients for whom I have recently reconstructed front gardens.  This 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…

"Gardens4u

Gardens4u after the clean out
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.  In its place, I planted three different varieties of ornamental grass.  These were strategically placed around the edges of the rock.  Two tall ones went 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.  The grass seed should be well watered after the past few days of rainy weather.  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.  The client will have to wait until next summer, unfortunately, to fully appreciate the new look…

Gardens4u after pictureGardens4u after picture

 

Unfortunately, this current week looks like our great weather is behind us.  That means Gardens4u will be starting that cleanup and winterizing this morning after it warms up a bit.  Cleanup is not nearly as much fun as designing a new garden project!

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 GARDENS4U 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.  I tear the peel from each banana into 6 pieces and store them in a plastic baggie in my freezer.  When I am ready to plant the bulbs, I have lots of banana peels to keep the squirrels away.

 

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!