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.

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!

 

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!

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!

 

In bloom this last week of July in zone 4 to 5

In bloom this last week of July here in my Ottawa (zones 4 to 5) gardens are more lilies, more roses, more of everything that was in bloom last week.

The lilies are absolutely spectacular, there must be close to thirty blossoms on the three plants at my front lamp post and more in my back garden…

 

My favourite rose this week is a pale, blush pink:

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As I was walking around my backyard, a pair of cardinals were flitting through my plum tree watching me. The red male really stood out against the green of the leaves, he came to within a few feet of me…

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In bloom this third week of July

More pictures from my zone 4 to 5 garden in Ottawa; these perennial flowers are blooming this third week of July…

new bloomers:

 

Many perennials that were blooming last week are still going strong…

 

…while others are showing promise of things to come…

 

The annuals I planted in containers and bare spots in the garden are also still blooming well.  I always choose annuals that offer interesting foliage as well as flowers…

 

This next plant with the large leaves is a mystery to me.  I did not plant it, I believe it has come from the vegetable garden in the backyard next door.  Any ideas?…

mystery b