Cottage visitors

During the winter months we drive up to the cottage to check on it and the property at least once a month.  The deep snow allows us to keep track (pun intended) of all visitors.

We have the two legged variety (us)

 

and the four legged visitors…

 

I wonder if the four legged variety are longing for spring as much as we two legged creatures are.  Regardless, spring still looks like a long way off!

 

 

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

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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

Ottawa is the coldest capital in the world

Brrrrrrrrr…today Ottawa is the coldest capital city in the world.  This picture is from CBC news who is reporting temperatures as low as -35 Celcius, which is -31 for you Fahrenheit people.  Not that it matters, when it gets this cold who cares weather (pun intended) you are talking Celsius or Fahrenheit.

coldest
Ottawa coldest capital city in the world today

Our government has issued a warning that it is not advisable for seniors or small children to be outside today. The cold weather makes it a good day for hibernating, and not just for seniors or children!

 

 

December 21st is our winter solstice

Today, December 21st, is our winter solstice here in Canada and the rest of the northern hemisphere.  That means it’s the shortest day of the year.  It also means the days will now start to get longer.  Yaaaaaay.  Technically, winter solstice,  also referred to as mid-winter, is an astronomical event that happens as the earth travels on its orbit around the sun.

winter solstice

 

This date reminds me of my father as he, like me, much preferred summer and spring.  He always commented on the winter solstice, getting great satisfaction in the fact that the long winter was getting shorter.  On the flip side, on June 21st, our summer solstice, he would grumble and complain that the days were getting shorter.

 

A dogsled, RCMP, snow and Shania Twain

Arriving on the snow-covered field on a dogsled, escorted by (RCMP) mounties, Shania Twain’s Grey Cup halftime show could not have been more Canadian.  The flying snow enhanced the performance, captured here by ESPN…

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Dressed in sparkly pink and red winter wear, Canadian country singer Shania Twain wowed the crowd with her hit songs “That Don’t Impress me Much” and “Life’s About to Get Good”  before closing with “Man, I feel like a woman!”

 

Oh, and the football game was good too, a close nailbiter right to the end.  The underdog won again with the Toronto Argonauts defeating the Calgary Stampeders 27-24  in Grey Cup #105.

 

 

‘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!

 

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!