Fabulous fall, again, already

Yes, I know, I said fabulous fall.  Last year I posted about how fall is not my favourite season and provided a (quite short) list of things I like about it.  Well, this year I have come up with a few more things to expand my list.  I grudgingly have to admit that fabulous fall does boast these advantages, over and above the gloriously colourful foliage of course.  The incredible display of colour always seems to be at the top of every fall lover’s list, at least here in the north.

Cooler nights:

I love opening the windows in the house to let the breeze cool and refresh the air, but my husband and the only son left living at home prefer the AC.  We have arguments every summer over canned air versus fresh air.  My argument is that fresh air is free, not to mention it lacks the feel of an artic blast!

Our AC lowers our home temperature to 18 degrees (Celsius) overnight to prevent them from getting too warm when they sleep.  I too like the lower temperatures to sleep, but not during the day.  I absolutely hate when it’s too cold in the house in the summer.  Somehow wearing a sweater in the summer (when it’s sunny and hot outside) does not feel right.  As a compromise, I set the temperature to a liveable 22 degrees during the day.

So, when the nights are cooler (less than 18 degrees), I win with the open windows method of air conditioning at night.  And during the day too if the temperature stays below 22 degrees.

Great gardening weather:

In my gardening business, fabulous fall probably (spring is close too) provides the most productive days.  In the hot summer months I have to get started quite early in the day to avoid the overwhelming temperatures and humidity that slow me down.  These (fabulous fall) days I can work longer hours, although some mornings are quite nippy so I wait until it warms up a bit.

Baking: 

When my children were younger I used to bake much more frequently.  In fact, I used to spend hours making and decorating their birthday cakes, until they were old enough to graduate to Dairy Queen ice cream cakes.

Now that my grandchildren are old enough to help (sort of) and appreciate freshly baked goodies, I am getting reacquainted with the fine art of baking.  Although my 2.5 year old grandson is a little too exuberant with the buttons on my mixer. Our last batch of blueberry and banana muffins were pretty tough, not to mention greenish in colour.  Blue and yellow do make green, if you mix the colours enough (excessively).  Folding the blueberries into the batter at the end was not his idea of fun.

These are my latest creations, made for my granddaughter’s 6th birthday…

My neighbour helps with the decorating ideas, she is the most talented decorator with unparalleled artistic imagination.  She bakes to fundraise on National Cupcake Day supporting Sit With Me Shelter Dog Rescue.  Check out the link to support the cause, any time of the year.  If you live in the Ottawa area and would like to sample some of her incredible creations while supporting the dogs, let me know.  I will send you the link to her next event.  Here are a few examples of her talent…

Incredible Deals at Garden Centers:

Fabulous fall is the best time to find great bargains on perennial plants, trees and shrubs to spruce (pun intended) up your (and mine) gardens.  The deals are especially awesome at locations where their garden centers are seasonal; Canadian Tire is a great example.  Some of the plants may look a little sad and bedraggled, but the beauty of perennials is that they come back bigger and better each year.

Fabulous fall is also the best time to plant or move perennials, shrubs and trees.  As long as you do it NOW, (in my area) at least six weeks before the ground freezes.  This will allow for the roots of whatever you are planting to settle in for the winter before they are assaulted with the looming cold weather.

Less bugs at the cottage:

The bugs (mosquitoes, black flies and horse/deer flies) seem to disappear this time of year at the cottage.  They were brutal earlier, from April right through to August, making it difficult to get any work done outdoors.  We can finally sit around a campfire without getting eaten alive.

Cheers to a fabulous fall, may it last a long time…

fabulous fall
Cheers

 

Morel mushrooms, our consolation prize

One good thing about our cool, wet spring weather is the bumper crop of morel mushrooms we have been harvesting at our cottage. This is the first year we have seen them, in fact I was not sure what kind of mushrooms they were and whether or not they are edible. So, I sent an SOS (and picture) to the “all things nature related” expert, my cousin John in Missouri. Whatever would we do without our handy cell phones?

morel mushroom
edible or poisonous?
morel mushrooms
delicious or poisonous?

He sent me this link so I could read up on these delicious discoveries before we sauteed them up in butter for dinner. We did wait until we were in the (relative) safety of our home to try them as the cottage is a bit far from any hospital. I am happy (and alive) to report cousin John was right, morel mushrooms are quite yummy. Lots of work though, to clean them up, as their brain-like crevices hold lots of dirt.

morel mushrooms
first harvest of morel mushrooms

As the (miserable) cool, wet weather continued into June, we are taking some consolation in the fact we have had three weekly harvests of these morel mushrooms now, each collection larger than the last. At first they were hard to find; now we know what to look for and where to find these beauties. And also to check that their stems are hollow, an important characteristic that distinguishes them from their more sinister cousins.

morel mushrooms
third harvest

This week has been much warmer, finally some summer weather, so that may be the end of our mushroom harvesting for this year.

Flowering shrubs scream “Spring is Here”

It’s a good thing the flowering shrubs know it’s spring. Mother Nature on the other hand, has forgotten that the weather is supposed to warm up. The sunny yellow blooms of my neighbour’s forsythia are a beautiful sight from my bedroom window…

and my own magnolia is also screaming “spring is here!” with its fragrant blooms…

with the blossoms of plum trees not far behind…

My roses (at least the ones in my front yard that are protected from the north winds) are also showing signs of spring…

flowering shrubs
climbing rose
flowering shrubs
shrub rose

Now, if the cold and wet weather would clear up, spring would be awesome!

Gardening? Today? Who would have thunk it!

This might not seem too outrageous in your part of the world, but in mine gardening today is definitely pushing the season. After all, we still have lots of snow and today is the first day our temperature has risen above the freezing mark.

So, for those of you also lamenting the late arrival of spring here in Ontario, I will give you the exciting details of what gardening chores I was actually able to accomplish today. The rest of you can yawn in boredom as you mutter “been there, done that already.”

Every time I pull in my driveway these days, I am reminded of how sick I am of seeing the brown and crispy fall/winter arrangements that looked so green and lush last fall and for most of the winter…

Today the sun is shining and the temperature above freezing so I pulled out my garden gloves and secateurs…

gardening today
gardening essentials

First I tackled the evergreen arrangements that are an eyesore, at least I attempted to. Even though the temperature is warm today, the soil these branches are sitting in is still frozen in one of the containers. (One gets full sun all day, the other only a portion of the day) What is left of the one is just the blue spruce branches that are still a beautiful bluey green color. I know, they look kind of lonely without anything else to complement them, so I will have to find something to add, even if the plants are fake. The other container will have to wait until the soil thaws sufficiently enough to remove the branches and ornaments.

By the way, the ornaments (red dogwood branches, pinecones on spikes, etc) spend the summer in my gardening tool organizer, AKA a plastic shoe storage unit, that hangs on a wall in my garage…

gardening today
gardening tool AKA shoe storage

Another thing I tackled in my brief gardening stint today is the ornamental grasses I could reach. I like to leave them over the winter so the fronds can blow in the wind, but by this time of the year they are either broken (from the weight of the snow) or the seed heads have blown off. Before they send up new growth, and as soon as you can access them, cut them back to a few inches from the ground.

I have several in my back yard, but they are still buried under at least two feet of snow, so will have to wait for their trim. I do however, have one large clump beside my lamp post in my front garden that is accessible and several as experiments in pots on my front veranda.

As this veranda is always bathed in full sun and protected from the wind, I can get away with less hardy plants there. This year I tried leaving the ornamental grasses I planted in pots last summer on the veranda over the winter. Each time it snowed, (quite often this winter) I covered them with snow for some moisture.

The general rule of thumb for perennials in containers is that you have to (should) use plants that are hardy to two zones below your gardening zone. It appears I was successful in my experiment though as I see some green inside the trimmed shoots. That’s a sign they did not die, exciting news to me.

Earlier this week I helped a friend stage her house. She wanted fresh, live pussy willows and spring blossoms for her front porch, but as the temperature was still close to -20C overnight, we settled for plastic. Plastic flowers have come a long way; not the plastic flowers your grandma used to have!

gardening today
spring blooms

Perhaps I will go back to the dollar store and pick out some plastic flowers for my front containers.

Storm lashes Florida’s gulf coast, again

On December 19th, 2018, another storm hit the gulf coast of Florida. Unlike storms Gordon and Michael that hit in September and October respectively, this storm had no name. At least none that I could discover.

We heard the storm warnings on the radio and TV, so the ominous clouds, lashing rain and rising ocean swells were no surprise…

storm clouds
storm
storm
lashing rain

Named or not, I was a witness to this particular storm. Any of the locals I spoke to that day claimed they had never seen the waves so high. A stranger sent me this copy of a video he shot. That is my husband checking out the waves crashing on and washing over the jetty as the rest of us huddled further back from the action.

waves at the North Jetty on Casey Key, Nokomis, Florida

The news spread fast, locals and visitors alike flocked over the drawbridge that connects Casey Key to the mainland of Nokomis. The road to the north jetty was well travelled with those wanting to witness the wrath of Mother Nature. The level of the water rose so high with the wind and rain that most of the jetty was under water and the beach was barely walkable…

storm
crashing waves
storm
crashing waves wash out jetty
storm
high water levels
storm
crashing waves
storm
massive waves
storm
water level rising to grasses

Later that day, the waves subsided somewhat, the skies cleared and a spectacular sunset promised better weather the next day…

storm
here comes the sun!
storm
flooded beach
storm
beach sunset

drawing the shell collectors to the beach and the (rather bedraggled) wildlife to the jetty the next morning…

storm
shell collecting after the storm
storm
collecting shells after the storm
disoriented (rescued) crab

white ibis

sleepy pelicans

Although the beautiful beach and spectacular ocean front homes had already sustained an incredible amount of damage in the previous storms, we saw more the next morning…

storm
steps buried in sand
storm
steps buried in sand
storm
beach erosion
storm
beach erosion
storm
storm damage
storm
storm damage

Everywhere I travel, I cannot help but stop to admire (and snap pictures of) the local plants. That’s the gardener in me I guess…

storm
bird of paradise
storm
bougainvillia
storm
variegated yuccas
storm
beach access

The stormy weather lasted around 24 hours. As much as it was spectacular to witness it, I prefer walking the beach with calmer waters and sunshine.

Offseason To Do List is Growing

Well, I pushed my garden season as far as possible……but my frozen fingers and toes convinced me to pack it up. Although I miss my garden business already (I’ve only been closed for the season for one week) I do admit there are (a few) good things about my offseason.  My to do list is the only thing growing these days.

offseason

 

‘Tis the season instead for tackling my to do list of things I don’t seem to have enough time for the rest of the year.  Some are fun, others not so much….

  • freelance writing
  • watching Ellen every morning for a good laugh
  • sleeping in, especially when the weather is bad.  Look out the window, roll over and fall back asleep!
  • baking, although that can be dangerous without all the exercise I get during gardening season
  • spending even more time with my grandchildren who are growing in leaps and bounds
  • preparing my tools (sharpening and cleaning) for next season
  • decluttering the gardening stuff in our garage

 

In reviewing a similar post from last year at this time,  I am proud to say I did accomplish lots of the items on that list, especially the sewing projects.  Can you tell I am a list person?  Of course, the things that did not get accomplished in that offseason will be added to this year’s list.

Isn’t this a dreary looking picture?  That’s the advertising on my van (or garden mobile as my son and his friends call it) being pelted by snow.  It sure makes miserable weather for gardening!

offseason

 

Enough procrastinating, back to my list!

 

 

The best things about fall

Fall is not my favourite time of year, in fact it is probably my least favourite season here in Canada.  (Almost) everything in my gardens is dying off and there is a distinct chill in the air hinting at the winter weather that is lurking around the corner.  There are a (measly) few things however that I do like about the season.  On my list of the best things about fall are…

  • warm, fuzzy sweaters
  • boots, especially the little, lightweight ones (booties) that go with every outfit
  • glorious splashes of orange, yellow and red provided by the leaves in the otherwise drab landscape
  • the roses in the gardens that just don’t want to give it up

 

 

What’s on your list?

FROST, isn’t it too early for that?

We have frost in the forecast for the Ottawa area tonight.  Isn’t it a bit early for that?  To me, it’s a nasty “f” word…

3:24 PM EDT Thursday 04 October 2018
Frost advisory in effect for:
Ottawa North – Kanata – Orléans
Ottawa South – Richmond – Metcalfe
Frost may damage some crops in frost-prone areas.

To us gardeners, that means our annual plants and crops will be dead tomorrow morning.  Fortunately, I have already moved any I wish to preserve inside.  Other than this one night of near freezing temperatures, the weather looks pretty mild for the next few weeks, meaning my gardening season isn’t over quite yet.

Extreme summer breaking records

No doubt we have had an extreme summer this year in Ontario.  Extremely high temperatures and accompanying drought conditions were followed by an extreme amount of rainfall over a very short time period, then topped off with an over abundance of annoying, hungry mosquitoes.

extreme summer

We should be moving up this list as our daytime temperatures are still soaring high.  The good news is our evening/night temperatures are currently cooler, much better for sleeping.  Most people will agree, moderate is much more tolerable than extreme.

Despite the extreme weather we have experienced, after last summer’s lack of sunshine and heat, no one can complain we did not get enough of either this summer.  I must admit thought, this extreme summer has limited my time in my gardens!

 

Rain drops keep falling on my head

Gardening in the rain is usually not a problem for me, in fact I prefer a light drizzle to the intense heat we have been experiencing lately.  A light rain keeps me cool and keeps the bugs away. It also cuts down on the amount of sunscreen I use.  I do draw the line however at thunderstorms or torrential downpours.

Today started off great.  A light rain was falling so I headed to one of my favourite gardens, located in the exclusive and very private setting of the Kanata Rockeries which were designed by one of the founding fathers of Kanata Bill Teron.

 

 

Then the dark(er) clouds rolled in bringing heavier rainfall and distant thunder…

 

rain

 

That was my cue to head (run) to my van.  When the downpour did not let up after five minutes and the thunder got closer, I headed home.