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!

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Expanding the family tree

I am thrilled to announce that my family tree is expanding again.  Our eldest son and his wife are expecting their first child next spring.

 

This was how they announced the wonderful news to us at a recent family dinner:

 

 

 

Dad and Grandpa are avid Miami Dolphin fans, mom not so much; she much prefers Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.  Guess what baby will be wearing at our house?

 

Both Mom and Dad are huge Ottawa Senators fans; this was the announcement on Facebook:

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I wonder how old baby will be when he/she attends their first hockey game?  I’m betting not very old at all!

 

 

Tips for DIY bridal bouquets, boutonnieres, and headpiece

Recently I attempted to make 5 bouquets, 5 boutonnieres, three corsages and one crown/headpiece for my son’s wedding.  I have lots of perennial plants in my gardens and lots of clients with even more beautiful flowers, so I thought “piece of cake.”  Not so much; it was much trickier than I thought but well worth the effort.

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I researched lots of Pinterest pages, and other DIY sites so I had notes to refer to.  The toughest part was that I could not do much (other than research) ahead of time (other than pace my gardens willing the flowers to bloom!)   To keep the flowers as fresh for as long as possible, I could only pick them the day before the wedding.

Mother Nature threw me a CURVE BALL too; I had planted lots of purple flowering perennials last fall that were supposed to bloom the beginning of June.  Due to the cold and wet spring we experienced here in Ottawa, very few of those flowers were in bloom in time.  White peonies with purple roses and clematis were not meant to be.

The following are the basic tips to ensuring your DIY bouquets turn out well.  Some are obvious, some not so much, some lessons I learned along the way…

  • don’t pick the flowers earlier than the morning before the wedding
  • have more flowers and foliage than you think you need
  • as soon as you do pick them, cut the stems longer than they need to be and put the cut stems in cold water immediately
  • use a clean bucket and clean cutters (this helps the blooms last longer)
  • recut the stems while they are under running water or in water (this ensures no air bubble get into the stems, preventing premature wilting/rotting
  • let the flowers sit in cold water for a minimum of 3 hours before arranging.
  • to assemble, start with the main/center flowers, then add others to fill out the bouquets. Add foliage last
  •  Stand in front of a mirror as you are arranging them to better see how they look
  • use elastics to hold the flowers together, placing them just below the top of the stem.  If your bouquets are large you can use several elastic to hold flowers together in groups
  • prop up droopy flower heads with wire or tape (I should have done that with the rhododendrons in my bouquets, they were very droopy by the end of the day)
  • use tinier flowers and blooms for boutonnieres and head piece, (see below) cutting stems short.  These short stems do not stay as fresh as long as the longer stems, so plan to make these last
  • I made each bouquet different, creating as I went along.  If you want them all to be identical, you will have to count out your available flowers and have a more detailed plan.  I tend to fly by the seat of my pants!
  • as you finish each bouquet, place it in a separate vase of water so the flowers do not get crushed/crowded
  • leave a few extra inches of stems at the bottom of each bouquet for final trimming
  • buy lots of ribbon; you can always return whatever you do not use
  • wide ribbon wraps faster and easier than thin ribbon, but seems to come off easier.  I used narrow ribbon for a base, then did top layer in wider ribbon
  • make all the bouquets first before starting to wrap with ribbon.  This ensures flowers are not out of water too long.
  • start wrapping ribbon near tops of stems (where elastics are)
  • if you choose to have dangling ribbons, loop them in at the top before wrapping, keeping them out of the way as you work
  • hold ribbon with one hand and bouquet with the other, turning the bouquet as you wrap.  The first (downward) layer of ribbon does not have to be perfect; you can leave some stem showing between, filling in the blanks on the upward layer.  Leave two inches of unwrapped stem at the bottoms so ribbon does not get wet
  • put each bouquet back into its vase with fresh water to just below ribbon
  • at last minute ( I could do this as pictures were taken at my home, so cut excess stems off literally 2 minutes before bouquets were needed) cut off excess stems

 

 

This headpiece was made as follows;

1

  • measure head with a piece of string
  • use a few (more than one) strands of floral wire to ensure stability, overlapping it by two inches, wrap with floral tape
  • cut flowers just before you use them (they wilt quickly) making stems 2 inches long
  • lay out flowers in the pattern you want to place them on the headpiece
  • place one bloom on headpiece so that stem is on top of and parallel to the wire circle
  • secure bloom to circle with floral tape, starting just below bloom and wrapping both stem and wire circle until end of stem
  • overlap next bloom so it sits on top of previous bloom’s stem, working your way around the circle of taped wire
  • tie strands of ribbon (if desired) to headpiece at center back
  • when complete, mist the creation with a bit of water and place it in a plastic baggy.  Blow air into the baggie and seal it.  Keep it in the baggy for as long as possible, the tiny blooms wilt quickly!  Store it in a refrigerator or cool room (basement)

 

I tried something a little different for the boutonnieres.  I grew my own calla lillies, starting them in pots in my basement last winter…

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The groom’s had three tiny purple pom pom like flowers, the groomsmen just the calla lily and foliage.  For the foliage I used tiny calla lily leaves and snippets of english ivy vine…

  • cut stems about 3 inches longer (could be shorter or longer as desired)
  • arrange flowers and foliage in the pattern you choose
  • wrap stems with floral wire
  • add decorative pin for securing to lapels
  • place each boutonniere in its own plastic baggy, mist lightly with water, blow air into baggy and seal.  Store baggys in refrigerator or cool room (I kept them all in my basement)
  • these too will wilt quickly as the stems and blooms are small.  My one son joked he had “salad on his suit” by the end of the night

 

The corsages did not turn out so well.  The short stems would not stay in the pearl wristbands I chose.  I tried securing them with floral wire, but they kept falling apart.  The intense heat of the day did not help as the flowers wilted quickly too.  I would appreciate comments/sugguestions on what I could have done differently, just in case I have another wedding soon…

 

 

 

In bloom this third week of August in my zone 4 to 5 Ottawa gardens

There is not much new in my zone 4 to 5 Ottawa gardens this third week of August, a  new (orange) color of coneflower, pink garden phlox and a new flush of roses…

 

 

 

The pink and red coneflowers are still quite striking (although they were a little beat down by the storm we had just before I took their picture) and the yellow pom poms are still brightening up the back of a bed…

 

 

This week in my clients’ gardens I took some pictures of some awesome containers of annuals.  Annuals are always great this time of year to fill in with their pops of color.  The shades of purple in the last ones really caught my eye…

 

 

 

In bloom this second week of August in my Ottawa zone 4 to 5 gardens

Here are the newest perennial blooms in my own zone 4 to 5 gardens this second week of August;

 

This ornamental grass is my favourite although it is only an annual here in zone 4 or 5.  It makes a beautiful centerpiece for a container or it can be planted right in the garden!

grass 1

 

Still strutting their stuff, these perennials are still looking great:

 

On their way out (unfortunately) are my gorgeous lilies.  They will return bigger and better than ever next year though!  Every client I have planted some of these lily trees for have commented on how spectacular they are, well worth the price.

 

I hope you are enjoying these weekly walks through my gardens…

whole garden

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!