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.

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 to hostas for the edges of my 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 from places you do not want them to spread to.  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’s variegated leaves, reblooming pale flowers, and tidy habit make it one of my favourites..

lamium (with daylilies)

 

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…

 

pictures on right from Pixabay

 

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, in fact, look especially nice (I think) when varieties are mixed together randomly.

 

pictures from Pixabay

 

So, next season think outside of your comfort zone, and 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 temperature (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 (I purchase plain garden soil in easy to manage bags for this purpose) 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, lots more in my client’s….

Growing up a tomboy

I was recently inspired by a post on Facebook about beautiful daughters.  What do tomboys and beautiful daughters have in common?  Well, I have no beautiful daughters (I do have three handsome sons and a brand new beautiful daughter-in-law though) and if you asked my mother she would say it is because I was a tomboy growing up.  She actually told me this when I had my second son. Although she had passed away before my third son was born, I am almost positive she had a good laugh then too, convinced of her theory more than ever.

I grew up in a family of six children; my poor mother gave birth to all of us within 8 years, with no multiple births either!  As the youngest girl with three brothers closer in age to me than my two sisters, it is no wonder I was a tomboy. It seemed too that most of the neighbourhood children were boys.  We always had lots of fun playing road hockey, flag football, tennis, hide and seek and more.

The fact that I was a tomboy was annoying to my mother who tried hard to get me interested in dolls, pretty dresses, jewelry, etc.  I remember being very ticked off one Christmas because my brothers got walkie-talkies and I received a ring.  I probably pouted about it for days.  I also ticked my mother off when I gave away all of my Barbie paraphernalia to the little girl down the street.  I thought it was very generous of me.

I like to think growing up a tomboy prepared me for my most important role, mother of three (very active) boys….

 

 

 

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…

 

Turning sixty this year

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No, not me, I am NOT turning 60 this year, but my big brother is, so I thought I would honor his upcoming birthday with this post.  You know, instead of trying to find a unique (tacky) “turning 60” or “old fart” birthday present.

My brother is in great company, apparently, 1957 was a great year…do you know who else turned 60 this year?  Lots of celebrities including Steve Harvey, Melanie Griffith, Vanna White, and John’s favorite, Homer Simpson!

Homer_Simpson_2006 copy

 

After all, 60 is a good chunk of 150; 40 percent, 0.4 or 2/5 of 150 Canadian years to be exact.  Any way you look at it, sixty is alot of years, almost half of Canada’s 150 years!

 

 

Canada turned 150 this year and we Canadians are celebrating all year around.  I think those turning 60 (or fifty or any other momentous number for that matter) should too. Actually,  I think my brother may have started celebrating last winter when he was visiting our sister in Texas, good Canadian boy that he is.

I hope my brother is not too bothered about turning sixty.  I know he has his priorities right, retiring from work recently to spend more time doing the things he loves to do.  We are not always sure what those things are, but he does appear to be enjoying himself.

There are lots of good proverbs about turning sixty, so pick one (or three) and run with it…

 

The other good news I have heard (I don’t really know as I am not there yet) is that sixty is the new forty, at least it will be when I get there!

 

 

Latest project by Gardens4u

As our fall weather was too nice to start garden cleanups and winter preparation, I (GARDENS4U) took on another (small) project last week.  This client lives on the same street as two other clients for whom I have recently reconstructed front gardens.  The 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…

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before
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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.  Instead, I planted three different varieties of ornamental grass strategically around the edges of the rock, with two tall ones 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. After the past few days of rainy weather the grass seed should be well watered.  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.  As it is currently late in the season, the client will have to wait until next spring and summer to fully appreciate the new look…

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Unfortunately, this week looks like our great weather is behind us so I will be starting that cleanup and winterizing this morning (after it warms up a bit)…not nearly as much fun as designing a new garden!

You know summer is over when…

You know the summer is over when your favourite french fry stop closes down for the season.  Ours is Fitz’s in Lanark, Ontario on the way to our cottage on Palmerston Lake…

 

Fitz’s has an extensive take-out menu, but our order is always the same; sweet potato fries for me, and regular fries for hubby…hot (greasy) and crispy….Yum!

 

 Today was Fitz’s last day of the season, a sign that summer is over and winter is on its way.