Friday, December 18, 2009

Things to do in the December garden

'A garden really lives only insofar
As it is an expression of faith,
The embodiment of hope,
And a song of praise.'
- Russell Page (1905-1985), British landscape artist and garden designer

  • complete planting spring-flowering bulbs this month (if not done by November).
  • supply house plants with extra humidity by grouping plants together & setting pots on beds of damp pebbles in leakproof trays.
  • slip small packets of seeds gathered from special plants in the garden into Christmas cards you send to gardening friends & family.
  • make a start on flower & vegetable seed orders. Keep a record of what has been ordered & note each item's proposed site in the garden.
  • have mowers & power garden equipment serviced (if not done by November).
  • make home-made gifts & gift baskets using herbal vinegars, oils, jams & jellies, cutneys & preserves.
  • check stored fruits & vegetables & remove any that are spoiling.
  • close to Christmas, gather greenery to decorate the house for the holidays. Clip shoots of needle-bearing & berried broad-leaved evergreen plants & gather deciduous shrub branches that have berries & colourful bark.
  • as soon as seed orders arrive in the mail, file seed packets according to their time of sowing & store the packets in a dry, dark, cool place.

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Let's Start Gardening!

    Today I received my seeds for next year's gardening projects! Included with the seeds are 2 new books that I dearly want to start reading right this minute, but will have to hold off for a short time while other things must be done before the holidays.

    Firstly, the seeds:
    Each year, I try to find new & interesting herbs to grow along with my more traditional ones. This year I will be adding 3 medicinal herbs (Valerian, Rue & Lemon Bergamot) to the gardens.

    Valerian is a hardy perennial growing to about 5 feet. The tiny, fragrant flowers are pink, white or lavender. Valerian flowers from late May through August. Widely used to allay pain, nervous unrest, migraine and insomnia.

    Rue is a lovely perennial for rock garden and unfenced areas. It grow 2-3 feet high, has yellow blossoms and grey-green foliage which can be used sparingly as a bitter spice. Also used in the treatment of rheumatism and internal parasites.

    Lemon Bergamot grows 3 feet tall with mauve flowers that have a very long bloom period. Excellent bee plant. Edible leaves are an excellent addition to salads and make a refreshing tea, hot or cold.

    Not your traditional culinary herbs, but I love adding different flavours to my food. And no - I have no idea where they will go, but I've got a few months to figure that out!

    I have also found yellow lavender, which is supposed to germinate well. The full, very bushy plants are a bright light green and the flowers are yellow. The scent has citrus overtones with a hint of spicy lavender. I'm intrigued by the thought of yellow blossoms as I have seen many varieties of purple, blue & even white... but yellow? Will blend in very well with my chosen colour themes.

    I've also decided to try something quite new - to my gardening & to my way of eating. I got the Zero Mile Diet seed kit which contains some fascinating food seeds. Included are: Wren's Abruzzi Ry, Purple Barley, Salt Spring Oats, Red Fife Wheat, Golden Flax, Multi-hued Quinoa, Amaranth, a Heritage Bean mix, Carlin Soup Peas, Winnifred's Garbanzo, Russian Kale, Ardwyna Paste Tomato and a 20 lettuce blend.

    I'm going to be doing a lot of research & reading this winter about all these grains, seeds & beans as I generally don't eat very many of them. But then again, after the moderate success of certain vegetables from my gardens & finding their flavour 10 times better than store-bought produce, I'm quite willing to try anything in my gardens if the flavour is that more improved!

    The books:

    From Seed to Table - a practical guide to eating and growing green by Janette Haase.
    Just flipping through the book quickly when I opened my package has made me realize just how unorganized I am with my approach to gardening. She has organized the book into each month & discusses what's in the garden available for harvest & how to combine these fresh foods with items harvested & stored previously. There are planning stages for the gardens & menus & recipes. I'm just itching to read this book cover to cover right this minute!

    My second book is another 'break through' in my gardening library. I've been searching for books specific to the West Coast of Canada & have found what looks to be a great teaching tool for me. Year-Around Harvest - Winter Gardening on the Coast, by Linda A. Gilkeson. This just might be the 'how-to' manual I've been needing these last 7 years since taking up gardening on the coast. I've got so much to 'unlearn' still from what I grew up learning about in Ontario...

    So, I will need to go out now & buy a proper notebook to start writing down all my plans & keep better record of what I'm doing right and wrong in the garden.... well, after I read my books...

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Time to Start Planning with Seeds

    When the sun shines like it has for the past week, thoughts turn towards the gardens. I can't help it. I just want to get outside & get my hands dirty! I see all the potential in my soil & the lay of the land & one way to help ease these winter garden anxieties is to read through seed catalogues.

    I haven't yet done my year-end review of what was a success and what utterly failed last summer, but I've already got some wonderful ideas for what I want to experiment with this coming season.

    But first - 'you can't grow vital food without good seed.' Dan Jason from Salt Spring Seeds. Makes sense, but when I really started to think about it, it hit home a little bit harder. I was exploring some of his articles on his website that I just recently stumbled across; Salt Spring Seeds & he was discussing how small seed producers are being bought up by large seed corporations, which in turn, due to pressures of producing, tend to loose the unique qualities of the small seed producers & introduce modified seeds. The seeds that these large corporations sell are often re-packaged & not regionally acclimatized for the many variations of growing zones within its service area.

    This is what I've been thinking about for a while now. I do recall some of the seeds I planted in the spring were from as far away as Germany & other European countries. It didn't really make sense to me to try to grow these here in Bamfield mainly because we have some rather harsh characteristics in our growing climate.

    We are practically at sea level, right on the ocean & subject to the whims of Mother Nature with strong ocean breezes, lots of salt in the air & in the rain. The summer temperatures really don't heat up like they do in the prime growing zones of Canada (we rarely get over 25 degrees in the summer - although the last 2 summers have been rather hot). And, just when you think you might have figured it all out, the fog rolls into town in August, cooling down the temperatures drastically & reducing the sun light plants so dearly need at this time of year to a few short hours at mid-day when the fog burns off, only to come flowing back into town again. Greenhouses are a necessity in this town & I really need to build a proper one...

    But, if I were to purchase seeds from producers right here on the coast, who have spent the last few years struggling through the same issues I now face, wouldn't their seeds have a better chance at surviving & thriving? That's what I'm thinking!

    So, no more seeds from Veseys & no more seeds from Stokes or some of those other big companies that send me their beautiful glossy colour catalogues at this time of year for me to drool over & get so excited about. I will now use them as reference material - find out what's out there in the world of seeds & how to grow these plants, be they edible or decorative. And I won't get caught up in the glamour of something 'new' because in my gardens, I've already found that the 'new & improved' tend to become the harrassed - either they give up & die or they revert back to their more 'primative' state & loose all that 'new & improved'ness...

    So, West Coast Seeds, based out of Vancouver, BC, is one of my choices and I've already made my first seed purchase of the year from Salt Spring Seeds - plus some new gardening reading material, which I will share with you once it arrives on my doorstep. I'm very excited about this purchase - some new plants I've never tried, or honestly, thought to try before!

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Gladiola Explosion

    I’m a sucker for plants or bulbs that are out of season & on sale. I’ve purchases many a strange & mysterious bulb, put it in the ground months after it should have been there & then promptly lost the information that went along with them. At some point either that year or the following year, I find a mystery plant or flower & have to do a massive amount of research to figure out what it is!

    Well, I found a bag of gladiola corms for sale this spring. A ridiculous amount for really cheap! I was in need of a tall plant in the back of a new flower bed along side my lower deck & these fit the bill.

    But as I started researching how to grow & care for glads, I thought I might have made a huge mistake! They seem to be really picky & difficult to make look ‘pretty’ in a flower bed. I have another such plant out in my yard – just in some random spot. Those are hollyhocks with problems of their own & they actually seem to be doing quite well. I love them!

    But glads may need tying up or they keel over because of heavy blooms. They suffer from bugs that strip out the leaves & flower petals. They need to be dug up in the fall & over-wintered somewhere dry. They multiply like crazy & need dividing almost every year. Really – the list goes on & it’s much more complex than I’m letting on. I don’t like to get too technical about my plants – I will learn all I can about how to care for them, but if it’s something I don’t have time for or I think I can get away without doing, than I will give it a try!

    So, when I planted these little dried up corms, I did it in 2 beds – well, they are practically on top of each other on the west side of the house. One group went into a new bed my dad helped me make in the spring & the other group went into a deck box on the deck right behind the bed. Interesting the differences between the 2 groups.

    Glads really do like sunshine. The lower group did quite well – still needed to be tied up & I didn’t do a very good job of that this year (mostly because I also had sweet peas growing all over the place & they leaned on the glads, which in turn leaned on the calendula, which in turn shaded out the lavender & alyssium). I’ve made my notes on this bed & will see what I can do next spring to rectify a few mistakes (number one mistake: planting sweet peas in that spot!). But I left the glads alone in that bed – just cut them back.

    The deck box also had sweet peas & a few mystery plants growing up & out between the spindles in the railing. This spot was a cacophony of colour but a horrendous mess! The glads all tried to grow out through the railing & I did get some later blooming flowers, but thought it might be to my advantage to pull these corms out for the winter & get some hostas growing in there next year (seeing as it got very little actual sunlight). By the time I got around to pulling up the corms, the soil around them all was very soggy & the stalks were very soft. I managed to get only about half out of the box.

    What a surprise! The corms were big & healthy & had many little cormlettes growing off the sides – in some cases a very large one that might give me flowers next year. So, I brought them all inside, let them dry for a few days & then cleaned them off. I am storing the little cormlettes by themselves & will plant them in pots in the spring & have them in an out of the way spot to develop for the year.

    What I want to see in the spring is: is it necessary for me to pull out the glads every fall? Will they drown in our rainy winters & do they need to be cleaned up/divided every year? How will my new little babies do with over-wintering & growing for a season? Will I become the gladiola queen of Bamfield & have to start selling (or giving them away) in a few years in order not to be overwhelmed?

    Maybe next year I’ll mark out the colours better so that if I do want more of the reds & fewer of the pinks, I’ll know which ones to divide & spread around & which ones to give away to my neighbours…

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    Overwintering Geraniums

    I decided my decks needed some hanging baskets, so 2 years ago, I found some lovely wooden ones & then had to figure out what went in them & how to keep them alive. I have a rather harsh take on my gardens - if it needs watering every day, it just might not work out... But hanging baskets... that's another garden-being altogether! Purely decorative - so far - which means that I must tend them religiously.

    A typical plant that goes into baskets of all sorts, are the geraniums. I won't get into the technical aspect of all the different varieties, but suffice to say, I pick red ones every time. I do have some sort of theme for my flowering plants - red, yellow & white. Still working on that...

    But the geraniums - not a plant I liked at all - did really well! They actually flowered right through the fall & until the heavy frost killed them all, I thought I might be able to keep them for next year. Lesson learned...

    So this year, I did buy the cheapest, smallest ones I could find - but early. They were such a lovely contrast - bright red flowers that lasted a long time & dark green leaves with a ring of almost black. I really am going to have to start recording which varieties I purchase!

    In the fall, I decided that I would try a little experiment: Overwintering my Geraniums.

    This involved much research – both on the internet & in asking all my neighbours who successfully over-winter their geraniums. I feel that the best advice out there comes from those who live near-by & have been doing it for years with moderate success.

    So, I found myself, one wonderfully sunny afternoon taking down my hanging baskets – thankfully, I’ve only got 3 on the lower deck & one on the upper deck (which still needs to be taken down…). I trimmed the plants back, some of which still had flower buds on them, and dug them carefully out of the soil. The other plants in the hanging basket – some lovely fushias, were transplanted into a few bare spots in some of my new beds in the hopes they would flower for a while longer & maybe even survive the winter. I’ll keep my eye on them…

    I kept the extra cuttings because I was also going to try to get them to root up, in case the over-wintering of the main plant didn’t work. I was told to dig up, trim back & dry off the main plants. Store them in a paper bag in a cool, dry, semi-dark place (garage would be perfect, but I don’t have one, so the laundry room will have to do). Then in February, pot them up & water them & see what has survived. I would like to think there is a way to tell before potting them up if they have survived or not – again, will have to research that question.

    The cuttings have gone through a bit of a die-back stage. I’ve already lost half of my cuttings, maybe because I didn’t cover them or maybe because they were overwatered & the roots/stalks rotted, or maybe they just haven’t gotten enough light because of the dark rain cloud we’ve been under for the last month. If I can get just a couple of cuttings to root up, I think it will be a moderate success.

    I also have scented geraniums that I wanted to over-winter, but didn’t really want to go through the whole process as I did with the others. So, a second experiment is in place. I have them down in my laundry room on top of a freezer. They don’t get a whole lot of light & I’ve stopped watering them. They were pruned back hard when I brought them in & then after a month or so, I noticed they had sprouted long, spindley pale shoots so these got pruned back too. I decided at this time to take some cuttings & root them up as I had lost half of my red geranium cuttings by this time.

    They are also sitting in my front window sill trying to benefit from the November sunshine (which is nonexistent this year with all this rain). By the time I finally got around to writing this, December had moved in & with it, sunshine! But it's freezing outside -'s so dry now after a full week of sun that it no longer frosts in the mornings. I'm glad I hauled in the geraniums early this year...

    February is quickly approaching when I shall then pot up the surviving cuttings, pot up the red geraniums & start up my grow lights on a timer & give them all some water & a very small dose of fertilizer. Hopefully by April, I will have some geraniums ready to put back outside!

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    A Touch of Frost

    It was a beautiful frosty morning today & I just had to get outside to take some of the first frost photos. I have heard that this next week (or 2 or 4?) just might be pretty darn cold - which for Bamfield is anything in the 'minus degree' zone! We are just grateful for the sunshine right now!

    The sun shining through my stevia plants was very nice - but we shall see how these poor plants react to being bitten by the frost for the rest of the winter. I didn't dig them up this year or even take any cuttings (! for shame!). The aren't that hardy (according to the place I purchased them), but I'm willing to subject all my plants to extremes to see what will live & what will die, knowing that my care during the summer is not that reliable.
    I'm still not used to the lack of autumn colour here on the coast. Every year I get my mom to send me autumn photos from Ontario, just so I can see the changes that are gradual instead of the instant dead & brown look I get out my back door. This year I've noticed that the astilbe (right) and spirea & ferns across the road lingered a bit longer & were rather nice shades of rust & red instead of brown. Maybe I just have to look a little closer...

    My garden still has carrots, beets, some onions & miscellaneous herbs. I shall have to get in there & see if they are still edible.

    The kale plants are still going strong. I've had to make the decision that I cannot grow kale as an edible vegetable anymore. It upsets my digestive system & my husband just plain doesn't like it! But I will start to explore the decorative varieties of kale & probably keep one or two of the edible plants - just in case. They will be grown outside the veggie patch & tucked in the other beds as fillers.

    Believe it or not, I found some raspberries still clinging to the canes! I had a wonderful second harvest this year through October & was too busy in November to get out to pick the rest. I had thought the birds would have eaten them all by now!
    I cut back my bronze fennel fern back in October once the seeds had been gathered. I've noticed that the plants are putting forth some new growth already & what a treat to have a little nip of fresh fennel during these winter days! Such flavour...

    Here's my Autumn Joy sedum - I didn't cut it back this fall because I wanted a bit of texture in the gardens - vertical & colour. But with all the rain, the stalks are starting to rot & the plant's spent blooms are drooping rather pathetically. I can see that it also is sending up new shoots for next year's blooms. Nice to see a bit of green in all that frosty mess.

    My little Hens & Chicks look so precious with the frost edging! These things spread like wild fire around my beds & I'm always pulling up a big mother hen to reposition the chicks in holes or as edging in pots. Another one of my plants that loves the neglect!
    My deck boxes are a continual surprise throughout the winter months. The calendula do tend to get a bit scraggly, but being in southern exposure, they keep warm enough to bloom throughout the year! I've also put in some first year rosemary seedlings I started from seed this year - as my cuttings didn't work out - and there's still fresh parley & sage.
    Along the front edge of the deck, just behind our glass, is another deck box with daisies. This flower decided to bloom in late October & is still hanging on.
    Well, that's how I started my day today - 8:30 a.m. & ready to play in my winter gardens!

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Fall Chores

    This fall season seems to be flying by, leaving me with more & more things unfinished. Most people think I’m overly-organized, especially when they see my to-do lists scattered everywhere. Well, they aren’t scattered, more they are in strategic places where I will see them when I stop for a moment.

    My garden to-do list was extensive this year. I needed help in organizing myself & creating the list. So I turned to one of my favourite sources for inspiration & information: Canadian Gardening ( They have terrific to-do lists for each season & they are quick & easy to print out & have on hand. Along with their list, I included a multitude of items specific to my gardens (some of which still needs to be done!).

    Gardens in Bamfield never really go to sleep for the winter. There are always things in the stages of dying or rotting or suddenly sprouting some new leaves when the sun shines on them. I have thrown out my lists for the fall but since today was a sunny warm day (even though there are still pockets of frost across the road in the deep shade) I looked out at the gardens & saw that I'm not yet finished my chores...

    I wanted to try a bit of winter texture this year & thought my Autumn Joy sedum would look lovely all winter long - especially when the heavier frosts come. But, that particular plant is in a rather soggy spot & the flowers are starting to rot instead of dry. Then I looked a little more closely at the plant & saw that it is starting to send out new shoots for next year's flowers! Should I get in there & cut down the rotting, faded blossoms??

    Well, whatever is required, I will probably go mucking out in the gardens in the next couple of days - reassess the rain damage, prune back a few herb shrubs, dead-head my calendula (which are still flowering up on my deck!) & start writing up my Spring To-Do list...

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    The Wet Coast: Swampy Yards & Big Decisions

    I have a lot of catching up to do with some of my fall chores! I'm trying out some new things & working on others, but this month, we've been under an almost constant rain cloud & there are damaged areas now starting to show.

    Firstly - my swamped front yard.

    This is our second winter in the new house & last year, the swamped part of the yard was off to the far left... Now, our septic field in in the front yard (the pipes ending just before the flower bed) & has been in place on the property for over 10 years - without being used & with having the field on top kept clear of trees, shrubs & the like.

    We are fearing the worst this year. We inspected the distribution box coming out of the holding tank & separating off into 8 pipes (our community does not have a sewage treatment plant; it's either the traditional septic field or the even older, straight flush into the ocean). We saw that over the years, the distribution box had settled a bit uneven & the waste water was not flowing down the center pipes. We fixed that & now look...

     We aren't too sure if it's the many inches of rain we've had fall in a very short period of time, but my husband has decided that my beautiful brick edging on my re-vamped lily bed, are stopping the natural flow of the water.
    In June, my lily bed looked like this (on the left) & by the middle of July, I had cleaned it up & laid brick along the edge (on the right).
    This is what my flower bed looks like now - trenched & soggy & probably drowning my beautiful Oriental & Asiatic lilies & daylilies that I've been collecting. I know I've also lost some tiger lilies, but since they were just little bulbs that I shoved in the ground all summer long, they weren't yet true plants. All the crocus & daffodils naturalized in the yard in front of the bed are definately lost as they've been under water for almost 3 weeks now... what a shame!

    So, the big garden project for next spring is: dig up all my lilies & bulbs & plants (torch lily, mullien, wandering onions, sedum...), remove all 230 bricks, put the extra dirt into buckets & find a new bed for my plants. I'm not sure where on the property I want to put them! This is going to be a very tough decision & I will have a couple of months to plan it out - this dilemma doesn't fit into my 5-year landscaping plan. The solution that we've come up with (the one that doesn't involve $15,000 & a new septic field) is to plant 3 gunnera plants in small mounds where the lily bed is now.

    This is a shot of my mom in 2007 when my folks were out for a visit. Gunnera plants are such an interesting plant - monsters with structure & the potential to overwhelm the yard. One must not be a timid gardener around these plants!

    But, that's not the only massive garden structural project in the works for next spring - unfortunately...

    My purple herb garden is also swamped:

    This is another one of my very first flower beds created on the property & every year I am rewarded with lavender, rosemary, thyme, chives, anise hyssop, mullien & sedum that seem to enjoy being neglected except for the occational session of buttercup irradication.

    But there is something wrong now & we have decided that along with removing the entire lily bed, we are going to have to make my purple herb garden a raised garden. This should be extremely interesting as this bed is about 15 feet long! I might have to make it into 2 beds - but they need to be at least 18 inches deep & they aren't all that wide - maybe 1 1/2 feet, but that means a lot of soil. A lot...

    Under all that water is my lovage plant. An excellent savory herb for soups or stews (reminiscent of celery with a bite) & it grows to be over 6 feet tall in my mother's garden. Here, I'm lucky to see it grow over 1 foot - but that's because I think I have it in the wrong spot - I'll be lucky if it returns next year after this submertion in water.

    Our last (sic) bit of concern is our short-cut path that cuts across the yard. It too is swamped & actually looks like a swamp:

    We had noticed there was patches of this strange looking 'grass' & it was near impossible to kill. We tried digging it out (which left craters in the yard), we tried covering it with buckets to kill it (but buckets decorating the yard isn't too attractive), we tried mowing it down on a regular basis (but that just gave us clumps of crew-cuts about the yard). They are the only spark of green in our otherwise dormant yard at this time of year. The ground is no longer safe to walk on either! It's like soggy pudding & feels like it's floating on top of all the water soaking down...

    I'm not sure digging little drainage ditches is going to be much help as that removes any chance of the water naturally finding it's way out. I had hoped that the grass would grow in that part of the yard (it wasn't too healthy at the beginning of the year) & that the lily bed would take off & produce monster daylilies to also help remove the surplus water.

    Or maybe this is what we are going to have to live with each winter. It at least doesn't have a questionable smell. For that I'm grateful, although every once in a while there is an oily sheen to the water & when I walked by the other day during a brief stop in the rain, there was a tell-tale odour of rotting leaves/grass or soil.

    Well, just when I thought my gardening to-do list was cleared for a few months, I've had to start a new one for work beginning in February!

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Fall Planting

    Just over a week ago the sun was still shining warmly in my yard & it was time for fall planting & transplanting. This is one of my favourite times of year! To be outside, enjoying the slight chill in the air, smell the autumn changes of rotting leaves & moulding mushrooms & damp earth.

    I started with one of the first flower beds I had built 2 years ago on our property. It was - well, is - supposed to be my 'yellow bed' but has become overgrown & rather lost. My Helenium (the yellow 'sneezeweed' which is not one of the plants in the fall that makes one have allergies) dearly needed to be divided & spread to a couple other areas in the yard that needed a hit of fall yellow. I really hope it survives as this bed started out with 2 Helenium & 2 Black-eyed Susan plants just 2 years ago. I'm not sure what happened to the other 3 plants...
    I had put in 2 very small Lady's Mantle plants in the back corners to help fill in the bed & somehow columbine was either seeded or transplanted into the corners too. My earlier notes on this process are a bit sketchy...

    Last fall I had planted some lovely iris bulbs - again, in the theme of orange & yellow, so I thought while digging up the overbearing plants, I might as well find the bulbs & place them a bit more strategically in the bed. They seem to have gone missing! I did end up with a bunch of bulbs, but judging from their location - right along the front edge - they were mostly daffodils & from the back edge - tiger lilies.

    After a few hours, this is what the 'remade' bed looks like. Along the back edge are now 3 smaller Helenium plants with tiger lily bulbs in between. Foxgloves in the back corners & columbine down each side. The lady's mantle is now in the front corners & along the front edge are my calendula plants, which, with a bit of water, should make it long enough to produce seeds & self-seed themselves. In the middle space I replanted bulbs. Since I'm not confident as to the identity of the bulbs, we shall see what happens in the spring. I have the feeling that they will be daffodils - which is perfect - but I really do wonder what happened to those iris bulbs.

    A very small amount of plants actually went back into this bed. The rest were divided up & replanted along the front lower edge of my new front flower bed in the hopes of keeping the soil in place & filling in the bed for the first 2 years til I am able to get the proper plants in place. Lady's Mantle, feverfew & Ajuga are the 3 fillers & because they spread so quickly & take over so completely, I know I'll have to rip them out or prune them with a heavy hand starting as early as next spring!

    That was last week...this week, it's raining! Finally some wet weather - but that means that I have a bit of a 'crisis' on my hands as I just received my fall plants in the mail!

    It was quite a surprise, actually, to open up my small box of peonies & find that I had 10 instead of the 6 I had thought I ordered. Breck's Peony Collection is going to be a wonderful addition to my gardens, but I need a day or two to plan on the extra 4 plants & with the rain coming in sideways, I hope that they will survive a few days in the fridge. I cut holes in the bags & carefully arranged them back in the box.
    Thank goodness these dormant bare roots come with planting instructions, as I've never grown peonies before & don't want to be burying my money in holes all over my yard.
    Rockwood Gardens sent me 2 dwarf burning bushes, also for my front flower bed & I will probably get these little guys in the ground sooner than the peonies, just because they look a little more alive & have extremely small pots! I'm very excited to see these next year at this time - a blaze of bright red!

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Seven Things

    One of the blogs that I closely follow, You Grow Girl, has a meme challenge that I've decided to try. Now, I didn't even know what a 'meme' was & had to research that first. Pronounced like cream, this is a concept of sharing cultural information or a practice or even an idea, either verbally or via modern technology like blogs, that shows how culture & ideas evolves. Seems a little hokey, but I'm going to give it a try.

    This meme is about seven things about me - today - so, as the sun is still shining here on the west coast & I'm itching to get back outside to play in my garden, it will be about seven plants that I absolutely love.

    1. Lavender
    I'd never had any exposure to the lavender plant when I was growing up & had always thought of the scent an an 'old lady' scent, but when I moved here & came across a fresh bundle of lavender, I fell in love. A tricky plant to grow as it prefers the Mediterranian climate, meaning a lot more drier than the west coast & I've been told it's near impossible or extremely difficult to grow from seed. Sounds like a challenge to me!

    While I currently have many lavender plants of only one type, I am hoping to branch out into different colours - pink & white are now available & some of the many different species that have different blossoms & bloom times.

    My favourite part of the summer is when I go out to harvest the blossoms. I can sit in a lavender patch for hours just enjoying the scent of fresh flowers, or run my hands over the plants for additional scent & to feel their soft leaves & listen to the bees flying about. I usually harvest 1/2 the blossoms at a time so as to ensure the continued presence of bees & other insects in the gardens.

    It will be interesting to see if my almost 2 dozen lavender plants started from seed this year will survive the winter. I've planted some in the ground & will move the rest into the house into my portable greenhouse.

    2. Scented Geraniums
    I've just moved my scented geraniums into the house for over-wintering, so they don't look as lush as they did only a few weeks ago. They were covered in tiny white flowers & were about twice as big. I was tempted to take cuttings to start new plants for next year, but I chose instead to do that with just the red geraniums & have 2 dozen cuttings to root up over the next few months.

    left to right: 'Pelargonium Fragrans' with soft velvet leaves & an apple-nutmeg scent. This one flowers almost continually & is wonderful to brush by. 'Candy Dancer' which is more like a citronella scent with a bit of fruit. I'm sure it will do much better in a larger pot. 'Lady Plymouth' with verigated leaves & a rose-mint scent.

    These are nice to have at entry ways to the house for a hit of scent. I hope they over-winter downstairs in my laundry room where it's cool because I tried them upstairs in my main living space. There was too much sunlight & it's rather dry. The red geraniums will join them in the next day or two once the roots have dried up a bit more. Those will live in an open paperbag on the floor by the freezer.

    3. Borage
    I have a lot of memories of my mother's gardens from my childhood and one of them is of this huge flower bed beside the house full of orange daylilies & monster borage plants. The combination of sword-like & fuzzy leaves with the large orange & tiny blue flowers is stunning.

    It took me a few years to find borage seeds as the seedlings I purchased in the nursery never really survived the trip back to my house (long & arduous involving 1 1/2 hours on a dirt road followed by a breezy trip across the harbour in our boat & then packed into a wheelbarrow up to the house).

    This year I grew the borage separate from the daylilies & they were monsters - but way up on my deck where no one could appreciate them. Next year I will plant the seeds I collected this fall in & around my daylilies & see how they do. I know I will have borage sprouting all over my gardens & yard next year as they were flying off the deck for almost 2 weeks before I thought to cut them down & save the seeds for myself.

    4. Calendula
    My mom introduced me to calendula (pot marigold) when she sent me a shoe box full of mystery seeds. She remembers these from her childhood & I'm very pleased to see they they are wonderful plants to fill in & around my perennials. Treated nicely - deadheading with a vengence - they continue to flower long into the fall season & if I'm really lucky, they flower all the way through the winter! Those particular plants are living in my deck boxes under my front windows & have the advantage of southern winter sunshine & heat. These are very nice to add to salads along with the borage flowers & baby leaves.

    5. Mullein (Verbascum)
    I've had people ask me about this flower & are surprised to hear that it's Mullein - they are more used to seeing the yellow variety & not this delicate, lacy one. If pruned throughout the summer, it will continue to bloom from June right through October & is an anchor to my purple herb garden when the chives or lavender has been cut back. It spreads quite easily & transplants well & I rather like the ground hugging rosette of leaves that keep the weeds down. The bees love this flower too.

    6. Spiderplant
    Our new house has a wonderful southern exposure & a huge wall of windows to let in all this sunshine. One step into our house & you can tell I love plants. I can't seem to stop bringing in new ones to the house! My spider plants are by far my babies - and my monsters. I usually keep them very trim & remove the flower shoots & sproutletts very early on as they flowers make a mess on the floor & the baby spiders get caught in everyone's hair. But I want to grow them this winter so that I can use the new plants outside as annual filler plants in my gardens.

    I saw a hanging basket with some spider plants in them & they looked fabulous! An easy plant to grow & take care of. Just soak in the sink a few times a month, top up the soil in the spring & fall & that's about all I do. Well, other than talk to them...

    I have another variety also with the verigated leaves & they may actually be able to handle the intense sunshine better. I might move them around this winter to see what happens.

    7. Snake plant
    This plant is a stunner (Sansevieria Trifasciata 'Laurentii'). I have 2 varieties - this one here with the verigated leaves & another monster tall one with just dark leaves (was told it was a 'mother-in-law tongue' & had to have it). The label says to grow it in low light, but I have mine sitting up in the 2nd storey front window - complete southern exposure & full sun year round. It's warm up there & they get watered only a few times a month. They really need to be repotted, but I think if I do that & put them back up there, they might get too big for me to bring down to the sink for watering...

     When I asked my husband what he thought my favourites were this year his list was very different than mind & made me realize I have a greater love for flowers than I thought. He suggested my Oriental lilies, which did very well this year & made the whole garden smell wonderful & chamomile, which grew so prolific that I was dividing it up & spreading it everywhere!

    Honourable mention has to also go out to my poppies, another one of my mother's seeds sent to me a few years ago, which has mutated to new colours & can be found blooming all summer long.

    And weeds - I'm starting to grow my weeds on purpose because I find them rather attractive & the bees seem to enjoy them. Now, dandelions are the bane of anyone wanting a nice soft yard to walk on in barefeet, but my yard is still recovering from the construction of the house & it will take a few more years to weed most of them out. But they are the first hit of yellow in the spring are are usually the last hit again before winter arrives. The bees enjoy them & I like the colour - if only they weren't so prolific! Golden rod grows nicely amongst the rock piles here too & I've dug some up for one of my new flower beds in the hopes of 'taming' this weed. And I'm classifying feverfew as a weed now. It's a beautiful plant with little white daisy-like flowers that bloom again after being cut back. They smell nice - much nicer than proper daisies - but they have a nasty habit of reseeding itself in all the wrong places. And the plant grows to monster proportions. I have been using feverfew as a filler & a starter for all my new flower beds & after the first full year, I rip as much of it out as I can so that the other plants have a chance to fill in.

    A free plant is a free plant - but know when to rip it out & get rid of it!