Saturday, February 25, 2012

Diary Feb 25/2012 - Avoid mistakes at the Nursery

Soon, very soon, it will be time to make one of your many trips to the local nurseries to buy wonderful new plants for the garden. Oh! How easy it is to get carried away there! Everything looks so colourful, so lush, so "plantable" - you feel you could buy the whole place out!! But remember - gardening is an expensive hobby to begin with. There's no need to wipe out your total monthly budget!! Here are a few pointers for shopping at the garden centre.
1. When buying perennials, buy spring blooming plants in the fall and fall blooming plants in the spring. (Did I just write that correctly? Yes, I did.) This gives the perennials a chance to establish good root systems before blooming. Now, with annuals, you certainly can buy open flower plants but sometimes it's better to buy ones with tight buds. You'll get a longer "show" if they are not already spent when you plant them.

2. Check the plant for (a) spots (b) insects (c) mildew (d) or excessive dryness and wilt. Don't feel you need to rescue a plant - buy a plant with strong, multiple leaves, sturdy stalks and signs of new growth.

3. Even though I said not to blow the budget in the garden centre, be careful that you aren't too stingy either. Many times gardeners only buy one or maybe 2 plants of a single variety. Instead, think the way landscape designers think: plant a mass of one type of plant and colour. You will make a design statement which will be worth the extra cash spent.

4. Check that the plant is not root bound by turning the pot almost upside down. If there's a mass of roots coming out of the holes, it may be weak already. Choose plants with moist soil that lift out easily out of the pot.

5. Stick to your shopping list!! Impulse buying can be expensive and impractical.

6. Don't buy a perennial or shrub without an identifying tag. Tags contain a lot of important information that can help you place your new"baby" in a spot where the conditions suit it best. Also it helps you avoid buying a plant that grows much larger than expected!!

7. Keep your receipts!! Many nurseries offer a one year guarantee, so if your plant fails to survive, you can very often get a replacement if you have a receipt.

8. Buy as many plants as you can place in a specific amount of time. If you buy too many flats and can't plant them fast enough, they may dry out and die.

9. Buy trees and shrubs that are native to your country and area. Sure, sometimes it's fun to go "beyond your zone" and experiment with a plant that needs warmer conditions but in general plants that are used to your climate will do better in the long run.

Keep these tips in mind and you will have PLENTY of money left over for all the other stuff: fertilizer, manure, mulch, new tools, gloves that always wear out in the middle of the season, etc. etc.etc.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mini-blog February 2012 - Great new blogs to read!!

Hello from beautiful snow-covered mountains in the BC interior! Am on a family vacation - they ski, I read blogs :)
I brought magazines to read on the plane, some of which I rarely purchase including Martha Stewart Living. I noticed it was her annual gardening issue so I thought I'd see what Superwoman would be doing in the month of March. (I've always been so envious of how much she can accomplish in her house, her garden, etc until I remember she has Staff!) Surprisingly, I found her March TO DO calendar to have quite a few practical suggestions. She also features 3 really interesting people who write great blogs with gorgeous photos. I thought you might want to take a look:
The first one is written by Marie Viljoen, a South African native now living with her husband and cat in a one bedroom, fourth-floor walkup apartment in Brooklyn. She grows all kinds of fabulous flowers, herbs and vegetables in pots on the balcony. Amazing! Meet her at:

Next Martha introduces Lee Clippard and John Stott who garden in Austin, Texas. Last summer was one of the hottest Texas had ever experienced and Clippard documented his efforts, successes and failures in his blog:

The third gardener is Ivette Soler, a Los Angeles garden designer. To quote the author: "I think of my blog as one big garden party". In her blog she discusses gardening as it pertains to entertaining. Check her out:

It's always fun to check out new blogs and these 3 were worth reading!!

On the last page of the magazine, Dominique Browning writes an interesting article. I loved her apt description of most gardeners:

"…Gardeners love everything about gardening. They love the aching knees, the twinge in the back, the bee-stung arms, the stiff curling fingers. They love the impossible nature of keeping things in order: that's why they must always tell visitors they are visiting at the wrong time, for the garden was at its peak last week or is sure to be next week."

How true…….

Monday, February 13, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award!

Hey!!!! I recently joined a website called and guess what??? Nadezda of nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award! I am so excited about this! THANK YOU, NADEZDA!
Besides being honoured to receive this Award, I have explored the Blotanical website more closely and it is incredible. So many wonderful garden blogs to read and gorgeous photographs to look at. I may never have time to clean or cook again :)

Here are the rules:


1. Write a post thanking the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
2. Include the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. Select 15 blogs/bloggers that you have recently discovered or follow regularly and nominate .them for the award.
4. Include a link to their site.
5. Inform each of the bloggers that they have been nominated by posting a comment on each of their blogs.
6. Include these rules in the post.
7. In the post, include seven things about yourself.

Let's see if I have followed the rules:

I wrote to Nadezda and thanked her.

I posted a link to her site (she's in Russia!).

I added the little green Award symbol.

I have only just started reading and following many of the blogs that Blotanical assembles but I've enjoyed so many already!

Here are 15 that deserve this award as well:

Please have a look at these blogs - I hope you enjoy them as much as I have! They all have spectacular photography, great gardening information and enjoyable, often very humorous writing styles.

I will write to each of the bloggers to tell them of their nomination!

OK - the last thing: I need to include 7 things about myself - here goes:

1. I don't mind winter as long as there's no snow. :)
2. I am addicted to Pinterest
3. I adore frozen Cappuccino yogurt with chocolate espresso flakes
4. My fave TV series right now is Downton Abbey
5. I love to sit on my deck after dinner with my glass of wine and admire my garden (in the summer of course!)
6. When heading to any garden, I always have my camera on hand (can't let a photo-op get away!)
7. On a cold winter's evening, I enjoy a cup of Earl Grey Decaffinated tea by the fireplace.

Thanks again, Nadezda. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Diary February 2012 - Planning a Garden Part 2

As you look at garden blogs, websites and magazines, you see lovely examples of front, side and backyards and you think - why can't my garden look like that?
Maybe your yard can't look like a magazine cover but you know your yard could look better. Much better. Where do you start?
Do the absolute, practical first step: Clean Up.
Is the backyard actually quite nice if it didn't have clutter and junk thrown all over? Get out there and sort it. Throw stuff out - take it to the dump or recycle if possible. Or if it's worth keeping, move it and store it in the garage or shed.
OK - now look again. Yes, it's cleaner but...
Are there areas that need repair? Is the fence sagging? Is the deck worn away in parts? Patio stones broken and out of place?  Repair and replace hard structures because they are essential Bones of the Garden.

If you like the look of the garden and its layout, improve what you have.
Trim and prune bushes. If trees are awkward and overgrown, trimming is best left to tree specialists.
Check how different shrubs should be pruned. A basic rule of thumb is that if they bloom in the spring (say anytime up until early July) on old wood, DO NOT cut them back until after they have finished blooming or they will not flower this year. Some examples would be lilacs and forsythia.

Many shrubs benefit from having old dead branches cut out and cutting the other ones back by about one third. It's a rejuvenation process that really makes them healthier and they look better. Check on the web about how specific shrubs should be pruned. Each one is a bit different from the next.
Perennials may need dividing in the spring. Re-position them in other areas or donate them to the local horticultural society for its plant sale.
Plants in clay will love you (and show it!) if you add peat moss. Many plants benefit from a compost or manure dressing.
Many borders look so much better if edged. It gives them definition from the surrounding grass and the look neat, tidy and sharp. All it takes is a crescent-shaped edging shovel and bit of physical effort.

Mulch is one more quick way to make a bed looked groomed and neat. Choose from shredded cedar, pine or cypress. These mulches are durable, look good and smell great. I wouldn't advise using wood chips (they smother plants), cocoa bean hulls (they are toxic to pets) or straw (contains weed seeds.)

A common mistake I see in front yard do-it-yourself landscaping is making the beds around the house small and narrow. Remember this rule of thumb: if a bed is close to the house, the bed should be as wide as half the height of the house. Then things will look well-proportioned and balanced. They should echo bay windows, etc and be shaped in soft, gentle curves.

So you stand in the back and look out (or go up to the second floor and look over and out) -
The garden looks OK but something seems to be missing:
A Focal Point! Small gardens should have a good strong focal point whereas a large garden should have several. They can be a plant or a hard structure. But the eye wants to focus on a specific point and then gently move around the rest of the area.
Here are some examples of good focal points:


When planting, keep these hints in mind:
Try to stick to 3-4 basic colours throughout the garden - it gives a sense of unity. When planting, plant in groups of the same plant and (almost) always in odd numbers: 3,5, 7 or more of the SAME PLANT. This may sound boring but again it achieves a good sense of balance and unity.
Check the web and books for examples of three season colour in the garden. Certain plants are great for this: The Serviceberry has lovely white flowers in the spring, red berries in the summer and gorgeous orange/red foliage in the fall. Some plants have terrific peeling bark (River Birch) or colourful branches (Cornus alba 'Elegantissima').

If budget is a concern, planters and containers make excellent focal points - with or without plants in them!

Work with what you have, improve what you have, add a few new points of interest, keep the yard tidy and clean. You will find it's a pleasure to be out there on a warm day.
(If I'm not mistaken, there's only 42 days until......................SPRING!!!!!!!)