Posts filed under Guidance

Exotic Blooms

Clematis let me pretend for a brief moment that I live in Hawaii, or somewhere tropical!  The exotic blooms are hard to match, and much loved and collected by many gardeners.  This rambling vine can climb up a purposeful structure like a trellis or obelisk, or climb a small tree or shrub for added interest.   As with so many of my favourite plants, there are many varieties of clematis, just part of what makes them collectible and addictive.  There are spring, summer or fall bloomers, and even ‘re-bloomers’, that bloom in both spring and late summer.  Clematis is demanding in its preferences: full sun but shaded roots, moist, rich, well-drained soil, and they don’t like winter winds.  When planting, dig an extra 4-5” in depth and fill with rich soil, then plant with the root ball slightly above soil level and keep it moist until established.  After planting, I often add stones or two bricks to protect the roots, but you can also use extra mulch, or plan for leafy perennials to shade the roots.  Pruning is another key clematis topic, for which you need to understand your vine’s blooming habits.  If your clematis blooms in spring on last year’s vines, then prune only dead and weak stems after blooming.  If your clematis blooms on new growth in late spring or summer, then prune lightly to strong buds in early spring.  If your clematis blooms late summer or fall, then prune back hard in early spring to above the first good buds.  The extra care required, has always been worth the reward!

Technical stuff – Woody or semi-woody deciduous vine, blooms in spring, summer or fall, many colours and bloom variations, prefer full sun, don’t like winter winds and need to shade roots from heat, prefer moist, rich, well-drained soil.

Posted on January 17, 2014 and filed under Guidance, Perennials, Vines.

How's The View?

This is the time of year to gaze out your windows and decide if you like the view.  Are you looking at a rectangle of white?  How could you play with your view?... especially with windows that are in regular view.  Trees and shrubs add the graceful arch of branches, texture and colour of bark, or the bonus of berries for decoration and natural bird food.  Thinking of birds, a feeder is such a simple way to add lively entertainment to your outdoor space!  Hard structures such as a bench, obelisk, arbour, bridge, oversized planter or bird bath, all add visual interest to give the snow a subject matter for sculpting its powdery white.  Soil can also be used to add shape, with raised beds or a berm.  And you can never go wrong with chunks of stone.  There are many, many ways to add shape and structure.  What do you see out your windows? 


Posted on January 14, 2014 and filed under Guidance, Inspiration.

Bookworm Alert

It is no surprise that I have a beloved, and sort of large, collection of gardening books!  The inspiration and learning I have acquired from my plentiful garden reading has been invaluable.  In honour of this gift giving season, I have chosen five favourites to recommend – three for inspiring beauty, and two for practicality: 

Seasons of My Garden by Marjorie Harris – a wondrous journey through the four seasons of her backyard plant cornucopia, chock full of plant ideas and combos.  Marjorie was my original garden inspiration, she gardens here in Toronto.

The Jewel Box Garden by Thomas Hobbs – like a decadent dessert for the garden soul, luscious plantings and containers, and he has another book, Shocking Beauty that is just as delectable.  Thomas gardens on Vancouver Island, so he does push the plant zones.

Paradise Found by Rebecca Cole – I was sold at the cover photo of lavender in an old sap bucket.  Rebecca gardens in New York City in ‘unlikely places’, and takes container gardening to a whole new level.

Landscape Planning by Judith Adam – my favourite practical book, it covers basic hardscaping and has many helpful ‘best plant’ lists (ie. best shrubs for part shade).

Pruner’s Bible – I self-taught myself on pruning with this book, and still refer to the ‘what to prune when’ chart at least once a year.

I also must mention Sonia Day’s latest book, The Untamed Garden, which just came out in paperback and is my next garden read!


Posted on December 13, 2013 and filed under Guidance, Inspiration.

Vintage Charm

I often attend auctions on the hunt for rusty and rustic garden containers and decoration.  From this I have developed a fascination with old enamel ware.  These vintage pots, pans, or bowls can make functional planters – they are light to handle, can overwinter outdoors, and are easy to puncture drainage holes.  I also use the handled pots as dippers at the rain barrel, and love an old colander as decoration. The smooth surface (like Chiclets gum), is a neutral backdrop to highlight plants, and rust does not take away from the charm.  A rim of red or green, or retro colour, makes the piece an even better find!  And of course bringing anything from an auction into the garden is like adding history, stories untold – it just enhances the magic!

Posted on December 10, 2013 and filed under Guidance, Inspiration.

The Right Tool

I am most fortunate to have a husband that can renovate, repair and build, and thus he appreciates the value of good tools – ‘you need to have the right tool for the job’.  He has gifted me many precious garden tools over the years, and now I also greatly appreciate the value of the right tool!   In case you need an idea for yourself or a gardener on your Christmas list, these are three of my favourite garden tools:  perennial spade, hori hori knife and bulb dibber.  The perennial spade is just short of 2’ in length with a pointed 5” x 5 ½” blade.  It is easy to manage, can dig perfect planting holes for small to mid-size perennials, and wonderfully splits roots.  The hori hori knife is also a multi-tasker - perfect for popping out weeds with roots in tact, and for splitting small but tough perennials.  The bulb dibber is an age-old tool that can’t be beat for planting small bulbs, which I do a lot of!  If you have any trouble finding them, these are all available at Lee Valley.

Posted on December 9, 2013 and filed under Guidance, Favourite Products.

My Rock Collection

As a kid I collected rocks – granite, limestone, quartz – and what I collected could fit in my hand.  I still collect rocks, but now they are much bigger, and all in my garden!  Rocks add texture, depth, structure, interest, form…all essential boosts for garden design.  As example, a dry creek bed is a relatively simple garden addition with big impact.  Large rocks can double as steps or benches (with no maintenance!).   Rocks help to moderate soil temperature, weeds can’t grow through them, they provide homes for moss, make an efficient edging, and they are a perfect backdrop to highlight plants.  I am fortunate to have been able to collect wonderful rocks from the farm where I grew up.  I earned them, as they are the same rocks I had to pick off the fields as a kid, and then I collected them from the fence lines for my garden!


Posted on November 27, 2013 and filed under Guidance, Inspiration.

Winter Bouquet

The annuals in my front pots crumpled with frost, and it’s time for winter bouquets.  I like my winter bouquets fairly simple.  The bouquet below includes a classic mix of cedar and spruce boughs, artemisia, russian sage (both make silvery accents with the bonus of great scent), snowballs (Annabelle hydrangea), red dogwood branches and red berries (these from european snowball).  If you don’t have a garden to forage (though you’d be surprised what even a small garden can offer - look for form, interesting seed heads, anything evergreen), local garden centers are full of offerings.  Fresh evergreen boughs can simply stand alone, or have a little boost with berries, dried meadow flowers, sumac, coloured branches….what is your favourite addition?

Posted on November 23, 2013 and filed under Guidance, Inspiration.

The Work

People always say to me, gardens are so much work.  Yes, gardens take work (but hopefully it’s enjoyable work for you, plus fresh air and exercise!), but there are ways to minimize it.  For me there are three biggies – strong edging, excellent mulching and strategic planting.  The edge of your garden (assuming you have grass/lawn) is the dividing line that grass is not allowed to cross.  For me, grass is the worst weed and if grass gets into the garden, the workload is magnificent.  There are commercial plastic edgings, but I am not a fan.  My preferred edge is done with an edger (half-moon shaped looking shovel), and is executed as a 4-6” moat around the garden bed.  Mulch helps keeps weeds away, protects roots and helps maintain moisture and moderate soil temps – all good things for a garden!  My preferred mulch is natural (brown) shredded cedar.  The thicker you apply it, the better it works, 3”-4” is ideal.  Lastly, choose easy care perennials and shrubs that are happy with your conditions – that may take some reading or professional guidance to determine the best choices.  You can choose to do the work yourself, or of course have someone else do it – a good spring and fall clean up goes far!

Posted on October 28, 2013 and filed under Guidance.