Monthly Archives: May 2013

Thoughts and Plans on a Rainy Day

Tulips and Japanese Maple

Tulips and Japanese Maple

We’ve had a few rainy days lately, as my local readers can attest.  Whenever there’s an hour or two of sunshine I feel compelled to race outside and pull some weeds or plant containers.  The nice thing about rain is that it gives you a break from gardening (guilt-free!) and, of course, it’s good for the garden.  You can imagine the plants slurping up all that moisture and getting taller by the hour.

Last August we installed a large awning over the deck, which allows me to sit outside in the rain and enjoy the smells and sights of the garden without getting wet.  I wondered whether the expense was worth it at the time, but I’m really enjoying it now! I sat out there with my coffee this morning and watched the starlings fight over the bird feed at my squirrel-proof feeder. Only one starling can eat at a time; two together are too heavy and make the portals close.  The starlings have figured this out and they chase each other off the feeder so they can grab a bite.  Watching birds is fascinating, but I wish I wasn’t getting only starlings and the occasional grackle or sparrow!  I’d love to hear if some of you are seeing other varieties of birds at your feeders or bird baths.  (Note to self: set up bird bath!)

Though I can’t get out in the Tranquil Garden and do the chores that are waiting for me, I can plan what those chores will be.  For instance, the front yard is a neglected disaster.  Nobody driving by my house would dream that there was a dedicated gardener living here!  The grass is scrabbly and sparse, and generously dotted with dandelions.  I’d love to plant other groundcovers, but it requires tearing out the grass (easier said than done!), adding a few inches of soil, possibly building a small drystone wall at the front to keep the new soil in and then planting…a lot.  The maple tree has been sucking the soil of its nutrients forever and I believe that’s why only dandelions thrive there.

Aside from that major project, which I may or may not do this year, I need to spread compost from my compost bin around the flower beds; mulch where the mulch is getting thin; pull out grass where it’s growing through some of the other groundcovers I’ve planted, particularly the phlox; add soil amendments for those plants who are fussy about acidity (azaleas, clematis, magnolia, etc); and fill the remaining containers. That is a partial list.  As the sign in my yard says: “A garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever!”

A corner of my garden dedicated to spring flowers

A corner of my garden dedicated to spring flowers, including tulips, hellebore and lungwort




More fun with Containers!

Close-up of the caladium/ferm/lobelia planters

Close-up of the caladium/ferm/lobelia planters

This week, in between rain showers, I filled up more containers with the lovely flowers I bought at Atwater Market.  I would have loved to spend a whole day planning my containers, making lists and then driving up to my favourite nursery, Jasmin, but at the last minute I decided that I could skip all of that and go to Atwater with my friend, Linda, and do everything in 2 hours.  So much for my own carefully worded advice (see my previous post, “!”).  With a rough idea of what I needed I was able to do pretty well.  I picked up mostly very common plants: marigolds, verbena, lobelia, million bells (calibrachoa) , white alyssum, ivy,  sweet potato vine (both purple and green), as well as a couple whose names I can’t remember.  Maybe you’ll spot them in the photos and you can remind me!  I also made up a version of the caladium planter from the video I posted last time, but I used the two caladiums that I over-wintered, so they’re barely visible. I hope you enjoy the pictures and get inspired to have fun with your own containers!

I love the tall pink plant, called gaura! First time I’ve tried this one.


Purple verbena, alyssum, etc.

Purple verbena, alyssum, etc.

I love the white/gray/green harmonies.

I love the white/gray/green harmonies.

I put together small caladiums, ferns, lobelia and potato vines for the two on the right.  The left is a geranium I had inside all winter.

I put together small caladiums, ferns, lobelia and sweet potato vines for the two on the right. On the left is a geranium I had inside all winter.

Container planting!

We’re coming up to the long weekend in May, which is when Canadian gardeners tend to think it’s safe to start planting annuals, either in containers or into the garden. I love to get ideas about planting containers from garden magazines or from internet sites. The sky’s the limit with containers, but keep in mind that a balanced container needs to have one or two taller plants, some trailing plants and some fillers. Also, think about what colour(s) or flowers give you the most pleasure and choose the other plants to compliment the main one(s) . It’s not a bad idea to do some research before you head to the nursery so you have a list of plants to look for.  If you want to find anything unusual you’ll need to go to a bigger nursery, like Jasmin or one of the Botanix franchises; and the Atwater and Jean Talon markets often have good choices. (Sorry to those of you who are out of town, I’m talking Montreal locations!) Without a list in hand the nursery can be overwhelming and you may find yourself wandering around not knowing what to buy, or putting way too much into your cart.

My first version of the container shown in the video.



My sister, Nora, a wonderful gardener, sent me a link a couple of years ago about filling containers that I always find delightful to watch.  This woman knows what she’s doing! For the last two summers I’ve done versions of this basic idea in one or two containers and they’re always my favourites. I’m re-posting the video here for your own amusement and education.  Happy planting!

Version two, with caladium and “millions of bells”

Spring Ahead (of me)

Last weekend I got back from a two week tour of South America with the OSM and since then have been nursing a husband with a broken collar bone, getting the house in order, going to my daughter’s final Master’s voice recital (she made us proud!) and all kinds of other things.  I have not done a whole lot of gardening so I feel very behind.  I missed that amazing time of year when everything comes up with a rush.  However, I was lucky in the sense that I didn’t miss any complete blooming periods.  When I arrived home, all the spring flowers were still in bloom: the pulmonaria (lungwort), the tulips, the daffodils, and the grape hyacinths were all still going strong.

Mauve Tulips

Mauve Tulips

Being the only one in the family with any great interest in gardening I get a little overwhelmed with what “has to be done” in the garden.  Then I have to ask myself, “who decides ‘what has to be done’?” Well, me, of course.  So, really, I can do as much or as little as I want.  Luckily I can afford to hire someone to cut the grass and trim the cedar hedge.  That takes a load off right there. I’d like to get rid of most of the dandelions, but really, it’s not completely necessary.  If I do a bit of weeding here and there, that’s enough.  So, what’s left? All the fun stuff.  Setting up the bird bath; cleaning up the edges of the beds so they look pleasing; planting the containers (and I don’t have to fill ALL of them if I don’t feel like it!); planting new stuff, spreading compost and/or manure.  For someone who is not a gardener, none of this sounds like much fun, but once you’re in the garden the feeling of being there is much more than the sum of all those parts. Plus, the garden repays you for all your hard work by producing incredible beauty.  Here are some of the more recent photos I’ve taken in my own garden.  I am looking forward to picking up the annuals for my containers and bags of soil and compost to spread around.  Then summer will be almost here!

Yellow and orange daffodils

I was so smart to plant some daffs and not just the tulips that the squirrels love!

I’m posting a Youtube link of one of the lovely songs my daughter sang at her recital. La Chevelure, by Debussy sung by Eileen Farrell.

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