Winter Just Won’t Go Away

Wow!  We had a good storm here a few days ago, at least 40cm of .  Below you can see what the last week of February look like to what we had in the second week of March.  I think mother nature had her months mixed up this year.  Well thinking of spring,  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to volunteer for Canada Blooms with Enterprise Canada (Public Relations Firm) last week before the snow hit us.  There is no feeling better then walking around and looking at backyard landscapes to inspire the creative juices.

     

First floral design I saw was the City of Toronto, it was beautiful          

As you can see in the pictures below, all the different landscapes have given me and hopefully you  some new ideas to make your backyard an oasis that you can be proud of.

I am making several water features this year for my backyard.  The first one is taking a bath tub and turning it into a pond.  I got this idea when my brother redid his bathroom.  I have some slate from when I dug up my front step that i will attached to it and will have the tub in the ground so only half will stick out.  I will flowers and shrubs around to fill it in. I have had a gargoyle fountain spout for about 15 years that I will finally use.  I will post a picture of it good or bad when its finished. Below is before I start.

 

 

 

What to plant this year

Every year the seed books come out before Christmas and I never look at them until the new year. When I do I never know what to order because I want EVERYTHING.  I usually go through them and marked everything I like.  Then wait and go through them again and try to be realistic about it.  You have to look at what you have already planted, move what you think would do better and get what you want.  Below is a picture of my front garden as of today.  Looks pretty sad, but in just a few months the first flowers of the season will be blooming.  You want flowers in your garden from May to October.  Careful planning is needed and even then is not guaranteed it will turn out.  The wrong temperature, water, nutrients, can make flowers grow faster, slower or not at all, and every year it is different.  My garden plants are constantly being moved around. thought needs to be given to where the sun reaches throughout the growing season and how long.  you also need to look at what type of garden you want.  Wild, neat, English, spring, summer gardens are different types. then you need to consider what you can grow in containers.  Container growing is fun and you can be very imaginative what to use a container. I have seen old work boots, bike basket (on a bike), wheel barrel and even a toilet. to get inspiration go to Pinterest for great ideas. Later this year I will talk more about container growing.  For online ordering search ordering seeds, gardening Canada or plants Canada.  Next post I will be setting up my indoor lights to start growing seeds for this year.

front garden

 

 

front garden

front garden

front garden

First Sign of Spring – Pussy Willows

One of the first signs of is Pussy Willows.(Salix discolor). I remember my Dad going out to the field to pick them up every year at this time. He never told me where his secret willows were and now that he has passed away, I’ll have to go on my own search for one. Pussy Willows are Native to  Canada and United States.  They grow in low-lying wet areas.  there are about 40 different species.Pussy Willow will grow to be about 20 feet tall and can spread about 20 feet.  They will need to be pruned, which is best done in late winter. They are fast growers and with ideal conditions can live up to 40 years.

According to Wikipedia, in popular fiction book Pussy Willow, a children’s book by Margaret Wise Brown (1951), tells the story of a gray “pussycat not much bigger than a pussy willow,” who names himself Pussy Willow after the catkins he finds around him in Spring.[2] When the catkins disappear with the passing of the season, he goes in search of them, asking each different kind of animal he encounters where he might find them. The animals all answer from their own perspective. Up in the air, says the butterfly; under a leaf, says the squirrel. Pussy Willow finally finds them a year later when Spring comes around again.In the book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, the character Imogene Herdman argues with a girl named Alice over which of them will play the Virgin Mary in their school’s upcoming Christmas Pageant. Imogene threatens to stick a pussy willow down Alice’s ear where no one would be able to reach it. She said “And it’ll sit there and grow and grow and grow. So for the rest of your life, there’ll be a pussy willow bush growing out of your ear.”

Pussy Willows are wonderful to dry and include in arrangements throughout the year.  I think instead of trudging through the wet woods I’ll go and buy a pussy and put in my back yard to enjoy year after year.

Bunch of Pussy Willows 

Make it a Stew Sunday with Bay Laurel

It’s a rainy day(sometimes freezing), on days like this, it’s good to curl up with a good book or a good movie.  But what to cook for Sunday supper?  My favorite on days like this is stew.  Stew easy to put together and it fills your house with memories of childhood. My favourite is Jamie Oliver’s Steak, Guinness, and cheese pie with a puff pastry lid (recipe here). It calls for fresh rosemary, you can pick it up in the produce section of any supermarket. I like adding a bay leaf while it’s in the oven, it gives the stew more depth.  Which brings me to the topic of today’s blog, Bay Leaves. The Bay Laural Tree(Laurus nobilisan) is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glossy leaves, native to the Mediterranean region The laurel can vary greatly in size and height, sometimes reaching 7–18 (metres 23–59 ft) tall. (Wikipedia). Can you grow it inside during winter? Yes, you can.   Make sure you have a bright, even sometimes direct sun(east, west, south, window).  Make sure from about November to March you don’t water it a lot.  Most plants need what I call a time to sleep.  A rest between growing, most plants in their natural surroundings need a time of rest.  Make sure you do not give any fertilizer during this time, you don’t want it to grow.  Whenever you are pinching out (means trimming)  to make a fuller tree, save the leaves and dry (Click here for full instructions)them away from any heat or the sun.  Either lay them on paper towels or hang the branch you cut.  Make sure they are fully dry before storing them in a container (picture below)

         

I have had about 4 plants over the time I have been growing herbs(latest picture above). Yes, I know it doesn’t look great, most of the time they have died because I forgot about them during winter(like this time) or in the heat of the summer.  When you grow them make sure the pot is big enough and transplant starts to get root bound. They are not hard to grow and the rewards will have your food tasting great. I will start another one in the spring time, fingers crossed!

What to Grow in the Winter

Some people might think gardeners have an offseason.  Some may, but not the Goddess.  I have found ways to keep up with gardening by trying to grow different things in the winter months.  The last few years my curiosity has gone to Fruit trees.  If anyone has seen the movie Red(stands for Retired Extremely Dangerous), it stars Bruce Willis as a retired agent.  He starts a phone relationship with Sarah Ross a worker at the General Services Administration’s Pension Office played by Mary-Lousie Parker, please check it out, it has a sequel, best movie.  Anyways to get back to the point. In one the scenes, they are talking on the phone and you see Bruce’s character has started to grow an avocado tree from seed.  Yes, that got me thinking.  I started to researched how to grow an avocado tree.(click here for instructions). It can take 3 to 7 years for a tree to produce fruit, some might never. I have started two and they are in the third year, I am hoping I will have fruit this year. So in the interest of this blog, I have decided to start another and give weekly updates. The Goddess in me knows mine will produce fruit, before seven years.  When I went to started it (picture above) the first one I split in half.  I had to go outside and dumpster dive for the other avocado, then I realized I had just thrown it out and it was inside the house in the garbage.  The lengths I will go to for this blog. Back to growing the avocado.  As in the picture above put 2 to 3 toothpicks, in my case I used bamboo skewers(probably why it split) have them slightly down;  Make sure you have the root part facing down. The seed is not as hard as you might think. Place in a glass filled with water, making sure the water covers the bottom half.  Place in a bright but not direct sun location. And now we wait…

What to do in Gloomy Feburary

Well, it’s February 2, and Wiarton Willie has predicted an early spring.  That should lighten the gloomiest month of the year.  Shouldn’t it?  What is the percentage he has been right?  According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, The groundhog is only right about 37% of the time.  But, what they get wrong, they do bring some laughter and celebration during the winter months.   At this time every year, my mother and I have a tradition of visiting our local greenhouse to get some springtime inspiration. What I call my Happy Place…a gardening centre, usually Vermeer’s or Rice Road Greenhouses.  When I walk around the feeling of spring and summer come back.  I get excited looking at the new garden items that will be out and as I said before seeds are available.  This is the first time each year I get thinking about my gardens for the summer. I always pick up hyacinths (purple they have the most scent) because once they open your whole house smells like spring.  When I was young my mother had white hyacinths on the south side of the house and I would always pick them and bring them to her.  Little did I know she would be upset because she wanted them left outside so everyone could see them.  Whenever I smell the white ones, they always bring me back to that time.

 

 

This Weekend

With all this gloomy weather, what can a gardener do to keep their spirits up?  Well, this coming Saturday is National Seed Swap day! Sat January 28th this year but it’s the last Saturday of January every year.  So if you saved any seeds from your last year, call up your friends and family and ask if they have any seeds they might want to swap.  You can also head out to your neighbourhood nursery they should have the seed displays up.  I was in Zehrs in Welland, ON and there was a seed display up already.  I am always excited when I receive my seed catalogues.  I started receiving at Christmas time.  They have been safely tuck away until this of year when I can start planning my gardens. I usually receive VersysStokes and Richters catalogues.  Of course, you can search the web for seeds.  I ordered “live” plants in March last year and they were not delivered until May when i could plant them.

The Beginning

Growing up in the country I have always loved being outside, every year my family had a vegetable garden and we canned everything.  The long hot August summer nights were always hotter because of the canning during the day.  This was before most people had air conditioning.  My mother also had house plants, but when she went to college when I was about 13, the houseplants dwindled until there was only one Easter cactus.  I asked my mom if that could be mine and she bought me a purple passion plant. I had the Easter cactus for over 20 years. My obsession had begun!

I gradually accumulated houseplants until our house literally looked like a jungle. My mom bought me a houseplant book that I would look at to decide the next plant I had to have. I would spend days cleaning, transplanting and moving the plants to different parts of the house.  Once I decided I had become an expert (in my opinion),  I decided I wanted to move it outside and learn about herbs and flowers.  Carefully over the next several years, I planned out my parent’s lot, thankfully they had an acre and a half of land.  By the end of about four years, I had 19 different sections of gardens, not counting the vegetable gardens. My love for herbs and flowers have grown over the years and I hope I can bring you some knowledge, mistakes, recipes and most of all some of the excitement I feel whenever I walk into a garden centre or open a gardening book. Below are some pictures of the vegetable garden.  It was not as big as it used to be.  it went almost to the tree in the one picture.

The Goddess

 

                                                                   Parents Gardens outback