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GARDENING-FEBRUARY 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:55
We have our yard work cut out for us before the snow begins to melt this spring.
Our daughter is going to be married in our garden in August and I am already writing up to-do lists. It is a great opportunity to get jobs done that have been simmering on the back burner for far too long: jobs like a railing for the stairs from the parking lot to the house that visually-impaired grandparents worry about; cutting down a dying pine tree in the middle of the backyard; maybe putting in new stairs in the east garden (I have to add that to my list!); cleaning up a couple of fairly large piles of beams and old barn-board; cleaning out the old barn stone foundation in preparation for photos and on and on. I love getting projects done and I am trying to put in a few extras while the incentive is there, like building an awning over the shed door to both keep the rain off my step and put a bit of a flourish on an otherwise drab wall.
While the snow is deep I am looking at pictures of the garden and determining where some new additions would fill out the bare spots. I have some novelty geraniums on the windowsills that will hit the ground early in May and have lots of time to settle in and start blooming.
My challenge is the arbour that separates the east garden from the small orchard. I had a hop vine growing on it but after a few seasons I saw the folly of that when the vine jumped the arbour and headed into the rest of the garden. One day spent pulling and cutting left me with raw arms and legs from the wicked, sharp vines and their sharp sticky stem hairs. It is a very tenacious plant and years later I am still fighting with it.
A thick lush trumpet vine flourishes on the south and east sides of the arbour leaving the more shaded sides naked. It would be nice to look at a perennial vine. I have tried three clematis but it is either too shaded or too dry. My concern is whether we can get something growing and in good shape in one season. So I am looking at fast-growing annual vines.
My first thought was morning glories. We had them in the back garden a few years ago and the flowers were big and bright. Our drawback is that the flowers will be spent about mid-afternoon, just about the time we want them looking great. I think I will forego the hope of having large flowers and opt for good full growth. There will be lots of other bright spots in the garden.
I looked at planting about three Mandevilla vines to fill the space but I am not confident it will get to the height I need.  The arbour is six feet tall and 10 feet long.
Next on my vine list is Red Runner beans. Cold soil does not hamper them and you can start them in the ground in early May. Their cotyledons (seed leaves) remain protected below ground rather than above like other beans. I have to pick carefully as they have developed both pole and bush varieties. Red Runners are favoured for their striking blooms and they also produce tasty beans. If I eat a lot of beans, the vines will still be strongly producing which means more blooms, a win-win choice in my book. I checked online for comments by other growers. The majority were quite pleased with the results of planting Red Runners.
The other vine I am leaning towards is the Gloriosa superba, or better known as flame lily, or climbing lily. It is actually a perennial herb that climbs or scrambles over other plants with the aid of tendrils at the ends of their leaves and can reach three metres in height. They have showy flowers, shaped like a Turk’s cap lily, ranging in colour from a greenish-yellow through yellow, orange, red and sometimes even a deep pinkish-red. I have seen the orange-red varieties and they are stunning. I am optimistic about this one as it is known to naturalize in the dry coastal understory in Australia. Dappled shade and dry conditions, sounds like home!
There is pressure to have everything perfect, although who is to know what grows and what does not as everyone will be looking at the bride. So I am going to hedge my bets and grow both the beans and the lily. I can cross my fingers but a better use of my hands would be to make sure I water if it gets dry.
I will let you know how things go. I am so happy I could cry. Klaus will be crying when he sees my list. Happy planning for spring.◊
PLANNING FOR A BIG SUMMER GARDEN EVENT
By Rhea Hamilton-Seeger
We have our yard work cut out for us before the snow begins to melt this spring.
Our daughter is going to be married in our garden in August and I am already writing up to-do lists.
Read more...
 
GARDENING-JANUARY 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:50
Inspiration comes from so many places, from within us and from without. One could be forgiven for thinking that gardeners take a break during the dark winter months to rest from the garden but they would be so wrong.
Just walking through the floral section of the grocery store gets my juices flowing. I noticed this year there was an absence of Hellebores or better known as the Christmas rose. I had the good fortune to pick up a couple last January and nurse them through the winter to start a wee patch off the patio. I was inspired. I can hardly wait to see how they fare this spring.
I am fairly twitching with new ideas and plans for the garden by the time the ground has started to thaw. While the lines of the beds may not change, the contents are always evolving, moving and growing.
I have already started pulling books out of the pile by my chair that I had the good luck of picking up at summer sales. I look at the photos first, admire the colour combinations, try to assess if that plant combination will grow in my garden and where in my garden would I put them! I confess I try to read the articles but unless they are telling me specific details on growing something I glaze over and go for the accompanying photos. Pure eye candy!
So imagine my surprise when I picked up The Jewel Box Garden by Thomas Hobbs purely for the photos and ended up reading it all, twice. The photos are delicious with rich colours and shapes. Both small and large gardens from the west coast of the U.S. and Canada as well as a few choice ones from the New England states are included. But it is his way of writing about gardening and his choice of words that make me nod and smile.
I know a lot of the plants featured will not grow in my garden but it is the sage advice about colour, placement and containers that was the bonus.  Hobbs starts out with what we all know. He prefers the word “commitment” rather than the word “work” when turning our visions into reality. Gardening is more like therapy when you are working for yourself. He creates oasises of beauty and eschews the use of the garden rooms idea as too planned. He wants to walk through the garden and experience a series of surprise visions without walls. Even a small patio with a wee water feature and a wealth of treasured plants would offer the same.
He expresses sadness over rows of houses without even a hint of garden in their yards that reminds him of a drive through the Valley of Death. It’s a bit extreme but I fully appreciate what he says when he goes on to talk about those of us who get excited about a sunset or the first snowdrop. We save wrapping paper because it’s so beautiful, not just to save money and re-use it (well I do!).
Hardscape is as important as the plantings. We may inherit a plain concrete patio but it can be easily stained, or scored in a diamond pattern with a wet saw.
You don’t have to spend scads of money to create your garden. There is a lot of free stuff out there from stumps to old windows and birdcages that can all act as scene-stealers in your garden. While touring a garden in Grey-Bruce last summer I saw a wonderful old picture frame sitting on an easel in the back of the border. Embedded in the wide border was a wealth of moss and Echeveria. The frame was hot yellow and the blue-grey of the plants just popped.
We all look for those unique plants that have that pop of colour or unusual leaf. Rather than lose them in the garden, feature them in a patio planter or a raised pot artfully placed in the garden. I have done that with my house begonias in black planters on the patio. My blanket-stitch begonia looked like it was on steroids; the leaves jumped in size and the dark brown edging became much more vivid.
Hobbs is right on with encouraging us to concentrate on plants that give you a thrill rather that something to fill a colour need. He compares the new daylilies that hybridizers have been working on as a cross between an orchid and an Amaryllis to produce ruffled glass sculptures!
This entertaining book has pushed me to take a second look at our snow-white, pristine wall on the east corner of the house. Plants look better against a mellowed, knocked-back background. Rather than paint I am looking at maybe a trellis of sorts.
I am scrounging in my barn to take a second look at some of the containers I have stashed there and hauling them out this spring.
I am really enjoying this book and have decided to go through it again and mark the ideas that inspire me and build on that. I love Post-its!
I will leave you with one last thought. Hobbs encourages us to “Free your mind, the rest will follow.” Using your mind creatively is almost a lost art in the age of digital photos and camera-phones. If you are perplexed with a garden situation and the answers are not to be found on a plant tag, then you have to let artistry take over.
Dreaming big should be taught. It is something that we can apply to everything in our lives. Venture further afield when looking for elements to build into your garden. You may be surprised by what you find.
So the word of the month is inspiration and I hope there are some triggers for you during the quiet of winter.◊
MY SPRING INSPIRATION BEGINS IN WINTER
By Rhea Hamilton-Seeger
Inspiration comes from so many places, from within us and from without. One could be forgiven for thinking that gardeners take a break during the dark winter months to rest from the garden but they would be so wrong.
Just walking through the floral section of the grocery store gets my juices flowing. I noticed this year there was an absence of Hellebores or better known as the Christmas rose. I had the good fortune to pick up a couple last January and nurse them through the winter to start a wee patch off the patio. I was inspired. I can hardly wait to see how they fare this spring.
Read more...