Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Contained Garden - 5 Tips for Great Containers

"Into your garden you can walk
And with each plalnt and flower talk;
View all their glories, from each one
Raise some rare mediation.
Recount their natures, tell which are
Vertuous like you, as well as fair"

John Rea, 'Flora, Ceres and Pomona', 1665

I've just spsent the afternoon in the garden weeding in preparation of the upcoming garden tour a month away. The garden look beautiful this morning. Yesterday it rained all day, that gentle soaking rain that the plants just love. This morning the garden looked as if sprinkled with diamond dust as the raindrops dripping off the plants shimmered in the newly rising sun - a simply beautiful sight. The purple spikes of the regal Lupines are now fading but in the past two days the bursting of the Poppies has taken center stage and now the Peonies are starting to unfurl. I love that the garden is an ever changing palette, when one perennial's life span is over there is another waiting in the wings to take its place.

The kitchen garden is coming to life as the beans, potatoes, varieties of lettuce and radish are pushing through the soil. The tomatoes are flowering giving promise of the heirloom varieties we will soon be enjoying (I can hardly wait). We have already been enjoying the delicious herbs adding culinary freshness to salads and other dishes.

And this year I've been trying my hand more at the contained garden. With limited space in my raised beds, I've been planting crops in pots and so far with good success. The pepper plants already have tiny peppers being formed. My tomato surrounded at the base with herbs is thriving but my other tomato with lettuce surrounding it has suffered at the paws of the squirrels and chippies but I'll try sowing the lettuce seeds. In the greenhouse I've got pots of tomatoes, potatoes and Swiss Chard. As well I have numerous pots and hanginig baskets bursting with colourful blooms like the container in the photo above which I took at Terra Nova Nursery in Oregon. Here are a few tips to help you with your contained gardens:

1. Think outside the pot - let your creative juices flow in terms of plant material and colours.

2. Consider the container - it can also bring colour to the garden and be a real focal point.

3. Don't be afraid of using perennials in your containers. If you live in cold climate like I do, simply heel in your plants in the garden in the fall and then you can reuse them next spring.

4. Group together those containers that have the same watering requirements, it will make your watering work easier.

5. Add embellishments to your containers, hidden gems that draw people into your arrangements. Canadian garden designer Thomas Hobbs is a genius at this by including glass balls, shells, and unique items in his containers. Check out his books 'The Jewel Box Garden' and 'Shocking Beauty'.
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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Start of the Summer Garden Tours

"A garden is preeminently a place to indulge individual taste ... let me say that the best general rule that I can devise for garden-making is: Put all the beauty and delight-someness you can into your garden, get all the beauty and delight you can out of your garden, ..."

John Sedding, English garden writer of last century

It's hard to believe that its aleady June and the start of the summer garden tours. Yesterday we had the pleasure of a sneak peek of the upcoming "Through the Garden Gate, Beyond the Bridle Path" garden tour taking place on June 20-21, 2009 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Toronto. This is the Toronto Botanical Gardens 22nd garden tour. It was a lovely day as we toured four of the fourteen gardens selected ranging from a Japanese garden, sleek modern gardens, a sculpture garden showcasing a stunning Chihuly glass sculpture among many others. The garden tour is a fundraiser for the Toronto Botanical Gardens and is made possible through the efforts of over 100 volunteers. We toured an interesting sculpture garden that covered three town lots with a fabulous Chihuly glass sculpture; a modern garden complete with lap pool and fantastic outdoor kitchen and entertaining area; a large formal garden complete with stunning outdoor gazebo with fireplace, tennis courts and large pool and looked so established we could hardly believe it was only two years old; and finally a smaller more intimate garden with a beautiful pool and dining area, tennis court and a more informal garden area. All in all a great day and just think, on Father's Day weekend we can go back and see the other ten gardens. Why not purchase a couple of tickets ($40.00 per person for the public and $35.00 for TBG members) - a great Father's Day gift for your resident gardener!

Tips When Going on a Garden Tour

1. Be respectful, you are visiting someone's home and garden. Don't pick the flowers and don't walk in the flower beds. It is also polite to ask if photos are permitted.

2. Gardens come in many different sizes and styles. You might not always like one style but remember that this is someone's private sanctuary and appreciate it for what it is.

3. You might be overwhelmed by the grandeur of some gardens but remember to look carefully at the different elements that make up each garden space, be it a sculptural element or an interesting plant combination - it's these small things you can take back to your own garden.

4. And don't hesitate to ask questions, most gardeners and designers love to speak about their gardens.

5. Finally, remember to stop and smell the roses. Enjoy the day and as Paul Zammitt says "Don't forget to stop and get some ice cream!"

To purchase tickets online for this fabulous garden tour go to

A large container at one of the gardens on yesterday's tour.

And now I'd better get busy tidying my own beds as our garden is one of nine featured on the Bracebridge garden tour on July 25th.

Happy Touring