Sunday, August 7, 2011

Garden Tours - A Time to Share

A deck outside the kitchen provides an outdoor kitchen for entertaining.

Our largest pond with a newly created waterfall which still needs a little work.

This seating area is hidden from the main garden and is where my son Jeremy and his friends like to warm themselves on a chilly summer or autumn evening.

This newly appointed seating area is great for enjoying a glass of wine while the chef makes dinner on the BBQ.

The gazebo is where we enjoy our summer evening dinners close to the big pond. The raised box veggie gardens provide us with fresh produce.

Yesterday we were part of a garden tour for some visitors who came from Toronto with Garden Instructor Frank Kershaw. My son was surprised when the coach pulled up next to the house and a whole busload of people disembarked. But the rain held off and the weather was perfect for a garden tour. Everyone enjoyed some juice and goodies and a walk around the garden. I hope they got some good ideas.

We love hosting garden tours. Not only is it a great way to get those niggling garden tasks completed (my husband is a procrastinator and works best under pressure) but it forces you to look at your garden from someone else's perspective. I have started to rehabilitate our gardens this year. A small rock garden had become infested with a big ant nest, so I had to deal with that and then add more soil and replant and at the same time I added another great piece of granite.

You can see above that we also added a waterfall feature to our big pond. (We have three water features in our backyard - we love the sound of running water throughout the garden).The waterfall still has some adjustments to be made but it adds another dimension to the pond.

We also reconfigured our back deck. Previously it has held two Muskoka chairs on one level and a picnic table on the upper level. Well, the past couple of winters a huge icicle came down on the picnic table and finally broke the stone slab that was the table top. After having been at garden Walk Buffalo last year, we came home with an idea from that garden tour. We moved the BBQ up to replace the Muskoka chairs which had reached the end of their life span while at the same time remaking the picnic table into a table/counter for food preparation next to the BBQ. We then purchased a new seating arrangement for the upper deck. Using the frame of the old pergola (for the ice had smashed that too) we rearranged our fabric shade cover to work over this space and with enough of the leftover fabric I was able to recover the cushions so that all matched. Now we have a lovely are to sit, relax and enjoy a glass of wine while being able to converse with the grill master. And the counter area is great for setting up the food for a BBQ. Jeremy loves grilling the burgers while his friends can load their plates.

Garden tours are a great opportunity to share your garden triumphs, disappointments or mistakes. Two days before the tour while digging a hole to put up a bird house for me he cut the TV cable, luckily the cable guy came on Friday to restore order. For us, it is a chance to show the ability to reuse and recycle materials. One of our ponds is an old bathtub. The marble floor of the gazebo came from a building in Toronto via my sister's neighbours backyard. Our greenhouse was made from windows from a restaurant on our main street that was having the windows replaced and sided with leftover siding from the house and the pergola was once the children's play unit. Peter, the resident handyman, builds everything with screw nails so that he can constantly reuse materials when things outlive their current usefulness.

Take the opportunity to visit other peoples gardens and get ideas that you can use in creating your own personal sanctuary and then share what you do with others. Happy Gardening!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer Days, Summer Days!

These are the lovely hollyhocks that appear in our garden each year. But a recent windstorm knocked many of them over.

I just love the beauty of a summer's day. Yesterday I had the chance to visit another gardeners' garden and see the beauty that they have created at their home. The sun was shining, good friends were in attendance all to share in one couple's creation of their personal sanctuary.

We each garden for our own reasons. For some, vegetable gardening is the way they sustain their family during the summer and winter months. Or perhaps they just want to try and reduce their carbon footprint, know where their food comes from and enjoy straight from the vine fresh produce when it is at its absolute best.

Some garden for the flowers. They love the beauty of colourful blooms and they are entranced by the wildlife and biodiversity that those blooms attract. I'm a bit of both those gardeners. I have six raised beds in which I grow a variety of fresh vegetables. There is nothing better than fresh picked beans, lightly steamed and drizzled with a little butter or extra virgin olive oil. The rest of my garden is a mix of perennials, trees and shrubs with a few containers of annuals. I too delight in the wildlife that visits my garden from the groups of starlings, a few robins and mourning doves that like to frolic in the water of our several water features to those crazy squirrels that dig up my bulbs and my beans (had to replant them several times before they actually germinated). But oh those squirrels make me laugh as they chase each other up and down the trees and along the fence tops. And then there are the couple of little chipmunks who scurry about always with their cheeks full of peanuts courtesy of our neighbour next door.

No matter what kind of a gardener you are the important thing is to love what you are doing - getting exercise, fresh air and enjoying all that nature has to offer. And to take time, not just to work in your garden, but to sit down ever once in a while and truly enjoy all that you have created. Summer is fleeting, so enjoy it while it is here!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Great Gardening Year

Huge hostas grace my garden this summer.

Wow! What a great gardening year this is. People are constantly telling me how wonderful their gardens are growing. The weather experts predicted a hot, dry summer but so far we haven't experienced much of that. Instead we have alternated between cool wet weather and a few hot dry days which has resulted in the gardens growing large and lush. The hostas are huge, the berries bountious (strawberries that is!), the grapes glorious and the weeds wicked! The gardens seem to have exploded. I haven't seen a garden season like this for a few years.

We picked strawberries at Brooklands Farm in Milford Bay a few times and the berries were large and delicious. My son Jeremy baked and decorated a cake with berries to represent the Canadian flag in celebration of Canada Day. We gorged on fresh berries and whipped cream, made jam and froze a great quantity to enjoy during the winter. Yum! Yum!

The grape arbour is covered with grape bunches and it looks like we will have a great grape harvest this fall that is if we can keep the birds and squirrels away as the grapes ripen. We're looking forward to making grape jelly to enjoy on our toast when winter sets in providing a reminder of the summer that was.

My roses were ravishing this summer. Many summers I have lost leaves and buds to caterpillars before the buds could bloom but this summer everything bloomed with fragrant aroma. The peonies were perfect too - fragrant large blooms that awakened the olfactory senses as you wandered through the garden.

But along with the burgeoning beauty are the wicked weeds and ferocious ferns that seem to have taken over too. Last year I was not able to give the garden much attention due to dealing with family health issues and now with a great garden season I am forced to tackle the weed and fern problems. So with vigour I am digging out the ferns and eliminating the weeds and putting down lots and lots of mulch. (I should have shares in the mulch companies). I have also been reworking some parts of the front garden. After spending some time on a garden tour with Frank Kershaw, I am starting to lift some of my smaller plants up to display them better as I saw on that tour. Garden tours are great for getting new ideas and summer is the time when horticultural societies across the province and country are showcasing local members gardens. Take time out from your own garden chores to check out some of these tours.

Today is cool and overcast but a perfect day for getting out in the garden to continue with my garden tasks. Enjoy your day but remember always to take time out to smell the roses and celebrate the beauty of your private sanctuary.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

World Naked Gardening Day- May 14, 2011

Who would believe that there would be such an international day as World Naked Gardening Day? Well, I'm here to tell you that such a day exists and that day is May 14, 2011 this year. Now I personally can't imagine doing my garden chores naked, especially in our part of the country where May is the beginning of black fly and mosquito season. How about gardening naked protected by a bug jacket? But there are somethings a bug jacket won't be able to protect (if you know what I mean),

Personally I prefer to think about naked gardening in the same context as Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef. For me "naked gardening" simply means just stripping away all the glitz and getting back to gardening basics, using sustainable practices like composting, integrated pest management, discontinuing use of pesticides and insecticides and the use of hertitage, heirloom and native plant material.

So celebrate World Naked Gardening Day in whatever manner makes you feel good.

Monday, April 18, 2011

O Reluctant Spring!

O reluctant spring - when will you ever show your warm spirit and bright days.

Can you believe it - these are my little crocus, frozen in the snow that fell yesterday and through the night. A few weeks ago we were lulled into the prospect that spring was just around the corner. Warm breezes brushed our faces, we scampered to put our laundry on the line revelling in the smell of clean, fresh linens. And then wham. The warm breezes were repaced with blasts of bitter Arctic air and along with those strong winds came blinding snow - yet again. Can anyone believe that it is now April 18th. Spring when will you grace us? These tiny purple petals frozen in time and space. And as Easter approaches this weekend, we can look forward not to donning a new Easter outfit as I did when I was a child but instead to get my winter coat out again.

But the signs of spring are here - these frozen crocus, my rhubarb budding up through the ground (topped by a hood of snow) and daffodils just waiting to burst. And I must remember that we gardener's are a patient lot, so patient I must be and I know that I will be rewarded when my anticipation is finally quenched with spring's warm weather and colourful blooms.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Canada Blooms - Inspiration, Ideas and Information

I can hardly believe that it is mid March already and time once again for Canada Blooms, Canada's premier flower and garden show. Winter has really been hanging on and we are all ready for a breath of spring air and Canada Blooms certainly delivers that along with plenty of inspiration, ideas and information. Some people can easily feel overwhelmed at the show but here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your Canada Blooms visit.

1. Inspiration-The show gardens are large and beautiful but can be overwhelming to some who say I don't have the funds to hire a landscaper to do all that work and it is beyond my own capabilities. Remember these are show gardens where landscapers and designers are showing you new products and their services. These gardens are meant for inspiration. Look at the smaller elements that you can take home and use in your own garden - it could be a new plant variety, and interesting colour combination or a new hardscape element like a water feature, outdoor kitchen idea or some cool accesories.

2. Ideas - The show is filled with lots of great ideas. Bring along your digital camera and a notebook and pen so you can make note and record ideas or new plants you'd like to try in your garden. If you rely on your memory, you'll lose a lot of ideas. By the end of the show your head will be so filled with ideas that when you go home, you won't remember them all. I keep a file of new gardens ideas so that when I have time and want to make changes to my garden I can readily see ideas I wanted to try.

3. Information - If you are a novice gardener just getting started or an experienced gardener wanting to find out about new plants or techniques, Canada Blooms information sessions are filled with quality education from experienced gardeners. There are many opportunities throughout the 4 day show to here excellent speakers who share their knowledge, tips and techniques. Again, bring along a notebook so you can jot down all the great gardening advice.

If you've never been to Canada Blooms, there is no time like the present. Not only will you leave filled with Inspiration, Ideas and Information but you'll leave knowing that spring is just around the corner. So celebrate spring this week at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto at Canada Blooms.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Winter Won't Let Go

"Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own."

Charles Dickens

What a week it has been. Winter it seems just will not let go its hold on us. It's almost mid March and just when we think that spring might be on our doorstep, we are blasted with another hit of winter. Yesterday, it was rain, then wet, heavy snow and my children even had another "snow day" at home. With the extra rain and snow, it has meant flooding all around our town. We are all getting a little down with the weather these days and can only hope and pray for some sunshine, mild days and warm, warm weather. It doesn't help when our Kenyan son texts us from Nairobi telling us it is so, so, so, so, hot Mama. But still the fresh dusting of white covered up the muddy brown of spring's melt time.

And so we can only hope for spring by looking at our photos of our gardens in full bloom and perusing and picking our seeds and summer bulbs from the garden catalogues but when we will be able to plant, well your guess is as good as mine. So tonight with a light snow falling and mild temperatures, I'll grab a mug of tea and get back to my seed orders.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Roses - Symbol of Love for Valentine's Day

"In the heart of every woman
is the memory of a Rose."

Jean Gordon

Roses have been the symbol of love throughout the ages but it was the Victorians who began to write about roses in their poetry and prose extolling their virtue and innocence.

And as Liz Klose and Laura Peters recount in their book 'Roses for Ontario', "A Greek legend attributes the creation of the rose to Flora, the goddess of spring and flowers. She found the lifeless body of one of her beautiful nymphs in the forest and asked the gods to give the creature new life by transforming her into a flower, one that surpasses all others in beauty. The request was granted and the new flower was named Rose, Queen of Flowers."

Roses have been the symbol of love in my relationship with my husband and he often gives me roses for special occasions, and sometimes for no occasion at all. We have a few roses growing in our gardens, new varieties that come out on a regular basis that seem like they might like to survive in our colder winter climate. We love the ones that smell like roses should smell, that wonderful sweet intoxicating fragrance. My husband especially loves the mauve variety (name unknown) that really exudes with rosy aroma. After all, what good is a rose if it doesn't smell like a rose! In ancient times in Persia it was found that oil could be distilled from rose petals and that once bottled rose oil could last almost indefinitely. This was a real blessing as it was much easier to open a bottle of attar of roses, as the essential oil was known, than to be surrounded by bushels of roses, to enjoy rose fragrance. From this discovery, the scent of roses became a staple of cosmetics, aromotherapy and perfumes.

This Valentine's Day show your loved one you really love them with a gift of roses. And remember that the Rose is the goddess of Spring which I hope is just around the corner (and on this very snowy day we could use a few warm thoughts about spring!).

Did you know that Kenya is one of the major rose growing countries in the world that services much of Europe?