24 June 2012

"SUCKER" (my love hate relationship with Swedish Columnar Aspen continues)

As you might recall, last summer I wrote a post "My Love Hate Relationship With Swedish Columnar Aspen", which is one of my top viewed postings.  At any rate, I cited what I love about the trees and what I hated.  The above photo is an example of what I hate about this otherwise beautiful tree.  I found this little sucker growing between mine and my neighbour's houses.  Left unchecked, this little guy would grow to the height of its parent plants in a few short years.  See the parents below.

I exaggerate not.  The Swedish Columnar Aspen grows on average 3-4 feet per year.  This makes it a perfect specimen for use as a privacy screen.  The biggest drawback is the suckering.  Last year I found two in my lawn and one by my foundation at the back of the house.  As seen above, our house is the one on the left. That's at least 10 feet away from the original tree!  So much for being good as a foundation plant!

I am not the only one to have cited this drawback; see the comments on my post from last July.  

Please, before you consider planting this tree, plan its location so it is far from foundations and water/sewer lines.  They have been known to grow into water lines and clog them, repeatedly!  

A good place for this tree is along the back of your property, away from foundations and water lines.  Oh, and be prepared in the fall for repeated raking as they drop a lot of leaves and twigs, over a period of time.

The love part, in case you've forgotten there is something to love about the Swedish Columnar Aspen, is the sound of the leaves in the breeze.  That is heavenly!

23 June 2012

Oh How Lovely Was the Morning....

For more skywatching, see Skywatch Friday.

I Spy My Little Eye - Baby Robins

So precious; I spy two little baby robins.  Are there more?  It's hard to tell but there are these little darlings awaiting mom's and dad's return.  The parents are vigilant, chasing away magpies and keeping an eye on us too.  

When we moved in 12 years ago, the back garden was a clean slate with only grass.  Now we have trees and shrubs and the neighbours have planted trees too.  Thanks to these efforts, we now have the joy of feathered friends to entertain us.  But then, perhaps I am easily entertained?

21 June 2012

It's the First Full Day of Summer!

In my garden the peonies nod their heavy heads a grand hello to summer!  Today is the first full day of summer and I and you and everyone everywhere celebrates!  Yesterday was summer solstice and the longest day of the year, which is rather a sad thought because I do love to sit outside in the evenings, particularly on the weekends, and enjoy the lengthy hours of precious sunlight.  When you live in the northern hemisphere, you truly cherish every moment of treasured prolonged days.  

I love to sit by the fire pit, near the waterfall and pond, and just absorb the sheer beauty and tranquility. The twinkling stars, somewhat muted by the brightness of the city lights, dance in the heavens.  A satellite sparkles as it putts through the sky, and the moon glows upon the garden visitors and inhabitants.  Sigh.  If I could capture moments in a bottle to be revisited again and again, without end, it would be moments like this.

Too soon, the nights lengthen, and the daylight of days shortens and the seasons change.  But for now, I will enjoy the blessed summer days and nights.  I will not curse the heat that stifles me and makes sleep near impossible.  Well, at least I will try, ceiling and floor fans at the ready, of course!  

I hope you too are enjoying this most wonderful of seasons!  Anyone for the beach?

17 June 2012

Happy Father's Day!

This photo is for my husband as much as it is for anyone today.  I just know, looking at this photo, that he'd love to be here, in a kayak, paddling to his heart's content.  Someday, honey, you shall.

Happy Father's Day to you, hon, to my step-dad Lyle, and in remembrance of my father today.  Love you!

16 June 2012

I Peaked Into the Nest....

A pair of robins have built a nest once again beneath our deck on the support beams.  Today I took a peak inside with the camera and this is what I captured.  It's hard to make out, but they are so little and don't even have all their feathers yet.  So young, I haven't heard them chirp either, but mom and dad fly regularly back and forth with worms and other goodies for them.  They are vigilant watch keepers over this precious family.

Going Vertical

So many yards, especially within the larger metropolises, have very small yards in which to practice gardening expertise and to enjoy outdoor living.  So, how does one take advantage of what is available to them to incorporate a garden oasis on a small scale?

I was watching a re-run of CityLine today and was pleased to see a favourite gardener, Frank Ferragine (aka Frankie Flowers) doing a segment on this very topic.  From vines to trellises, arbors and pergolas, one can make a small space seem larger by taking advantage of the vertical elements.  Here are a couple of Frank's suggestions:

Left and right, is the tower garden as seen on CityLine. It is an ingenious design where you can plant herbs and lettuce or all ornamentals or a combination thereof.  As the plants grow, the tower is camouflaged.  A real space saver and clever design!

taken at Holes Greenhouses

Along a wall or garden fence, something like this, to the right, can be incorporated to give height and a lush feel to the garden/patio.  You may uses herbs, salad mixes, or ornamentals like grasses, and trailing plants.  Your imagination is the limit here.

This planter/trellis combination, left, would be perfect on a deck or patio for height and privacy.

Behind the fountain is my Jackmanii Clematis growing up the trellis attached to our deck.  In the background you can see three Brandon Cedars which are terrific in a sheltered site for offering year round greenery and height in the garden.

Don't forget to plant trees, provided you have the room!  Trees of varying heights add a vertical perspective and authenticity.  (Yes, this is a garden, no matter how small).  I prefer my garden to have varied levels.  Some tall trees, some mid-size trees and vines, shrubs and low-growing shrubs and perennials.  Doing this offers a more natural feel to the landscape while being pleasing to the eye.  If you look closely, you might see an obelisk, of which there are three in this spot.  I have used obelisks to train peas on, small vines, and now, just as ornaments in the garden.  They, too, offer vertical enhancement.

Vines, such as this bluebird clematis on my neighbour's fence, offer privacy and beauty.

To watch the video segment I enjoyed today, visit: http://www.citytv.com/cityline/garden/article/210151--maximizing-your-small-garden-space

Visiting Vancouver Shoreline

This photo was taken by my son, S, while visiting the shores near Vancouver BC.  This is the mainland, not the island, mind you.  I can just feel the cool moist air and hear the crash of the waves on the shore, can't you?

I am joining Saturday Snapshot with At Home With Books today.

11 June 2012


This is the first time I've seen Stitch traverse the falls!  I wonder if he was contemplating a swim?

10 June 2012

Pinching back candles

It's the first week of June, and that means candle pinching time. Confused?  What I am referring to is the pinching of the new growth on pines including Mugho, white and black.  This past week I pinched them back half-way, some more severely, depending on the desired growth habit.  

Pinching of candles is best done the first week of June, when you can snap them off using just your hands, no tools required.  The growth hasn't yet gotten woody, so this makes it easier for the gardener and for the plant (less bleeding).

The result is fuller, bushier pines.  This is especially important if you are growing topiaries as in the above photo showing a white pine in topiary form.

Be sure, though, if you have allergies to take something beforehand because, at this time of year, these pines produce a lot of pollen. One just needs to brush against them and a yellow fog of pollen billows out.  

09 June 2012

Four Tornados Confirmed Near Taber Alberta June 6, 2012

The following footage was captured by a young man while out biking just as the storm hit Southern Alberta. There were no reported casualties, just power outages and damage to buildings on neighbouring farms.

The next video has gone viral, showing the storm from the perspective of a passenger in a car.  

Having contacted my mother the next day, as she lives close to the town, she reported only wind, lightning and thunder in her area.  Thank goodness!

03 June 2012

Frankie Flowers Fast Five: Top Five Plants for Shade

Adapted from the quickest of segments on CityLine, Frankie Flowers (aka Frank Ferragine) spotlighted five plants (perennials) ideal for the shady areas in your garden.  The commentary and photos (unless stated otherwise) here are my own.   "Frankie Flowers' Fast Five Top Five Plants for the Shade" are Heuchera, Helleborus, Hosta, Fern, and Pachysandra.  Read on and you'll see why gardeners everywhere favour these shade lovers.

Heuchera Palace Purple growing in the front bed (above and below)
Flanking this Heuchera on both sides are Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon Meadia) sometimes known as Prairie Pointers.  Behind and to the left is Astilbe.
Heuchera (aka Coral Bells)
How I love this little beauty!  There is such a wide variety of foliage colours and form available but they are all clumping in style.  Ranging form purple as in Palace Purple to deep purple in Obsidian, to marmalade and oranges.  I found Palace Purple does best in shade, turning an unsightly shade of brown in the sun.  Marmalade and other more colourful varieties do fine in sun.  Don't plant this gem in full hot dry sun though, it mustn't be allowed dry out, and it will reward you with the most dazzling foliage.  Its blooms are light airy sprigs that rise high above the foliage, with minute blossoms in white or pink scattered along the stems.

Lenten Rose Helleborus
The Lenten Rose/Helleborus flowers early spring in most areas.  In zone 3, though, it may flower later in the season due to late springs here.  It has a lovely nodding bloom, generally facing downwards, varying in colour from monochromatic to rose coloured.  A pretty little thing, it is poisonous to pets and people. (this photo is stock photo from the internet) 

Hostas along the side of my house.  They love it in this location.  The hostas nearest is Francie.
There are so many varieties of hosta available, with new introductions hitting the market each year.  One may select from solid greens and blues (shade only for these), to variegated forms.  I have several variegated forms growing at the side of the house, seen above, and two varieties (Francie and Frances Williams) growing in the bed at the front of the house.  In the back garden, facing east, I am growing two newer introductions which are pale green with a white edge.  These do fine in shade/part sun and will flower with long shoots of lavender or white blossoms.  Hostas are grown for their foliage, though, with many people removing the flowers as they are not so dramatic. The only problem one may encounter is slugs. You may combat this using diatomaceous earth which has minuscule granules of glass mixed in.  It won't hurt pets nor children, but slugs hate it.

Ostrich fern.  Also in this bed are astilbe (left of fern), Hostas, Dwarf Alberta Spruce, and not seen in this photo are Shooting Stars, and Heucheras,  Palace Purple and Plum Pudding.
There are several varieties of fern available on the market including the ostrich fern (aka fiddle-head fern), shown above.  I've also tried the Arctic fern, and it overwintered fine for a few years and then didn't show up last year at all.  Lady fern is a nice alternative for zone 3 gardens.  It grows 24-36 inches tall, compared to the eventual perspective height of ostrich fern of 3-4 feet.  Ferns like a moist soil and do well in shade.  Some will tolerate a bit of sun if the soil is kept very moist.  The ostrich fern is otherwise known as a fiddle-head fern.  When young the shoots are spiralled as they emerge and it is this spiral form of the fern that may be steamed and eaten.  
Pachysandra terminalus
Pachysandra forms a dense spreading ground cover which is ideal under trees where nothing seems to grow.  It has glossy green leaves with small white flowers.  Be sure to keep this plant in check though as it is a spreader.

These are five suggested plants for the shade garden.  I really wish I had more shade in mine as I just love the variety of plants that love the shade.  After visiting Shuswap Lake in British Columbia, and hiking through the most gorgeous lush forests, I endeavoured to mimic some of the feel of the forested undergrowth in my shade garden.  I've included Dwarf Alberta Spruce, astilbe (I love the fine teethed edged varieties), shooting stars, heuchera, ostrich ferns and hostas.  Really, only the astilbe and the ferns resemble the forest undergrowth but the other plants just look so good together and I love them all.  If only it were a larger area....

Have you mimicked a garden or natural habitat in your own garden?  I'd love to know how you did it and what plants you incorporated and/or substituted to achieve the effect.

Til next time, good gardening everyone!

02 June 2012

Test Your Garden IQ: True or False (as seen with Carson Arthur on Cityline)

Answer the quiz, true or false, then watch the video.  No cheating now!

#1.  Don't water your plants when it's hot out.

#2.  Organic pesticides are safer than non-organic.

#3.  Battery operated garden tools/equipment are more environmentally friendly than gas operated.

#4.  Crushed eggs and beer are adequate slug repellants.

#5.  Aerating the lawn with golf shoes does the trick.

#6.  Plastic pots are better than clay pots for container gardening on my deck/balcony.

In your comments, answer true or false.  I'd love to know how you did.  Watch the video to see if you are correct.  You may be surprised!

PS.  apparently number six isn't included in this video, which is an oops.  Thank you to Crafty Gardener for pointing this out to me and congratulations to her for getting them all right.  The answer to number six, as I found watching the entire program, I have included in comments below.  Did you guess right?

Top Fast Five - Splurge-Worthy Garden Accessories

Ready to spoil yourself, even just a little?  Here are Five Garden Tools, Accessories/Items that are as luxurious to use as they are to own:

Sole Gourmet Pizza Oven (top left)  The luxury of ovens outdoors!  Bake anything, pizza too!!  Also seen at Enjoy Centre in St. Albert, Alberta.  Less than $2000.

Garant Dandelion Weeder (top middle) The epitome of dandelion weeders, this tool easily extracts weeds, root and all.  So masculine, men will enjoy using it and easy to use for everyone!

Britech Snow-Mat Units (top right) It's construction season all over the city, so why not at home too?  Install this system to eliminate the need to shovel your driveway!  No more slipping on icy surfaces either.

Rain Bird Irrigation System with ESP Monitor (bottom left and centre)  This programmable system is amazing!  You input your postal code and the system bases your irrigation needs on average rainfall and humidity for your area.  You can even input the slope of your property to adjust the watering needs.  Bonus:  saves 30-70% on your water consumption!

Stacked Stone Fireplace (bottom right)  Now you can curl up in front of the fire into the fall.  Extend your seasons for outdoor living when you install your own outdoor fireplace.  Now that's luxury!!  See http://www.hgtv.com/decks-patios-porches-and-pools/how-to-build-an-outdoor-stacked-stone-fireplace/index.html for instructions to construct your own.

2012 introduces even more ways to enjoy your garden.  What will you introduce to increase your element of enjoyment in your garden?


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