The dreaded red lily beetle

The dreaded red lily beetle

When I first started my garden, in the early 2000’s, I grew gorgeous oriental lilies that looked a lot like these:   But these are not my lilies. I photographed these on a garden tour in Buffalo, New York last year. No, my oriental lilies were all killed by the wretched Red Lily Beetle (Lilioceris… Continue Reading

Lavender needs a spring haircut

Lavender needs a spring haircut

Lavender, latin name Lavandula, is a heat and drought tolerant woody plant. Its native climate is the Mediterranean, so it grows well in fast-draining soil (i.e. dry spots) where it will receive direct sun for at least 6 hours a day.   There are many varieties of lavender, not all of which will grow well… Continue Reading

Dividing rhubarb

Dividing rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of the earliest foods you can harvest from the garden. Other than a spot to grow with full sun and an annual feeding of compost or manure, it’s not a demanding plant. But it is a big plant–a mature plant can be 1.5 metres (almost 5′) across.   It is good for… Continue Reading

Tree peonies – how do you prune them?

Tree peonies – how do you prune them?

Peony plants that die back to the ground each winter and then send up new shoots each spring are known as herbaceous peonies–the term herbaceous means that they don’t have a woody stem. I think it’s safe to say they’re the most common type of peony grown in North American gardens–they’ve been around a long… Continue Reading

How to prune roses

How to prune roses

Roses should be pruned each spring. Cutting back rose canes (i.e. the stems/branches) every year helps to foster healthy, good-looking plants and encourage more blooms. The time to prune is in the spring, once you can start to see buds emerging.   If you didn’t protect your roses for the winter, and you live in… Continue Reading

Easy care hellebores

Easy care hellebores

Hellebores seem to be getting a lot of attention these days–they’re a great looking, easy care plant that blooms in late winter to early spring. Chosen as the Perennial Plant Association’s Perennial Plant of the Year in 2005, more and more bloom colours have become available, due to the diligent work of breeders.   I… Continue Reading

It’s time to unleash the roses!

It’s time to unleash the roses!

One of the first spring tasks in the garden is to remove the winter protection off of roses. As I explained in my post on how to protect roses in winter, the recommended way to ensure that your roses make it through the winter intact (and note that I’m writing this for those of you… Continue Reading

7 Garden Tasks for the Pre-Season

7 Garden Tasks for the Pre-Season

You can’t really get out in your garden and do a lot until the weather warms up and the ground dries out a bit. That happens for me sometime in late April—we’ll still have frost for another month after that, but by late April I can start dividing and moving perennials and really “gardening”. However,… Continue Reading

Dahlias are easy to grow and now is the time plant them!

Dahlias are easy to grow and now is the time plant them!

Dahlias have spectacular blooms but are very easy to grow. You can buy plants already started from the nursery in late spring, but for the best selection I recommend buying the tubers (i.e. the fleshy roots of dahlia plants–they’re like tulip bulbs) now and starting them growing indoors so that they are ready to bloom… Continue Reading

Will late snow and ice harm my spring bulbs?

Will late snow and ice harm my spring bulbs?

It’s every gardener’s nightmare: spring seems to have arrived, tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs are emerging and WHAM! an unexpected snow/ice storm accompanied by plunging temperatures blows in from out of nowhere, engulfing everything in an ice blanket. Will your bulbs be ok? What do you do? The good news is that spring-blooming bulbs… Continue Reading

Do I need to use potting soil in my pots?

Do I need to use potting soil in my pots?

When I first started growing plants in pots I wondered if I really needed to buy potting soil, or if I could use something cheaper, like topsoil or regular garden soil. I read a few articles that said you really should use it, but aside from potting soil being lighter, and therefore the pots easier… Continue Reading

Plant profile: Columbine

Plant profile: Columbine

Columbine (Aquilegia) is a very easy to grow perennial plant. I had my start with these when I bought a plant labelled “Blue Columbine” at a horticultural society plant sale one spring. That was early in my garden’s life, and somehow, over the years, I picked up another one or two, the ones I had… Continue Reading

Keeping birds safe from windows

Keeping birds safe from windows

I’ve mentioned previously how much I enjoy having birds in the garden, and that I have several birdfeeders to entice them to visit. Most of the time this arrangement has been beneficial for both the birds and I. However, there is a dark side; from time to time, I have heard the sickening thud of… Continue Reading

Birdfeeders: what gardeners need to know

Birdfeeders: what gardeners need to know

I spend a lot of winter hours staring out the windows at my sleeping garden so the concept of having something of “winter interest” in the garden is pretty important to me. When you read about creating winter interest the discussion usually centres on making sure you plant some evergreens, ornamental grasses, and trees and… Continue Reading

What is that giant green thing on my tomato plant?

What is that giant green thing on my tomato plant?

Last summer I was in my tomato patch, admiring the ripening tomatoes and pruning off excess growth, when something caught my eye. Now I should pause and explain that I grow a lot of tomatoes; 17 plants last season, in fact. And they aren’t little tomato plants—I love to grow heirloom tomatoes, many of which… Continue Reading

Plant profile: Nigella

Plant profile: Nigella

Nigella (Nigella damascene) is a beautiful and easy to grow flower for your summer garden. Nigella blooms are unlike anything else—to me, they look a bit like a firecracker or a sea creature. They come in a few colours, including white and soft pink, but it’s the blue varieties that I think really stand out… Continue Reading

MOSAICANADA 150/2017 is something to look forward to

MOSAICANADA 150/2017 is something to look forward to

Turn your thoughts with me to an exciting event coming to the National Capital Region this summer, as part of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations. It’s the MOSAICANADA 150/2017 exhibition of Mosaiculture which will be held in Gatineau, Quebec (just across the river from Ottawa, Ontario) for 107 days, from July 1 to October 9, 2017. So… Continue Reading

Protecting roses in winter

Protecting roses in winter

One of the last tasks of the garden season is to protect roses for winter. And by last tasks, I mean you need to wait to do this until winter sets in–the ground is frozen (or in the process of freezing) and no more balmy days are forecast. I won’t lie, this can be a… Continue Reading

Make your own thrifty custom winter urn decorations

Make your own thrifty custom winter urn decorations

My first challenge with writing this post, and frankly, the most difficult, was figuring out what to call the festively coloured balls, pinecones, and other bits of interesting stuff that people use to decorate their outdoor Christmas urn arrangements? Accessories? Embellishments? Decorations? Well, whatever you call them, I first started to make my own when… Continue Reading

Saving begonias, dahlias and cannas for next year

Saving begonias, dahlias and cannas for next year

I’m always sad to see my beautiful flowers freeze and die in the fall. However, I am heartened to know that my begonias, dahlias and cannas will live again the next year, as long as I lift and store their fleshy root systems, called tubers and rhizomes. (If you want to get technical, begonias and… Continue Reading

Why you need to empty your pots for the winter

Why you need to empty your pots for the winter

I grow a LOT of plants in pots. A lot. I love their versatility and the way they can add height and colour to any spot. The only thing I don’t enjoy about growing plants in pots is having to empty the soil out of them in the fall. And because I live in a… Continue Reading

How to plant garlic

How to plant garlic

Garlic is one of the easiest foods to grow. Just drop a clove in the ground, provide minimal care, and some time later—out comes a full head of garlic. In this post, I’ll take you step by step through the process. Or, for the quick version, watch this video: Still with me? Great–read on! Garlic… Continue Reading

Part 2 – An October Visit to VanDusen Botanical Garden

Part 2 – An October Visit to VanDusen Botanical Garden

This is the second of two posts on my October visit to VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, B.C. For part one, which focuses on blooms, click here. Even in fall, there is lots to keep a visitor interested at this garden The visitor centre is a good place to start; just before you enter there… Continue Reading

An October Visit to VanDusen Botanical Garden – Part 1

An October Visit to VanDusen Botanical Garden – Part 1

The first time I visited VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, B.C. it was mid-November and the garden had definitely moved into “winter” stage. I still had a wonderful time, learned lots, and revelled in seeing plants that I’ve heard about but never seen in person. Imagine my excitement then, when I found out that I… Continue Reading

Early fall garden tasks

Early fall garden tasks

As frost hits and the growing season winds down there are some things that need to be done to keep your garden fabulous:   Annuals Remove and compost annual plants once they die. A bed full of wilty dead coleus is not attractive.   Vegetables Most of your vegetable plants are annuals, so should be… Continue Reading

Help! My Japanese maple is turning into a regular maple

Help! My Japanese maple is turning into a regular maple

Today’s post isn’t something that everyone is going to be able to use right away, but it’s handy information to know and file away in your brain, in case you need it in future. A month or so ago I noticed a branch on my Japanese maple that looked different from all of the other… Continue Reading

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

I have a great recipe for spicy roasted red pepper and tomato soup. I’ve tweaked one that was given to me years ago by a good friend to the point where I think I can call it mine now. For several years I made big batches of it in the fall, and then froze it… Continue Reading

How to plant bulbs

How to plant bulbs

Spring flowering bulbs are one of the easiest things to grow in your garden. Plant them in the fall, protect them from squirrels, and they’ll reward you with lots of colourful blooms in the spring—a welcome relief after a colour-deprived winter. Squirrels really are the only significant obstacle that I’ve found when growing bulbs. They’re… Continue Reading

It’s time to buy bulbs!

It’s time to buy bulbs!

If you want to have a fabulous garden next spring now is the time to go out and buy bulbs. I was in two nurseries this weekend and both of them had just received the bulk of their spring blooming bulbs, which means the best selection is to be had right now. I would imagine… Continue Reading

Dealing with lots of tomatoes

Dealing with lots of tomatoes

I grow a lot of tomatoes. A lot. In fact, some people might say I have a bit of a tomato growing problem. But you know, some people buy what might be considered excessive pairs of shoes, have closets full of handbags, or perhaps a dozen too many tech gadgets. I…grow tomatoes. And I’m pretty… Continue Reading

My two best water saving ideas

My two best water saving ideas

I’m always looking for ways to use water wisely–it’s the right thing to do for the environment and it saves money–so today I want to share with you a water-saving/reusing tip that I’ve never seen anyone else try, but which has worked out really well for me. It isn’t something for every household, but maybe… Continue Reading

Dealing with weeds

Dealing with weeds

Weeding is an inescapable part of gardening. You can minimize the amount of it you have to do by using mulch and planting intensively (less space between plants means less space for weeds) but you’re always going to have some weeds to deal with. Ignoring them just leads to more weeds, so it’s a battle… Continue Reading

Highlights of Garden Walk Buffalo – Part 2

Highlights of Garden Walk Buffalo – Part 2

This is the second of two posts on Garden Walk Buffalo—the largest garden tour in North America which takes place in Buffalo, New York every July. In my first post profiled some of the most colourful gardens and garden element I saw. This post will focus on the creative touches that caught my eye–since this… Continue Reading

Highlights of Garden Walk Buffalo 2016 – Part 1

Highlights of Garden Walk Buffalo 2016 – Part 1

I consider myself fortunate to live only a couple hours drive away from the largest garden tour in North America–Garden Walk Buffalo. More than 400 gardens open to the public on the last weekend in July every year, free of charge.   My husband and I spent two days trekking through the gardens participating this… Continue Reading

How to harvest garlic

How to harvest garlic

A short while ago I shared the not so secret secret to growing great garlic.   Today I’m going to show you how to harvest garlic, and I’ve created a video so you can see exactly how I do it.   Once you watch the video you may be tempted to run out and dig… Continue Reading

A quick & easy upgrade for hanging baskets

A quick & easy upgrade for hanging baskets

Hanging baskets are a must have in my garden. In particular, I love to have a big basket of bright red geraniums hanging on the front of my garage. They’re easy to find at a good price and they pack a lot of oomph. What I don’t love is the cheap plastic hanger and basket… Continue Reading

5 Rules for Watering Your Garden

5 Rules for Watering Your Garden

Watering plants is really straightforward in many ways. We learn early on in science class that plants need soil, light, air and water to grow. But how to water and when are the questions that generate answers that begin with “It depends on…” and then follow with qualifiers about temperature, type of plant, whether it’s… Continue Reading

The (not so secret) secret to growing great garlic

The (not so secret) secret to growing great garlic

Garlic is really easy to grow—you plant it in the fall and then just keep it watered and weeded until harvest, except you do have one task to complete right about now. And that’s chopping off those curly things that have formed at the top of the garlic plants. Those are called scapes. Essentially, they’re… Continue Reading

Coleus, the most useful plant

Coleus, the most useful plant

I noticed an empty open spot at the front of our garden, near the sidewalk. Bare soil (or bare mulch) is a rarity in my garden, by design. Actually, saying it’s by design sounds like have a plan—if there’s an empty space I see an opportunity to cram in another plant! I still have a… Continue Reading

Long Branch by the Lake Garden Tour 2016

Long Branch by the Lake Garden Tour 2016

On Saturday I attended the first ever Long Branch by the Lake Garden Tour, in the south west part of Toronto. Shortly after stepping out of the car, on my way to visit the first garden, I overheard one neighbour, out walking her dog, say to another “You know, I think it’s really weird to… Continue Reading

How do I prune my lilacs?

How do I prune my lilacs?

I have a friend with a beautiful garden, designed and installed by professional landscapers. She loved it, but her one complaint was that her lilacs had bloomed the first year and then never really put on much of a show after that. When I visited her lovely garden my one question, that revealed the problem,… Continue Reading

Is your garden hungry?

Is your garden hungry?

Do your roses lack vigor? Your shrubs seem sparse? Your tomato plants puny? It may be that they’re hungry!  Plants take nutrients from the soil and, over time, if the soil is not replenished, will exhaust the supply available. It’s just like if you or I were to keep taking food out of the refrigerator… Continue Reading

The gardener’s shadow

The gardener’s shadow

One key to a fabulous garden is being aware of what’s going on in your garden. My garden mentor often quotes the old adage “The best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow.” That phrase went through my head often this week as I was doing rounds early in the morning; I still have a lot of… Continue Reading

What’s coming up in my garden?

What’s coming up in my garden?

Or how to make sure your garden gets better every year. Walking through my garden in spring is like meeting up with a bunch of friends I haven’t seen in months—it’s a series of happy surprises and reunions as I reflect on the good times we had together—the stunning bloom on this particular tulip, the… Continue Reading

What grows in shade?

What grows in shade?

“What do I plant in the shady areas of my garden?” is one of questions I’m asked most frequently. All plants need light, water and soil in order to grow, but the amount of each varies from plant to plant. Plants that tolerate less light are often called shade plants, although shade-tolerant plants is probably… Continue Reading

What’s the difference between an annual and a perennial?

What’s the difference between an annual and a perennial?

“Are you looking for annuals or perennials?” is often the first question you’re asked when you go to a garden centre. “Erm…I’m not sure” can be uncomfortable to say–perennial and annual are terms you’ve heard before but just haven’t quite remembered the definitions of as they only tend to come up occasionally–like right now, in… Continue Reading

How do I take care of my lawn?

How do I take care of my lawn?

“Jen, when should I fertilize my lawn?” “Should I just put some topsoil on my lawn now?” “Hey, Jennifer, is this the right time to overseed?” These are the questions often directed at me by friends and colleagues when they find out that I know a bit about gardening. This happens even with friends who… Continue Reading

How to buy cut flowers for a gardener

How to buy flowers for a gardener

My husband gave me flowers on our first date. When I tell people that now they say “wow, that was gutsy” or some less polite version of the same. My response is “well, it worked” and a smile. There are usually two reason they think my now-husband was bold. The first is economic. Some think… Continue Reading

Which seeds should I plant right in the ground?

Which seeds should I plant right in the ground?

In a previous post I talked about how new vegetable gardeners can feel pressured to start their plants inside, from seeds, when really, they would be much better off buying baby plants (seedlings) from the nursery. This is true for plants that need to be started ahead of time, inside, in order to reach maturity… Continue Reading

How do you find gardening advice you can trust?

How do you find gardening advice you can trust?

There are all sorts of website, people, and businesses willing to provide advice to gardeners, but the question, especially for the new gardener, is whose advice do you trust? I’ve seen a “gardening magazine” publish advice that’s just plain wrong and refuse to correct it. Irresponsible? Yes. Surprising? No. Gardening is big business, editorial teams… Continue Reading

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