How to figure out your zone

How to figure out your zone

Has a gardening friend or nursery salesperson ever asked you if you “know your zone?” It’s not a pick-up line (well, it’s usually not a pick-up line. I suppose someone might try…) or a way to ask your astrological sign. They’re trying to talk about your growing zone. “Growing zone” is gardener shorthand for what… Continue Reading

Storing Tubers Over The Winter

Storing Tubers Over The Winter

I wrote previously about how to dig up tender tubers–the roots of dahlias, cannas, and begonias–to store them over the winter. I know that a picture tells a thousand words but moving pictures with talking are even better, so I’ve done a short video to walk you step-by-step through the process of packing up your… Continue Reading

Preventing Snow & Ice Damage to Cedars

Preventing Snow & Ice Damage to Cedars

When winter storms come and pile on heavy snow and ice, it can spell disaster for some trees, especially evergreens, which have needles that hold a lot of snow and ice.   Evergreens with a strong main trunk, like pines, are best suited to weather this type of weather. But evergreens that grow with many… Continue Reading

Fuss less in the fall

Fuss less in the fall

Every year at this time articles about “putting your garden to bed” seem to pop up like dandelions. Worried new gardeners stop me to ask “do I need to put my garden to bed?” “what does it mean to put your garden to bed?” and “what am I supposed to be doing now?”  The underlying… Continue Reading

Making and Maintaining MOSAICANADA150

Making and Maintaining MOSAICANADA150

The MOSAICANADA150 exhibit held in Gatineau, Quebec this summer was a stunning combination of gardening and sculpture. I focused on the sculptural aspect in my last blog post. This week, I want to delve into the plants and methods used to create Mosaiculture, and celebrate the dedication of the gardeners who created and maintained these… Continue Reading

A Visit to MOSAICANADA150

A Visit to MOSAICANADA150

I’ve been looking forward to the Mosaiculture exhibit in Gatineau, Quebec since January. After a busy summer, I finally got to see it, just a week before it ends, and boy am I glad I did. MOSAICANADA150 is a tremendous display and a wonderful means of commemorating Canada’s 150th birthday.          … Continue Reading

Monarch butterflies love this fall blooming tree

Monarch butterflies love this fall blooming tree

Earlier this year I heard many, many stories of people raising monarch butterflies by hand, in order to help shore up their declining numbers. Well, it looks like everyone in the Toronto area took good care of their caterpillars because this weekend I had more monarchs in my backyard than ever before. They’re difficult to… Continue Reading

What’s happening in my fall garden?

What’s happening in my fall garden?

When I mentioned to a friend that someone was coming over to see my garden last weekend she was surprised and said “What’s going on in your garden? Ours is looking like it’s done for the season.” I think there’s always something interesting to look at in a garden (I’m the kind of person who… Continue Reading

Frost protection

Frost protection

When you live in a climate with real winter, frost is a fact of life. But when frost comes too early, a gardener has to take action!   What’s too early? Well, I’ve been hearing from gardening friends slightly north of me who had frost warnings in August. They were posting photos of what looked… Continue Reading

A Visit to Chanticleer

A Visit to Chanticleer

I’ve been hearing great things about Chanticleer garden in Pennsylvania for several years. I’ve also attended inspiring talks in Toronto from visiting Chanticleer staff and devoured the book on Chanticleer, The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovating Planting Techniques From Chanticleer. But I had never been for a visit in person. Until this year.… Continue Reading

Tomato problems. But are they really a problem?

Tomato problems. But are they really a problem?

In an ideal world, our plants would never have a blemish and would produce bumper crops continuously.   I do my best to practice good garden hygiene, taking any dying or diseased leaves and stems out of my garden throughout the season, and for tomatoes, being sure to remove the old plants at the end… Continue Reading

How to save your coleus for next year

How to save your coleus for next year

I’ve written before about how much I love coleus and how I’ve had a hard time finding my favourite variety at any of my local nurseries.   To keep growing this plant, I’ve been growing cuttings, starting with my original plant, season after season. In this post I’ll show you how I make cuttings and… Continue Reading

Rain barrels and why gardeners should have one

Rain barrels and why gardeners should have one

I think everyone who has a garden would benefit from having a rain barrel–I have four in my yard (three catching rain off the house and one from the garage). There are two main reasons I think everyone should have at least one; the first is that rainwater is free and tap water isn’t. Why… Continue Reading

A Visit to Whistling Gardens

A Visit to Whistling Gardens

Three years ago I drove an hour and a half out of Toronto, to Brantford, to see a garden. I’d heard that a gardener with a big vision, Darren Heimbecker, was building his dream–a new public botanical garden–out of 20 acres of former cornfield.   The plants were still small, the structures still taking shape,… Continue Reading

Do you know the dry spots in your garden?

Do you know the dry spots in your garden?

Rain doesn’t fall the same everywhere.   I’m not just talking about the difference in rainfall between one side of town and another, I’m talking about within your own garden. Even in my tiny city garden some spots get more rain than others. The cause isn’t some magic invisible shield–it’s the fact that I have… Continue Reading

At the end of your hose?

At the end of your hose?

We haven’t had a good, garden-soaking rain in my area for more than a week, and it’s been hot so I’ve been doing a lot of watering. But I ran into a problem when the coupling at the end of my hose (sometimes referred to as “the brass piece that water comes out of” or… Continue Reading

Deadheading makes a difference

Deadheading makes a difference

Deadheading is the process of removing spent flowers from a plant—in plain language that means cutting off the dead flowers. There are two main reasons to do this. The first is aesthetic—dead flowers just don’t look good. Take a look at these geraniums before they were deadheaded:   And then take a look a few… Continue Reading

Pruning tomatoes

Pruning tomatoes

I manage the growth of my tomato plants in order to keep them growing on one or two main stems. Left to their own devices, tomato plants will produce many branches, flop over, and become a tangled mess. This isn’t good for the condition of the fruit–it will rot more easily on the ground, and… Continue Reading

Sedums grow better if you pinch them back

Sedums grow better if you pinch them back

Sedums, sometimes known as Stonecrops, are great plants–they have nice flowers, they’re drought and heat tolerant, and they are beloved by bees and other pollinators.   The only downfall with them, in my opinion, is their tendency to flop over late in the season. One day you have a nicely rounded mound of plant and… Continue Reading

Supporting heirloom tomatoes

Supporting heirloom tomatoes

I really enjoy growing tomatoes, especially somewhat unusual heirloom varieties. By nature, these tend to be very tall plants, growing 8 to 10’ tall in a season, so figuring out how to support them has been part of my learning on how to grow tomatoes well. One of the first things I figured out was… Continue Reading

Support structures to keep your plants from flopping over

Support structures to keep your plants from flopping over

Have you ever admired the beautiful blooms on a peony but lamented that they were at ground level, possibly splattered with mud, because the flowers were so heavy? It doesn’t have to be that way and the time to act is now. If you wait until they start to topple over it’s very difficult to… Continue Reading

Two things to do before you go plant shopping

Two things to do before you go plant shopping

I spent a lot of time this past weekend buying and selling plants. Besides a shopping trip or two for my own garden, I accompanied two newer gardeners on separate trips to help them pick out plants. It was a great reminder to me of how intimidating a garden centre can be for someone who… Continue Reading

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 15, 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

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