Poison Ivy Spreading on Pelee Island

Poison Ivy spreading on Pelee island came as quite a shock to me! Poison ivy is not new to rural gardeners  and has been the subject of many an information search. This noxious weed has even been  mentioned in a few of my past blogs and  found intermittently in my cottage garden,so it certainly should come as no surprise that I have witnessed first hand that it can indeed spread widely! Still, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that even on vacation I would find it… on an island!

Yes, I have currently visited Pelee Island and there the, rash inducing vine was  just waiting for me!  I was walking along enjoying the beautiful island scenery on a lovely sunny day, unaware of what lay below! Walking between the stones in the older section of the island’s cemetery, I saw one particular head stone had fallen over and a weed sticking out between the pieces. Thinking of respectfully clearing it away, I reached down only to catch myself in time to avoid touching the three leaves!

Point Ivy rest in Peace


After recovering from that surprise, I scanned other areas of the cemetery and noticed the Poison Ivy spreading to the point of taking over a family plot. Then of course there was more! Several trees had it climbing up their bark, it was growing in the sand and on the path at Fish Point Park…Canada’s most southerly point and it was on almost every walking trail! 

Poison Ivy spreading on Pelee Island

Now I was careful to walk, as the Buddhists would say, with mindfulness! My eyes were peeled to the ground around me as I walked in sandal-ed feet. Despite this green plaque, I did have a lovely time and would recommend visiting Pelee. On the horticulture front, there was an unusual site…that of some strange disease that left red bumps on the leaves of the poison Ivy. Could this be our salvation?


Poison Ivy with disease

 Poison Ivy Spreading on Pelee Island

I have decided that while there are many things that kill the toxic weeds in small patches, killing in large scale requires a great deal of work. What is not apparent with all sprays, blocking and cutting controls methods is the HUGE amount of patience and dedication required by the murderer ( alias the gardener)!

Surely if birds or contaminated soil brought the seeds to this island, how do we stand a chance against Poison Ivy spreading ? In fact, whether here in Ontario or our neighbours to the South, it seems the berries from poison ivy are an attractive food to a wide variety of birds .According  other sites I have read, over 50 species of birds are known to eat the small white round berries.

After further reading, I have come to realize that despite my personal run-ins with poison ivy, the rash, blisters and swelling, it is just another weed that can be controlled with lots of work. The biggest surprise was how interesting the information was on this particular plant is.

Many sites provide good information on how the birds transport the seeds. Stating that the non-digestible seeds are, passed out in to the soil and fertilized by the very birds that ate them, certainly explains the plants spread. I assume then, as Pelee Island and the surrounding area is on a major migratory route and home to vast varieties of birds, finding this Poison Ivy spreaad to an island shouldn’t have been a surprise.

Poison Ivy Friend


In fact the extent of this particular poisonous plant is from parts of Mexico in the south, in to the northern parts of Canada. Details provided in my searching say the plants can grow in most types of soil, from pH 6.0 to 7.9 (slightly acidic to slightly basic) and can tolerate moderate shade to full sun. Wow, it certainly is resilient!

One natural factor against the plant is high altitude as provided by the Rocky Mountains. The thinner air above 4000 feet seems to stifle these plants and to provide a physical barrier in both Canada and the U.S.A, with Poison Ivy on the east and poison Sumac in the west. Certainly nature does what it wants and like all perennial weeds, poison Ivy is determined to spread unless we work on controlling it.

Control and elimination are something that plaques many of us, especially if we have suffered with the rash, blisters and pain left by the urushiol from all parts of this plant .Yet, to the Japanese this oily compound is highly valued  as a finish  used  since the 16th century as the finish on their Lacquerware. The process they use is quite fascinating, but the source there is an urushi tree (Rhus vernicifera) which is becoming rare. At least with a tree, other trees would be safe from the clinging vine that eventually can strangle them and walking trails would be safer.

Despite any risk in my hiking on Pelee Island, the views and people there were lovely and I would recommend the ferry ride as well. From the most southern point of Canada, looking across the vast expanse of the sand point and the water beyond, the poison ivy spread  on Pelee Island was forgotten…and inspiration was supreme!


Pelee Island Fish Point Park



Other sources of information:





Enhanced Species: Poison Ivy




Water Flora

Water flora was not a subject I had considered until recently. After writing the article about vertical planting, I felt motivated to explore more aspects of the world than my everyday locations. From our regular routes along streets whether on foot, by bike or car, we see the commercial and official faces of business and homes, so my goal was to find something unique like water flora.

Part of the unique or unusual is just finding what makes me feel good, even though it might hold no interest for anyone else. To capture this feeling, I took a lovely floating trip on a local river. Besides enjoying the shallow but cooling water I got to see so much life. In the kayak, not only do I get to see water flora and nature relatively undisturbed, but I get to peek into people’s backyards. I will admit, that my undercover stealth work started years ago and I still love it!


When my mother, sister and I went to the East coast every summer, we took many trains that wound their way through secret spots behind houses. Being an avid gardener even by age 11, I appreciated looking at gardens normally never seen. There were mounds of rusting old cars and boats, with an occasional pond or fountain that would fascinate me! 

As a teenager, I began to notice green house, scarecrows, sunflowers, veggies and all sorts of growing things. Now, years later, my snooping involves GO trains and floating by in my kayak admiring the  back yard gardens of huge homes. 

Such riverfront backyards show a personal side of the families that live here, as children’s playhouses, lawn chairs, old docks and boats of all shapes and sizes come and go.  There are also lovely, tiered gardens, tennis courts and broad expanses of beautiful green lawns.


Certainly as I drift by in my kayak, these lovely landscaped yards filled with blooming annuals and perennials are a lovely treat. Combined with the splendour of tall flowing willow trees, bobbing wildflowers and, interesting wildlife, my voyages are always memorable. Of course, Mother Nature providing the best water flora of all!

wild Forget-me-nots


lovely water flora

lovely water flora






For me, not many things are cooler than paddling around a bend, listening only to the wind, and discovering new blooms and birds. Certainly some of the wildflowers are not new to me and some normal garden perennials are even in the tall blowing grass of abandoned spaces all along the river.

Not to be outdone are the occasional wild iris and other aquatic plants found peaking their blooms up from the water’s edge. Once I even saw a raccoon washing his lunch. Everywhere I look there are swooping birds looking for a fish snack and big birds that just stand and scoop, like the White Egret and the Blue Heron. There are also Canadian geese, ducks galore and swans bobbing up and down the river and even out in to Lake Ontario.

White Egret and Blue Heron


Not to be outdone by a bird, I decided to add a new page to my memories and brave the waters of Lake Ontario. After braving waves galore on my way out of the harbour, my arms seemed to find the pace needed to glide the kayak out past the freighter break wall to wide open water. Wow, what a view…all around and even below!


Kayak voyage



Yes, below when the sun shone, was an underwater garden or amazing water flora. The clear water below was home to lovely greenery growing on the rocks, tall plants beyond that and fish smoothly swishing between them. From my viewpoint both the fish and the lovely green vegetation were magnified by the water to look larger than life.

 Water Flora in Port Credit Harbour










 Regardless of their size and whether I have any idea of the species of life in the aquatic garden, as the picture shows, they are amazing! In fact I was so enthralled at aquatic landscaping that I checked the net for further information, and to my amazement, the term I thought was my idea, is in fact a real subject with countless websites.

Below is one listing that has a great deal of information and many photos that shows the setting up and progress of underwater or aquatic gardens’.



Another interesting site is:www.tfhmagazine.com. On this site, in the search box type aquatic gardening and the first result found, aquatic gardening nano bears further reading. Here you can learn about plants and whether the tank should be left only for the plants or include fish.

At the moment, I am leaving water flora of gardening until I have the time and space. Who knows, what the future brings, as lunar landscaping is certainly out of my range, maybe aquatic gardening with amazing water flora would be a whole new world…do plants live longer when they don’t need a garden hose to water them?


Vertical Gardening

Vertical gardening is not a new subject to many gardeners. After all, there are hanging bags, pots and all manner of trellis systems available just for that purpose. However, on a recent lunch break walk at my workplace, I came across some really original means of vertical gardening!

These after lunch walks are a good way to burn off some extra blubber and a chance to check out the local neighbourhood gardens…sort of a mini garden tour! The blocks around the hospital in Toronto, where I work, are filled with larger brick homes that are built with their front porches all about ten feet or more above the city sidewalks.

Gardens there, are a fine example of vertical gardening and show a wide variety of landscape designs, using countless perennials and annuals. In fact, I found them so interesting I recently took my camera along to record some fascinating versions of  this gardening type.

vertical rock garden

Vertical planting and gardening design, or use of the upright spaces in your garden can be used in landscape planning in gardens of all sizes and purposes. While the steep front yards I see daily, provide limited gardening space, they also have the additional challenge of soil and water runoff due to the pronounced slopes. As I wander along the block, I see many mixtures of hard and soft landscaping, used to reduce this problem.

Several slopes have been professionally landscaped  with large interlocking stone retaining walls and a plant layout that incorporates evergreen shrubs and a variety of annuals and perennials as seen below.

A few homes have permanent retaining walls that provide a larger, space where the homeowners can do their own landscape planning. Two examples of this are the cool rock wall and the more functional cement block wall as the next photos show.


Others have a more casual approach with natural stone or flat slabs of rock such as field-stone, all of which are available at many garden centres.  In this landscape design, plants fill in the empty spaces to soften the overall look.

There are a wide assortment of plants suitable for use, from tuber rooted perennials such as Day-lilies to a extensive variety of tough rooted sedums, just to mention a few. In addition, annuals are often used for a pop of instant colour. Overall, the combination of hardscaping materials and plantings seem to be keeping the slope gardens in place quite fine.


Vertical gardening combination of Sedum and stone retaining wall


While the gardens at these homes seem to be doing well, lovely green lawns are few and far between. Certainly the gardening challenges here must be in keeping the finer roots of the grass in place, and moving on such an angle!  After working on my own lawn slope disaster I can certainly appreciate all the hard work of one homeowner as seen below.

Although all each of these home gardens had their own garden design and implementation issues, as a mini garden tour visitor, I merely get to enjoy the fruits of their labour. In addition I often make note of their design ideas for future use myself. In fact the vertical planting in these gardens triggered memories of similar gardens I had seen at many Canada Blooms.

Known of course for the amazing flowers and landscaping layouts in addition to so much more, this past April’s show featured the use of  climbing vines and clumping plants in a variety of structures I hadn’t seen before. One company designed their entire exhibit around old wooden skids or pallets as they are also known. From the sidewalk…or boardwalk to the walls and planters, the recycling of old in to the means of displaying beautiful, bright blooms, was fascinating!


Vertical gardening in skid wall


In addition to being a cool idea, I had three pine skids in my driveway no one wanted. Of course, with no directions on how to begin, they are still leaning against a tree, waiting for an inspiration to kick start me. Now that my garden had driven me to blog, I thought I should check out what was available on line. Eureka…below is the link to an article, complete with a picture and easy to follow directions for anyone to try their hand at vertical planting , turning one of these in to a planter! Away we go!





Certainly trellis and other garden structures are part of good landscaping design, but they are not the only reason for growing up. After reading several articles and thinking of it from a common sense point of view, the vertical way of growing plants accomplishes several things. Growing raised plants saves on garden space and provides shade below if for example, grown on an open pergola. In addition, it exposes the plants to more sun and yields more flowers.

Recent trends use many surfaces to allow for vertical growth, even in backyard gardens where such vegetable crops as cucumbers are being grown above ground on chicken wire structures. Because the plants leaves are less crowded, more flowers bloom and more cukes are harvested.  According to the next site, many other climbing veggies can be grown this way as well.




Remember, when designing your garden, even growing of tradition plants such as clematis, climbing roses and morning Glories can help add a cottage feel to your garden. Trellis, hanging containers and layers of window boxes and slotted wall growth also be part of vertical planting of any garden layout.

Besides the aesthetic, these gardening features can add a relaxing tone, create shade or distract from eyesores like garbage cans, air conditioners or even provide privacy screening from your neighbours. Any way you look at it, vertical gardening is an interesting subject that lends itself to many applications, and to much more exploration…ready, set, go!


Motivational Inspiration

Motivational inspiration


Motivational inspiration varies from person to person, as actions or changes we make in our lives that come from some form of inspiration. Motivational  is the term applied to any  change or new project we might take on as inspiration itself moves us.

Inspiration…now that is a tough thing to define for each person! Of course, as I claimed this is what started my blog, I have been giving this subject a great deal of thought. When the cottage garden flowers and all their colours got me out of the doldrums I had been in, having a green lawn was the furthest thing from my mind. 


In fact, my brain was pretty bogged down with a zillion and one worries, not unlike most other people, especially mothers! So what was I hoping for here was to provide help and inspiration.

It seems so far the part that has helped me most was writing the steps to a greener lawn , and although rather dull, it was a form of motivational inspiration!  To some, having a lovely lawn can be inspiring  and certainly it helped me feel better to drive up to my house in the city and see a green lawn where potholes once were. 

Motivational inspiration

Motivational inspiration is seldom an issue for enthusiastic gardeners! For all you gardeners that love your green blades of grass, enjoy! If the colours, sounds and movement of a newly refurbished garden , inspire you to try your hand at water painting, wood carving, scroll sawing, wooden garden art , writing a song, or dancing a jig then the inspiration of nature has helped bring you joy!


Joy however is not a word I would use to describe such natural things such as slugs, grubs and other squishy garden pests! Of course they are great snacks for birds, toads and even birds and beetles. 



Then of course, there is the matter of the Poison Ivy that is found growing along the ground and climbing to new heights through many a country meadow. Norfolk County, where my country cottage is located, is, as one local official stated, the Poison Ivy capital of Canada.


These leaves of three, along with those of Poison Oak and Poison Sumac contain an oil called Urushiol that causes an allergic reaction in approximately 85 % of the population. The oil can stay for months to years on articles of clothing etc and is even active in the smoke if you try and burn the poison Ivy. After several encounters with it myself I can tell you it will make deep potholes in your skin, make you swell up and  get very, very itchy.

What remains a mystery to me then is that birds, sheep and goats can eat poison ivy with no reaction…I guess they have strong stomachs! Personally a nice garden salad suits me better, with oil and vinegar dressing please. In fact there is nothing quite as yummy as fresh from your garden greens, tomatoes and other fresh veggies.



Unfortunately unlike Poison Ivy, garden veggies do not grow well without proper tending and with my time split between city and country (not to mention work), there is no vegetable garden at all this year. Despite motivational inspiration, last year I tried tomatoes in the city and onions in the country but both struggled  and withered with neglect…sob…I killed the poor things!

On a positive note, thanks to some hard work by myself and designated weeders who were corralled in to helping, both locations have something stimulating to see that brightens my days. Of course there are always worries galore that can bog us down and having a beautiful garden can’t take away painful things, but for brief moments a lovely landscape, art form or bloom can make me smile and sometimes gives me a brainwave or insight on a situation that hadn’t been considered…motivational inspiration!


Columbine Delight

Consider then that gardens are part of a meditation progress that can help us breath and clear the mind. There are a few techniques used in meditation including The “Conscious Breath” meditation that helps you to become aware of your breathing, without controlling it. I cannot begin to cover the subject of meditation breathing, conscious breathing, breathing for yoga, counted breath nor all the other defined relaxation and healing impacts from good, deep breathing.

 The two sites below are a fraction of those available on line that gives the reader some sense of the need to “take a deep breath” and relax.






By using these techniques or even that of mindful watching…of the wind blowing through the trees, bobbing flower heads, lifting birds high in to the sky can teach us many things. We can be reminded that so much is beyond our control and yet there is a newness and energy to life that we can harness if we choose! Let this inspiration motivate you to take a chance and try something new and remember the old saying…Rome wasn’t built in a day!


Xeriscape Landscaping

Xeriscape Landscaping

Certainly after posting a blog or two about the sad shape of my lawn and garden, I began to wonder how that showed the inspiration I claimed my garden gave me. Of course the landscaping information revealed that I was indeed having fun, even if I was “downsizing” the gardens at home.

The front garden looked sad as the before picture below shows, neglect and soon to be blooming Goldenrod had turned the poor garden in to an orphan. As the weather on this particular day was at a cooler, more reasonable temperature, I decided I was up to the garden intervention!


Front Yard gone crazy!

Xeriscape Landscaping site in waiting!


With garden gloves firmly pulled on, a trowel and lots of muscle, I began to yank and dig my way through several yard waste bags full of weeds. Stopping only once, for a cool drink of water and to take a picture of my progress, I wasted no time in getting back to my beautification project.




After several hours, I stood back to see plants I knew and loved actually smiling through! Okay, at least I recognized the Gaillardia, the post flowering Peony, the Sea Holly, the tiny piece of Phlox and some Red Bee Balm. Now the tall grass rustled as the individual stalks had room to move after some brutal thinning out.


Front garden Extraordinaire!

Front garden Extraordinaire!


Of course some would argue that deconstructing a garden is not really landscaping but based on several definitions that is in fact what I did. If Landscaping as defined by the Encarta English Dictionary is “the enhancement of the appearance of land, especially around buildings, by altering its contours and planting trees, shrubs, and flowers”, then I indeed become a landscaper.

Included in the new landscaping design are Porportulacs Snapdragons and some Stachys Byzantina better known as Lambs Ears. To enhance their growing spirit and of course their vegetation, the dry, lifeless and dusty soil needed help! I added some Triple mix, turned it over and watered everything thoroughly. Then I mulched and watered again so the shredded bark wouldn’t wick away any of the valuable moisture from the struggling plants to avoid there being part of a Lunar Landscape that was out of this world!



Certainly the view through the walls of any dome of the future would be an Earthy one. But, by the time we explore the Moon in seriousness, I’d be too old for the position but it is fun to think of.Xeriscape Landscaping would indeed be a challenge but one I needed to tackle for the challenge itself and to fill the dry corner garden in front of my house.I do have experience at growing plants in dry, dusty, lifeless soil where potholes and rocks are common. In fact, that describes most of my gardens.

Despite the soil differences normally found between my house and cottage garden, this year thanks to very little rain and certainly neglect…they have the same lousy earth. Even as I drove past the farmers’ fields and homes, in this dry summer, I see dust blowing across some empty fields, and between rows of corn and other veggies.

Green plants were growing thanks to many pumps, wells, miles of pipe and huge agricultural watering system. Along the side of the roads I drove today, the scrub trees were beginning to dry and crunch as the lack of rain is showing. Despite the resemblance to the lunar landscape, with potholes, rocks, dry soil and no vegetation, fields that have been left to fallow for the season give us the reality check of how lifeless spaces can drag us down.

Even this fact is not lost on country homes both large and fancy to the small clapboard homes that have housed farming families for decades. I noticed that flowerbeds show life with coloured blossoms throughout their contours and even when no garden exists, a pot of marigolds or geraniums can be seen on the porch. Of course there are many landscaping features in place you’d least expect…wagon wheels. Tractor wheels and even old machine parts with vines growing on the. Then there are the gardens growing in bathtubs and even in wash tubs.


Washtub planter

Washtub planter


Certainly the plants in these containers, live well despite often being neglected in out of the way places, and not having their roots firmly set in Mother Earth. In other words, to make certain our vegetation survives we need to think “lunar” and go for drought tolerant plants. Actually this area of Horticulture is called Xeriscaping or Xeriscape landscaping and is gaining popularity.

Weeds are generally far more drought tolerant, thanks to their good root base, but as I am planning this design and not letting nature blow things in whilly nilly, some research is needed. Currently I know that Purple Coneflower and other members of the Echinacea family thrive and bloom well with little water. Other good low water plants are Bee Balm, Yucca, and all the Sedum family just to name a few.

Bee Balm

Bee Balm

Purple Coneflower
Purple Cone-flower






As I have mentioned in the past, both the library, bookstores and the internet are a great source of information on these and other  plants that thrive on little water. Listed below is one of the many sites I have checked out for lots of gardening information and more on drought tolerant plants.


Despite summers scorching heat and with many garden centres selling off the last of their stock, finding and planting these may be challenging. Still, if your summer will be centred close to the garden and a good end of season sale can be found, by all means give it a shot…if inspiration can come from even on sprout surviving and you are up for the challenge…take a chance at Xeriscape landscaping and turn in to something out of this world!

Future gardening site!