Cottage Blooms

Cottage Blooms

Cottage blooms are part of the cottage feel…the escape from reality we all look forward too. When the city life is far away. we can relax and enjoy our gardens. Whether part of an organized garden with annuals and perennial plants bought from a local garden centre, or provided by Mother Nature, the beauty they give us is inspiring!

Cottage blooms show below are merely a small sampling of the variety found in the garden and the meadow around my cottage.  Norfolk County, Ontario has a wide variety of Carolinian wildflowers that brighten up the day.

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Buttercup wildflower

 

 

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cottage blooms

 

 

 

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Roadside garden with Yucca plant

Roadside garden with Yucca plant

Cottage blooms can also break up large expanses of otherwise boring spaces such as along roadsides where local clearance by-laws rule. Small planting of perennials such as this Yucca, combined with wildflower perennials such as the Purple Coneflower and annuals will provide a nice touch of colour while ensuring a garden that will not get too large and out of control.

 

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wild violet

This lovely yellow violet was found growing in mass between the Red Sycamore plants. Across my 1.8 acres there are many clumps of violets. Despite merely being 2 cm across, the flowers are dainty and delightful!

 

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Shasta Daisy from garden centre

 

 

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Whether planted or part of the randomness of nature, all blooms delight the eye and dazzle the senses. If you do not have a cottage, just take a drive through the countryside on warm ,sunny day and you won’t be disappointed.

Gardening Vacation in Nova Scotia

A gardening vacation in Nova Scotia is not just time to explore a new place , but is a time to get away  and enjoy the gardens of others while  taking some time away from our own gardens. By travelling to other parts of any country you can enjoy the colours and scents of many beautiful gardens. These joys may also remind us of things about our gardens they we have stopped appreciating there.

 

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This August after months of  …weeding, watering, weeding and more watering, I decided to take a break and head East. With a chance to see and experience new places and leave chores and all manner of work behind, vacations are always a treat! Besides, with my garden in the capable hands of a family member and a waning appreciation for it, I needed a new perspective.

Years ago my trips to the East coast had led me to many lovely  places and to a wonderful hospitality but I had not specifically been focused on gardens, so I decided to take it all in this trip. With camera in hand, this it was to be a gardening vacationing in Nova Scotia, in search of  gardens as well as the shoreline and all of nature’s beauty.

 

ocean view from Nova Scotia

ocean view from Nova Scotia

 

My Nova scotia visits previously had been restricted to Halifax , where I had seen pretty gardens on the grounds of the Citadel and along the waterfront there and across the bay at Dartmouth. The grounds of many a park there had well manicured brightly coloured flower beds, so I knew the provinces gardeners were hard at work in big cities.

Dartmouth planter

Dartmouth planter

Having spent little time elsewhere in Nova Scotia, this trip was a chance to explore two of my favourite things…beaches and gardens. Having a coastline on both the Bay of Fundy and extensively on the Atlantic Ocean, I knew the shoreline visits wouldn’t disappoint me.

Not until I took my eyes off the waves and the sand did I notice there were even blooms on the beach.

 

lovely beach flowerBeach flower

 

 

 

 

 

Then the gardening vacation of Nova Scotia took full stride. Every harbour, Inn and most houses had lovely gardens everywhere. They used Lupines, marigold, begonias and salvia just like in our gardens. There were window boxes, front gardens and every kind of container imaginable.

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There were blooms around lighthouses, planted by multitudes of gardeners! I saw ferns and wrought iron works and gazebos that reminded me of my own garden and made me smile. In fact, there were more blue Hydrangeas there that I have even seen here!

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Gardening in Nova Scotia

 

Blue Hydrangea in  a Shelburne N.S garden

Blue Hydrangea in a Shelburne N.S garden

 

Blue Hydrangea

Blue Hydrangea

 

Summing up my garden vacation to the province of Nova Scotia… I would say it was a multi-coloured masterpiece, full of bright and blooming annuals and perennials. The beaches were fascinating , the people warm and the trip was a great vacation in every way. I went home rested, with a new perspective on life, work and gardening.

Memorial garden Digby

Memorial garden Digby

main street Digby NS

main street Digby NS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consider your garden from a different view by enjoying the sights, memories, garden hints and photographs of gardens far from home. I would highly recommend next summer you take your own garden vacation of Nova Scotia, explore the province and appreciate its beauty and biodiversity and be inspired!

 

Cape Forchu Lighthouse and garden

Cape Forchu Lighthouse and garden

Summer Blooms

Summer blooms need lots of tender loving care to ensure they are always producing new buds. Certainly as we are in mid July, by now most gardeners have worn out their green thumbs by planting and relocating countless perennials and annuals.Not to be forgotten are the countless seasonal flower sales that often drive gardeners in to a last minute frenzy as the temptation to have just one more summer bloom takes over.

Lily

 

 

Garden Sale points:

1. is there a spot in my garden for it

2. is the plant in good enough shape to survive the transplanting

3. is the price really a “sale”

4.  do I need it.

Certainly summer blooms are tempting, but unless a lovely perennial seems just what you need to fill one last spot in the garden, walk on by. If the plant is sadly not at its best due to bad watering or crunched foliage, is it beyond saving? If the overall plant core seems healthy, and the briken or damaged leaves can easily be removed, then a sale plant certainly deserves to be a someone’s garden.

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If you just can’t stop staring at the plant, just buy it! Certainly an extra plant or two can be squeezed in somewhere and the cost most likely will not break the bank. Of course one last thing is the price vs the condition of that plant or shrub. A local garden centre near me recently had it’s 30% sale but as their prices run much higher than anywhere else, the sale wasn’t really great but they did have  a larger variety of plants. If the plant is really sad, but you need it, there is no harm in asking if they will take less, especially as the peak planting season is almost past.

Remember if you will be away on vacation or at the cottage, those plants will need a sitter to keep the summer’s heat from killing your lovely summer blooms. Even apartment dwellers with window boxes and veggies growing in all manner of containers, will need close care in the heat of the summer.

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Giant Coleus in Planter Box

 

Summer bloom care list

To ensure you have good blooms all summer remember to follow the basic list

1. good water

Most plants need to be kept from drying out too much so a good water twice a week should eb fine. Daily watering, whether it be the lawn or garden, keeps the plants roots closer to the soil surface and then a severe drought or a forgotten trip can cause the plant to dry up and die quite quicky due to no deep root formation.

2. fertilizing

Regular fertilixzing with organic ferilizers ( preferred) or the slow release type provide basic nutrients ensuring a hartier, healthier plant with showier bloom. Keep in main theat by the end of July and definitely in to August, most applications run the risk of  burning the plant out as its metabolism increases at a time when both the temperature and water condtions are not optimal.

3. deadheading

Deadheading of some plants such as petunias are well known, all plants benefite form thei, as then their energy can be put in to growing , not seed production. Once a bloom is past it’s prime, snip it off . Removing the dying bloom also makes the plant look tidier and obviously well cared for.

4. pest control

Especially in summer’s high heat days, all manner of garden pest seek, food, and shade. They also need the plants sap as a good source of water. On lily plants. removing the dark “poo” like substances on the leaves, removes the beginnings of the lily beetle that loves to consume the leaves . If the bugs are larger, wearing garden gloves, carefully remove them. If they return or you have small bugs such as aphids,  try straying on a mixture of warm water containing some dish soap, small amount of cooking oil and if that doesn’t keep  work, there are slightly more concentrated organic soap solutions that can be bought at more garden centres and greenhouses.

Milkweed and pests

Milkweed and pests

 

 

5. weeding

Weeding not only ensures a tidy garden it also removes the roots of those unwanted plants that would compete with those of the plants you choose to keep. Most weeds and wildflowers have a great tap root or wide root base that ensure they survive in nature to return each year.

 

Of course as you admire your garden you may already be planning changes for new year or just sitting like moss…a bump on a log.

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  For those you of you more adventurous…maybe seeing wildflowers for the water…kayaking across the country…may inspire you to as we live in a wondrous place…enjoy!

 

EARTH, WATER, SKY

EARTH, WATER, SKY

Tune in next month for further information and glorious photos of summer blooms in Nova Scotia

Seed planting in Spring and caring for sprouts

 Seed Planting in Spring

Seed planting in spring and caring for the sprouting seedlings are always popular pastimes and certainly April is one month that has Northern Hemisphere gardeners chomping at the bit.

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Whether you had carefully scrutinized seed catalogues for your purchases or chosen them from the countless seed displays in local stores, you will have noticed the huge variety of seeds available!  Perhaps you collected seeds collected from last season’s garden, just as those in the Southern Hemisphere may be doing now as their gardens go dormant as colder weather approaches.

While many seedlings require different germination needs as previously written on this site, no matter  whether gardeners are working in large gardening centres or toiling over their grow lights and window sills, they are all hopeful those conditions have been met.

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 Despite the complex process a seed goes through before the first sprout appears, from large global gardens such as Viceroy’s Palace Garden in India and Tsarskoe Selo Russia, through to massive garden shows like Canada Blooms to our small but priceless gardens, each carefully planted seed carries with it the hope and perspiration of many hands.

Now that seeds are under the lights, or on a sunny window ledge the tricky part begins. Keeping a few simple points in mind should ensure the sprouts you watch daily, will grow tall and healthy awaiting their new home in your garden or planters.

 

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POST GERMINATION CARE

While the information on temperature, light and moisture levels seem pretty straightforward, to novice gardens especially, these both require careful monitoring. In addition, fertilizing is important in the right strength, to help ensure healthy hearty plants come from your seed planting in spring.

 

Temperature

If possible, providing a source of gentle warming from beneath is a valuable tool, enabling most seeds to germinate faster as it mimics the warm soil of your garden or planter. Certainly the top of refrigerators were once the site of many seed tray and seedlings, the newer model appliances give off very little heat. However, if they allow good sunlight, this would still be a good location for both new seeds and struggling seedlings.

The temperature requirements of most seeds are on the packages, but generally whether purchased or collected; seeds and seedlings both have minimum temperatures for good growth. Generally this is approximately 65 º F or 18 º C but above 68 º or 20 º is better. In addition, the optimal temperature is one if many pieces of information on the seed packages.

Heated seed tray starting kits are a big help as the try comes with a heating pad designed to warm the seeds from the bottom at an even temperature. Unfortunately on the one I purchased the actual temperature was not listed but the seeds sprout much faster than the comparable one in the small trays beside it.

 

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If you live in an older home heated by radiators, covered in a non combustible material, trays could be placed there for warmth but monitor the area regularly so they are not baked instead.

There are several problems that can arise if the temperature needs of the sprouting seedlings are not met. The first problem with lower temperatures is the metabolism of the seed/seedling is slower. In addition, the cooler temperatures combined with generally high moisture levels are good breeding grounds for fungus which may result in the disease or condition know horticultural as damping off.

Lighting

Seeds generally require a good source of light and in fact, some require so much to germinate that the packages suggest little to no coverage of the seeds. In addition, some plants do not grow well if planted early indoors and transplanted. I have had little success transplanting sunflowers and in fact, the package instructions say just to plant in the garden after danger of frost is past. While the root systems may not support the transfer, more often than not the plant’s metabolism requires a high level of natural sunlight, hence straggly plants even when under grow lights.

If you do not have a sunny, no draft location for your seed trays, pots, pellets or whatever you planted in to, perhaps grow lights are for you.  There are many locations from larger big box stores and most most large garden centres  that sell tiered, fluorescent lit plant stands. Another good source to check out are garage sales, or on line used items sites as new tiered light stands are generally quite costly.

 

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With the availability of new natural daylight frequency bulbs, often even a desk lamp or shop lighting arrangement can be used for seed planting in spring and  to give seedlings the light boost they need until they can be transitioned to outside areas. Of course there are many home made lighting set ups people have come up with, including adding foil around a light source to keep stray light at a minimum. In addition the increased warmth from the lights also helps with maintaining a good even temperature in the growing area.

To ensure good even lighting, start off with the grow lights approximately 6 inches or 15 cm from the seedlings and raise them as the sprouts grow. If the lights are too high above the greenery, the plants will grow taller and spindly as they try for more lights. In addition the lights should be on 16-18 hours a day to ensure the growth of sturdy  not tall thin plants.  Good, adequate lighting  promotes good leaf formation and strong stems,  and helps prevent  damping off.

Moisture levels

Water levels as any gardener know as crucial to plants, but with seedlings it is a bit tricky. Certainly the peat pellets, coir pots, mini greenhouse, coffee cups and pots that have been carefully planted are being watered regularly, but with the extra light and greenhouse like conditions watering may be a challenge. Of course it is highly recommended to either water via mat watering system or use a spray bottle to keep them seeds moist without disturbing them.

 

Mini Greenhouses on self-wicking water mat

Mini Greenhouses on self-wicking water mat

 

If corms or tuberous plants such as begonias or dahlias are started now to get a jump on the outside growing season, watering with a small container, gently on to the media is best to ensure thorough watering.

Begonia corms    sprouting

Begonia corms
sprouting

 

Possibly the easiest thing for garden novices especially is not drowning the seeds they plant in the spring. While the soil are growing media needs to be moist, try to ensure a consistent source of water by thinking of the seedlings as larger more mature plants. Most plant lovers know they do not need to water a plant every day, but when the soil surface is generally dry. Of course while there are always plants with more exacting water and lighting requirements, this is generally a good run of thumb that should be applied to the younger plant as well.

If there are tray covers on holding in the moisture, check the surface of the media used for possible mould formation. This is also possible when contaminated medium or dirty pots have been re-used. Provided the sprouts are up and growing fine, consider opening any vent on the lid or shifting it to allow more ventilation while maintaining a moist atmosphere over all. If you have rigged up plastic to create a greenhouse effect or are indeed using a greenhouse, remember circulation is vital, so create an opening and consider the use of a fan for good air movement.

Remember not all seeds even of the same plant will sprout at the same time so do not leave the lid on waiting for them all to catch up, so take the lid or dome off when a good percentage have sprouted and mist the rest. While moisture is required, at this point especially, good circulation is a must.

 

striving for better air flow

striving for better air flow

 

Fertilizing

One element often overlooked with seedlings is when and if they need fertilizer. Remember nutrients are important but the seed embryo itself contains all the food the new sprouts will need until they have developed true leaves, not the first ones formed. In fact, according to several expert sources, even mild fertilizer can kill the seedlings by over accelerating their metabolism and burning them.

If the growing medium you used contains no fertilizer, begin weekly feedings with a ¼ strength dilution of fertilizer, whether synthetic or organic. Keep in mind for most plants higher amounts of Phosphorus for good root and plant formation. In addition, if Coir pots or media are used, that coconut fibre product can compete with the new plants of Nitrogen so a more balanced N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) ratio is best. After a week or two ½ strength can be used.

Full recommended dosing is not advisable until the plant is larger and ready to be acclimatized in to a cold frame, or shady area on the way to its permanent home. Another option at that point is mixing a granular organic or synthetic slow release fertilizer in to the soil when the seedlings are moved.

Additional Suggestions

There are countless sites, books, garden experts and even gardening forums that offer a variety of information and support and a few are listed below:

www.GardenWeb.com

www.Helpfulgardener.com

 

Final notes:

While to some, planting seeds in the spring is not something they are interested in, others find it very rewarding. To those of you who cannot spare the time but love to garden, remember most garden centres carry basic perennials, annuals, vegetables etc. at a reasonable cost so you too can have a garden of your own without breaking the bank… so whether it be seeds, sprouts, veggies, ferns, flora or fauna…let your garden inspire you…and happy Spring wherever you are!

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Indoor seed growing

Indoor seed growing is always a joy for many reasons, not the least is that it means winter is nearing an end and spring is not far off. Of course there are many lessons learned each year as we try new seeds and new techniques that often do not yield the results we hoped for. Personally speaking, despite any setbacks…soggy seedlings and all, I still find it so inspiring that so much life, joy, beauty, food and medicinal elements come from such small seed.

There are a few basics that can help the novice who wants to start indoor seed growing and of course there are countless articles in magazine, books and on-line. Please take the following information as a starting point…off you go now, as there are countless seeds to plant.

 

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Choosing Seeds:

Before choosing seeds, remember that the soil and lighting conditions of your garden need to be considered, just as you would when purchasing live plants. The light requirement of the plants after germination is generally shown by a symbol on the seed packages of a sun for full sun through to a cloud for full shade.

Seed sources are everywhere from floral departments of large grocery stores, garden centres, hardware stores and even big box department stores. Of course dreaming our way through local seed catalogues is marvelous fun and gives the widest variety of choices for annuals, vegetables and even perennial seeds. In addition, the great photographs, detailed planting and maturity information as well as many new hybrids not available in stores, makes these companies a great source!

 

Getting ready for Spring

Getting ready for Spring

If you belong to a horticultural society or garden club, you are probably able to participate in a seed exchange for a good source of vial seed as well as information on the plants themselves. For those on their own, perhaps others in your neighbourhood have seeds to share or swap. Remember, once you have a hearty plant you love, whether grown from seed or purchased full grown, you will have all the seeds you need for next year’s growing season.

Annuals and vegetables are generally the easiest to start indoors as their germination requirements are quite straight forward. Perennials on the other hand may need stratification or scarification before germination can begin. Stratification is a cold period required to break the seeds dormancy, which can be achieved by a few weeks in the refrigerator before planting, or by planting directly in to the garden bed near the last frost date. Scarification is nicking or sanding through the seeds tough outer coat so the moisture required for germination can get in.

 

Seed Planting

Follow Directions:

Seed packs will contain a great deal of information on the plant itself, including the light requirement as mentioned, and length of time for flowers to bloom or vegetables to harvest. With new varieties of both available, even maturity times have changed so reading the packages is always important.

 

Perennial seed instructions

Perennial seed instructions

Annual seeds best started Outdoors

Annual seeds best started Outdoors

Further information on planting depth, times, light requirements, and growing temperatures are provided to ensure you have optimal germination. In addition, specific details for more challenging seeds would also be listed. An example of this would be for seeds requiring light to germinate so you not cover them with soil, while others might need soaking, scarifying or stratifying. Plants that do not transplant well will also be indicated and these seeds should only be planted outside once the danger of frost is past.

Word of warning: If you plant too early, the seedlings and young plants may become spindly and overgrown, despite good sunlight or strong grow lights!

 

Planting Media:

While regular potting soil can be used but as it can be heavy when wet, soilless mix is recommended. Jiffy pellets, which are peat moss compressed for ease of storage and use are readily available both in kits and often priced per piece. The advantage of these media is their inexpensive prices and that no containers are needed as the mesh around them ensures they retain their shape even in the wet, expanded state.

Jiffy pellet kits are readily available in most types of stores selling seeds as they hope to encourage customers to try their hand at indoor seed growing.  There are many brands of soilless mix available at garden centre and many easy recipes for mixing your own.

As it has now been determined that peat Moss is not an infinitely available resource, grown coconut fibre or compost can be used instead with the addition of compost.

Basic Soilless Potting Mixes              

  • 4-6 parts Sphagnum Peat Moss
  • 1 part Perlite
  • 1 part Vermiculite

OR

  • 4 parts coconut coir
  • 2 parts compost
  • 1 part Vermiculite
  • 1 part perlite

 

Coir is a natural fibrous material extracted  from coconut husks, which are the byproducts of other industries  that use coconuts for food products. In addition to many commercial items manufactured from these harvested husks, they are also used in horticulture.Frequently labelled as Coco Peat , this product is commonly available in gerden cnter as are vermiculite and perlite.

Coir or coconut husk segregation

Coir or coconut husk segregation

 

Coco peat is recommended as a substitute for shagnum moss (peat moss), because it is free of bacteria and fungal spore, and produces good results without the environmental damage caused by peat mining.

Coco peat is usually shipped and sold in compressed forms of bales, briquettes or discs which expand up to more than ten times their weight after  the consummers add water.Unfortunaley while it is a great produce to hold moisture, it is low in nutrients and can compute for nitrogen in the soil,  so when used as a soil additive compost or other slow release fertilizer should be added.

Containers and accessories

There are a wide variety of containers you can use  for indoor seed growing, from small flower pots to any container with drainage holes (cell pack, pots, jiffy pellets, Styrofoam coffee cups, food trays etc.). Remember if reusing containers, to wash with them soap, water and a little bleach first and then rinse them very well to ensure any fungus, bugs or bleach is long gone!

 

old pots before washing

old pots before washing

 

In addition you would need trays to hold those containers, plastic covers or domes to keep the moisture in and labels to ensure plants are properly identified. Of course you can use the clear lids of takeout containers or even clear plastic veggie bags held above the seeds. I have found popsicle sticks wedged down in the corners of a small container works fine and I remove it once the seeds have poked out of the growing media.

Theses sticks can also be used as labels there or if broken off and placed in front of where you will place a specific seed. One drawback to these is that ink can run on the wood. You can buy plastic plant labels or even cut up margarine lids. There are many ways money can be saved and items reused and indoor seed planting is no different.

 

Planting:

Fill the containers with your sterile planting media and moisten the mixture so it feels like a damp sponge about an hour an hour before sowing to let the water penetrate evenly. While wait you can collect all seeds and planting devices as well as go over the seed planting information to ensure you have soaked, scarified or stratified the appropriate seeds.

The most difficult thing about planting seed is getting the right depth especially for the smaller seed. In addition, the smaller seeds almost seem to disappear so for those a planting aid helps. There are small plastic seed holders available that have a tiny opening designed to let small seeds out one or two at a time. For the handy minded person, a small envelope can be sealed and then a tiny hole poked in the end, allowing seeds out.

 

Watering:

Your newly planted seeds need to be watered lightly from the bottom of the pot or by using a spray bottle to ensure the seeds are moistened but not disturbed. When they are moist, cover them with a plastic dome and place them in a warm location to germinate. Other options for speedier germination are placing them on top of the fridge, under grow lights , safely by a warm heat source as they germinate best between 18 – 24°C. In fact, there are temperature controlled heating pads specifically designed for this purpose which are available in kits or individually at most garden centres.

Once germination has take place, make certain the dome or clear plastic cover is unsealed to ensure good ventilation and prevent fungal growth in the soil. Fungal buildup, called damping off can cause seedlings to turn black at soil level and die overnight. In the past I have had this issue when crowding pots and pellets too close together which also blocks good airflow.

Prevention is best, but antifungal products are available, and seedlings could be sprayed with commercial fungicides Mycostop or Captan , but there are healthier herbal remedies you can use. A home remedy that apparently prevents this as well is a one dusting of ground cinnamon on the soil surface.  A Chamomile tea infusion of 3 tea bags soaked for about 20 minutes can be lightly misted over the seedlings.  Garlic as well is known to be a natural fungicide, so mash up several cloves and boil then in about an inch of water and water in to the seedlings once cool.  Of course good spacing and even a fan can ensure better air movement, no matter where you have the seeds growing.

Once the seedlings get an inch or two high, you can remove domes or covers completely, but keep an eye they not get too dry either. Water lightly still, once the soil begins to look dry.

 

Light:

Seedlings love light, so if you only have a few, placing them on a sunny window ledge should do the trick. For many of use with limited light and a seedling urge that is hard to control, grow lights are a good option. There are light stands, small lamps and many fixtures where grow light bulbs can be used instead of regular fluorescent tubes. Again, a much needed field trip to a garden center is a must, at least to research your options!

Grow lights or cool fluorescent lights work best and now there are a few frequency options such as natural, wide range and those designed to simulate sunlight. Ideally optimal amount of light for your seedlings under lights are 16 hours on, 8 off. And the lights should only be 4-6 inches above them to start. Remember, whether your newly sprouted plants are under lights or in a sunny spot, leggy seedling are an indication that the light is inadequate.

Transplanting & Fertilizing:

After the seedlings have formed their second set of leaves they can be gently transplanted in to individual pots. In addition, feeding them a general balanced water soluble fertilizer of 20-20-20 at approximately ¼ strength once a week, is recommended for good growth. Gradually increase the strength over the next few weeks as you prepare to harden the new plants and move them outside.

 

Hardening Off :

 Before you move the young plants in to their final containers, or in to the ground of your garden, they need to adjust to the outside conditions they will call home. This process, which is called our seedlings into containers or the ground outdoors, it is essentially to “hardening off” is a gradual period of acclimatizing which ensures a good survival and growth of the once tiny seedlings.

 

As the light intensity, temperature outdoors, wind etc. is much different than what they were used to inside, begin  by moving the trays and containers out in to a shady, protected area  for a couple of days . Then gradually extending the stay and moving them over a week to ten day period, to where they get their ideal light, soil and temperatures needs.

 

 

Plant Family Classification

Recently I have been busy researching and writing all manner of plant related areas and have developed a new realization of how plants are connected from the past to the present, and from one part of the world to another, just as we are. Until now, it never occurred to me that the mums on my porch are possible direct descendants of one, on another porch, in another country long ago or that someone in a distant country may be watering their own pot of mums.

 

 Certainly being inspired by my garden has led me on some unexpected paths. Even in reading about many of the common plants I have written about, the Asteraceace family keeps popping up. With my curiosity peaked, I began to look at the connections between plants and have discovered the scientific classification of all living things. While we humans are on another branch… all life on this planet is a part of the tree!

Perhaps my condensed version of plant classification will interest you to read on and provide you with a basic understanding of plant names you see printed everywhere.

 Classification

Taxonomy, from the Greek words “taxis” or arrangement and “nomia” which means method, is the name given to the academic method of classifying all living things. This method groups organisms that share characteristics and gives each group a name. Then the scientific community has placed these groups in a hierarchy based on their order of importance, which shows where that group fits in the big picture.

The biological classification is very complicated once you delve in to it, but on a simple level it gives the relative connection between organisms or plants. To do this, it uses taxonomic ranks, including, among others (in order from most inclusive to least inclusive): Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. Living things are classified into five kingdoms that are Prokarya, Animalia, Plantae, Fungi and Protoctista. Of course we are far down the Animalia branch, just as the plants in our gardens are down in the Plantae branch, but today I am checking out plant classification while leaving the humans being…

 

 

 

 

Read more at Buzzle: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/classification-of-living-things.html

Plant classification beginnings

 

Aristotle to Pliny the Elder:

Historical records reveal that early forms of organism classification begin with Aristotle (Greece, 384-322 BC) who began some of the first recorded plant studies. One of his students named Theophrastus (Greece, 370-285 BC) continued the work and wrote a publication classifying 480 plants including Crocus and Narcissus which are still used today. Pliny the Elder (Rome, 23-79 AD) wrote a 160-volume work which described a large number of plants even giving some Latin binomial names.

 

 Pre-Linnaean plant taxonomists:

While many learned scientist worked on plants worldwide, I found that records stated that no significant taxonomic works replaced the ancient texts for approximately 1500 years as the visual and physical means were exhausted. With the development of the early optical systems such as magnifying glasses and microscopes, classification began in earnest again, as the structure of organisms could be studied in detail.

 

early compound light microscope

 

 

Globally the botanists and other scientists worked on studying plants and classifying them. I could find no females listed although I am certain they did exist. Instead, I have included only a sampling of the male botanists who impacted the taxonomy of plants through the years.

Andrea Cesalpino ( Italy, 1519–1603),  wrote a book  that described over 1500 plant species, including two large plant families Asteraceae and Brassicaceae which are still in use today.

 

 

 

 

 John Ray (England, 1627–1705) wrote a large number of significant taxonomic works with information and classifications of over 18,000 plant species.

Gaspard Bauhine (Switzerland 1560 m-16624)in his work Pinax, proposed two name classification of over 6000 plants.

In the same time frame, the next major taxonomic works were produced by  Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (France, 1656–1708), which included over 9000 species in 698 genera. History states that these works specifically influenced one young student Swedish student named Carolus Linneaus.

 The Linnaean era:

Carolus Linnaeus( 1707-1778) became a botanist who led the field on plant classifying. He published major works and fully put in to place the binomial naming system that had begun with his predecessors.

 

Many of his works, including the largest publications Species Plantarum ( The Species of Plants 1753) and Systema Naturae were translated to English making them more accessible to the scientific world. In fact, Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, translated many of Linnaeus’s published works. Even today, before naming a new plant discovery, Linnaeus’s work is used as the reference point to ensure any name chosen for it, has not been previously used.

The Binomial System:

Based on the largest system of plant identification groups, plant tags in nursery pots would need to be huge! Certainly each plant belongs to a Family, whose name always ends in “aceae”. All members of a particular family share certain groups of characteristics that are not found in other families.

For example, looking up Family names such as – Rosaceae (rose family) or Liliaceae (lily family) provide information and understanding of all the plants in that family. Examples of this information would include data on the plants requirements to grow, the physical characteristics, seed information and more found below the family classification, comes the two levels that make up what is known as the Binomial System.

Whether aware of it or not, most gardeners worldwide are  familiar with the Binomial System as commonly displayed on nursery stock plant tags .Until I looked in to classifications, I knew of Genus and Species,  but generally referred to plants by what is their “common name”. The biggest drawback here is that there are many common names for any one plant. According to one article I read, the White Lily and marsh marigold both have over 200 common names.

Thankfully, the scientific community uses the more precise Binomial system in naming of a plant and for further understanding of the characteristics of the group that plant is classed in. While this system was introduced by several men, it was to Carolus Linneaus who is credited with permanently ensuring the advancement of this system. Expressed in Latin, the twodivsions are the genus and the species.

 

 

Genus:

Each plant family is further divided in to groups of plants that are more closely related, with from one genus to as many as 950 genera (plural). The first part of the binomial system is the genus and it always starts with a capital letter.

 

Species:

Each genus is further subdivided into species. This is the second word in a plant’s botanical name and begins with lower-case letters. Most genera contain two or more species that share most characteristics and reproduce by seed with minor variations. In addition members of a species do not usually interbreed successfully with members of a different species. Species names begin with lower-case letters.

 

Genus and Species name selections:

There are many ways these names were determined, including choosing a name to honour the person who discovered the plants, a famous person they admire or even the country the plant originated from. One good everyday example of this is the Coffee Plant. The official genus name  comes from one aspect of the plant…its use as a beverage….so it is named after Coffea, the Latinized form of the Arabic word for beverage. The species name of Arabica, was given as the plant was thought to have originated in Arabia. So now anywhere in the word you see a plant with the botanical name, Coffea Arabica, you would find the same unique plant.

 

Coffea arabica

 

For the scientific community these classifications ensure that any further identification and research across the world, is connected and all information shared applies to the same plant no matter where it is located. Still plant classification can be difficult as some species in nature closely resemble another, there is interbreeding that produces subspecies and hybrids even in the wild.

 

Subspecies, Variety:

If there is a third word, or short form such as subsp, ssp., or var., in a plants botanical name, that indicates a subspecies or variety.  While these terms are not interchangeable to a botanist, to regular people it means the plant has most characteristics of their species with a slight difference such as in flower color or leaf size. These plants can interbreed to form fertile seeds that will grow in to identical plants.

 

Cultivar: (horticultural variety or clone)

A cultivar is a plant or group of plants propagated by careful breeding for some desirable characteristic. Their name is usually the genus name with the species, followed by the cultivar name in quotation marks.  One example we see regularly are popular ornamental garden plants like roses ,camellias, daffodils, and azaleas where cultivars are deliberately bred for colour and form .Even the vast majority of the world’s food has been cultivated and selected for resistance to disease, improved yields and flavours.

 

Hybrid:

This is a distinct plant resulting from a cross between two species, subspecies, varieties, cultivars, strains – or any combination as well as between two plants belonging to different genera. While some hybridization can occur in the wild, usually it is done deliberately by horticulturalists trying for an effect, such as those trying to hybridize African Violets that produce a blue flower. Unfortunately often hybrids cannot produce fertile seeds or if seeds are produced they grow the stronger strain or plant used. Once I had an odd annual hybrid plant thet was a lime green instead of its usual white and the plants began to revert even before seeds were produced.

Strain:

Many popular annuals and some perennials are sold as strains that are usually the result of breeding and deliberate selection for a certain characteristic like height or flower colour. Again those characteristics can easily disappear in the next generation of the plant, especially if left to pollinate naturally.

http://theseedsite.co.uk/families.html

From the plant world’s point of view classification has gone from B.C. era where studying was done by sight, scent and physical characteristics to DNA studies which are used in Genetically Modifying plants. But, as far as gardeners are concerned whether it be annual, perennials, vegetables or trees and shrubs, how they adorn out gardens and life our spirits is the most important thing.

From garden centres and green house, plants come in all shapes and sizes no matter where in the world we are. The tags generally contain information on each one, certainly the genus and species name, which has more history and information attached to them than we realized. Now when I buy a plant I can almost imagine someone in their country garden on the other side of the world… reading the same plant’s tag !

 

Fall Seed Sowing

Fall Seed Sowing

Sitting on my deck recently enjoying a warm, sunny September afternoon, I started to take inventory of my gardens. While the summer flowering annuals and perennials are still growing, the signs of cooling weather are showing up as more tree and shrub leaves begin to discolour, as buds and blooms begin to diminish.

Of course with fall becoming apparent here and with the shopping world promoting warmer clothes and back to school supplies, I too began to think of what I would need to do as the garden to get it in shape for its long winters rest. However, when I began to compose a list of garden chores, so none I deemed important would be forgotten, the seeds of a new type of garden growing came to light…. Fall sowing.

 

Sedum Autumn Joy

 

 Fall Sowing

As many gardeners know, fall is a good time to plant new, or split perennials, plant garlic cloves and small shrubs. Even many types of trees can be planted in September and possibly in to early October if the night time temperatures are not too cold. Most know that spring flowering bulbs can be planted even in to November provided the ground has not frozen. None of these gardening tips were new to me, but fall sowing was something I had never considered.

 

Garlic Clove

 

A recent article I read suggested planting veggies such as cabbage which has a 30-60 day maturity and is hearty until frost. In fact cabbage outer leaves can wither in a light frost and the main head would still be fine.  Further research has also suggested   other vegetables such as kale, Swiss card, beets and even radishes and carrots could be planted early in September of course depending on our climate zone. One site also suggested herb seeds can also be fall sown as well and of course in locations such as B.C which has a more moderate climate, even some varieties of lettuce can be grown outside.

 

Resources

www.your-vegetable-gardening-helper.com

www.canadiangardening.com

article :  What to plant in the Fall

 

There are so many suggestions, books and sites to read that I find it overwhelming. As you read any and all information, try to take what you think is essential that applies to your garden space and the time you have to spend on it. Of course at this late time of year, after checking out my seed collection, I will visit a local nursery to see what if any seeds they have for sale.

 

Seed Suggestions

Suggested seeds of annuals that benefit from fall sowing are such as sweet peas, mallow, pansies, larkspur, ornamental cabbage and snapdragons as well as any plant that is listed as hardy annual on seed packs or in catalogues. In addition, pansies and ice pansies can be planted now and in addition to braving the cold later falls temperatures, they arrive in the coolness of spring often before the bulbs bloom.

 

seeds

 

Planting location suggestions

Fall harvests

I have never planted at this time of the year and I confess as there are no veggies in my garden at all this year, maybe I should try planting some. In the garden or even a large pot if you are hoping for the seeds to germinate as soon as possible, for one last harvest of veggies or herbs, plant the seeds at the germination depth suggested on the package.

Spring germination

For spring germination of hard annuals, planting at that depth would not be suggested as the winter weather and early spring frosts would probably throw the seeds out of the soil. They are also then at risk of being eaten by birds or mice or drying out in the spring before germination begins.

One suggestion to deal with this is to mark the rows, plant at the usual depth and then mounding a ridge of earth or mulch two or three inches deep over the line of each row. Then in the spring the excess can be removed carefully allowing better temperature and moisture access for good germination.

Container planting

 In addition to planting right in the garden beds, pots and containers can be used. In this case plant the seeds as suggested on the package for good germination as the plants will not be outside during the winter. Once the colder weather arrives, the plants can then be moved inside or to a cold frame at night or permanently when the colder weather hits. Cold frames in my mind where something I wold build out of wood and heavy plastic that would house newer plants in the cooler spring weather. I had never considered using them to start or encourage the growth of plants in September.

 

The many pots of rich composted soil on my porch and back steps that were ready for the blooming annuals that I never bought, would be the perfect place to start my fall sowing.  Of course I must be mindful of the pot size and the interior location I hope to place them in.

 

Planting Equipment

Further information

Remember to determine the interior site first, checking not only for the diameter of pot that can be placed there, but most importantly for the amount of light that spot gets. There are many good sites to check for information on fertilization etc. and I have listed several good ones below. Good luck and happy fall planting!

 

www.vegetable-gardening-online.com

   growing-vegetables-in-containers

 

www.canadiangardening.com

 

/gardens/fruit-and-vegetable-gardening/no-garden-no-problem-grow-veggies-in-containers

 

 

 

Pansy

 

 

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!

 

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/organic-authoritycom/grow-it-vertical-diy-wood_b_1638489.html

 

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.

 

http://www.mercurynews.com/home-garden/ci_20995828/master-gardener-letting-sun-solve-problem?source=rss

 

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!

 

Landscaping Plans for your Garden

Landscaping  plans  and ideas boggle my brain, so after finally getting my lawn in better shape as seen  below, I switched my brain to the garden. Of course my garden already exists,as battlegrounds where weeds compete with my perennials. Now the garden even has a  huge representation of grass, which makes it  sound like a lovley balanced space. Truth be told, the front is a mess of weeds, grass and some  mystery plants I once knew.

 

Landscaping plans gone mad

Truthfully the front garden has gone berserk…certainly not very inspiring. Of course since gardening is usually a joy for me, I have been motivated to take action. The first step is to get landscaping done at my house is not to create any more gardens but to plan out what each existing one is doing, other than being overgrown.

If you have a new house or an older one in need of refreshment…something to perk it up, then landscaping plans would be the first step. If you have a general idea of size and what your budget is, there are many routes you can take to get started. There are countless professional companies you can hire to sort out or plan your entire yard, or just the gardens. Searching your yellow pages by hand or via a computer search is a good place to start. In fact the listings below will put you in touch with countless resources at your finger tips.

www.landscapeontario.com     and   www.home-landscape-plan.com

The first site is amazing! It lists contractors, garden design plans, helpful hints and even plant resources and more. The second site also has a great deal of info to browse through!

Don’t forget  there are a great deal in books found at your local bookstore or library. The cool thing about books is that you can carry them around and hold them up to see how things might look Currently this is the best option for those like myself, who are caught up in the costs…okay I am cheap, hiring myself seemed to be the best plan.

Speaking of books and planning, I just happen to find a great book I had forgotten, staring  at me from the hall bookcase. Landscape Planning by Judith Adam, published by FIREFLY BOOKS is full of great information that applies to Canadian gardens, and pictures galore that go with it. I also am enjoying Judith’s sense of humour and her common sense approach to gardens  and landscaping.

 

 

In the book she lists her ten elements of Landscaping Design.

Elements of Landscaping Design

1.Personal style – we know what we like

2.Planning  by light, elements, soil. plants and location, self vs contractors etc

3. Lines of Definition-marking the perimeter of yards and gardens with curves and straight lines

4.Space Division – beds, patios, walkways, shrubs, grade changes and arbours just to name a few.

5.Scale and Balance – from the size of trees and plants to stonework and patios etc

6.Garden bones-prominent plants and structures for all seasons

7.Planting Style- what you prefer for example, Japanese, English country garden for overall or individual areas of the garden

8.Colour Choices-themes by colour and season that enhance and excite

9.Succession Planting-flowering tress, shrubs and perennials for all seasons including evergreens and features for winter interest

10.Architectural features-walkways, benches, trellis, gates, fences, bird baths, sculptures and more

For further information please visit my Ten basics of Landscape Design page on this site.

 

Spacing Requirements

 

Now I have come to realize the limitations of what planning I had put in to the front flower bed. Right now it is overwhelmed and under loved! It makes sense  when we are strapped for time we neglect many things including our poor plants!  Keeping this in mind, whether your landscaping plans include hiring a professional or landscaping on your own,  try not to get carried away with the  size of the beds and shrubs if you have limited gardening time.

In fact, if budget is also a major factor, try forming small beds . Other items to  consider are the amount of sun you get, what type of soil you have, and whether you want perennials that give you a good return on your money vs short term annuals. Of course if you are new at gardening and want to get the feel of things before sinking your teeth in to perennials, annuals will let you try a wide variety of plants until you get the soil/sun thing worked out.

 

Perennials

 

Assorted annuals

                                          

 

 

 

 

 

Next steps

Now what you might ask? Well  you can go check out the books and site, or visit a local garden center for hands on help with what plants may suit your needs and go from there. Me, I have decided my  city property has  too many gardens to keep up with and they are  all suffering as a result.

I get overwhelmed looking at all the weeds/wildflowers that now call my yard home, so downsizing and compartmentalizing is the way to go. Of course that may sound destructive, ripping most things out and shrinking things, but when there is only so much time to go around, I think of it ultimately as good time management.

First I have to just focus on a small area or section of each garden so the overwhelming mess doesn’t get me discouraged. I try to pick  a section of garden that is manageable to tidy well and mulch in a few hours. Once this is tackled then I move to the next section, and before the week is out I have one tidy, good looking garden.

To make all the approximately eight gardens look good is too big a task, as they are suffering after several years of neglect, so my landscaping plans include time management. Remember picking one small garden area at a time  means, more time to admire the lovely flowers in bloom and to make garden art like my scroll sawed Garden Shed sign below. 

Scroll Sawed Sign

 

For further information on scroll sawing, visit the great site listed below:

www.woodworkingtipsforwomen.com