Fall Country Fairs

Fall county fairs

Fall county fairs are everywhere …as nothing says fall like a country fair. In fact the sights, sounds, and smells found there are a reflections of the variety and hard work of local farmers and craftspeople throughout the province. Of course there are rides, candy floss, games of chance and an wide variety of things to eat.

 

Whether it be the rides, the animals,the plant competition or food, there is something for every one.Of course everyone loves something different about fall county fairs, but one of my favourite is to check out the livestock, especially the horses!

 

 

Fall county fairs also have a great deal of gardening displays and in formation. In fact, the Horticulture building has a huge variety of growing things to check out. Frequently there are  plant and design competitions and a wide variety of new annual and perennial plants ideas  for us to try ourselves.  I just looking at the perennial and annual blooms in the competition  inspires me to consider new garden layouts and plants that I can apply to my garden in the spring. In fact there are so many growing things, that they even decorate commercial booths set up around the fairgrounds!

 

Horticulture Building

Fall country fairs would not be complete without a trip to the Horticulture building. There, as mentioned, plants bloom, grow and often amaze! In fact one house plant, the Coleus had many entries in the competition there and the winner was so large, my tiny one at home would  barely measure up…time for me to consider some good organic fertilizer!

 

Coleus in Competition

 

Of course the unusual use of common items can also provide humour as well as beauty!

 

Fall country fairs have the unique mix of farm and city type of growth in that a wide variety of vegetables and house/garden plants are arranged together in many unique ways.

 

 

Vast amounts of Veggies

Fall country fairs also display the widest variety in type and size that I have ever seen. The images below are merely a small sampling of what can be seen.

                                                                                        

                                            

Fall Fairs' vast veggie display

Fall Fairs’ vast veggie display

 

 

 

 

 

                                         Pumpkins to grow Next Summer?

1600 lb Pumpkin

Goldenrod and the Fall Family

Goldenrod and the fall family of plants lend lovely colour to any fall day. Yet,with the arrival of cooler temperature, all many of us can think about when looking at the gardens coming to rest, is the long list of things to be done before the arrival of winter. In fact, I even wrote an article on my chores list, which is hanging nicely on the fridge door, waiting for me to tick things off.

While I have trimmed the shrubs along the driveway and tackled the honeysuckle that was threatening to leave the trellis and head for the neighbouring pine, very little else has been done. When time is available I am currently sitting on the front porch soaking up the warm sunshine and admiring the two pots of mums there.

Not to be outdone are the glorious purple Asters standing tall and waving their heads in the wind. These blooms are just another example of inspiration personified, as the plant traveled from the wildflower patch behind my cottage several years ago, to my city garden.

 

As hybridization of wildflowers to domestic species, plants are acclimatized from countries around the world and xeriscaping becomes more popular, once common field flowers like Goldenrod and the fall family are spreading to gardens everywhere. Certainly one example I have grown personally is Goldenrod, which grows in mass behind my country home as well as in the front and back in  the gardens of my permanent urban residence.

 

In fact, recently a city dweller went past my tall stand of yellow blooms and proceeded to tell me that despite being pretty, I should not be growing it “as people are allergic to it.” In defense of the wrongfully blamed plant, I proceeded to give her a mini lecture based on information I read, as a hay fever sufferer.

 

Goldenrod Pollen

 

Goldenrod’s pollen is heavy and sticky and can’t be blown by the wind . In fact the bright yellow need to attract insects to spread the plants pollen. On the other hand, Ragweed’s pollen is lightweight and spreads easily in the breeze. Combine this easy of movement with the larger number of spikes in its surface and it is easy to understand why Ragweed is considered the main respiratory irritant of hay fever.

 

www.gpnc.org/goldenro.htm

 

Despite having this information, I had little else to add except bees, wasps and other assorted bugs love the flowers. In fact, until I took several photographs of the yellow flowers, I had no idea of the mass of tiny buds that each golden stem or rod contains.

 

Golden Rod

 

When I explored further I found that this “wildflower” with many species, has been prized as a garden plant in British gardens and now in American ones since about 1980. But in many other countries including China and Germany it has become an invasive species that is causing problems with the areas natural habitat.

 

With a natural habitat consisting of both domestically grown plants and now some wild country relatives, my garden has become a family affair. In fact, when I checked in to the “Family” and Genus of both the Goldenrod and the Aster, I was surprised to learn that they too belong to family Asteraceae , as did the Chrysanthemum in my last Post.

 

 

Certainly I can see the similarity in the bloom of the star shaped mini-petaled Aster and the more heavily laden Mums, but the tiny florets of the Goldenrod  and fall family, seen entirely unrelated until I read further on this Family.

Asteraceae are mostly  herbaceous plants, but there are also some shrubs, trees and even climbers in the family. One characteristic the plants in this family share is something called inflorecence. Here is where I got the connection as inflorescence is a group of cluster of flowers  arranged on a  stem, main branch or group of branches. Chrysanthemums, Asters and Goldenrod all have flowers that are grouped along a naim stem of smaller stems off the main one.

 

Golderod Florets

 

 

According to data there are 41 invasive weeds worldwide that are classed as Ragweed plants, all of which are also part of the big Asteraceae family. The flower clusters along the stems in this case are not pretty as they do not need to attract insects to spread their pollen. On a dry windy day is it estimated that this wind-borne pollen is transmitted many Kilometers. In addition, each plant is estimated to be able to release over a billion grains of pollen in the late summer through fall which spread the plants growth and makes it the number one allergen of Hay Fever.

 

Ragweed

 

Armed with a picture of one big Fall Family in my head,  I decided reading more about what characteristics this family has was a good idea. However, further reading on plant classification  and trying to connect the dots between family, genus, species, etc, revealed an overwhelming amount of information. Of course not only was it fascinating, but it was very complicated with one thing leading to another, as if the seed of an idea has sprouted more branches and definitions than my poor brain can comprehend.

 

One thing I did get was the plant world is composed of families where the plants are not all the same size, shape or colour but they share a set of growing conditions. Keeping this in mind as I continued to read, helped me to relate this to humans across the world and the differences that make up our one global family.

 

Goldenrod and Fall  family of flowers  provide not only lovely blooms but also the inspiration for further research in to the nomenclature of botany .Certainly my condensed version  will amount to shrinking all the information on the evolution of life, in to a few hundred words…but that’s another post to write…think I’ll give it a go!

 

 

 

Chrysanthemums

All along my street  this fall I notice gardens  blooming with sedum, tall grasses, Zinnias, roses and then of course there are the hardy Chrysanthemums. Now that the extreme heat and humidity of summer has passed, leaving much more pleasant weather for us to enjoy, it is as if the plants recognize it as well. Fall flower gardens are amazing!

 

 

Chrysanthemums, or mums to most gardeners, have been on my mind lately as pots of them are everywhere you look. Whether it is a local mall garden centre, a nursery, hardware mega store or even a small local department store, there are racks of their brightly coloured blooms.

Recently I rode my bicycle past yet another garden where they were bursting in to bloom, and realized how little I know  about this well know and lovely fall plant? Just where did these mums come from originally and how did they end up on in our gardens?

 

Potted Mums

Years ago I regularly watched a show on HGTV called Flower Power that explored these and many more questions. In each episode the host, who was and still is a well known garden expert, would present a synopsis on a different flower. I also enjoyed the photography of the plant’s country of origin as well as its many varieties.

While I am not an expert, with many gardening resource books and the internet at my finger tips investigation should be a breeze. Perhaps now is the time for another plant   adventure, inspired by many gardens this time, not just my own.

 

Chrysanthemums

 

Chrysanthemums or mums are herbaceous perennial flowering plants that are native to Asia and northeastern Europe. They are related to marigolds, zinnias, dahlias and sunflowers, by being from the same family Asteracea. Originally cultivated in China as a flowering herb, as early as the 15th century B.C, it is believed the early forms were Chrysanthemum Sinese and Chrysanthemum Indictum. In addition to a wide variety of uses the blooms were incorporated in to their artwork and are still to this day.

 

Chrysanthemum indicum

Chrysanthemum Sinese

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I was unable to determine the range of this flower and its spread, records say the flower was brought to Japan sometime in the 8th century. There it took on as equally prestigious status as in China, by becoming an important symbols used widely in festivals, and artwork. In fact, they were embraced by the Emperor as his official seal in the 12th century and it remains even now a symbol of the Japanese Imperial Family. In addition, during the 18th century Japan created the Grand Order of the Badge of the Chrysanthemums.

 

Imperial Seal of Japan

 

The name Chrysanthemum was given to this plant genus in the 17th Century with its spread throughout Europe, by the Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus. Linneaus is considered to be the father of modern plant classification. The name Chrysanthemum is derived from the Greek word Chrynos which means “gold” and the word Anthemon which means” flower”. The original flowers were small, yellow blooms,as shown above but exploration eventually revealed about thirty species that were documented.

Chrysanthemums extended through Europe and to North America. In 1846 the Stoke Newington Chrysanthemum Society was formed, becoming the National Chrysanthemum Society in 1884. In addition to meetings etc, they held three shows yearly at the Royal Aquarium in London until 1902 and then at the Crystal Palace. Despite interest in the Chrysanthemum in North America, I found no information on society’s formation until the 1940’s

Read more: http://www.nationalchrysanthemumsociety.co.uk

 

1902 Garden Show Poster

Plant Description

General

The many varieties, colours etc. are vast, to an ordinary gardener these plants are separated in to two groups, the exhibition plants grown primarily for floral arrangements and the hardy plants grown by gardeners across Canada. The plants range in height from about 15 cm to 150 cm with deeply lobed leaves.

Bloom

The flowers have been classified internationally in to 13 different bloom forms including daisy-like, pom-pom, spiders and the more traditional garden variety of single and double blossoms. The more exotic and taller varieties require more stringent conditions of temperature and care, including staking due to their height. Generally these are commercially raised to show off in florist bouquets and for Chrysanthemum enthusiasts up to the challenge.

Mums primarily bloom in lovely shades of bronze, lavender, white, pink, purple red and yellow. Of course, as new hybrids are developed, the variety of sizes, blooms, shapes and colours grow.

 

 

http://www.plant-care.com/hardy-chrysanthemums.html

 

Plant Usage

Ornamental

The chrysanthemums are the second most popular flower sold after the Rose. With thousands of cultivars in different colours, heights petal size and formation there is something for everyone. The garden hardy mums survive in zones 3-9, produce lots of small blooms and require no staking. The exhibition varieties are grown primarily by collectors and for the Florist industry, requiring much more detailed care.

The variety of colours, hardiness even of individual flowers from the small pom-pom to the larger exotics is one of the reasons this flowering plant is so popular. Once cut, the chrysanthemum flowers have an excellent survival time which makes them an excellent choice for all types of flower arrangement. In fact mums are often the flower of choice for sculptural elements in flower shows for example.

 

 

 

 

 

Culinary

Both the leaves and flowers are used for seasoning in several ways throughout the world. Flowers are used in many Asian countries to make tea, flavour rice wine and to add aroma to soup. Tiny flowers are also used as a garnish and the leaves are boiled and eaten as greens.

Insecticide

If you use environmentally safe insecticides, you may have seen the word Pyrethrin on the label. Pyrethrin, from crushed Chrysanthemum seed, is an organic compound used in a liquid, oil or powder form, as an insecticide. Specific to the nervous system of insects, this compound kills or repels most plant insects, while being far less toxic to birds and mammals than many synthetic insecticides.

Environmental

While we all know mums as well as all flowering plants brighten up both gardens and any room they are placed in, NASA took things one step further. They included this plant in their Clean Air Study and determined Chrysanthemums were one of the top 10 plants most effective in removing Formaldehyde, Benzene, and Carbon Monoxide from the air inside a building.

 

Medicinal

Alternative medicine maintains there are many medicinal health benefits from the Chrysanthemum, especially when steeped in to a tea. Traditional Chinese medicine promotes the tea as a great way to prevent sore throats and fevers of a cold and to lessen the symptoms when you have a cold. In Korea they use it as a stimulant to keep you awake, while Western holistic and herbal medicine touts the tea as a treatment for atherosclerosis and varicose veins.

Externally the steeped flowers are squeezed to remove excess water and then used as a compress to treat a variety of eye ailments such as dry or itchy eyes, blurry or diminished vision as well as the reducing the inflammation of acne.

While studies have shown some effectiveness to these treatments, more data is needed for most traditional medicine doctors. In addition, adverse reactions to consuming and even handling chrysanthemums have been recorded. Symptoms range from upset stomachs to skin rashes, while the vast majority of people have no reaction what so ever.

Read more: Health Benefits of Chrysanthemum Tea | eHow.com

 

Summary

Summing up the centuries of history, lineage, usage and beauty of Chrysanthemums really is impossible, therefore I won’t attempt to. Instead I’m going to fill my car up with beautiful mums and take them home. Then no matter where I sit in my garden their lovely blooms will brighten my day…and I can imagine a Buddhist monk watering his plants generations ago, on a sunny porch in Tibet!

 

 

Anatomy of a Flower

Recently after writing numerous articles on flowers, I came to realize how little I remembered of their anatomy. While the words stamen and anther floated off in the foggy parts of my brain, none of the public school science class came along for the ride, so as usual I decided it was research time again, knowing, there would be so much data my brain would swell!

Certainly I was not disappointed at what I found out, but never in my wildest dream did the anatomy of a plant, or pollination seem so exciting. Or perhaps I should call the article, the sex life of a single plant! Okay, laugh all you like, but I did come to learn about the male and female parts, the sperm cells and the ovule.

Unlike in humans, most of the time these parts are in the same plant, but occasionally there are plants that hold one sexual part, waiting for the opposite part of the same species. In neither case does conversation or interest play a role. Appearance on the other hand is almost everything, as the attraction of insects to a lovely looking bloom is the first stem in a complex cycle.

 

While each plant has many complex  cycles, such as root, nutrition and cellular growth just to name a few, I am just exploring the role of the flower in  ensuring the plant propagates. Not all plants flower or spread by seed, but those that do are the most common in our garden and are enjoyed by both people and insect populations. Surely the terminology of the anatomy of a flower and steps of plant sex are complicated, and so several diagrams will follow, as well as some photographs of lovely blooms.

 

Anatomy of a flower

 

Anatomy of a flower

                     A.  Peduncle                         E. Petals                  

                                         B.   Ovary                               F. Anther

                                         C.   Style                                G. Stamens

                                         D.   Stigma                            H. Sepals

Each flower bud is attached and supported by a peduncle or in common terms, a stalk or stem( see A above). The stem gives support to the developing flower from the elements and insects so it is not destroyed before the seeds are formed. From this stem grows the Sepal ( H), which is a leaf like part that protects the maturing bud and supports the base of the flower once it is open.

Each boom is composed of petals which make it visually attractive and often pleasantly scented. While the number in each bloom varies, as do the styles and shapes, their purpose is the same . Despite any physical differences on the outside, their role is to attract insects in to the flower. Once there, the insects collect pollen on a body part, often the legs and transfer it when they go in to the bloom of another plant.

 

Stamen

The Stamen is the male flower part and is composed of two parts:(F)  Anther                   and (G) Filament.

There they go…the little honey bees, looking for nectar and moving pollen by landing on the Anther. Now the Anther, or male pollen producing reproductive organ of the flower, blows in the breeze high atop the Filament.

The Filament is a thin stem that provides support for the Anther making it easier to be seen and for visits by local insects. The Anther has two lobes, both of which have spore making sacks called Microsporangia. The micro spores inside split by mitosis, so both the nucleus and cytoplasm are identical …an exact duplicate of the parent plant in each grain of pollen. Once the pollen is mature the Anther then opens for transfer by wind, water or the general bug population.

 

Anther, Filament and Stigma of a Hosta

 

Technically the male part of the reproduction equation here, in brief comes down to the Stamen is a tiny Filament with a bumpy two segmented Anther on top. The usually pale yellow pollen maturing there is then released to carry the plants genetic material, with each grain of pollen containing cells that eventually for sperm cells. Yes, that is what they are called and they do travel in search of the Ovary.

Pistil

The Pistil is composed of single or multiple units that are separate or fused. Each unit is called a Carpel.

Each Carpel has four parts:    the Stigma ( D)

    Style    (C)

   Ovary  (B)

                 Ovule (inside B)

 

Stigma

The top of this section or the Stigma can be long and slender to feathery in appearance. In addition to receiving the pollen transferred by insects, the Stigma also rejects the pollen of other species preventing mutation. Once on a compatible Stigma, the sugary fluid formed there causes the pollen to germinate.

 

Style

The Style is a tube-like portion between the Stigma and the Ovary that can be short or lengthy. Germinated pollen on the Stigma grows a pollen tube that carries the sperm cells by drilling its way through the nutrient rich Style carrying the sperm cells towards the Ovary. . In some cases the style is responsible for self-incompatibility, causing pollen tubes to fail.

Ovary

The Ovary is the female reproductive organ of the flower and the part of the Pistil that hold s the Ovules. Once the pollen tube reaches here, the now grown sperm cells are delivered to the ovule.

 

Stigma, Style and Ovary

 

Ovule

In seed propagating plants, the ovule contains the female reproductive parts and consists for three parts. There is an outer layer, a nucleus and inside the nucleus is the actual egg cell which is the site of the fertilization. After one sperm achieves this, the ovule becomes a seed cell that forms other seed. The second sperm cell changes and grows to become the food supply for the embryo.

 

In addition, the plants have stores of starch, protein and oils as food for the developing embryo and developing seedling, similar to the yolk of animal eggs.  There are also other terms and complex steps that are referred to in the same terms at human sexual reproduction, such a placenta, and umbilical cord.

 

 

Life Cycle of a Floral plant

 

 Conclusion

I have spent quite some time sorting through the facts before writing this article and the only real conclusion I have is that describing the parts of a flower that are involved in its sexual reproduction, as complicated as trying to explain the development of a human baby.

Of course the other obvious part of this conclusion is that life is a miracle , no matter how many terms and books describe the science behind it.

Now I admire the lovely blooms of my garden and feel even more connected and inspired to share their enthusiasm…time to smell the roses!

 

Nice Anthers!

 

 

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.

 

http://helpguide.org/mental/stress_relief_meditation_yoga_relaxation.htm

 

http://healing.about.com/od/breathwork/a/consciousbreath.htm

  

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.

 

HALF WAY THROUGH

HALF WAY THROUGH

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!

Portulacas

Portulacas

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.

www.torontobotanicalgarden.ca

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!

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

 

 

 

Weeds or Wildflowers: the debate continues

Organic gardening, while great for the health of the planet, certainly takes some good planning and hard work. Just look at the number of hours I have been preoccupied with the green shoots of grass that are sparsely spread across sections of my lawn. But I certainly couldn’t help it when the bald spot is there catching my eye every time I go in or out the back door or drive up to the house. Now of course my house, even though it is in a big city, is really a cottage stuck in a time warp. Now the one thousand square foot bungalow is surrounded by tall pine trees and tall weeds.

Okay the garden weeds can have nice shaped leaves and often even pretty flowers but their odd shapes and height make for one messy looking lawn. Although not a very neat person, this horticultural mish-mash has been driving me crazy! In fact, I learned a thing or two about myself as I followed my own steps in the Save the Lawn Project. From this experience I reinforced my ability to work hard at something I love…being outdoors. What I had not realized was how little patience I have for some repetitious chores. Yes watering the same area over and over, day after day is trying, monotonous and keeps me from the inspirational garden I really want to be working on.

While inspiration for this blog started after staring at the new growth in the cottage garden, not all of the greenery was a plant we value, as a garden treasure. Certainly some weeds almost fool you in to believing they are real plants. Others are just scraggly, spiky things that can make you sneeze or even give you a rash (we won’t even mention the poison ivy).

After a current weeding session at the cottage, which is in farm country, I decided to surf the Internet to try and identify some of the weeds there. Below is a listing related to field and crops that has a lovely WEED photo gallery. Who knew!

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/IPM/english/weeds-herbicides/gallery/index.html

Of course we all have our very own weeds that we hate and sometimes even ones we love. Certainly Dandelions are cool looking with their lovely yellow bloom and even their dreamy looking white fuzzy seed state. Then there are the dubious weeds like forget-me-nots that have escaped from the garden and other self seeding plants such as the herb lemon balm which spreads everywhere and anywhere. I guess as someone once told me, they believed if it had lovely blossoms it was a wild flower and not a weed.

Pretty lawn weed

 

Dandelion Seeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on this definition, many unwanted growing things are weeds. Another term used to help us decide what may or may not be a weed is: a plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one growing where it is not wanted, as in a garden. Just think of how complicated and messy my yard would be if the lawn was full of assorted, unwanted plants and my garden was full of lovely thick lawn grass…how uninspiring would that be!

Certainly as I want to motivate you all to have lovely, organic inspirational areas to play, sit, and dream in, what I described would definitely not be a motivating space. Without a doubt my yard temporarily falls in to this less than desirably category, I am using this blog also to get myself in gear and take simple steps that will give me the meditation space I so need. In fact as I recall the need for peace in my garden and realize how obsessed with weeds and other stray things I have become, I realize everything growing has its place…just not in my sod or my garden.

While things grow everywhere and anywhere, it seems they are literally rooted in ways that often make removal difficult. Take for example the tap root of a dandelion that anchors it firmly and also sends out a new plant if every tiny bit of root is not removed. Then there some like the plantain that has numerous hairy roots that cover a wider range of soil to anchor their base. Creepers, like Creeping Jenny, are also tough as they often have above ground laterally growing roots that also root from stem nodules. No wonder with these and even more means of thriving and spreading, unwanted vegetation can run amuck!

Certainly I am growing a new respect for the tough weeds that grow and flower everywhere and anywhere they choose. In fact, I realized that their fortitude was a good example of how being tough can help with one’s self preservation, especially when taking on new challenges. Who knew such unwanted greenery was a means to self enlightenment. Certainly this sounds like something Buddhist, but maybe after checking the library or the Internet to learn more about them, you will respect them for their stamina as well, even as you yank them out by their hair.

With the memory of pulling out my hair after many a weeding session still fresh in my mind, despite any inspired at those solitary plants that grow in the toughest conditions with poor soil and water levels, I am not starting a weed garden anytime soon…at least not on purpose! Of course maybe it would become a new trend that could start with one single, lovely beach wildflower…or is that a weed…judge for yourself!

 

 

Beach Wildflower

 

 

Spring’s bloom

 Springs’s Bloom

Perennial Daffodil

 

Inspiration can come to us from many things with results we may least expect out of the clear blue sky! Who knew this would happen for me recently when my garden’s rising shoots were the beginning of a new plant and a new idea that had never crossed my mind. While gardening guru I am not, certainly I have lots of experience in the field, in weeding lawns, gardens and wondering what that funny coloured bug was. As I type even now the question pops up… what words of wisdom could I share?

Wisdom, learning and sharing garden thoughts, joys and failures, certainly connects us and often makes us see the world from a brighter place. If nothing else it can make us look outside of ourselves, breathe a little deeper and relieve stress even for just a short while!

Spring’s bloom is a time to enjoy nature’s beginning without worry. After all, do plants stress about wearing the season’s latest styles, or if their blooms are big enough? No they just grow and provide pleasure for us and food for assorted bugs and often provide the inspiration needed for us to start our very own growth.

While seeing buds bloom and shoots grow might not be what inspires some to branch out, for some reason it was the muse I needed for a new start. Whether my blog takes off in any way to be as lovely as a flower is yet to be seen, but certainly it is my hope.

 

 

Trillium welcomes Spring

 

So far it may seem like yet another site, but I hope to peak your interest of gardens and nature with pictures, facts, hints and inspirations…all with a sense of fun! Certainly most of us can all use more fun in our stress filled lives and as we dream, plan and work in our lives and gardens. In fact, where would we be without all those parts of our lives…how could we bloom where we are planted, to quote an old saying.

Speaking of blooms, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips are up and ready to burst! Despite the unusual weather…from shorts in March and early April to parkas the next day, the poor defenceless plants and bulbs have survived! In fact, with the last of the snowflakes finally leaving us this week and the sun’s warming rays, there is a glorious crop of spring flowers along city streets and country roads and in awakening fields.

Spring’s bloom in the field of my country estate has tiny violets and other wild flowers coming to life. As I write this looking out over my garden, masses of deep purple and red tulips are just waiting for a bright sunny day or two to open. Okay, 1.8 acres does not an estate make, and the Ottawa Tulip Festival has nothing to worry about, but my tulips are lovely as you can judge for yourself.

Remember, there are flowers everywhere….just keep your eyes open…and enjoy!