What started off recently as a lesson in fall garden chores turned into a beautiful garden bouquet for this little lady…
I like to do as much as I can to clean up my gardens before the snow flies so I won’t have as much to do in the spring. Some plants however like the protection of their leaves, slimy as they may be, over the winter. Perennials that should be cut back to prevent the powdery mildew on their leaves from spreading in your garden are as follows:
phlox (the tall variety)
anything else that looks diseased, dead, broken etc.
Fall is also a great time to move things around, so if you (and the plant) were not completely happy with the location of some perennials, get moving.
It is a bit late for deadheading, but I did do so to a few perennials hoping I might get one last flush of bloom in this warm weather.
Gathering Up The Remaining Blooms
My three year old granddaughter loves to pick flowers from my garden anytime. Recently she started off helping me do some fall cleanup. After the work was done the clippers moved to the few flowers still blooming…
This is the bouquet she ended up with:
Of course I cannot refuse any request from this sweet girl. I love the fact that she loves my flower gardens as much as I do!
This is one she missed as it was just a bud at the time:
There is not usually much blooming mid October in this zone 4-5 region of Eastern Ontario but the recent spot of warm weather has encouraged some perennials to rebloom and annuals to perk up.
Annuals are those type of plants that get killed off by frost and must be replanted every spring. Their claim to fame is that they bloom all summer, although by this time of year can look leggy and washed out.
On a stroll through my gardens this (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend, I found a few annuals still looking cute including portulaca, zinnias, dahlias. Annuals in all the containers I planted are still looking marvelous too!
Perennials are my go to plants as you only have to plant them once. Although you can move them around season to season if you (or they) are not happy with where they are located. I do that all the time.
Unlike annuals that bloom all summer, perennials only bloom for a specific time through the growing season, a month at most. Some though rebloom after their initial bloom time, offering a bonus of colour when you least expect it.
I have several roses for example that do just that, bloom and rebloom and sometimes rebloom again!
Other perennials sporting reblooming features include sage, butterfly bush, tickseed, blanket flower, geraniums, lavender, false sunflowers, asters, achillea, tickseed, daisies, and clematis:
The silver lace vine, asters, ornamental grasses, hibiscus, and hydrangeas are not reblooming, just fall blooming perennials that are still going strong:
Interlocked sidewalks or driveways/laneways and river rock instead of lawn may look nice and tidy, until the weeds move in. And they will try, you just have to stay on top of them for a winning look.
Weeds are inevitable as their seeds blow around in wind, lodging themselves in the cracks between the interlocked stones or river rock. They can settle into the tiniest of cracks then sprout to become a huge mess. Don’t disparage the contractor that you paid to make your yard look nice, it is not (generally) their fault. Weeds and wind are facts of nature.
Most landscapers use polymer sand, AKA hardscape, jointing or paver sand, a mixture of fine grains of sand and bonding agents. These products fill in the cracks between the interlock stones of sidewalks, patios and driveways. The benefits are stability (the stones don’t shift), weed control and even insect control.
The problem is, even when applied properly (there is a specific method of applying polymer sand) weed seeds will still congregate on top.
The most recent look in interlock involves larger slabs of stone, meaning less cracks for weed seeds to invade and you to keep clean. That’s a move in the right direction.
Landscape fabric is (should be) used under river rock when it replaces lawns to help keep weeds from poking through from underneath. Some aggressive weeds still do manage to get through the barrier though. As mentioned above, nothing prevents weed seeds from blowing from above and settling between the rocks.
One of my biggest complaints about landscaping with river rock is the instability of the rock surface for anyone walking on it. That would be me working in a client’s garden. Even though I always wear stable shoes, I still find the rocks unstable to walk on so worry about twisted ankles.
I do find the smaller stones more stable than larger ones.
Vinegar to Kill and Deter Weeds
Vinegar, and not just regular vinegar but the extra strength “cleaning” vinegar, works well to kill any weeds that do manage to sprout between the cracks of your interlock or stones/rocks. It also deters new weeds from sprouting. I put the vinegar in a large pressurized sprayer to make large applications easier.
Another method of removing weeds that have sprouted between the cracks of your walkways or patios or your river rock is a propane powered weed torch. I have yet to try one but have heard only good reviews on them.
I don’t mean to discourage anyone from replacing their old, outdated walkways with much prettier interlock or their lawns with river rock, but want people to be aware these types of landscaping still require work. Lots of work.
I experienced the weirdest thing today, at least to me. I was gardening in my own backyard (for a change) when I felt a sting on my left ankle. I yelled (it hurt!) and shooed away a fat bumblebee as I don’t like to harm bees. It rewarded me by coming back and stinging me again. In the same ankle!
I retreated out of my backyard thinking I had disturbed a nest or something, but the darn bugger follwed me, stinging me again even though I was now 50 feet away. Once again I yelled “ouch” (don’t believe that) and ran up the slight incline to my front yard with the bee in pursuit. It was quicker than I and stung me a fourth time!
I now have two stings on each ankle! The small red spot at the bottom is a recovering bug bite I got at the cottage. My poor ankles are taking a beating…
I bet I will someday think this was funny; if I had a video of the episode I’m sure I looked and sounded very funny. Lucky for me that I am not allergic to bee stings.
That was enough gardening for today.
Instead, I came into the house and visited Mr Google looking for information on why bees might attack or at least sting repeatedly. I have been stung repeatedly before, (lucky me!) so am aware it is possible, I just want to know why me? After all, I’m the one that wears the “Save the Bees“ t-shirt and purchased bumblebee necklaces for my granddaughters.
Back to the research…
I came across this article that says that bees recognize human faces! If that’s the case, I might be doomed…my backyard is not that big!
And another article that says angry bees produce higher quality venom that may help in the treatment and study of osteoarthritis and Parkinson’s disease. Maybe I should go donate blood as this guy (I am assuming it was the same one stinging me repeatedly) was obviously angry.
Well, the swelling and the pain has subsided. When hubby arrived home from work I sent him out to the backyard to check for nests in the lawn or garden. He found nothing.
Queen Anne’s lace is dominating right now; I may have to selectively remove some of it next season if it takes over the other wildflowers.
I love the white lacey flower heads that ruffle in the breeze. Queen Anne’s lace were my mom’s favourite wildflower, so they are obviously now one of my favourites as well as a sentimental touch in this garden.
I also have a patch of Queen Anne’s lace closer to the cottage interspersed with black eyed susans, my mother-in-law’s favourite. I love this random patch as it reminds me that both of these wonderful women are always nearby. In spirit only unfortunately.
Globe Thistles or Echinops
Thriving within wildflower ridge are the vibrant blue globe thistles, AKA echinops that I planted from seeds last fall.
Slower to thrive in wildflower ridge are the wild chicory plugs I pulled from the roadside on a trek back to the city. It’s a good thing I picked them when I did, this weekend they have all been cropped off.
A member of the daisy family, the pretty cornflower blue blossoms of wild chicory are quite common along the roadsides here in Eastern Ontario.
The chicory roots were only recently transplanted in my wildflower ridge though, so I may have to exercise some patience with them.
Not so Wild Cultivars
Mingling nicely with the wildflowers indigenous to this area (those mentioned above as well as daisies, vipers bugloss, milkweed, pink thistles, and achillea) are some not-so-wild, cultivars. These all love full sun conditions and are hardy to zone 3. Coneflowers, malva/mallow, yellow daisies, monarda, and even the recognizable leaves of a holly hock have sprouted from the seeds I collected and sewed over the past few seasons…
I’ve used a combination.of seeds collected in the fall and root plugs from the roadside. For obvious reasons the root plugs offer quicker rewards.
To keep our local bees and butterflies content and thriving, it is important to choose native wildflowers (ones that you see growing naturally in your area) for your gardens.
Wildflower ridge is coming alive bloom by bloom; next season should be awesome!!
As well as general maintenance (weeding) and spring cleanups, Gardens4u completed several new garden designs so far this season, although one is still a work in progress. Most of the time I remembered to take before and after pictures.
Continuing the Neighbour Theme
At the end of last season a third neighbour asked me to help them reconfigure their front yard around an updated veranda and interlock walkway.
This was one of my easiest projects as the home owners were very hands on. From shopping for and planting perennials and shrubs to sod/grass removal,(the black fabric smothered the existing grass) soil enhancement, and edging of the finished creation, they barely needed me. My job was to recommend plant choices and their placement based on mature size and bloom time. I also created the garden shape with a hose and suggested the location of the stepping stones.
This is what the yard looked like during the process:
…and this is what it looks like now:
Another client asked me to help him transform and design new gardens on his parents’ farm property in preparation of his daughter’s upcoming wedding. The house is being renovated as well with plans for an airbnb property.
There are seven garden beds; a huge undertaking that I have been working on all summer. The bride and groom to be have been helping too, doing most of the clearing, weeding, mulching etc. This frees up my time for the designing and planting, my two favourite parts of a new garden project.
Here are a few before pics:
some during pics:
and some after pics:
These after pictures are of just the garden at the front of the house. The other beds are still in progress. When this project is complete, I will show you the final pictures of all garden beds created. Stay tuned!
Moving to the Backyard
I have been working with these clients for several years now, first at their old home here in Kanata…
…and then at their new Hintonburg area home after they moved. Last season I worked on the front yards of their new duplex. The outside of one side is very traditional looking, the other quite modern, so I designed gardens to match the two different styles…
This is what they look like now:
This season these same clients requested my services for garden design and an overhaul in their back and side yards.
Next season these newly renovated garden beds will look awesome!
Garden Touch Up
At the end of last (2020) season I modified a neighbour’s garden, moving plants and adding new ones to the expanded space. We also added stepping stones to break up the larger area. At the time she had some natural coloured mulch we used up.
This summer we changed the look by adding dark brown mulch, (right on top of the natural coloured mulch) creating a much more vibrant look, which contrasts well/better with the maturing plants.
The first set of evergreens (pine and spruce) we planted a few seasons ago have grown even though gypsy moths have persistently tried to hamper their survival.
The most recent set are coming along well too; they love the full sun and lots of space to grow…
After a few arguments with hubby over what grass to cut (he likes the manicured city lawn look, I prefer a more natural look up here) we compromised with some of each. To mark my territory, I trampled down the grass to create a “line” he was not to cross with the lawn mower. You can barely see it on the right side of this picture, but he saw it and that’s what counts.
The area is not very garden-friendly, sloped with sandy soil enhanced (not) with salt and bits of gravel from the road.
Unfortunately many of the seeds I spread the past few seasons migrated to the designated lawn area. The soil is very sandy in this neck of the woods, so removing the errant plants and transplanting them to wildflower ridge was easy.
Wildflower ridge is now chock full of daisies, black eyed susans, malva, white and pink achilea, Queen Anne’s lace, viper’s bugloss, and milkweed.
The milkweed attracts monarch butterflies. They lay eggs on the leaves which hatch into caterpillars (you can see 2 in the picture above) which in turn morph into more monarch butterflies.
Next to come (from my gardens) are monarda (AKA beebalm), phlox and flax, perhaps coneflowers and butterfly weed.
The next spot I plan to transform is the shadier slope at the water’s edge. Stay tuned for more details on that project!
This is a much shadier site, so will require some research to find suitable new occupants.
Please let me know if you can think of any other plants I can add to either site. I prefer natural looking (no city slickers allowed) perennials.
Spring is my favourite season. I love the fact that the plants in gardens, roadsides and parks start strutting their stuff, with changes every day. My own gardens don’t disappoint me every spring, in fact I am known to just wander/putter around enjoying the new growth.
If you too love spring blossoms, here are a few plants that bloom in spring for your yard and gardens…
My spring starts off with the star magnolia in my front yard. From afar, the blossoms look like pom poms, brightening up my yard even before the leaves emerge. Up close they are even more spectacular:
Another magnolia blooms a bit later in my backyard. This beauty is the Ann variety, with blossoms that change in shape as they progress…
After my white star magnolia blooms and drops its flowers, forsythia bushes brighten the neighbourhood with their striking yellow blossoms. My neighbour’s is especially pleasing to me as I enjoy this view from my front windows:
I have a forsythia in my backyard too, but it is still small and not as effectively placed as the beauty above.
Next to bloom in my gardens are my plum trees, usually. This year their blossoms were barely therethanks to the birds. This is what they are supposed to look like:
Plum trees are very fragrant when blooming too, another sign of spring. Unfortunately my husband suffers from seasonal allergies, so he does not find them as appealing as I do.
Apple and Crab Apple Trees
Next up to bloom are my McIntosh apple trees. This year they are particularly gorgeous…
…perhaps because the plum trees were not. The apple trees are loaded with bees too; I’m doing my part to keep them thriving!
Around the same time as the apple trees in my backyard, the crab apple tree in my front yard and in yards all across this city are in full bloom, ranging from the palest of pink, to light pink to my own darker almost-wine-coloured version. Whatever the variety, they are all beautifully spring-like.
Lilac Trees and Bushes
While most lilac trees and bushes are in bloom by now, with their distinct and fragrant blossoms, mine does not bloom until early June. After the plum and apples trees have shown off. These lilacs are still spring bloomers by calendar standards, but not quite a harbinger of spring in my yard.
Shrub roses (usually) bloom earlier and for longer than rose bushes, but of course there are exceptions. My favourite shrub rose, with pale yellow five-lobed petals and lemony yellow centers is just starting to bloom now while my crab apple tree is still going strong.
A few other varieties of pink shrub roses throughout my gardens will wait a few weeks before they decide to bloom.
Roses of the climbing or bushes type wait for the hotter days (and nights) of summer to perform.
Spring bulbs, are planted in the fall to provide early spring colour in your gardens. Early tulips and daffodils are currently blooming, with allium still working on their strappy leaves and tall stems. The alliums will be blooming soon too, with the later variety of tulips. With summer still a month away, these later tulips and allium are still considered spring blooming bulbs.
Another spring blooming shrub is the rhododendron, fast becoming one of my favourite for all of my gardens including my own. They too range in colour, including white, pale pink, hot pink, red and a purply pink.
I have a story that I tell anyone who will listen of how I was introduced to rhododendrons. Currently I choose them for most part sun gardens, especially eastern and northeastern facing ones, their preferred exposure. I have two in my own backyard too, ready to burst out in blossoms any time now…
Other Spring Blooming Perennials
A few perennials bloom in spring too. A few examples in my gardens are garden sage with pale purple flowers and Jack Frost brunnera which sports green and white heart-shaped leaves and tiny blue flowers:
There are also several groundcovers that bloom in spring. In my gardens that includes sweet woodruff with delicate leaves and tiny white flowers, as well as lamium with varigated leaves and pearl pink blossoms:
These ferns don’t flower as such, but their fronds are fascinating to watch unfurl. Apparently fiddleheads are delicious to cook and eat, although I have not tried them. This bed is full of ferns, turning into a lush, green focal point in summer:
There are lots of plants to choose from for spring colour in your gardens. Plant bulbs in the fall or perennials and shrubs anytime the ground is warm enough to dig in.
The plum trees in my back yard are usually so full of blossoms this time of year that you can see and smell them from across the street. The scent is heavenly, usually. Sadly, this year there are barely any blossoms.
2020 (left) and 2021 (right) blossoms
Birds Devouring the Flower Buds
About a month ago, a large flock of strange (to us, we had never seen this variety before) birds took over our backyard, devouring the emerging buds on the plum trees. There were at least fifty birds in these two trees at once, all weekend, with no social distancing evident!
I assumed they were migrating, returning from the south, and hoped they didn’t destroy the annual spectacle of fragrant blossoms.
A bit of research taught me that these newcomers were cedar waxwings, as suspected on their way north, stopping in for a nutrition break. Apparently, when their usual meal of seeds and nuts is unavailable, they are known to snack on the flower buds of fruit trees. Cute little guys, but boys do they do some damage.
Mystery solved, but I sure hope this does not become an annual event! The gorgeous blossoms on these plums trees is a harbinger of spring in my gardens.
I may have to resort to twinkling lights and windchimes to deter the marauders in the future.
It occurred to me recently that I needed to make my gardens kid friendly so my grandchildren can enjoy them as much as I do. They love my backyard, but my repeated “don’t step on the flowers” as they explore was starting to sound like a broken record. So, I decided to make the gardens kid friendly.
Pathways of Stepping Stones
The idea for pathways of stepping stones weaving throughout my gardens sprouted in my brain when a gardening client asked if I had the use for several stones she had left over from a patio project.
I also have some bricks that were previously used to edge my backyard gardens. I decided years ago that I prefer a more natural edging as the bricks made it difficult to mow the lawn right up to the garden edge. Grass also (annoyingly and time consuming) grew in between them. The bricks had also shifted over the years so were no longer nice and even, a sore spot with me.
A few seasons in and they had to go. Instead of digging up the bricks at the time, I left them in place and extended my gardens in width. Now I am digging them up to use for the kid-sized stepping stones. These are in their new places, just waiting to be sunk into the ground for stability…
I asked my almost 8 year old granddaughter if I should paint the stepping stones a bright colour so she, her brothers and cousins can see them better. She voted no, telling me it is more fun to discover them.
I added the pathways at the beginning of the season when perennials are small. This way I can visualize the spacing needed to create the meandering effect I desire. For example, in the photo above, you can see the lily of the valley pips poking through the ground. In a few weeks time the plantings will have filled out and the paths will look like they have been there forever.
Along with the pathways of stepping stones, I created landing pads in specific spots. There is one in front of each birdbath for little feet to step on while filling the birdbath.
There are now also several landing pads a foot back from the edge of my pond, so my grandkids know to stop there. At least most of them do. No names will be mentioned, but one little boy likes to push the boundaries and get as close as he can.
Plants Surrounding the Stepping Stones and Landing Pads
To keep the look of the stepping stones and landing pads as natural as possible, I placed them in the middle of low growing, resilient ground cover. The pathways now wind throughout my back gardens, perfect for exploring and wandering. They also create access for me, the chief gardener, to weed, plant, amend soil, mulch etc.
The stepping stones and landing pads are also located well away from any fragile or thorny plantings. For their safety and my stress level. Again, some of the grandchildren care more about avoiding prickly things and treating the plants with a healthy respect, others run through the paths full steam ahead.
Another way to interest your kids (or grandkids) in gardens is to add whimsical touches throughout your gardens. I have several animals/creatures for them to visit; a black bear and heron rescued from a client’s garden (they planned to toss them out) a frog and a rabbit (that has its rear end busted off, but now sits wedged into the soil) are favourites too.
The kids can visit bird houses, bird baths, wind chimes, painted stepping stones, (on my fence like artwork as they were too pretty to walk on) stone pagodas, obelisks, arbours, and more as they wander through my back yard.
I would love to add a large inukshuk and totem pole, somewhere and sometime. And perhaps a small tree fort; I have a spot all picked out in the sprawling branches of an apple tree.