Fall planting of bulbs anticipates a wonderful harbinger of spring. As long as the ground is not yet frozen, bulbs can be planted.
How to Deter Squirrels from Digging up Your Bulbs
I tend to wait until mid-November so the squirrels don’t raid my bulbs. As well as waiting until as late as possible to plant your bulbs, there are a few other ways to guarantee spring-blooming:
use bloodmeal: sprinkle a handful in the hole, over the bulbs. Be sure to wear gloves when using bloodmeal. Bonemeal is a fertilizer that will help them grow, but will not deter rodents.
cut squares of chicken wire and place a square in each hole. I plant my bulbs in groups of five, so a one foot square piece of wire is sufficient. It can be purchased in a role at most grocery, DIY stores.
banana peels over the bulbsin the hole also works. I have done this in the past with success, crisscrossing the strips of peel over the bulbs like spokes on a wheel.
plant alliums, members of the onion family, or daffodils as squirrels don’t like either of these.
I generally order my bulbs from Brecks, this year was no exception. Their prices are reasonable (especially if you buy in bulk as I do) and the variety of bulbs is amazing. I love looking through their catalogs picking and choosing colours, bloom time, height etc. These are the tulip and allium bulbs I chose this year:
This week Gardens4u and the volunteer garden team at Ruddy Shenkman Hospice (RSH) created a wildflower/butterfly garden using the “lasagna method.” This technique is used to smother grass instead of digging it up, saving both our back muscles and the nutrients (nitrogen) within the grass.
What Layers to Use in Lasagna Method
Use large pieces of cardboard, or any other compostable ingredients, ending with a layer of soil. A warning though: be sure to choose items that will not entice rodents to dig up your garden. We did try newspaper too, especially over the cracks/holes in the cardboard. It was so windy though that the lightweight paper was difficult to hold in place. We used small stones (you can see some in the pictures) to hold the layers in place.
If time permits (before the snow flies) we hope to add another compostable layer to the “lasagna” over the seeds in the form of mulched leaves. The leaves will also help hold the seeds and bits of newspaper in place.
Plants of Choice for a Butterfly Garden
After the cardboard and soil were layered over the lawn, we sprinkled seeds over the soil. We used tall, flat and large flowered, butterfly-loving, native perennials and self-sowing annuals. I chose various coneflowers, tall phlox, monarda (AKA beebalm), joe pye weed, globe thistles, black-eyed-susans, filipendula, asters, and many others. All were harvested from my own or clients’ gardens.
In the spring we plan to supplement the seedlings (if necessary) with plant donations (if you live in my area, contact me when dividing your perennials in the spring). We will move some seedlings around for a lush, but informal wildflower look to contrast with the existing formal beds created and tended over the years.
Flagstones were added to create a meandering path through the garden. These stepping stones also enable our garden team to access sections of the garden for maintenance such as watering and weeding.
Finishing touches in the spring will also include tidying up the outer edge of the garden for a neater appearance. I may or may not add shorter perennials to the outer edges. I am still undecided about that call as I do not want to ruin the informal, natural look.
Here are some pictures of the lasagna procedure, in chronological order:
That’s me on the phone, ordering more soil from Lancosa Landscaping who delivered two loads of garden soil on short notice. They also generously donated the second load after learning about this volunteer project at the RSH.
Great work team! Many thanks to those of you who donated your time and muscle power, cardboard, newspapers, and seeds.
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.
Everyone has their own list of what they consider to be essential garden tools. As the owner of a gardening business, I am no exception. These are my essentials, although you don’t have to use specific brands:
A shovel, a spade (shovel with a sharp, flat cutting edge) and a trowel will cover all your digging needs. Choose a light weight, but good quality version of both so they are easy to use and will last forever. I have several sizes of shovels too, sometimes you need a small one to get into tight spaces.
I have a few different styles and sizes of rakes. The fan shaped ones are good for gathering leaves and debris. I have a tiny (child sized) version that is great for getting in and around plants in your garden. The larger ones work better on lawns.
I prefer the plastic ones as they are nice and light, but my husband prefers a metal one. Go with whatever you will use.
This is the one area I advise splurging on because of the working mechanisms. In this case especially, you get what you pay for. If you buy inexpensive secateurs or pruners, they will not work well for long. I have a few different ones that I keep around my yard, in sheltered locations to prevent rusting.
I consider an edging tool essential since I love the look of natural edging, rather than rocks or rubber edging. Of course, a shovel would work too, but an edging tool, whose head is a half circle, works wonders to create smooth edges in your gardens.
Loppers or Branch Cutters
Once again, pay a bit more to get a good quality pair of loppers. You won’t regret it. Buy some that are heavy (strong) enough, but not too heavy that you cannot handle them efficiently. They come in varying mouth widths too, so choose one that will cut branches up to at last one inch thick. Of course, you can have several (I do) for different chores.
Shears are like large scissors, great for cutting large sections of plant material at once. They make for quick results on a big plant. For example, I use them for cutting back my large ornamental grasses. I have also seen people using shears to trim small chunks of grass after mowing their lawns, around obstacles in the lawn such as trees. They are not however any good for cutting branches or even twigs.
It is great to have a bag to carry around your hand tools. I currently have one that the tools flop out from, so have been looking for a taller one. This tool bag from Tacklife looks great, perhaps that will be my next purchase. And, as a bonus, it comes with some garden tools. One can never have too many tools!
Nice to Have, but not Essentials
There are many other garden tools I have that the average person would not consider essential. I have a compartmentalized tool bag that contains a roll of string, stakes, a box cutter, a hammer, a tape measure, vine clips etc, in addition to my small hand tools.
I also have several sizes of rubber baskets that are essential to my gardens. They are great for toting garden debris, new plants, weeds, cut flowers, even water in a pinch.
What you consider essential will be different than what I consider essential, based on your needs, physical ability and even your budget. The one thing we should have in common though is keeping our tools clean and sharp. Tools should be cleaned off after each use and sharpened at least once per season. At the end of my gardening season, I spray my tools with a disinfectant, wash them well, then rub blades with a bit of oil to keep them all in tip top shape.
…but the condition of her lawn after the drought conditions of this past summer convinced her to extend the garden right to the road.
So, she dug up what little lawn was left, giving me a blank slate….my favourite design opportunity! I amended the existing soil with composted manure, then added stepping stones to divide the yard visually….and to provide access for maintenance as well as amusement for her grandchildren…
Instead of one large garden, I treated the sections as individual gardens with taller plants in the center and lower ones around the perimeters. I think this will create added visual appeal. (this may be difficult to see now, but will be obvious when the plants mature) Several existing plants were moved to achieve this effect; those that were previously at the edges of the garden were moved to the fronts of each new bed, with taller ones planted behind them. A row of drought-tolerant, succulent groundcover now edges the curb where the lawn refused to thrive.
After the plants settled into their new homes, mulch was added to finish off the project and protect the new plants over the winter.
Do you plant dahlias in your garden? Are they hardy to your garden zone? They are not hardy in my zone 4/5 gardens, so I would have to remove the bulbs each fall to keep them alive, something I cannot seem to commit to.
This, however, is going to change. Call it an early New Year’s resolution if you must, but I plan to order some of these beauties to plant this coming (2021) spring. Maybe because I have become more patient or appreciative or perhaps because I admire all the gorgeous dahlias in everyone else’s gardens. These dahlias bloom from summer until a hard frost kills them off, at least they do here. They may perform in your gardens even longer!
With my recent order of tulip, allium and lily bulbs from Vesey’s, I received a spring catalogue chock full of dahlias in every colour of the rainbow. They got me! Every year, usually around February and not November, I peruse the flower catalogs for spring ideas. As you may know, I have a gardening business, so like to stay on top of new offerings in the flower department.
I love ordering from Vesey’s. Not quite local geographically, (they are located on the east coast in PEI, while I am a few provinces away in Ontario) but a Canadian company, so local in a patriotic sense. If this pandemic has taught us anything, the need to support local businesses should be at the top of the list. Darn, here I thought I could post about something other than the dreaded pandemic. Funny (not funny) how it seeps into our conversations like that.
Check out Vesey’s website to discover all of the dahlia options. You can order individual varieties or mixtures of many colours and shapes. On the website you can request a catalogue of your own to view at your leisure. Orders can be placed online or by mail in an envelope included with your catalog. Shipping is available within Canada and the USA.
I decided (finally) on a combination package of the dinnerplate variety as well as a single beautiful blue version…
The dinnerplate dahlias do live up to their name; I have seen many planted in gardens, just not my own. Yet. The deadline for ordering is not until January, so I may change my mind and order more!
This project has been a vision in my brain for a while; I just had to wait until all parties were onboard and permission was granted. As a non-profit organization there are always lots of hoops to jump through.
A few existing shrubs were left in place, in particular the burning bush which is gorgeous this time of year. Two large spreading junipers were trimmed and shaped, but will remain in the garden, mainly because they would be much too difficult (for me) to remove. They also provide winter interest as they are evergreen in our climate.
The first step was to mark out the shape of the new garden using a garden hose and black spray paint. My granddaughter was on hand as the inspector for that job…
After the soil amendment came the plants, many of which were donated by other members of the RSH garden team as well as some of my neighbours. The large shrubs were also selected from and donated by Ritchies. I placed the shrubs and perennials strategically in the garden, still in their pots, according to their bloom time and colour, foliage shape as well as their mature size. A few tweaks here and there are always the norm before holes are dug and actual planting takes place.
The final step is to fill any blank spots in with contributions from my own gardens. Then a layer of cedar mulch (also donated and delivered from Ritchies) finishes the garden off…
I can’t wait until this garden matures, it should look beautiful!!
Who can believe that October is here already? Not me. Not Gardens4me either as they are still producing lots of blooms.
New this month is the silver lace vine I have adorning my garden shelves/work bench. What a mess this shelving unit is, another job for my fall to do list.
Another fall blooming perennial is the aster, a little soggy in this picture, cheerful none the less…
Also putting in a (late) appearance is my beautiful white and red hibiscus…
Roses are still blooming beautifully…
…as is tickseed. Did you know if you cut tickseed back immediately after it first blooms in the summer it will rebloom? This picture is my proof..
Also reblooming for the third (!!!) time this season is my weigela. It requires no maintenance to make it rebloom, just warm weather…
Annuals in containers are still eye catching, including a gorgeous pal blush pink hibiscus, even though we have had a few frosty nights.
One annual I was disappointed in this summer was the cardinal flower vine on my bamboo teepees. Although the foliage is unique, the blooms (other than a sporadic one mentioned earlier) have only just shown up in earnest….
The frosty nights have caused the leaves to start their colour transformation. From green to red with various shades in between. The vine on my back deck (or green room) is no exception…
We can’t complain about the advancing calendar too much though as our summer here in Eastern Ontario has been awesome. A tad too hot and dry for our lawns, but awesome for we humans. With one daughter-in-law on maternity leave, I was able to spend more time than usual at the lake with her and two of my grandchildren. With pandemic restrictions in place we were not allowed to do much else, so cottage life was the perfect answer.
The rain this week has been great for the fall lawn repair my yard so badly needs. The temperature has been warm too, so my Gardens4me blooms should last a while longer.
Cooler days and nights in mid September makes for much easier gardening. One of my favourite perennial plants this time of year are the cool season ornamental grasses. There are so many varieties to choose from these days, but my favourite is still what I call “fireworks,” for obvious reasons. Its real name is Maiden Grass Silberfeder or Miscanthus Sinensis. Whatever you call it, it is gorgeous!
There is not much new in Gardens4me this time, but many perennials are still looking dapper. For example, the roses, coneflowers (I love its seed heads too), geraniums and butterfly bushes just won’t quit, not that I’m complaining, and the Turtlehead I mentioned at the beginning of the month has produced even more unique blossoms…
Oh, and my hibiscus is finally making an appearance, a bit later than usual. I figure my magnolia tree has shaded the hibiscus too much so I plan to trim a few of the lower branches from the magnolia to restore the full sun conditions in that bed.
I’m feeling left out; everyone elses’s hibiscus have been blooming for weeks now.
The coleus I planted are also still beautiful in containers at my local hospice and in my own garden. I love the way the vivid colours appear to be randomly splattered across the leaves…
With frost in the forecast a few nights this week, who knows what next week will bring……..stay tuned!
My latest Gardens4U project transformed a chinch bug infested backyard into a beautiful area.
When we started out, a patio bordered by a strip of daylilies was the only colour in the yard. The lawn had been nice earlier on the season, until the cinch bugs moved in during the drought we experienced in July.
The poor condition of the lawn made it much easier to dig out a new garden bed though, after outlining the new design with a garden hose…
I do recommend using composted manure to improve the soil in garden beds and lawns, but this last batch was terrible. Composted manure goes through a heating process so it should not contain weed seeds. Or mulch, stones and even a candy bar wrapper as this batch did.
Unfortunately this client was not familiar with the product, so spread all fifteen of the bags she purchased on her lawn. Now we will have to wait until the grass seed she spread sprouts (hopefully) before we can rake the mulch off, otherwise we would just rake up the seed. I did file a complaint with the manufacturers as well as with Canadian Tire where it was purchased. I am not holding my breath for a response, but it’s the principle of the matter, right?
Once the garden bed was shaped and dug out, the perennials and shrubs were introduced to their new homes. I chose flowering shrubs that will grow tall for the back and shorter perennials for the middle and front of the bed. A few recycled plants from my ICU were also added to fill in the blank spots…
The final touch is lots of mulch, in this case dark brown cedar mulch, my personal favourite…
A lush green lawn will enhance the garden greatly. This lawn is struggling to come back, but it will rebound faster now that we are done trampling it, especially as the cool fall-like weather is here.
Next season, when these plants have settled in, this garden will look awesome!