Yesterday (Monday) the temperature rose into the double digits here in Ottawa. That’s incredible (although not unheard of) for early March. Although, as forecast, this spring-like weather is already less exciting today…
While the sunshine and warm temperature teased us of things to come, I changed up the décor in my urns flanking my garage and the milk can (from my grandparents’ farm) on my front porch. The evergreen boughs that looked so nice late last fall, have looked a little sad lately, not the lush green their name implies…
I also removed the Christmas/winter decorations (shiny bulbs, pinecones and a very cute owl), but saved them in my seasonal stash for next winter, leaving the (still attractive) red dogwood twigs in place. I found a few (artificial) sprigs of forsythia in said stash and tucked them into the dogwood twigs, then promptly texted my neighbour to brag that my forsythia is blooming before hers…
At my local grocery store I was delighted to discover bunches of pussy willows in the floral department. I can never avoid perusing any floral department, in any store, especially in spring. The pussy willows were calling my name, or maybe my spring fever was running rampant. Whatever, they created an awesome addition to my spring displays at home…
The rain in the forecast should help melt the still-existent snowbanks away. Every (rain) cloud has its silver lining I say. With colder weather (back) in the forecast later this week, I may have to bring some of these floral harbingers of spring indoors for some temporary respite.
I’m sure later this week I will be reminiscing the too fleeting sneak peak at spring.
As I was removing window boxes filled with perennials and frost damaged annuals at the hospice I volunteer at, it dawned on me that these window boxes would look awesome with winter evergreen arrangements in them. Evergreen boughs with pops of red for a splash of color against the white walls of the building and snow on the ground.
Thanks to the early arrival of winter weather in our area, the plants and soil in the window boxes were frozen solid. I brought them home and put them in my basement to warm up to enable the change of décor.
Once thawed, the first thing I did was remove the dead annuals. Next I trimmed the dormant perennials hard, back to a few inches from the soil level. This step was to allow space for the evergreen boughs and decorative trimmings.
Most grocery stores sell evergreen boughs in bundles this time of year for such DIY projects, as do home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot. I just take a walk through the woodland trails in my neighbourhood with a pair of clippers and a bag. Cedar, pine, and spruce boughs as well as pine cones are plentiful. Sometimes I can even find some vibrant red dogwood and/or contrasting white birch branches and twigs. If not, the stores sell those as well.
Your local dollar store will provide the finishing touches like artificial poinsettia, bows, red berries etc. Battery powered twinkling lights were also added for night time pizzazz.
This might not seem too outrageous in your part of the world, but in mine gardening today is definitely pushing the season. After all, we still have lots of snow and today is the first day our temperature has risen above the freezing mark.
So, for those of you also lamenting the late arrival of spring here in Ontario, I will give you the exciting details of what gardening chores I was actually able to accomplish today. The rest of you can yawn in boredom as you mutter “been there, done that already.”
Every time I pull in my driveway these days, I am reminded of how sick I am of seeing the brown and crispy fall/winter arrangements that looked so green and lush last fall and for most of the winter…
Today the sun is shining and the temperature above freezing so I pulled out my garden gloves and secateurs…
First I tackled the evergreen arrangements that are an eyesore, at least I attempted to. Even though the temperature is warm today, the soil these branches are sitting in is still frozen in one of the containers. (One gets full sun all day, the other only a portion of the day) What is left of the one is just the blue spruce branches that are still a beautiful bluey green color. I know, they look kind of lonely without anything else to complement them, so I will have to find something to add, even if the plants are fake. The other container will have to wait until the soil thaws sufficiently enough to remove the branches and ornaments.
By the way, the ornaments (red dogwood branches, pinecones on spikes, etc) spend the summer in my gardening tool organizer, AKA a plastic shoe storage unit, that hangs on a wall in my garage…
Another thing I tackled in my brief gardening stint today is the ornamental grasses I could reach. I like to leave them over the winter so the fronds can blow in the wind, but by this time of the year they are either broken (from the weight of the snow) or the seed heads have blown off. Before they send up new growth, and as soon as you can access them, cut them back to a few inches from the ground.
I have several in my back yard, but they are still buried under at least two feet of snow, so will have to wait for their trim. I do however, have one large clump beside my lamp post in my front garden that is accessible and several as experiments in pots on my front veranda.
As this veranda is always bathed in full sun and protected from the wind, I can get away with less hardy plants there. This year I tried leaving the ornamental grasses I planted in pots last summer on the veranda over the winter. Each time it snowed, (quite often this winter) I covered them with snow for some moisture.
The general rule of thumb for perennials in containers is that you have to (should) use plants that are hardy to two zones below your gardening zone. It appears I was successful in my experiment though as I see some green inside the trimmed shoots. That’s a sign they did not die, exciting news to me.
Earlier this week I helped a friend stage her house. She wanted fresh, live pussy willows and spring blossoms for her front porch, but as the temperature was still close to -20C overnight, we settled for plastic. Plastic flowers have come a long way; not the plastic flowers your grandma used to have!
Perhaps I will go back to the dollar store and pick out some plastic flowers for my front containers.
We have a large space on our cottage property that acts as a buffer zone between the road (a major highway in those parts) and the cottage.
A 2-foot strip of vegetation along the road is cut by the township each year. Adjacent to that the land begins to slope downward for an approximate width of five feet before it levels off. A row of cedar hedges was planted approximately 40 feet from the road many years ago, but the area between the bottom of the slope and the cedars is rarely maintained, left to grow wild.
Last season we planted several evergreen trees (pine and spruce) at the bottom of the slope. This season we planted more, spaced throughout the flat area to create (eventually) a forest of evergreen trees as a visual and noise barrier between the road and the cottage.
I have always felt this whole area was wasted space, What does a gardener do with wasted space? Turns it into a garden of course, in this case, a wildflower garden. This season I whippersnipped the flat area around the evergreens, avoiding all of the frogs (there were tons), then sprinkled seeds (pink and white coneflowers, Queen Anne’s lace, black-eyed Susans, pink and red beebalm to name a few) along the slope and flat strip close to the road. These plants are not exactly wildflowers, more hardy and tall perennials, but I mixed all the seeds in one large bag as I was collecting them to achieve a wildflower look.
I can’t wait to see what it looks like next season!
Last weekend it was out with the old, dead trees and in with the new seedlings on our cottage lot. This past summer we noticed that one of our huge maple trees had died, presumably due to the drought conditions we experienced this year, as it looked fine in the spring. Several smaller trees around it were looking like they were on their way out too, so all needed to be removed before they toppled over during a storm onto the nearby hydro lines.
The dead trees were in an area between our cottage and the road providing a natural privacy screen for many years. You can tell by the size of the trunk remaining that the maple was very old. We replaced the old trees with new evergreen seedlings that had sprouted up elsewhere on our property. They appear to be fast growing, so hopefully the bare looking area will fill in quickly.
I am sad to report, GARDENS4U is closed for the season. This week I will be adding evergreen boughs to the planters on my front step and in front of my garage. Let me know if you would like me to do the same for you here in Kanata. Follow this link EVERGREEN to view pictures of ones I made up last year.
Next month I will be selling beautiful Christmas centerpieces in December here in Kanata. These arrangements have amaryllis bulbs as their focal point and make a unique gift for your mother, mother-in-law, neighbour, hostess, etc. The amaryllis bulbs have been forced to bloom during the Christmas holiday season. This picture is from last years batch: