Butterfly Garden Success

Last fall, after much pleading on my part (plan approval is a complicated process), I was granted permission to design and create a butterfly garden at the local hospice I volunteer at.  I have also referred to it as a wildflower garden to differentiate it from the more formal garden beds I have designed and planted there. This is my butterfly garden success story!

The very beginning

Although I posted an update this past spring, with details of the planting methods used, the final verdict on the success of my butterfly/wildflower garden was still out back then. These pictures were taken in early summer when things (not just weeds) finally started to grow…

Zinnias
Red flax
Poppies

This week, (late summer) I am thrilled to report that the experiment was a huge success!  The warm and wet weather (and our hard work of course) has created a riot of colourful blooms in the garden…

Butterflies, Birds, and Bees…oh my!

Although I have been calling this a butterfly garden, the goal is to attract hummingbirds and bees to our new garden as well. The variety of plant shapes and flower colours in this garden is akin to a smorgasbord of delectables to attract all of mother nature’s creatures in droves. This type of garden is also referred to as a pollinator garden for obvious reasons. The stepping stones are to permit strolling through the garden as well as maintenance in the form of weeding and watering.

Hospice Garden Team

There are lots of I’s so far in this post. To clarify and assign credit where it is due in spades, (pun intended) this project (and the landscaping at the hospice in general) would never have reached this level of success without the keenness and diligence of our garden team at Ruddy Shenkman Hospice in Kanata.

These dedicated team members are on-site lots more than I am. For example, we have a watering schedule that ensures all the containers, new gardens, and new additions to older, established garden beds get attended to daily. We also have team members (one wonder woman in particular) designated for lawn cutting. With the extensive RSH property, these are huge, behind-the-scene tasks. As a (semi-retired) professional landscaper, my main role on the team is to design and create new projects (garden beds) and identify chores that need to be done to keep the gardens looking as great as they do. I’m getting good at making lists, although I still love getting my hands dirty in the planting stage.

Successes in Butterfly Garden Planning

I learned lots through the experimental process of this butterfly garden and made a few mistakes but my vision prevailed.  Phew!

The mini greenhouses on my back deck all winter were definitely a success and something I would highly recommend! Those plastic clamshell containers from grocery stores come in handy for this purpose. They make for an inexpensive propagation method to sprout seeds, especially those that require cold stratification to germinate.

Also a huge success was the idea to plant seeds under clear plastic cups. On a whim, I did this in the early spring to fill in the blanks between the transplanted sprouts from the greenhouses. Using seeds of annuals from a big box store (poppies, asters, zinnias, cosmos, cleomes, and more) I simply put four or five seeds under each cup, pushed the cup into the soil to keep it from blowing in the wind, kept the soil wet around the cups, and waited for sprouts. I was amazed!

Mistakes Encountered

Sprinkling mixed seeds last fall was (relatively) a bust. These seeds were collected from plants in my gardens as well as from my clients’ gardens. I had a garden waste bag full of seeds. Although the thought was to provide a random dispersion of plants, the randomness was a little too excessive. Especially frustrating was trying to differentiate the weeds from the desired plants.

I also regret succumbing to the complaints about my “stick garden.” In doing so I removed the stakes that showed our team where the “keepers” (as opposed to weeds) were, making it frustrating for us all.

Convincing the Doubters

I think I also earned the respect of my fellow garden team members and hospice staff that were scratching their heads in disbelief throughout. Especially when the weeds were hard to differentiate from the wildflowers and butterfly attractors. I heard the term “stick garden” mumbled a few times when all that was visible was my stakes where the plants were supposed to be growing.

Conclusion

The good news? Everyone is enthusiastically on-board now. And, the most important critics of all, a few monarch butterflies and lots of bees were spotted enjoying the garden last week!

The beauty of self-seeding annuals is that they do just that, produce flower heads full of seeds that scatter randomly in the fall. Left in place, the seeds get buried in snow and pop up next spring as new plants.

I added butterfly-loving (brightly coloured) perennials, such as coneflowers, milkweed, Russian sage, blanket flowers, and many others to the bed to fill in the blanks between the annuals.

Update on Wildflower Garden

update on wildflower garden

To start off this season I want to provide an update on a wildflower garden I started at the very end of last garden season. It was an experiment I convinced management at our local hospice to permit me to try.

I called it the lasagna method.

Surviving the Winter

Today I visited the site to see how it looked now that winter is (hopefully) behind us. The leaves are long gone as expected in such a windy area. Watering them down did not do the trick as hoped. Wildflower gardens in my future plans will be sure to include an additional layer of soil on top of the leaf layer. I thought of that for this one but the budget did not permit it as it is a huge area.

The good news is that the soil is all still in place with no cardboard peaking through.

update on wildflower garden
update on wildflower garden

There are no new green sprouts yet but it’s still a bit early to expect those. Especially considering we had a few snowfalls as recent as three days ago! There are a few dandelions, of course, something you have to expect from bulk orders of soil.

Winter Sowing Experiment

I do however have sprouts in the other half of this garden experiment. Remember my post on Winter Sowing of seeds? I was ambitious and started seeds in 22 clear plastic containers. They lived out in the elements on my back deck for the winter. We had lots of snow and extended stretches of cold temperatures, so I was leary on how successful this experiment would be.

update on wildflower garden

Permanent Markers not so Permanent

The biggest problem with the experience was that the permanent marker I used to label the containers with was not so permanent. Fortunately, I recorded the numbers in several spots on each container. With the help of my strongest reading glasses, I was (barely) able to decipher the numbers. Phew!

Sprouts!

I did discover a few sprouts in some of the containers, also with the help of my reading glasses. Amazing! I cannot wait until the sprouts are big enough to transplant into their new home. Sorry, these pics are so blurry, the condensation within each container prevented clearer shots. The white squiggly things are sprouts, the last two even have green leaves reaching for the sunlight at the top.

Starting Seeds Indoors

I also started seeds indoors. This I have done before, although I have never had much luck. To increase my chances of success, I purchased two warming mats to keep the seeds and seedlings warmer. Especially as I have them growing in my basement in front of a sunny window…

Designing the Wildflower Garden

In the meantime, I plan to create a design for the placement of the new plants within the sections of the wildflower garden created by the stepping stones. Each type of plant has been assigned a code (A2 or C4 etc) based on the plant’s height at maturity as well as flower colour and bloom time. This way the RSH garden team can simply follow a detailed diagram.

In the center of each section, I will plant tall yellow sunflowers, boneset, purple aster, cleome, and Joe Pye Weed. The next layer will consist of plants a bit shorter in stature. Think purple and grey coneflowers, red sunflowers, various colours of poppies, cosmos, milkweed, goldenrod, steeplebush, and bugbane. A bit shorter yet, black-eyed susans, penstemon, rudbeckia, and verbena will be planted. The final layer will consist of edging (short) plants such as lavender, heuchera, salvia, stonecrop, lamium, and more.

Can you picture it? I can!

I will post another update on this wildflower garden when planting is complete.

Stay tuned!

Pussy Willows and Forsythia for Spring Cheerfulness

Nothing screams spring like pussy willows and forsythia

Spring has sprung! In my world, this is anticipated for months. Nothing screams spring quite like pussy willows and forsythia sprigs. I love both, together, for a colorful, cheerful display at any entrance.

Recently, I spotted some pussy willows at my local grocery store and took them to our local hospice to spruce up the containers at the front door. If you cannot find any at a grocery store in your area, check out the roadsides where you might just find some.

Out with the browned, crispy winter displays and in with a new, cheerful, spring-like look. A few (artificial) forsythia sprigs were added for their spring-like, bright yellow cheeriness. I am not usually a fan of artificial flowers, but unfortunately, forsythias are not quite in bloom yet, at least not here in Ottawa. I found these at my local dollar store; the price was right!

Pussy willows and forsythia just seem to belong together, especially in spring displays…

The red dogwood stems and birch branches were left over from the winter arrangements, left in for their additional colour and texture.

Get your spring on! Find some pussy willows and forsythia branches to create some drama at your front door.

Garden Renovation at Ruddy Shenkman Hospice

gardening business

Recently Gardens4u expanded the front garden at the Ruddy Shenkman Hospice (RSH) in Kanata. I have been volunteering my (gardening) services at RSH for several years now, shortly after it moved to my neighbourhood.

Only the Good Die Young

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…

Next, to save time as well as my back, I enlisted the help of Tim Driscoll of TD Small Loads who scraped the sod and carted it away.

When that chore was complete, we spread the composted manure donated and delivered by Ritchies Feed & Seed on Carp Road in Stittsville.

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!!

Winter Evergreen Arrangements

winter window boxes

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 nighttime pizzazz.

Mulched leaves, great for your garden

Mulched leaves are great for your garden.  They are an inexpensive way to amend your soil and protect tender perennials and shrubs from the wrath of Mother Nature over the winter months.  If your soil is really poor, add a layer of composted manure over top the mulched leaves.  The soil in my Kanata (Ottawa suburb) gardens was predominantly clay, so this fall treatment has really helped over the years.  Your reward will be visible next spring and summer when your gardens look gorgeous.

A previous post described my Toro leaf mulcher and blower. I have since become disenchanted with it as my (old) arthritic wrists cannot handle prying one attachment off to replace with the other to switch from a leaf blower to a leaf mulcher.  This season I purchased a Worx 3-in-1 model of blower, vacuum and mulcher that switches from one action to the other with a simple flick of a dial.  Very easy on the wrists!  No more carrying around a bag of accessories, another awesome feature of this new and improved model.

mulched leaves
3-in-1 action

As with any brand of leaf mulchers, you must wait until the leaves are dry before you attempt to vacuum and mulch them.  Wet leaves will just clog up the motor, resulting in a loud whining noise.  Wet or damp leaves also make for larger pieces of mulched leaves instead of the incredibly fine mulch that is yet another great feature of the Worx model.  Another thing to avoid while vacuuming and mulching is twigs or sticks.  They too will clog the motor, not to mention damage it.

With low overnight temperatures and lots of rain keeping the leaves wet, perfectly mulched leaves was no easy feat these past few weeks.  I found the easiest way around this dilemma was to blow leaves into a single layer in a sunny spot to dry before mulching them.

After discovering how much easier my new Worx model is to use, I donated my old model to the hospice that I volunteer at.  They need it for the blowing function to keep dried leaves from gathering at their main entrance.  If they do decide to switch to mulcher mode, it should not be a problem as the groundskeepers there have stronger wrists than I do.

Buy your new Worx 3-in-1 leaf blower, vacuum and mulcher today, you won’t be disappointed.

Please take a moment to check out my other blog for random thoughts on everything except gardening.

Hospice Care, What is it?

Ruddy Shenkman Hospice

Unfortunately, most people are not aware of what a hospice is until they have the need for one.  If you looked it up in a dictionary, a hospice would be described as a home for the terminally ill.  While hospitals are known for their goals of restoring health,  hospices are geared toward supporting (both psychologically and spiritually) a dying patient and their family.

Years ago I first learned about hospices when my friend was losing her fight with cancer.  A few times per week she attended a day hospice where she met with others in similar situations.  These outings offered her great comfort.  At that time there were no live-in hospices in our community.  Today we are fortunate to have the newly expanded Ruddy Shenkman Hospice that currently has the capacity for ten live-in patients as well as day services.

I volunteer at this hospice on the gardening team.  It gives me great satisfaction to help provide a beautiful setting for patients and their families living and visiting there. The gardens that were planted immediately after the construction were pretty boring, not to mention depressing, with rows of shrubs of which many were dead...

I spent a few days removing the dead sticks and replacing them with recycled perennials, then added mulch.  Much better…

hospice

These beds will look even better in a few weeks when the recycled plants have a chance to get established.

Hospice Gardens Update

It has been a few years now that I have been volunteering my gardening services at our local (RSH) hospice. Thanks to our amazing garden team, the gardens around the extensive property are thriving beautifully. Visit the link in the previous line to see pictures of our most recent finished garden. The story and pictures of a new project, started last fall, can be seen here.

Kanata Welcomes the Ruddy-Shenkman Hospice

The unfortunate fact about hospices is that no one knows much about them until they have the use for one.  I must admit to supporting this fact myself.  In 1991 a good friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 37.  My introduction to hospices and palliative care occurred soon after, and as a direct result of her tragic diagnosis.

My friend Suzanne and I had many things in common; we worked together as laboratory technologists in a local hospital, we both lived in Kanata just a few blocks apart from each other,  both had three children very similar in ages and both grew up in the small town of Cornwall, Ontario.  Although her first “tumor”, discovered in her abdomen shortly after her return to work from her third maternity leave, was diagnosed as benign, a malignant tumor was found in her spine a few years later.  At this point she was given a mere six months to live, but through sheer determination, strength and courage, she lived six more years.

Throughout those six years we became very close.  More of what I would call an acquaintance or co-worker before her diagnosis, she came to be one of my closest friends after.  Within those six years our families celebrated many occasions together: the birth of my youngest son, the first communion of her youngest son, her 25th wedding anniversary, a few milestone birthdays, the new millennium, and more.

Throughout those last six years of her life, Suzanne often visited a hospice to meet with others in circumstances similar to her own.  I know the support, friendship, guidance and care she received there was invaluable to her.  In fact, she would schedule her other appointments around her visits to the hospice.

The recent arrival of the Ruddy Shenkman Hospice in Kanata, located just a few blocks from my home (and Suzanne’s) has stirred up my thoughts about hospices and what they offer.  Since I have recently retired from my hospital job and started a landscaping company GARDENS4U I felt it appropriate and fitting to contact the Hospice to offer my services as a volunteer gardener for their new location in Kanata.

My offer was met with great enthusiasm by Jennifer Lockyer, Volunteer Coordinator and Site Maintenance Manager at the new Ruddy-Shenkman Hospice location.  Although the grounds and potential gardens are currently covered in snow and a lot of construction necessary to complete the Hospice, my meeting with Jennifer and a tour of the portion of the facility currently operational left me with that warm feeling you get when a good relationship is forged.  If you wish to join the gardening team or have plants to share, please contact myself or Jennifer at:

                Loreeebeeulmer@gmail.com or Jennifer.Lockyer@hospicecareottawa.ca

I am looking forward to this new adventure and will be sure to plant lots of “Brown Eyed Suzannes” my affectionate rename of Suzanne’s favourite perennial Black Eyed Susans…

Ruddy Shenkman Hospice Welcome in Kanata

Ruddy Shenkman Hospice

Kanata is the new home of the Ruddy Shenkman Hospice.  The unfortunate fact about hospices is that no one knows much about them until they have the use for one.  I must admit to supporting this fact myself.  In 1991 a good friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 37.  My introduction to hospices and palliative care occurred soon after, and as a direct result of her tragic diagnosis.

My friend Suzanne and I had many things in common; we worked together as laboratory technologists in a local hospital, we both lived in Kanata just a few blocks apart from each other,  both had three children very similar in ages and both grew up in the small town of Cornwall, Ontario.  Although her first “tumor”, discovered in her abdomen shortly after her return to work from her third maternity leave, was diagnosed as benign, a malignant tumor was found in her spine a few years later.  At this point, she was given a mere six months to live. Through sheer determination, strength, and courage, she lived six more years.

Throughout those six years, we became very close.  More of what I would call an acquaintance or co-worker before her diagnosis, she came to be one of my closest friends after.  Within those six years, our families celebrated many occasions together: the birth of my youngest son, the first communion of her youngest son, her 25th wedding anniversary, a few milestone birthdays, the new millennium, and more.

Throughout those last six years of her life, Suzanne often visited a hospice to meet with others in circumstances similar to her own.  I know the support, friendship, guidance, and care she received there was invaluable to her.  In fact, she would schedule her other appointments around her visits to the hospice.

The recent arrival of the Ruddy Shenkman Hospice in Kanata, located just a few blocks from my home (and Suzanne’s) has stirred up my thoughts about hospices and what they offer.  Since I have recently retired from my hospital job and started a landscaping company GARDENS4U I felt it appropriate and fitting to contact the Hospice to offer my services as a volunteer gardener for their new location in Kanata.

My offer was met with great enthusiasm by Jennifer Lockyer, Volunteer Coordinator and Site Maintenance Manager at the new Ruddy-Shenkman Hospice location.  Although the grounds and potential gardens are currently covered in snow and a lot of construction necessary to complete the Hospice, my meeting with Jennifer and a tour of the portion of the facility currently operational left me with that warm feeling you get when a good relationship is forged.  If you wish to join the gardening team or have plants to share, please contact me or Jennifer at:

                                                      Jennifer.Lockyer@hospicecareottawa.ca

I am looking forward to this new adventure and will be sure to plant lots of “Brown Eyed Suzannes” my affectionate rename of Suzanne’s favourite perennial Black-Eyed Susans…