Are you having a difficult time keeping your kids or grandkids entertained during the pandemic? Luckily for me, my grandchildren love the outdoors and nature, giving us lots of options to choose from.
Last week we took a road trip to my grandparents farm where they could run around outside while I had a socially distanced visit with my aunt and uncle.
This week we stayed in Ottawa, driving a short jaunt to the Log Farm. Pandemic precautions were in place, but fairly inconspicuous for the children.
lots of hand sanitizer around the spacious farm yard
masks mandatory in the gift shop and indoor bathroom, but not outdoors
tickets purchased online to control number of visitors
two 90 minute sessions available with farm yard activities cleaned between sessions
attractions, activities well spaced out to encourage social distancing
outdoor bathrooms available
It was a beautiful fall day, perfect for checking out the animals and exploring the farm yard activities. Check out the pictures!
Another popular outing for us takes advantage of the many groomed woodland trails throughout the Ottawa area. My grandkids love to wander through the forests and across the wetland boardwalks, feeding the birds and looking for frogs, turtles and the like.
Hazeldean Woods is right in my neighbourhood, so readily accessible. Now that kids are allowed back on play structures at the city parks, we can walk to the park and through the woods. And back to Grandma’s house, without encountering the Big Bad Wolf!
When the weather keeps us indoors, baking is always a hit, especially the mixing bowl clean up and taste testing!
By the way, in case you were wondering, the feature picture (top of article) is a reflection of my 3.5 year old grandson and I looking for frogs, lying on our tummies on a boardwalk, along one of the mentioned trails.
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.
If you live in the Ottawa area you will know just how much snow we have received recently. Tuesday morning we woke up to an additional 8 cm pushing us over the top for a January record of 97cm of snow in total.
That’s 38 Imperial inches, over 3 feet, for you non-metric folks that still measure in inches and feet. A bit off topic here, but did you know the USA is one of only three countries still (predominantly) using Imperial measurements instead of metric? The other two are Myanmar and Liberia. Americans do however run 5Ks and drink from 1L wine bottles and the such.
Regardless of how you measure it, that’s a lot of snow! Other cities across the nation have also received more than their share of snow, as have many (more than usual) locations in the USA.
Now for some good news. All this snow is good for something and someone. The ski resorts must be thrilled, as would be the snow removal companies. Although those that get paid by the season, (do they still do that, or have they evolved?) instead of the number of times they have to plow, are probably cursing the snow right now. Like most of the rest of us.
I do admit to enjoy shovelling as it is pretty much the only exercise I get during my garden business offseason. Of course, that enjoyment disappears quickly when the snow falls faster than I can keep it shovelled. Now the snowbanks are so high at the edges of my driveway it is very difficult to throw the snow up that high.
Another silver lining (that must be hidden within all those snow clouds) is that lots of snow is good for insulating plants that might suffer from any freeze/thaw cyclesover the winter months. So, if you forgot or never got around to covering your tender plants last fall, you can thank the January record for snowfall.
The worst part about heat waves is the air conditioning you need to keep your home cool. I hate air conditioning, at least my body does, because it does not like to be cold. I hate feeling like its cold outside too, reminds me too much of the winter months where we can’t wait for the weather to warm up.
Every year at this time we (my family members and I) have the same argument on whether to open the windows to cool the house or turn on the air conditioner. I favour open windows, they favour the air conditioning. I usually win until the heat wave arrives. If the temperature does not cool off at night, I cave in and the air conditioner has to come on to keep our upstairs bedrooms cool for sleeping.
Me, I sleep with lots of blankets regardless of the temperature. When the air conditioner is on I really need the blankets, even to sit around watching TV. Even though we keep the setting to 22 degrees, (a concession to me as they would prefer 18) I still get chilled.
We are expecting a heat wave here in Ottawa over the next week or so. Brrrrrrr.
For some reason, the fall season is when many gardeners get the itch to prune back plants in their gardens. The guidelines are as follows, at least for our zone 4 to 5 gardens here in Ottawa, Ontario:
if a shrub blooms early (before June) wait until after flowering to prune. Some examples of early bloomers that need that old wood to bloom on are lilacs, forsythia, bridal wreath spireas, sand cherries, weigela, ninebarks, rhododendrons, viburnum, cranberry bushes, flowering dogwoods, and magnolias.
if the shrub blooms after June, it can be pruned back in the fall or in the early spring when new growth is visible. Examples include Snowball and PeeGee Hydrangeas, spireas (except for bridal wreath), Butterfly bush, smoke tree, hibiscus (rose of Sharon), and red-stemmed dogwoods.
woody shrubs like boxwoods, junipers, and cedars can be trimmed back in the fall too, but also throughout the growing season (spring and summer)
some shrubs are best pruned while dormant (late fall to very early spring, late February to early March) These include barberries, smoke bush, crepe myrtles, spireas (except bridal wreath variety), dogwoods, and cotoneasters.
to rejuvenate shrubs that flower poorly, are overgrown or straggly, cut them back to just above the first bud above the soil while the plant is still dormant. Shrubs that do well with this drastic treatment include spireas, lilacs, ninebarks, forsythias, barberry, weigela, blue mist, forsythia, honeysuckle, and potentilla (cinquefoil). You may sacrifice the flowers the first season after this rejuvenation, but the plant will be healthier.
deciduous (non-evergreen) trees are best pruned when dormant (late winter) as well. It is much easier to see the structure of the tree before the leaves come out. Winter pruning also prevents the formation of bacteria and disease in the cuts. The wounds will heal quickly as new growth starts shortly after pruning.
dead branches can be cut off any time in the season.
after the first frost, remove any leaves from roses and apply mulch to the crowns. This prevents the plants from heaving from the ground during freeze/thaw cycles. You can cut the longs stems of the most tender floribundas, hybrid teas, and grandifloras back to 20 inches before winter too to prevent them from breaking off under a heavy snowfall. Another tip for tender roses is to apply a collar around the bush and fill it (loosely) with leaves. Wait to prune others back until daffodils start to bloom in the spring to ensure the ground temperature is sufficiently warm. Dead or broken branches can be cut off in the fall or any other time of the season. Suckers can also be removed in the fall, cutting them out as close to the base of the plant as possible.
Perennials can be, but do not have to be, dead-headed (remove dead blossoms) and cut back in the fall. Remove sturdy flower stalks (coneflowers etc) right back to the foliage at the base of the plant. Some gardeners like to leave these stalks on the plants over the winter for birds and their snow-covered beauty. On softer plants simply remove the browned and dead looking, limp, or soggy foliage (daylilies, peonies, bleeding hearts, etc) and cut back their stems to six or eight inches from the ground. I like to do everything I can in the fall because spring seems to be so short-lived these days and I run out of springtime hours in the gardens. Whenever you clean up your gardens, remember to harvest the seeds for future (freebie) plants as I did for my cottage garden.
Here are the newest perennial blooms in my own zone 4 to 5 gardens this second week of August;
This ornamental grass is my favourite although it is only an annual here in zone 4 or 5. It makes a beautiful centerpiece for a container or it can be planted right in the garden!
Still strutting their stuff, these perennials are still looking great:
On their way out (unfortunately) are my gorgeous lilies. They will return bigger and better than ever next year though! Every client I have planted some of these lily treesfor have commented on how spectacular they are, well worth the price.
I hope you are enjoying these weekly walks through my gardens…
On a recent trip along the 401 between Ottawa and Kingston in Eastern Ontario, I could not help but notice the toll that the drought conditions have taken on the trees. Usually beautiful, lush green against the magnificent limestone rock cuts, many of the deciduous trees are currently a toasted, brown color. The rocks absorb the heat from the sun making the high temperatures that much more dangerous for the trees. The rocky landscape is not able to retain the limited moisture we have had from rain…
Even though this was mid-August, it looked more like October when the leaves have changed color and are about to fall. Although we have had more rain this past week, I don’t think these poor trees will recover.
This is another rant, based on a pet peeve of mine. I advise gardening clients to use mulch to keep their gardens from drying out and to help reduce weeds. The problem is, some products out there are full of weed seeds, so when I go back to check out gardens two weeks after planting them I see more weeds than were there before I planted! A dead giveaway is that each use of mulch seems to have its own species of weed, today’s was horsetail weed mixed with a coarse grass:
This is not the first time this has happened with this particular brand of mulch. I will be contacting the manufacturer of Scotts Nature Scapes to complain and will avoid this brand from now on.
Too bad, because I do like their choice of colours, and the colour does not fade in the sun like some other brands. My favourite is the dark brown as it looks like wet earth so I think the most natural looking. I also like the size of their bags, big enough but not too heavy for me to load, unload and carry from my van to my gardens.
If anyone can recommend an alternative (weed free) brand (available here in Ottawa) for me to use and recommend to my clients, please let me know! I do use a lot of mulch in a season!