The Small Things in Life

the small things in life

Sometimes the small things in life are what brings you the most pleasure. Especially when you cannot, or have not been able to, enjoy these things. As I have muddled through this past week housebound (other than a few brief outings for fresh air) with a bad cold, I have jotted a few things down…

A Cup of Coffee

I assume it has been my body’s way of keeping me hydrated by making coffee taste awful. Thursday I attempted to enjoy my first cup of coffee in over four days. It never happened. I managed a few sips, but that’s as much as I could choke down. This morning (Saturday) I tried again and got through the whole cup, but I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much.

A Hot Shower

Sad to say this has been my most exciting (and most strenuous) activity this week. After the fiasco earlier in the week, I have learned to enjoy this luxury when someone else is home to listen for any unexpected thumps.

Supermarket Roasted Chickens

My son went out for groceries this week and came home with ready to eat, roasted chickens. Brilliant! One less thing to worry about.

Messages From Friends and Family

Cheery emails and messages from friends and family and even my fellow bloggers have been greatly appreciated this week. A video chat with my two year old granddaughter was a favourite. Her sweet voice and cheery smile always make me smile, this week in my heightened sense of appreciation, even more so.

Clear Sinuses

This whole mess started with a sinus headache that I nursed for several days, over a week ago now, before the nastier symptoms hit with a vengeance. I distinctly remember the popping balloons at my grandson’s birthday party feeling like explosions in my head. Maybe those “explosions” were a sign of things to come. Regardless, I am grateful that my sinuses are now clear, although my nose is on the run.

Soft Kleenex (Tissues)

And now that my nose is on the run, I am appreciating the softness of Kleenex tissues. I admit that I always thought tissue was tissue. My nose will tell you otherwise these days.

An Appetite

My appetite was non-existent most of the week, not so for my chief cooks and bottle washers (hubby and son). This is where the aforementioned roasted chickens came in, to complement their other (take-out) dinners. Last night I managed to enjoy a half order of Pad Thai, my favourite take out dinner. Tonight I baked a (gluten free) lasagna, my first forage into the kitchen in ages. A returned appetite has reminded me of my love for cooking. I’ll leave the clean up for them.

A Pretty Winter’s Day

Looking out my windows today, I am appreciating the beautiful blue sky, snow laden trees and rooftops, the warm sunshine, and icicles, lots of icicles…

I even got out for a short walk when the sun was at it’s warmest, progress indeed!

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.

Perennials in Pots

As an experiment this winter, I am planning to leave some (very) hardy perennials in their big pots on my back deck to see if any survive the winter.  I have planted perennials in containers before but never had much success with leaving them in their pots for the winter.  I have tried rose bushes and ornamental grasses but apparently, they are not hardy enough.  The general rule of thumb is they should be at least two zones hardier than your area to survive in pots instead of in the garden.

So, this season I am trying shrub roses, (much hardier than bushes) false spirea, forsythia, and lilac bushes, as well as a plum and a maple tree, all of which grow prolifically in my gardens.  With the exception of the plum tree that might be a bust, the others are reliably hardy for this area (zone 2).  The two mature plums trees in my gardens send up shoots all over the yard so I won’t feel so bad if the one in the pot does not survive.  These subjects of my experiment have all been grown from cuttings in my ICU...

Anything else currently in pots that I wish to save must be brought in for the winter.  This year that will include a beautiful non-hardy ornamental grass that was extremely expensive, too much so to replace each year…

perennials in pots

I will keep you posted on their survival rate!

Freeze and Thaw Cycles Harm Plants

Many people do not mind rain in winter, as they look forward to spring.  The problem is that the freeze and thaw cycles that go with the rain can be very destructive to plants in your gardens and containers as well as to the containers themselves. 

I leave many container plants out on my back deck for a few reasons.

  • I love the look of plants blowing in the wind, especially the ornamental grasses.
  • Most of the containers are too large (heavy) to move inside
  • I have lots of them so would need a good chunk of time to move them.
  • For some reason time always gets away from me in the fall, so the snow arrives before I get around to moving the planters.

Whatever the reason you have left your planters outside for the winter, you can ensure they survive.  When it rains a lot (as it has been here for the past few days) or a thaw melts snow on top of the pots, be sure to dump out the excess water before it freezes again. If you cannot dump out the excess water, bail it out.   If you do not remove it, the excess water will freeze and your pots will crack.  I guarantee this will happen if the containers do not have drainage holes in the bottom.  If they do have drainage holes the pots may still crack when excessive rain turns to ice.  This happens often here in Ottawa.  One day it is raining and almost balmy, the next freezing cold.

Another trick to protect your garden plants over the winter is to ensure the plants stay snow-covered.  Snow acts as an insulator, protecting plants from freeze and thaw cycles.  I always shovel snow onto my roses growing beside my garage at my front door.  This spot is sunny and warmer than the rest of my gardens because the brick wall retains the heat absorbed from the sun.  This extra heat means the snow melts faster there, so I have to keep shoveling more on.  If you do this, be sure to use snow that does not have salt (from your sidewalk or driveway) in it.

Is it raining where you live?  If it is, make sure the rainwater does not collect on your planters if freezing temperatures are coming next.  Freeze and thaw cycles are brutal on your plants in containers and gardens.

Please visit my garden website for more garden and plant tips

‘Tis the Season for Freelance Writing

‘Tis the season, my freelance writing season, as Gardens4u is now officially closed for the winter…

Gardens4u is closed, freelance writing season is open

Although this past spring and summer were wet and cool, our summer was extended recently with the most marvelous fall weather.  Unfortunately, that has come to an end, and reality is settling in.

Now my other interests are able to take over, with a growing list (I am a list person for sure) of the things I hope to accomplish this winter…

  • reconnect with my freelance writing contacts.
  • finish the quilt I started for my grandson last winter.
  • start and finish a quilt for my granddaughter.
  • make nursery curtains for my new granddaughter due to arrive the end of February.
  • clean out the few remaining closets I did not get to the past few winters.
  • reorganize the walk-in closet in our master bedroom.
  • post more frequently on this blog
  • spend more time with my grandson and granddaughter (and their parents).
  • visit with friends I never seem to find the time to visit during the gardening season.
  • read more books.  If anyone has suggestions for a good read, please let me know!
  • clean my house.  Although most people do their spring cleaning in the spring, I do mine in the winter (silly me) so when spring arrives I can get out and enjoy my favourite season.
  • update my business website, adding pictures from this past season.  Be sure to check them out and add your comments!
  • exercise.  Planks are my favourite exercise for maintaining muscle tone.  Without gardening to keep me in shape I have to work extra hard in the winter to keep pounds from creeping up on my bathroom scale.

Phew, with that list I should be busy until spring when I can start a new garden season!

Check out my freelance portfolio to see if I can help you get some of your projects done.

‘Tis the season

tis the season

‘Tis the season, my other season, (not quite the Christmas season) as Gardens4u is now officially closed for the winter…

tis the season

Although this past gardening season started off wet and cool, it was extended recently with the most marvelous fall weather.  Unfortunately, that has come to an end, and reality is settling in.

Now my other season is starting, with a growing list (I am a list person for sure) of the things I hope to accomplish this winter…

  • finish the quilt I started for my grandson last winter.
  • start and finish a quilt for my granddaughter.
  • make nursery curtains for my new granddaughter due to arrive the end of February.
  • clean out the few remaining closets I did not get to the past few winters.
  • reorganize the walk-in closet in our master bedroom.
  • post more frequently on this blog
  • spend more time with my grandson and granddaughter (and their parents).
  • visit with friends I never seem to find the time to visit during the gardening season.
  • read more books.  If anyone has suggestions for a good read, please let me know!
  • clean my house.  Although most people do their spring cleaning in the spring, I do mine in the winter (silly me) so when spring arrives I can get out and enjoy my favourite season.
  • update my business website, adding pictures from this past season.  Be sure to check them out and add your comments!
  • reconnect with my freelance writing contacts.
  • exercise.  Planks are my favourite exercise for maintaining muscle tone.  Without gardening to keep me in shape I have to work extra hard in the winter to keep pounds from creeping up on my bathroom scale.

Phew, with that list I should be busy until spring when I can start a new garden season!

Snow day for Gardens4u

Today is a snow day for Gardens4u.  I tried hard to get all of my clients’ gardens ready for winter and bulbs planted this week before the snow hit, but will have to wait for better weather before I get them all done.  Fortunately, the weather forecast for the next two weeks is promising to be warmer and greener:

I have been hesitant to cut back most plants in their gardens (and mine too) because everything has looked so nice up until yesterday.  We have had a beautiful fall season with extended bloom on most perennials and annuals.  This snow will take its toll on these perennials and annuals, so they will be ready to be cut back when I get to them next week.

For those of you wondering if it is too late to plant bulbs, you can plant them until the ground freezes.  Plant them pointy side up, or if you are not sure which side is up, on their sides.  I sprinkle cayenne pepper in the holes with the bulbs and over the soil on top of the holes to deter the squirrels from digging up the bulbs.  Another trick is to plant daffodils in the same hole as the tulips.  Squirrels hate daffodils.  Someone told me to try putting banana peels in the hole with my tulip bulbs to deter squirrels.  I haven’t tried that trick yet, but it may be worth a try.  Don’t forget to water your newly planted bulbs.  If your hose has been disconnected and outside water turned off for the season, get some water from your kitchen sink to sprinkle over the planted bulbs.

The snow is pretty today, but I am glad it is not here to stay.  Yet…

 

Palmerston Lake

 

We won’t be swimming anytime soon in Palmerston Lake.  This past Sunday we drove up to our family cottage on Palmerston Lake at Ompah, Ontario to check on the cottage and to see how much snow is left up there…

The lake is still ice and snow-covered; not very inviting.  The top of a birch tree on our property had snapped and fallen onto our wood shed; fortunately its fall was broken by two small deciduous trees, so there was no damage to the roof of the shed.

Like my gardening season,  cottage season (at least the swimming part of it) may be delayed a bit this year thanks to the long, cold winter we have endured here in eastern Ontario…

 

 

 

 

 

Living in a Winter Wonderland…

The weather forecast had warned us we were about to get our first big snowfall of the season, but when I went to bed last night we hardly had any snow, so I thought the storm had missed the Ottawa area.  These are the views I woke up to this morning…

 

out my front door:

 

 

ImageImage

 

and out my back door:

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Beautiful, but lots of work to shovel!