A Room with a View…..

Garden Rooms. For some, this is a logical phrase, for others it is a foreign concept. I like to design in rooms…and so, I will elaborate on what my thoughts are about garden rooms.

This whole discussion started as Hubby and I were sitting outside one fine day (not today, because the temperature took a dip…) talking about the upcoming garden installations. A pond, actually. Oh, and a stream…..2 separate projects. We

Current garden, ground level patio from flagstone
Current garden, ground level patio from flagstone

were sitting on a ground level patio that we put in 2 summers ago, and looking around our yard at the current layout. Our house is ‘walk out’ meaning the basement level has a door at ground level and the main level also has a door at ground level: we are on a hill. We love this site, with it’s quirks, and it has allowed us to us some of our landscaping skills that were on hold IMG_2273after we closed our business. We have steps, walkways, trees, berms, etc. We have a large area, and we share a joint lot with our neighbors allowing us to feel like we have our own private park in the middle, which, in fact, we do! The common firepit is there, along with lots of open space for games and lots of shrubs, etc.

As we discussed the pond, I said to Hubby “I feel like we don’t have enough rooms, and need to incorporate something with this pond”. Guess what? Hubby knew exactly what I meant!! To us, a garden room is an area within the garden that has it’s own defined borders, usually and entrance point, with some ‘walls’ to give the feeling of privacy and coziness. These walls do not have to be 8 feet tall, but are a IMG_3571definition of space, and usually involve a variety of plant material, such as shrubbery, perennials, some hardscape (rock, retaining wall, or trellis). The entrance can be formal, or informal, depending on your wants. I like the use of arbors, and I love using Clematis, or climbing Honeysuckle vines….but these are always open to taste. An arbor needs nothing to look good and can be it’s own structure of entrance.

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Since we are recent residents on this plot of land, we are ever-changing the way IMG_3582things sit. Plants move, trees move, rocks move, chairs move….everything moves to facilitate a new plan. I have designed this garden with several rooms, and a variety of places to sit and chat. Each has it’s own sun requirements, or sun changes during the day, and we find ourselves moving to each based on the temperature, sunlight, amount of people, etc. We really do live in our garden for the warm seasons so rooms are quite necessary.

IMG_3589Although I don’t have many pictures of our current garden (they will come, I assure you) I am posting a few from our past garden, for the visual….(and 2 of this place!)

I encourage you to think about rooms….not just the covered ones with nice furniture, but the ones that allow a cozy place to sit and relax, converse and enjoy the all too short summer season!!! Happy designing! us night gardenIMG_3572

And that’s the kind of day it’s been around here…..

I’m borrowing from my daughter. She often sends me that line on text, along with some photos of the craziness in her little household…and I find it quite amusing! Not as amusing when it is my crazy little household though…but, what the heck….we know it’s going to happen, we wait for it, we think ‘maybe not this year’, and then BAM! It hits like a ton of bricks….spring snow….the wet, heavy, branch breaking, road closing kind of snow.

It just so happens that we were at said daughters when this hit, but our friends kept us updated via Facebook and text, so we were quite prepared for what would await us when we arrived home. Thankfully, our neighbors were watching our house (heard a story about this on CBC Radio….make sure you do this for insurance FYI…..thought everyone knew that, but apparently not the case!) and they did some tree shakin’ for us…all the fruit trees and ornamentals, and some of the natural/wild tree branches. Thanks to them, we did not lose any trees or branches, others, however,  were not so lucky. Most of the casualties were wild trees, not domestic, but still….the downed branches are sad.

The big shocker for us was arriving home to see our black metal pergola slumped to the ground! I mean, seriously crashed. Down. In a heap. And, in my sadness, I didn’t take a picture! It wasn’t the snow, though, but a horrific wind! Who would have thought? The pergola itself would probably have been fine as it is airy, not solid, but we have a garden bench beneath it, and I am certain the wind caught it, toppling the whole works. I was stunned! and sad. But, as you may have noticed from previous posts, I am married to a pretty good guy, so today, when I arrived home from a day at the office, our pergola is once again standing, albeit with the help of a support brace….hubby and friend somehow hoisted it back upright and installed the brace, then hubby set to work manufacturing some angle brackets to replace the ones bent and ruined. The old ones were very flimsy, not so much any more!!! He really is good at this stuff….and he has a whole garage full of kept items

Forsythia
Forsythia

that he always says ‘someday we are gonna need this’ and he is always right!!!! Very very proud of him…..even though I give him a completely hard time about keeping all of that ‘junk’…..I’m learning to keep my mouth shut, but I am a work in progress….

Today was beautiful, bright, sunny, almost making me forget about the snow IMG_2961 IMG_2965fall…but there is evidence. I did my walk about,and discovered all kinds of great and growing wonders! It is indeed still very early, but the leaf buds are really bursting, as are the perennials. Some of the daffodils are blooming and others are just about there….next week. The little ‘crocuses’ (not their real name but that’s what everyone calls them) are sooooooo sweet, even as they shine through the snow! And, of course, the perennial ‘prairie crocus’ is starting to show it’s colors as IMG_2968well….I’m in love all over the place!

So, as ever, with the bad comes good and vice versa….keep looking for the silver lining….it’s there!IMG_2963

Tail Creek Greenhouse: so worth the visit.

IMG_2919I promised earlier that I would showcase a couple of the local greenhouses and today, I am writing about one I have a special place in my heart for. As always, we are drawn to everything for a reason….doesn’t matter if it’s the friends we choose, the places we shop, the clothes we wear, the place we live, the career we have….everything reflects a part of us. And also says something about who we are.

I work (paid work that is) as a Community Facilitator, which means that I spend my employed time working with various communities, bringing together volunteers, organizations, citizens, non-governmental groups, municipal staff/leaders, and health & wellness staff to seek ways to create communities that are happy, engaged, healthy and a place people want to live! It’s a great job. We are looking at ways to assist in decreasing chronic illness by increasing healthy communities….and I do love what I do. It is a part of me in every way. In fact, I also do this as a community volunteer in my home community, because I want it to be the best!

I also have studied Horticulture, and am a Master Gardener….again, something I love! Love! LOVE! I am happily working in my garden, along with the gardens of many others, to create spaces that are enjoyable, sustainable, edible, etc.

I have a partner who shares many of my passions. He is easy going, but challenges me a lot….which can be a good thing, when I chose to see it that way. He loves our children, and our extended family and he came into our lives later in life. He was one of the best choices I made.

I shop in small, home grown places as much as possible, and I try to support local: IMG_2928retail, farmer, restaurants….I believe in that. I have been a small business owner, competing against big names….tough slugging my friend!

So, it was no surprise to me that shortly after moving to our current home, I worked for a few seasons with Tail Creek Greenhouses. I started out just wanting IMG_2913to work in a gardening environment following our house build, but when I met the owner, I knew she was my kind of person! She is a gentle soul, who is passionate about her work, striving for it to be of the best quality at all times. And, she loves animals, sharing her farm with IMG_2914an array of domestic creatures. I am not sure if I have heard her angry…although I am sure she has been….

The Greenhouse is located in a rural setting, as you have no doubt gathered. It is not huge. The owner seeds many of her own plants, and some she purchased as ‘plugs’ ready for planting. The Proven Winner series have to be grown by certified growers, so these and others she purchases.

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I love her veggie selection, and her herbs! I always stock up on these, needed or not….can you really have too much basil??? Trouble is, I also grow my own from seed, but I make and freeze pesto, tomato sauces and other assorted condiments.

Transplanting table
Transplanting table
Babies ready to hit the sales house
Babies ready to hit the sales house

I also really appreciate the cleanliness and care of her operation. She is very careful with this, and it is evident by the plants and also by taking a walk through.

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The Greenhouse is not yet open, as she does not operate year round. She sells only plants, not giftware or seeds, so operates seasonally from May to July. I popped in to have a visit this week, and she allowed me the opportunity of some photos, so I am sharing with you! I will go back after she is open, of course, but this is a little taste of one of my favorite places to be. IMG_2915 I hope you enjoy! But really, so much better in person!!

So much to do….

As always, we wait impatiently for spring to arrive, and then it does…… and we are overwhelmed with the ‘chores’ that need ‘doing’….I personally love the chores, but there are others in my house (not mentioning any names, but there are only 2 of us) who are not quite as keen! And, really, I understand completely. I hit the ground running each and every spring….this one is no exception. Here’s my starter list:

  • Add a stepped bed to the raised bed area.
  • Make trellises for the sweet peas.
  • Get well rotted manure from a friend’s farm for the garden boxes.
  • Fix up the deer fence, to make it REALLY deer proof.
  • Add 2 gates to the deer fence.
  • Hand fairy lights under the deck.
  • Get a load of rock for the pond.
  • Dig the pond!
  • Get old tires for the kid’s play area.
  • Install the clothes line.
  • …………..

So you see, hubby has every reason to be a bit nervous when I head out doors….and you may have noticed that I said ‘starter’ list….but just to be clear, he does not work on this list by himself…far from it. We are both working together, and he takes his portion, I take mine. I have not added onto this particular list the normal spring activities, such as turn the soil, dig out dandelions, make one or two dump runs of winter debris, rake, divide perennials, seed annuals…….those little jobs are all second nature. My list for spring is of the ‘extras’.

And now you are asking ‘what kind of crazy slave-driving woman is this??’ Not true. Here’s the thing: we all make lists. In our heads, on paper, on the garage wall….How we deal with them is another thing all together. We can easily look at a list as an ‘OMG’,  and have heart palpitations just considering it, or we can look at it is an organizational tool, that gets our thoughts and ideas all neatly placed together, for a manageable size, and something we can cross completed tasks off of. In our house, we have a white board in the ‘porch’ entry off of the garage. It’s the first thing we see, and it has our upcoming meetings, appointments, and house/garden tasks listed out in different colors. Yes, yes I am a little OCD when it comes to lists, but for my own mental well being, this is what works for me. I am this way in all aspects of my life: my work desk has several note books that are ‘listicized’ and I use them! I also use my online calendar, email, and task list. I need to. I am very, very easily overwhelmed by anxiety, so if I can take a look, sometimes just a glance, it is my personal reminder that all is fine, things will not be forgotten, and we will get there in time.

And that, my friends, is the second part of this equation. I have had to learn a difficult lesson that not everything on the list will get done in my time frame, or at least not in a big hurry. It has been my husband who has helped me with this lesson. He is pretty much the polar opposite of my frenzied nature, and is about as laid back as they come! Sometimes it makes me want to whack him but most of the time, it keeps me sane. I prioritize the list, with his input, and we do our best. Is this easy for me? Most of the time, but it did take me a while to figure out the the world will not stop spinning if we don’t get the side walk laid tomorrow! And, truthfully, it has given me a reason to cut myself a little slack.

We really can get in our own way at times, especially when there are a lot of tasks at hand, and we need to give ourselves permission to 1: get organized & 2: breathe! Yes there are a lot of things to do, and a lot of tasks at hand, but there are also a lot of moments we lose forever if we don’t intentionally take the time to NOT run in circles.

So whatever is on your task list, I hope you can see it as an opportunity to be creative and share your skills, or just enjoy your time in nature, with a good person at your side, or in solitude as the mood may strike. Remember to stop and see the beauty, hug your friend, kiss your children, take a walk, sit on the deck and just be!

Happy tasking!

Pruning

This is a great time to take a look at woody plants and see where they need cleaned up or pruned a bit. Here in my yard, some of the shrubs and trees are breaking bud, and some even have little leaves emerging….makes me a tad nervous, as we can get some seriously harsh frosts for another 3 weeks, and can even see more snow, hoping that it is not the case! But, nature responds to the extended day light hours and warming of the air and soil, so here come the leaves!

I did a lot of cleaning around the yard this weekend, and took note of some of the plants that need a little care. As always, winter has left damage on some of the branches, thus needing attention, and there is also some animal damage that will need to be pruned back. I like to give everything some attention, prior to leaf set, as this is when you can see where branches are laying, and prune accordingly.

A couple of rules apply to most trees: If branches are rubbing one another, prune off the one who has grown out of order….often a ‘water sprout’ branch will grow from an established branch, and is usually a very rapidly growing, straight upwardly moving branch. These are generally a result of some tree stress, and should be pruned out. They are very common on fruit trees, and because they grow upward instead of outward, they are often the cause of rub. Also on fruiting trees, prune out some of the branches each spring, in an effort to help the tree be effective in producing good fruit without being over burdened. Prune top branches down, to keep fruit trees from getting so tall, it is impossible to pick from them. Check for cracked bark, or places where sap is oozing from winter damage. If the branch is not too large, prune it back, but remember that trees are very good healers, so if you are worried about damaging the tree further, leave it be….nature is amazing at mending itself.

My lilacs are starting to really pop with leaf buds, and generally, I prune lilacs right after they are done flowering, as they set flower buds late in the summer, so spring pruning will result in a loss of flowers. I do have one that I didn’t get pruned and need to snip off the old seed heads from last season, but that is all I will do right now.

I also pruned my birch late in the summer….both birch and maple should not be pruned in the spring, as they will run sap from any cut, and may ‘bleed’ to death.

Evergreens also do not need to be pruned until later in the spring….late June is a good time to do this. While many evergreens are fine without pruning, some of the low growing junipers do need a little pruning from time to time to keep them in check. Try to wear good leather gloves, and prune back to a joint, rather than shearing evergreens. They will appreciate this effort and reward you with lovely green growth.

Clematis also needs tending in the spring, depending on the category you are growing. I grow Clematis ‘C’ group, as they bloom only on new wood and can be cut back to the ground each spring. They grow quickly and are wonderful summer bloomers. Group ‘B’ will bloom on both old and new, and ‘A’ on only old wood. I have found that there is limited guarantee of the woody stems surviving the harsh winter season, so it is difficult to get blossoms from category ‘A’ here.

My shrubs are needing a bit of tending, but these I will leave for a little while longer. I have several varieties of Spirea throughout the yard, and some are showing leaf, but some are slow to start. Be patient….it is very easy to think that a shrub has no life, and hack away at it, to find the little stems are green inside, and some time would have been all they need! My Ninebarks are in the same category: just not sure how much damage they have, so I will wait. They are very forgiving anyway, and can be pruned back any time. Also, follow the rule of cutting out one third of the shrub branches each spring. This will allow new ones to grow each year and rejuvenate your shrubs wonderfully. Just be sure to prune these right back to the crown or as close as you can!

Pruning is not difficult, use sharp tools, cut close to the branch if taking a whole stem, or prune back to a leaf node, and always cut at an angle! But do prune! Your trees will thank you! And right now, while you can see the bare branches, is a perfect time for fruit and ornamental trees!

One of the joys of spring…….

IMG_2903I am not sure if there is a favorite spring activity…..I really love spring…not so much the accompanying wind, but we take the good with the bad! Today is Saturday, and we are determined to get out there and clean up some of the winter leftovers…and fall left overs….and summer leftovers…..and veggie scraps….

It has been a busy week in this house…..Hubby and I are both part of several Volunteer Boards, and one of them hosts the yearly Volunteer Appreciation event…see earlier post on that…my role is the organizing, poster making, etc, and hubby’s role is going to the local business community to solicit donations for our silent auction. He never fails to impress me with the amount and array of goodies that come our way!

IMG_2897We discovered a ‘find’ earlier this spring, as we were en-route to the grocery market. When I say en-route, it is simply because our little hamlet has a very limited supply of grocery items, therefore, we travel 45 kms to a larger center for most of our shopping needs….but I must set the stage a little for those not familiar with the central Alberta landscape….we chose to make this our home because of the amazing beauty of the area. Rolling hills, farmland, forested areas, small lakes, and vastIMG_2892 blue skies are all a part of our daily lives. I love it. In the 5 years we have been here, I have yet to take the drive from home to any neighboring town, and not be awed by the glorious beauty of nature and this landscape! We have deer aplenty, (not always great for the garden, but that is another post to come!), and enjoy the horses, cattle, bison, and other assorted farm animals we see as we IMG_2890travel…so on this fine shopping day, we topped a hill, and over the edge, noticed a blue sign (part of travel Alberta) for Tranquility Greenhouse. Having never seen the sign, nor visited this greenhouse, we decided to take a tour. As it happens, the Greenhouse has only been in this location for one year, opening last season. Because of the rural setting (and I do mean rural….off the main highway, on gravel by about 5 kms) it is unknown, thus prompting the addition of the blue sign!

It is quaint and beautiful all at once. We were early, so the outdoor products were not yet set up, but as you enter, you are greeted by an amazing little gift shop, full IMG_2906of country chic items. The owner sells milk paint, which I love, and has not a large store, but a worthwhile addition to her Greenhouse. I browsed through, and purchased a few items, including these glass door knobs that I re-purposed for a jewellery rack…..and painted with Milk Paint!

Hubby chatted with the owner, as hubby does, and gathered all kinds of info! Where they are from, how long they lived IMG_2899here, how many kids they have, what animals are on the farm, if they would like to donate to our Volunteer Event….you see where this is going….he is amazing in his ability to do this!! Armed with a new local business to visit and the promise of a donation, we carried on our way.

2 weeks later, hubby returned to Tranquility Greenhouse, with my camera, and IMG_2893snapped some pics of their establishment. I love the use of re-purposing old furniture and wash tubs for planters! Her gift is her uniqueness of planters, and arrangements, and it is worth a visit. She is not a seed starting Greenhouse, as some others, although she does start some of her own product. Having worked for another greenhouse,  I IMG_2896see the differences, and it is the differences that I love. Each greenhouse offers something unique to the whole.

On that note, I am not ‘advertising’ for these places, but recommending them if you are nearby. I plan to post later about 2 other local greenhouses I love as well…..these places are therapeutic to the soul, even if one does not plan to purchase….just find your local greenhouse or flower market and hang out for an hour or 2. I guarantee you will feel refreshed and revived!!IMG_2900IMG_2895

Happy National Volunteer Week!!!

Just need to put a plug in here to all of the volunteers that keep our communities alive and well!! We are on the final day of National Volunteer Week in Canada, this year’s theme being that we are ‘all part of the ripple’. As we toss a stone into the water and watch the waves go ever outward, so is the effect of our volunteer action. You may feel like a drop in the bucket, but the ripple effect is profound.

I am fortunate to be involved in several volunteer activities in this little community, and last evening, we celebrated together in a Volunteer Appreciation Event. Potluck supper, beautiful flowering annuals as gifts, an amazing array of donated silent auction items, entertainment and great ‘shoulder rubbing’. All of this in a little community of less than 500!!!! In my world of wearing many hats, I get to put on the professional Community Facilitator hat from time to time, right here at home, and I am ever so proud of the collaborative efforts, the extra miles and the strong spirits of my neighbors and friends, in making this place a community of belonging.

So, congratulations far and wide to the many, many, many volunteers who put in the time and heart to keep our communities growing!!!

And, I had to participate in the Silent Auction…..so here is my new take home! Made by a local artisan, and available at our resident Antique shop!!! I love it. IMG_2905