Columbines

Oh the joy of watching the garden bloom! I particularly love seeing some

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of these heritage plants thrive….I admittedly have had some issues related to bugs and, like many of you, am leery of using pesticides. The better choice is to take the time and focus on soil health. While we know that we cannot keep pests out of the garden, using proper plant management will go

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a long way in ensuring plant health and thus, resistance to bugs.

I have worked to build compost and add amendments to the soil for tilth and nutrition. I have also tried to ensure air movement around my perennials and not crop things too tightly. In years past, my columbines have grown in spring,  only to be de-foliated by little chompers.  This year, we are enjoying

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the good health and consequently, good blooms. I love these ‘old-fashioned ‘ ladies….hope you enjoy them too.

Some lilies this year

I have decided I am making a switch: pictures during these insanely busy months, and more writing once things slow down a bit in the garden and in life. I love pictures and enjoy yours, so that is where I am right now!! I barely get my computer on most days! Happy summer!!IMG_3322 IMG_3326 IMG_3327 IMG_3332 IMG_3341 IMG_3342 IMG_3362 IMG_3363 IMG_3364 IMG_3365 IMG_3366 IMG_3367 IMG_3369 IMG_3371 IMG_3373 IMG_3381 IMG_3382

The Stately Iris

Yes, here I go again with more about perennials! And the ‘old fashioned’ ones to boot. If you could do a walk about in my garden, you would see that there is a mix of old and new, and really, I love them all…..right now I am featuring some of the bloomers…..and the iris seems to be pulling out all stops now to put on a show!

I have some new shades that have not yet opened, so please bear with me, and them. One of the things about different varieties is the different bloom times! I IMG_3021almost missed the little early blue iris blooming! The photos are a bit ragged, but still shows the cuteness. I really like this little one. It is the first to open up in the spring, and is quick to multiple, so is a great ‘sharer’. When we started landscaping here 4 years ago, we had several perennials in a ‘hold garden’ that  I had started just for the purpose of holding plants for landscaping! By the time we actually were ready to landscape, several had IMG_3028grown to a shareable size. I had been given some irises from a friend before we moved, and I loved the color. Now having a large plant, I asked my neighbor if he would like some….and yes, he would. The color is quite unique and everyone who sees it would like a start, which I love to do. So, I broke up the plant, taking some of it’s rhizomous root across the street…..the next day, here comes our neighbor, with a WHEELBARROW full of the little blue early bloomer! ‘Would you like some?’ he asks……why yes, yes I would like some…..just not that many! He laughed, told me to take what I wanted and he would give the rest away! So we have this cute little guy, who remains nameless, and has made his home to other yards as well…..I do love the sharing of plants!!!!

I am actually thinking of going neighbor to neighbor with my shovel, and asking what plants they want to share…..wouldn’t that be fun? I can just imagine the stunned looks I would get! Still…….

I often invite friends to come plant shopping in my garden. There are ones that cannot be split or moved, but I will tell them so. Anything else is fair game. I still have a ‘holding’ garden for extras, and when someone wants them, off they go! Of course, some dividing is spring time and some is fall, but I make note of what is wanted and split in the appropriate time.

IMG_3018This cute iris was also a gift, before we moved, from a neighbor. She had a hillside that was covered in irises: some yellow, some white and some in this purple yellow mix. They all bloomed at exactly the same time and it was absolutely gorgeous! This guy always reminds me of her garden….

And then there is the iris Hubby has been keeping for some years now, he had it before we were married….it will IMG_3027open next week…..it is bright white with a purple beard and is a German Iris….tall, gorgeous. Right now the only color is the bud, which would make one think it is a dark flower, but not so!

This one has been split and shared so many times!!! It actually refused to bloom for us for a few years prior to moving, but since we have relocated it here, it never fails to impress.

In the back garden I have some new irises, just planted last fall…..they are slow and only one has buds, but we need to be patient. They are solid white, and solid yellow. I am looking forward to seeing them for the first time.

IMG_3026Finally, in the front, a unique one I planted 2 years ago, now showing off an enormous bloom. I loved the paleness of it…and immediately split and shared with a friend, so it was slower to bloom last year. I think it is making up for it now!!

There are, of course, other things abloom in the garden, but sometimes we lose the beauty by showing too many, so again, I chose just one type of perennial.  Hopefully you enjoyed them!

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Bleeding Hearts

Perennials…..my favorites in the garden by far…..but, I always say that each plant, regardless of size or color or re-bloom, or re-plant…..all have a place in this little space.

Kind of a metaphor for life, isn’t it. No matter who we are or where we come from, how long we have been here, or any other factor, we all have a place….some don’t necessarily fit so well together, but then, a little nudge to the left or right and voila! Beauty!

Okay, I admit I am a little weird at times, but I am also a bit melancholy. We have had a few hiccups in our world, nothing major, but ‘life happens’, and we need to adjust from time to time. This is why I have been missing in action a bit of late. Just taking care of business….and that is how it should be.

We have made our way back to the garden though, and with it, substantial changes. I am especially enjoying the daily change of the colors and foliage and blossoms! I swear my ferns grew 2 feet in 3 days, and what is up with the irises? They are happy happy happy. The rock phlox is nearing it’s finale, with blossoms, and considering the winter kill back, I am amazed that they flower at all!

IMG_3012But today we are looking at the bleeding hearts. I love them. Old fashioned though they may be, they are troupers through and through. The graceful foliage, delicate flowers, and early consistent blooming makes me appreciate them all over again each year.

As a child I remember the one and only bleeding heart Mom had on the east side of the house. As all children, we were fascinated by the weird blossoms. “They really look like a heart” we would tell one another each year. Now that seems like a silly statement, but to a 5 year old, a heart shaped flower is AMAZING!!!! As are so many things in the garden.

Our mother would not allow us to pick flowers without her permission. And even then, we were very limited in what we could pick. She was a practical farm woman, who didn’t want to waste anything, so why would you pick and kill a blossom that could potentially live on in the garden another week or more? Makes sense…when you are an adult…not a child. I have a much more relaxed thinking…..if you like it, and it won’t harm anything….please enjoy!!!

I have only 3 variety of bleeding heart: Dicentra spectabilis, D. spectabilis ‘Alba’, IMG_3013and D. formosa. The first 2 represent the common type, that is easily shared….although the Alba is a white flowering bleeding heart, which is not really all that common. I have the pink ones on the north side of the house, but not up to it, so they receive morning and evening sun. The Alba is on the west, but also is shaded to the south by the garage so it only gets late afternoon and evening sun. I love it. It gets about 2 feet tall and is a beauty.

IMG_3011The fern leaf, or fringed….Dicentra formosa…..I have on the north side and also in an eastern exposure bed…..it is amazing and low growing, and, honestly, I love the foliage more than the flower!!!

Give them a good drink throughout flowering season. They can take sun or shade, but prefer a mix. And, if your climate is quite hot in the summer, the plant will turn brown and disappear, but will show some growth as it cools and it will treat you to it’s regalia in the spring once again!!

Drought & Heat tolerant perennials

So, we’re looking at our gardens, as the tender new shoots of perennials emerge and grow at rapid fire pace…..love this time of the year! But, today I am watering everything, except the lawn. The planting beds are DRY, and it is WARM, so it’s time to give everyone a drink. As I look around at my gardens, some are very deep shade, some are morning sun, some are a mix, and some are full sun all day. Planting always requires some trial and error, but sometimes the areas that cause grief are those with full exposure. And added heat.

I decided to include a short list of some perennials that grow well in these conditions, and are hardy to our northern zone 1 to 3 climates. Oddly, even with 5 months of winter, we have areas in this land that see almost desert like conditions. I spent several years living in such an area, and there are vast differences in the plants that will or will not grow in extreme heat. I know it is hard for some people to visualize anywhere in Canada reaching temperatures in the high 30’s (Celsius) but trust me….we get them! And landscaping stops above 35 degrees!!!

Here is my short list, hardy to heat and to drought…..next time, shade!

Lilies
Lilies
Daisy
Daisy
Daylily
Daylily
Artemesia
Artemesia
blue oat grass
blue oat grass
Catmint
Catmint
heliopsis
heliopsis
Fleabane
Fleabane
Rudbeckia
Rudbeckia
Salvia
Salvia
Russian Sage
Russian Sage
Sedum Spectabalis
Sedum Spectabalis
Solidago
Solidago
Veronica/speedwell
Veronica/speedwell
Stella d'Oro Daylily
Stella d’Oro Daylily
Yucca plant
Yucca plant

Insel Mainau…..not just another garden!

Okay, today I promised myself I would get back to the business of garden blogging IMG_0183rather than travel blogging, but…..just one more and I promise to get back to the

Planting near the entrance: changes yearly
Planting near the entrance: changes yearly

garden. Truthfully, I have seen many posts lately on Facebook about tulips in swaths, and have read some blogs about spring gardens, so, I really couldn’t resist! I am also lamenting the fact that my love of tulips has been sadly stifled by my 4 legged friends who also have a love of tulips…..and the bulbs. We have attempted tulips a few times, having grown some amazing colors and varieties prior, but we learned after the first 3 seasons in this location that the deer are more persistent than the humans (in this case). We have an amazingly successful deer fence up (following a lot of research on the topic: repellants are only slightly successful in deterring my little friends) but alas, I am not yet brave enough to give the tulips a go yet. Maybe in the fall I will change my mind. I think we need at least 2 summers of no chomp before I can feel confident. And, only those who IMG_0179have lost entire crops of fruit and/or veg and/or lilies and/or roses……will fully appreciate my hesitancy. There is a fine line between enjoying these beautiful creatures, and keeping them happily away from my plants….right now we all co-exist and it’s good….and they enjoy some tasty morsels on the other side of the barrier!!!

IMG_0181Back to travel…..located within Lake Constance, also known as the Bodensee, is a beautiful flowering island, accessible by ferry from either Germany or Switzerland. The island has an interesting history, having long been owned (and managed) by Swedish lineage linking back to royalty. We have been to the floweringIMG_0177 island twice, both in May, and it is a relaxing, easy place to see, despite the crowds of people. As it is a strolling island, with a LOT of garden to stroll, it is easy to not notice that you are amongst so many others strolling!

The location within Lake Constance gives IMG_0199a semi-tropical climate, and an amazing array of themes and blooms. Additionally, garden artwork abounds, making this a treat for any eye. Of course, one cannot discount the area surrounding, on the shores of the lake. Both sides have not-so-small, and yet, somehow quaint towns built beside IMG_0191the lake, where you can also enjoy lush plants, little coffee shops, and the ever so amazing European architecture that is old and new, lovely!

Walking into the park requires passing through the entrance, where maps and information is housed. Take a map!! This is at least a half day tour, if you actual want to see things (Palm House, IMG_0204Butterfly House, Orchid house, rose gardens, tulip show, farmyard, Arboretum, Castle….)…..take a light lunch and water bottle as well…..and good walking shoes.  After that, it is impossible not to step past the entrance and find yourself stopping, slowing, and simply taking in the amazing beauty. This tour is so, so good for the cortisol level!!

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Please enjoy….

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Sometimes it’s all about the therapy.

Today will be a shorter post than usual, and I am diverting from our spring here in sometimes cool, sometimes warm central Alberta, to take you on a trip with me to another garden that is very close to my heart. Why, you ask? Well, my husband & I have shared a loss this week, as an important and loved member of our family left this earth. He left us with so many wonderful thoughts and memories, but, of course, it is still difficult. Hence, both of us have spent the better part of the week outdoors, puttering and getting our hands dirty, and utilizing the best garden therapy of all.  I have also scrolled back through some of my garden favs to find some garden travel pics, which is also therapeutic for me…..

Normally at this time of the year, we board a plane to head oversees…for some reason this year we did not. Regardless of that, I am still transported to Europe in my mind, often, each spring. I have been thinking of this particular water garden for some time, and was not actually sure where the digital pictures were. I have the printed ones…..yes, I print all of my vacations….but, as luck would have it, I found them on Hubby’s computer one fine morning, so I will share with you today.

Interestingly, we did not intentionally set out to find this garden, it somehow found us. We had traveled to Germany, then through the Netherlands and into Belgium, in late May. Our friend in Germany had provided information on some open garden tours of private homes and estates, in the Netherlands, so as we ventured off, we planned the first stage of our trip around these (will share another time). We ended up in Bruge, enjoying this amazing Belgian City, then wound our way through some historic areas, ending in a farming picturesque country villa….amazing really!!!!

With no plan for 3 days, we set our GPS to a ‘spot’ on the map, and off we went! DSC_1170That, I tell you, is amazing! Off the beaten path, nowhere we could speak the language, and just seeing some of the most amazing countryside and towns….just wow! And, as we traveled, we saw a sign for this Jardin, of course, we stopped.

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DSC_1160It turns out that this garden is/was built in the style of Italian water gardens, and uses no pumps, electricity DSC_1181or anything other than gravity to create it’s water features! That was what impressed me the most. And the fact that it is over 200 years old! We wandered through the very quiet place (it really was off the beaten DSC_1154path) and strolled up hills to find streams flowing out from the earth, and we followed along a very calm, lovely, zen-like walk. It was amazing.

So, I give a few photos for your enjoyment. It brings me peace to revisit and realize that some things are just fine without our modern touches; nature truly is magnificent.

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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

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