Sedum Saved the Day!

Its been a busy week as I work on my book while listening to the guys renovating my home upstairs. On top of that I had the windup for our community garden to think about. It was a potluck so food wasn’t the issue. It’s all the details that need to come about to make the night fun. First thing on my mind all week as what I would be using for centerpieces. I hoped to use fresh flowers from the garden and anxiously watched as the leaves slowly fell  and the weather turned cold.

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This beautiful pineapple sage was my flower of choice for the arrangements. Then it happened. -6C happened overnight. My pineapple sage had endured lows of -1C but the -6C was the last straw. It looked dead yesterday morning. What could I find in the garden to replace it? I grabbed a large basket and some secateurs and off I went in search of plant material.

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This is what I found. The leaves of Cotinus coggygria looked amazing and few leaves have dropped from this shrub. I threw several stems in the basket. I pinched a few evergreen branches off a tree along the waterway that borders the yard. I love the smell of fresh evergreens. As I walked by my herb garden I picked a few stems of rosemary. They would add fragrance to the bouquets. I walked around the garden but there wasn’t much to be seen in the way of flowers until I reached the rose arbor. The Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ was in full bloom with its deep intense maroon colour. It would blend well with the leaves of the smoke bush or Cotinus.

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I grabbed about five vases and went to work placing a few stems of each in a vase. Is it just me or do all gardeners accumulate vases? I must have fifteen vases to choose from but picked all the crystal ones for last night’s celebration.

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I love the blueish green highlight s of this evergreen. Once the vases were filled they were heavy and I had to figure out how to transport them to the event.

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I remembered the cute flower box with a handle that hubby had put together in the spring. I was able to fit all five vases in the box .

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The flowers made it to the event safely and with a bit of rearranging they were added to the tables. It’s not normal for my garden to be without flowers so the Sedum saved the day. It won’t be long before the winter flowers open with the yellow buds of Jasmine and pink buds of Viburnum bodnantense.  I can’t imagine a month without blooms, can you?

Novembers Garden Tasks for Delta

November garden tasks for Delta

I don’t like to talk about winter but with our first frost happening this week, its time to think about protecting your garden. If you haven’t brought your containers near the house or inside to protect them from the elements now is the time. I like to bring my hardy plants in their containers to a position close to the home. If it gets extremely cold I can cover them easily if grouped together.

november garden tasks for DeltaUse burlap to wrap your pots for extra protection. I am very lucky to have a greenhouse to bring things inside but the only heat I use is a small heater. As long as the greenhouse is around 5C everything survives, even the Geraniums and Boston Fern. Last year our winter dropped to -10C which made it hard to keep things warm in the greenhouse. I used some bubble wrap to carefully cover my precious plants and it worked. I didn’t lose a thing.

I like to place cut evergreen boughs in my containers. I have a couple of containers planted with bulbs and sure don’t want to lose them. If you don’t have evergreens in the yard that can be spare a few branches then check out the garden center. As Christmas trees arrive as so will boughs of evergreens for decorating. I like to use my cedar and Osmanthus branches for decorating.

November garden tasks for Delta

Skimmia is a pretty choice with its tiny rose-coloured flowers in bloom now. So why didn’t I just plant them? The container is so full of bulbs there is no room for plant roots. If you haven’t planted spring bulbs get them in as soon as possible for a good showing next spring.

November garden tasks for Delta

Take a walk in your garden to watch for fallen branches that may come down during stormy weather. Collect them and compost what you can. Use branches to decorate your containers. Branches from red twig dogwood  or blueberries look great popped into a container. It gives your container that needed vertical element.

November garden tasks for Delta

Be sure to rake the leaves off your lawn. Too many leaves can suffocate your lawn. Rake the leaves on to garden beds and let them naturally protect your garden. Yes, that’s my yard above. It’s a daily chore to rake the leaves in November.

November garden tasks for Delta

Did you cut your garden back this fall? If not, don’t worry about doing it now. You don’t want to walk on frozen soil. Let the leaves turn into compost like Mother Nature does in the forest. In the spring, many perennials like Hostas are easier to rake up as they have decomposed.

November garden tasks for Delta

We are very lucky to live in the pacific northwest as winters are usually mild and only three months long. We seldom have a hard winter like many other parts of the country and I am grateful for that.  Once its too cold to work outside start reading all those wonderful seed catalogues that start coming in the mail. Plan your garden, sort through your seeds and decide what you will plant next year. Do you need more seeds?

November garden tasks for deltaBefore you know it spring will arrive with the appearance of snowdrops begging you to come back outside.

Its November and Flowers are still Blooming!

There is nothing better than living on the south-west coast of British Columbia. Here we can enjoy cool summers and mild winters with our zone 8 climate. I was surprised to see how many flowers were still in bloom in the garden. I had wanted to get some fall foliage photos but took many flower photos as well. There is a hint of cold weather on the way. When we think cold weather here we usually mean around freezing or just above. Its time to think about bringing my Echeveria inside the house as the greenhouse has no heat. There are so many last minute tasks to do in the garden before it freezes. If only the leaves would drop so we could be done, right? This gardener likes to put her feet up for a bit during the winter to plan next year’s garden.

look what is blooming in November

Above is Salvia elegans or pineapple sage. I have always loved this plant for its striking red flowers.  I planted it in my vegetable garden and it is quite the sight. It has grown to three feet high and wide and came into bloom in October. I was actually worried it wouldn’t bloom. Not a walk goes by that I don’t grab a leaf to smell the heavenly scent of the leaves.

Look at whats blooming in November

I rarely buy Chrysanthemums for the garden as I find they don’t come back the next year. The one I have planted with Heather in a  large container continues to surprise me. The Heather is crowding it out so it needs to be moved. I love the orange tones of fall on this tiny flower. It’s no more than six inches high. Obviously its a tough plant to come back year after year in a container. The container will be brought close to the house during the cold winter months just to give it a little added protection.

look at whats blooming in November

I still have Nasturtiums growing in the garden. This single flower is poking out of a container of blue grass. The grass is on its way out. It’s too invasive to go in the ground but sure doesn’t like this container. Any takers? I was gifted this plant and it looked wonderful in their yard. Perhaps it needs more sun than it is getting.

look at whats blooming in novmeber

This Primula is blooming out of season. It was from a gift basket that I planted out last year. Pretty colour but I can just hear the slugs calling their friends to say dinner has arrived. I was told the other night that if your plants such as Rhododendrons are blooming again in the fall that it’s a sign of a bad winter ahead. It’s quite common for some plants to send out the odd flower in an off-season but it shouldn’t burst into full bloom.  Not that we can control how the winter will be but tender plants should be protected in some way. I bring my tender plants in the greenhouse but you can shelter plants temporarily in a closed garage as well.

look at what is blooming in November

This is a blurry photo but I cannot wait for this to bloom. Yes, you can have flowers from now until February if you just plant Viburnum bodnantense ‘Pink Dawn’. It’s a medium-sized shrub. Mine is very mature and probably about twelve feet high and about ten feet wide. I would not do without it.

 

look at whats blooming in November

Just take a look at how the Viburnum will look during the winter. As soon as the leaves drop the flowers start to open. If you are looking for winter fragrance this is the shrub for you. Who says we can’t have flowers year round?

look at whats blooming in November

My Weigela shrub was also sporting a couple of blooms. This plant blooms twice during the season. Once in early spring and them again in summer. It’s nice to see flowers in November but kind of unusual. This is one of our mildest November’s on record.

Look at whats blooming in November

As we move forward into winter, look for plants such as Hellebore to brighten up your winter garden. There is nothing better than seeing flowers during the grey winter months. It just helps us remember that spring is not far away.

How to Collect Basil Seed

I love growing basil and this year has been one of our best growing seasons. Warm weather plants such as basil, pepper and tomatoes have loved our long summer heat. Now that fall is upon us I have been out harvesting seeds from the basil plants. I grew both sweet Genovese basil and Thai basil but preferred the sweet over the Thai. So it was time to see if I could collect some seed for next year.

How to collect basil seed

With colder temperatures returning at night I had to harvest the last leaves of basil. I could see some cold damage on the leaves and I was able to harvest enough basil to make a bit more pesto sauce. To harvest seeds from your basil plants you must let them produce flowers, even if its on just a few plants. Basil produces tiny white flowers which are loved by bees. I left the flowers to turn brown on the plant and brought several stems in the house. The round brown bits along the stems are the finished flower buds.

How to collect basil seed

It wasn’t a lot of basil to use up but after a quick wash I was able to make some pesto sauce. I will be happy to have some in the freezer for winter meals.

How to collect basil seed

I took the stems of the dried basil flowers and ran my fingers along the stem to loosen the flower buds off. I used a large dinner plate to place the flower buds on as it would make searching for the seeds easier to see.  The basil seeds are black so I used a white plate.

How to collect basil seed

I tried sifting through the buds and squeezing them gently to loosen the seed but it was a very slow process. I needed a way to thresh them. I rolled my hand into a fist and gently crushed the flower buds over and over. It was still a bit time-consuming so if you have an easier way to do this, I am all ears. I could have placed the flowers stems in a brown bag and left them for a few weeks. I am sure it would have worked and the seeds would have fallen out in to the bottom of the bag after some more drying time.

How to collect basil seed

As I kneaded the seed heads I could see tiny black seeds appearing on the plate. I carefully picked them off the plate and placed them in a bowl. There is a lot of chaff compared to the amount of seed. The chaff can be composted once you have found your seeds.

How to collect basil seed

I was able to get enough seeds to use next year from just a few basil branches.  I am sure there are over 60 seeds in the bowl and that will be more than enough. I do not need to grow thirteen flats of basil like I did this year. I think six flats will be plenty. Be sure to place your fresh seed in a labelled envelope. Store all collected seed in a cool garage that is frost-free.

Food For Thought

Food for thought

Last week I read with interest the story in our local paper about the hiring of a consultant to come up with a plan to keep local business thriving. You see, we are about to get a huge mega shopping center in the next two years with a store like Walmart as the key anchor. The community is worried about losing business to this mega giant of a chain. It’s interesting as I remember too well how worried Save On Foods was when Walmart came on the grocery scene years ago. Yes, there was a time when Walmart didn’t exist here. Now its common to see them in bustling communities. Have they impacted Save On Foods business? Not really. Has it hurt the smaller businesses? Yes, in some cases it has. So what can we do as a community to promote local business?

But wait, I have an idea. I will let you ponder this one and let me know what you think. About six months ago, I watched a very inspiring ted talk by Pam Warhurst. Pam Warhurst started the Incredible Edible Project in Todmorden , England, a small town like ours. I will attach a clip of it for your viewing pleasure. I watched and listened as she showed photos of what her volunteers had done. I thought to myself, could we replicate this in our community? Could we bring people to our town and shops this way? Why not?

Food for thought

I agree with Pam that we all talk and center our conversations around food. I like to frequent the local cafes and join a friend or parent for conversation. We all do. Imagine how people would stop to look at food planters and wonder what happened. It could create conversation. So many people have never seen how food grows. Did you know the most asked question at the community garden is what is that plant as people refer to brussel sprouts. Yes, many have no idea how food grows. This is our chance to show them and help our local businesses.

So here are my thoughts. We start small by installing a few planters about town. They need to be raised because dogs, need I say more. We need to form a committee of volunteers to get this off the ground. It’s not hard. I did the same thing when starting the Ladner Community Garden. We need people who love this idea, love gardening or have a business in town.

Food for thought

Where do we start? Perhaps we can start by using one of the city planters, just one at first. Lets plant it with rhubarb  in the center followed by a display of lettuce and early season crops. In summer, this can be followed by potatoes or tomatoes. Just look at the flowers above and tell me they aren’t pretty.

Will it look good is what some people will say? To them I say, why wouldn’t it? Done right, the planters will be amazing. As I think about all the wasted space along Chisholm street that could be used to grow food and flowers, why aren’t we?

Food for thought

We could plant a large herb container in front of the kitchen store. It only makes sense. How about a tea plant with herbs near Stir House coffee? A pizza garden could be planted by Vagellis. Imagine a planter loaded with fresh ripe tomatoes, surrounded by basil and peppers. The ideas are endless.

Sure, some of the food may be taken but perhaps this is our way to help the less fortunate. One thing I know is this.  I don’t know of any other community doing this in BC. Why not be the first? What have we got to lose? Its cheaper than hiring a consultant. We could start small and grow our project. We could produce a food map for Delta. The map could be used by tourists to bring them to see our village. So tell me what you think.

How to Make a Halloween Pumpkin House

Are you looking for a Halloween project that’s just a bit different? Here on the west coast of BC rain has arrived and this is a great indoor project to do with your children.  I wanted to create a miniature garden scene inside a pumpkin. So off to the garden center I went in search of the perfect pumpkin. It’s not like I didn’t have a twenty pound pumpkin sitting by the front door. It was way too large for what I had planned.

How to make a Halloween pumpkin house

I finally chose this one as it’s just a medium size pumpkin and will sit well where I want it to go. It also had to be able to sit on a flat surface and not wobble over. The pumpkin needs to be in scale with your project. Too big a pumpkin will have your miniatures looking out of scale.

how to make a halloween pumpkin house

Today I had some free time so I carved the top of pumpkin like you normally would. It’s such a messy job with all the stringy insides sticking to your hands. It was time to scoop the seeds out and place them in the compost. Next I carefully cut an opening in the front. Above is the first hole I cut and decided that it wasn’t quite big enough so I made it a bit larger all the way around.

How to make a Halloween pumpkin house

You see, I wanted to place a plant saucer inside for extra stability. The opening was just big enough for me to slide it in. I started to add some moss before I did the photo so it’s a bit messy. I had all my Halloween decor with me and couldn’t wait to try it out for size. Try looking around at your local thrift shops for cute little figurines to use for your pumpkin scene. It could be anything from ghosts, witches and goblins.

How to make a Halloween pumpkin house

I lined the plate with green moss that I had leftover from making terrariums. It was just enough. Ugh, it seems like there is always one more strand of pumpkin goop to remove. I will never be completely done. I know, patience.

How to make a Halloween pumpkin house

I played around with some figurines. I like the scarecrow holding the ghost best. I have a witch but she is kind of creepy. I used the pumpkin rocks I made last year. If you want to see my Halloween miniature garden from last year, click here. I found some artificial fall leaves at the thrift shop this week. I knew they would come in handy. I removed the leaves carefully from the stem. Maybe they could line the entrance of the pumpkin.

How to make a Halloween pumpkin house

I tucked the leaves in around the opening of the pumpkin and placed some extra pumpkins at the sides. I decided to add the witch to the outside of the display along with a few more pumpkins. Not so bad for a rookie. I think next time I will use a deeper plant saucer and plant some tiny plants in soil. I may just add a battery operated tea light in a black pot. Hmmm… I see another trip to the thrift shop. I love reusing found items. Now if only I could find a cauldron. Perhaps just painting the plastic tea light black on the outside would do. That’s my next project.

How to make a halloween pumpkin house

I decided that my pumpkin house needed a bit more light so I cut a window on each side of the pumpkin. Windows make all the difference! I should have done this before everything went inside but it didn’t make any difference. I have placed this pumpkin scene on my dining room table. If you have a covered porch it would sit outside just fine. Unfortunately here the rain would turn it into mush so inside it stays. I get to enjoy it everyday.

Making a Halloween pumpkin garden

Update: Well, I am going to call the project done. I wasn’t able to find a cauldron but this log will do. It’s a cute story behind it. It turns out the local high school students were learning how to weld in a metalwork class and each made a metal stump with an axe on top. I placed a pumpkin rock on top and shifted things around to make everything fit.

7 Great Plants for Fall Colour

Fall is the perfect time of year to see great colour in your garden. If your garden is lacking in fall colour, get out and take a walk or a drive to see what others are planting in their gardens. The sign of a great garden is that it has strong bones in the winter. This is usually in the form of evergreens and deciduous trees. A tree with out leaves can look majestic in the winter especially if it has unusual bark patterns. Today we will look at some great plants to use in your garden for extra colour. Once our flowers are finished for the season, this is what we have left.

 
7 great Plants for Fall colour

This is Cotinus coggygria or smoke bush. It’s a shrub but can get to twenty feet unless pruned back a few feet each year. I love the deep purple leaves on this shrub. By pruning it a bit each spring, you will have a more compact shrub. If you leave it unpruned it will be a lot more open. It’s a matter of personal taste.I love how the rain and frost look on the leaves of this shrub, like diamonds.

7 great plants for fall colour

Everyone asks me what this plant is in the garden. Its called Persicaria virginiana or Tovara. It’s in bloom now and is a self sower so if the seeds drop to the ground I will have hundreds of new plants in the spring. They are easily removed but the flowering branches can also be removed before it sets seed. I grow it for the brown triangular pattern on the leaves. This plant is nice paired with Hostas in partial shade.

7 great plants for fall colour

I can say enough praise for Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’. The large heart-shaped leaves are still holding their own in mid October. This year I was able to find Brunnera ‘Looking Glass’ and I am looking forward to seeing how it fares next year.

7 great plants for fall colour

When we moved here we found out that we had a sweet gum and a sour gum tree. Both are excellent choices for fall colour. The one pictured above is the sweet gum or Liquidambar with its maple like leaves. It’s just beginning to change colour and is about two weeks behind the sour gum tree. This is a large tree so you must have room for it. Our sweet gun tree is about thirty-five feet high and the last arborist that was here said it was one of the larger ones he had seen. They don’t seem to like being planting in the city and tend to break. It must be our good country air that makes this tree happy.

7 great plants for fall colour

If you have a small garden, why not grow blueberries. Blueberry shrubs can be grown in smaller gardens and just look at their fall colour. Our Delta soil is perfect for growing blueberries. Not only do you get flowers and fruit but fall colour as well. I say it’s a no brainer to choose a plant that has so many good attributes.

7 great plants for fall colour

How about Sage as an ornamental in the garden? So many relegate this plant to the herb garden when it can be used throughout the herbaceous border adding its lovely soft grey leaves. This older plant now sports a hint of purple and would look lovely planted with Heucheras in the gardens. Don’t forget Sage is evergreen and helps to form the bones of the garden. It loves a position in full sun and will attract bees to the garden.

7 great plants for fall colour

Just look at the blue flowers that Sage will give. So it has beautiful flowers, its evergreen, attracts beneficial insects and you can use it for cooking. It’s a must for every garden.

7 great plants for fall colour

Another wonderful plant to use in the garden is Skimmia. It has glossy green leaves with dark pink flowers in fall. I am not sure which cultivar this is but its one of my favourite plants.

7 great plants for fall colour

I planted the Skimmia with Hostas to have some contrast in the garden. I like the smaller leaves of Skimmia with the large Hosta leaves. Skimmia like a place in part shad to full shade. Mine are planted in deep shade of a cedar hedge and love it there.

There are many choices for fall colour in the garden. I showed a few of my favourites. It’s all about the foliage in my garden. If your garden has great foliage, there is almost no need for flowers. Today I am linking over at Digging for Foliage Follow-Up.