6 Patios You Will Want in Your Garden

Over the summer I have been blessed to have toured many fine gardens. What I was inspired by was not only the flowers but the patios in  these gardens. A garden is what you make it but a seating area can make your garden an oasis, a retreat for the soul and a place to sit and reflect on life.

patio at Danger Garden

While visiting Portland I was able to visit the famous Danger Garden. The garden gets its name from all the sharp plants in it and I will testify to almost drawing blood on my visit. There was lots of orange used in this garden, from the containers to garden furnishings.

Danger garden

Here is a closeup of more of the plants. I will admit, I had zone envy. Theses babies wouldn’t survive in our BC climate without protection.

patios to love

This patio setting was at the wonderful Floramagoria garden in Portland. Not only do you have a wonderful tropical setting around you as you enjoy a rest but who doesn’t love a fire?

Floramagoria garden patio

Especially when this is what you are viewing from your seat by the fire.


Ernst fuller patio gardens

Outdoor decorating is the same as what you would do inside. To add to your outside decorating try to blend plants in containers to match your outdoor furniture. I like the purple repeated in this arrangement from the patio table and chairs to the purple Hydrangea and the tiny blooms of million bells petunias in the pot on the table.

Ernst Fuller patio gardens

How about a rooftop patio? This quaint patio sits on a garage roof. If I hadn’t walked down to the street I would never have known there was a garage underneath. The large trees help to cast shade on hot summer days adding a cooling effect on the patio. Blues and reds are the theme on this patio garden with a matching geometric patio carpet to match the furniture.

Ernst fuller patio garden

A closer look and you can see the use of reds from containers, side tables,cushions and Begonias tying this colour combination together and bringing colour to a shady spot in the garden. There is even a hint of red in the carpet.

love this patio garden

When I saw this lovely sofa I wanted to grab a glass of wine, a garden magazine and relax. So far, this is my favourite patio to date. The blues reflected in the decor on the tables with bits of red thrown in. Just lovely!

Patios to love

Okay, these loungers are inviting. This photo was taken at a garden in Point Roberts on a rainy day. The patio was large and welcoming with a lovely garden surrounding it. What more could you ask for?

6 patios to love

How about a water feature right in the middle? Yes, lay on the lounge chairs and you are wowed by this vista.

6 patios to loveMy last patio is one I can only dream of having in my backyard. As we move into fall imagine the fires we could enjoy in the evening if we had a patio like this. You could snuggle up with a blanket and enjoy the warmth from this beautiful outdoor fireplace. As I reflect on what colours I saw used the most this year, orange came out number one. What will be the colour next year? I kind of hope its purple, but that’s just me.

Collecting Calypso Beans and What I Did Wrong

In the spring I was looking for something different that the grade three class could plant. I came across some calypso beans buried in my seed stash. I wondered what they would be like. We could use them in our soup making class in the fall. I started the seeds with the children and they sold a few seedlings at their plant sale to raise money for the food bank. We had a few plants left over from the sale so we decided to plant them at the Ladner Community Garden. We only planted about eight plants. They grew easily but school was over before the plants could be harvested. Here it is August and most of the beans are ready to pick or so I thought. I knew they were beans to be used for cooking, not fresh eating. What I didn’t realize is it would have been best to let them mature on the vine as I was saving the beans seeds for  fall and winter meals. Okay, lesson learned.

drying calypso beans

Well, I wasn’t sure what to do after I was told they shouldn’t have been picked so early. I wanted to clean up the garden bed before the new grade three class of September arrives . The peas and potatoes had been harvested and I worried about the beans rotting on the ground. Since I had so many picked I laid them out on a tray. One tray was lined with paper towel to absorb any moisture while drying. The other tray was a cookie sheet and I didn’t use any paper towels. I spread them apart so they had plenty of room to dry and I placed both trays of beans on top of my fridge. Each week I checked them and shelled out any beans that were sufficiently dried. It was easy to crack open the yellowed pods. What I did notice is the beans on the cookie sheet dried faster.

Drying calypso beans

On the first  shelling I got just a few beans. I waited another week and cracked open a few more pods. Today I have half a pound of beans shelled and I will leave them in a bowl on the kitchen counter. That way I can give them a shake to make sure I don’t have anything going wrong with them and weed out any that don’t look good. So far just one bean has been removed. It’s a slow process drying them at home and probably the sun would have done a better job. I think what amazes me the most is that I only used eight beans to grow a half pound of beans. We will definitely have to find a new recipe that is child friendly to make at the school this fall. I may try this recipe I found over at Pen & Fork. It sure looks delicious!


Pesto with a Twist

This year I grew so much basil that it’s coming out of my ears. Well, not quite but you get the picture. I grew thirteen flats of basil and after spring sales were over I still had six flats left. Times that by the fifteen pots per flat and I had ninety basil plants to find homes for. Friends were eager to take some home. I tucked plants into various containers with flowers and vegetables. I used the Thai basil as an edging plant and announced to the world that basil was the new edging plant for 2014. I have had several pesto making sessions and yesterday was a scramble to get the basil harvested and pesto made in between all the renovation planning we are doing. Yes, we are taking the plunge and will be in renovations in the fall. Finding time for the garden is hard now but harvesting needs to be done.

How to Make pesto with a twist

I cut off the center stems on only a third of my basil plants and brought a bowl in to wash off. I give the leaves a quick rinse and place them on towels to drain. Someone asked me yesterday if  I use the stems. I actually use the top part of the stems as they are quite soft. I snip off any open flowers but tight buds are used in pesto making. I don’t think you have to be too fussy. Its gets all blended in the food processor anyway.

Pest with a twist

I was making three types of pesto so I picked some parsley and rosemary from the garden. I wanted to try some different recipes and came across some new ones over at the Luna Cafe. I wanted to try out the rosemary hazelnut pesto and the basil olive pesto. There are other recipes on the site but making these special ones plus the regular recipe for pesto was enough for one day. The key is to have all your ingredients ready. I was happy to have the herbs from the garden and lots of freshly harvested garlic. All I needed to buy was oil, olives and nuts.

pesto with a twist

I love my old food processor. It’s lasted many years and makes short work of grinding up nuts and basil for pesto. I like to add the nuts first and then the greens. I blend it first to reduce the amount in the processor before adding more ingredients. A couple of quick pulses usually does the job and I like to scrape the sides down between pulses. Be sure to turn the processor off when removing the lid. Safety first!

pesto with a twist

Next I add the garlic, cheese and olives for the olive basil pesto. The olives are brined so it adds salt to the pesto giving it a burst of flavour. Making pesto is quite interchangeable. You can substitute pine nuts for walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts. I would try to keep the amount of nuts the same. For example, I made the rosemary hazelnut pesto and it called for two cups of hazelnuts. This made the pesto very thick and I had to add more oil to get the consistency I liked. So there may be some give and take when increasing your ingredients. It all depends on how you like your pesto.

pesto with a  twist

Once you have blended your pesto to the right consistency, spoon it into Ziploc freezer bags, label them as above and place in the freezer if you are not using it right away. I like to squish the freezer bags flat so the bags stack nicely in the freezer. You should also be able to snap off a piece of pesto in whatever size you need. Of course, most recipes only make about one cup of pesto so you are sure to use it all up. Store any leftover pesto in an airtight container in the fridge as pesto exposed to the air will turn brown. It’s still good to eat for several days. Enjoy it over baked potatoes, chicken or fish or over pasta. I like to add it to sour cream and use it as a dip.

For my regular pesto recipe hop on over to Can You Say Pesto?



How to Collect Zinnia Seeds

I have gone on and on about how much I love Zinnias. I have grown a few in the past but this year I had three different types. As I reflect on the ones that did well, I keep coming back to the mixed Lilliput Zinnias.

How to collect zinnia seeds

The Lilliput Zinnias bloomed in reds, oranges and pinks from  this package of seeds.What I liked about them is they bloomed for months with no deadheading required. I know, that’s one less thing to worry about, right?

How to collect zinnia seeds


This hot pink Zinnia really stole the show. I only planted about eight plants but they branched out nicely with loads of new blooms each week. The blooms that were on the plants had real staying power. So when I wanted to collect seeds I had to really look for a few totally brown blossoms. Lets see, its been almost three months since they were planted and they are still going strong. I am a seed collector and through a bit of research I found out that I could collect seed from this Lilliput Zinnia and it would still come true from collected seed. Was I excited!

How to collect zinnia seeds

I went out with scissors in hand and had to really look down below the clump of Zinnias to find three blooms to pick. Notice the two on the right are nice and brown. The one on the left was faded but not brown enough. Grab a large dish and let’s get started.

how to collect zinnia seeds

All you have to do is pull the petals apart carefully on the dried up bloom. There is a lot of chaff left from all the petals so use a knife or spoon to sort through it all. What you are looking for is the arrow shaped seeds. Each seed is attached to the base of a petal. how to collect zinnia seeds

I placed a sheet of paper next to my dish of seeds and carefully picked each one out. See the seed on the bottom center of the photo? Each seed will look like that. The Zinnia seed should be black on one end. You can even see a few seeds with the pink petals still attached. There are also a few green seeds in the photo that I will not keep. They came from the flower that wasn’t totally dried up. The green seeds are not fully ripened and I doubt they will mature at this point.

how to collect zinnia seeds

This is the seed you want to keep. Out of just two dried up blooms I found about thirty seeds. I will continue to collect the seeds as the plants die back. You can separate your seeds by colour if you can remember which ones they were. I don’t mind a mix of colour in the garden so mine are all blended together. I loved the Lilliput Zinnias so much I am determined to have them everywhere next year. Place your seeds in an envelope and store them in a cool dry place until they can be planted. Remember to label your seeds with the name of the flower and date you packaged them. If you are unsure if you can save seeds from your Zinnias, look at the old seed package to see if it’s an open pollinated seed. If it’s a hybrid the seeds will not come true but open pollinated seeds can be collected and saved from year to year.

5 Easy Vegetables I Would Grow Next Year

This summer has been wonderful for growing vegetables. As summer winds down I am taking a look back at what worked well and what didn’t in the vegetable garden. This year I had mixed a lot of my vegetables into the flower gardens. One vegetable, well technically a fruit, has done so well that I may continue to grow it among the flowers again next year.

heirloom tomatoes

It is my tomatoes. Not only are they the healthiest I have ever seen them, they are full of fruit this year. The main harvesting period has begun and I can count on a selection of tomatoes for dinner each night. Tomatoes grown in the garden taste so much better than the store bought ones. Home grown tomatoes are allowed to ripen on the vine allowing flavour to develop. The store bought tomatoes are picked before they ripen and just don’t have that homegrown flavour.

russian garlic

Okay, I have to talk garlic. Of all the vegetables I grow this is one of my all time favourites. If I grow a couple of rows of garlic I will have enough to last us until late spring of next year. The Russian garlic I purchased from West Coast Seeds last fall turned out to be the winner. The cloves are large and full of flavour.

gypsy peppers

Have you grown peppers in the garden? I never had much luck until this year. I grew gypsy peppers and potted up four plants in a container and placed it in full sun. I am happy to say that I had peppers for dinner last night. I picked some early while still yellow to see how they were. They can be used fresh or cooked so they ended up in my pasta sauce last night.

peppermint swiss chard

I also grew peppermint Swiss chard this year. The bright pink and white stalks made it a pretty plant in the garden and the leaves were about a foot long. Stir fry this tasty vegetable up with some garlic or add it to a pasta sauce for dinner. The leaves may be large but they shrink up considerably upon cooking.

valentino bush beans

Valentino bush beans are heavy producers in my garden. I grew these short plants as they are easier to manage than ones that need support. They do well in containers but you must keep them picked so they continue to produce. The beans are about four inches long and stringless.

home grown pasta sauce

So how was your vegetable garden this year? What did well for you? Will you grow something different next year?


Are You Planning for Spring?

I have to admit that as I walk the garden, I see signs of fall arriving. There is dew on the ground and I don’t need to water as often. I have this urge to think about fall colour for the garden. I want desperately to pull out summer flowers and add some pansies or mums for fall colour. As I drive by garden centers I feel myself anxiously waiting for the sign our front to say ‘fall mums and pansies have arrived’. There is so much to do before I even think about planting for fall. Did I have enough spring bulbs last year? No, I was lacking Tulips in the back garden. The ones that did bloom were very late so I should add some early blooming spring bulbs there.

Do I need to divide the Primula to give a better spring show? Yes, I do. This is the best time to do it as the weather cools down. I could divide them and place them all over the garden. Primula are great companions for spring bulbs. They like a moist soil with some shade. I find that they do well under my large deciduous trees as long as they get some protection from the warm afternoon sun. They are so easy to divide. Just dig up a clump and use your fingers to gently tease the roots apart. Plant each division and water well until established.


As August comes to a close, the garden centers will be receiving their shipments of spring bulbs. There is so much to choose from. What do you plant? Everyone loves Narcissus or daffodils. They come in many different kinds so try some of each and add to your collection each year. You can find Narcissus that will bloom from February to the end of March.

tulips and muscari

How about some Tulips for the garden? I have to admit this is not my garden. Isn’t this a stunning combination? I took this photo when touring the tulip fields in La Connor, Washington.  I love the way the Muscari or grape hyacinths are blended with the Tulips.

Narcissus- Spring Delight

Bulbs are sold singly or in large bags like the one above. Buying a bag of 50 bulbs is probably the most economical way to buy them. Plant your bulbs in groups of five to seven bulbs per hole at the depth written on the package. Usually bulbs are planted three times their size deep. I find planting Tulips a bit deeper has them coming back for years.

Species tulips

Try planting some of the species Tulips. I used these in containers last year  and absolutely loved them. Species Tulips will naturalize in your garden providing you with colour for years to come.

Species tulips

Species Tulips open up on sunny days and close up at night and on dark gloomy days. What I like about species Tulips is they often have up to five flowers on each stem. The bulbs are tiny and once planted you can easily plant some fall colour such as pansies over top. I tend to plant my fall and winter pansies where I have planted bulbs. Once the bulbs die down in spring I add annual colour.

So its time to clean up some of my summer containers and make notes of what did well and what I should plant next year. I will be removing some of the unhappy annual flowers to make room for spring bulbs. Many plants will bloom until first frost so make your changes slowly. We don’t want to rush summer away. The Zinnias, Dahlias and Marigolds will continue to bloom as long as they are kept deadheaded. Pinch off old yellowing leaves and finished blooms. This is the time to plan for whats next in the garden. Don’t you love the different seasons?


Tomatoes-The Weird and Wacky

Sometimes I wonder why our vegetables look so weird sometimes. Is it caused by the environment or something that we have done wrong? As most of you know, I grow lots of tomatoes and today we will look at some odd things that have happened to them.

Look at this Tomato!

My friend, Joan, came to our school garden class one rainy day and had to show the children this tomato. She had placed this tomato on a windowsill where it was warm. When she cut it open the seeds inside had germinated. The kids were fascinated by this strange looking tomato.Each seed inside had germinated. You always think the gelatinous substance around the seeds will prevent this from happening. Obviously this tomato had the right conditions to make them germinate.

weird tomatoes, I call this one the donut tomato

This year I planted many tomatoes in the greenhouse but I sure didn’t expect this to happen. Is this not the ugliest tomato ever? This was the first tomato on a plant I grew from seed. Its like more than one tomato joined together to make a circle. I call this my donut tomato. Unfortunately when I looked closer the ends had not closed exposing raw flesh to the elements and it had started to mould. In the compost it went as the flesh looked quite firm and with little seed. I wouldn’t have saved seed from this tomato as you never know what kind of seedlings would come from it. I couldn’t resist sending this photo to Jodi’s annual weird veggie and funny fruit contest over at Western Gardeners. I look forward to seeing some funny looking vegetables.

seven foot high tomato plant

I grow all heirloom tomatoes and know they grow tall but this is getting ridiculous. Last year the Dahlias planted here grew seven feet high and now that I have moved them they are back to a more normal height at five feet high. So brainy me thought I would plant tomatoes here this year as this garden gets the full sun. What was I thinking?  This plant is so high it took two of us to tie it in and we used eight foot stakes! It is just beginning to bear fruit and I see more supports in the future once the large fruit start to weigh this plant down.I think this is a large beefsteak tomato that I am growing for a seed bank.

heirloom tomatoes

I have been harvesting tomatoes for a few weeks but the hot weather had many of the tomato plants stop fruiting. It was just too hot in the greenhouse and flowers dropped off. I am wondering which tomato this is above. It is an unusual colour for a tomato but it should redden more over the next week.

heirloom tomatoes

Yesterday I picked some Peace Vine and Snow White cherry tomatoes. The Snow White are more yellow on the outside than they should be and I wonder if the hot weather had some effect on them. There is still nothing better than homegrown tomatoes fresh from the garden.

Snow white tomato

Snow white

The Snow White tomatoes should look like these from last year. It will be interesting to see how the rest of this years crop develops.

Heirloom tomatoes

I am busy with about 33 tomato plants growing outside. This is the first time in years that I have grown them outside but I had lots of seedlings left over from my sale and couldn’t bear to toss them out. They are loving the mulch of newspaper and straw and so far the majority look healthy. Here on the west coast our humidity is high in the summer which can lead to problems with late blight. With the rain that arrived this week, I erected a makeshift tarping system to keep the plants dry. Of course, the first night after it was placed above the tomatoes, we had the biggest cloud burst of rain in the middle of the night. Hopefully I get a crop of tomatoes from some of the plants before any blight arrives. The plants are wearing the little organza bags over some of the flowers so I can save seed. The trellising system  has worked well. So far, there are no seven-foot high tomatoes here.