Cactus Topiary Anyone?

Today is the second day of my garden walk and I wasn’t sure where to go first. I will follow up first with a walk I made with my daughters and grandchildren yesterday as we saw some nice vistas along our way. The girls wanted to weigh the babies so we walked over to our local health unit. We crossed a busy highway and walked behind the city hall where we watched employees having fun on their break playing bocce ball.

Cactus Topiary Anyone?

This is an old photo of the pond near city hall just to give you an idea what it looks like. I love to visit this area in the different seasons as it’s always changing. Benches surround the water and make it a nice place to relax.

Cactus Topiary Anyone?

Yesterday the water lilies were open. Frogs were croaking and the children loved to imitate them.

Cactus Topiary Anyone?

At the entrance to the Boundary health unit was this amazing hanging basket. This is my kind of basket. All foliage and no flowers. It was perfect for this shady entrance.

Cactus Topiary Anyone?

On our way back we walked through Forest for the Future, a garden installed a few years ago near the Delta Hospital. The Rudbeckia and Crocosmia are a blaze of glory in this garden.

cactus topiary anyone?

This morning I got a late start to my walk and wanted to go down Arthur Drive to Whitworth Crescent. I am glad I did. Large trees adorn this one way street and offer shade along the way. I couldn’t help but notice this cute garden. I love the glass flowers in the garden and check out the signs. I will bet those are their favourite holiday venues.

Cactus topiary Anyone?

They are definitely warm weather lovers. This cactus topiary says it all.

Cactus Topiary Anyone?

At the end of Whitworth crescent is a short path to Ladner Elementary school. I wanted to visit the school garden on site. The apple tree is planted in the field near the school garden and it has a pretty good crop this year. What a great way to teach children about how their food grows.

Cactus Topiary Anyone?

The school garden is in full bloom now with not only flowers but lots of vegetables. This garden is maintained by volunteers during the summer.

Cactus topiary Anyone?

The children will be excited to see this when they return in September. These squash are successfully trained along a chain link fence and are growing vertically.

Cactus topiary Anyone?

As I traveled towards home I couldn’t help but snap a photo of this Dahlia in the garden at 44th avenue and 50th street. This garden is full of roses, dahlias and vegetables all growing together. It was a very short walk today as temperatures hit 26C by 930am. Hopefully I can get another walk in tonight.

My Home Town Garden Walk

Today I decided to get out for a nice long walk. I had in my mind to search out beautiful gardens along my way. I must admit that much of the beauty of my hometown of Ladner is in its natural beauty and not just our gardens. Ladner is part of a delta at the mouth of the Fraser river in British Columbia. This morning I wasn’t sure which way I would walk but I love looking at our historic homes so my first thought was to venture towards Georgia street from the center of town.

My Home Town Garden walk

This is Clair’s Bed and Breakfast, one of several bed and breakfasts we have here in Ladner. I love the red Geraniums she has in containers as you go up the stairs. Clair has a wonderful garden in the back with several seating areas for her customers to enjoy.

My Home Town Garden Walk

As I walked around the corner to travel along Georgia street I came across this beautiful Rose of Sharon or Hibiscus. I moved mine this year so it’s not blooming. I look forward to having blooms like this one.

My Home Town Garden walk

At the end of Georgia street is a small park with a few picnic tables. If you walk up to the water’s edge this is the view. You have to love the still water of the Fraser river in the early morning.

My Home Town Garden Walk

I left the park and continued along Chisholm street past some derelict old buildings in need of repair. I was delighted to see how well the containers were doing at  Apex Glass. Don’t you love the galvanized tubs for flowers? I sure do.

My Home Town Garden Walk

I tuned the corner at the end of Chisholm street to go to River road. This road is actually the dyke which separates the town from the river and its tributaries. Look at what I saw. This is the corner of River Road and Elliot street where West Coast Seeds has its retail store. West Coast Seeds decided to make this corner into a garden for everyone to enjoy. I know it was a lot of hoops going through BC Hydro, the city and Telus but they persevered. This is the site of their retail store just two blocks from my home.

My Home Town Garden Walk

I crossed the street to access the sidewalk along the water. This photo was taken looking north near government dock.

My Home Town garden walk

I walked up River road for what seemed an eternity as it was starting to get warm out. Was I ever glad to reach the home of Edward Van Veenendaal. His garden is at the corner of Ferry road and River road. Years ago Edward started planting his boulevards with native and drought resistant plants. Today it looks like some of the plantings are being changed as new ones have appeared on the left.

My Home Town Garden Walk

At this point in my walk I longed for the shade and I found it. The other half of Edward’s boulevard is still heavily planted and its coolness was refreshing.

My Home Town Garden walkAs I walked the rest of the way home all I saw was this. Bare brown boulevards of lawn or what we like to call lawn. I look at the Edward’s boulevard and then the one with lawn. Which would you prefer? I have to wonder why more of us are not planting like Edward and West Coast Seeds.

Garden Lingo Made Easy

Garden Lingo Made Easy

Over the last couple of months I have taught garden classes  for both children and adults and have come to realize that garden terms I am so familiar with are foreign to many. Just last week I was asked what biennial meant so today I will go over a few basic garden terms.

Garden Lingo Made Easy

Annual-This is a plant that grows stems, leaves, flowers or fruits and dies in the same year. An example of this would be marigolds, zinnias, petunias, beans, peas, squash, alyssum and lobelia.

Garden Lingo Made easy

Biennial-This is a plant that produces leaves in the first season and in the second season it produces leaves, flowers and seeds and then dies. An example of this is parsley as shown above coming back for its second season. If carrots and swiss chard are left in the ground they will also return the following spring and produce seed in the second year of growth. For more info on what is a biennial vegetable check out my post here.

Garden Lingo Made Easy

Perennial-A plant that returns year after year such as Rudbeckia, Crocosmia, Hosta, Irises, rhubarb and asparagus. There are many plants that are perennial but it also depends on your hardiness zone. What may survive here in our zone 8 climate will not survive in northern BC where they have colder winters and short summers. For an idea of what your hardiness zone is check out this link to see where you are on the map. The nation is divided into zones depending on temperature and weather patterns. Knowing your zone will help you choose plants that will survive in your climate. For example, you wouldn’t want to leave a houseplant such as Echeveria outside in zone 8 but it may survive in zone 11-12.

Garden Lingo Made easy

Pollination-The act of plants being pollinated by wind, insects or birds by the transfer of pollen from one plant to another. When this happens the plant is fertilized and grows on to produce food. Many plants need pollination to produce a crop such as squash, coffee, plums, strawberries, cherries and almonds.

Full sun-When plants require full sun it usually means eight hours of sun each day for optimum growth results.

Dappled shade-Placing plants in dappled shade of large trees and shrubs where some light filters through.

Full shade-This is the planting area under large trees and shrubs that provides protection from the sun. Many plants needing this type of shade will exhibit browning on the tips and edges of the leaves when in too much sun.

Deadheading- The act of cutting the flower heads off annual and perennial flowers to stimulate new growth. This is done by taking your secateurs to the leaf joint below the faded flower. A cut is made just above the leaf joint and the flower is removed. The spent flower can be composted. This will stimulate new flower production on the plant.

Deciduous- Plants that shed their leaves in the fall and stems remain bare over winter and leaf out again in the spring. Here in BC deciduous trees such as maple, oak, sweet gum and sour gum lose their leaves but our conifers retain their foliage. Now if you travel to a warm climate such as Mexico you will notice their trees keep their leaves all year round, very unlike ours. That’s because they are a different zone than us.

Garden Lingo Made Easy

Evergreen- Plants that hold their leaves year round. These plants are the basis for most landscape designs as they provide winter interest. Plants commonly used here that are evergreen are Rhododendrons, Camellias, Viburnum davidii, Skimmia, Pieris and Yew.

Hardening off-This is the process in which one needs to acclimatize plants after bringing them out of a greenhouse environment such as a garden center or home greenhouse. It is usually done over a period of a week by slowing bringing your plants outside for an hour in the shade, then to two hours in the shade and increasing the time over the week until your plants can take the full sun and spend the night outside. You have to remember if it’s too cold for you it’s probably too cold at night for your plants. You can put a sweater on, they can’t.

Loam-Loam is considered the optimum soil, an even mix of clay, sand, silt and organic matter to obtain a nice crumbly workable soil suitable for plant growth.

Clay soil- This soil is common here and when you grab a handful of soil in your hand it sticks together and forms a ball that feels sticky. Clay soil often drains slowly but is water retentive. It can be very hard during dry spells. Adding organic matter to clay soil can help improve the structure of the soil.

Perlite- is a naturally occurring siliceous rock. It is commonly added to garden soil mixes. It provides aeration and drainage and stimulates root growth. It holds moisture but does not become soggy. It is commonly seen in soil mixes you buy at the garden center and is white in colour.

Compost- is a gardeners gold. This product is the result of decayed garden matter using a mix of both green material from plant parts such as grass and leafy stems and brown material such as dried leaves, sawdust, shredded paper and old soil. By adding equal amounts of both green and brown material to your compost along with air and water, you will stimulate microorganisms to break down the material into soil.

Garden Lingo Made Easy

Foliage-The leaves of plants in the garden come in many different shapes, colours and textures and play a big part in garden design. My motto is if you have good foliage, your garden will always look great. Flowers are an added bonus.

Herbaceous- This is a plant that dies back to the ground in the fall. It usually has no stems or leaves left behind.

Pinching- This is a term used when one wants to create more growth on a plant. For example. I would pinch the central leader on a basil plant. By doing this it tells the plant to produce side shoots and creates not only a fuller plant but a better harvest. Pinching is also done with plants such as Chrysanthemums and Asters to promote more growth and flowers in late summer.

Garden Lingo Made Easy

Bolting-Plants will send up a center shoot in response to temperature or day length. This often happens on cool season crops such as lettuce, spinach and cilantro.

As I wrote this post I realized that there are so many terms that I should really write a book about them. Good idea or not?

 

 

 

 

Sex in the Garden or Why is My Squash Not Producing?

 

 

Sex in the Garden or Why is My Squash Not Producing?

Pollination is Key

I was out and about town yesterday doing some shopping when someone stopped me. I was in a lineup and a woman looks and me and says, “You’re the garden lady, aren’t you?” I knew I was going to be bombarded with questions while in a lineup. I was going to pay for something so it wasn’t the best timing but I let her ask.  She said, “I have to ask you something. Why isn’t my zucchini producing fruit? Uh oh, here we go again. This is one of the most common questions from gardeners now.

Sex in the Garden or Why is My Squash Not Producing?

Sweet Alyssum

I started to explain to her that it was most likely due to a lack of pollination from bees and she may want to place some flowers like sweet alyssum in between her plants. “Really” she said, “But why?” Well, the flowers will attract the bees so they can transfer pollen. The bee has to transfer pollen from the male flower to the female flower so pollination can take place. If it doesn’t happen you won’t have fruit.

Sex in the Garden or Why is My Squash Not Producing?

Male Flower

She asked what a male flower looked like. Male flowers tend to open early in the morning and are often located a the edges of the bed. If you look at the photo above you will see the rod like tube or anther that the bees need to land on to get pollen. Pollen sticks to the bees legs as they fly to the next flower.

Sex in the Garden or Why is My Squash Not Producing?

Female flower

She then asked, what does a female flower look like? I went on to explain how its base is swollen below the flower and its center is a cluster of  stigma which look like a tiny flower cluster. Female flowers are often found on the inside of the plant near the stems. If the flowers isn’t pollinated it turns brown like the one in the above photo and falls off.

Meanwhile I all of a sudden I look up and I have everyone listening. I had explained how the flowers are different and thought I was done. Until… she asked if she could do the pollinating herself. Yes, I said you can take a male flower and touch it to the female flower and there you have it, sex in the garden. Everyone roared with laughter.

Late July Brings Fall Colour and Rain!

Late July Brings Fall Colour and Rain!

Friday is here and its time for walk through the garden. We are under severe water restrictions and can only water using a hose and  sprayer with shutoff. Its time to prioritize and not waste water. The Rudbeckia is a strong plant and one that blooms until October so I will definitely be watering this one. It will be interesting to see which plants survive this drought we are having. It’s supposed to rain about 5mm tonight but I doubt it will give us much relief. What we need is a few good heavy rains to help not only our gardens but the forest fires that are out of control in this province.

Late July Brings Fall Colour and Rain!

Crocosmia seem to come up everywhere in the garden. It was dug up and divided a few years ago and looks better in its new home next to the Rudbeckia. The Crocosmia grows from corms which are small bulbs and easily moved. The reds and yellows of fall are in bloom in July. Like everything this year we are about a month ahead.

Late July Brings Fall Colour and Rain

Phlox stands tall along the outside of the rose arbor. This ones perfume can be intoxicating. I love it.

Late July Brings Fall Colour and Rain!

Japanese Anemone is already out and again I haven’t dug up some of this plant to give away. This one really spreads and as a tall plant it needs a home at the back of the border, not the front. It’s very early this year. I think of it as one of those perennials that signals fall’s arrival.

Late July Brings Fall Colour and Rain!

Dahlia ‘Park Princess’ steals the show this week. I think I finally found the perfect home for this plant. It has struggled in other locations and likes its new full sun location. 

Late July Brings Fall colour and Rain!

The last of the poppies are still in bloom.I am busy collecting seeds to share in the fall. Note the morning glory hiding there in the back. It loves this garden but the gardener does not love it back.

Late July Brings Fall Colour and Rain!

Calendula surprised me by returning this year. I found it a floppy plant in this garden so we will see how it does this year. Its bright orange flowers make me smile.

Late July Brings Fall Colour and Rain!

One plant that I think will be the standout during this drought is Potentilla. We call this Jake’s shrub as he loves to use it as a scratching post. It doesn’t seem to bother the plant. Look how well its flowering. This shrub gets very little watering at all. Its location makes it hard to reach with a hose.

Late July Brings Fall Colour and Rain!

This year I wanted a green and purple themed garden along the front walkway. I planted Zinnia ‘Green Envy’ with Zinnia ‘Purple Prince’ and a front edging of Snapdragon ‘Purple Prince’. I like the colour combination but wish the ‘Green Envy’ had been more consistent with its colour and double flowers. Read about the many faces of Green Envy here. The Snapdragons are in bloom but not doing as well as expected. Many flowers haven’t liked the heat this year and will do better as we cool down a bit.

Late July Brings Fall Colour and Rain!

Okay, I mentioned fall colour and here it is. My Heather which has grown to three feet across and tall in a large container is changing colour. Its done so well over the years I am afraid to move it to change the soil but it needs to be done. I love the way it changed colour to this orangey pink.

Late July Brings Fall Colour and Rain!

Update: By the time I posted this it has started to rain for the first time in ages. I can hear the plants sighing with relief and so am I. The Rhododendron I was given in late spring has its leaves fully open. Throughout this heat and long period of no rain its leaves were curled. I thought for sure I hadn’t watered enough and it hadn’t made the move from a friend’s home to mine. Fortunately the curled response in the leaves was a reaction to the heat. They look lovely today and the temperatures are down to 60F. It’s a sudden drop in temperature but a welcome one for the plants.

 

Seed Collecting is an Obsession

Seed Collecting is a Obsession

Kale Seeds

I suffer from seedaphobia, the rare obsession some gardeners have when it comes to saving seeds. I can’t help myself. I can’t save every seed of course but I can dream. When I harvested kale this year I knew I didn’t need seeds so they were composted. When you think about the potential for all those seeds to grow food, I have to wonder why we have anyone going hungry. One kale plant produces thousands of seeds and each seed is a new plant. I still have kale seed from two years ago. I bet you are wondering what the photo above is. It’s a leaf bag full to the brim with kale seed pods off plants from the community garden. Each thin bean-like pod contains around forty seeds. Imagine how many seeds I would get from this bag. So for those of you buying kale seed, really? Look for my tips on how to save kale seed here. 

Seed Collecting is an obsession

Bolting Lettuce

Last year I started saving lettuce seeds from my plants. It was so easy. If you have lettuce in the garden it may look like this. This is called bolting and is the response to warmer temperatures and or day length. My lettuce in the garden is now three feet high. I left two plants in to let them flower and set seed. The flowers of lettuce are cute little yellow daisies that produce a puff of seeds similar to that of a dandelion. You just have to collect the seeds from the puff before they blow away. To see how to collect lettuce seed read here. 

Seed Collecting is an Obsession

I also save seeds from tomatoes. This season I am growing seven types of tomatoes for a seed bank. If you were to visit my garden you will see little organza bags over the tomato flowers. Just before the tomato flowers open I place a bag over to keep bees from bring any unwanted pollen to the flowers. Yes, as my friends would say I am a hard-core gardener if I go to these lengths. The reason I do all this is because I love learning. I learn something new each day in the garden. Learning how to save seeds is easy and saves me money each spring. If that doesn’t have you saving seeds I will be surprised.

This year I will be saving seed from cucuamelons as I want to be able to offer plants for sale next year. I tend to save seed from plants that do well. I don’t save seeds from plants that do poorly. You don’t need that gene to be repeated. Always choose your best tomatoes when collecting seed.

I don’t save seeds from squash or melons if they are from the same plant family. There is too much crossing of pollen from one variety to another. I could bag the flowers on a plant but I think I have enough seed saving going on with the tomatoes. Have you had a mystery squash in your garden? I see you nodding yes. That’s because members of the same plant family can have pollen cross contamination. Bees carry pollen from one type of squash to another. They don’t know any better. Now if you are only growing one type of squash, is it okay to save seeds? Only if you tell the bees not to visit your neighbour’s garden. There has to be a quarter of a mile between squash plantings to safely save seed and have your next years plants come true from seed.

Seed Collecting is an Obsession

Marigold

The easiest flower seeds to save are those of Marigolds. Above you can see a bloom that is done. It’s important to let it really go brown before collecting the seeds.

Seed Collecting is an Obsession

Marigold Seeds

All you do is pinch off the finished flower and gently pry it open. See all the black seeds inside this bloom. If I had left this to dry out more all the seeds would be black inside. The ones that have not turned black are not ripe and will not grow. So don’t just toss your finished blooms in the compost. Save some seeds for next year.

Seed Collecting is an Obsession

Parsley

Above is my parsley which is about five feet high in the garden. Parsley is a biennial plant so it produces leaves to eat in the first year and in its second year, it flowers and sets seed. Its flowers are loved by beneficial insects. Each tiny green ball in the flower will darken to a seed. I will collect the seed before it has a chance to drop to the soil. In this case I will place a brown paper bag over the flower so seeds can drop inside the bag. As you can see from just one flower the number of seeds I will be able to save is enough to last a family for years to come. Once I have my seed dried and packed in envelopes I like to store them in a cool frost-free garage. I use a large plastic tote and save the seeds in small shoe boxes by type.

Seed Collecting is an Obsession

Save seeds and share them with friends. Come to events like Seedy Saturdays across Canada. If you live in Delta or Metro Vancouver our Ladner Seedy Saturday will be held on February 20, 2016. I will be there so come and trade seeds with me.

Basil in Cookies, You Bet!

Basil in Cookies, You Bet!

Remember the other day when I said I had to harvest basil. I went out the next morning and clipped a large bowl of sweet basil. I knew I would make some pesto as it so easy. If you haven’t made pesto before check out my post on how to make pesto and even this one called pesto with a twist. Adding black olives to pesto gives it a completely new flavour.

Basil in Cookies, You Bet!

What was very interesting is that when I looked at old photos I was making pesto last year in August. That’s a month away. Yes, everything is early this year and it’s all I can do to keep up with the harvesting. You can use pesto as an appetizer, spread or on pasta. I like to use a layer of pesto in my vegetarian lasagna. It gives the lasagna an unbelievable flavour with all that garlic, basil and nuttiness.

If you have too much basil, rinse it off lightly and let the basil air dry on a towel for about thirty minutes. You can pop it into freezer bags and use as needed. I will often break some frozen leaves off when making homemade pizza. It only takes a few minutes to thaw. I love adding basil to my pizzas.

Basil in Cookies, You Bet!

Once the pesto was made I headed back outside for some cinnamon basil. I grew this basil so I could try it out as a replacement for cinnamon. We can’t grow cinnamon here so maybe this basil would do. I didn’t need much for the cookie recipe I had found online at Cooks.com called Lime-Cinnamon Basil cookies.  The recipe called for 3 tablespoons of cinnamon basil and chopped lime peel. It’s a basic icebox cookie recipe and easy to whip up. I made rolls of dough and chilled them all day before baking. The cinnamon basil has pretty flowers but you don’t want it to flower as it sends a signal to the plant to make seeds. I need to pinch this basil back and remove the flowering stems. 

Basil in Cookies, You Bet!

This is how the basil cookies looked after ten minutes in the oven. I must confess, I made them yesterday and they are all gone. Luckily I have one more roll to bake. You know, everything in moderation, right. Now I am thinking that I could use the cinnamon basil to flavour my iced teas. I made a large pot of regular tea and poured it into a juice jug with sprigs of cinnamon basil and slices of orange. It was great. I like to combine the cinnamon basil with citrus flavours.

Basil in Cookies, You Bet!

The only basil I haven’t tried from the garden is Red Rubin. Its dark purple leaves look stunning next to the green leaves of sweet basil. I am going to use it to make some pesto today. Yes, it won’t be green but that’s okay. Sometimes its fun to break the rules.