Garden Gatherings

Canada Blooms just wrapped up and I don’t know if you went or not. When I lived in the city I would go every other year but I always checked to see who the speakers were and what their topics were before heading out.

March is, in my mind, too early for a garden show. I loved the greenery that is brought into the location and the flowers but it’s still another two months before we can do any serious gardening.

But Garden Shows are a source of ideas and products and are certainly worth going to no matter what time of the year.  Peterborough will be hosting their show in April and it is always well attended and, for me, worth attending.

Not only are we supporting local garden centres and garden related businesses, but we are talking, for the most part, with people who garden in our area.

Garden tours are another way to get practical information. Some tours, like the Oshawa Peony Festival which is taking place in June,  focus on one type of plant, in one location. This allows you to examine the differences of each.

Local Horticulture Societies also host garden tours in their local communities and I have always found these to be the best source of inspiration. Often the gardener is available to talk about the plants in their garden.

And more recently, local nursery/garden centres have been popping up.  The Garden Network in our area is one such location. There is also a great lily farm – True North Daylilies where you get the chance to walk through rows and rows of daylilies and pick exactly the plant for you.

Spring is coming and part of the fun of gardening, is to see who grows what in your neighbourhood. Explore. Learn.


Garden Preparation – Part II

The sun is shining and there is only a little snow left in shady areas. Some people are talking about tulips and daffodils that are starting to peak through the soil. As wonderful as this is, it is still too early in most of Ontario but the hearty ones can certainly withstand a light spring snow. After all, they are perennials.

This is the time of the year when we can look at our gardens with a critical eye. If you go to My Curated Garden’s Facebook page, you will see a video on how to prepare your garden. Again, it is still too early to do what is being recommended but it does give you an idea of what can be done to prepare your gardens for warmer weather.

Most of us will find some broken branches or damaged plants. If you want to trim back your grasses and other plants, go ahead but avoid raking the grass just yet. Even though we have had warm, sunny days, the ground is still frozen and vigorous raking can actually damage your grass.

Check out the condition of your flower beds and mulch. Did some of it get washed away during the fall rains and spring melt? Have the little chipmunks burrowed into your gardens?


In the first part of this segment on Garden Preparation, I mentioned perennials as being your first consideration for new plantings in your gardens. Shrubs are a close second. Most people love perennials but are leery of shrubs. Many gardeners see shrubs as requiring a great deal of work. Pruning or trimming are the biggest tasks that people want to avoid.

Dwarf Korean Lilac  

Most of us love to see lilacs in the early spring but don’t want to grow the unruly ones that fill up the countryside. New dwarf varieties are available for smaller or more compact gardens.


Peony are available in a variety of shapes and colours and are a great perennial shrub addition to your garden.

March is a difficult month for gardeners in most of Canada. We are happy to see the snow go, but now we have to wait. So while you wait, check out our Facebook page, have your journal handy, make notes of what you need and what you would like to add. Prioritize your purchases and set a budget.

Spring will soon be here!

Garden Preparation – Part I

It seems hard to imagine that we should be thinking about our gardens when there are still piles of snow on the ground, but now is the time to start the preparations because spring comes upon us quickly.

I have been posting Proven Winner’s suggested plants on Facebook and some of the new varieties are amazing! The intensity of colour, the number of blooms and the overall heartiness of these new plants is so encouraging.

But we have to have a plan and that plan should be broken down into smaller pieces. The first plants you should consider are your perennials. Do you already have some and if so, do you want to diversify your collection or add to it? And is the diversification in colour or characteristics? Are you adding more of the same plant to increase the intensity of the planting or because some of the plants aren’t doing well?

For example, if you are looking to add hostas to your shade garden, are you looking at using different coloured leaves or different textures? Or do you want to add more of the same ones that you already have to create drama?

The above featured Hosta is the “Shadowland Waterslide Hosta” which is being offered by Sheridan Nurseries. But as you can see, there are numerous other hosta options. Bright lemon yellow leafed plants; two toned leaves and hostas with much smaller leaves.

So which would you pick and why? What need, in your garden, are you trying to satisfy?

If you have gone to a garden nursery you will know that the choices can be overwhelming. So knowing what it is you are looking for is important.

And don’t forget, that you have perennials for sun, shade and dappled shade. So if you don’t have a plan, you may find that you “blow your budget” or worse, you never add to your garden because you are overwhelmed.

Small steps will net big results. Start with what you have and then think about what you need and then what you want.

Spring will be here before you know it!

Image courtesy of Scribbles and Photos

The Dirt on Soil

It is snowing again here in eastern Ontario. Not heavily yet, but it has just started falling and will continue all day. Hard to think of soil when all I can see are piles of white snow!

Large snow covered cedars

If you have read any of my previous blogs you know that I live on rock which is part of the Canadian Shield.

image courtesy of

I have trucked in so much “soil” since moving here but I have to tell you, it is really just dirt. Occasionally it has looked more promising because it has been screened but it is certainly not soil.

However, I have large, perennial gardens that are beautiful because I improvise and make do with what I have and plant what I know has a good chance of surviving such poor conditions.

There are people who “till” their gardens every year. The current thinking, however, is that you really shouldn’t. When you aggressively dig the soil, hundreds of micro-organisms are destroyed.

Layering is the best way to build up your flower beds. For me it is a matter of mulch and leaves – although I don’t have many of those since most of the trees around me are red cedars!  The dirt that I purchased has provided just enough protection and nutrients for the plants to get established. I have topped that with mulch, which will break down over time.

As an aside. I did plant a pair of panties in the garden and dug them up just before the ground froze and they were well eaten so the dirt/soil here is relatively healthy.

I figure if the cedars can grow to their lofty heights on this land then so can perennials!

I have yet to add manure to my compost but my compost pile is relatively new and small. Augmenting your compost pile with natural manure  is a great way to introduce more nutrients to your soil and garden. Purchased manure is probably easier to deal with if you live in the city or suburbs.

Fresh/raw manure has more nutrients but could burn your plants! Some manures are considered to be “hot” (sheep and poultry) so they should be left to cool for a year before applying them to your garden. Studies have shown that poultry manure has the highest percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K) content.

So if you want to amend your soil, add on top of what you have. Leave the itty bitty creatures below the surface to do their thing. Everything will break down over time and contribute to the well being of your “soil”.

After The Garden Journal

So I know that you have all gone out and purchased your garden journals and have been diligently scribbling plants into them.  Which is great!  But how are you organizing all these wonderful plants in your journal?

Are your categories annuals, perennials, shrubs and ground cover? Containers?

Or did you break down your selection into sun, dappled shade and shade?

Will you be putting in new gardens, expanding existing ones or augmenting what you have by adding a few plants into some bare spots?

So much to think about! As you put your journal together, also look at and if you can, cut out images of gardens that appeal to you. You may not be able to replicate them but if you have them in your journal you can assess what it is about the garden that appeals to you.

So much to like about this garden

In the picture above, for example, you might like the idea of having a bench. So you make a note to the side of the photo to that effect. Or you might like the stone wall or the abundance and variety of plants.

You won’t be able to absolutely copy what you see but collecting a few pictures will give you a visual idea of what appeals to you. You may even notice that all your pictures have yellow flowers, or that the gardens you have selected are neat, tidy and trimmed.

As the snow covers our gardens here in Ontario, with more snow on the way, why not escape into the gardens we want to have?

Your Garden Journal

It’s been a brutally cold start to the new year but spring will come and as gardeners, we will want to be prepared.

The past two years have been hard on our gardens. 2016 was, for most of us, an incredibly dry and hot summer almost from the get-go. Last year, we almost drown and some gardens and farm fields did.

So what will our gardens look like this year? Do you remember, in any detail, which of your perennials still looked good at the end of the season, which here in Ontario, was well into November. Throughout November we had highs of 16 and as a result, some of my perennials re-bloomed.

The unseasonably warm November winter
These coneflowers came up and opened this fall

But what has two years of whacky weather done to our gardens?

The best way to track your garden is to commit to taking pictures from April 1 until November 1.  This way you will know from year to year when the snow really is gone and when it arrives; which plants bloomed, when and for how long and which plants have not returned.

A journal is the best way to do that. There are some people who are very computer savvy and will maintain their gardens on line. I like a book.  As a matter of fact, I really like paper journals!

I actually have two journals. As a professional garden designer I need to keep track of all the “must have” plants that are promoted on line and in garden magazines. If I purchase or carry some of these plants, I will plant them in my own garden to see how they grow. Plants in my garden must be drought tolerant and be capable of growing in less than ideal conditions.

The covers of a few of my journals

As a gardener, I have to practice what I preach. So I keep track of my own garden to see what survives the winter, what isn’t eaten by deer or drowned out by rain.

Taking pictures and making note of the weather conditions help me when I am asked about a plant or asked to recommend plants.

The journal doesn’t have to be fancy, it can be a three-ring binder. You will want to have a Shopping List section of the plants you want to purchase. If you can, include a photo and the details about the plant (sun, part shade, drought tolerant) and make a note of where you think you will put it.

In another part of your journal you might want to:

  • start with a photo of your garden and a date
  • indicate the weather on that date and in general what it has been like. If you start in April when the tulips should be coming up you might say that there was a great deal of ice/snow and little sun so none of your tulips have come up
  • note any damage from animals or weather (broken branches)
  • take a photo of any news plants that you introduce to your garden with a description and the cost (simply for reference)
  • note when you put down mulch, if you do or when you fertilize, if you do
  • try to evaluate your garden on the same day every month

There are new plants being offered up constantly but you will want to ensure that your new purchases are smart purchases. If there is a spot in your garden where “nothing grows” then find a garden ornament for that location. Assess your sunlight once all the trees are in bloom because some sunny spots will eventually become dappled sun or shade.

Spring is coming and it is wonderful to look through magazines to decide what new additions you will be purchasing. Having a journal will help you make smart and informed choices.

Road Trip?

It is bitterly cold outside but at least the sun is shining and the sky is blue. The snow is so white it is almost blinding!

Snowcaps on Sedum

Just the kind of day you want to be thinking about warmer temperatures and outdoor activities.

It is said that we get more from experiences than from purchases, although I think as gardeners it’s a 50/50 split. I love to see new gardens and new plants and I absolutely love adding new plants to my own garden.

I am planning what I want to do and see this upcoming year because there is always so much going on and as the saying goes, so little time.

An absolute “must” this year, for me, will be a visit to Whistling Gardens.  Check out their website and their YouTube presentation. 

Think about when you want to go and find a friend or two and make it a road trip or if you live as far away as I do, it will be a two day adventure.

Think warm thoughts, start planning your garden, check out garden magazines, web sites and events, and before you know it, you will be out digging up weeds!

HAPPY 2018 TO YOU, your family and may your garden bloom beautifully.




To Wrap Or Not …

… to wrap your trees, especially your evergreens.

As someone who has planted and replaced more Emerald Cedars than I care to admit to (all of them mine), I would recommend you wrap the tops of the branches.

At my previous home we had Emerald Cedars and I thought, heck, why wrap trees that grow in the wild? Well, Emerald Cedars don’t.  The snow didn’t seem to impact them but the ice did and we’ve had increasing numbers of ice storms over the past few years.

Not only did I have to deal with ice, but deer love them as well. I didn’t wrapt them in burlap though,

fully wrapped cedars

because I wanted to offer protection for the birds. I simply took string and ensured that all the tops of the branches were pulled in. That way the birds could still find shelter but the trees were protected. And strangely, the deer didn’t eat them.

If you have cedars along the front of your home where they may be impacted by road salt, I would recommend that you wrap them completely.  And wrap them fully, not like this

partially wrapped cedars

First of all, this looks REALLY unattractive and I am not sure what it is intended to accomplish. Road salt sprays and if there are deer in the area, they can pull the tops down in a heart beat.

Newly planted cedars should be protected for the first couple of years, no matter where they are planted, until they get established as they will be susceptible to winds, ice, snow, and lack of moisture.

If you have boxwood, protect it if is located along a sidewalk where you may pile up snow. I had a row of boxwood at my previous home which was located almost entirely under the eaves at the front of the house and I never touched it.  But then it was somewhat sheltered, especially from ice.

We had a long fall or a later than expected snow fall this year and so we may have not attended to our trees properly thinking we might have a mild winter. But the snow has started to fall, and ice storms will eventually happen.

Trees take years to grow and fill out, so it is well worth the time to protect them if they are newly planted, close to roads or areas that might get heavy snow or if there are deer in the area.

There are many ways to protect them. Driving some poles into the ground and wrapping burlap around the poles is very effective. But remember,  you are going to see whatever it is you do, so please think about doing something neat and efficient.

Come spring, you will be pleased to see your trees intact.

Garden Wish List

Like most people “of a certain age”, I don’t really need anything but I would hate for there not to be something under the Christmas tree.  After all, we went out to the back, cut it down one of our own trees, dragged it in, cut it several times so it would fit into the hallway and then spent a couple of hours decorating it – so it needs gifts under it.

But as a gardener and garden designer, what I really want is PLANTS!! And there are some beauties that will be available come the spring.

I love purple and I try to buy as much purple for my garden as possible. I will accept lilac and mauve but a good, deep purple – now that is exciting.

This year’s “colour” is Ultra Violet

Ultra Violet – is going to look great in my garden!

So the first plant I will be heading out to acquire, for me and my nursery, is

Let’s Dance Rave Hydrangea

Let’s Dance Rave Hydrangea which has intense colour that will stand out in any garden.  Those of us who grow hydrangea know that soil composition can impact the colour of the blooms for many of the plants. If you want the deep and vibrant purple, you will need acidic soil otherwise you will get this lovely deep pink. (see My Curated Garden on Facebook for the purple version).

To create acidic soil you can lower the pH by either applying a soil acidifier or by adding organic mulch such as pine needles or pine bark.  You can test for the pH levels of your soil.  Perhaps you can ask Santa to put this tester in your stocking, or under the tree,42578&p=69257 

In order to attain/maintain the vivid purple colour your soil will have to be in the pH range of 5.2 – 5.5.

Many garden centres and nurseries offer gift cards at this time of the year and many will know whether they will have a particular plant in stock next year.

A gift card and a garden diary will make a wonderful gift for someone who loves to dig around in the dirt!


Support local gardeners




Your Urn

Many of us don’t start decorating until either the very end of November or beginning of December. If you haven’t bought your urn inserts or Christmas planters, why not create your own?

I love making my own especially when the weather is nice enough to be outside.  If it is too cold for you, or your hands, you can always work in a garage or basement.

As with all plantings, thinking about the “look” is the first step. I like fun, whimsical things because for me, Christmas and the holiday season is all about magic, colour, sharing and caring.  But for many people, it is a “tradition” that they want to continue.  Whatever your personal style, creating your own urn is not too time consuming or challenging.

Most nurseries, big box stores and small garden centres, like ours, will have almost everything you will need.

Step 1: Are you doing an insert or a container? If you have purchased plant material over the past summer and have not been too diligent in tossing things out, odds are you have an “insert” that will suit your planters.

Remember not to use ceramic or terracotta pots as they will crack.

Step 2: What kind of base are you going to use to support your branches? I use earth since I use inserts all year long. If you like things to be neat and tidy go for a garden oasis.  The Dollar Store or nursery will have some in a variety of sizes.  The more of either product that you use, the better.  It gives you more space and support.

Step 3: What is your “thriller” going to be? Remember every urn should have a “Thriller” which is the central focus of the urn; a “Spiller”, something that tumbles over the edge to soften the look and finally a “Filler” to fill in the gaps.

The most common “Thriller” is white birch branches and they create a more traditional look.

Proportions are important. You don’t want to select something that is too tall or thick for your urn

For the urns at my front door, I went with something a little less conventional and used branches that I sprayed.

I like how loose and natural these are

Next you will have to start building your greenery. My urns are viewed primarily from the front, as people approach my home, so I build them that way. I use larger fir branches as the back drop. I will do half (the back) of the urn with these.

Then you start adding what you want or like.  Cedar smells great and larger branches are good to fill your urns with smaller ones to drape over the edges.

This cedar branch isn’t strong enough to stand up on its own but will look great against the fir

And finally, pine branches.  They are much softer and are frequently used to drape over urns.

Very soft branches

Once you have completed placing your greenery in your urn, stand back and see what it looks like and whether it needs more product or maybe just some adjusting.

I have created three different themed urns for my home. Urns are easy enough to do and should reflect you and your home.

This is one of the two urns at the end of my driveway. Christmas is fun!