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!


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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!

Christmas Containers

Yes, I suppose the correct title would be Holiday Containers but I prefer Christmas so there you go!

I have been prepping items that will be available this weekend for those of you who want to create your own containers.  I have branches that have been sprayed white or the new “it” colour – a pinky bronze;

This is a new take on a holiday tradition
A little glitter!

cones in two sizes that I personally drilled and impaled with skewers – talk about time consuming and challenging!!

Small “skewered” pine cones – au naturel or painted white

And of course, I have boughs. For those of you thinking of making your own containers, it is best to use different types of boughs and as always, work in odd numbers.

For the “thriller” in your urns, I have the “must have” white birch, the aforementioned branches, Sumac seed heads, berry branches and dogwood branches.

Everything will be available for sale this weekend.  As well, I will be making containers that are ready to go into your black iron urns.

It’s that time of the season when we start decorating inside and out.  And for those of you who don’t live in the area, places like #SheridanNurseries, major box stores and even small convenience stores will have arrangements and/or boughs for sale.

Express your inner creative self!

To Clean or Not to Clean?

I was talking to a friend in mid-September who had totally cleaned up her garden. Given how beautiful the weather was, it was probably a good time to do it but I still have perennials blooming.

But to clean or not to clean, is obviously a personal decision. And sometimes weather and other factors come into play as well.

I dug up some large weeds and pulled out all the dead annuals (we had two nights of frost) but beyond that, I won’t do much. The deer may, or may not eat the wilting hostas – I don’t care at this point and the heartier perennials are still blooming, so why not enjoy them?

The seed heads also provide the birds with food during the year.  In addition, I like to enjoy the early snow on all the different plants.  The sedum will eventually collapse but for a while, they make for a pretty landscape.

I also find cleaning up in spring more positive than putting things “to bed” in the fall.

Sedum stills adds colour to the garden

I have numerous sedum in the garden and I love to see their deep colour now that most of the leaves have been blown away.

These coneflowers came up and opened this fall

These coneflowers are now fading but their seeds heads will look great with little “snow caps”.

Planting bulbs and splitting plants are two things I do enjoy doing in the fall.

And as is so often the situation, there are two sides to every story.

Removing diseased plants and leaves makes sense and some plants are best pruned in the late fall/early winter but other than that, my garden will slowly wilt and eventually be covered in the snow.

It is your garden to enjoy and to “toil” in.  But the trend is to a messy fall garden that benefits the micro-life that makes our gardens healthy. Maybe next year you can be bold and leave a little mess!



Fall Garden Preparation

Most of us think of Fall preparation as a time to pull out dead annuals, cut back perennials if appropriate and rake leaves.

But fall is also time to think of spring. Yes, I know. Nothing like not living in the moment! But in an article in this weekend’s The National Post a writer talks about the importance of having early flowers ready for the bees.

Unfortunately, this article is written by someone who appears to live in Oregon where they grow filberts and hazelnuts.  But we can do our share here in Ontario by planting some of the other plants he recommended: crocus, primrose and snowdrops.

Crocus always announce the coming of spring.

Big box stores might still have some bulbs available as well as nurseries like #Sheridan and #Connon or you can still order on line from #Botanus.  Plant your bulbs in groups so that the bees don’t have “far to fly” when they first start looking for food. Also ensure that there is some fresh water nearby in a shallow dish with some rocks in it. Butterflies and bees can’t perch on bird baths to reach the water.

Other plants that you might want to include in your garden include Lungwort, Bleeding Heart, Bugleweed and Jacob’s Ladder.

Perennial plants may be difficult to acquire at this time of the year but again, some nurseries, including mine, may have coral bells in stock. New coral bells have been developed with “flowers” that emerge weekly and are very attractive to bees. The Heuchera ‘Bella Notta’ has continuous blooms that last well into the Fall.

Fabulous colour for any garden.

If you aren’t interested in planting bulbs this fall, perhaps starting a shopping list for the spring might be a good idea. Every little bit that we do to help the insects and animals is a small step in the right direction and the plants add beauty to our gardens as well – which we get to enjoy.

A Floral Bouquet

Never underestimate the value of a lovely bouquet of flowers.

I received the bouquet below and although the picture doesn’t do it justice, I was thrilled to receive it.

The chrysanthemum is not naturally that colour but adds drama

Does that sound strange from someone who grows flowers for others to enjoy and who still has perennials blooming in her garden?

The joy of a bouquet such as the one I received is that someone not only thought of me but took the time to show me that I popped into their thoughts.  To have someone go into a florist (in the Beach, in Toronto near Woodbine), tell the owner what my favourite colour is and to have an arrangement made just for me is so wonderful!

I once worked with a man who bought his wife a dozen roses every Friday night.  I could never figure out if I thought that was very romantic or not.

But we all want to feel that someone cares about us, even for just a few minutes out of a day or week.

Additionally, the arrangement contains one of my favourite flowers – lisianthus.

A favourite flower, in a favour colour – small details mean so much

So if you haven’t made someone feel special in a while, and that could be you to you, then stop and buy a bouquet of flowers and try to remember what they like – it will make the gift that much more meaningful.


Well, it’s been another whacky summer season.  So much rain in the spring that most of my new plantings rotted.

Then a moderately nice August and then an amazing September.  Last weekend we had record-breaking heat and lots of sun which has caused some of the plants in the garden to re-bloom.

New blooms are opening
Geranium Cranesbill adds a touch of pink to the fall garden

Even my vegetable garden has started to re-bloom.  These new flowers will never mature into tomatoes – the days are too short and the temperatures are dropping. One cold night and these plants will wilt but it’s interesting to see what a spell of heat and sunshine will do.

tomato plants are putting out flowers

Fortunately, all of the flowering plants that are re-blooming are perennials so there is no harm being done. Actually, they are absorbing more energy and food for the winter which means they should be superstars next year!  All we need is some rain.

I have been watering but a good rain is best and the trees and shrubs need to be well watered if they are going to do well during the winter.  They are calling for rain today but at the moment, the sky is clear with nary a cloud in sight.

The upside to this unusual weather is that my garden is still in bloom with both summer flowers like the coneflower and the autumn ones like the Sedum Autumn Joy providing lots of colour as the leaves fall.

Enjoy! For soon it will all be white.

Neither Rain nor Drought

I have written previously that some garden experts have nothing kind to say about the Sedum – Autumn Joy but for me, I think it is both a problem-free (generally) and very reliable addition to any garden.

Sedum Autumn Joy

One of the biggest challenges that most sedums face is that they start to droop and separate which annoys some people.  And that’s fine.  Not all plants appeal to all gardeners.

Splaying sedum are not everyone’s “cup of tea” but they can be staked

This sedum has a dead centre but that was because I didn’t clean it up this spring in all the rain we had.  I have about a dozen sedum plants and this is the only one that has really flopped out.

Sedum are some of the first plants to show up in the spring and they are some of the last to leave.  And they are relatively hardy, once established.

I purchased a number of new varieties this spring and they failed to prosper.  I will leave them in the ground in the hopes that next spring will be drier and more conducive to helping the plants get established.

But if Autumn Joy is not for you – there are other options.  All of these plants are at least three years old.

In general, this sedum has both a lighter coloured leaf and a finer leaf

Sedum also offered a variety of leaf options and colours

I love the variegated leaves an slightly lighter pink flower

And the blooms also come in a variety of shapes and colours – this one is very delicate looking –

Every garden needs some “tried and true” plants and for my money – sedum is a “go to” plant.  Once established they can be divided so they also offer good value. Always look for healthy plants and check out your local nurseries for new varieties.  At this time of the year, big box stores may start putting them on sale.

And as a last positive – they make a good cut flower and … the bees love them too!

Reclaimed Trees

Reclaimed wood is in vogue. Pick up any magazine on home décor or woodworking and you will find articles and pictures of reclaimed wood creations.

reclaimed wooden benches and tables are all the rage

Our local community had a “Pallets on the Town”.  A local pallet maker offered up pallets and participants were encouraged to repurpose them.  It was quite a hit.

As a gardener and designer, I truly appreciate this current trend.  Waste not, want not and some of these trees are so old, it would be a waste to simply let them rot.

But I am repurposing a different kind of wood.  I live in a forest that had once been logged.  As well, there are many trees that have been damaged over the years.  So I am “reclaiming” tree parts.

A gnarly, most covered stump creates an interesting focal point

I have had to take down some trees, in the area where my garden is, because they are damaged, dead or struggling to reach the sun.  By replacing them with interesting stumps, I bring a little of the forest back into the garden.

an interesting backdrop

And as posted previously, many of the stumps have rotted centres, so planting in the stump is also an option.

And even a rotted log is a good addition to any garden. If you don’t have a bug house, a rotted log will do.

A healthy garden needs good bugs!

So whether you are salvaging pristine pieces of wood for furniture, repurposing old wood or giving dead trees new meaning, it’s all good.  And to really do it up in style – why not add repurposed wooden furniture to your garden.

Taking It Easy

If  you have read any of my previous posts or checked out my Facebook page, you will know that I live on rock.  There is a veneer of dirt on the rock and not much more so creating gardens is a challenge.

One option, of course, is to bring in loads of earth, which I have done for my larger gardens but that can be costly and labour intensive.  The other option, which I know “purest” would not approve of, is to simply “plant” the plants on top of the dirt.

Yesterday I went down to True North Lilies and purchased some colour for my side garden. There are plants growing there – iris that the previous owner put in and some fall phlox that I moved when I first arrived with little else, except rocks.  But the soil/land is so dry and scarce, I could barely get a shovel into the ground.

Naturally growing plants

Disturbing the soils is not something that is currently recommended as it disturbs the little ecosystem that is happening. And that is fine with me!

Also, as previously mentioned, the milkweed is doing exceptionally well this year but it is popping up all over the place. So I decided that I wanted to keep the milkweed, reduce the amount of lawn I cut (even if marginally) and add some colour to a rather dreary looking space – one that I look out onto daily as I sit having breakfast.

Barely grass and milkweed  

I was able to scrape away enough soil to at least have a bit of a hole to put the roots of the lilies in.  Then a cover the roots with that soil, watered the plant and moved onto the rest of the plants.

Once they were all in placed, I covered the entire area with mulch.  The mulch has some “dirt” in it and it is a wonderful cedar mulch. It will decompose over time and with the addition of some leaves this fall, the ground will start to improve.

Colour and interest and no heavy lifting!


The best thing – little back breaking work went into it and not only do I have an instant garden, but for a little while, instant colour.  I have decided this will be my “natural” garden area as well.  So the milkweed will stay, as will some of the other plants that have set up roots in the area.

Gardening should be a peaceful, positive experience – and this absolutely was!