Friday, May 15, 2015

Summer 2015 Lawn & Garden Program for Loblaw

If you loved spending time in Grandma's garden when you were young, you're going to be over the moon this year with the offering from Loblaw. Can you say petunia, dahlia, begonia, geranium? 

Well, there's going to be lots of them and they are indeed lovely.  Diane Surette of Dummen NA is holding her favourite - a lovely hanging begonia called 'Miss Montreal'.  It has lots of bloom and the colour is so elegant.  Diane has yet to steer me wrong - the New Guinea Impatiens Petticoat(R) Blue Star was absolutely amazing last year. 

The flowers may look like Grandma's but there's a bit of a twist.  Sweetunia(TM)Hot Pink Touch. The blooms are smaller than a regular petunia and larger than the wee minis and should do better after a big dump of rain.

Who doesn't want it all?  So, here you go:  a smaller pot with several different varieties. This is something I hadn't seen before - smaller pots - with a mix of plants - great idea.  These 'Confetti Gardens' offer several great fillers that will spill beautifully over the side of your baskets.

These gorgeous dahlias will look marvellous in a sunny spot all summer long.  While they're not inexpensive, just think of what Grandma had to the tubers, plant them up early in the year, take cuttings, plant those up too and then wait until mid-August to look like this.

I'm calling this segment - Better Than Plastic!
I despair at the amount of plastic plants out there.  I'd prefer someone forgo the plant rather than put one of those "Oh my goodness, look at that it's plastic, it looks so good, you'd never know, it's amazing, you swear it was real!" So for those of you who want something that looks like boxwood, that doesn't cost what boxwood's your new best friend:  It's called PC Eugenia Topiary.  They cost $34.99.  They are tropicals.  You can take them inside during the winter.  And you will water them and use them again next year.  They grow so quickly (hence the amazing price) you will need to trim them to maintain the shape - rather than thinking of this as work, I'd like you to think of it as bonding.

Much bigger pots, much bigger flowers:

Loblaw has always offered good quality roses at an excellent price.  Larry Vandemolen of JC Bakker & Sons Nursery Ltd. is pictured here with 'Never Alone' Rose in support of cancer patients and their families.  "It is the brainchild of the Canadian Football League Alumni Association and the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association.  Part of every purchase goes to the Never Alone Foundation."  It is $14.99/pot.  It will provide blossoms throughout the season.  If you decide to put it in a pot, Larry suggests that you transfer it to your garage over the winter.  The blossoms are not all that fragrant, but the blossoms are really pretty and would look lovely in a bud vase.

It was delightful to meet Frank Ferragine - who is just in charming in person as he is on television. He is featuring Rex begonias here - a great-great-grandmother plant.  I'd mentioned to him that if you looked around the room, it was almost as if we'd stepped backwards to 30 years ago with the plant offerings.  He told me the challenge was to encourage new young gardeners to get on board.  There had to be a guarantee of success.  "If you burn the cake, you're not going to by the cake mix again." Kudos to Frank and his colleagues in their quest to provide the equivalent of that cake that will not burn in the flower business.

The man who started it all, Peter Cantley and Evan Elenbaas, President of Walters Gardens discussed the new perennials on offer this year.    There are two new Hosta 'Cool as a Cucumber' and 'Island Breeze'.  The first has lovely thin strappy green and white leaves that would make a great exclamation point in a garden - the second does everything but twirl - it has green and yellow variegation, red on the stems and on the scapes, substantial slug resistent leaves and is of a medium size.

There's a new Allium 'Millenium' that will bloom in late July/Aug.  Evan said it looks good in or out of bloom.  There are a couple new Heuchera to shoe-horn into your garden.  'Grape Expectations' distinguishes itself from its tribe by presenting its leaves beautifully and consistently from the centre of the plant to the soil - I've planted it next to some of its kin so it can show them how it's done.  The second is one of those other-worldly-red colours 'Fire Alarm'.

So after interviewing as many of the experts as we could, the gong was sounded, and off we went to collect our treasures to trial:

I'm a sucker for anything the colour of Baby Aspirin - so these new Begonias were first on my list after the perennials:

And here they are - home at last - waiting to be planted:

And just a few photos from last year's trial:

One month in the pot - the Rex begonias really took off:
N.B.  I fertilize my pots once a week with 15-30-15 fertilizer.

At the front doorstep - the flowering begonia took over:

And by the end of August look how Diane's Petticoat(R) Blue Star took off:

The Rex begonias do have blossoms - you just have to hunt for them:

One of my favourite pots from last year at the end of the summer - 'Unstoppable Upright Fire' (orange) and the utterly spectacular 'Red Threads' Alternanthera to the right:

The adorable Calibrachoa is 'Hula Gold' and the Petunia is 'Blue Jays'.

The wonderful thing about Loblaw is the absolute consistency and excellence of product.  Like Grandma and her garden, this quality may be old-fashioned, but it's something I know I can count on every year.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Poof. Spring is Here!

Moved my mother-in-law to a new apartment in April.  It went very well.  She's getting used to her new neighbourhood - a church, a market and a dollar store just 3 minutes away - and Kevin for everything else.  She's been enjoying having friends by to show it off.  Very stressful at anytime in your life and even more so when you're 87.  So far, so good.

Fortunately Spring seems to have been waiting for me up until last week.  The garden is slightly chaotic - leaves where I don't want them; ground mutilated from the crane used to remove the tree last Fall; and the coup de grace - Bell Canada sent a group of four men to destroy one of my side gardens. Yes, I know that's not how they look at it, but that's about the size of it as they plunked a Ditch Witch right on top of my garden.  I was mad enough to call the Prime Minister.  Instead I called the police; notified the Mayor and my councillors both for the Town and the Region; wrote a letter to the Chairman of Bell Canada asking for my plants to be replaced....  The upshot is the Mayor was very kind - he referred it to the Engineering department, and the police officer got them to take their Ditch Witch hoses off the other beds and move their trailer out of the No Parking Zone.

Kevin was very impressed - he said, "Didn't you notice that those guys were kind of scary looking?" I tell you, when a woman is defending offspring, it doesn't concern her a bit!

Between elder care, business, and everything else, I'm really looking at changing the garden design on the street side.  In the past I've delighted in wandering around the garden finding Heuchera here and there - now I'm thinking I'm going to put them all together.  Things that have similar maintenance will learn to be friends and live together.  I'm also thinking more mass plantings.  I want a native section as well - perhaps something with prickles and darts for those darling Bell men?  Am even thinking more straight lines to help me mow.   And from the windows, I want things to look like composed pictures.  We lost several trees in the ice storm a couple of winters ago - do I replace them or rethink?  When I first moved here I threw caution to the wind and planted woodies that needed more sunshine - they now look like stork plants - skinny legs with leaf blobs - not a good look - so out they go.  But what should replace them?  My plan had been to have a plan done in early spring - I'm thinking I'll mull it over this summer, draw this winter and have it ready to roll for next year. Nothing like having a plan to plan to keep a girl on her toes.

What follows, is the progress of April in my garden and on my walks.  There was a wee bit of snow on the Hamamelis:

The earliest daffs were at least 2-3 weeks later than normal:

The blue-grass season was better than ever this year.  I was so happy to see the Scilla I almost jumped the fence and rolled in it:

Neighbours have started to put their spring pots together:

Mid-April, there were still the remnants of last year's blossoms combined with the fun of spring at their feet:

Two cold daffs:

And Scilla to die for:

The colour of the sky rivals that of the flowers - here's Bart wanting to get too close to a randy Canada Goose:

Is this not one of the happiest sights ever?

Our winter was exceptionally fierce.  I thought for certain the magnolia blossoms would be damaged - instead this was one of the best years ever - didn't matter - Star Magnolia, Saucers - all great.  Here are some pretty stellatas:

Note to self - more daffodils for next year:

Someone woke up on the wrong side of her satin pillow:

The last week of April/beginning May the Epimedium started to show off.  It was one of those years where there was actually time for me to cut away the dead cleanly before the start of this year's flush of growth:

Lovely red tulips on the hospital grounds.  I'll really miss the gardens next year when the hospital is dismantled and the staff relocated 5k north of here:

So nice to have some of the old neighbourhood wildflowers reappear in my Aunt Win's woodland garden:

So the last photo of the day and back to my newsletter for Kevin.  It's a big day tomorrow.   Yet another marker of Spring - the Lawn and Garden Program at Loblaw is revealed!  I am looking forward to seeing what's new and telling you about it later this week.  Can hardly wait!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

RHS Garden Wisley

This was one of my favourite gardens the first time I visited England.  When Aunt Carolyn suggested we take a garden tour, I was delighted to see that it was included.  As anyone who is lucky enough to live close to a large public/botanical garden knows - everyday you visit, you're going to see something different.  The last time Kevin and I were there, it was at the height of summer.  There were delphiniums - and with me as a human gage at 5'6" or so, you can see how tall these beautiful specimens in the trial gardens were.  Delphiniums don't do as well in this part of Ontario - my mother had no problem in her Pointe Claire garden in Quebec - but here they often live only for a couple of years.

Such a beautiful vegetable:

Look like a real tourist here - the hat, the camera, the backpack, the brochure - never mind, the plant looks spectacular, and that's all that matters!

This time we saw Wisley in its spring glory.  Here's part of the pathway through the woodland section.

And, here's Aunt Carolyn with one of the largest Rhodos I've ever seen.  You'll find large specimens on the east and west coast in Canada, but nothing like that here.  So very beautiful.

It was Iris and Peony blossom time:

Closer to the entrance is a brick-walled garden with so many interesting specimens.  What great shapes and forms these two plants make:

Cool ferns:

And one last shot of Aunt Carolyn with the Wisteria - so very pretty:

The weather at the moment is unpleasant.  They're talking a bit of snow sometime this week.  Am still banging away on residential sales statistics for Kevin's newsletter - all I can say, is that I'll be glad when I'm done. Kevin's computer was limping along so badly yesterday that we broke down and got a new one - it seemed unable to hold information in the "cut" basket in order to put it in the "paste" position - sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, sometimes it almost did.  Not very helpful when you're trying to put together statistics.  Fortunately I double-checked my numbers - had written totals by division on a piece of paper to make sure that everything copied over into Excel.  Alas, no.  Oh well, will start again today with new tools.

If nothing else the discouraging weather makes it a little easier to be tied to my desk rather than being outside in the garden.  It truly is a year when the garden seems to be waiting patiently for my attention.  Thank goodness.