Thursday, January 7, 2016

Happy New Year!

Tinsel, sparkle and greenery have all been stowed.  I've done a desk dig and found that I do indeed have a nice flat surface under all the piles.  And, I'm still enjoying (although I know it is still early) one of the nicest, most benevolent winters I can ever remember.  

Crab Apples Down by the Lake

Yesterday on our walk, the sun was shining, there was no snow, and the temperature was about -5C (23F).

Another Wonderful Sweater-Free Day

Bart has only had two embarrassing sweater days and my old car was frozen shut for just one day after it's marvellous detail-cleaning by my wonderful husband.

Who Knew that Roses Bloomed in December in Oakville?

Listening to the CBC this a.m. - the host and her culture counter-part were talking about culture-resolutions around the nation.  e.g., For every new book - read one that is 10 years old; look to shorter essays by established writers; go back and find all those books with book marks and finish them.  That last bit was laughter inducing.  Even at this early stage in 2016, the year simply is not going to be long enough for me to join in that activity.

Winter Interest Without the Snow

I really haven't made any earth-shattering resolutions, nor have I established a yearly theme.  But I am looking forward to many things this year, starting in January with Landscape Ontario's Congress - a meet up with my garden writer buddies - and then the following week, the IDS show, where I'll see all sorts of cutting edge design and consider how the new and marvellous inside will translate to outside.

More Winter Interest

I'm considering recipes for my Soup Party in February - although if this continues, it may not be the "It's too cold, Let's have a soup party".... To, "It really hasn't been miserable so far, but let's have a soup party anyway"....  March brings Canada Blooms, and then before you know it, winter's back will be officially broken - the design and planting season just around the corner  - my little light table will be full and I'll be derriere to the sky looking at my garden willing those little green shoots to present themselves.

Agastache & Solidago in the Morning Garden

With my first quarter full of expectations and fuelled by shortbread avoirdupois, I am in excellent shape to tackle this new year, and hope that you too have many happy and exciting things on your horizon for 2016!

From My Morning Walk to You - Happy 2016! 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Container Tips from a Pro at Sheridan Nurseries

It is and has been one of the best Novembers for putting winter containers together.  Yesterday the temperature was 17C -- a little over 60F -- compared with the fierce cold and snow last year, I feel like I'm in heaven!

Sheridan Nurseries invited a group of their professional clients to come to an all-day open house and attend a demonstration by their designer Mike to show us how we could channel our mini-Mike.  Not only did we get a private demo, but he was kind enough to share all sorts of his little tricks and tips.

This was our school zone - right in the middle of all the goodies!

While I waited for the event to start,  I had a quick run around to see what's available:

(Do you remember years ago asking the Christmas-Tree-Lot-Guy for some of those branches that were taken off the bottom of the tree.   Forget the trees - this is the business you want to be in!)

Nice, simple and traditional:

If you want red - buy it now - all of this merchandise will be sold out in the days ahead.

Same goes for silver and gold:

Some very cool natural elements:

Still reason for the birch trees to be very afraid.

Pine cones all dressed up: 

What's your vote on this folks?  Scrofulous or Fabulous?

We were introduced to the Sheridan Professional Team and to the man of the hour....

Mike our designer.  He would be taking us through two designs and offering tips and tricks throughout his presentation.  The first container was done in florist oasis - a less forgiving option than soil - once you've made your hole in the oasis, you've made your choice.

TIP 1:  Oasis should be soaked (hole-side down) in water.  Do not push it down to make it soak up water faster - you'll create air pockets.

Mike started with some gold tipped cedar, going around the container.

Tip 2:  All the branches should be cut on a 45% angle.  Remember these are living branches - containers must be kept watered until freeze-up.

Continue to build around the container.

Tip #3:  Hand sanitizer removes pine gum from your hands.

At this stage - before you add any of your faux pieces - be sure to wilt-proof (Wilt Pruf) your greens.  This will help keeping your container looking lovely - and when you've invested as much money as you have in making something this nice - it's worth keeping it looking good.

Tip #4:  Be sure to wind-wilt-winter-proof your greens.  Spray them until they are about to drip.

If you plan on keeping your pot at your door until March - think about how festivey you want it to look.  This may not be a problem in a southern climate, but here on this side of Lake Ontario - once the pot is frozen solid, you've committed, you'll have to hacksaw the former season out of the pot.  

Natural elements translate better in late winter than a disco-ball glitter pick.

And the final element are sweet little lights.

Tip #5:  Tuck the light switch toward the back of the pot in a spot where you can find it easily.

Now, this beautiful pot designed by Mike would retail for about $350.00.

Mike started the second container with silver fir.  It was going to be a pot viewed only from the front. This insert was filled with a heavy mix.

Tip #6:  Use a heavy mix in your pot - not potting soil.

Tip #7:  Over the winter with the freezing and thawing - pots can crack - that's why you use an insert rather than plant directly in your expensive pots.  It also makes it easier to swap out and change your design.

Mike cut branches at both ends.  If the container is well filled you won't notice cuts at the top of the branches.  The more you put in - the higher the perceived value of the pot - don't be stingy.

Tip #7:  Don't waste anything! Branches with just a few bits of green on them can be used as supports for bows.

Use branches at back to give height and to prop up floppers.

Tip#8  Prepare everlastings before inserting & use wire cutters to make picks and wired sticks the right size.

This insert would retail for $400.00.

Hint #9  Remember these displays have to look gorgeous from the street - more is better!

It's all about the effect - here's an instance where a bird in the bush is definitely better than those in hand.  

Thanks to Sheridan and especially Mike, who patiently answered all our questions.  I'm looking forward to using these hints as I put my containers together in the days ahead.

Hint #10  If you're collecting your greens now - keep them cool and out of the elements.  And, if you see something you like - don't count on it being there next week - buy it now!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Missing Month of October

Greetings.  Am being serenaded by a company called "Have Saw Will Travel" who are working across the street.  Their methods seem to be a little unorthodox - after sawing through a mid-sized tree, they gave the tree a Karate kick to encourage it to fall in the desired direction while the other pulled with all his might with a tethered nylon rope.  I watched Gravity last night and saw how efficient those ropes are -- that combined with the safety vests they are wearing, you know it's all going to go well.

So, October, where was I?  
Did I win the Lotto?  Nope.  
Did I make any brilliant garden discoveries?  Again, nope.    
Alas no, I seem to have a stuck cog in my writing wheel. 

Even though I wasn't writing, I did take pictures - if nothing else - hoped that once I was unstuck I might be able to find the words to go with the photos and that they might inspire me to Karate kick that sticky bit out of my machinery and begin again.    So with one knee bent and the other fully extended while I hover over my computer, here is the quick and dirty for the month of October:

It was an incredibly stormy start to the month of October - I was humming the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald as I anchored myself against a tree to take these shots:  (yes, I know, wrong Great Lake, but it would seem that Lake Ontario can be pretty impressive as well!)

Kevin and I aren't the only ones missing the big old ash tree....we have had many little woodpeckers arrive only to think they've lost their little minds - "I'm sure there was a gigantic tree with tonnes of delicious green bug larva to eat here last year?  Where on earth did it go?"

The weather has been either brilliant or stormy - pretty typical Fall weather.  Down by the lawn bowling club - the last blossoms of the year.

October 10th and the reds are spectacular.

This was my favourite part of Thanksgiving Day.   I was the cook of the day and was having one of those moments with a million things on the go and not feeling completely thankful for everything I have.  The day was perfection and I thought, why not go for a walk - if we eat a little big deal - with every step I took, I became happier and certainly more grateful for everything and everyone in it.  And, the meal turned out just fine - in fact delicious!

We've had a couple light frosts, so it's time to take the pots apart.  Left this one though, was pleased that I finally got a Eucomis bloom late in the season - thought I might have to wait another year.

When I visited the Caribbean, I always thought Bougainvillea was grown on fences because it is so beautiful - perhaps, but what I've learned is that has the most fierce set of thorns I've ever seen.  Nice to look at and helpful for keeping out intruders.

Very cool Hibiscus from Loblaw - when the weather became cooler, the flowers turned orange from their summer yellow.  Have it cut back and have sent it to the basement - hopefully I'll winter it and will have a good sized plant to start with next year.

Some of the last of the blossoms and leaves.

Down at the Oakville Public Library on Navy Street - who would ever think that October could be so floriferous.

Up high at my Aunt Carolyn's apartment - I could have had a better photo, but I'm not good with heights - so you'll just have to imagine it without the window in the way.

Then for the last of the month we got off to my sister-in-law and brother's cottage.

I am proud to say that we accomplished absolutely nothing.  Aside from some walks and a canoe ride that was pretty darn exciting coming back...can you imagine that Kevin said to me, "there is no way you're going to make the olympic team if you don't pick up the pace"...the only person who got exercise was Bart:

We spent our days just looking at the lake and enjoying it.

Which was exactly what we needed.

Arrived home in time for Halloween.  These neighbours have the most incredible display - year 20 apparently - they do the set up and knock down on the 31st.  They give out over 1200 candies - I'm thinking the children would come just to see the wonderfully horrid stuff they've prepared.

At our house, the event took on a feebler tone - a pumpkin:

A dog in a rerun costume:

And one handsome husband to do the shell out:

50 children later, an empty candy bowl, and that my friends, was October.