Almost Christmas, 2016

Catching Up – December 5, 2016

I know that it has been a very long time since I last wrote anything. My only excuse is that I have been completely preoccupied with the construction of a two-story addition to the house which has almost doubled its size. With problems involving incompetence, delayed workers, theft of materials and the worst weather in years, after an April start, the building has just last week been closed in for winter. Just in time for the first below zero winter storm of the year.

So now I have time to summarize the garden events of the year.

The images above are all from March and April and represent the various gardens that I am developing. Many of the plants were pretty much ignored all summer. I did my best to water with some regularity, but, luckily, it rained more regularly than is usual in this normally dry area. While that hindered the building process, it certainly helped my new plants to settle into there new homes.

In the top row from the top left above, you can see Corydalis, purple and white Fritillarias and white Mukdenia, and my new Nectarine in bloom in April.

The second pair of pix show Orange Emperor tulips and an early spring view of the xeriscape garden with Artemisia in the foreground.

Next down, there are four images showing my overwintered cacti and succulents along with a self-sowed native Mullein by the front entrance, Sandwort (Arenaria), “Lemon Ice”, the first ever flowers on my Cornus Florida in the Courtyard Garden and some new tulips, “Antoinette”, I think, along the back fence in the Courtyard Garden.

The first of the next pair of pictures shows variegated Solomon Seals paired with Pelargonium, “Vancouver Centennial” (overwintered now for nearly 10 years in the house), a tall bearded Iris given to me by my neighbour and some white Sweet Williams given by another new friend, almost ready to bloom. The other image in this row shows another shot of that Corydalis, still blooming – it’s becoming a great favourite of mine as it seems to like it here in the main garden, where it gets morning sun and afternoon shade in spring (it goes dormant when the summer heat arrives and disappears underground).

The last two pix are from late April, and show more of that Corydalis and an old French bush rose with lovely perfume, Blanc Double de Coubert. It came with me from my former garden and is near the end of the garage driveway in another really dry area.

I have lots more pictures to come in the next days along with progress reports on the Veggie Garden, Xeriscape Garden, Food forest/Hugenkultur Garden and the other gardens. Also, reports on the grape arbour and the planned Northwind Garden at the back of the new addition. If you could be there tonight, you’d know how it got its name! Brrr!!

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Two Completed Projects

After quite a break due to extreme busy-ness, I finally have two completed projects to show off! One is the Xeriscape garden dry wall project and the other is the new arbour for the grapevines at the front of the Hugelbed. I did the dry walls and I hired someone to build the arbour.

First, here are two pictures of the completed dry walls:

Feb 28, 2016- 1

Feb 28, 2016- 2

Last time I mentioned that I had to return to the construction site of the shopping centre remodel to get more pieces of the old sidewalks. On February 28 I managed to get those that I needed and here are the two completed walls. While not as tightly-built as a professional would have managed, they’ll do for me. As plants grow around them and soil is moved around, the spaces between will be filled and the pieces of cement will become more stable.

I’ve already built up the soil in some of the lower areas and planted 3 of the 6 Eremurus bulbs (Foxtail Lilies) that I plan to add to the central portion, later to be surrounded by annuals. Hopefully, the Eremurus plants will thrive in this hot, dry part of the garden!

At the far end of this garden near the road, I also added some local opuntia cacti. Unlike the previous transplants, these ones actually had roots when planted!

I’m still looking for more Pussytoes plants (native), Calibrachoa bulbs (also native) and other spring bulbs that might like it here.

I just noticed that the 4-inch high Wolf Willow that I bought and planted last fall is putting out leaves (whoo-hoo!!) but I’ll wait a while before taking its picture. Gotta give the little guy time to grow a bit! The nursery told me that they planted one the same size last spring and by fall it was nearly 2 feet tall!

Now, one picture of my other completed project – the Arbour. It was built for two reasons, one – to support the grape vines around the font of the Hugelbed, and, two – to provide some shade in the hot afternoons for the flower bed along the front of the Hugelbed.

Since little is growing or blooming so far, I added Tibetan prayer flags around the arbour for some colour. Later, colourfully-painted birdhouses will be added as well as some other flags and whirly-gigs to move in the wind. Here’s the picture:


Feb 29, 2016- 1

So far, the small bed in front of the arbour has only a few plants in it. There’s a white garden phlox, “David” at the front corner backed by a  clump of double, pink  “Trebbiano” Asiatic lilies. Above it, on a purpose-built shelf, is a native Sumac seedling just beginning its bonsai training. Maybe in about ten years it’ll look like something!

To the right of the phlox are some Cheddar pinks, a few spring bulbs (don’t remember what kinds but some resemble narcissis) and an Agastache – deep raspberry, if I remember correctly. All are emerging from the ground so have passed the winter well.

Along the left side of the arbour is another bed, part of the Pass-Through Garden. It is in the process of being widened and of having stepping stones installed as I find suitable stones. It’s the home to my tree lilac, pink hydrangea, various tulips, perennial asters, chrysanthemums, etc. Should look good in this, its second spring!

That’s it for this time. More as I have more to report!

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Xeriscape Garden

Lately, a local shopping centre has been doing a major renovation. As part of this, the sidewalks are being replaced so I got permission to collect suitably sized pieces of the broken cement for my dry walls that terrace the slope in my Xeriscape Garden at the front of the house and Veggie Garden.

I began this project over a year ago but ran out of cement. Now, with a fresh supply of material, progress has accelerated. Here are a couple of pictures that I took this afternoon (February 18, 2016).

Feb 18, 2016-1
Feb 18, 2016- 2

I have nearly finished the rockwork in the upper image but still have quite a way to go in the lower one. You can see where I ran out of material for the upper wall between the two posts. I also need to raise the area where the large, flat pieces are in the lower wall. I should have more pieces of cement next week.

Going back to the upper image, I need to do something around the base of the concrete planter for the pine tree, but I haven’t yet decided if I’ll use more pieces of broken concrete or just level it and mulch with crushed limestone from the driveway.

A friend has built me bird houses for the tops of the posts holding up the fencing. One is an outhouse and the other has a sign, “Gord’s Bird B&B”. He usually sells them at large craft fairs so I’m pretty pleased to get them for free!!

While my Snowdrops are blooming in the Courtyard Garden out back, I haven’t yet planted any out here. However, I DO have Tulip saxatalis out here and, as you can see in the next picture, they are just emerging from the soil now. At the base of the Pine tree I have Snow Crocuses, but they were newly planted last Fall and haven’t yet put in an appearance. Neither have the Camassias.

Feb 10, 2015-2If the unusually warm weather holds (El Niño), I should have flowers out here in just a few weeks!!

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More of Last Year’s Faves

Let’s carry on with this view taken last August of the gourd-covered fence around the Hugelbed. This fence was a temporary necessity to keep Willy-dog out of the Hugelbed so he couldn’t damage any more fruit trees or bushes. The gate is an old pallet and the gourds on the fence were an attractive experiment that went somewhat overboard! Believe it or not, there are two grapevines hidden beneath all those gourds!

Luckily, the grapes did very well in the shade of the gourds and when I removed the gourds at the start of winter, the grapes had grown to the top of the fence (looking for the sun??) and were very healthy. I just last week pruned the grapevines for the first time to begin their training.

This year I plan to plant Scarlet Runner Beans or Morning Glories with the grapes to give the narrow flower bed on the outside some shade. It’s too hot in this spot for even “full sun”- rated perennials here in their first year! Eventually, the grapes will provide all the shade needed.

As you can see, the crushed rock had yet to be applied to the soccer pitch but now it looks much better!

Aug 30, 2015- 7

Now, let’s take a look at the side of the car park away out in the front of the place. In this image, you can see, at the top, some of the large pots that held my tomatoes on the old foundations last year. Coming forward is about 7 feet of not-so-great soil filled with the roots of the young trees that provide shade in the afternoons. I’ve begun a bed there with mostly Calendulas because they self-seed. Further out nearer the street there are a couple of ornamental Oreganos (if they survived the winter), a tall raspberry-red Michaelmas Daisy, Pussytoes, etc. At the back along the foundation are 3 Northern Sea Oat grasses (Chasmanthium “River Mist”, which, although very attractive, have made it nowhere near the 36 inches in height that was promised on the tag. Maybe this year . . . (the gardener’s mantra!)

There are also two shrub roses that I brought with me. One is an old French one with clusters of small, pink flowers, “Souvenir de . . . someone” and the other is a seedling from my former Rosa Glauca, which is now around two feet tall. It only flowers once a year, with small, single blooms, but its reddish-burgundy leaves are standouts all season!

Last Fall, I planted some early species tulips and daffodils, but they haven’t sprouted yet.

Aug 30, 2015- 2

Here’s a picture of one of the Sea Oats grasses. Very pretty, but so short!!

Aug 30, 2015- 1

On we go to the other side of the driveway, to my Xeric Garden, more or less. The house is on the left where the wild Sunflowers are. If you look hard you can see my Penjing-styled Pine tree in its former Chinese pot. Now it’s in a large, concrete-block planter accompanied with Crocuses and Camassias. Later on, I’ll plant annuals there for the summer.

Moving to the right, there are some small succulents until we get to the larger Sagebrush that shades the roots of my new Zelkova tree, then on past a young Lavender and over to an Artemisia that was given to me by a friend as a housewarming gift.

Beyond the Artemisia, in the narrow bit at the end of the bed, are some native Opuntia cacti and a few Sempervivums (Hens and Chicks).

On the fence behind are, on the left, more gourds, and on the right, climbing beans and squash.

The terrace walls are made from an old, broken-up sidewalk and the driveway is covered with the same crushed limestone as is the Soccer Pitch in the Main Garden.

Aug 30, 2015- 3

Here’s the Pine tree in its new planter. I’m hoping it’ll look impressive this summer! Behind it, in the ground, is a tiny Wolf Willow about 4 inches high that I bought last Fall. The nursery told me that theirs grew last year from this size to almost 3 feet tall in one season, so I have great hopes! It’s grey-green leaves should provide a good foil for the pine’s solid green.

Oct 4, 2015- 1

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Last Year’s Faves

Today I thought I’d give you a sample of some of my favourite plants/combinations from last year. These pictures come from all parts of my gardens. Some (hopefully) will reappear this season, while others were a one-time try that may or may not be repeated.

Some of the plants have since died for various reasons – bugs, dogs, insects, me – I kill lots of plants through inattention, ignorance of their needs in this climate, incorrect pruning – you name it! Even though I consider myself to be an experienced gardener, gardening in a new climate and on different soil always has its learning curve. No two garden plots have the same microclimates, frost pockets, wet and dry spots, etc. While observation over time usually reveals many of these idiosyncracies, that takes time.

I am now seventy years of age and have had one heart operation and several strokes, so I don’t feel as if I have time to waste. I’d rather kill a few plants than wait for a garden to be formed and to get growing!

So, here we go on the tour of memories from last year!

April 18, 2015-4

These lovely pink Corydalis “George Baker” (I think) were new last spring. They bloomed early then went dormant when the heat hit. Hopefully, they’ll return this spring!

April 25, 2015-1

These two – Mukdenia and Fritillilaria – both came with me from my former garden and seem to like where I replanted them. In fact, the Mukdenia has never done so well for me before! However, the real reason I bought it was for the lovely red that its leaves are supposed to develop in summer. They have never done this and just stay green until Autumn frosts kill them off! However, it does have a wonderfully long bloom time here in my zone 5 garden.

The Fritillarias, a combination of purple and white ones, grow from bulbs and are conversation pieces with the cross-hatched, snakeshead patterns on their flowers. Neither of these species has any discernable fragrance.



April 28, 2015-1

This is the clump of semi-double Trilliums that I brought with me from Vancouver Island, where I used to live. I rescued them from the edges of logging roads and from construction sites. They are here in their ageing, purple stage, but when first in bloom, they are all a glorious white. They made it through their first winter here and the hot summer, so I’m hoping they’ll return this Spring. This pic was taken on April 28.

Aug 4, 2015- 6

Now we’ll move to August when these Verbenas were in full bloom. I planted them to fill the little bed where the Red Emperor Tulips were last spring beside the steps at the front of the house. They completely filled the bed and did extremely well in the sweltering heat and full sun there. This year, as I’ve said before, I hope to find some red Verbenas for this spot since they like it here.


Aug 8, 2015- 1

This is one of the many flower heads on my new Hydrangea, “Vanilla Strawberry” which I planted last Spring beside the garden shed. While not as large or as brightly coloured as shown on the tag, it did have lots of smaller flower heads which I thought was pretty good for a first year! Hopefully, they will be larger and brighter pink this year!

Aug 15, 2015- 1

This is my other hydrangea, which is a complete mystery to me! It must have been here all along and missed being dug up when I planted my Japanese Aralia tree in this spot. Anyway, here it is, blooming on almost creeping branches that lay on the ground! The flowers on it are an old-fashioned creamy-white colour, quite unlike the newer varieties, so I’m assuming it’s a pretty old plant. I babied it last summer and I plan to do the same this year to see it I can get it to grow in a more upright fashion. Time will tell!

Aug 30, 2015- 5

This view of part of the Cottage Garden and part of the Pass-through Garden was taken in late August just as the Amaranthus, “Love Lies Bleeding” was beginning to bloom. They kept on flowering until hard frost cut them down in November. Looking at the back left you can see, just above the roof, the stragglers of the Hollyhocks blooming and below them, the last of the Phlox, “Nora Leigh”, my favourite Phlox because of its variegated, green and cream leaves. You can also see some of my white Petunias and a small clump of orange and yellow Crocosmias, “Emily McKenzie”. They were newcomers that were flowering when I bought them. Hopefully, they’ll make it through winter and bloom once more this year.

That’s it for today but I’ll post more faves next time!

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Xeriscape Garden

Today, I’d like to show you some views of the Xeriscape Garden. It’s located in front of the wire fence that protects the Veggie Garden from the local animals. It borders the right side of my parking area and has been terraced with the bits of an old, broken sidewalk that was torn up when I enlarged the car park area. It is very hot and dry there as it slopes down southward from the Veggie Garden and any water tends to run off and into the street. It is also baked by the hot sun almost all day in summer. In the photo below, the area I’m referring to today goes diagonally from the corner of the house at the right of the 2 small windows, to where the photographer was standing when this was taken. That is where the current fence runs and it is the area from that fence toward the car park at the left where I’ve built the Xeriscape Garden.

House Closeup


By February, 2015, this area looked like what you see below. Crushed rock had been spread over the car park and I had made a rough dry stone wall to raise and level part of the steep slope down from what would become the Veggie Garden. The fence posts were in the ground waiting for a load of mushroom compost to be applied for the vegetables before the fencing went up.

If you look closely, you can see the bare stems of my Zelkova shade tree. It is a tree that resembles an American Elm when mature. However, it is considerably shorter and has much smaller leaves. It’s also not susceptible to Dutch Elm Disease. Since it’s vase-shaped, eventually it should shade the house roof while allowing sunshine onto the Veggie Garden.

Feb 3, 2014-3

Since then, I’ve added various drought-tolerant plants (some of which died due to lack of water in their first year – my fault). I’ll need to replant some of those, but not just now. I have some native Opuntia (cactus) from across the road to see if they’ll take hold, as well as several varieties of Solidago (Goldenrod), Sempervivum (Hens & Chicks), Sedums and Euphorbia myrtinides. This year, I hope to try Dill again and I planted a tiny Wolf Willow seedling about 4 inches high last fall as well as numerous species bulbs that should like it here.

I don’t yet have a good picture of it yet, but now, between where the wire fence connects with the wall of the house, and the porch, I’ve built a 4-foot diameter concrete block planter which houses my Chinese Penjing Pine tree. For those who don’t know, Penjing trees arre the larger, Chinese form of Bonsai. I have had this tree for years in a large pot and decided to move it here.  I thought it would look good raised above the surrounding area but able to put its roots into the ground to enable it to grow larger. There needed to be something evergreen here and I had to put it somewhere where Willy could not tear any more branches from it. It will take a few years to get back to the state it was in before his attacks!



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More Beauties from the Past

Today, we’ll take a look at the beginning of the Courtyard Garden, on the north side of the house and visible from the kitchen and the bathroom.

Aug 13, 2014-3B

This was the site of the Courtyard Garden in August, 2014, about a month after I moved here. The brown fence went from the front corner of the house to the neighbour’s fence. Virginia Creeper vines had just been largely removed from here as they had filled the space between the fence and the house and climbed up the wall to the peak of the roof. Once the vines had been largely removed, I began planning for what to do here.

First, that brown fence was moved and converted to a gate between the foreground corner of the house and the neighbouring fence so that I’d be able to move through toward the planned Veggie Garden while keeping Willy out.

As you can see, I had already planted some hostas and some tall Thalictrum rochebrunianum (Meadow Rue) as well as a few other plants from the old garden here because it was the shadiest spot I had.


May 15, 2015- 2

By May 15, 2015, the Courtyard Garden looked like this. The new foundation and back walls had been more or less finished the Autumn before but the shingles still needed (and still do need) to be replaced, but planting needed to be carried on. Various lilies and hostas had made it through the winter and were up. Some Coleus had been planted for summer colour, and Willy’s Pond was in place in its first version.

June 23, 2015- 1 By the middle of June, 2015, the first Hosta was blooming, bordered by a variegated mint that smelled wonderful when brushed. The little fence was there to help Willy remember to stay out of the border. It worked much of the time!

June 23, 2015- 16

My Coleus plants did very well in the Courtyard Garden last year so I planted many of them. When Fall came, I took cuttings so that now I have a good selection for this year overwintering inside. Sweet Alyssum also did well here after a down time in the heat of mid-summer.

Sept 18, 2015- 2

By mid-September of last year (2015), the courtyard looked like this. Looking the opposite direction from the previous pix, we can see the River of Shallow Water and the beginnings of the bridge over it. On the right side is a native Mullein and several othert plants (Coleus, Hostas, shrubs, etc) that are overexposed due to the brilliant morning sunshine that this garden gets until around noon.

On the left is another Coleus, some potted Anthuriums out for the summer, some Pulmonarias and Hosta, “Blue Mouse Ears”. Some of the boulders that form the banks of the stream have been put in place and are awaiting the mulch for the pathway that was recently spread out.


Sept 24, 2015 - 1

By late September, 2015, the mixed border between the bridge and the neighbour’s shed was looking like this. The tall plant at the right of the picture is that Mullein beside the bridge. The tree with the variegated leaves is my Dogwood florida, “Cherokee Sunrise” and the shrub at the extreme left is Acer palmata, “Orangeola” (Japanese weeping Maple). These Coleus are the mother plants of my babies in the house  and the large, roundish leaves, I think, are those of Money Plants (Lunaria) that should bloom this coming Spring.

You can see, on the fence, remnants of the original Virginia Creeper vines that I left for their Autumn colour.

There will be many more plants in this small garden in the coming season. Next time, I’ll focus on the Entrance Garden outside the front Veggie Garden fence.

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