Monday, June 19, 2017

Roses, Peonies and Foxgloves

Can you believe that it's almost the end of June? I can't!

Peonies, roses and foxgloves are the stars in the garden at the moment.

Rose 'Carefree Beauty', pink peonies and Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna'

David Austin's 'Mary Rose'

David Austin's 'Mary Rose'

The "hedge" of  climbing Explorer series roses 'John Davis' and 'John Cabot'.

Canadian Explorer Series Rose 'John Cabot'

'Reine de Violettes' rose which is very upright and almost thornless.

The deeper pinky-red rose is Hybrid Musk rose 'Marjorie Fair' and the lighter pink 
is the Hybrid Musk rose 'Robin Hood'.

These are self-seeded Foxgloves. (Read more about growing Foxgloves here.)

Now is the time to cut back your perennial geraniums. They'll look like hell for a week or so and then you should see nice fresh foliage.

The Lupins are almost finished blooming. I love the seedpods in this soft, furry green stage.

Campanula and a patio clematis. You can read more about Campanula here.

'Chereokee' Clematis which is part of Boulevard series of patio clematis. It only grows 5-6 ft.

Phlomis tuberosa 'Amazone' 

These peachy-pink foxgloves I grew from seed. (They are Sutton's Seeds 'Apricot'.)

Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Froufrou Chocolate Chiffon Cake

From the book Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs: Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden – with 100 Recipes, ©2015, by Signe Langford, Photography by Donna Griffith. Published by Douglas & McIntyre. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

By Signe Langford 

Ah, summertime. If raspberry bushes grow in your garden, they’re most likely laden and begging to be enjoyed right now.

But even if you don’t have any of those spiky, rambling, rather aggressive plants at home, no worries! Supplies of the juicy, ripe, red berries runneth over in the markets, at roadside stands, pick-your-own farms, and dangling ever so temptingly from wild plants in fields and forests.

Photo by Signe Langford

Raspberries, along with blackberries, salmonberry, dewberries, boysenberries, loganberries, and many more, including hybrids, are members of the rubus family of fruit-bearing woody plants or shrubs native to much of North America. Hundreds of varieties of rubus – a branch of the rosaceae family – grow and are enjoyed throughout the world.

Some species ramble and crawl, some stand upright then flop over; all are vigorous growers and spreaders and defensively prickly, though, there are thorn-less varieties to be found in garden shops.
Some gardeners love ‘em, some hate ‘em. At the very least, it’s a real case of NIMBYism. We love raspberries, just not in my backyard!

Actually, I do love them in my backyard. I don’t mind taking the time to hack back those determined shoots as needed; the fruit is just so worth it! And for instant gratification, there aren’t too many more accommodating plants; they grow quickly, are hardy and tolerant, and fruit abundantly until frost. The birds love to eat the berries and hide from predators in the thorny tangle. And if garden space is plentiful, a row of rubus makes a wonderful, living, edible fence.

Photo by Signe Langford

I love raspberries in drinks, jam, pancakes, or just dolloped with whipped cream. They’re amazing fresh, and freeze really well for use in cooking and baking. For raspberries recycled into rich, wonderful eggs, I share my haul with the hens who patrol the garden.

And with those fresh eggs and sweet raspberries the baking possibilities are almost endless! 

From the book Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs: Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden – with 100 Recipes, ©2015, by Signe Langford, Photography by Donna Griffith. Published by Douglas & McIntyre. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

Froufrou Chocolate Chiffon Cake

serves 8 to 10

Mother had her specialties: a menu of a handful of sweets and savouries she’d only do for company. She made a baba au rhum that took a full day of drenching in rum so it soaked it all up. She’d make it when her friends Max and Nancy were over for dinner— he swooned over the booziness of it and Mother swooned over Max’s attention and compliments. I watched all of this with fascination, especially the final few splashes of warm rum she’d pour over the cake while she was getting dressed for the party.

Standing at the dark-brown stove in pantyhose with a few curlers still bobbling on her head, she’d dip her measuring cup into the pot of rum and melted apricot jam and pour it over the sponge-like baba that seemed to have an endless capacity for more rum. This throat-burning, yeasty, not-nearly-sweet-enough cake was a cruel trick to play on a kid.

But this cake—her magnificent pale chocolate chiffon cake slathered in deep drifts of soft-beige whipped cream—met all of my expectations and more. Most astonishing was the depth of whipped cream, and the way she filled the centre cavity, top to bottom, with even more whipped cream—I’d never seen such decadence, such abandon, such a girly, froufrou confection. I’ve made it more summery, with a healthy slathering of raspberry whipped cream, a smear of extra jam and a nice pile of fresh berries.

Photo by Jeff Coulson

Raspberry Whipped Cream

3 cups (710 mL) 35 percent cream
2 Tbsp (30 mL) super-fine (berry) sugar
⅔ cup (160 mL) homemade raspberry jam (or excellent-quality store-bought), plus extra for garnishing
2 tsp (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
Pinch fine sea salt
½ cup (120 mL) fresh raspberries, for garnishing


½ cup (120 mL) loosely packed pure cocoa (I like
fair trade)
½ cup (120 mL) boiling water
½ cup (120 mL) neutral vegetable oil
½ cup (120 mL) buttermilk
2 tsp (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
6 egg yolks, at room temperature
1¾ cups (415 mL) sifted cake flour
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 mL) fine sea salt
1¼ cups (300 mL) packed brown sugar
7 egg whites, at room temperature
½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
½ cup (120 mL) sugar

01. Preheat oven to 325F (160C) and adjust the oven rack to the bottom third of the oven.

02. Add all of the raspberry whipped cream ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and start beating on low, gradually increasing the speed to medium high. Whip until soft peaks form. Cover and set aside in the fridge until ready to ice the cake.

03. In a small bowl, whisk the cocoa powder with the boiling water until perfectly smooth. Add the oil, buttermilk and vanilla to the cocoa liquid and whisk to combine. Whisk in the egg yolks.

04. Into a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the brown sugar and stir, crushing any lumps. Add the chocolate liquid mixture to the flour mixture and stir just to combine. Do not over-work or the batter will be tough.

05. Wipe out a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer with a drop of lemon juice or vinegar.
Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites, increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whisk until soft-peak stage. Reduce speed to medium and gradually add the sugar, then increase speed back up to high to firm, glossy peaks.

06. Add about a third of the whipped egg whites to the chocolate batter and gently fold to incorporate. Add the remaining egg whites and very gently fold in to evenly incorporate.

07. Pour the batter into an ungreased angel food cake pan and bake in the lower third of the oven for about 55 minutes. The cake should bounce back when touched and a skewer inserted near the centre should come out clean.

08. Transfer baked cake to a cooling rack to cool completely before removing from pan. When cool, run a knife around the edges, then invert directly onto serving plate; you don’t want to handle it too much.

09. Now, some folks like to slice this tall cake into layers and spread the whipped cream between all the layers, but I leave it whole and fill the centre hole with cream. First drop the raspberry whipped cream into the middle, one spoonful at a time. Then use a spatula to spread the rest of the cold whipped cream all over the top and sides.

10. Use the back of a spoon to spread a little more raspberry jam over the top of the cake, then pile up with fresh berries. Serve immediately or pop into the fridge to set; the whipped cream will soon slide and fall at room temperature.

Bookmark this post with a Pin.

Recipe from the book Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs: Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden – with 100 Recipes, ©2015, by Signe Langford, Photography by Donna Griffith. Published by Douglas & McIntyre. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

About the author:

Signe Langford is a restaurant-chef-turned-writer who tells award-winning stories and creates delicious recipes. She is a frequent contributor to the Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Life, Canadian Living and Garden Making magazines. In 2105, Signe published her first book Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden- with 100 Recipes
Raised in the town of Hudson, Quebec Signe grew up surrounded by an ever changing menagerie of critters, both wild and domestic, and her special affection for all feathered creatures has never flagged. At present, she shares a downtown Toronto Victorian with a tiny flock of laying hens. For more stories and recipes please visit

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Gardening with Foliage First: Book Review and Giveaway

I'd love to go plant shopping with Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz! In the introduction to their latest book, Gardening with Foliage First, here's how they describe their plant hunting expeditions:

"What do you get when you let two designers loose in a nursery? A car filled to overflowing with a wild assortment of trees, shrubs, perennials and more. It is a given that you will not be able to see out the rear window, and you should expect to have plants on the seats, on the floor and in the cup holders. It is only when the plants are precariously balanced on the dashboard that we think we have enough."

It might be tricky finding additional room in the car for yet another shopper, but somehow I think I would fit right in with these two plant enthusiasts! In real life, Karen and Christina are friends who encourage and challenge one another, which brings out the best in both ot them. Readers certainly stand to benefit from their passion for plants in general, and their love of foliage in particular.

Karen and Christina advise you to head to your local nursery or garden centre with a plan in mind. Without a wish list, you're much more likely to end up with a shopping cart full of pretty blooms. Once those flowers fade, you'll find that you have spent all your money on a bit of short-term glory.

I'd also add that most gardeners shop in the early spring. If you head home with a car load of spring bloomers, your garden is going to be pretty lack-lustre later in the summer and fall.

Focusing on foliage rather than flowers is a more novel approach to creating plant combinations. When you stop to really consider them, you'll find that leaves often have very attractive colors, textures, veining and variegation. In their latest collaboration, Karen and Christina show us how to use these unique features and create combinations that accentuate them.

From Gardening with Foliage First by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz. © 2017 Published by Timber Press. Excerpted with permission of the publisher.

Gardening with Foliage First has two main sections: Spring & Summer and Fall &Winter. Within those main sections there are subsections for both sun and shade. As well as year round interest, the plant mixes cover a wide range of projects– everything from small patio containers to large borders.

The plant combinations are really well organized. A quick glance at the top of the page will tell you light and soil requirements, zone and seasons of interest. Each suggested combination includes a large glamour shot that shows the mix of plants to best advantage. Below the picture is a detailed explanation of how the elements work together. This takes some of the mystery out of the design process and gives the reader the confidence they will need to start to build plant parings of their own. "How the Design Grows" explains how each plant in a design changes through the seasons. Along with the overall shot of the full combination, there is an additional image of each individual plant and general information on what that plant needs to grow well.

From Gardening with Foliage First by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz. © 2017 Published by Timber Press. Excerpted with permission of the publisher.

Shown above is a container planting that the authors have named "Dinosaur Soup" after the Dinosaur Kale, Brassica oleracea 'Lacinato' which is standout feature at the back of the arrangement. 

Most of the plants used in this container are not only evergreen, they change color through the seasons. Among the plants are: Heuchera 'Blondie', with pale ginger flowers and foliage that has shades of gold and brown; an Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora, which has lovely coppery accents in the late summer and fall; and a Rheingold arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis that has golden foliage that turns orange in winter.

From Gardening with Foliage First by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz. © 2017 Published by Timber Press. Excerpted with permission of the publisher.

Above is the low-maintenance combination called "A Queen and her Court". At the heart of this grouping is Heuchera 'Electra' with its golden foliage veined with red. The mix also includes a Golden Sedge, Carex oshimensis, a Primrose, Primula x polyantha 'Sweetheart' and a dark Heuchera 'Obsidian'.

Both authors hope their book will be appeal to gardeners with varying levels of experience. Certainly novice gardeners will find the book inspiring, but I think those who stand to benefit the most are intermediate to experienced gardeners. This book will help them add a greater degree of sophistication and finesse to their plantings.

It makes perfect sense to think longterm and put foliage first, but it's a mindset that requires practice. Gardening has such a long history of focusing on flowers! Gardeners almost need to reeducated themselves and that's where Gardening with Foliage First comes in.

With their new book Karen and Christina hope to give you the confidence to try new ideas, and in doing so, discover a fresh approach to creating plant combinations.

Thomas Allen & Sons has kindly given me a copy of Gardening with Foliage First to give away. Because this book will go to a winner through the mail, I will have to limit entry to readers in Canada and the USA. 

Please leave a comment below, if you would like to be included in the book draw. The draw will remain open for the until Sunday, June 25thIf you are not a blogger, you can enter by leaving a comment on the Three Dogs in a Garden Facebook page (there is an additional link to the Facebook page at the bottom of the blog). You are also welcome to enter by sending me an email (

About the Authors:

Karen Chapman has her own container and landscape design company, Le Jardinet.  She writes gardening articles for online and print publications and is a popular public speaker. Visit Karen's website: Le Jardinet.

Christina Salwitz operates The Personal Garden Coach, a Seattle-area based business that helps gardeners of all skill levels achieve their gardening dreams. Her blog is THE Personal Garden Coach.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Welcome to my Spring Garden

In the middle distance: maroon colored Clematis 'Bourbon' reaches a height of 4-5 feet.

Wild, untamed and wonderfully fragrant! Welcome to my spring garden!

Gas Plant with blue Amsonia in the foreground. Manchurian Lilac 'Miss Kim' in the distance.

Gas Plant with blue Amsonia.

Gas plant, Dictamnus albus forms a bushy, upright clump of bright green leaves and has tall spires of white flowers in late May/early June. The plant gets its common name from the tiny amount of methane gas its flowers produce. A lighted match will flair if held near the flowers.
This plant is very slow to establish. Average soil is fine. Height: 60-90 cm ( 23-35 inches), Spread 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.

Catmint, Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low' 

Catmint, Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low' 

Deutzia x lemoinei 'Compacta': has an upright habit and white flowers in spring. Plant it in sun to part-shade in average garden soil. It likes growing conditions to be on the moist side. Height: 4-6', Spread: the same. USDA Zones: 4-8. No serious diseases or problems. Prune in spring after flowering.

Lychnis viscaria 'Splendens': When not in flower forms Lychnis viscaria 'Splendens' forms a low mound of grass-like foliage. Then in early spring magenta flowers appear on tall stems. Height: 45-50 cm (18-20 inches), Spread: 30 cm (12 inches). USDA zones: 3-7.

Centaurea montana 'Amethyst in Snow' has shaggy white flowers with a purple centre. The foliage has a downy texture and a silver-grey-green color. Full sun and average garden soil. Cut the plant back hard after it finishes flowering and it will bloom again. (Note: the common blue form of this plant, Centaurea montana has proved to be problematic in some areas of the Canada and the States. I could not find an notations about this cultivar being invasive). Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

Just inside the back gate is the beginnings of a white garden.

The almost-blind, 18 year old Buddy who we've nicknamed "Old Man".

Looking toward the back garden. 

One of the birdbath planters.

Sweet Rocket and Anemone canadensis.

The infamously invasive Anemone canadensis from my last post.


The first of the Siberian Iris.

Columbine and alliums with a hosta in the near distance.

An apartment style birdhouse and a Dogwood tree on the right.


Lupins grown from seed.

Columbine and Lupins.

Pink Columbine and and an Allium.

The path leading toward my four raised beds. 
Dwarf Korean Lilac tree form, Springa meryeri 'Palibin' in the near distance.

'Boomerang' Lilac on the left. 

'Boomerang' Lilac blooms in the spring, and then after a short rest through the heat of summer, again in the late summer/fall. Fragrant. Full sun. Height: 4-5 ft, Spread: 4-5 ft. USDA zones:3-7.


Not sure of this one. Geranium cantabrigiense ' Biokovo Karmina' maybe?

Prairie Smoke, Geum triflorum is a western native with decorative seed heads that look like puffs of smoke. Well-drained soil is crucial for this plant. Full sun and summer weather that is not too hot are best. Once established Geum triflorum is pretty low maintenance and is very drought tolerant. Height: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches), Spread: 40-60 cm (16-24 inches). USDA zones 3-7.

Viola sororia 'Freckles' has white flowers with china-blue speckles and heart-shaped, bright green leaves. This violet is native to Eastern North America. Part-shade or full shade. Average garden soil and average moisture levels will suit this violet. Viola sororia 'Freckles' will spread through self-seeding. Height: 15-20 cm (6-8 inches), Spread: 15-30 cm (6-12 inches). USDA zones:3-9.

The herb garden.

Pinks, Dianthus are sold as an annual here, but they usually come back the second year. 

My fairy garden project from a few weeks ago.

Tall bearded Iris with a Columbine in the background.


Woodland Phlox, Phlox divaricata

Blue Forget-me-nots, Geranium 'Sambour' (burgundy flowers) 
and a white variety of Woodland Phlox on the right.

Woodland Phlox, Phlox divaricata 'May Breeze' has fragrant, star-shaped white flowers in early spring. Unlike more familiar Phlox paniculata that blooms much later in the summer, this plant has fine, delicate foliage. Phlox divaricata 'May Breeze' slowly spreads to form a small clump. Divide in the fall. Moist soil and part to full shade are this plants preferences. Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 30-60 cm ( 12-23 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

My picture does not do the unusual blue-grey color of this hosta justice.

Hosta 'Joy Ride' not only has great curves, it also has foliage with a wonderful powdery, blue-green color. Light lavender flowers appear mid-summer. Part-shade to full shade. Height: 40-45 cm (16-18 inches), Spread: 90 cm ( 35 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

An island-shaped shade garden in the back part of the yard.

A Buddha meditating in the same island-shaped bed.

Mourning Widow Cranesbill, Geranium phaeum 'Samobor' has deep red flowers and green foliage splashed with maroon. One great thing about many geraniums are their versatility in terms of sun exposure; full sun, part-shade or full shade will often work for them. Geranium phaeum 'Samobor'  is a prolific self-seeder. Cut the plant back hard to the ground after it flowers and you'll get rid of unwanted seedlings and have nice, fresh green leaves in a week or two. Height: 60-80 cm (23-31 inches), Spread: 60-70 cm (23-27 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Shooting Star, Dodecatheon meadia is a short-lived perennial that takes a year or so to flower. Typically they put on their best display in year three and then they disappear. Plant it in rich, moist soil. Full sun to part-shade. Height: 20-30 cm ( 8-12 inches), Spread: 15-20 cm (6-8 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.

Pots of Pansies at the very back of the garden.

Such a weird color combination, but I love it!

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of my spring garden!