Saturday, December 15, 2018

A Wishlist of Garden Books + a Holiday Giveaway

Books get me through the winter, so there is always gardening books on my wishlist for the holidays. I would be thrilled to find any of the following under the tree this year:

Books with Great Visual Appeal

Highgrove: An English Country Garden by H.R.H Prince Charles and Bunny Guinness
Prince Charles is a pioneer in organic garden practices. With lovely photographs and watercolor illustrations by the Prince himself, this book is a gorgeous exploration of the gardens at Highgrove House.  (4.3/5 on Goodreads, 5 stars on Amazon)

Garden Design: A Book of Ideas by Heidi Howcroft and Marianne Majerus
My next suggestion offers a wealth of design ideas all brought home by stunning photographs. The authors lead you through the process of designing a garden in an eloquent and insightful way. (4.1/5 on Goodreads, 5 stars on Amazon)

Gardenlust by Christopher Woods
In Gardenlust, intrepid plant hunter Christopher Woods spotlights 50 modern gardens, both private and public, that he feels push boundaries and define natural beauty in significant ways. Armchair travel at its best! (4.1/5 on Goodreads, 4.5 stars on Amazon)

The Garden in Every Sense and Season by Tovah Martin 
This is a book on my own personal Christmas wishlist. Unlike the vast majority of garden books that focus on the how-to's of gardening (the weeding, planting, pruning, etc.), in this book Tovah Martin reflects on the delights of her own garden and encourages readers to become more attuned to their own gardens. I am a fan of the author's two previous books on houseplants, so I am really looking forward to curling up with this book in the cold days ahead. (4.2/5 on Goodreads, 4.5 stars on Amazon)

A Tapestry Garden by Marietta and Ernie O'Byrne
This is a memoir about creating a garden on one and a half acres in the Pacific Northwest. While the story is very enjoyable, it is the photographs that make this book sing. (4/5 on Goodreads, 4.5 stars on Amazon)

A spread from Garden Style by Selina Lake

Garden Style by Selina Lake
If you like the decorative side of gardening, this book is for you. With lots of terrific visual inspiration, the author shows you how to transform your garden into a stylish space for relaxing and entertaining. (3.56 on Goodreads, 4 stars on Amazon)

Project Books

Projects for Self-Sufficiency by Black and Decker 
My husband picked this one. Step-by-step instructions and photos lead you through 60 projects (Note: some carpentry skills required). Projects include raised planting beds, rain barrels, compost bins, a chicken coop, hoop houses and greenhouses. (4.6/5 on Goodreads, 4.5 stars on Amazon)

Wood Pallet Wonders by Samantha Hartman
Some wood pallet projects can be downright tacky in my humble opinion. This book offers 20 rustic, farmhouse-style projects (many with a possible garden use) that I thought were quite charming and possible to do with basic carpentry skills. (3.33/5 on Goodreads, 5 stars on Amazon)

Hypertufa Containers: Creating and Planting an Alpine Trough Garden by Lori Chips
I have wanted to make hypertufa projects for years, but have never gotten around to it. Recommended by the North American Rockgarden Society as "a complete guide to designing, making and planting hypertufa troughs", this book sounds like inspiration I need to finally get me started. (4.45 on Goodreads and Amazon)

An example of a hypertufa container (though not from the book).

For the Houseplant Lover

At Home with Plants by Ian Drummond &Kara O'Reilly
Houseplants are back in fashion big time! At Home with Plants shows the novice indoor gardener how to transform their home with plants, offering up more than 250 inspirational pictures and ideas for each room in the house. (3.6 on Goodreads and 4 stars on Amazon)

A spread from the Practical Houseplant Book by Fran Bailey & Zia Allaway

Practical Houseplant Book by Fran Bailey & Zia Allaway
This guide offers 175 plant profiles and 12 step-by-step projects to display indoor plants creatively. (4.43 on Goodreads and 5 stars on Amazon)

For the Nature Lover

Shinrin-Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing by Yoshifumi Miyazaki 
Shinrin-Yoku: The Japanese Art and Science of Forest Bathing by Qing Li
Have you ever heard of forest bathing? I hadn't until recently and would love to learn more. Forest bathing is connecting with nature to reduce stress and improve your health and happiness. There are a number of books on the subject, but I will suggest two. Shinrin-Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing is a bestseller for Timber Press. Shinrin-Yoku: The Japanese Art and Science of Forest Bathing has the best rating of on Goodreads.

Our Native Bees: North America's Endangered Pollinators and the Fight to Save Them by Paige Embry
A lot of what you read these days focuses on honey bees. North American native bees are just as deserving of our attention. Endangered native species of bees are essential to our ecosystems and food supplies. (4.3 on Goodreads and 4.5 stars on Amazon)

For the Vegetable Gardener

No Dig Organic Home & Garden: Grow, Cook, Use & Store Your Harvest by Charles Dowding & Stephanie Hafferty 
Well-known author Charles Dowling has been gardening intensively for over thirty-five years. Co-author Stephanie Hafferty is a kitchen gardener who has created no-dig gardens for restaurants and private estates. Together they explain the benefits of the no dig approach to vegetable gardening with tips on composting, living sustainably, harvesting and preparing food year round.  Also included are recipes for making natural cosmetics, cleaning products and garden preparations. (4.2 on Goodreads and 4.5 stars on Amazon)

The Food Lover's Garden: Growing, Cooking and Eating Well by Jenni Blackmore
This book was recommended to me by Signe Langford who often writes for this blog. This book reads like a casual conversation over the back fence and is a great beginner's guide to growing, cooking and preserving easy-to-grow vegetables. (too early for ratings on Goodreads and Amazon)

A view of Niki's garden in the late summer. Photography by Niki Jabbour

Veggie Garden Remix by Niki Jabbour
In her latest book, best-selling author Niki Jabbour encourages her readers to expand the repertoire of vegetables they grow with over two hundred vegetable alternatives from around the world. To boost your confidence, Niki provides growing information for each plant, along with fun facts and a plant history. As always, Niki's writing is light, informative and entertaining. (4.3 on Goodreads and 5 stars on Amazon)

So that's my list. There are lots of great choices. The hard part is deciding which one! 

It wouldn't be one of my book reviews without a giveaway. Timber Press has very nicely provided me with a copy of Gardenlust: A Botanical Tour of the World's Best New Gardens to give away to one lucky reader. Because this book will go to a winner through the mail, we 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 until Thursday, January 3rdIf 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 (

Good luck everyone!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Rustic Rosehip Wreaths

Last week I went home to Nova Scotia to check on my Dad. It's been a month since my Mom passed away and I needed to reassure myself that he was adjusting to life on his own. My parents were married for just over sixty years, and after so much time together, the loss must weigh heavily on Dad.

At ninety-three, Dad will tell you that his memory "isn't so good", but truth be told, he's still pretty sharp. Over short distances, he gets around with the help of a walker. For longer hikes, he's a speed demon in a motorized wheelchair. On our walks together, he usually left me in the dust!

Opposite Dad's apartment at the Berkeley (an assisted living residence for seniors), there is a lake with a gravel path that skirts the shoreline. In the area closest to the road, I discovered a large number of wild roses. How these roses came to grow amongst the wildflowers and grasses I could not tell you. They seem to have self-seeded themselves around the shoreline quite happily. 

While roses have a reputation for being fussy plants, the abundance of these shrubs suggests that some roses are quite capable of withstanding whatever nature throws their way. No gardener fertilizes or waters them. No one wraps them up to protect them in the winter and yet they flourish. They're quite content to make their own way in the world, thank you very much.

What I found particularly remarkable about these wild roses was the proliferation of colorful hips. 

I have not had the pleasure of seeing them in bloom, but I imagine that the majority of these roses are single flowers that are pale pink in color. Mixed in among the single roses were other shrubs where the big, round hips suggest larger, double flowers. This second type of wild rose had glossy, reddish-brown leaves that were quite magical when mixed in with all the other autumnal hues.

I couldn't resist gathering some hips to bring indoors.

Even if there are only a few rosehips in your garden, it's nice to bring them indoors for the holidays. Arranged in little vintage bottles, they look quite festive.

A few stems of red hips can also look pretty in a jug with some foraged evergreens.

Rosehips can even add a small flourish to a holiday gift.

Rosa glauca (medium pink)

Rosehips are actually edible. When roses are pollinated small fruits are formed that carry the seeds. Most hips are round, but they can have an elongated shape as well. Like oranges, rosehips are high in vitamin C and can be used to make tea, jams, jellies and syrups.

If you don't have roses at the moment, but would like to be able to gather hips of your own, look for roses with single or semi-double flowers that have an open cup-like shape that encourages pollinators to visit. Many-petaled roses like hybrid teas make it hard for bees and other pollinating insects to reach the flower's centre. 

Stop deadheading your roses in late-summer allowing the blossoms to fade naturally and produce hips.

In my garden, a John Cabot rose is a thorny warrior that produces orangy-red hips.

Roses that are known for producing hips

Landscape and Shrub Roses 
Bonica (medium pink)
Carefree Beauty (pink)
Meidiland Species: Alba, Coral, Fire, Magic, Mystic, Pink, Red
Carefree Delight (pink)

Rugosa Roses
Hansa (deep pink)
Jens Munk (medium pink)

Hybrid Musks
Ballerina (pale pink apple blossom type roses)
Buff Beauty (pinky-apricot)
Felicia (pink)
Sally Homes (white)

David Austin Roses
Constance Spry (light pink)
John Clare (deep pink)
Shropshire Lass (light pink)
The Generous Gardener (soft pink)
Penelope (white)

Other Roses
Bourbon Queen (pink blend)
John Cabot (medium pink)
Rosa glauca (medium pink)
Rosa mundi (pink blend)
Rosa rugosa
Rosa rugosa alba (white)
Rosa woodsii (medium pink)

With the bundles of rosehips I gathered by the lake, I decided to make a few holiday wreaths to bring home with me. The starting point for the first one was a simple grapevine wreath.

Often you will see it recommended to use hot glue or wire to make wreaths. For me, that's a bit of overkill. I like to reuse my grapevine wreaths, so I always keep my working method very basic. That way, when the wreath gets dusty or I simply get bored with it and want to make something new, it's easy to dismantle and repurpose. 

If you prefer to make sure the wreath is absolutely rock solid, simply fasten some paddle wire to the back of your grapevine wreath and wrap the rosehips with the wire as you go.

Working in a single direction, I inserted the longest stems of rosehips into the outside edge of the grapevine wreath. If you push the rosehip stems in at a low angle, they should catch in the grapevines.

After I had gone around the circumference once, I went back a second and third time adding more rosehip stems each time. The look of this wreath is loose and pretty rustic, so it is hard to go too far wrong.

I was happy with the final project, but I wasn't done playing just yet. 

Next, I made a heart-shaped wreath. This time I kept the stems of my rosehips shorter for a fuller look (the working method, however, was the same).

Have I said how much I love making wreaths? My final version included some faux evergreen sprigs.

I like these faux-evergreen picks are from Michaels because they look so real. For this project, I used four stems in total. I trimmed the evergreen sprigs leaving just a couple of inches of stem. Then I wrapped some paddle wire around the wreath and twisted it closed at the back to secure the evergreen sprigs into position.

Unlike the other two wreaths, where I worked in one single direction, I began this final version on the lower left and worked in an arc that ran in opposite directions. Where the two sets of evergreen sprigs met, I tied a gingham bow. The final step was to add my rosehips.

I am pleased with how they all turned out. What about you? Do you have a favourite?

The days spent with my Dad passed quickly. It was hard to give him a hug and say goodbye. 

"Your visit was the best Christmas present you could have given me," he told me. That made my day and broke my heart all at the same time.

Bookmark this post with a PIN.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A Little Twist on a Holiday Planter

Come mid-November, it’s always nice to switch things up on the front porch of our Victorian-era house and add a little flourish of seasonal greenery to make things look festive for the holidays. 

A wooden railing that runs along the length of the porch would tend to hide a typical arrangement of seasonal evergreens in an urn, so I have learned to get creative and use a metal plant stand that has some height. 

Step 1

I purchased this plant stand years ago through Pier One, but a number of retailers sell similar items for outdoor floral displays.

An exposed plastic pot could look tacky, so I began this project by tucking a square of burlap into the metal basket (if you don't have burlap, an old coconut liner will do).

Next, I filled a plastic pot with potting soil. The soil need not be fresh and can easily be left over from your summer containers. Its only purpose is to secure your evergreens in place. Moisten the soil, so when the ground freezes, it will provide an extra means of securing the stems of your evergreens.

Place the plastic pot into the stand and tuck in the raw edges of the burlap around the top to keep things looking neat and tidy.

I always have quite a few holiday containers to fill, so I try to forage as much greenery as possible from the yard and the adjacent woodlot. I harvest responsibly so that I don't damage the trees or shrubs I am cutting.

In the shady part of the garden, I am lucky to have quite a number of yews. Every fall they get a good haircut which leaves me with quite a bit of raw material for my winter arrangements. But even with the yew, I don't have quite enough evergreen boughs to fill all my containers, so I also buy mixed bunches of greenery from the grocery store. 

Step 2

As with any nicely designed container planting, I recommend using "spillers, fillers and thrillers" to create a pleasing arrangement of greenery and berries. 

Begin with the "spillers" that will drape down over the edges of your basket. For this, I suggest long pieces of cedar, pine or juniper. These evergreens have curved stems that allow them to hang down gracefully over the rim of the arrangement.

Step 3

 Next, it's on to the "fillers" that will give the arrangement the fullness you want. For this, you can use almost any type of evergreen. I used pieces of yew, cedar and fir. To add a bit of height, I used a few pine boughs and some Dogwood branches that I snipped from the garden.

Step 4

The last step is to add some colorful accents. I began with some Magnolia branches and some pine cones.

For a final pop of color, I used some red berries. If you are lucky enough to find them, fresh Winterberries are a terrific option. In this case, I used some faux Winterberries I had on hand.

 Here's the finished holiday plant stand with my faithful helper alongside.

One last consideration with this type of holiday arrangement–it's top heavy. A strong winter wind could topple the whole thing over. To balance things, I placed a heavy cast iron figure of a squirrel on the base of the stand. If you don't have an object like this, a second smaller arrangement at the bottom of the stand might be nice.

Blooper reel!