Thursday, February 14, 2019

Gardening with Emma: Review and Giveaway

Did you have a mentor who inspired your love of gardening? 

For me, it was my Mom. I might have eventually found my way to gardening, but it would likely have been at a point much later in my life. I certainly would not have brought to this new-found hobby the same wealth of knowledge I had under my mother's gentle influence. 

Funnily enough, I don't recall her teaching me a thing. What I do remember was the joy she took in growing flowers.

From the book Gardening with Emma, ©2019, by Emma & Steve Biggs, Photography by Donna Griffith. Published by Storey Publishing. 
Used with permission of the authors and their publisher.

For Emma Biggs, author of the new book Gardening with Emma, a love of growing edibles began with the encouragement of her father Steven. Thirteen-year-old Emma writes in the early pages of her book:

"My Dad used to give me a corner of his garden. After a couple of years, I planted so many tomato and herb plants that he gave me a bigger corner of his garden so I could fit in all my plants. Now I give him a corner of my garden!"

The key thing that has been handed down from parent to child is not so much knowledge, but passion. A love for gardening is inspiring in a way that dry information about how to grow edibles can never be. 

This brings me to what I liked best about Emma's new book. Her enthusiasm for gardening is evident on every single page. And that passion is infectious. Any kid immersed in its pages is bound to be inspired.

For this review, I requested a few page-spreads from the book to show you just how well it was conceived and organized. Practical information and useful tips are interspersed with an abundance of kid-friendly projects and interesting activities that will get children outdoors. Here's just a small sampling:

• Grow a rainbow garden
• Create a beanpole teepee
• Make a miniature garden
• Create a tickle garden
• Grow a flower stand (which is a terrific alternative to a lemonade stand)

Each idea is illustrated with great pictures and humorous cartoon characters kids are sure to love.

From the book Gardening with Emma, ©2019, by Emma & Steve Biggs, Photography by Donna Griffith. Published by Storey Publishing. 
Used with permission of the authors and their publisher.

I sometimes think that important things get lost on the way to adulthood. I marvel at this boy, on the page opposite "U-Pick Slug Control", and know that I am way too squeamish to ever let slugs and snails glide over my clothes and onto my skin. Where did my childhood sense of discovery and adventure go? When did I become such a wimp?

Emma's book is a pleasure to read. She reminds us all to put the fun back into gardening. Every school and public library should have at least one copy of Gardening with Emma.

Usually, when I do a giveaway, I rely on luck to select a winner. In this case, I have decided not to leave things to chance. Instead, a winner will be chosen based on merit. 

To enter the giveaway, please tell us who you hope to mentor with this book; a son or daughter, a niece or nephew, a grandchild or perhaps the kid that lives next door. Tell us why you think this particular child will love Gardening with Emma and/or why you think it is important to encourage a new generation of gardeners. Co-authors Emma and Steve Biggs will select a final winner from all the entries.

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 Sunday, March 2nd. If 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 (

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About the Author/s

Emma Biggs is a 13-year-old with a passion for gardening. She shares her kid-focused gardening ideas at events, on radio shows and on her blog. Her father, Steven Biggs is a garden writer and blogger who lectures frequently at gardening events across Canada. They can be found online at Emma, Steven and the rest of their family live in Toronto.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

New Perennials for 2019 from Proven Winners

The post I did in 2018 about new perennial introductions by Proven Winners® was very popular with readers. No surprise there–who doesn't like looking at pretty new plants on a grey winter's day?

So I'm repeating that theme with a selection of the new perennials for 2019. On a side note, this is not a sponsored post. I'm simply highlighting a few of the new introductions that happened to catch my eye.

An example of a spring blooming Salvia

An example of a summer blooming Veronica

I have come to love and depend upon both Salvia and Veronica.

With their tall, spiky flowers both plants look quite similar, but Salvia blooms in spring while Veronica flowers in summer (both perennials can be encouraged to rebloom by giving them a light pruning after they finish their first show of flowers).

Salvia and Catmint at Edwards Garden in Toronto.

Salvia with Baptisia and peonies.

Both Salvia and Veronica need full sun. In too much shade, I find they don't perform well. These two perennials seem quite happy in average garden soil with a regular source of water (either by Mother Nature's hand or via the garden hose). If they are stressed by drought, they can develop powdery mildew.

I count on Salvia to fill the void that occurs every spring after tulips are finished. Salvia makes a great companion for Baptisia, Gas Plant (Dictamnus), Blue Star (Amsonia), Catmint (Nepeta), Alliums, peonies and early roses.

This brings me to the new varieties of Salvias that Proven Winners is launching in 2019. The first Salvia caught my interest because of its pale blue color.

Perfect Profusion® Perennial Salvia, Salvia nemorosa has soft, icy-blue flowers in late spring/early summer. This cultivar is purported to be one of Proven Winner's best Salvias for consistent rebloom. It is drought tolerant but blooms better with average moisture. Cut the plant back after flowering to promote rebloom. Full sun. Height:16 - 20 inches (40-50 cm), Spread:16 - 20 inches (40-50 cm). USDA zones: 3-8.

This pinkish cultivar is also quite nice with its dark magenta calyxes:

 Pink Profusion® Perennial Salvia, Salvia nemorosa from Proven Winners.

Pink Profusion® Perennial Salvia, Salvia nemorosa has dark pink flowers that are attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. This plant has a nice rounded shape (see opening image). Cut the plant back after flowering to promote rebloom. Full sun. Average moisture. Height:14 -16 inches (35-40 cm), Spread:16 - 20 inches (40-50 cm). USDA zones: 3-8.

And then there are a couple of medium blue options:

Violet Profusion® Perennial Salvia, Salvia nemorosa from Proven Winners.

Violet Profusion® Perennial Salvia, Salvia nemorosa has fragrant violet-blue flowers that are produced on rosy-purple calyxes. Again this plant has a nice rounded shape. Full sun. Average moisture. Height:14 -16 inches (35-40 cm), Spread:16 - 20 inches. USDA zones: 3-8.

Color Spires® Indiglo Girl Perennial Salvia, Salvia hybrid from Proven Winners.

Color Spires® Indiglo Girl Perennial Salvia, Salvia hybrid has fragrant indigo blue flowers that are held in dark calyxes. It will rebloom if cut back after flowering. Height: 20 - 22 inches (50-55 cm), Spread: 20 - 22 inches (50-55 cm). USDA zones: 3-8.

I have several mauve Veronica in my garden, but I don't have anything this color:

Magic Show® 'Wizard of Ahhs' Spike Speedwell, Veronica hybrid

Magic Show® 'Wizard of Ahhs' Spike Speedwell, Veronica hybrid has violet-blue flowers and dark green foliage. It likes average to moist, enriched, well-drained soil. Shear back after flowering to encourage new blooms. Full sun. Height:18 - 22 inches (45-55 cm), Spread:18 - 22 inches (45-55 cm). USDA zones: 4-8.

Agastache 'Blue Fortune' with Calamintha in the foreground.

I could see Veronica 'Indiglo Girl' working with my favourite Agastache, my lavender colored Phlox or maybe even a Catmint.

Catmint in the front garden.

Next up is a new Catmint. Catmint is yet another plant I have come to treasure. It blooms reliably from June well into the autumn. It has fragrant grey-green foliage and is a magnet for bees.

A shameless plant collector, I already have three different sizes of Catmint in my garden– the classic Catmint, Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low' and two dwarf varieties. While I think 'Walker's Low' is the showiest, the dwarf forms are also excellent at the front of a flowerbed. 

Next summer I plan to use one of the dwarf types of Catmint to create a low hedge around the perimeter of two of my four raised beds. The blue flowers and grey-green foliage should have the same effect as a row of lavender (but will be more winter hardy). In the centre of the raised beds, I am thinking of planting roses and/or annuals. 

Two of the flour raised beds in the early spring. In the past, I have used this 
area as nursery beds for other projects. 

The same area about a month later. Two of the four raised beds have a standard 
lilac at the very centre.

One of the raised beds is filled with herbs. The other three are largely empty at the moment.

I would be curious to see how this new Proven Winners cultivar compares to the Catmints already in my collection of plants:

'Cat's Pajamas' Catmint Nepeta hybrid from Proven Winners.

'Cat's Pajamas' Catmint Nepeta hybrid has indigo blue flowers are produced all the way from the soil to the tips of its stems. Rosy purple calyxes extend the color when the blooms are past peak. This long-blooming perennial has a nice compact shape and fragrant foliage. Heat and drought tolerant. Average, well-drained soil with low to average moisture is best. Plants respond well to shearing to promote rebloom. Full sun. Height:12-14 inches (30-35 cm), Spread:18 - 20 inches (45-50 cm). USDA zones: 3-8.

So far everything I have highlighted in this post is meant for full sun. I want to include a few suggestions for shade gardeners. Every year I try to invest in at least one new hosta. These new cultivars might be potential candidates:

Shadowland® Etched Glass Hosta hybrid from Proven Winners.

Shadowland® Etched Glass Hosta has foliage with wide, dark-green margins that contrast nicely with a brilliant yellow centre. The leaves have attractive puckering when the plant is mature. The flower on this hosta is almost white. Moist, well-drained, organically enriched soil is best for this hosta. Part-shade to Shade. Height:18 inches (45 cm), Spread: 36 inches (91 cm). USDA zones: 3-9.

Shadowland® Diamond Lake Hosta hybrid is a large-sized hosta with thick and heavily corrugated blue-green leaves with wavy margins. The flowers are pale lavender in color. As with most hostas, it prefers moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Full to part-shade. Height:17 inches (45 cm), Spread: 45 inches (116 cm). USDA zones: 3-9.

One final choice. I have always wanted to have a Japanese Anemone, but they can spread aggressively. I don't care how pretty the flower is–who wants to plant a problem? This new introduction is purported to be better behaved:

 Fall in Love™ Sweetly Japanese Anemone hybrid from Proven Winners.

Fall in Love™ Sweetly Japanese Anemone hybrid has semi-double, rose-pink flowers. For most of the summer, the foliage is a large mound of dark green leaves. In late summer/fall, flowering stems make the plant's growth more upright. Unlike most Japanese Anemones, this new introduction spreads slowly through rhizomes. Average, moist soil will keep this plant happy. Mulch heavily in the fall for the first two seasons to prevent frost heaving. Part-sun to full sun. Resists deer and rabbits. Height: 24 - 30 inches (60 -76 cm), Spread: 20 - 22 inches (50-55 cm). USDA zones: 4-8.

The weather here is rather miserable at the moment, so it's been fun to look at new plants and start to think about spring plans. I can't wait for some warmer weather to arrive!

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And the Winner is...

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter the latest book draw on Facebook, by email and by leaving comments on the blog. 

Thanks also to Timber Press for providing the copy of The Plant Lover's Guide to Snowdrops by Naomi Slade for the giveaway.

I had my son help me draw a name. And the winner is...

Barbara E. Evans who entered via Facebook. Congratulations Barbara! I will be in touch shortly.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Birdwatcher Turns Three Years Old

Three years ago this month we brought Piper home.

Looking back at these old pictures makes my heart melt all over again. He was adorable.

He was also a born troublemaker.

Scrap became Piper's daddy.

And poor Scrap never had another day of peace.

Piper even hogged his bed.

Before you knew it...

Piper was all grown up.

 He and Scrap are still best buddies.

Even all grown up, Piper is still a troublemaker.

He is quite unlike any Shetland Sheepdog we have ever had. 

Piper likes to be busy. He's a true Sheltie in that sense– a working dog looking to be useful. 

As far as "Piper's chair" goes, it all began innocently enough.

The fancy, French-style chair had been moved into a corner of the dining room while we were working on some renovations. One day I made the mistake of inviting Piper to come to sit with me to watch the birds visiting on our birdfeeder. 

Like so many dogs, Piper loves to watch all the comings and goings in the backyard.

Before I knew it, Piper had commandeered the chair for his own personal use. He even began to take naps on the chair. To save the chair somewhat, I started covering it with a dog blanket. 

If there are songbirds on the feeder, Piper watches them quietly. 

But if a grey squirrel dares to make an appearance, the tail goes up like a flag.

If the squirrel moves in closer to steal from the feeder, all hell breaks loose. 

The barking commences.

And grows to a fever pitch.

If the squirrel is brave enough to ignore all the noise, Piper's outrage reaches a boiling point. 

As if his legs were spring-loaded, he hops up and down on the chair.

"Pippperrr!", I complain trying to get him to settle down.

He looks over at me as if to say, "Hey, I'm just doing my job."

Happy third birthday Piper!