Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shades of Grey in the Garden

Private Garden in Burlington, ON

We are heading into November, which is a bit of a grey and gloomy month. By late fall, winds have stripped the garden of most of its autumn color. Neutrals like tan, brown, grey and black carry the garden through the winter.

This seems like a perfect time to be talking about the uses of grey in the garden.

A grey church steeple in a garden in Rosedale, ON.

Shades of grey and beige are restful colors. 

They are undemanding and that makes them feel calm and serene.

In this pathway, grey and beige work together to great effect.

Brain Folmer's garden near Walkerton, ON

To break up to endless variety of green in any garden, the natural tendency is to think of foliage variegation. Grey foliage can the same job.

Liz Mallcki's garden, Mississauga, ON

The Harrison sister's garden in Hamilton, ON

Not only does grey sing sweetly in amongst the greens, it also provides a nice foil for brighter colors.

Blue Seakale, Crambe maritima in front of blue Salvia at the Royal 
Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, ON

Brain Folmer's garden near Walkerton, ON

Vivid colors seem even more vibrant against a neutral backdrop.

In terms of grey foliage, there are leaves splattered with grey like this Lungwart, Pulmonaria.

Lost Horizons Nursery

Here is the Pulmonaria in a garden (see lower left corner). (Going forward, I am trying to make a point of photographing plants in the context of a garden and not just doing close-up glamour shots.)

And there are also leaves broken with grey like this Brunnera 'Jack Frost' ...

or this Coral Bells, Heuchera, 'Berry Marmalade'.

Here is another Heuchera to show you an example of how this plant might be used 
in combination with other perennials.

There are also solid greys like Lamb's Ears.

(And here is Lamb's Ears in a garden setting.)

A lovely bonus of grey foliage is that often it has a soft, downy texture.

In the next part of my grey series, I will look at some of the many grey plant options.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Little Devil in Disguise


Look at you! You're absolutely filthy.

As if I have nothing better to do than to give you a bath!

Mator, did you just dig another pot hole in what left of the lawn? 

Bad dog!

I can't believe it! 

Did you really rip up yet another piece of landscape cloth? 

 You are a very bad dog Mator!

The kids coming to the door tomorrow night may think you're cute, 

but some of us are going to know the truth behind that Halloween disguise!

His Halloween costume even has an extra little Devil's tail.

All he needs now if a pitch fork!

Happy Halloween to all the tricker treaters out there!

Hey! Get out of those doggie treats and leave some for the other dogs.


Friday, October 26, 2012

A Fall Intermission


I love taking photographs at this time of year. 

The hard edge of summer sun is gone. The light is mellow and golden. 

Fall leaves are not only colorful, they are translucent. The subtle underlying structure of veins is literally brought to light. 

In this post today are recent shots taken in the garden and around the neighbourhood.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shades of Grey Part 1 (The Rant)

Nepeta, 'Dropmore Blue'

True confession: I recently went to my local bookstore with the aim of searching out a good book on the subject of preserving/canning fruits and vegetables...but there was also a secondary component to my bookstore mission-

I wanted to pick up a copy of 50 Shades of Grey.

I had heard a lot of buzz about the series of books and all the hype had succeeded in leaving me feeling frankly curious! It is not everyday that a series of romance novels take the 1, 2, and 3 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list.

What started out as an E-book had grown, through simple word of mouth, into a publishing phenomenon. In the U.S. alone, the three-book series, had over 20 million dollars in sales.

I had heard the book variously described and dismissed as "mommy-porn" and "poorly written", but man, who can argue with those sales figures. Someone was reading those books and liking them...alot!

So what was so special about this particular series of romance novels?

I was curious to know!

Backyard Pond in Mississauga, ON

I must also confess that am not one for reading romance novels generally speaking. I like a fairly wide range of books- everything from classical literature to garden books to mystery novels, but romance novels have never appealed to me. The previous two books on my night table were Prisoner of Tehran and Half Broke Horses (both excellent books by the way). Its just that I find romance novels are a little too over-the-top; the characters are too perfect and often too silly.

I am also a pragmatist I guess. I like my heros and heroines to be a bit more original and authentic. I tend to prefer a more traditional Jane Austin or Jane Eyre sort-of-love-story, where the central character is a bit more plain and homespun (I can identify better), and the man of her dreams may be darkly handsome and mysterious, but also real and even flawed...

Annual Licorice and Dusty Miller at Edwards Gardens

By the time I hit the second paragraph of 50 Shades of Grey, I knew I was definitely on foreign soil.

The central character has the romantic sounding name: Anastasia. The author probably got tired of typing out "A n a s t a s i a" again and again, because she most often goes by the name Ana. To counter the fluffy first name, author E. L. James has given her heroine a James-Bond-sounding last name.

Anastasia Steele!

It goes without saying that she is stunningly beautiful.

Ana meets Christian Grey when she stumbles (literally) into his office to interview the highly successful, fabulously rich, business tycoon for her college newspaper. Though she is supposedly smart, she bumbles through the interview and even makes the mistake of asking Christian if he was gay. (I was mortified on her behalf. I can't seriously imagine, in a business situation, asking a man I just met, about his sexual preferences.) Far from being put-off by Ana's clumsiness, Christian is enthralled.

By page 115 their already in bed together.

Lamb's Ears at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, ON

Just a quick word about Christian. Not surprisingly, he is devastatingly handsome. Christian is also big... and I am not talking about his hands or his feet here ladies!

The man also has some serious skills.

Sweet little Anastasia goes from a innocent in chapter seven to experiencing multiple O...oh dear, can you use that word in a gardening blog post?...hmm, maybe not...suffice it to say, she discovers in her first experience of lovemaking an insatiable appetite for more...

And it here that the novel takes a turn for the unexpected.

It seems Christian has unorthodox tastes when it comes to sex...the man has a fully equipped playroom for one thing. These preferences might have made Christain seem weird to a good portion of the reading audience, so the author has wisely given Christian a darkly mysterious and troubled childhood by way of explanation for his unorthodox predilections.

Private Garden, Rosedale, ON

So what kept me reading?

It is honestly unlike anything I have ever read before. The question, "Where is the heck is this book going?" kept me turning the pages.

The writing is not brilliant and often repetitive. Ana is forever using explicatives like Oh my! and Holy shit!. Half way through the novel I swore that would throw the book across the room if she blinked or bit her lip one more time!

The author does understand pacing though. Just when things were getting a tad dull, there would be a curve ball introduced that propelled me forward.

Now there is a movie is in the works and I predict there will also be many copycat books in the same way that Bridget Jone's Diary spawned a whole new generation of "chick lit".

Do I admire the character Anastasia Steele?

How can I really! She is the kind of fantasy character who graduates with an English major and does not regret for a second the somewhat impractical nature of her degree. You want to bet that she does not get stuck serving french fries at the local McDonald's restaurant!

No, even in these recessionary times, our plucky little Anastasia leaves school and one week later as a job as an assistant in a prestigious publishing house.

I think I prefer my fictional heroines to be a bit more real.

P.S. There is a new post under the Page header Cooking. Check out Brenda's Green Bean Noodles hereUp next, I am going to continue to run with a grey theme, but I'll put the color grey back into a garden setting.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Writing Contest Announcement!

The toughest time of year for any Canadian garden blogger has got to be the month of January. Winter is just truly getting started and spring feel as if it is lightyears into the future.

This winter, I have decided to seek inspiration in the words and ideas of others.

I am hosting a writing contest!

Blogging has many rewards, but few of them are monitory. In the case of this writing contest however, there is not only the honour of  touching others through your thoughts and ideas, there are three top prizes that could be won as well.

To enter here is what you need to do:

1. Write a blog post that is approximately 500 words long (see themes below). Absolute maximum permitted length is 800 words. Any submission longer than 800 words will be disqualified (and yes, the judges will be checking).

2. The post format is open and does not need to be set up in traditional paragraphs. Your blog post can take the form of a list, a poem or even letter. Creativity counts!

3. All submissions must be original and written by you.

4. You do not need to be a blogger to enter. This contest is open to everyone. Here is your chance to speak to an audience without all the work that a blog initials.

5. Creativity, wit and humour are welcome and encouraged. Unlike the Academy Awards, were comedy never wins the prize, funny will be highly regarded in this contest!

6. Though this is a gardening blog, your entry need not mention gardening at all. 
On the other hand, you are more than welcome to write around the theme of gardening (see more detailed writing theme notes below). 

The Writing Themes:

The winning essays will be published in January. I am leaving the writing topic somewhat open. Bottom line: the judges are looking for an inspirational and philosophical approach to the new year and life in general.  Make us laugh! Make us cry! Touch us in some way that inspires us going forward into the new year!
Here are a few possible ideas:

1.Wisdom that you would like to pass on to a younger/man woman. This post could also take the form of a letter to your younger self or perhaps a note addressed to one of your children. Here are a few quotes to get you thinking:
"What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette
"If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun." Katherine Hepburn
"I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well." Diane Ackerman

2. Your resolutions for the new year. These would be forward thinking goals that might inspire us all. Again, the post could be as simple as a list and does not need to be dead serious. Feel free to have some fun!
"No one ever died from sleeping in an unmade bed." Erma Bombeck

3. Tell us about someone who inspires you, because that person is bound to teach us all. This could be your Mom, your third grade teacher or someone we all should know better.

4. Tell us about a big mistake or perhaps a life crisis and what you did to come back from the brink of disaster. Again, this need not be terribly serious. It could be the time you picked the worst parking spot ever! Most important is what you took away from the problem.
"It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to one's enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends." J. K. Rowling

5. Tell us about a moment of triumph and how you/or your subject overcame adversity. Though I said you can step away from the subject of gardening, it is also fine to tell us about your final success with a plant that seemed impossible to grow. Just remember, it is all about the bigger lesson learned.
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.' Anais Nin
"The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off." Gloria Steinem

The Rules:

1. Again, all submissions must be original and written by you.

2. Contest opens as of this post and closes on November 17th. 

3. All entries must be submitted by email and must be embedded within the body of your email. No attachments please. Emails with attachments will be disqualified. My email address is

The Prizes:

There will be three prizes awarded for the top three blog posts, as selected by the panel of judges. The winners may choose the color and style of bracelet they would like from my inventory of handmade braclets. Approximate retail value is: $85 CAN.
Not a braclet-wearing-sort-of-guy? Well, all I can say is that there is probably a woman in your life who will be very glad that you are such a gifted writer!
Winners will receive their bracelets by registered post in December. Unfortunately, I cannot take responsibility for any custom charges or taxes.

The winning blog posts will be published in early January. Each published post will begin with a brief biography of the winner, and if applicable, will include a link to their website or blog. The link will be repeated at the bottom of each winning post.

Possible Questions:

Can I use my own images along with my writing?
Sure! Just keep in mind that this is contest is all about the words, not the pictures.

Can I use an older piece of my own writing? Example: a post that I published previously?
I thought about the answer to this question for quite awhile! The short answer is yes, but with a bit of qualification. You can submit an older piece of writing. I know very few people read many of my early blog posts. I am sure you might have experienced something similar. Why not re-introduce that older post to a larger audience? Just please, don't send me your most popular post ever- the one that half the world has read already!

English is my second language. I feel like I am starting from a position of disadvantage.
I have instructed the judges to be forgiving of some simple grammatical and spelling errors. What counts most, is what you have to say.

Still have an unanswered question? Please email me at

My immediate family and I will be creating a short list of the top ten entries. After that, it is up to the panel of judges. 

The judges are all accomplished and talented women who know and appreciate creativity. Meet the five wonderful women who will be selecting the three winning entries: 

Nancy Guppy: Though Canadian, Nancy has lived most of her adult life in Paris, London and Ireland.  Nancy has Bachelors degrees in both English and Science. While living in London, she was the Press Officer for the Royal Society of Chemistry. Most recently, Nancy has been teaching school in Ireland and England. Nancy currently resides with her husband and three beautiful children in Ireland.

Olya Matiou: Born in Russian and based in Toronto, artist Olya Matiou has a Fine Arts degree, as well as diplomas in Graphic Design and Computer Animation. Olya has worked as a designer in the wallcovering, textile and publishing industries. She also exhibits her paintings in a variety of galleries and shows. Visit Olya's website and see her artwork here: Olya Matiou

Sally MacIntyre-LeBlanc resides on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. She is an active member of the cultural community and is President of the Cape Breton Artists Association. Sally is the publisher of three books and currently is working on another.

Ruth Lillian Singer: Ruth is a visual and media arts teacher who loves nurturing creative growth in her students. Her own art practice is driven by an obsession with process, textures, layered colour and abstraction. Ruth adores flowers, winter, Lake Superior, her lefty-brain-librarian soul-mate and their dog Buddy. Visit Ruth's online blog and gallery here: Lillian Snow Gallery

Ruth Steinfatt: Representing the west coast of Canada is artist Ruth Steinfatt. Ruth works primarily in transparent watercolors, but more recently she has branched out into mixed media and acrylics. Ruth resides in Sidney, B.C. on Vancouver Island. Visit her blog here: Ruth Steinfatt.

Eleonora Gattesco Roberts is an artist, gardener and interior designer. Eleonora is a high honours graduate from the interior decorating program at Sheridan College and has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto's Art and Art History program. Visit her website here: Gattesco House.