Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Notes on Preparing the Garden for Winter, Part 2: Taking Cuttings

From Marion's Collection of Fuchsia

We are nearing the end of October and the days of working comfortably outdoors are numbered.

We have had a few lovely, sun-shiny days of late, but after a few hours in the garden the damp cold sneaks inside your shoes and numbs the tips of your fingers. Thankfully the warmth of the kitchen and a mug of steaming hot coffee are an easy remedy for getting chilled outdoors.

There is still lots to do: end-of-season bulbs bought at a discount yet to plant, leaves to rake and last minute projects to wrap up and complete.

As well as the usual chores, I have been experimenting with new ways to keep non-hardy plants going.

The Entrance to Marion Jarvie's Garden

A good part of the inspiration for these experiments comes from watching the video series with Carol Klein at work in her garden and Marion Jarvie's class on preparing the garden for winter.

Marion's collection of container plants

On the flag stone patio at the back her house, Marion has a pair of decorative urns and 
a very nice collection of plants in pots.

Marion's collection of container plants

Some pots contain annuals, but the majority are plants that spend the summer months vacationing on the patio and the winter months indoors or in the greenhouse that she has at the side of her home.

Marion's collection of container plants

Marion's fuchsias above and below

Fuchsia plants are not at all hardy here. In the past I have always bought new plants each spring, but this can get expensive. 

I was inspired to learn that Marion keeps her fuchsia plants going by taking cuttings and storing a few of her favourites in her greenhouse. 

Now I don't have a greenhouse, but I am able to take cuttings.

As well as taking cuttings from my fuchsias, I have also been experimenting with rosemary and coleus. 

I have learned that is best to take cuttings in the morning when the mother plant has the most moisture. When working with rosemary, I snipped off two inch segments from the tips of each of the plants in my herb garden and placed them in a glass of water while I continued to work. 

Then I took each cutting and removed all the leaves on the lower half of each shoot. 

At this point you can dip the end of each cutting in rooting hormone to help the cutting to root faster, but I skipped this step, and simply inserted each of my cuttings directly into moist potting soil (In each of my pots I used potting soil overtop an inch or so of fine gravel). 

Now I know I have hopelessly crowded the cuttings into a single pot, but in a month or two when the cuttings have rooted, I will repot them as needed. 

I put the potted cuttings in a bright window (avoid direct sun) and have been keeping an eye on them to insure the soil does not dry out. 

So far so good. 

The coleus cuttings which I did about a month ago seem to be showing fresh signs of growth. 

Fingers crossed I will have good sized plants come spring and will saved myself the expense of buying new ones.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fine Foliage: Review and Giveaway

Book cover image courtesy of Fine Foliage © Fine Foliage St. Lynn's Press 2012-13

Before I talk about the book Fine Foliage, I want to introduce you to Karen Chapman, a good blogging friend, and one of the book's two authors, by way of her garden. 

Photo by Karen Chapman © Le Jardinet 2013 

Karen sometimes jokes that, when she and her husband bought their modest one storey house on 5 acres of land, the landscape's best feature was a dead tree.

That was back in 2009.

Since that time, they have moved a small cedar cabin on the property, built an arbor, built a fenced vegetable garden and created a beautiful island-shaped flowerbed around the cabin.

Photo by Karen Chapman © Le Jardinet 2013 

Photo by Karen Chapman © Le Jardinet 2013 
In this closeup, there is a spirea at the very bottom of the picture, orange flowering croscosmia just above it, a paperbark maple on the right, a burgundy colored Barberry in the middle-distance and Feather Reed Grass in the near distance. You can read more about the planting details in this post.

Photo by Karen Chapman © Le Jardinet 2013 

When Karen began working on this section of the garden, it was a mosquito infested swamp! 

The addition of a stream bed in 2010 gave ground water a way to flow away from the area. Wild grasses and weeds were covered over by layering sheets of cardboard and then a fresh layer Moo-doo was added on top (read all about this interesting process by clicking the link.)

Here is the how the same area looked three years later  in April 2013:

Photo by Karen Chapman © Le Jardinet 2013 

Photo by Karen Chapman © Le Jardinet 2013 

What an amazing transformation, eh? 

You can read more about the garden make-over process and about some of the planting details in this post.

Now, on to the book Fine Foliage that Karen wrote with friend and kindred spirit Christina Salwitz

I think you will find that Fine Foliage is a great little resource book you can dip into quickly and come away feeling inspired.

Though the book offers a designer's perspective on using foliage color, shape and texture to create beautiful planting combinations, the ideas are presented in a very user-friendly way.

Page spread image courtesy of Fine Foliage © Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz 2013

Image courtesy of Fine Foliage © Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz 2013

 On one side of a page spread, you have a bit of inspiration that is beautifully photographed.

Page image courtesy of Fine Foliage © Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz 2013 

On the other side you have everything you need to know about the planting combination clearly spelled out for you: sun or shade, season, soil, and zone. 

Karen and Christina also tell you why the combination works and introduce you to each of the plants involved. 

Image courtesy of Fine Foliage © Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz 2013 

The book is conveniently divided into two sections: Sun and Shade. (The image above is one of the nice shade container plantings from the book.)

As well as container plantings, the book also addresses foliage in the garden proper with pretty plant combinations like these ones:

Page spread image courtesy of Fine Foliage © Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz  2013 

Image courtesy of Fine Foliage © Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz 2013 

I think you will find that Fine Foliage is a terrific book that can make getting to "beautiful" as easy as following a simple recipe. Providing an easy roadmap to success helps to build confidence and both authors hope that readers will end up using the book as a springboard to begin to create their own unique foliage combinations.  

And at under twenty dollars, Fine Foliage is a bargain!

If you would like to be included a draw for the copy of  Fine Foliage, please leave a comment below. I am going to leave the contest open for a full week. Overseas bloggers are welcome to enter. The draw and winning announcement will be made in an upcoming post.

Many thanks to St. Lynn's Press for providing a copy book for this giveaway (I purchased my own copy of the book for the purpose of this review).

Good luck everyone!

To read more reviews of great gardening books, be sure to click this link to Holley's blog: Roses and other Gardening Joys.

More Information and Links:

Author, Karen Chapman:"I am a container and landscape designer, serious plant-aholic, garden writer and public speaker for all things gardening. In other words, I'm ususally covered in a layer or two of soil...I am truly passionate about sharing the joys of gardening." Visit Karen's website and blog here: Le Jardinet
Author, Christina Salwitz: "I am a container designer, garden coach, garden writer, speaker and foliage-aholic who loves to teach and see the light bulb go on when a gardener suddenly "gets it". I adore the entire horticultural industry and revel in helping others feel the same passion that I do about plants". Visit Christina's blog here: The Garden Coach.
"Fine foliage is a visual treat that will inspire you with dazzling combinations for containers and gardens. Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz explain why each combination works- bringing artistic design within easy reach of all gardeners. A great user-friendly resource." - Debra Prinzing, author of The 50 Mile Bouquet
Book Title: Fine Foliage, Elegant Plant Combinations for Garden and Container
Pages: 140
Publisher: St. Lynn's Press
Price on Amazon: Under $15

Friday, October 18, 2013

Notes on Preparing the Garden for Winter

It poured all night, but though the grey clouds still seem reluctant to move on, the rain has thankfully abated in time for Marion Jarvie's morning lecture on Preparing the Garden for Winter. 

The gardeners who have gathered together in Marion's Thornhill, Ontario garden on this damp October morning are not novices looking to learn garden basics like how to divide a perennial. No, these are hard core plant enthusiasts who have come to learn from the renowned designer and plantswoman who has been gardening for over 30 years.

The topic for this particular morning is getting the garden ready for winter, but it is hard for everyone assembled not to get distracted by the plants in the garden all around them. 

What's this plant? What's that plant, we all want to know? Everything is so interesting and unusual. 

Marion's greatest challenge turns out to be keeping her talk on track! Lucky for the curious among us however, she is just as passionate about talking about plants as we are.

It is late fall and Marion's garden is looking amazingly colorful. 


Japanese Anemone, Anemone x hybrid 'Party Dress' 

There are flowers to be sure, but the color has a lot more to do with foliage.

But I digress...I want to share with you some of the things I learned about getting the garden ready to put to bed for winter.

One of the first things Marion suggested was to weed your garden and then apply a layer of mulch. To mulch your flowerbeds, she recommends you add a top dressing Gro-Max Premium Garden Soil which is a blend of compost, aged bark, peat, sand and topsoil.

This was a new idea for me. Usually my garden has to wait for me to get around to adding soil amendments and a bark mulch sometime in early spring. It makes sense to put everything in place in late fall so the garden can get off to a good start the moment the weather warms up. 

As an additional bonus of Marion's method of mulching in fall is that it can actually help to suppress the seeds of annual weeds. Hey, who doesn't want to weed less?

Did you give in to your desire for to keep the flowers going and buy some garden Mums this fall? I did. Mums may be a bit of a fall cliche, but its are hard to resist that injection of late fall color. 

Usually I rip these marginally hardy plants out in late fall and compost them. After hearing Marion's talk, I think I may have been too hasty in scrapping them. God knows, it is a waste of money to buy new ones each year! 

Marion manages to keep her Mums going by providing with them dry, sheltered conditions against the walls of her house. The key to keeping them going through the winter is making sure whatever location you place them in is dry. Mums hate getting soggy.

As Marion asked the gardeners assembled, what have you got to lose in trying? 

Generic Hellebore picture used here and not one from Marion's garden

Hellebores form flower buds in fall and Marion suggests that now, while the soil is still warmish, is the perfect time to feed them. To feed her hellebores Marion uses a 20-20-20 fertilizer.

More tips and pictures of Marion's garden in an upcoming post...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Death in the Family

We got the call late last week: they had both been hospitalized. My mother-in-laws prognosis was very grave and my father-in-law was in isolation with pneumonia.

Despite the seriousness of his illness, my father-in-law's spirits were good. We all thought he might rally, but his frail, ninety year old body had no fight left in it. Sadly, he passed on Monday night.

About the same time my father-in law took a turn for the worse, my mother-in-law made a surprise recovery. She was just well enough to be taken in a wheelchair to bedside of her husband of seventy years to say her goodbyes.

Yesterday my husband and I helped my mother-in-law eat her oatmeal and drink her morning tea through a straw. You could see in her tiny dark eyes the storm clouds drifting through her mind. "What are you thinking about Mom?"my husband asked.

She looked up at him and whispered a sentiment that I am sure was commonly used to express grief during the second world war, "We lost a really good boy."

I am going to take a blogging break to grieve our family's loss and to help with the round the clock care my mother-in-law requires.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Applying the Principle of Planting Multiples in a Suburban Garden


One of the most difficult lessons to for me to learn as a gardener has been that a single perennial plant does not always have much of an impact in a large suburban garden. 

I think this has a lot to do with where I began as a gardener. In the small townhouse backyard where I had my first garden, I had considered myself lucky to squeeze in a single example of a particular plant. 

Then, a little over ten years ago we moved to our present home and I suddenly found I had a much larger canvas to play with. It felt truly liberating. I now had room for at least one of everything!

But when I made this transition from a small space to a large one, I failed was to make any adjustment in my approach to planting: the garden's size had changed dramatically, but my planting methods remained pretty much the same as they were in the little townhouse garden. I happily continued to plant single perennials.

Sweet Woodruff

For the most part, planting one-of a particular perennial has continued to work for me. Even in a bigger space, I still can't imagine how I would ever fit in multiples of some large scaled perennials. 

That being said, I have also come to see that you actually do a disservice to smaller perennials, small sized bulbs like scilla and very dainty plants, like the sweet woodruff shown above, to plant them in limited numbers and crowd them in amongst other plants.

I think what clued me into my mistake was seeing other gardens, especially large public ones. 

The Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton, ON

In a large botanical garden, like the one above, a single hollyhock would simply be lost.

After seeing such impressive displays, the traditional rule of planting perennials in groups of three or five plants started to make sense to me. 

Gayfeather, Liatris at the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens

Whether planted in a long ribbon....

... or a big patch, it became clear that mass planting can have a real impact.

Private Garden, Mississauga ON

But though my suburban garden is a good size, but it is no botanical garden!

I began to wonder how and where could I make the principle of planting in multiples might work in a smaller urban setting.

So I started taking note of how other gardeners had made this principle work in their spaces. And when I really started paying attention, I began to notice that a mass planting can really make a statement even in a smaller private garden:

Pachysandra in the foreground with Ostrich Fern just behind it on the left.

Another bonus that a large area planted with a single type of plant offered was possibility of making gardening less labour intensive. 

This big patch of Pachysandra would need little maintenance and would be certainly less work than cutting a lawn under the same tree.

I have a similar patch of lily of the valley under a big maple tree. The falling maple leaves make a great mulch each fall and the only thing I have to do is enjoy the fragrant flowers each spring.

Private garden, Hamilton, ON

I also noted that one-of every plant possible could actually start to make a garden look a little crazy-busy. 

In the battle for space, it always comes down to a survival of the fittest. Competing growth habits often mean that weaker plants in this type of planting end up being crowded out. 

This has been born out again and again in my own garden. 

Spring flowering Wood Anemone

In one small flowerbed at the foot of our Black Walnut I have crammed in no less than: several hosta, a couple of astilbe, two hellebores, a few Japanese irises and spring flowering anemone. The anemone loves this spot best and have really started to take over.

It is as if nature is impatient for me to take the finally take the hint! What I really should have planted in such a small bed was wood anemone and let it spread into a big clump. 

I need to move the other plants or watch them gradually drown in a sea of white anemones. I am learning. Albeit slowly!

Now I am not meaning to rush the seasons, but I have begun to think about next spring and how I can make mass planting small scale spring bulbs work for me.

Last fall, I planted these snowdrops (above). They were pretty, but barely noticeable in my large garden.

Ditto for the crocus I planted. A few flowers here and there is nice, but hardly dramatic.

It's when there are drifts of tiny flowers that a display of small scale bulbs gets really breathtaking. 

Last spring I noticed this expanse of scilla growing in a forested area nearby.

The carpet of bright cobalt blue flowers was fantastic. I would love to create something similar in my own garden.

But here is my latest dilemma: I can afford only so much for spring bulbs. Standard blue scilla and crocus bulbs can be found fairly cheaply and mass planted. The snowdrops I started out with last year however were a more expensive fancy variety. 

Should I stick with fancy snowdrops, knowing I can only plant limited quantities and hope that eventually my patience will be rewarded with a decent show


do I go for broke with the cheaper, more common snowdrops and hope for the more instant gratification of a good sized display?

Hmm...decisions, decisions.

Have a wonderful weekend!