Monday, December 24, 2018

Quick & Easy Floral Gifts

Last Friday we went to our first holiday party of the season.

With the exception of my husband and I, almost everyone who attended the party brought the hostess a poinsettia. Honest to goodness, the poor woman could have opened a shop she had so many red poinsettias at the end of the night!

Here's something quite similar to what we brought her. My cute little arrangement had a personal touch, was fun to whip together and wasn't any more expensive than any of those generic red poinsettias.

Cut flowers are nice, but I think you'll agree that no hostess wants to take time away from her guests to hunt for a vase and put cut flowers in water. It's so much better to present her with a finished bouquet.

Unless the vase itself is a key part of the gift, I tend to allocate my money to the flowers rather than the container. That's not to say that the vase can't be attractive. I got this gold mason jar at the Real Canadian Superstore (a grocery chain here in Canada) for just $3.50.

Add in some foraged greenery, a few sprays of red roses ($7.00), a few sprigs of faux berries ($5.00) and a bow (free–ribbon I had on hand) and you have a thoughtful, but inexpensive hostess gift. Total cost is just over $15.00.

While you may not want to spend money on a vase or container, the last thing you want to chose is something so junky it ends up in the landfill. A smarter option is to give an arrangement in something that can have a second life.

This mug, personalized the recipient's initials, can always be put to use when the flowers fade. Mug ($3.44 from the Real Canadian Superstore) plus roses ($7.00), white mums ($3.50), foraged greenery and faux berries ($5.00) comes in at just under $20.

Sometimes you want to spend a bit extra to thank someone special. This little vase was made by a local potter and was still well under $20. Fill it with greenery (free) and some red St. John's Wort ($5.50) and you still have an attractive gift for around $25.

(Note of caution: St John's Wort might look edible to a young child, but it is poisonous. This may not be the best choice of flower for a young family.)

I made this thank you (to go along with a monetary gift) for JoAnne (Because you Love Them Pet Services) who looked after our dogs when I was away in Nova Scotia. It was such a comfort to know the boys were getting a mid-day walk in my absence.

Vase ($3.50 from the Real Canadian Superstore), 4 stems of carnations (approx. $3.00), 3 stems of alstroemeria (approx. $4.50), one stem of St John's Wort ($2.00), foraged greenery, a bow (free–ribbon I had on hand). The total is under $15 and yet I hope the bouquet is pretty enough to say how much her help meant to us.

I used the remainder of the carnations in a small jug for yet another gift. Small white jug ($12.99 at HomeSense) and carnations ($4.00).

Not everything I put together works out. Take this arrangement– it's the floral equivalent to big hair from the 1980s!  For one thing, the mason jar is way too small for the flowers I chose. And for another, the whole bouquet is as round as a bowling ball.

What was I thinking? I had to rip the whole thing apart and start over. It was frustrating, but sometimes you learn from your mistakes.

At the end of the day, it's the thought that counts.

One of the best things about putting these gifts together is that I got to use the leftovers to make an arrangement for my own house. This jug of flowers is sitting right beside me as I type these words.

Best wishes for the holidays and the new year 
from our family here at Three Dogs in a Garden. 

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.

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