Tuesday, May 26, 2015
What a delightful time we had today at the Woman to Woman Garden Party at the Toronto Botanical Garden. Ladies attending pulled out all the stops and looked super decorative and flowery, with some amazingly creative hand-made hat decorations.
Food and wine and conversation flowed. "Everyone should always wear hats, don't you think?" said Helen. See if you can find her under her enormous red hat bow in our video above. Pretty sure it was the biggest one there.
Saturday, May 02, 2015
|A good veggie reference for those who|
don't need books with pretty pictures
The first is Karen Newcomb’s The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden that invites you to grow tons of organic vegetables in tiny spaces and containers.
This bestseller has already sold a half-million copies, and this edition is completely revised. But in the 40 years since it arrived on the scene, book design has changed. Garden readers who've come to expect splashy pictures, cover to cover, won't find them here. Other than a few spot illustrations, this mainly text.
On the plus side, the matte paper does invite marginal notations (if, like me, you’re not only a small-space gardener but an inveterate
While, Newcomb’s definition of “postage stamp” appears less postage-stampy than mine, she does give sound ideas for squeezing more veggies out of less space. Info on common veg includes her postage-stamp “star” rating on how well each suits small-space growing, and she names more-compact or better-yielding varieties. She also suggests ways to stretch your crops such as by interplanting with other veg or repeat sowings.
Advice on things like planting by moon phases or double-digging seem to me like vestiges of another age. But Newcomb covers all the vegetable-growing basics. Now I just need more "postage stamps."
|Kerry Ann Mendez tells how to create the garden |
you can manage with the time and energy you have
Simplifying our gardens is a common theme as lives get busier, whether because we ourselves are aging or because our families or jobs require more time than we have to give. Mendez’s own journey began when she – an experienced gardener – had to suddenly downscale her garden due to her husband's accident.
The pretty pictures we're used to are here in Mendez' book, including befores-and-afters of her own right-sized perennial beds. She also suggests plants for easy care or best use of small space as well as fussy, time-sucking plants to avoid.
One thing I could wish for would be a cross-referenced index; not just plant names but topics or problem areas. The table of contents lists general categories (I like her "Design solutions for almost autopilot garden"), but while plants for specific purposes are given in different chapters, there’s no easy way to refer back afterwards. Unless you have a good memory or a plentiful supply of Post-Its.
But if you're wondering how to simplify and where to begin, Mendez will talk you through it like a kind friend. And that, as La Martha might say, is a good thing.
|A nicely organized compendium|
of vertical garden DIY projects
On the picture scale that seems to be happening in this post, this book the most up(ha ha!)wardly mobile; lots of glossy images, including many of Coronado herself. She includes good how-tos with details such as tools you'll need and suggestions for different ways to plant your vertical garden.
Many of the living wall ideas Coronado presents use commercially available kits that you can modify with different plant material, so there is some repetition. For instance, one vertical wall system from Sage is used four times: with houseplants; as an aromatherapy garden; with cacti; and with succulents. They’re all attractively done, but I wouldn’t necessarily class these as different projects.
She does have Pinterest-worthy ideas, though. One mounts multiple cone-shaped hanging containers on a wall, rather than suspending them, and plants them with ferns. Another uses coloured glass mason jars, with holes drilled in the base, to create a hanging herb garden for a fence. Very cute and photogenic. There’s also a cool moss living wall project I'd love to try.
Simple projects include the use of self-watering planters on a recycled bookshelf – quite practical for condo dwellers who have restrictions on what they can attach to balcony walls.
A living wall is the very definition of gardening within a small footprint. If you want to give one a try, this book would be an easy way to begin.
Friday, May 01, 2015
|Not all pollen is alike. Despite its abundance (or in this bee's case perhaps "a-bum-dance"), Thomas Ogren tells us the pollen of Alcea or hollyhock is a low-allergenic pollen. He warns those sensitive not to sniff it, however.|
Well, get out your hankie, dab your runny nose and streaming eyes, and prepare to find help in The Allergy-Fighting Garden by Thomas Leo Ogren from Ten Speed Press.
Ogren's book takes a clever approach to fighting allergies: Become a sexist. Because the pollen-producing parts are the boy bits – yes, that's the botanical term – which some plants separate from the girl bits either on different boy or girl "flowers" or on separate boy or girl plants. So, to be smart about landscaping, keep this in mind.
|The cover's double peony is OPALS-rated 1.|
Roughly the first 50 pages of Ogren's book lays out his approach in clear, simple detail. He talks about principles of plant selection, and how to use landscaping to reduce the flow of pollen into your private space.
What I really like is his rating system OPALS (the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale), now used by the United States Department of Agriculture or USDA. This scale considers things like how much pollen a plant produces, how hard it is on allergy sufferers, how often the plant produces flowers that might cause allergies, and how the size and weight of the grains impact pollen distribution. OPALS then rates plants on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least allergenic and 10 being the most.
|Birches (Betula) are pollen bad-boys, OPALS-rated 9.|
As a Canadian gardener, my wish is that Ogren were more consistent about giving hardiness zones in his plant index. While he does claim to attempt to do this, it's clear that this is the writing of a warm-climate gardener (he lives in California). A small quibble, though.
In the end, I'm very glad to have this useful book in my garden library. Any garden designer, master gardener, or allergy sufferer should make a bee-line for it in the bookstore.
Monday, April 13, 2015
|In winter, I walked past this snowscape on Unwin Avenue (shown through the lens of the Waterlogue app)|
Though some power-walkers, like my husband Mr. TG, are freakishly fast, we aren't like runners. We cover the same 21 km or 13.1 miles as they do; it just takes us longer. You might say we're the true endurance athletes, and we have time to think. Like about the similarity between my two "sports".
In both cases, you need to put in the miles. In both, you'll sometimes hit the wall. Persistence wins.
|In spring, you might find us training on the Leslie Street Spit. I'm often way at the back, looking at plants and taking pictures – and staring aghast at invasive species.|
|One of our favourite walking destinations in any season – a summer turnaround at Rosetta McClain Gardens in the Bluffs|
|Fall training might take us through the grasses at Woodbine Park. They look great in winter, too.|
Saturday, April 11, 2015
|Glorious sweet peas – wish our blog had smell-o-vision.|
Right now, I'm feeling a little nicked and scratched; perhaps somewhere between ice and fire. Like those warm October days last year that straddled summer and fall, or 2015's never-ending winter-cum-spring, I feel poised between two states, neither one nor the other.
A well-planned garden will withstand a certain amount of neglect. Mine, while a little overgrown, still gets positive comments from passing neighbours. Even when all I see are the weeds, the plants that need hacking back and the 'Autumn Joy' sedum planted in the wrong spot.
But what about the gardener? At the moment, I'm focussing on the benefits of being scratched and dented. Muscles tear with exercise and heal stronger; tree trunks gain strength from buffeting winds.
And spring does come again, all present evidence to the contrary. What life lessons have you learned from your garden? Spread a few seeds here…