What to Expect, When you are Expecting………Spring!

I am expecting again. It is mid-March and I am expecting… Spring! I am so done with blowing snow, heart-pounding drives across the icy city streets, and even the pleasant cocooning indoors with a bottle of wine, home-made soup, and games nights with family and friends. I want to be OUTSIDE, smelling freshly cut grass, feeling the soft caress of a warm breeze, and the lazy sounds of bees burrowing into the riotous blossoms in my garden. I can smell BBQ, and see the smoke rising from the grill as I invariably burn something…….. A slightly burnt BBQ steak would be like manna from Heaven right about now. I have learned that spring never gently creeps upon us on the prairies. Sometimes, it never drops by at all, and we dive headlong into summer overnight. That being the case, what does a gardener do when the doldrums strike, and spring feels like it will never arrive?
Plan. Dream. Start seeds indoors. Go to Garden Shows. Visit Garden Centers.

Last week I went to Sunnyside Garden Centre in NW Calgary, to check out the trends for 2014. I was not disappointed! I recommend you start to build your basic themes and colour palettes now, because it is the BIG box of Crayola’s this year. With so many colours, hues, textures, and themes to choose from, time will be needed to determine which way you want to go. From natural woods to shiny Kool-Aid, it is all there. Romantic, check. Modern, check. Classic, check. Whimsical, likewise, check. I have lots of pictures to share with you! Two of the most exciting trends are the lighted planters and the fire pit tables.

lighted planter
lighted planter
Fire table
Fire table

When it comes to planters, anything goes……hundreds of colours and sizes available.??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
Check out these whimsical additions to your garden:Neat things.......Butterfly TableBirdbathPretty Glass Garden Globes
Fun and funky storage:Personalise your storagePersonal Favorite!

If you are a local, plan on attending the Calgary Horticultural Society’s annual Garden Show, held at Spruce Meadows, April 12-13. With over 50 exhibitors, free activities, and the Blue Flame Kitchen demonstrating what to make out of all those lovely, organic vegetables you are going to harvest this fall, this is a can’t miss event. To learn more about the Garden Show or purchase tickets online, visit http://www.calhort.org. Better yet, become a member and enjoy discounts and expert advice regarding all things horticultural. It is amazing what you can grow in the Chinook zone when you know how!

Start your seeds indoors. While at Sunnyside, I checked out all the seed starting products. You can’t fail, whatever level your expertise, as they have everything to ensure success. Take a look:Heat accelerator matsnew beginningsFour Easy StepsOld School


Glendale Gardens- Learning and Loving

StumpedPottyBootsView to Eucalyptus

Nap time
Nap time

Just next door to the Butchart Gardens lies a little known gem, The Glendale Gardens and The Pacific Centre for Horticulture. The gardens are known for their dedication to education, offering a college dedicated to Horticulture professionals and Master Gardeners as well as workshops open to the public. I found out about the gardens while sourcing some courses to further my education. From year to year I see great progress and maturity in the developing landscape. The gardens are conceived and developed by their students and dedicated volunteers. There is nothing glossy or perfect about these gardens, they are work in progress and therein lies their appeal. For the avid gardener or horticulturist. The $11.00 admission fee is well worth the stroll through the various types of plantings. The Glendale Gardens reside in Oak Bay, just outside of Victoria, BC. I was in a bit of a hurry to catch my flight that morning and didn’t get nearly enough photos but here are a few tapas I thought were worth nibbling on………enjoy!














Hola! The Botanical Gardens of Puerto Vallarta and Surrounding Areas

DestinationWhile the snow attires the prairies in garments of white, I surrender to the bliss of botanical ramblings in other locales. Revisiting these destinations are a reminder that green leaves and colourful blossoms are indeed occurring elsewhere, that the cycle of life is as it should be, and with rest comes renewal for all living organisms.  Although currently we may be enveloped in a blanket of white, in a few short months the soil will warm, seeds will burst forth with promise fulfilled. We will once again bask in the sun, surrounded by bounty.  At that time Mexico will experience it’s time of rest where the temperatures will dip and rain will fall with regularity. theyardtherapist-on the move For now, it is verdant and lush so let’s treat our senses to muy bonita Mexico and its colourful array of botanical species.Anthuriums

Visiting The Botanical Gardens of Puerto Vallarta is time well spent. My ramble was not long enough to satisfy and I am looking forward to visiting again this winter and lingering to my heart’s content.  The gardens are available for weddings, a more than viable contender for the beach weddings offered by the hotels.  The steps and floors of the main reception are composed of hand painted tiles commemorating each bride and groom with their names and wedding date.  Very charming indeed. The hibiscus tea is a refreshing treat after strolling the gardens.  xeriscapeOne and OnlySpanish Moss, Palm, Bouganvilla

Shakin’ things up- Bees n’ Butterfies

When it comes to biotic pollination the bee is king (or queen) as the species would have it.  They are undisputedly the most prolific for sharing pollen amongst their peers which include birds, moths, wasps, and yes, butterflies. When working in the garden I really noticed first hand how my plants would shake along with the intense buzzing sound coming from the bumblebees.  There is a reason for this.  Bombus (unlike Apis, honey bees), contort their thorax to enable them to gather more pollen from the plant as it sticks to the surface of their bodies and then is released onto the next flower they visit.  The honey bee does not have this capability but still manages to get the job done. This process is called Buzz Pollination.

Butterflies pollinate also as they artfully flit about, using their feet to taste for suitable plants on which to lay their eggs.  Butterflies can see the colour red, which other pollinators cannot differentiate and are attracted to warm coloured plants in yellows, oranges and reds.  They need a large leaf and prefer clustered blossoms upon which to perch.  They gather nectar with their long tongues and deposit pollen as they walk about the plant.  When they find one that is suitable and the time is right they will deposit their eggs on the underside of the leaf to give their caterpillars an immediate source of sustenance. Ever notice how many butterflies you see in a meadow or other native space?  That is because they prefer native flowers, although my garden is a testament that they have cousins who prefer the urban lifestyle.

To attract bees to your zone 2 garden plant borage, catmint, hyssop, chives, lavender, mint and lemon balm.  You will get to enjoy these also!  Currently I find my Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ a welcoming host while there are not a lot of other things blooming.  Butterflies are partial to asters, sedums, lantana, marigolds, lupins and monarda.  They also gravitate to aspen, birch, cherry, oak, and willow trees. Why is it important to help and encourage our pollinating friends?  Over 90% of plants require a pollinator to propagate.  Enough said…….

Nestled in Nature

Outside of Cochrane, AB, nestled into the foothills is the home of my friends Jan and Dave.  When they purchased the property Jan and Dave planned and built their home to compliment the natural landscape rather than to alter it.  What a wise choice, as the result is a home totally in harmony with the existing flora and fauna.  It is a perfect example of what can exist when the left hand of man and the right hand of nature work together for a greater good, maintaining a natural ecosystem that existed long before they arrived, disturbing as little as possible.

Sitting Pretty

What appears random in nature is truly a complex system of adaptation whose beauty is nearly impossible for man to re-create.  There is a certain wildness we as designers can come close to, but not manifest until years of allowing nature to take its course and naturalize the area.  Nature dictates without ego, man does not, and therein lies the difference. Nature procreates without preference to a favorite colour, flower or tree.  What is native will survive without man’s interference.  It is that which makes the ordinary, extraordinary.

Natural Basket Hanger

Instead of grading and bulldozing the area surrounding the house, existing trees were left and as much as possible and the home was built into the existing conditions. It is a serene setting, full of character, a lovely place to be.

Dave has cleared a path that loops around the property where he created little havens like hidden gems, a picnic table with a view here and a nook where campfires roar on cool evenings there. I napped on that picnic table one day and have enjoyed more that once a convivial circle around the fire, enjoying the serenity they have maintained and share so generously with their friends.

Down the hillside is a raised vegetable garden, essential in the foothills region with its short growing season.  For those of you who may not know, a raised bed has warmer soil which extends the growing period, highly recommended for zone 2-3 vegetable gardening.

The Vegetable Patch

Heading back up to the house is a perfect example of how a retaining wall can be a tribute to function as well as form, necessary but in complete harmony with the surroundings.

Retaining wall
Harmonized retaining wall

I am always inspired to do things just a little bit differently after I visit, and this is a good thing.  I hope you will be inspired to take a more natural point of view as well.

Divine Inspiration
The Birds ‘n’ the Bees

BeDazzle your Container Garden

Now that its mid summer some of you are noticing a rapid decline in the vigour, growth and blooming of your hanging pots and deck containers.  To answer my good friend Jen’s question as to why her potted pansies not only suffered but actually died here are the top two offenders:  pot size and lack of nutrients.  Most of the pre-planted pots you buy have long outgrown the pot and there is insufficient soil to hold enough water (and nutrients) to keep the plant healthy.  You may find that you are watering every day which leaches out what remaining nutrients there are in the pot.  When these plants are in the greenhouse, they are fertilized regularly which keeps the growth vigorous and the plant healthy. When we take our plants home, many forget or don’t realize that this plant is relying on you solely for its nutrients and if you don’t give them, there is no earth or Mother Nature to help them get it for themselves.  When re-potting (if necessary) use a moisture control mix that will retain water.  There are several out there to choose from.  Most fertilizers will recommend a weekly schedule but I find every two weeks works just fine.  What type of fertilizer you choose will depend on the plant (you might want one that stimulates blooming), but I find that a basic 20-20-20 keeps all systems green and growing.  Think of this as your daily multivitamin and nutrient supplement, you do better with yours and your plant will do better with its booster as well.  Is it possible to keep a container beautiful all summer?…………The answer is with a lil TLC, a resounding YES!  Here’s an inventive way to be-dazzle a garbage can……………..