Here is my presentation “Garden Maintenance Shortcuts”. Not too much text or a lot of explainations, but let me know if you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer! Don’t be a slave to your garden.

Garden Maintenance Shortcuts RMSi 2012

Creeping Phlox

May 23, 2012

Creeping Phlox

This perennial is a classic for any garden, especially rock gardens.  The early spring bloomer comes in many colours including pink, white, purple, red, mauve and even candy striped. It is very easy to care for, if you want to deadhead after it blooms, a simple chop with your garden shears and you are done. Keep in mind that the creeping phlox blooms early, but it’s tidy, mounded shape and thin green leaves make it a good border plant for taller perennials that flower later on in the season.

Creeeping Phlox in shade

I find Phlox very well behaved and will not wander too far from where you plant it or show up in an another area of your garden where you didn’t plant it.

Hot Pink Phlox in shade

The technical info:

Bloom: April to May

Exposure: Full sun to part shade (full shade under deciduous trees)

Water: Because this plant blooms early, has a mounded shape and thin needlelike leaves, this plant needs very little water, if any, once it is planted.

Combination ideas: Its low growing behaviour will frame medium sized plants such as Echinacea, Little Blue Stem, Coral Bells or Hostas. Add it to the base of a few smaller shrubs with purple leaves such as Japanese Barberry for a sharp colour combination of easy, low maintenance plants.

Creeping Phlox with iris

Shopping: This is very common plant that is easily found at garden centres. The only hunting you might have to do is if you are looking for a particular colour.

Happy gardening!!!

Variegated Sweet Iris – Iris pallida ‘Variegata’

This is my favourite perennial (although I say that about a lot of plants). This one is so easy to look after and does not become the clumping mess that some of the bearded irises often grow into. Its leaves are variegated which brings colour to your garden from April right through to snow fall. The sharp contrasting spikes add a great aesthetic value to any garden.

The best part about this iris is the flowers. They are lavender in colour, not such a big deal, but they smell INCREDIBLE! I tell people to plant these close to decks or other sitting areas so when they do bloom, you can pick up the scent while you relax in your garden. What kind of scent does this flower have? I think it is best described as grape candy.  When this one is in bloom, I spend more time than is considered normal with my nose stuck into them while inhaling deeply in a state of scenty bliss.

The technical info:

Exposure: This plant likes full sun (I have some in part shade, it doesn’t do as well, but it survives and flowers)

Water: I can’t recall ever adding water to this iris, expect the day I planted it. If it does need water, the leaves will show a slight droop. With good soil (compost) and mulch, I can’t imagine this would need water except in the case of a severe drought (four or more weeks with no rain or supplemental watering and very hot weather)

Notes: When it’s planted, make sure that the tuber base is not covered in mulch or soil, the tuber needs to get some sunshine.

I haven’t yet to have to divide these, and it’s been over five years since I have planted them.

I pull the dead flowers off after they are done (if I get around to it) and that is the only real maintenance I have ever had to do with this perennial.

Note: I have always looked for the one with the yellow variegations, not the white. I find them more attractive. They can be hard to find, but if you find them, buy them! You will thank me for it.

Combination ideas: Plant this with other plants with dark green foliage with yellow flowers (i.e. Coreopsis). Make sure to place near perennials with rounded leaves to capitalize on the two variations of leaf shape. Plant these in a groups of three at minimum, or in larger groups for larger spaces.

Happy gardening!!!

Growing Vegetables

April 26, 2012

More and more people are growing vegetables in their gardens, which is a great idea! I often hear from people “I rarely water my garden, well, except my vegetables, I water those every day”. Why are those the exception? You can have a water-efficient vegetable garden without constant watering.

Here are some tips to create a water effiicent vegetable garden:

  • Use a rain gauge to keep track of how much rain has fallen during the week. Only add water if there hasn’t been sufficient rainfall (one inch per week)
  • Water more deeply but less frequently to encourage deeper, more vigorous root growth.
  • Time your watering to when the plants need it most in their life cycle.  For soft fruits such as tomatoes, this is as their fruit is setting, for leafy vegetables, as their hearts develop; for peas and beans, when they are flowering, and for potatoes, when the tubers begin to form.
  • Group vegetables and herbs according to moisture needs (hydrozone).   Herbs such as rosemary, sage, oregano, winter savory and thyme have better flavour when grown in hot, dry conditions.
  • Perennial vegetables such as asparagus and rhubarb do not need frequent watering, if at all.
  • Whatever your soil type, make sure to add lots of organic matter, preferably good compost, to increase the water holding capacity of the soil to reduce the amount of supplemental watering.
  • Prepare a flat soil surface.  Raised areas such as hills dry out more quickly, and water runs away from the root zone and is wasted.
  • Use mulch, it retains moisture in the soil, controls weeds, stabilizes the soil temperature, and insulates roots, providing protection from heat stress. (Using straw allows more water loss to evaporation than woodchips. I have been growing vegetables in 2-3 inches of woodchip mulch and have had good success, with virtually no water).
  • Water based on soil moisture, not plant tag recommendations. Soil should be dry to a depth of around two inches before adding any supplemental water.

When was the last time you saw a farmer watering his pumpkin patch?

If you are growing vegetables this season, why not grow an extra row and share it with a local shelter? The Compost Council of Canada has a great program called “Plant a Row, Grow a Row”, check it out at: http://www.growarow.org/

Happy Gardening!

Aileen

I thought I’d share some links with you…
A great lesson from Frank Ferragine (aka Frankie Flowers) on overseeding your lawn. Remember to use a mix of grass seed types for diversity and strength against drought and pests. Look for a mix a Kentucky Blue Grass, Fescue and Perennial Rye.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xijxjll7Y0M&feature=share
Frank’s website is now loaded with great resources on everything outdoors!
http://www.frankieflowers.com
Many of you are likely seeing damage from Meadow Voles in your lawns. Frankie talks about how to reduce and prevent the damage.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgM5jA2DVn0&feature=relmfu
A few short videos from our friends at Pathways to Perennials:
http://www.pathwaystoperennials.com/home-and-garden
A story from CBC radio’s “The Current” on how nature effects your brian, in a good way!
http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2011/05/04/urban-by-nature-documentary/
A blog about how important it is for us and for the kids to spend time outdoors in nature:
http://richardlouv.com/blog/
 
ENJOY!
Aileen

Hello!

From my seminar “20 Easy Plants” …

20 Easy Plants

Enjoy, and please let me know if you have any questions info@rmsi.ca or post a comment below.

Feel free to follow this blog for more info on smart, sustainable landscapes that are easily maintained and don’t need a lot of water, if any!

Aileen

With the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having lately, it’s hard to resist the urge to go play in the gardens. Some tasks can be detrimental if done too early. To appease your urges; here are some outdoor garden tasks to keep you busy…

This would be a large lawn to rake!

1. Resist the urge to rake your lawn. The ground is still wet and if you have clay soil, walking on it will compact the soil. Compacted soil is bad for turf, but good for weeds. Also raking your lawn too early can easily damage any new grass shoots.

2. Don’t roll your lawn, again, with clay soils, this will compact it.

3. Now is a great time to apply corn gluten to your lawn. This is a natural pre-emergent weed preventative that coats weed seeds and prevents germination of the root from the seed.  Wait 4 – 6 weeks before overseeding as corn gluten will also prevent grass seed from germinating. Corn Gluten will also serve as a fertilizer for your lawn.  Corn Gluten will not kill exisitng weeds. For more details on applicaiton of corn gluten, visit: http://lawncare.about.com/od/organiclawncare/a/corn_gluten.htm

4. Wait to clean up the dead plant materials from your gardens. Once the soil warms up the decomposers will become more active and will start decomposing old plant material. This will add natural organic matter into your soil, which will help to feed this year’s plants.

5. Rather than using a hose to clean off your driveway, use a broom. It is good exercise for you and you won’t be wasting high quality drinking water.

Thanks for the spring "presents"

6. Now that the snow has melted, for those of you with dogs, your lawn will be covered with months of dog droppings that need to be picked up. This is one of those spring clean-up tasks that I do not enjoy. Maybe this year I’ll hire a company to clean these up?

Enjoy your gardens folks, that’s why we have them!

Garden Trends for 2012

January 26, 2012

It’s that time of year where we see what the trends in landscapes will be for the upcoming year.  There are common themes across the country, with a few differences in what the hot colours will be. One things for sure is the move back to sustainable gardening. Its time to put down the hose, connect the rain barrel and look for colour from something other than those water hungry impatiens.

Water soaked gardens are no longer trending... Say goodbye to those water hungry impatiens

From the Ottawa Citizen….

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/Gardening+trends+2012/5956755/story.html

I love the oranges and blues in the garden. Got a wet shady area? Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) is a wonderful native plant, but only if the area has good moisture or you have a rain barrel nearby. Got a sunny, dry area? Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is gorgeous plant, but it won’t grow until mid-June when the soil warms up. It needs well-drained soil that won’t soak its root tuber over the winter.

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias Tuberosa) a wonderful option for a dry sunny garden.

From the Vancouver Sun….This has Amber and Black as trendy colours.

http://www.vancouversun.com/homes/garden+trends+2012/5956868/story.html

From Canadian Garden Centre and Nursery… This one puts water conservation up front.

http://www.canadiangardencentre.ca/content/view/3267/96

From our neighbours to the south…

http://www.24-7pressrelease.com/press-release/garden-media-group-unveils-2012-garden-trends-report-cultivate-the-new-good-life-with-the-power-of-plants-258315.php

Start planning your sustainable garden for 2012!