Posted in gardening, gardens4u.ca, lorieb.com

Groundcover, the good, bad and ugly

Groundcover is an integral part of most gardens.  Groundcover is self explanatory, basically plants that cover the bare ground, usually between larger (taller) plants.  The use of groundcover in gardens helps to minimize the appearance of weeds, which is always beneficial.  There are thousands of varieties out there, some good, some not so good (in my opinion) and some downright ugly!  Let me help you decipher some of my favourites and others that I encounter on a daily basis in my gardening business.

The best:

My favourite groundcover includes sweet woodruffe and lamium for part sun to shady areas as well as sedums and stonecrops for hot, sunny spots. Each perky stem of sweet woodruffe sports six shiny green leaves and tiny white flowers in spring.  Even after flowering this groundcover remains attractive all summer long.  Sweet woodruffe requires no deadheading either, which is an added bonus.

Lamium’s flowers are flashier, either pale pink or lavender in colour.  Its variegated foliage (green and white) also remains attractive all season.  Deadheading after blooming will create a second bloom time too.

I guess that’s what I like most about these two groundcovers; even when not in bloom they look great.  Although both spread, they do so in small clumps, but are not invasive.  Both are shallow rooted, so easy to remove from areas you don’t want them.  I use both of these as edging plants in my gardens as well. I have also used lamium in shady hanging baskets as it trails nicely as it grows.

For hot, sunny and dry spots in the garden, including tucked between or cascading over rocks, or even in containers, you can’t beat sedums or stonecrops.  Both come in a wide variety of bloom colours.  I especially love the dragon’s blood (red) stonecrop and the cute rosettes of hen and chicks.

Others:

Violets make a successful groundcover as well, but they can be invasive…

groundcover
wild violets

Some of the not so nice (looking) groundcover that crops up uninvited in gardens are clover and mosses. Clover is cute looking too, some people actually confuse sweet woodruffe with clover leaves.  However, clover is much weedier and invasive.  I don’t mind clover in my lawns, but pull it out of my gardens.  Some people encourage moss to grow between their stonework patios and walkways, not a look I am fond of.

The only time groundcover in your gardens does not work well is if you prefer mulch between your plants.  Not that you can’t have both, the problem is that most groundcover is low growing so the mulch can overpower and even smother it.  For this reason, I don’t usually recommend both mulch and groundcover in the same garden.

As I was snapping pictures of these varieties of groundcover the other day, I spied a garter snake peaking out at me from the cover of a hosta.  As a kid I used to think they were called gardener snakes, most likely because I saw them mostly in gardens.   I probably (unintentionally) disturbed this cutie’s sun bask.  By the time I focused on him, he was off, slithering away down the stone path to safety…

Advertisements
Posted in gardening, lorieb.com, nature, parenting

Teaching children to love nature

Because I am a nature lover, I assume that my grandchildren will automatically be nature lovers too. What I have come to realize is that teaching children to love nature is all about immersing them in it. This practice does not have to be an expensive endeavour, more of a shared life style, that can and should begin very early in life. One of my fondest memories of both of my grandmothers is their love of gardening.

I love all things garden related, so I make sure my grandchildren tour my gardens, patio and veranda plantings when they visit. I have added a few whimsical features throughout my yard to pique their interest, my way of teaching children. I love their sweet reactions!

I also have a few nature inspired features in my home décor that the kids love…

Teaching children has to be age appropriate or your students quickly lose interest. As my grand kids get older, the teaching or mentoring gets easier. In the spring they help me plant some decorations on my back deck. Then they water them throughout the summer to keep them thriving. I haven’t met a child yet that does not like to water flowers! Morning glories and sunflowers are easy to plant and grow quickly…

A word of caution when teaching children though, make sure you don’t care if they break your touches of nature. For example, the resin bunny has a broken tail and foot from two separate, accidental drops. And, one of my birdies cracked after my grandson threw it on a hard floor attempting to make it fly. I have to keep a close eye on the elephant as it is a sentimental (and very old) souvenir their great-grandpa brought their grandfather back from a trip to Africa.

Posted in gardening, gardens4u.ca, lorieb.com

Floppy hydrangeas make great impromptu gifts

All of the many varieties of hydrangeas sport beautiful flowers. The worst feature of the white “snowball” type however, is that they are easily damaged in a heavy rainfall, creating a mess of floppy hydrangeas.

The large balls of flowers soak up the rain water causing the stems to bend and eventually snap from the excess weight. This happens more often if the shrub is cut back each spring as the stems never get a chance to get thicker and stronger.

However, when your hydrangeas flop in the rain, cut the stems near the spot they bent/snapped, turning the floppy mess into a beautiful bouquet. Do this as soon as possible after the offending downpour, remove all but the top set of leaves and immerse the cuttings into water immediately.

I encountered such a display of floppy hydrangeas recently in a client’s garden and rescued them to do just that. I used my smoothie cup for a makeshift vase, and voila, a gorgeous and fresh bouquet, ready for gifting…

I have done this before, with peonies too as they suffer the same fate during a heavy rain. If the client whose garden I am tending is home, I give the cuttings to them to beautify their own home. This client happened to be away enjoying the summer weather at her cottage though, so these floppy hydrangeas were destined to go elsewhere.

On the way home I dropped the bouquet off at a local nursing home. As it turned out, my timing was perfect. As I walked in with them, staff was organizing a get together for the residents. My offering was gladly accepted and my gift turned into a beautiful centerpiece for the occasion! In a new vase of course.

floppy hydrangeas
Garden Terrace, Kanata
Posted in family, gardening, grandparents, lorieb.com

Rabbit ears, why are they so long?

Why are rabbit ears so long? If you asked my granddaughter, she would tell you that long rabbit ears make good handles. At least the ones on the (resin) rabbit in my back garden do. Don’t worry, no rabbits were injured in this story.

I had positioned this rabbit in my garden in mid-May so it appeared he was peeking out from his hiding spot amongst the hosta leaves…

peek-a-boo rabbit

My granddaughter loves to check out my gardens, stopping to admire the flowers…

She also loves critters of any kind, except for dogs. For some reason she is afraid of dogs. Birds, bugs, and other (small) animals are like magnets though, so when she spotted the rabbit in my back yard, she made a bee-line for it..

Her memory is very good. The next time she was over she headed straight to the back yard to rescue her new buddy again. The hostas had grown considerably, so the rabbit was trickier to find, but she grabbed him by the ears, and took him for a stroller ride…

rabbit ears
taking bunny for a ride

Another favourite critter at Grandma’s is the pink pig watering can her cousin Carter loves to take on his adventures…

Posted in gardening, gardens4u.ca, lorieb.com

Wedding Flowers on a Budget

How do you find wedding flowers on a budget? Easy! Visit friends’ gardens looking for the color you want the day (mid morning is best) before the event, put the cut stems in cold water immediately and store them in a cool place until you are ready to arrange them.

A friend’s son got married this week, and I guaranteed I could provide the wedding flowers on a budget. The bride and groom did not want bouquets, just flowers for a few vases on the tables. That made it simple for me. The biggest problem I encountered was that the colour theme was blue and silver. Any garden or flower lover will know that blue flowers are rare, and silver non existent. Lucky for me I had blue delphiniums blooming in my own garden this week and a few Gardens4u clients that also had blue blooms to share.

Silver was a whole other problem; thank heavens for spray paint! To add silver accents, I painted ferns and babys breath for the vases, and dusty miller and an ornamental grass for the large arrangement at the front door. If you decide to try this trick, be sure to use lots of newspapers or other material to cover everything in the vicinity of the painting process. Spray paint gets everywhere!

The vases for the guest tables were tiny, silver and small-mouthed, so I used appropriately scaled down sprigs of flowers…

wedding flowers on a budget
blue and silver theme

with larger blooms reserved for regular sized vases on the head table and the gift table…

Weeks ago I planted blue lobelia and white dusty miller in an insert that fits into a plant holder to act as a “welcome sign.” Last evening I spray painted the dusty miller as well as a chunk of ornamental grass I chose for some height…

floral welcome sign

Voila, wedding flowers on a budget. The total cost was a measly $62. Some may say I have a green thumb, but today I am sporting a silver one!

silver thumb!
Posted in gardening, gardens4u.ca, lorieb.com, nature

Limbing Up, aka removing lower branches

Recently I took on the project of limbing up several evergreen trees on a client’s front lawn. One of my favourite gardens is part of this gorgeous property. Although I cannot take credit for designing or planting the gardens, I have had the honour of maintaining them for the past several years. The gardens are surrounded by a stone retaining wall with a verdant backdrop of mature evergreens, oak and maple trees.

The evergreens featured as the backdrop for these gardens are massive (the reach of their branches are at least 30 feet each) with their lower branches sweeping the ground, crowding each other and choking out everything, including the lawn. Many branches of these trees were dead or dying . Cutting the grass and raking leaves was awkward and frustrating. Annoying and increasingly dangerous mosquitos and ticks are abundant in these conditions.

I had suggested this limbing up process a while ago, but the homeowners were hesitant as they like the privacy of their lot. That is until they were the victims of a break in recently. Burglars drove into their driveway, broke down a door, gaining access to their home in broad daylight. Fortunately, their security system alerted the police so not much was stolen.

That home invasion was enough to motivate these homeowners into letting me start the limbing up process. I removed the branches from the first tree, then checked with them to make sure they wanted me to continue. With the go ahead, I continued with twelve more trees. Removed branches were cut into four foot lengths and left at the curb for pickup by the local garbage crew.

When limbing up, be sure to cut off the branches as close to the main trunk as possible, without leaving an unsightly and unhealthy stub…

As I was working, a few neighbours stopped by to say how wonderful the yard looked with these branches removed. I agree; the trees look much healthier and the yard still has that woodland setting I would never want to alter. When the lawn recovers, the property will be even more spectacular!

Posted in gardening, gardens4u.ca, lorieb.com, Ottawa

Garden Makeover in the Rain

Rainy days are good for a garden makeover, except for the mess that is inevitable. Today was such a day. Gardens4u got this project going early this morning before the rain started, but a drizzle started a few hours in, followed by a torrential downpour. Downpours to me mean lunch time, sitting in my van. Luckily, the rain subsided enough for me to continue until the job was complete. Well, except for the cleanup. Trying to sweep up my mess on the wet stone was not very effective. Nothing a hose down won’t fix though, a job I left for the homeowner when the rain stopped, long after I left.

These are the “before” pictures. The tree is a dead maple that was removed with the stump ground down before I started the makeover.

The burning bush (far right in third pic), lilac (center in center pic) and hydrangea (right corner in center pic) were salvaged, with the lilac getting a good pruning to whip it into shape. Everything else was removed. New shrubs and perennials were strategically planted and composted manure, my new favourite soil amendment, was added.

Here are the “after” pictures…

New plantings in this garden makeover include a pink magnolia (center of bed), a “Wine & Roses” weigela, several ornamental grasses, coneflowers, pink and purple sages and lavender, as well as several varieties of sedum and stonecrop to spill over the edges of this sunny garden. Once the new plants are established and well watered, I will add mulch to complete the job.

A second bed, between the sidewalk and the garage, is next up on my garden makeover list. Stay tuned for more before and after pictures.