gardenchatter

Garden adventures and advice…


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Go Native!

 

If you don’t already, consider growing native plants in your garden. Plants are considered native if they originated and are growing naturally in a given area; they have adapted to the soils, the regional climate and wildlife – and will continue to survive climate changes like floods, drought, blizzards and frost. The list of benefits, and plants is long – and worth it in the end. Here’s a few reasons why we should all be going native…

Reduced Maintenance:
While there is no such thing as a no-maintenance garden, native plants offer a very low-maintenance alternative. Because they are resistant to pests, disease and drought, they don’t required the same level of attention that many other tender plants need to survive. Well established natives have deep roots that support them through dry times, they rarely require fertilizer and they help deter weeds and invasive species from moving in and taking over the garden. 
 
Soil and Water Conservation:
The deep root system of native plants increases the soils’ ability to store water and keeps that soil where it belongs. Natives also help reduce water runoff; their dense growth and large, lush foliage allow rainwater to drip into the soil rather than pooling around the plant or draining away. Native plants require far less watering than their non-native neighbours need, and they are strong, long-lived plants that rarely need replacing, providing overall good value for your gardening dollars. 
          
Wildlife:
Native plants provide wildlife with the habitat they need to survive. If you grow them, they will come. And stay. Native plants naturally produce the seeds, berries, nuts and nectar that the local wildlife enjoys. Natives provide a protective cover for wildlife – provide seeds, nuts and berries for mammals – insects, seeds and fruit for birds – nectar for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies and host plants for butterfly caterpillars. Plant a swamp or common milkweed; it’s the only larval plant that the monarch caterpillar lays it’s eggs on – bring monarchs back into your garden!
   
A Garden Full of Beautiful Plants:        
There are native plants available for every garden location – sun, shade, water, rock gardens and woodlands. Wildflowers in bloom combined with native grasses and ferns provide a stunning visual in any setting. Many native plants provide impressive, showy flowers, colourful berries, unique nuts and seeds and stunning fall foliage 
  
Create a Wetland:        
Add water features (or a pond) to your yard to encourage frogs, toads, dragon and damselflies to move in, and to provide a water source for birds and butterflies. These wetland creatures will thank you by working to keep the mosquito population down during the summer season. Use a variety of native plants in the pond, add large rocks and old logs to provide spots to soak up the sun and create mini-wetlands near a smaller water features by planting bog or pond plants in buried plastic containers to keep the roots wet. It won’t take long before your wetland neighbourhood starts to fill up.
     
Adding even a few natives into your current landscape each year will help to encourage a healthy and sustainable ecosystem you can enjoy for years to come. Grow a native plant – and save a life!


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April Showers Bring…Purple Dead-Nettle?

If I could make money selling purple deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule) I could retire tomorrow. The wonderful April showers, that as we all know, will bring May flowers, have also brought a plethora of purple deadnettle. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen quite this much in one place.
 
Also known as henbit, dead-nettle is a member of the mint family and forms groundcover mats very early in the season. An annual weed, It sports fuzzy, spade-shaped leaves and delicate purple-pink flowers. Unlike most nettles, this one doesn’t sting – hence the name “dead”.
 
Each plant grows to 40cm / 15″ tall, has a very shallow root system and develops around 200 seeds (yes, each plant). So pull these early spring darlings out as soon as you can – or it might become a full-time job!


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Lacy Hearts Chinese Hydrangea Vine

Lacy Hearts
Came across a very interesting, but apparently rare, new hydrangea vine – Lacy Hearts.

Lacy Hearts foliage is stunning – olive green, heart-shaped leaves that are edged in ivory. Small white flowers present a showy display in late summer.

Lacy Hearts needs plenty of water, particularly during hot spells and because of it’s shade tolerance would grow well in a woodland garden setting. It’s also suitable for creating a colorful privacy fence and would perform well if grown on a north or east-facing wall.

It’s fairly slow growing though but will ultimately sprout up to 15 feet.

A deciduous self-clinging vine (doesn’t need support or to be grown on a trellis), Lacy Hearts will survive in zones 6 to 9. There’s some discussion as to whether my area is 5, 5b or 6a, so if I can find this unique little hydrangea at any of the local garden centers, I might just give it a try in an area well protected from harsh winter winds. Most hydrangea vines grow just fine in zone 5+.

Other Chinese hydrangea vines with unique foliage include ‘Red Rhapsody’ – new foliage growth is red, ‘Rosea’ – bright pink sepals and ‘Moonlight’ – blue leaves with dark green veins.


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Now That Garden Season is In Full Swing – Use the Right Tools to Get the Job Done!

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Garden tools are essential to regular upkeep and maintenance of the garden and landscape, and a wide variety are available to help get the job done. Basics include bypass and anvil pruners for trimming shrubs and plants, spades and forks for digging and transplanting, trowels assist with planting in small beds and containers and cultivator’s aid in keeping the area well aerated and weed free.

 

Pruners and Loppers:

Available in two styles, pruners are essential for trimming shrubs and bushes, deadheading spent flower heads and cutting back overgrown or fast-growing plants. Anvil pruners crush the plant stem, and are best suited for dead or old wood on shrubs and vines. Bypass pruner blades pass each other when cutting, and deliver clean, close cuts that are safer for living stems, vines and flowers. Pruner handles typically range in length from 6 to 9 inches, and all pruners come with a locking mechanism to keep the blade closed when not in use. Loppers are the long-handled version of pruners, used to trim small branches from trees and tall shrubs, while standing on the ground. Loppers, as with hand-held pruners, also are available in anvil or bypass style, depending on the nature of the required pruning.

Garden Forks and Spades:

Digging in the garden can be challenging and the right tools help make the job easier. Garden forks assist in loosening and aerating the soil, mixing in nutrients, and minimizing root damage while transplanting plants or shrubs. A spade is a virtual do-it-all tool used for digging shrubs and perennials, moving and transplanting, edging, working the soil and countless other garden chores. Spades are available in a number of different shapes for every digging need; look for handles that reach shoulder level to allow for flexibility and control while working.

Trowels:

Trowels are small hand-held shovels used for planting annuals and perennials, small bed care, raised gardens and containers. General-purpose trowels have a 3 to 4 inch blade; transplanting trowel blades are 1 1/2 to 3 inches, good for bulb planting, and crevice trowels have a 1 1/4 inch blade for use in rock gardens and small spaces. Look for trowels that have a strong connection between blade and handle or one-piece units that eliminate the possibility of the handle and blade coming loose or disconnecting.


Cultivators:

Cultivators break up the top few inches of garden soil, allowing gardeners to remove weeds, aerate the soil and get a new bed ready for planting. The cultivating fork is a three- or four-pronged metal tool, available long-handled for use in large gardens, and short-handled for use in smaller beds or containers where plants grow close together. Cultivator tines are usually steel, but the handles are available in wood, aluminum and plastic, to suit each gardener’s need. Larger beds with well-spaced plants and the preparation of new gardens can benefit from use of a rotary tiller, the motorized version of the hand cultivator.

Tool Care:

Regular maintenance and cleaning of garden tools extends the life of the tool, allows the gardener to spend more time in the garden and promotes a safe, healthy environment for plants and flowerbeds alike. Cleaning tools after every use keeps insect eggs, weed seed and disease from spreading to other parts of the garden. Regular cleaning also keeps tools in optimum condition by removing soil dampness that may promote rust. Spray dirty tools with the garden hose to remove all soil, and use a scrub brush on any dirt that is tough to remove. Dry with a rag before putting tools away.


Happy Gardening!


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Hummingbirds

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Hummingbirds amaze me.

Have you ever seen them dance and play through the light shower that the sprinkler provides? Every time we water, there they are – swiftly spinning and flying through the drops, sparkling in the sunlight and enjoying their quick bath. I guess bird baths are typically too deep for them so perhaps this is how they get around it??

The ruby-throated is what spends the summer in our yard each year, and they have remained close by again this summer. Three or four times a day they make their rounds from plant to plant and stop by the patio table to hover for a second or two, as if saying hello, before they fly off to the next bright flower.

A few interesting ruby-throated facts:

– They beat their wings roughly 55 times per minutes.

– It’s short legs prevent it from walking or hopping (answers the bird bath quandry!). The best they can do is shuffle along a perch. It scratches it’s head and neck by raising a foot up and over its wing.

– They prefer to feed on red or orange flowers. Like many birds, they have good color vision and can see into the ultraviolet spectrum, which we cannot (However, the one that came to visit pictured above seems to be quite happy with large, pink zinnias).

– They also catch insects in midair or pull them out of spider webs.

They’ll soon be heading south, to warmer climates for the winter season, so as the summer blooms begin to fade, remember to keep the hummingbird feeder full to give them plenty of food and energy for the long flight!


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God’s Country

I finally understand what that means.

Just had an excursion to Sault Ste. Marie, ON, and it was my first trip through Northern Michigan.

What a beautiful area. For miles, the highway was lined with bright pines and spruce, native birch, red-twig dogwood and numerous other species of trees just starting to leaf out. As far as the eye could see, it was stunning. And if it’s stunning this time of year, I can only imagine what it would look like in full bloom through the summer or as the brilliant shades of fall begin to develop.

An overcast day, even the clouds were something to look at. Billowing white waves of marshmallow cream. I’ve never seen clouds look so comforting, or inviting – as if you could snuggle in and have the best sleep you have ever had.

Yes, this is truly God’s Country. And if I had my way, Heaven would look like Northern Michigan.