Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Garden Resolutions 2009

With the lights about to dim on another year, I find myself pumped for the 2009 garden season. Sure there are almost three full months of cold, hard winter ahead, including dreaded February. What better time to plot and plan for the best garden yet. It all begins tonight with my garden resolutions.

Garden Exercise
Gardening can be tough work. I will regret sitting around on my behind for the next three months come the first garden clean-up day in spring. I don't mind a few good aches following an afternoon of digging in the dirt. Too often, however, my aches come with audible groans. No more. I'm going to keep fit over the next few months with a walking and snow shoveling regime. I'll start that right after all the Christmas chocolate runs out, right around Valentine's Day.

Mulch. Mulch. Mulch Some More.
Is it possible to fall in love with mulch? For the last two years I have made my own mulch from fallen leaves which I then mow into smaller pieces. It looks so nice around the plants as winter prepares its onslaught. Come spring, the leaves are one with the soil and the soil seems so much healthier and happier. While I have made lots of mulch, I have also collected bags and bags of leaves to be carted to the city compost heap. No more. This year those leaves are mine. I'll make more mulch than ever before. My plants will thank me with a profusion of blooms the likes of which have never been seen before.

Divide. Divide. And Divide Again.
2008 was an exceptional garden year thanks in large part to an abundance of rain. Lush does not begin to describe the wonder of this year's garden. Some gardeners might interpret my definition of "lush" to mean "overcrowded." That's okay. I like things a little wild but some plants are starting to suffer. Last spring, I noticed the astilbe were looking a little bare in the centre but I chose to ignore their plight. No more. They will be first up for division. The daylilies, iris, purple coneflower and lesser calamint could all use dividing. That's going to be a lot of work. I'd better get in shape to handle the job.

Bye-Bye Lawn
It's been ten years coming but I think I'm finally ready. By the end of summer my front lawn will be no more. I'm installing a front-yard garden. I went for a little test drive last spring, tearing out a small section of lawn and installing a woodland walk. It needs some fine-tuning. For the most part, though, I am deliriously happy with the result which was well-received by neighbours too. The new garden is a larger space than I have ever worked with. That's a bit intimidating but the lawn has to go and so it will. Good thing I've got months to sit around surfing the web, looking for plant choices and compiling plant lists.

More Native Plants
A new garden will mean more room for native plants. Natives became somewhat of an obsession since the woodland walk installation. They are beautiful in their own right and essential to preserving our natural heritage. But I really, really, really like them because they are very different from anything my neighbours grow. There are lots of beautiful gardens out there but how many of them feature a seersucker sedge? Or wood poppy? Or white snakeroot? I didn't set out to be different. It just ended up that way and I'm absolutely thrilled. Now I want more natives, the more unusual and difficult to acquire, the better.

The Impulse Buy
I've been a dedicated gardener for more than ten years now. That's long enough to know that the garden centre impulse buy is a bad idea. You know what I'm talking about. We all do it. A plant catches our eye across the garden centre aisle. It calls out to us. We have to have it even though it clashes with our colour scheme. We have to have it even though it requires full shade and all we have is full sun. We have to have it even though there is nowhere left to shoe-horn in another plant. So the days of the impulse plant purchase will be no more in 2009. Instead all potential purchases will be carefully researched. Height, soil and light requirements will all be carefully taken into consideration before any money is handed over to the cashier.

Okay...who am I kidding with this last one? There's no way that's ever going to happen. The tradition of the impulse buy will carry on. Fortunately, new year's resolutions are meant to be broken so I'm off to a good start. Here's wishing you the best garden yet in 2009.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wishing You...

...sunny skies, plentiful rain, abundant harvests, bountiful blooms, and an always greener thumb. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Holiday Garden

I don't know exactly when the holiday garden decorating bug struck but it was sometime in the last five years. It started innocently enough: I stuck some evergreen branches in some dirt and it looked nice all winter long. Ever since, the holiday garden has been getting more and more elaborate.

This is one of two big urns sitting on the back porch. Our kitchen has lots of windows facing the deck and yard so it's nice to see these every time I look outside. I have to confess: I had these urns done up for me by a pro. I have always felt that my urn and window box designs, while nice, were somehow lacking. Something was missing. I'm beginning to realize that my perceived design shortcomings could easily be remedied with just a little extra material. Next year, I'm doing it all on my own. I love the way the urns (and the window box below) look but I'm really looking forward to the chance to put my personal stamp on them.

The window box at the front of the house looks great at this time of year. So lush and green in our grey, grey winters. During the summer months, this window box is inevitably a bust. If the squirrels don't destroy what's planted there, the drought will. This is not an easy window box to water. It's not easy to reach and it's altogether too easy to forget about. Perhaps fake plants for the summer will do the trick. Who would know? Or would that disqualify me as a legitimate gardener?

The woodland garden has provided a benefit I didn't anticipate: now I can decorate the two serviceberry shrubs and the eastern redbud for the Christmas season. The woodland walk looks especially pretty in the early morning sun when the ornaments sparkle.

The holiday garden will stay in place until about March, right about the time I start wondering how much longer the cruel, cruel winter can last (regardless of what the calendar says, winter weather can persist well into April 'round these parts.) Until then I'll enjoy the greenery, faux fruit and designer berries. After all, it just wouldn't feel like the holiday season without my holiday garden.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Colour-Starved Gardener Needs Tree I.D.

Just a short walk from my home there grows a tree that simply takes my breath away. Its branches are loaded with hundreds upon hundreds of red berries that stand out even from a block away. I never noticed this tree in the summer. Now that the cold has set in, there is no missing this beauty. I can't get enough. I have even taken detours on my neighbourhood walks for the chance to gaze upon it one more time.

When I first started gardening, I was happy to see colourful blooms from May through August (as a beginning gardener sometimes even that was difficult.) Now I crave colour all year long. This tree would certainly go a long way in making the grey months ahead more bearable. Imagine looking out the window to see those berries while a howling wind whistles down the street and a blizzard dumps five feet of snow on you. It would be a "zen" moment for sure. The problem is I have no idea what this tree is. I have searched the internet looking for a match but no plant profile fits perfectly. The closest has been a ilex decidua (or deciduous holly or possumhaw holly) but I haven't found an image yet that's an identical match.

So if you have any idea what this tree might be, please take pity on this colour-starved gardener and fill me in. I'm also open to any and all suggestions for awesome, jaw-droppingly beautiful trees that stand out during those months where cracking a seed catalogue is as close as one can get to gardening. After all, spring is just four months away and plans must be made to plant some of the best winter-interest trees ever.