Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Holidays

Christmas feels a little odd this year.  No snow on the ground, lots of rain.  It was 13 degrees on Christmas Day.  No snow shoes or skis.  Mittens rendered unnecessary.

This is the only snowman I've seen so far this year
It was a busy December with long hours of work for both of us.  On Christmas Eve we collapsed on the couch to eat ridiculous amounts of chocolate and watch movies.

the couch is otherwise occupied in this shot but we did get a chance to sit down eventually
Kittens made decorating anything under four feet close to impossible.  Instead we chose a table top tree and a string of cards on high.  

Lights were inadvisable since strings of any sort are highly sought after and longing to be chewed.  Not to mention kittens can climb curtains with ease.

decorations high up on cabinet tops
Despite the changes it's been a lovely holiday and I hope everyone is enjoying this winter reprieve as much as we are.  Many good wishes to you all and blessings in the new year from all of us here on the corner.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

New Additions

Many of you are probably aware of our cats here on the corner.  I have loved cats for years and when we moved to PEI we brought Gino with us, shipping him on a plane across the country.

He's been part of our family for ten years and there was no way he was getting left behind.

When we purchased our home we were surprised to find out that it was already inhabited.  Priscilla, Bug and Funnyface introduced themselves promptly and asked that dinner be provided daily.  Sadly, Funnyface is the only one of the trio that is still with us today.

Five years on he has completely won over our hearts.  Going from feral barn cat to cuddly lap cat.

Two cats would be plenty for most people but I always feel sorry for the vast number of cats that head into shelters or are euthanized.  We have plenty of space and lots of love so an addition has been considered. Recently a co-worker told me she found a litter of feral kittens in her barn.  Of course I volunteered to take two. (why take one when you can have two?)

What can I say, I have a special fondness for barn kitties.  Meet Teddy (Theodore) and Archie.

These brothers have kept us entertained for the last month and I'm sure will continue to do so for many years to come.  There was a small situation with ear mites at first but they are healthy and happy otherwise.

Kittens are good for smiles and laughter

They excel at kitten olympics

I can climb ladders!!
and ease stress

Kittens however are bad at cleaning seeds

That should have been obvious but clearly I didn't think this through.  Turns out dried bean pods are the perfect kitten toy.  Crunchy and they make excellent rattle noises.

They meant well.  Although it made me consider what I'll do about a Christmas tree this year. It could be tricky keeping them away from shiny glass ornaments.  Perhaps we'll save the tree for next year.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Vegetable Gardens can be Pretty Too

We have a pretty big yard.  Three acres of space to get lost in.  When we first moved here it was a blank slate.  5 years on and one can get lost behind shrubs and plants.  I spent a day in the garden this summer and not one but two people dropped by our house.  I did not see them and they did not see me.  I only found out via phone messages and emails later on.

Unfortunately that same thing happens to my husband.   There are times he comes looking and can't find me. One day he came looking and I was nowhere to be found.  Hours later when I finally came back to the house he asked me, "who puts so many flowers in their vegetable garden?"

Apparently in his travels he wandered through the veggie beds and was surprised at the number of flowers he saw.  I didn't think the vegetable garden had so many flowers but on closer inspection I guess I subconsciously felt it needed some perking up.

Marigolds contrast against red beet tops
I always include marigolds in my vegetable beds as they are said to deter whiteflies and nematodes.  I don't know if they really do that but they sure look pretty contrasted against the beets.  

Lilies and Borage
I was gifted with lilies a few years ago and had no place to put them so into the vegetable garden they went.  Now they are surrounded by borage and feverfew each year which draws beneficial insects to pollinate my vegetable plants.

I ordered a daylily this year from local daylily breeder Red Lane Gardens but the flower bed wasn't quite ready when the plants arrived so daylilies graced my carrot bed this year.

Hidden Strength daylily
Every year I dream about putting containers of flowers on our deck but the reality is the containers I do put out die a slow death.  Our deck is in full sun throughout the summer and I am forgetful about watering.  So this year I decided the shade of the garage was the perfect spot for a container garden.  Less watering and I liked the idea of bright colours contrasting against the white walls of the garage.  It just so happens the garage is located next to the vegetable garden.

Begonias and lobelia
Pots of perennials and shrubs that hadn't yet been planted were massed into a collection on a picnic table.  Colourful annuals added some colour.  A box full of red and green lettuce growing in the shade provided greens throughout the summer.

On the sunny side of the garage I put herbs.  Cilantro and dill were combined with cosmos and rudbeckia.

Orange and pink cosmos, dill and cilantro
In fact, herbs are a great way to add some colour to the garden.  Oregano provides a cloud of pink blooms each summer as well as food for us and insects.

So maybe there's a few flowers in my vegetable garden.  But it's just prettier that way isn't it?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Daffy for Dahlias

The days are inching closer to winter and when I go into the garden these days my fingers tend to go numb.  Luckily I managed to complete my list of garden must dos last weekend.  The last chore on the list was digging up my dahlias.

Just a sample from my garden
Every year I wonder why I bother with these tubers.  They are a lot of work to plant each spring and dig up each fall but something in my DNA just cannot resist.  It must have something to do with the fact that they are reliable plants that produce multiple blooms in every colour and shape imaginable.

White dahlias mixed with rudbeckia
Back in the spring I visited Vancouver, British Columbia for a couple weeks.  While there I popped into Van Dusen Botanical Gardens.  I love visiting Van Dusen and this time was no exception.  The day I was there turned out to be the annual Dahlia Sale.  How could I possibly resist??

Come On In!!

Tables of tubers sorted by size
Since I was travelling I had to keep my purchases small but I still managed to walk out with Ferncliff Cameo, Ferncliff Copper and Longwood Dainty.

Longwood Dainty
Longwood Dainty has done very well for me, the plant itself was very strong and by September was covered in blooms.  Unfortunately Ferncliff Cameo did not survive the trip home as the bud broke off the tuber.  Ferncliff Copper had a pretty rough start, the plant broke in a storm and although it recovered it never did bloom.

Despite those setbacks I still had a lovely show of plants this year.

I like to plant my dahlias together.  Combining yellow, white, orange and pink.  A few sunflowers, rudbeckia, gladiolas and canna lilies filled out the bed.

Unfortunately what I've discovered is that my lower garden gets hit with frost before the rest of the property.  The blooms were all killed in September leaving me with blackened plants.
Frost kill in the dahlia bed
So next year I'm contemplating moving the dahlias to the front yard.  Plans for a new bed are underway in a more protected spot.

Of course, that might mean I have to purchase some more dahlias.  That shouldn't be a problem though.  I also visited the Halifax Public Gardens this summer and did you know they have a dahlia collection?

Halifax Public Gardens
The garden contains dahlia cultivars developed by Nova Scotia gardeners, specifically geared towards our maritime climate.

Scarborough Brilliant dahlia
I photographed the flowers and their names to remind me for future shopping.  Just in case I happen to need a few more dahlias.  They're kind of like chips aren't they?  You can't have just one.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm not sure where the time has gone but it's long past the end of summer and we're deep into fall.

The leaves have begun to turn, the apples are ripe and there's a chill in the air.

I spent some time thinking about Thanksgiving this weekend and what it means to me.  I thought about it while I sat in the orchard munching on fallen apples.

I thought about it some more while I worked in the kitchen to make salsa and tomato soup.

I thought about it as I pulled carrots and parsnips out of the ground for our Thanksgiving dinner.

I grew some pretty stunted parsnips this year
I thought some more while I placed bags of apples in the freezer next to containers of homemade pesto and soup.  Then again while I cleaned onions for storage.

What I realized is that I spent my whole Thanksgiving weekend gathering, preparing and storing food from my garden.  And that realization was pretty darn nice.  It's no coincidence that Thanksgiving falls at the time of year when harvests are being brought indoors.  It's a time when food is suddenly so plentiful that you can literally see your freezer go from empty to full in the space of one month.  Knowing that we have food for the winter and that it came to us through an enjoyable chore like gardening is pretty special indeed.  There are times when gardening can be tiring and endless but it can also be therapeutic and incredibly rewarding.  This is one of those days where I'm remembering the rewarding bit.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  I hope you had a wonderful holiday and enjoyed many rewards from your garden.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Garden Ghosts

What's this?

What an odd sight!  Is the garden dressed up for Halloween?  Ghosties playing amongst the dill?

A cute thought but unfortunately that's not what is going on.  There's a FROST WARNING for this evening.

Yes, frost....  Really.

I know it's only September 8.  I'm not terribly impressed either but there's not much we can do.  Unless you want to start petitioning Mother Nature.

I only just started picking tomatoes a couple days ago.  The harvest hasn't even really begun.  So I did what any good gardener would do.  I ripped the sheets off my bed and dragged them into the garden to cover up as many tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers as I could.

It's about time I bought some new bed sheets anyway.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Garden Surprises

I was wandering around the flower garden the other day.  Plotting my next move.  I've been working hard, one section at a time.  Clearing weeds, amending the soil, adding new plants and finally mulching.  Then I move on to the next section.  A few feet at a time I'm finishing this beast of a garden.

So there I found myself, having finished another section and contemplating what next.  That's when I spotted it.

Through the flowers I spied a shape.

Do you see anything behind the flowers?
My first thought was cat.  They often hide out among the flowers.  Spying on birds and relaxing in the shade.

Could it be Gino?
But then I saw ears, and my heart stopped for a minute.


Except ..... hang on ...

That's a pretty solid looking bunny.  I don't think it's running anywhere.  I've been had.

I ran inside and down to the basement.

Jody!!  I found something in the garden!!

He turns and looks at me.  What's that? he says

I raise an eyebrow and that's all it takes.  He can't help himself.  The corners of his mouth turn up just a touch before he completely cracks up, breaking into a wide smile.

Okay, it was me!  Happy Birthday sweetheart.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Triumphs and Tragedies - Tree Planting

When we first bought this property there was hardly a tree in sight.  When I looked at our space I saw 90% lawn and just a few trees on the edges.  There was no shade, no windbreak, no privacy and nothing to look at.

The early days...

Each spring for the last 4 years we have planted trees in an attempt to change those conditions.  We started with mostly native trees.  They were easy to dig out of ditches which saved us money.  They are also better adapted to our environment so there's less chance they will be troubled by pests or weather conditions.  I also like that they play host to many insects and birds.

In the spring of 2010 I planted this white pine.  It was a foot tall then.

White Pine is native to this area and well adapted to all that nature can throw at it.  Four years later my white pine looks like this.

from one foot to 8 feet in 4 short years
I'll count this as a triumph.  That's one happy tree.

Although I like native trees I think a few ornamental trees contrast nicely and make for an interesting landscape.  The last two years I have started purchasing ornamental trees to fill out our landscape.  When shopping at nurseries one should always trust their instincts.  I know this but amazingly I often disregard this advice and always live to regret it. 

Last spring I took myself to a nursery that was selling trees that were a bit optimistic for our climate.  I knew that wasn't a good sign but I ignored it.  The trees were cheap and I was game.  I also disregarded the fact that some of these trees had suffered frost damage.  I was told they would be fine.  They were not.  A tulip poplar with frozen buds never recovered.  Let this be a lesson to all of you.  If you think something isn't right, ask questions.  If you still has some reservations, walk away.  

Not all the trees died.  Some, like this Copper Beech were not incredibly healthy but they survived.  In this photo the leaves were curling up and starting to die back.  I found when I took the tree out of its pot that there was very little root mass to support such a large tree.  The top two thirds of the tree have now died but new leaves sprouted from the bottom portion of the tree and with some pruning it will eventually grow into a proper tree.

Lesson learned.  Get to know your  nurseries.  Good nurseries aren't cheap.  They have a long track record.  Staff are knowledgable, they know what will grow in your climate.  They offer warranties.  and for goodness sake, if your warning bells start going off don't ignore them. (I'm speaking to myself here!)

Even if you buy trees from a good nursery there are lessons to be learned.  I also bought a native Pagoda Dogwood from MacPhail Nursery last year.  MacPhail has outstanding staff, quality plants and good prices.  I have shopped there for 4 years now and never been disapointed.  But I need to hold up my end of the bargain.

My Dogwood was 6 feet tall with great spreading branches when I bought it.  It leafed out, bloomed and I was smitten.  It would be a fantastic tree if I had bothered to water it.  You see, I failed to take into account that the larger the tree the more water is required.  Newly planted trees should receive at least one inch of water per week for the first season.  A common formula used to measure the amount of water necessary is 10 gallons (38 liters) per week for every inch of tree caliper.   That is a lot of water.  I did water my tree but not nearly that much.  I was used to watering 1 foot tall trees and I didn't think to give the big one more.  Now my tree looks like this.

My, now dead, Dogwood
That's right, it's dead.  I have been dreading owning up to this.  I tend to walk as far away from that tree as possible when I go around the garden.  I'm embarrassed because I screwed up big time.  Water your trees folks.  The bigger the tree the more water it needs. 

I am trying very hard to remember that lesson these days.  You see we bought more trees this year.  Jody insisted on big ones.  He's tired of waiting for wee trees to grow into small trees (no chance of them growing into big trees so quick).  So we purchased two 9 foot tall trees and shoved them into the station wagon.  (*note for future reference, 9 foot tall trees can fit into a Ford Wagon... though it's a bit crowded).  A Glenleven Linden, and an Ivory Silk Lilac Tree now grace the front lawn.

A Linden on the left and Lilac tree on the right
 We also purchased 5 foot tall Yews and a Yellow Bird Magnolia.

Yellow Bird Magnolia
Big trees are costly so hopefully I have learned my lesson.  Get out your buckets and get watering!!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

This Wasn't Intended

I got up this morning thinking about weeding the soybeans.  They are engulfed and desperately need some attention.  Would you be surprised if I told you that didn't happen?

While in the bathroom hubby ran in and grabbed some cleaner.  The cat threw up.  Again.  He's getting old, it happens.

10 years and counting
While cleaning up the mess Jody said, wouldn't it be great if we just tore up this carpet, it's disgusting.  And I agreed.  So we did.

This is what it looked like when we started.
I mean, who wants to work in the garden in this heat right?  Ripping up old carpet is so much more fun.  (I am being sarcastic here, hitting up the beach would have been a lot funner)

Ever since we moved into this house we've wanted to tear out the carpets.  They were installed approximately 30 years ago and they look it.  There are indents where furniture used to stand, the colour is washed out and there are stains.  Time and money has been spent on other renovations though and the carpets have been ignored.

We still don't have the money to deal with this issue so we rather hoped the floors underneath would be intact and usable.  The first look at what was underneath was pretty hideous.

Carpet underlay stuck to plywood.  Yuck.
Four hours of scraping and pulling nails ensued.

As we made our way around though we found some spots were perfectly intact.  Yah!  Something salvageable.

This section looks downright nice, except for the missing stain.
So now we have another project on our hands.  Right after I get that weeding done of course.