Saturday, December 31, 2005

LED overload

Remember when, in the early 2000s, "extreme" became the lazy marketer's solution to naming new products and we were suddenly bombarded with extreme fruit juices, extreme razors and even extreme shower heads? Tack the word "extreme" onto any lame product and suddenly - it's cool!

That's how I'm feeling about LED technology these days. Yes, I know it's more environmentally friendly than standard lighting, but... well, it's just too darn trendy. Case in point: LED pacifiers. Ew.

Enter the Bloom Pot, an LED planter from Design Within Reach. Lightweight and lit from inside, Bloom Pots are made of double-walled plastic material, letting plants withstand cold far better than ordinary planters can. The four low-voltage LED lights provide more than 40,000 hours of illumination. Now that's what I call a worthwhile use of technology!

Friday, December 30, 2005

New year's resolutions for the garden

1. I will be patient. I will get to know my new plot of land1 before rushing to fill it with trend-of-the-minute plants. Please note, however, that I do not have the ability to wait for a full year, as some garden authorities recommend, to note sun exposure. I know my limitations.
2. I will have my soil tested, and amend as necessary.
3. I will be highly selective about the plants I allow into the garden. I have about 200 sq/ft of ground-floor garden to play with, and every plant will have to work hard to earn its place. I want four-season interest, impact, and - I'm dreaming here - edible bits.
4. I will apply for an allotment, now that I won't have enough room to grow my veggies anymore.
5. I will visit Vancouver's public gardens more often.
6. I will take on a boulevard planting in our new neighbourhood.
7. Get out and enjoy the garden - without feeling the need to suddenly start pruning or weeding.

I think that's about it for now. What are your garden resolutions?

1 We are scheduled to move in to our new home on January 30. Yay!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah to all my friends in the blogosphere. Wishing you the best and brightest for you and your gardens in 2006.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Gardening Gifts for Newsmakers

Since, on this Friday before the Chrismmukah weekend, no one seems to be doing any work anyway, I thought I'd pass on this slightly-amusing celebrity "Gardening Gift Guide" by Wes Porter of Canada Free Press.

Pamela Anderson

The temptation to offer a perfect pair of Mammilaria cactus was almost overwhelming until the Weekly World News announced the discovery of a new Brazilian meat-growing tree. "Instead of fruit it grows beef in a hard shell" and could eliminate vegetarianism, says the tabloid. The very gift for one so gifted.

Conrad Black

The beleaguered sometime British media mogul finds himself financially embarrassed thanks to the FBI grabbing his gravy. We can only offer a planting of Lunaria biennis for his Bridalpath home in Toronto while noting that as an alternative to Moneywort it is also known as Common Honesty.

Jean Chretien

Surely Justice John Gomery will agree there could be a nothing more fitting gift even for a small-town boy, than a collection of Coryphantha vivipara aggregata, Golf Ball Cactus.

David Dingwall

A few pots of Mentha canadensis, Wild Mint, well known cure gas.

Chuck Guite

For that example of Ottawa bureaucracy, a specimen of Clusia, or Fat Pork Plant.

Paris Hilton

A nice specimen of the plant known as Herb Paris, Paris quadrifolia, claimed by some to be of medicinal value but known for its poisonous berries.


A nice big bunch of Equisetum arvense, or Horsetail plant, somewhat toxic it is true, but a reminder that she who takes up the sport of royalty should a mount with a long mane — if one wishes to remain in the saddle.

Stella McCartney

For that designing Brit, a nice big bag of all-natural bone fertilizer.

Dalton McGuinty

In salute to his fecundity, a copy of Alan Toogood’s concise tome, Propagation, or perhaps as an alternative, Lewis Hills’ Pruning Made Easy.

Kate Moss

A subscription to Rolling Stone magazine, a gift not to be sniffed at as it is a well-known fact that a rolling stone gathers no Bryophytes.

Mike Myers

One word: Bonsai!

Peter C. Newman

We can only offer the poor chap a cure for an unfortunate case of order Psocoptera, better known as booklice.

Olsen Sisters

A new perfume derived from extracts of Twinleaf, Jeffersonia diphylla which, although possibly poisonous is believed efficacious for nervous excitability, diarrhea, spasms, urinary infections and sores.

Prince Charles

A hybrid Camellia, along with instructions he kindly refrain from talking it to death.

Martha Stewart

A Windsor, Nova Scotia pumpkin carved into a boat along with a gourd baler, a souvenir of her much-hyped non-visit this past fall to participate in the passage of pumpkins across the local lake.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Moss Graffiti

I'll just say it right off the bat: I love moss. I've always loved it. When I was a kid, there was a clearing in the forest I lived next to, and in the centre was a stone absolutely thick with the most beautiful emerald-green moss. I was convinced (and still secretly believe) that faeries congregated there. It was definitely a magical place.

So I really don't understand the effort expended to rid lawns of moss. My father-in-law, upon seeing my sad excuse for a lawn for the first time, said, "you need some moss killer." Horrified, I replied, "But I love the moss! I'm trying to get rid of the grass!"

Anyway, I came across a novel use for moss and thought I'd share: moss graffiti. It'd be a great use for all that moss starter medium you've been brewing up. You haven't? Oh. Well, you might want to try it if you've got a bare-looking log or rock in nice shady, damp area in your garden, or if you want to make your terracotta pots look aged, or if you'd like to start a moss garden. Here's my recipe:

Quick Moss Starter

  • Take a clump (a small handful) of healthy moss from your yard (or ask a neighbour for some if you don't have any) and crumble it into a blender.
  • Add 2 cups of buttermilk and 2 cups of water
  • Blend at the lowest speed until it is completely mixed and the consistency of a thin milk shake (add water if necessary)
  • Paint the mixture onto rocks, logs, pots or statuary, or simply pour it on the ground wherever you'd like your moss to grow

So, the idea of moss graffiti is that you apply this moss milkshake to your chosen canvas and create a design or object out of moss (as in the photo above). Imagine the possibilities! I'm picturing moss wallpaper a la William Morris (outdoors, of course!)

Via Make.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Instructables

Heavy Petal readers, meet Instructables. It's a website devoted to collaborative DIY: participants show (step-by-step!) what they make and how others can make it. The "what" varies widely: from how to make a marshmallow gun to how to sew your own bra to how to divine water.

At the moment, I could only find one garden-related article: how to root plant cuttings. But hopefully once the site grows (hardy har har), more gardeners will contribute. A good one to watch.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Tuscan Farm Gardens

Like Girl Gone Gardening, I dream of owning a small farm. I'd grow my own organic produce, raise chickens and goats, sell eggs and veggies and bouquets of flowers at a roadside honesty stand, and have way too many cats. Sigh...

Tuscan Farm Gardens is one couple's version of that dream. Their 80 acre family estate, 40 minutes east of Vancouver in rural Langley, started when the retired couple moved from city life to "playing in the dirt" and has since become a destination garden, Bed and Breakfast, and apothecary. Famous for endless fields of lavender and echinecea, this West Coast farm is as close to Tuscany as I'll be getting - at least for a year or two.

Read Heather's Journal for the low-down on how their dream evolved, and add Tuscan Farm Gardens to your itinerary for your next trip to Vancouver.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Poodle flower arrangement

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Name this rose! Only $8000

If you've ever wanted to be immortalized in name and in gardens everywhere, here's your chance.

Brad Jalbert of Select Roses in Langley, B.C., is selling naming rights to two of the three new hybridized roses he's introducing next year.

For between $3,000 and $8,000, you can purchase the right to name a new rose. Compared to prices on the world market, which range from $12,000 to $100,000 for the opportunity, these are bargain prices.

Jalbert says his are more reasonable, because even after 15 years in the business he's still considered new to rose breeding.

One of the roses up for naming is a Fragrant White Hybrid tea (above). Jalbert says, "A fragrant white hybrid tea is extremley rare in the rose world and I have yet to see one with this size of flower."

"This seedling is a sister seedling to my pink 'Gerda Hynatashyn' rose, named after the past governor-generals' wife. This white seedling has MASSIVE flowers, largest longest buds of any rose I have ever seen. The plant grows upright and tall, produces long stem white roses with a strong sweet perfume and high center flower. They look stunning in bud form. The foliage is large, very glossy deep green. We grow this rose own-root in the field and have about 30 plants available for spring 2006 digging."
Naming a rose or having a rose named after you is like buying original art, said Jalbert, who toils for five years before a rose is ready to be named and sold."

Name your rose and Jalbert handles the paperwork to register it with the American Rose Society.

"The name must be accepted and it's forever in the history books. Every few years, they publish a new rose bible -- this big red book called Modern Roses -- and the name of the rose with its full description is in there."

Jalbert would then propagate the rose and sell it from his 38th Avenue nursery. "You get the thrill of maybe seeing your rose in somebody's garden," he said.

Jalbert auctioned off the naming of a rose last year for the St. Paul's Hospital Foundation. A Victoria man paid more than $4,000 and named it for his wife -- the Sherry Parks Sunrise -- as a Valentine's Day gift.

"She was just thrilled," said Jalbert. "It's the greatest gift she's ever had."

Jalbert, who is passionate about his roses, has hybridized 40 new varieties in the 15 years he's run his business. (The Province)

I think it would feel a bit egomaniacal to name one after yourself, but would sure make a swell gift, especially as a tribute to a deceased loved one, or to commemorate the birth of a new baby.

Anyone interested in naming a rose can contact Jalbert through his website.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Brugmansia lamp

You can really bring the outdoors in with this Angel's Trumpet Lamp, made of sculpted Unyru Japanese paper. The Angel's Trumpet is also known as Brugmansia, although I've also heard Datura referred to as Angel's Trumpet. Although similar, Datura is herbaceous rather than woody, and its flowers point upward. Brugmansia's flowers hang downward, just like this lamp.

Via FunFurde.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Glowing furniture

You gotta love Gau Designs' Glowing Wireless furniture. Made of reclaimed and refinished wood, polyacrylic, and reclaimed steel, this indoor/outdoor bench/table has a built-in rechargeable lighting system (those acrylic tubes are wireless LEDs) which provide up to eight hours of light. I just love the juxtaposition of the sleek acrylic lamps and the earthiness of the reclaimed wood.

Via Inhabit.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Fun with Plant Finder

As a garden writer, I rely on the RHS Plant Finder to double check the spelling and "accepted names" of the plants I mention. But it doesn't have to be purely pragmatic in use. It's fun to see what comes up when you type in certain words (no, there aren't any cultivars with "sex" in their name -- I checked!). For example, I tried out a few holiday terms, and it came up with the following:

There's Hemerocallis 'Holiday Mood' and Narcissus 'December Bride.' There are dahlia, dianthus and narcissus cultivars called 'Santa Claus.' Then there are the snow-related plant names: Amelanchier laevis 'Snowflakes,' Agapanthus 'Snowball' and Camellia japonica 'Snowman' to name a few.

There's Buxus sinica var. insularis 'Winter Beauty' and Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Winter Gold.' There's Callistemon pallidus 'Father Christmas,' and a whole slew of Christmas-themed dahlias: Dahlia 'Christmas Carol,' D. 'Christmas Star,' D. 'Kenora Christmas,' and D. 'Snoho Christmas.'

There's Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' and Heuchera 'Jack Frost.' There's Galanthus 'Icicle,' Fuchsia 'Igloo Maid,' Begonia 'Frosty Fairyland' and Fuchsia 'Jingle Bells.'

Fun, hey? Try your name. I think I might need to find room for Rosa 'Andrea.'

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Best gifts for gardeners

Christmas and Hanukkah are right around the corner! It's time to get shopping, so to save you some stress, here's my list of the most desirable garden gifts:

The Lucca Adjustable Lounge Armchair, from Design Within Reach would look fabulous on the third-floor deck of our townhouse.

It's nerdy, but I've always wanted to get a shiitake mushroom log and grow my own. From Amazon.

What to do about garden lighting... I know! How about these inconspicuous rock lights from Canadian Tire?

One of Fortune magazine’s 25 Best Products of 2004, the Egg Birdfeeder is "handcrafted of ceramic earthenware that is cast, glazed and fired...the birdfeeder’s glossy-surfaced egg shape prevents squirrels from getting a grip, appropriately melding beauty and function." At Design Within Reach.

This is neat. It's a seed keeper, described as "the ultimate seed saving device." It's comprised of a binder, plastic sleeves with zip locks to keep moisture out and the seeds in (so they won't be lost even if they do rattle out of the envelopes), and a pack of envelopes (self-sealing and reusable) to save your own seeds or to repackage those from other sources. At Lee Valley Tools.

Also from Lee Valley Tools, I'd love some tools to help me expand my floristry repertoire. Garden tools = plenty. Indoor tools = not so much. This set of two florist tools - a stem stripper and design snips - would really go a long way in restoring the balance. While you're there, pick me up a good frog or two.

In addition to renewals of my current magazine subscriptions, I'd love a year or two worth of Garden Design. Sigh... now I just need time to read them all.

I love these Garden Hoe panties, from You Grow Girl. They also carry garden-themed t-shirts, pins, stationery, and lots of other neat things.

Guys, score major points with your lady by planning a weekend away. Maybe combine a stay at a nice B&B with a visit to a garden. Or, ladies, if your husband is just as likely to stick a fork in his eye as agree to that, plan a weekend with the girls! From Vancouver, great weekend getaways include Heronswood, Milner Gardens, or Tofino Botanical Gardens.

These pink Wellington boots are not only practical AND fabulous, but partial proceeds go to a great cause: The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

No one should be without the CobraHead. I already have one, but if your giftee is without, I swear they will love this all-purpose hand tool. Promise.

I don't have an indoor composter though. Nature Mill makes one that looks brilliant. At $399, you can really show how much you care.

The Royal Horticultural Society's online store has tons of sweet stuff. I love these organic-looking bird feeders, though it's more likely they'd end up as mere garden ornaments because I couldn't fill them as fast as they'd be emptied.

Not nearly as frivolous, these wine glass holders are a must-have, if silly, item. For all those times you're lounging about on the lawn. Ha!

Despite what the Garden Gnome Liberation Front would have you believe, I bet your favourite corporate slave needs a Desktop Gnome. Available through Jackson and Perkins, the little guy comes complete with interchangeable backdrops, four whole "arrangeable" flowers and a full-color book on the history and lore of gnomes.

Also from Jackson and Perkins, I like this rosemary bonsai tree. Edible and pretty, but for some reason I want to remove the flowers.

And finally, there's always gift certificates - to any of the above online retailers, or to local specialty nurseries. I'd love one for Thomas Hobbs' Southlands Nursery, or Phoenix Perennials.

Check back frequently. I'll update this list as I discover new gift ideas.

Friday, December 09, 2005

How to: make an evergreen wreath

Perhaps the only thing better than the scent of fresh-cut evergreen boughs is having that scent come from a wreath you've made yourself.

My mom and some friends did just that last weekend and I played photojournalist. And so, may I present:

A step-by-step guide to wreath making

You will need:

  • A wreath frame (available at your local craft store).

  • Green florist wire (or just plain silver wire - it's not really going to show)
  • Secateurs (pruners or clippers)
  • Moss (available at the nursery or some craft stores) soaked in water for at least an hour
  • A variety of fresh materials. Along with Western Larch and Cedar, we used:

Seeded eucalyptus




How To

1. Gather an assortment of 12-20cm (5"-8") stems into small bunches (between 2-4 stems per bunch), and wrap the ends tightly with florist wire.

2. Wrap the cut end of the bunch with damp moss. Lay the bundle on your wreath frame and secure with more wire.

3. Place your next moss-wrapped bunch on the frame, facing the same direction so that the tips of the second bunch overlap the first, covering the wire. Secure.

4. Proceed as above, overlapping the bundles and wrapping the whole thing with wire. Once your frame is entirely covered, step back and assess. Add extra stems where needed, and affix extras like bows if desired.

Voila! You've got yourself a wreath.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Festival of Lights starts tomorrow

Van Dusen Botanical Garden's Festival of Lights runs December 9th through 31st from 5:00pm to 9:00pm (except Christmas Day). The Festival of Lights is a Vancouver tradition now in its 21st year. Over a million lights decorate the Garden's 12 acres, and it's really quite a magical scene. You can't help but get into the Christmas spirit ... especially with the scent of roasting chestnuts and the sound of carollers.

On a more practical note, the event is also one of the year's biggest fundraisers for the Botanical Garden, which plays a huge role in botanical education and conservation. If you're lucky enough to be in Vancouver this month, you must check it out.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Humble Viburnum

This little guy was one of my first perennial purchases. At the time, I didn't know much about gardening, so I asked the lady at the nursery for suggestions.

My requirements: must do well in a container and in shade, look good most of the year, and not require too much work. She suggested the Viburnum tinus you see above. I'm not sure which cultivar it is - the tag is long gone (and the RHS plant finder lists 32 cultivars) but for years I felt disappointed by it. It was gangly and sad, and never flowered or produced berries. I labeled it a dud, but nonetheless hauled it from house to house when I moved.

Finally, I ended up with a south-facing backyard. I decided to prune it back, eliminating all the gangly bits, and placed the pot at the foot of the steps. "This is your last chance," I told it.

I guess it wasn't happy in the shade after all, because sure enough, it performed brilliantly. Pink flowers in early spring all through summer, followed by glossy deep-purple berries in fall through winter. Sure, some may consider it boring, a ubiquitous landscaper's shrub, but I'm thrilled with it. Especially in winter when it looks most lovely. And mostly, just because it reinforces an eternal principle of the garden: give it what it wants and it will reward you. Or, you might say: right plant, right place.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

International Garden Festival

The International Garden Festival recently announced the names of the designers invited to take part in the 2006 festival.

The Festival, which has taken place on the site of Reford Gardens/Les Jardins de Métis in Quebec, asks landscape designers from Canada and around the world to create temporary gardens on-site.

The Festival has become an exceptional showcase and launching pad for the participating designers from a host of disciplines. The event gives visitors a chance to discover inspiring spaces bringing together the visual arts, architecture, design, landscape and nature.

You absolutely must check out the photo gallery of previous years' gardens.
Via Land + Living.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Under the influence

Well, I've finally decided to apply to the UBC Garden Design program.

As part of the application process, they ask that you list five books, journals, and/or magazines that you have found influential. I'm kind of struggling with it, because at different points during my life and growth as a gardener, I've required different information. When I was a "beginner," I dog-eared books I probably wouldn't give a second glace at now. Likewise, when I had my rooftop garden, I was drawn to books on container gardening, and of course, rooftop gardens.

That said, I have some favourite resources that I have found valuable at any stage/need:

Garden Design and Fine Gardening magazines are almost always inspiring. And GardenWise is great as a source of regional information.

As for books, I've enjoyed the second edition of 100 Best Plants for the Coastal Garden by Steve Whysall. Subtitled "The Botanical Bones of Great Gardening," the new edition lists complementary plant combinations for each featured "best plant."

Rosemary Verey's Good Planting Plans
was invaluable when I was planning my last garden. I especially love her potages.

Thomas Church's Gardens Are for People, is still good reading years after its initial publication, and, I think, important in understanding garden design from a historical standpoint.

Sunset's Western Garden Book by Kathleen Norris Brenzel is a good one-stop book, especially for looking up a particular plant.

Those are my picks so far, but I want to hear from you. What books, magazines or journals have influenced you as a gardener?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The revolution is fertile

Yippee, we're going to Cuba!

Ben and I have been attempting to go for years now, but one thing or another always prevented us. Now, in a spontaneous and daring manuver, we've booked a flight to Havana for mid-January.

Of course, I started researching gardens immediately. They do have a botanical garden and several smaller gardens I'd love to check out, but while searching, I came across several articles on Cuba's green revolution, which sprang out of a food shortage brought on by the ongoing US embargo and Russia's 1990 withdrawal of food subsidies.

An article on writes:
Although the streets of Havana, Cuba, are dominated by decrepit buildings, it is rare to come upon an abandoned lot strewn with rubble and weeds. Instead, these disused plots are coveted prizes: sites that precipitate heated standoffs between gardeners with trowels and boys carrying baseballs and bats. But, because the Cuban state favors redistributing vacant plots to those willing to grow food on them, the gardeners usually win. The result is that Havana's urban fabric now boasts an unusual juxtaposition of decay and growth, as urban gardens and farms arise alongside crumbling architectural remnants of bygone times.

In 2002, Cubans produced 3.4 million tons of food from 35,000 hectares of urban land; in Havana, 90% of the city's fresh produce came from local urban farms and gardens.The urban farms and gardens come in various shapes and forms. One type is the organoponico, or intensive vegetable garden, where vegetables and herbs are grown in containers on hard surfaces. Then there are the smaller plot, patio, and popular gardens, which are managed by a family or group. Factories, offices, and businesses offer a third model of urban gardens--workplace gardens--which grow the food served in company cafeterias.

The workers of Havana are not the only ones who reap the rewards of Cuba's ambitious urban agriculture program; retirement homes, schools, and hospital kitchens also receive anywhere from a fluctuating donation to steady supply of food from neighborhood plots.
City Farmer says:
Participation in the popular gardens range from one to seventy people per garden site. The majority of gardeners are men, although women and children also participate. Popular gardens are usually organized around a household, but it is not uncommon to find arrangements in which more than one household shares or subdivides a garden site.

A wide selection of produce is cultivated, depending (on family needs, market availability, and suitability with the soil and locality. In addition to vegetable and fruit cultivation, some popular gardens also cultivate spices and plants used for medicinal purposes.

Garden productivity has been achieved with minimal external inputs, applying principles of organic agriculture that are low cost, readily available, and environmentally sustainable. Gardeners seldom use chemical fertilizers, relying instead on organic fertilizers in the form of chicken or cow manure, compost from household food waste, and occasionally vermiculture (the use of worms). Also, there is no great demand or availability for chemical herbicides, as weeds are easily controlled by hand weeding. Inter-cropping is commonly practiced, and vegetation stories are sometimes used with taller trees and plants acting as a protective canopy for lower crops. Farmers often maximize the use of land by cultivating crops which produce in the ground, on the ground, and above the ground. A popular combination includes cassava, which provides abundant shade, sweet potatoes, which provides good ground cover, and occasionally beans, which fixates the soil with nitrogen.
What an inspiring example of necessity driving innovation. I'd love to bring some tools and seeds down to support these urban gardeners, along with the other basic supplies I plan on carrying with me. Can anyone who has been to Cuba before offer recommendations on gardens to visit, and/or supplies to donate?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thanks, snowberry!

When I was a kid, snowberries, (Caprifoliaceae Symphoricarpos albus) grew wild all over our heavily-wooded property, along with other BC natives like ferns, Mahonia nervosa (Oregon grape) and Rubus spectabilis (salmonberries). I called snowberries "pop berries" because they made a delicious popping noise when you crushed them underfoot. I think my fascination with them terrified my mother because I remember being repeatedly admonished: "careful, they're poisonous!"

Today, just seeing the branches heavy with berries, lighting up their corner of the yard, I was thankful. For the dose of pure beauty before my day got underway, and for the memories of a simpler time.