Friday, July 10, 2015

All-America Selections Update - The Osteospermum's are in bloom!

Three months from seeding, my Osteospermum's 'Akila® Daisy White' have begun to flower, and what a beautiful sight! As I blogged before, this was the first time I've grown Osteospermum from seed and I was surprised just how quick and easy it was - considering how expensive these plants are at the nursery ($4 to $7 each). I planted 12 seeds and got 12 plants.. I shared a few, but most were planted in containers on my super sunny back deck, where the first flowers emerged yesterday.

This year I've had the opportunity to grow plants that are All-America Selections winners, including this gorgeous annual, and write about my experiences with these tried and true plants that are grown and evaluated in test gardens across North America. This variety was a national winner in 2014 and for good reason! It's quick to bloom, producing large, daisy-like flowers that are held above tidy foliage, and will continue to push out fresh flowers until autumn.

So far, this plant is getting two thumbs up from me!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

All-America Selections Update - June 2015

Remember this? Back in mid-May these seedlings were tiny!
Now that summer has finally arrived, I thought I'd offer a quick update on one of my container gardens that featured past and recent winners from All-America Selections.. keep in mind that EVERYTHING in this container was grown from seed (by me!) that was started in late March.. Ideally, I should have started these a month earlier, but I was busy and it just didn't happen! :)

Nevertheless, these plants have proven to be extremely easy - and quick - to grow and I am anxiously awaiting bloom time (a week?).

Here's the recipe I used for this container:

- Three Dianthus, Interspecific 'Jolt Pink' F1. This is a 2015 AAS winner that will soon produce very big and showy electric pink flowers. (They're the plants with the long, narrow leaves)

- Two Geranium 'Pinto Premium White to Rose' F1. I have to admit, that I am very excited to see this geranium flower. The plants produce large 5 inch blooms that open white, but mature to deep pink, giving the plant a pretty two-toned appearance. Beautiful foliage too - a plus!

- Two Osteospermum 'Akila Daisy White' F1 - This is the first time I've grown Osteospermum from seed, and I honestly was expecting them to be much slower growing.. Happily, this 2014 AAS winner is speeding right along and will soon be in bloom. I have to note that it was super easy to grow and I will definitely be doing this more in the future - especially as Osteospermum in 4 or 6 inch pots are getting very expensive! The charming flowers resemble daisies with white petals and cheerful yellow centers. Can't wait!

- One Bear Necessities kale - I also grew this new-to-me kale from seed, and it isn't an AAS winner, but I do like to mix my ornamentals and edibles in my garden beds and containers. It has highly dissected foliage and will add a pop of unique texture to the pot. Garden BFF's!

TA DA!! Isn't it looking amazing - so lush and green.. Blooms coming soon - see all the buds
 on the Osteospermum? Excited! 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Container gardening with Crystal Godfrey

A big crowd gathered as Crystal created a waterfall
container at the entrance to the Halifax Public Gardens. 
Last weekend we celebrated National Gardening Days here in Canada, and I spent a good portion of the weekend at the Halifax Public Gardens. Tough life, I know!

Saturday was a perfect day and I had the opportunity to give a seminar in the bandstand in the middle of the gardens - definitely an incredible setting for a seminar!
Crystal Godfrey, who owns Secret Gardens by Crystal, a local container gardening and garden design company, also gave a talk that day and I was so inspired by her, I wanted to share some of it with you..

To find out more about Crystal, visit her website here. Facebook page here. Twitter here.

During her seminar, Crystal created a beautiful planter!

Love the combo of foliage and flowers! 

Her booth was filled with dozens of large and small
containers with all manner of plants. Certain
pots were even planted to be bird,
hummingbird, or pollinator friendly. 

This wheelbarrow was an edible food garden with peppers,
blueberries and plenty of herbs.

Love the variety of containers!

And the colour contrasts! Talk about eye-popping!

Crystal often uses perennial foliage plants in her pots. At the
end of the season, they go in the garden. 

Perennials, annuals, grasses and more!

Some of her pots had very touchable plants!

Corkscrew rush is a unique plant with a very unusual texture!

After her talk, Crystal created a waterfall planter from scratch.

Planting the first plants - supertunias, petunias, African daisies and more.

Almost done! Don't get soil in the water! :)

The finished planter - and it works! Did I mention it was solar

Ta da! 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Feeding my neglected lawn

Mid-June 2015 - a nice, very very dense combination of
turfgrass and clover. 
Waaaaay back at Canada Blooms in March, I interviewed Mark Cullen for a Savvy Gardening podcast. We got to chatting about some of the new products in his Home Hardware line called 'Mark's Choice' and he also mentioned his new Iron + lawn fertilizer.. 

I gotta say, my lawn is a bit of a casual affair and it's (purposely) planted with white dutch clover as well as various types of grass to form a resilient and low-maintenance turf. Plus, the bees just LOVE the clover blooms. 

I do lime and feed it once a year (sometimes twice if I'm on top of my game), but it's often ignored and left to fend for itself. 

In case you didn't believe me about the snow!
A late March view of the front lawn. 
Yet, after this past winter that dropped 12 FEET OF SNOW on the front section of lawn (yes, 12 feet of snow), I wasn't surprised that when the snow finally melted in early May the grass looked terrible. It was a patchy, brown/yellow, flattened mess. At that point, I got an email from Mark asking me to test his Iron + and I said 'yes please!'.. 

The granular feed was applied to the front portion of my lawn in mid-May - once the snow melted - and after a nice hard raking to perk up the compressed grass. It did take a few weeks to start showing results - thanks to a stretch of dry weather, but once we got a few days of rain, fresh, bright green shoots quickly emerged from the turf. 

It's now been about 5 weeks since I feed the lawn and as you can tell from the top photo, the grass is the nicest it's been in years! (My hubby is so happy) It's thick, lush and very carpet-like and I still have half a bag left so will now do the lower portion of the lawn so that it can look as good as this section. Thanks Mark!

(Disclosure - I wasn't paid to review this product, but I did receive a free bag to test. Opinions are my own.)

Two weeks post feed - looking very lush with many
new shoots emerging.

Again - two weeks after feeding. Can you see the dew drops? 

Available at Home Hardware.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Garden Days have finally arrived!

Sherry and I kicking up our boots before the
rain began!
With the rain today, Mother Nature isn't being very accommodating, but the wet weather hasn't dampened my spirits in the kick-off to Garden Days 2015!

I started the day with a trip to Halifax Seed (always a good way to begin a day) where I browsed their veggie transplants and picked up a few supplies for the weekend's festivities. They have been very generous in their support for Garden Days and also donated a big box of veggie seeds for me to give away tomorrow at the Halifax Public Gardens, the epicentre of Garden Days events in Halifax (Thank you Halifax Seed!) I'm giving an informal talk at 11 am in the bandstand at the Public Gardens, but will be around from about 10 am to 3 pm to answer questions and chat. (and give away seeds!). Crystal Godfrey, container gardening expert and garden designer will also be in the gardens tomorrow at 1 pm for a talk on putting together amazing containers. However, she will also be hanging out for most of the day to offer advice and answer questions.

As for today, after my stop at Halifax Seed, I then headed downtown to Dalhousie University for their annual 'Boots N Blooms' event. This fun morning encouraged the faculty to come out and help clean up and plant many of the garden beds, as well as a bunch of large containers. Also attending this event was Sherry Chaisson, an instructor and horticultural technician at the Agricultural Campus at Dalhousie University. Sherry is super knowledgeable on all things gardening and will be joining me on The Weekend Gardener in the coming weeks to chat about garden design.

The front of Halifax Seed is looking spectacular - just look
at those alliums!! 
'Boots N Blooms' was a well organized event and Sherry and I got to judge the 'Best Wellies' contest and chat with the participants. Check out some of my photos below..

Finally, I made a pit stop to the Halifax Public Gardens, just checking out the gardens in advance of all the activities taking place tomorrow. Hope to see you there! For more information on Garden Days, just head to the website.

Happy Garden Days!

Busy gardeners at Boots N Blooms!

Down & Dirty was the group that won best wellies.. and they had the
best co-ordinating outfits too!

A list of some of the Garden Days activities happening at
the Public Gardens in Halifax. 

It's so pretty - even in the rain! You'll find me in the bandstand tomorrow
at 11 am to talk veggie gardening!

Some of the carpet beds are still being installed. What a
cool process!

Cool blues in the perennial borders. 

Hot coloured azaleas

I love viburnums.. so much!

My favourite viburnum.. looks like a wedding cake! FYI, it's
V. plicatum var. tomentosum 'Mariesii'

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Garden Days 2015

Garden Days 2014 - The great container garden
contest where local celebrities like Crystal
Garrett from Global Mornings competed for
the top honours! Here I am with Crystal after she
created her beautiful potted garden.
Canada's annual celebration of all things gardening is happening Friday June 19 to Sunday June 21 at dozens of locations across the country. There are almost one hundred activities taking place, including a bunch here in Halifax at the Public Gardens.

As the Maritime Spokesperson for Garden Days, I'll be giving an informal talk on veggie gardening on Saturday, June 20th at 11 am in the bandstand at the Public Gardens, followed by a 1 pm talk on container gardening by Crystal Godfrey. Crystal will also bring her LUSH container art showcase to the Public Gardens and will have a tent set up with plenty of beautiful containers to view or buy.

Throughout the weekend, there will also be guided garden tours, dahlia giveaways, yoga in the garden, planting with pre-schoolers, an herb walk, a Mi'kmaq drum circle, and Woozles will be offering outside storytime for the kids.

For more information about Garden Days - and perhaps details on events happening in your area - check out the Garden Days website.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Garden Road Trip! My visit to Forest Glen Greenhouses

Peter in the studio with some of the hot new plants for 2015!
(LOVE the new Calibrachoa Aloha Grape Cartwheel)
Look close - do you see the Eugenia topiary beside Peter? It's
that funky spiral!
For the 4th day in a row, yesterday was cold, overcast and drizzly.. and the perfect day for a GARDEN ROAD TRIP, so I headed to Forest Glen Greenhouses in Brookfield, Nova Scotia, a place that's been on my 'gotta visit list' for several years. It's not a retail nursery, but rather, a family run wholesale business that grows the plants for the Atlantic Superstore garden centres in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of talking to Peter Cantley on The Weekend Gardener (Listen here - just click May 31st, 11:30 segment). Peter is the gardening expert for Atlantic Superstore / Loblaws Supermarkets and also spent thirty years as the Vice President of Floral & Garden for the company. It's always a treat when Peter drops into the studio to share the latest and greatest new trends and plant offerings. On his recommendation, I dropped in to Forest Glen Greenhouses and got a personal tour from owner and fellow plant lover, Judy Thompson.

So much to see in the large gutter-connect greenhouses.
The 6 acres of gutter connect greenhouses were jumping with activity as the staff prepared plants for shipping. If I had visited a month ago, every square inch of the operation would have been covered in plants, but even so, there was still plenty to see. Judy and her team plan for months of top quality plants, hanging baskets and containers, so that there is a non-stop supply from spring through summer.

Forest Glen started from scratch about thirty years ago ago and it's been two decades since they became the exclusive supplier for Atlantic Superstore. Judy and her husband Lee began with a series of hoop tunnels, but gradually, the family shifted to gutter connect greenhouses, which offer increased and more efficient growing space. They're also joined by Judy's daughter Megan and her husband Jason - as well as their young son, Noah. They employ about twenty locals, with another ten coming from Ramea, Newfoundland.

Acres of plants supply all the Atlantic Superstore stores
in NS, NB & PEI.
At this time of the year, the space is under production with annuals, container plants, herbs, hanging baskets and vegetables, but soon, they will shift gears and begin planting chrysanthemums for fall, followed by poinsettias for the holidays. ("In November, it's just a sea of red," says Judy.)

Judy also has the opportunity to travel to plant trials every spring and summer, followed by occasional plant hunting trips to Europe. This allows her to help Peter in seeking out new plants for Loblaws that will be tested for at least a year to ensure that they are suitable for Canadian gardeners.

I couldn't leave without asking Judy to share her favourite new pick for 2015. "'Miss Montreal' is a new trailing begonia with two-toned flowers in pink and cream and I am going to use it for all my window boxes." She says she'll pair it with Torenia (wishbone flower) and blue ivy geranium for a low maintenance, but spectacular combination.

My thanks to Judy and Megan for the warm welcome and tour! Now, it's time to get out and plant!

Owner and plant lover, Judy Thompson showed me some of the
new container combinations she is testing. 

If you need container gardening inspiration,
look no further! I love this mix of textures,
especially the masses of tiny white
blooms on the euphorbia.

This photo doesn't capture the scale of these hanging baskets!
Each one is about 2 1/2 feet tall and wide and not yet available
at the garden centres, but you'll see them in the coming days.
It's 'Beauvilla Red' begonia, a truly beautiful plant with vivid
red blooms that light up shady decks and patios, and blooms its
head off until frost. 

The popular 'Dragon Wings' begonias are also planted in these
sizeable baskets for summer long colour. Again,
these were several feet tall and wide!

Pretty combination of sweet potato vine with Sweetunia
'Moonlight Bay'

Basil pots! The fragrance was amazing..

The big herb pots - chives, basil, parsley and more!

Like all the plants, the herb planters are carefully spaced to
allow maximum sunlight & growth.

There was colour everywhere.. 

In the foreground, 'Wicked Mad Magenta Empress' Verbena just pops! Each
bloom is made up of tiny florets in purple-pink and white. 

A field of potted creeping Jenny for containers. A jolt of
electric lime-green.

Looking up, there are thousands of hanging baskets in
many colours and plant combinations.

Another fun combination with Calibrachoa Aloha Grape Cartwheel, bidens
and soft yellow petunias. 

Packed and ready to go!

So many blooms on the begonia plants.

A closer look at the begonias.