Archives For Garden

Waking up to snow flurries and freezing temperatures puts a damper on any northerner’s mood. After all, it’s officially spring now, right? Mother Earth will just take her own sweet time, and up here in the chilly Zone 3, gardens are still sleeping beneath frozen ground.

Braving the cold wind this morning, I pulled on my parka and my wool hat and stepped out to look for any bulb tips after a few warm days melted back the snow cover. Nothing in the front but it did have deeper snow. But in the backyard it’s more sheltered against the wall of the garage and… JOY!

A dozen tulips poking above the surface of the cold soil. Only a half an inch/couple of centimeters, but their brave presence delights me nonetheless. Then another gust of wind whips more tiny ice pellets at my face, chilling my ungloved hands until I retreat back indoors to warm up.

Looking out at the bleak, grey skies I realize I must go see my local florist. I need more evidence of spring, and I need it now!

Store-bought tulips, to the rescue. I made the sales clerk laugh with my standard silliness. She asks, ‘How are you today?’ ‘Well,’ I said somberly but with a twinkle in my eye, ‘I’m having a flower emergency.’ She laughs, ‘A flower emergency?!’ ‘Yes! Here I am out at a store, haven’t done my makeup or hair (I gesture to my toque covered head) and I feel like I can’t get anything done on this miserable day until I get some flowers.’ Like I said, tulips to the rescue!

Since the ones growing in my yard are still weeks away from blooming, these tulip blooms are brightening my home today, and my mood. Now, after sharing with you my dear readers, off I go to get some more work done. Thank heavens for florists!

My front yard, today. . .

My front yard last summer!

Art by Dean Crouser

Art by Dean Crouser

Winter around my part of the prairies is bitterly cold. Lately the daily high has only reached around -25C/-13F.
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Therefore, to look out my frosty kitchen window and see birds busily grooming, drinking water from our de-iced bird bath, and pecking at seeds is quite astonishing. How they manage such cold is impressive. I feel like the least we can do is offer them some food and water!
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The old lilac outside my kitchen window shelters a handmade bird feeding house (made by my eldest son when he was 12, with his dad). Up in the branches hang an old seed ball (too messy…) and a suet feeder (love these!). The daily entertainment and satisfaction my family gets from viewing the variety of local birds that come to feed and drink here is worth every penny.


ground-flicker-and-jayOffering a few peanuts is all it takes to get Blue Jays and Northern Flickers to visit my yard. Buying nuts in bulk helps keep costs down. After we get the huge bags home, we cut them open and pour into airtight (and rodent-proof) plastic bins and store them in the garage. I transfer a manageable supply to a couple of ‘upcycled’ yogurt containers to keep outdoors near the feeder.
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water-de-icerThe de-icer was bought at a local wild bird store but I’ve seen them at Amazon and elsewhere. A Google search should bring up local sources for you. They range from $50-$100 but if you enjoy watching wildlife, it’s worth it. The water is more popular than the food! Finding an unfrozen source of drinking water is challenging for birds in this winter weather.

Art by Kiril Stanchev

Art by Kiril Stanchev

As soon as the weather warms, I find I spend more time outdoors than indoors. Whether I’m grilling my homegrown veggies on the BBQ or relaxing with an iced tea and listening to the birds, my backyard patio is a sanctuary to me.

One unfortunate fact is that I live on a corner, and a roadway passes my patio. Sure there’s a six-foot wooden fence, but other than visually there’s no real barrier. That is why this spring I am endeavoring to build a narrow raised garden bed in front of the fence that borders the road.

raised garden barrierPLAN FOR THE WORST – EXPECT THE BEST! Motivational speaker Denis Waitley gave us a gem with this catch-phrase, and it’s something worth remembering. While I’m an optimist, I do feel safer when I contemplate the worst-case scenario – and plan for it.

When we first moved into this home and I felt uncomfortable on the patio, I wondered why. Soon I understood. Every time a car turned the corner and sped down the road beside my fence, I held my breath. Apparently some of my neighbors are frequently in a hurry, and their roaring of engines and scattering of gravel was not conducive to my relaxation in this backyard space.

raised plant beds bench LG blurHowever, a solid barrier can make all the difference. Not able to invest in the cost of removing our six-foot wooden fence and replacing it with concrete or mason blocks, I have opted for another option. Raised garden beds!

I made them in the back corner for growing vegetables, so why not build them against the roadway fence as additional security? People spin out… roads get icy in winter… all kinds of things can cause drivers to lose control and drive through a fence. But a raised garden bed can certainly hamper a vehicle’s momentum. And THAT is a fact that helps me feel more relaxed when enjoying time with friends and family on our patio.

So if you have an alley or roadway that travels past your patio or deck, why not consider a narrow raised bed… maybe even with a built-in bench? We gain peace of mind when we refuse to worry of a wayward car coming through a flimsy fence. With a dirt-filled raised garden along the fence, we add beauty, security, and peace.

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Link for artwork in image. 2 pics from Pinterest.

Buried in snow

2015-01-20 — 16 Comments

tiny tough SnowdropsIt is a northern gardener’s life to be unable to garden outdoors for half the year (or more). Just one of gardening’s many great lessons: patience. That and learning about cycles. Cycles of seasons, light and shadow, decay and rebirth. Of noticing migrating birds when they leave, and when they return again. When the massive queen bumblebees emerge and drowsily look for new dens to start this year’s hive, eliciting alarm as they buzz close by ears and again reacquaint us to the sound of buzzing creatures. And of the tenacious determination of green growing things, pushing through the soil and sometimes even, through snow.

This is what makes me so happy to plant flowering bulbs. I adore spring bulbs because I do it every autumn – almost – and they perk up into a spring-thawing but otherwise brown garden just when I need it most. March! Okay… April, but by March I’ve got some forced mini-bulbs growing indoors and am busy planning a tea party luncheon, but I digress.

Even in those years when autumn rushes right past in the blink of an eye, because Mother Nature was in a hurry and flung us from late summer right into winter with a massive September snowfall (like this past fall), I can rely on spring flowering bulbs to keep coming even if I fail to add to their numbers. If we gardeners select a zone-appropriate bulb that is resistant to grazing (ie: tastes unpleasant to animals) and plant it at the correct depth in the right location (read: if they’re ‘happy’) bulbs will continue blooming and even multiplying year after year with no further assistance from us, except maybe a handful or so of good compost and leaving their leaves alone. And of course to be remembered where they are and not get accidentally dug up!

But their greatest gift to me, as a northern gardener enduring far too many months of frozen lifeless ground, seems to happen to me every year around this time when I am feeling weary from the short daylight hours and not enough time spent outdoors, I find comfort in simply knowing they’re out there. Tiny little bundles of hope buried under the snow and soil… just waiting for the perfect time to brighten the world. My world. My yard.

I celebrate spring blooming bulbs! Tulips (which survive in a corner of our back yard with a high fence, not in the popular-for-grazing front), Chionodoxa ‘Glory-of-the-snow’, Narcissus ‘Daffodils’, Muscari ‘Grape Hyacinth’, tall purple Allium… plus their rhizome-cousins Crocus, Lily and Iris… your very presence brightens my heart. Even unseen, just knowing you’re there and that your bright faces will be blooming soon makes me happy on dreary winter days.

Luckily we can all buy them already blooming in containers to grace our kitchen table or bedside (talk to your florist and try to buy organic). And after having read that planting previously ‘forced’ bulbs in our gardens to be a lost cause, I’ve found that to be untrue. I had mini-daffodils and grape hyacinths forced in containers and once they were done blooming I put them in the garage, forgot about them for a couple of YEARS and then threw the pot contents into a wild corner of our backyard. They actually took root and grew! I now have a little patch of Tete-a-tete daffodils and Muscari that come back every spring. How cool is that? So if you have a patch of ground, throw those spent bulbs in and they may or may not come back, but why throw them in the garbage when, sometimes, they come back? Mind you bulbs hate to be ‘naked’ for long and the dormant ones I mentioned were in a dry pot of soil. I’ve tried this with bulbs I’d had left over in the package for a while without the same success.

Of course I adore all my perennials, shrubs and trees – in my own yards and everywhere – but nothing better beckons the coming of spring than the early-blooming bulbs.

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