Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Little Twist on a Hanging Basket

This past weekend was the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada, which is traditionally marks the start of the gardening season. While there is no guarantee there won't be another cold snap, the odds are it is safe to plant out tender annuals.

With numerous window boxes, several urns and hanging baskets to fill, I start slowly and plant them up as time and money permit.

On the front porch and in a large concrete urn at the back, I placed pansies in cool shades of blue and purple. Pansies are so cheery. I just love them!

Right beside the back door there is a little metal hook in the shape of hand with the palm turned upward. Often I hang my trowels on one of the outstretched fingers at the end of the day.

To celebrate the arrival of warmer weather I filled a little wire basket with some purple Campanula. This hanging basket is a case of short-term glory. Soon enough the flowers will fade. 

Then I'll cut the plant back hard and put the Campanula somewhere in the garden. 'Dark Get Mee Campanula' are supposedly hardy, but I haven't had much success with them. Who knows, maybe I'll be luckier this time.

For the summer, I think I'll drop in a pot of thyme. Only a couple of types of thyme seem hardy here and this isn't one of them, but I so love the look, smell and taste of this 'Golden Lemon Thyme', I splurge on a few pots each year. 

The urn in its spring glory

Tulips and Forget-Me-Nots line the path between the four raised beds

When spring pansies start to fade in summer heat, one of the pots of lemon thyme goes into the tall black urn between the four raised beds. There the thyme bakes in the sun, but it never seems to complain.

This makes me think that thyme will be the perfect choice for the little wire basket. 

Quick Wire Basket How-to: To make the basket, I bought a length of coconut liner. I rolled the liner out and with a permanent marker I traced the bottom of the basket. Then I cut out the circle and placed it at the bottom of the basket. 

Next I cut a rectangular length of coconut liner that matched the height of my wire basket. The basket is fairly small, so to make the liner more manageable I cut it into two shorter lengths. I inserted the two pieces overlapping them just a bit. 

I removed the thyme from its plastic pot and slipped it into my basket. To finish, I gave it a good drink.

For my large hanging baskets, I wanted to do something a little different this year, so I went for some edibles. I bought one basket of strawberries and plan to pot up a second with strawberry plants I already have.

Though one of the raised beds is filled with berries, I didn't get a single strawberry last year. I am not sure if the birds got them all or it was some other creature. This spring, I may see if I can get netting of some kind.

If it was birds that ate my berries, I may just have made their thievery that much easier by hanging the berries in baskets. The baskets just might have to move to the porch as the strawberries ripen.

I also bought a basket of cherry tomatoes. The red and yellow 'Tumbling Tom' tomatoes were completely potbound, so I removed them from the plastic pot and transferred them to a much larger basket with a coconut liner. 

What's your experience with coconut liners? 

I find the water drains through really, really quickly and the plant and soil don't get enough chance to absorb the moisture. To compensate for the sieve-like drainage, I place a second piece of liner at the bottom of the basket. The water seems to slow down when it has to pass through two layers of liner.

To fill out the basket I added several types of thyme.

This metal bucket was a dollar store find. A few holes for drainage was all it needed. The wicker furniture in the backyard has red seat cushions, so I thought the bucket might look nice planted with red and white petunias.

I have a number of vintage watering cans, which I use to water areas of the garden that the hose doesn't reach. I also have a few decorative ones. One such watering can has an open top making it the perfect vessel for a container planting.

This weekend I finally got around to planting it up. I punched a few holes in the bottom forever committing the watering can to a new life as a container. Then I used 'Hula Pastel Pink' Calibrachoa, white 'Techno Heat Lobelia' and purple petunias to fill it.

The metal hangers with the decorative bird are from Walmart.

One final project was a birdcage planter I made for the front porch. I have always wanted to make one of these container plantings. For instructions on how to make one of your own, click here.

Enjoy the start of your week!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

And the winner is...

I am so sorry about the delay in this announcement. I was travelling for two weeks and have been a little overwhelmed with chores upon my return. 

I have a copy of The Perennial Matchmaker to give away! Entered in my draw box were all of the names from the book review post, as well as a few entries from the Three Dogs in a Garden Facebook page.

My son's girlfriend Brittany helped draw a winner from my little floral draw box. And the winning name she drew was Suz!

Congratulations Suz! I will be in touch shortly by email. 

I have a great lineup of book giveaways this summer: Raised Bed Revolution, Culinary Herbal, and The Magical World of Moss Gardening to name a few.

I have been unable to find contact information for Alison who was one of the winners in a previous draw. Alison, if you are out there, I have a copy of What's Wrong with my Houseplant for you. Please email me at jenc_art@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Collectable Hostas

This is Bernie's garden in Belwood, Ontario. He has hosta scattered throughout the garden, but they steal the show in a shady nook near his backyard shed. 

In beds on either side of the path to the little grey shed, Bernie has done a really terrific job of mixing a color, texture and shape. Let's take a look:

Hosta 'Praying Hands'

Once you get hooked on collecting hosta, they're hard to resist. Today's post looks at some of the latest and greatest varieties of hosta available this spring.

With a really great name, this hosta has been honoured with the title 'Hosta of the Year'. What makes it a standout? As the name suggests, it's the curly foliage.

Hosta 'Curly Fries' has narrow ruffled leaves that emerge a chartreuse color and turn golden. This is a miniature sized hosta that makes a nice rounded mound. Lavender flowers are held on deep purple scapes. Part-shade (morning sun) for best color. Height: 10-15 cm (4-6 inches), Spread: 35-40 cm (14-16 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

More Miniature Hostas:

Miniature hostas are so gosh-darned adorable! Beside bigger neighbours, they offer a nice contrast in scale. Here is a selection of the minis to tempt you:

'Cheating Heart' is a sun tolerant mini with nice color and a rippled margin. In sun, the leaves will be a deep gold, and in part shade, the color will be more of a chartreuse. It flowers in early summer with light purple flowers. Height: 20 cm (8 inches), Spread: 50 cm (20 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

'Dragon Tails' (on the left) has narrow lance-shaped yellow leaves and lavender flowers. Full to part- shade. Height: 10-15 cm ( 4-6 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

'Alakazaam' (on the right) forms an arching mound of narrow tapered leaves with ruffled yellow margins that brighten to creamy-white in the summer. It's flowers are pale lavender. Full to part-shade. 10-15 cm ( 4-6 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

'Little Treasure' has leaves with a wide blue margin and a creamy-white centre. This hosta has lavender flowers in June to July. Height: 20-25 cm (8-10 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches). USAD zones: 3-9.

'Cherry Tomato' (on the left) has lance-shaped leaves with a creamy-white centre. The flowers are deep purple. Full to part-shade. Height: 8-10 cm (4-6inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

'Bachelor Party' (on the right) has twisted green leaves with creamy-white margins. This hosta forms an upright mound with purple flowers. Full to part shade. Height: 40-45 cm (16-18 inches), Spread: 80 cm (32 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

'Church Mouse' has blue-green foliage that is shaped like a mouse ear. Church Mouse has lavender flowers in early summer. Part-shade to full shade. Height: 20-30 cm (8-12 inches), Spread: 40-45 cm (16-18 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

'Hush Puppies' (on the left) has twisted leaves with a cream margin. The flowers are lavender. Part-shade to full shade. Height: 20-30 cm (8-12 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches). USDA zones: 3-9

'Cameo' (on the right) has tiny green leaves edged with creamy-white. It blooms in early summer with lavender flowers. Part-shade to full shade. Height: 15-20 cm (6-8 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

Carolyn of Carolyn's Shade Gardens (they are a nursery that does mail order as well) has done a great post on using mini hosta as a groundcover. Check out her post here.

Hostas with Red Petioles

Beyond foliage, hosta can offer color in their petioles (the transition between the stem and leaf blade). Here are a few of the varieties with this feature:

The leaves of 'Fire Island' emerge a brilliant yellow color and turn chartreuse. The red petioles keep their color all season. Fire Island has lavender flowers mid-summer. Part-shade to full shade. Height: 25-35 cm ( 10-14 inches), Spread: 45-75 cm (18-30 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

'Island Breeze' (on the left) has vibrant yellow centred leaves that turn chartreuse-green with dark green margins as they mature. A key feature are the petioles, which are bright red. The lavender flowers appear in late summer. Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 45-50 cm ( 18-20 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

'Designer Genes' (on the right) has brilliant yellow leaves that emerge from deep red shoots. The showy red petioles turn chartreuse green in summer. It blooms later than many hosta (August to October) with flowers that are purple. Part-shade to full shade. Height: 45-50 cm, (18-20 inches), Spread: 25-35 cm (10-14 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.


A quick reminder not to forget to consider color when choosing a hosta:

'American Hero' (seen on the left) has really striking dark grey-green leaves with a cream streak down the centre. This hosta forms a very dense clump and has lavender flowers in summer. Part-shade to full shade. Height: 30-35 cm (12-14 inches), Spread: 60-65 cm (24-26 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

'Orange Marmalade' (seen on the right) has leaves that emerge green and develop a yellow centre with a hint of orange. Part-shade to full shade. Height: 40-45 cm (16-18 inches), Spread: 75-85 cm ( 29-33 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

Curvaceous Hosta:

It seems only fitting to begin this section of the listing with a hosta named after a woman famous for her curves.

Hosta 'Marilyn Munroe' has bluish-green, rounded leaves with a lovely ruffled edge. This is a large hosta that flowers very late in the gardening season with lavender flowers. Height: 40-45 cm ( 16-18 inches), Spread: 100-110 cm ( 39-43 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

'Joy Ride' not only has great curves, it also has foliage with a wonderful powdery, blue-green color. Light lavender flowers appear mid-summer. Part-shade to full shade. Height: 40-45 cm (16-18 inches), Spread: 90 cm ( 35 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

The Really Big Hosta Everybody seems to be Talking About:

'Empress Wu' is a very large hosta whose thick, leathery foliage is pretty slug resistant. The grey-green leaves have dark green veining and can be as much as 45 cm or 18 inches wide and long! This hosta has violet flowers in summer. Part-shade to full shade. Height: 90-120 cm (35-47 inches), Spread: 150-180 cm (59-70 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.

My plant buying dollars are always stretched, but I try to invest in at least one new hosta each year. 

This spring it was Hosta 'Joy Ride' (seen in the Curvaceous listings) that came home with me. I just couldn't pass up those powdery, grey-green leaves!

Bookmark this post with a PIN.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Is it in poor taste to use a Spiritual Figure in a Decorative Way?


"There is only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going 
all the way and not starting."   Buddha

It is hard to imagine the blissful ignorance of a sheltered life. With modern technology, it's almost impossible to escape the harsh realities of this world, but in ancient times, there once was a privileged young Indian prince who made it all the way to manhood before he discovered that life was not easy; nor was it fair. 

Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born into a wealthy family in Nepal sometime in the 6th century. His early life, spent in a grand palace at the foot of the Himalayan mountains, was one of comfort and privilege. 

The restrictions of this easy, but reclusive life only served to fire young Prince Siddhartha's curiosity, so he began to make tentative forays into the world outside the palace walls. The poverty, death and disease Siddhartha encountered shocked and disturbed him. Overcome with guilt and remorse, he abandoned his comfortable life and began a quest to lead a more spiritual life. 

Buddha in a private garden in Toronto

Years of studying religious practice and meditation followed. When answers to his spiritual questions did not materialize, Siddhartha redoubled his efforts, fasting nearly to starvation and refusing even water. 

Gradually, Siddhartha came to realize that deprivation was not bringing him any closer to spiritual clarity. So one day, Siddhartha sat down to meditate under a Bodhi tree. As he sat quietly meditating, an evil spirit visited Siddhartha threatening to lay claim the enlightenment he had struggled to achieve. Siddhartha touched his hand to the Earth and asked it to bear witness that enlightenment was indeed his own. In that moment, he achieved nirvana and became a Buddha or 'one who is awake'.

During the remaining years of his life, Buddha travelled widely sharing his wisdom. He taught the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which were to become the foundation of Buddhism. 

A Meditation Buddha in a private garden in Mississauga, ON

As a symbol of peace and quiet mediation, a Buddha has become a popular garden ornament in recent years. For many, gardening offers a welcome refuge from daily stresses. It's a place to dig in the dirt and reconnect with nature in a very tactile way. It isn't surprising that a garden seems like a very appropriate setting for a statue that feels so calm and serene.

'Buddha' means 'Awakened One' or the 'Enlightened One'. Buddha statuary come in a variety of poses each illustrating spiritual qualities possessed by the holy man.

 A Meditation Buddha sits with its legs crossed in a single or double Lotus pose. As a symbol of peace and tranquility, the eyes of these Buddhas are usually closed or half closed.  

Buddha in a garden in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Each Buddha has specific hand gestures or mudras. When the thumbs and the finger tips of a Buddha touch forming an oval, it symbolizes the turning of attention inward. The elongated ears speak to a Buddha's gift for hearing even the smallest of sounds.

Buddha in a private garden in Mississauga, ON

The sleep of a Dreaming Buddha is filled with hopes for peace and a wish to live an enlightened life. 

A Reclining Buddha expresses relaxation and a detachment from worldly desires. This Buddha is sometimes called the Nirvana Buddha because it is a depiction of Buddha entering a state of nirvana.

A Medicine Buddha holds a medicine bowl and offers a branch of a healing plant as a blessing. In traditional Buddhism it is believed that Buddha shared a knowledge of medicine with his followers.

A Garden Buddha sits on a bed of lotus blossoms, which are a symbol of purity.

Private garden in Dartmouth, N.S.

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, but live in the present moment."

An open palm expresses compassion and acceptance. It also offers protection from fear.

But here's the thing. There is a somewhat decorative nature to the use of Buddha statuary in gardens and that has got me wondering: Is it in poor taste to take a figure, that for many people carries a religious significance, and use it in a largely decorative way?

Here's an example of where things can go amiss. I have read that placing a Buddha on the ground could be offensive to a Buddhist. A person of this faith would believe 'Enlightened One' should always be elevated even if it is only symbolically.

I find it hard to imagine that a person who places a Buddha in their garden would intend any disrespect. Surely this choice of statuary expresses a certain affinity with some core Buddhist tenants. 

So here's my questions: Is there a place for religious sensitivity even in the garden. Or is life too short to worry about the possibility of causing offence?

I'd love to know what you think about putting a Buddha in a garden.

P.S. I will post the winner of the last book draw up next.