Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Julia Child or Simple Farm Fare?

When I am helping clients design their gardens they want to know precisely what the finished garden will look like. Most ask for low maintenance, long season of colour and  interesting diversity. But really? The truth?  They don't usually know what they want and they are just groping for words that will describe what they are thinking about.

Dinner smells good. The visitor's are drawn into the kitchen by the blend of smells. They know what to expect because they have been over for dinner before. It probably won't be Julia Child but it could be a good stew or a crock pot special. Bubbling or sizzling, the sounds, smells and sights give it away. A garden plan could and should help people visualize the end result but it is different outdoors. Many people have no experience at all. They don't even know the questions to ask.

Evonne isn't your "regular" gardener. She used to be a manager and she puts these skills to good use outdoors. She is creative and knowledgeable and has time to really work on what she wants. She felt bad that she had to ask for help at all. And frankly, she didn't really need it. She is one of those gardeners who gets it.

She knows she likes formal and she has a perfectly turned out home and garden to match. She sent me the photos used here recently and I just smiled when I saw them. Perfectly executed  in every way. Is this the garden all my clients are thinking of when we chat? No. Definitely not. Is it low maintenance and is it native and drought tolerant? Definitely not. It is a precisely designed garden and it suits the space perfectly.

Evonne has mastered her garden the way Julia Child mastered French cooking. And it is a delight to behold.

Gardening is a tough game in Calgary, and not everyone has the same skills as Evonne. Then again some of us like Beef Bourguignon and others prefer stew. Your garden, like your supper, does not have to suit everyone. It simply has to suit you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pretty and Green and Wrapped in Tissue

Okay- what is pretty and green and wrapped in tissue?
Bid for this No Guff Gift basket at Vancouver's Word on the Street 

In case you are wondering, this not-so-secret transparent package is the specially wrapped silent auction version of No Guff Vegetable Gardening  complete with special lanolin hand lotion (courtesy Smithfords in Qualicum Beach and special packaging by the Qualicum Beach florist.) These local business owners supported my gift basket so we hope it raises big bucks supporting the Vancouver Word on the Street event.  There are also No Guff gift cards and No Guff coffee mugs and of course No Guff vegetable seeds collected in my garden. It is a  fun package and if you are in Vancouver I think it will be worth your auction dollars. Word on the Street is such a great event to support books and writers and of course readers across Canada so this is my way of supporting them.

I am super excited about this book event  and feel sad that my own home town (Calgary, Alberta) doesn't take part in this event. But in good news, the very popular Word on the Street events are going on  across Canada  in other  locations. My book partner Steven will be selling both No Guff Vegetable Gardening and his new Grow Figs:Where you think You Can't at Toronto's word on the Street Sept 22, 2012.

I will be featured as a speaker at Alberta's only Word on the Street event in Lethbridge Alberta on September 22.  I will also be signing the now  Canadian best seller No Guff Vegetable Gardening on the street so stop by and have a chat!  A venue problem forced Vancouver's Word event to be moved to the weekend after so through the magic of travel I will also be at Word on the Street on September 30, 2012 in downtown Vancouver. If you like books you will love word on the street. I am really looking forward to attending and participating.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Apple Crisis in Salt Spring

Times Colonist
17 Aug 2012 MY new friend Harry Burton (appleludcious.com) was very excited about the Apple festival he was planning for Sept 30, 2010 on Salt Spring Island. I noticed in the colonist today the event had to be cancelled:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Garden Success...

One of my self-watered pots in Calgary
In this hot summer my single biggest success was water- automatic water. My husband hooked up an irrigation system to my pots on my condo balcony in Calgary and the pots water themselves every day. Even when I am away. It's a miracle.

Keith used a simple timer (mechanical versus battery operated) and a splitter from the main water line with an individual mini-sprinkler going to each pot.  This has been a huge success. Nicely growing plants and colour without lifting a finger for maintenance.

New Patio in Qualicum Beach

When I am away I am really away- 1,000 km from Calgary we have our "other" home. I come and go a lot. I wonder what things will look like when I get back from giving Garden talks or coaching  gardeners in  their Calgary yards and gardens. This is why Keith also set up an irrigation system for our pots on our newly created patio. Can you believe this used to be a parking pad? We ripped out the pavement, set up the greenhouse, installed patio bricks and then placed our old Calgary furniture and pots. The look on our visitor's faces when the water comes on at night is priceless. Many people jump up when they hear the hiss of water. But Keith has a plan. Only the pots get wet, we reassure our guests. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New Annuals: Losers & Winners

Early in the summer this verbena was beautiful

Yikes- this plant desperately needs deadheading but who has time for that?

Yes I get a lot of free plants. No, I don't like them all. Sometimes a promising plant early in the season like Lanai Twister Pink Verbena can win your heart and praise and then dash your dreams. From late May until late June this plant was a winner- full of blooms and praise from all who saw it (see top photo). In a straw poll, everyone from 8-90 loved this plant. That was then. This is now. In August, after I had been away for weeks I got back to my west coast garden and saw how ugly this duckling had become. In garden speak we say this plant is not self-cleaning. It keeps all its old dead flower buds so unless you are an attentive garden always willing to deadhead, it looks bedraggled mid-summer.

Just the opposite is true of the new Proven Winner's selection 'Superbells Double Ruby'. This new introduction has transformed from button to balloon size in a few months and is very self cleaning. I have been away and when I got back it was bigger and better than ever. The dark cherry double flowers are an amazing filler plant in a pot.  All I can say is "WOW" and tough luck for my American neighbour's who can't get this selection yet. Or maybe ever....

Superbells Double Ruby (at bottom) is only available in Canada! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Big Fat Squash- Deer Resistant

When I am speaking to an audience, I begin with a call for questions. And the number one question is always about deer.

"Can you tell me about plants that are deer proof" someone asks. "No, I can't" I say. "The deer are just too tricky and too opportunistic and change their appetites with season and whim. I gave up and installed a big fence at my place". Of course this is an exaggeration- my large Vancouver Island front yard is exposed to the ravages of free roaming deer and it is also full of plants. Deer leave most of the evergreens including rhododendrons, laurel, hemlock, heather, holly and ornamental grass relatively in tact and they go directly for the roses. They also my entire sour cherry shrub this spring and half the new Weigela. But a funny thing happened on my dog walk today.

I noticed the Orangetti Hybrid Squash (William Dam Seeds) and the Galeux D'Eysines Pumpkin (West Coast Seeds) had spilled into the side lot. While I was looking the other way and obviously busy with other projects, they had grown through their protective fence and out into deer territory. Just in case you think the deer didn't notice, think again. The Brussels Sprouts growing right beside the squash had been neatly nipped back right to the fence while the squash sprawled forward leading with their blooms and fruits.

Will this situation change as the summer winds into fall? I have decided to wait and see. I won't provide any additional deer defence for the wandering patch and will watch and see if fruits get trampled and leaves clipped. I have enough (17 at last count) fruits maturing safely inside the fence so what happens outside the fence is a bonus really. If you have had success with squash make sure to let me know!

Today in The Calgary Herald

Look for the gardening section in the Calgary Herald.... where my article about "An Embarrassment of Riches- Harvest time in the garden... " is featured today.  Check out the illustration for the article  by Mariko McCrae above.