Who’s Been Eating My Garden?!

I’m not happy.

I feel like the Three Bears who come home to find their house trashed and their porridge eaten.  ‘Someone’ has been munching on my garden and I’m not happy about it.  Normally I’m quite philosophical about sharing nature’s bounty with all creatures great and small but this time I say enough!

Just yesterday I was admiring my variegated hydrangea, noting its lush, bushy foliage and its obvious verdant health.  And then this morning I woke up to this:


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Carnage and devastation.  All that lush foliage eaten down to sticks and nubbies.  Grrrrr.

And then I found my okra.  The same okra I had been admiring just yesterday for its lush, verdant foliage and cute baby okras it is starting to grow.  Which now looks like this:


More carnage and nubbies.  Grrrr.

My raspberries have fared no better …


… nor my peppers or tomatoes, although I suspect a two legged predator may have ‘harvested’ the later.  Grrrrrr.

And then, to add insult to injury, wanna see what I found in the mulch?


Hoof prints!  Grrrrrr.

Clearly I need better deer defences.

Last year I used these deer repellent stakes with much success and so I put them in again this year.  

This year they are not working.  Grrrrr.

I’m not happy.

How do you keep the deer away?  Short of filling them with lead I’m open to just about anything.

Grrrrr again.

And sigh.

How to Keep Your Cool When the Temp Heats Up

We are in the second week of June and already melting through our first heatwave of the summer.  The temperature today is expected to reach 99*F (37*C) with temps climbing to 101*F (38*C) tomorrow and remaining about the same over the next 16 days.  Truly, it feels like we are walking on the surface of the sun and it is only June!  #WhyDoesItFeelLikeAugust?

The kids and I are hiding out inside in the AC enjoying a Wii marathon and dreading the swim meet we have to go to tonight (or at least I am) but how are the new plantlings managing outside?  I didn’t put them in all that long ago and certainly not enough time has passed for them to have established robust root systems.  They all may well fry within the next two weeks.  Sigh.  But I’ll tell you what I did do to help get them through the start of a brutal summer.

1. Install drip irrigation systems.

I love drip irrigation.  It is easily found at all the big box stores, is not that spendy, and is easy to DIY.  I have it all through most of my gardens and they are all connected to timers which, really, is my favourite part about the drip irrigation – I don’t have to keep remembering to turn the water on, move the sprinklers, or turn it off again!  The ultimate in set-it-and-forget-it lazy gardening.

Drip irrigation also increases water efficiency as the water is only ever placed exactly where it needs to go – at the root zone of each plant – rather than sprayed from above drenching everything in the garden whether it needs watering or not.  The effects of evaporation can be lessened when the timer is set to water in the early morning hours before the sun rises, and reduced once again if the emmiters are placed underneath the mulch.  Just awesome all around.

2. Add extra layers of mulch

Not only does a thick layer of mulch smother out any weeds but it acts as a barrier between the hot burning sun and the soil underneath, literally holding the water in the ground and preventing it from being evaporated by the sun.  It also helps regulate the temperature of the soil reducing stress on plant roots.  I spent last weekend adding an extra few inches of mulch around the plants I thought would be most vulnerable to the weather this week.  I hope it helps.

3. Water deeply, but infrequently

When I water I try to water more deeply but less often, say 20mins, 3 times a week rather than 10mins a day.  This encourages roots to dig deeper into the soil in search of water rather than staying close to the surface in order to sip at more frequent water sprinklings that never get to soak in.  Long term, a nice deep root system will produce a more robust plant that is better able to handle temperature extremes as the added layers of soil the plant has above its roots will insulate the roots from the temperature changes.  Clever, right?

4. I use baby diapers in the bottom of hanging baskets (really, I do!)

I don’t remember where I heard this tip but I’ve been using it for years and it really helps.  Try putting a (clean) baby diaper in the bottom of your hanging baskets and pots.  The crystals inside the diapers will retain lots of water which the plants can ‘sip’ from when they start to get dry.  At the end of the season you can just throw the diapers away as you normally would, or even dry them out and keep them for next year.  They last quite a few seasons (it’s not like the crystals wear out) and I feel less guilt if I get a few uses out of them rather than just adding them to the landfill so quickly.

Admittedly, not all my plants are perfectly sited and some are probably in more sun than their labels said they would like (sigh) but with these added measures maybe I’ve done enough to help get them through the worst of this weather.  Fingers crossed!

“What is a Food Forest?”, You Ask?

Remember I was telling you about a local guy who takes note of all the publicly available fruiting trees that are in our area and he makes a point to harvest the fruit rather than let it spoil and go to waste?  Such activity is called Urban Foraging and I talked about it here.

So guess what?  I’m not the first one to be amazed by the idea that there is food, real food, literally hanging off trees all around us that we could, you know, eat.  Others have come across this notion too and have totally taken it to the next level.  Check this.

The city of Seattle has devoted 7 acres of land less than 2 miles from the city center to create a ‘Food Forest’.  “What’s a food forest?”, you ask?  I know.  I didn’t know either.  But it is a community partnership which will eventually create a true woodland ecosystem made up entirely of edible trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials, nut trees and berry patches and fruit trees, and family vegetable plots from which anyone can harvest anything.  An urban forager’s delight!  What an incredible concept.  They broke ground early summer 2011 and now this is what the Beacon Food Forest looks like:

It is hard to believe that all this food is free for the taking.  Like, anyone can just walk in and pick whatever looks good to take home and eat that night.  Hard to believe, right?  Here is a recent news article that tells the story.  And for the more visually inclined, here is a great video by the founders of the Beacon Food Forest that explains it all.

I follow them on Facebook now and I love to hear all their news.  They hold monthly work parties that really do look like fun that I soooo want to be a part of!  They run summer camps for the kids, hold yoga classes, do seed swaps, provide lots of education on organic gardening and cooking from the food you’ve grown.  And they had rhubarb compote made from their own rhubarb at May’s work party.  Awesome.

All very 360 degrees and very well conceived.  I just love it and will (one day) definitely take a trip out to visit the Beacon Food Forest.

I think this is such an incredible community outreach project.  Wow, folks.  Just. Wow.

I (heart) My Garden

I do.   I love my garden at this time of year.  Even though it is a dreary, wet and rainy day at my house there is still so much to see.  Forgive my indulgence but here are some of my (current) favourite things growing in my garden.

Lovely nasturtiums that are ‘acting’ as companion plants in my vege garden.  They are supposed to keep all kinds of bugs away and attract beneficial insects but all I see is a big fat black bug taking up residence right inside that lovely crimson nasturtium.  Hmmm.  What is that guy and what’s he doing in there?

IMG_2829   IMG_2833

I love my blueberry hedge.  I have 3 bushes planted along my fenceline and although they are still small (only 3 years old) I am excited that all three are fruiting well.  I have thrown bird netting over the top to see if I can harvest any for myself this year.  Birds beat me to them all last year.


I love my hydrangeas, too.  I have three Endless Summer Hydrangeas that the boys bought me for Mothers Day a few years back that are blooming pink this year.  Our soil is typically acidic which would normally produce blue flowers so I was pleasantly surprised to see these big pink balls pop up.  Perhaps it was something in the compost I gave them ….  I love the mottled white/pink when they first start to bloom.

IMG_2857  imageIMG_2855     IMG_2856

Honestly, they are exposed to too much afternoon sun and don’t get near enough water to do really well so I totally bow down and give mad props to any plant for blooming despite the not-so-great location I’ve asked it to grow in.  Gotta love a team player like that!

I’m sure you don’t remember the ugly and under-perfoming Winter Daphne I pulled out earlier this spring.  You can read about my sad Winter Daphne journey here.  Happily, I replaced my sad Winter Daphne with happier Mini Penny Hydrangeas.  They’ve grown pretty well, I think, given that they’ve only been in the ground for 3 months AND have given me almost two whole blooms!  More reasons to love hydrangeas.

From this in March:

Newly planted Mini Penny Hydrangea.  Grow, baby, grow!

Newly planted Mini Penny Hydrangea. Grow, baby, grow!

To this in May:

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Not bad, eh?  I’m a little concerned they are going to be fried in the late summer afternoon sun but maybe they’ll be ok.  Hmmmm.

My one hydrangea sadness is my variegated hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Mariesii’.  It looked like this when I bought it from the nursery:

So pretty, right?  But every year in my garden it looks like this:

IMG_2835Boooo.  Stupid thing blooms on old wood and every year the buds are either lost to a brutal winter or to an early frost.  Sigh.  I’m not certain if I’m going to stick with such an underperforming plant although the variegated leaves might be worthwhile.  If It will ever grow bigger than 3′ it can stay.  Jury is definitely still out on this one.

My hummingbird garden is doing a little better this year with the Black and Blue Salvia and Bee Balm finally blooming.  They don’t look like much right now but my hope is that in a few years they whole bed will be filled with these lovely, hummingbird friendly, flowers.

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Gardenias are starting to bloom and I can smell their fragrance waft right across the garden.  Just lovely.  I do wish they would get a little more sun as I’m sure they’d bloom better.  They catch a lot of shade from my neighbour’s trees.

IMG_2858   IMG_2860 IMG_2862

And the girls have been doing their thing.  I love our chickens.




I think May/June might be my favourite time of year in the garden.  There is so much to see without it all being overwhelming yet.  What’s growing in your garden right now?

Thinning the Herd

Do you have trouble pulling out plants that haven’t exactly died but aren’t really living up to their expectations either?  The ones that just struggle and struggle, are plain grumpy and don’t do what they’re supposed to?  I do.  I know they either have to be moved or they have to go to the big garden in the sky but it is always so hard for me to make the call (what is that about???)  Take these winter daphne for example.  I have two of them, one of each side of our front walk.  Here they sulk 😦

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Awful, aren’t they?  They are supposed to be blooming and amazing right now and just look at them.  Hurumph!  They’ve been in the ground in this site for 5 or 6 years and they just have never done well.  They bloom a little … but not much.



They’ve grown a little … but not much.  They’re one of the first things people see when they walk up my front walk and they are thoroughly disappointing.  I’ve been looking at these things sideways for the last year or two thinking they had to go but … like I say, I have trouble pulling the plug.  I paid good money for these things, you know?  Maybe if I give them another year … Maybe a little more TLC …

This year I finally did it.  I ripped those ugly things up and tossed them away.  I don’t have another good spot for them and truly, I have so few sunny spots in my garden that plants need to earn their place and these things just weren’t cutting it!  I have to tell you, it was kinda cathartic.  Out with the old, in with the new.

My neighbour across the road has the most spectacular Endless Summer hydrangeas along his front walk which is really what I long for but I just don’t have the space here for something that wants to grow 5′ tall.  Booo.  I took a trip to my favourite garden center and came upon Mini Penny French hydrangeas that I thought might work instead.

Mini Penny Hydrangea Source: hydrangea.com

Mini Penny Hydrangea Source: hydrangea.com

So gorgeous, right?  They grow to between 3 and 4 feet tall so small enough for the space and I think there is enough sun/shade mix to keep them happy.  I have drip irrigation set up so they’ll have plenty of water which is the main challenge with hydrangeas … I thought to give it a go.

So here they are on planting day.  They aren’t much to look at, I’ll admit, but my hope is that they will be happy here and come the summer they will be gorgeous.  And let’s face it.  If they’ve not gorgeous then they’ll have to go the same way as my tragic winter daphne – Muwahahaaaa!


Newly planted Mini Penny Hydrangea.  Grow, baby, grow!

Newly planted Mini Penny Hydrangea. Grow, baby, grow!

How do you handle plants that aren’t doing as they are told?  Are you ruthless and rip them right out or do you struggle?  Perhaps there is a 12 step program for me.  Clearly, I need help (sigh).

… And in Between, We Garden

Such an awesome weekend!

I cleaned out the chicken coop –


Here you can see the roost bar and the piece of wood that holds the Sweet PDZ in place removed for easy cleaning.


All clean. Now for some fresh lavender and Rosemary as the finishing touch.

Admired some pretty flowers that are blooming right now –


Love these grape hyacinths. Maybe almost as much as this guy does.

Here’s a busy little bee making the most of the grape hyacinths.  They are the first flowers to bloom in abundance in my garden each spring and are always such a welcome burst of lovely sweet colour.  J’adore grape hyacinths, don’t you?


Pretty camellia bloom.

I’ve not grown camellias before – these are my first and newly planted this past autumn.  I planted them to provide some screening from our neighbours although it will take some 20 years for them to grow to a useful size to fill that role.  Until then I will enjoy their spring blooms – and think of planting more.


Pretty camellia bloom

And swooned as the heavenly scent of the lemon blossoms wafted across the whole yard.  Right now the lemon and lime trees are spending their days outside enjoying the dozey bumblebees and the warm sunshine, and then they go back inside when nighttime temps dip too low.  The weatherman is predicting a hard freeze later this week so I’ll be doing this citrus dance for another few days at least before I can move them out for the summer.


There’s a lime tree to go along with this Meyer Lemon, too.

I also threw Holly Tone around everything and now the whole place reeks – ugh!  The forecast is for rain tonight and tomorrow morning so my hope is that it will all be washed in and away in a day or so.  I feel totally accomplished.  Vitamin G really does a lot of good for the soul, don’t you think?

We come from the earth
We return to the earth
And in between, we garden.
– Anonymous

Proliferate Poppies – from 5000 to 200,000!

Check this out!  This is the 5000 Poppies Project I crocheted the poppy for a few months ago and told you all about. You can read about it on my blog post here.  It seems that there has been much media coverage of late and so much interest and I am just so thrilled to hear that the 5000 Poppies Project has received this kind of support!

An example of part of the 5000 Poppies installation.  It will certainly look amazing once all 200,000 poppies are sewn together!

An example of part of the 5000 Poppies installation. It will certainly look amazing once all 200,000 poppies are sewn together!

Such a lovely idea and remembrance for those that served.  I can’t wait to see the final installation this ANZAC Day.  And I have to say, it does feel good to be involved in a home-grown, very Aussie, community project from so far away.  Feeling quite patriotic, actually (humming … Once a jolly swagman/Camped by a billabong …).

If any of my Aussie readers happen to see the finished project would you please take a pic and post it for me?  I know the display will start in Melbourne on ANZAC Day (April 25 for those unfamiliar) but as I understand it the plan is to travel around the country to display the finished piece all over during the 100th anniversary year (this year).  So it may well come by your neighbourhood sometime.  Keep a look out for my little poppy I made in honour of my Great Grandfather, Pvt Edgar Gibbons!

Anzac Day 2015: Melbourne handmade poppies project exceeds expectations, hopes to collect 200,000 flowers

Updated about 10 hours ago

Two Melbourne artists behind a project to create 5,000 handcrafted poppies to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landings say they expect to finish with about one kilometre’s worth of flowers.

Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight started the project in June 2013, and thanks to other volunteers, their 5,000 poppy target was shattered and they are now on track to reach 200,000.

Margaret Knight told ABC News Breakfast the project was initially a way for the two women to commemorate their fathers’ war service.

“We were into commemorative art and we decided to do what we call a ‘yarn bombing’ around the battalion tree [for the battalion] that Lynn’s father fought in, and on the walk to the shrine,” Ms Knight said.

“And my father was a British soldier [so] that’s where it all started.”

Lynn Berry said the idea quickly snowballed.

“Everybody was asking, you know … do you mind if I knit a couple, my mother would like to knit a couple, my aunt works at a retirement village and the retirement village ladies would like to knit a couple,” Ms Berry said.

Ms Berry said the project had now collected about 170,000 knitted, felted and crafted poppies.

“And we’re expecting by the end of it to have somewhere in excess of 200,000,” she said.

“It’ll be about one kilometre of poppies by the time we’re finished.”

The poppies will be assembled onto nets and placed around Melbourne as fields of poppies.

She said the finished product will be beautiful, because no two poppies are exactly the same.

“Well, many of them follow the same pattern, but everybody puts their own slant on them,” Ms Berry said.

“We get tatted and knitted [ones] and just the most glorious creations.”

Ms Knight said the project was also initiating plenty of conversations among families.

“I think it’s encouraged people to have a look into their family history of service,” she said.

The poppies will go on display at Melbourne’s Federation Square on Anzac Day.

Spring has Sprung – for Some

I’d forgotten that for much of the Northern Hemisphere that today is the first day of Spring, 1st of March .  I grew up learning that Spring (or Autumn in Australia) started on March 1st but when I arrived to the US I was told I had been misinformed.  Here in America people understand Spring to start on March 20, nearly 3 full weeks after I did.  According to the Farmer’s Almanac we are all correct (much like #thedress – we are all right.  Huzzah!).  Here’s why.

The differences in the dates have to do with whether you are speaking Astronomically or Meteorologically.  If you are in to the stars and have an Astronomical view of the seasons (as it turns out Americans do) then you are looking for Spring to start on the Vernal (Spring) Equinox, when there are the same amount of day and night hours in the day – which this year is on March 20.  If you are in to the weather and look to annual temperature cycles instead of the position of the earth relative to the sun, as is the rest of the world, then Spring for you starts on March 1.  Since I’m on team ‘Rest Of The World’ my Spring starts today.

Spring Bluebirds

Spring Bluebirds – pic from http://globe-views.com/dcim/dreams/spring/spring-06.jpg

I’ve got to say, it doesn’t feel much like Spring.  We’ve had snow in Charlotte (!!) this week, more snowdays and delayed school starts for the kids, cold cold temperatures, freezing rain, and burst water pipes.  Good times good times.

But I have seen bluebirds over the last 10 days or so, particularly when I’m on my long runs early on Saturday mornings.  And I have seen daffodils blooming.  My apple trees have been putting out buds and the crocuses are doing their crocus thang.  All definite signs that Spring is near.

The Farmer’s Almanac suggests a few other indicators of Spring:

One swallow does not make a spring.

Bluebirds are a sign of spring; warm weather and gentle south breezes they bring.

In spring, no one thinks of the snow that fell last year.

Don’t say that spring has come until you can put your foot on nine daisies.

Spring-time sweet!
The whole Earth smiles, thy coming to greet.

Spring is also the time when worms begin to emerge from the earth, ladybugs land on screen doors, green buds appear, birds chirp, and flowers begin to bloom.

Is it Spring yet for you?  Or Autumn for my Antipodean buddies?  What signs of Spring have you seen?  Do you think you can say Spring has come if you can only find 8 daisies to crush under your foot?

WHEN Is Spring Coming?

Sit Down, Punxsutawney Phil

It was Groundhog Day on Monday.  Did you tune in to see what Punxsutawney Phil had to say?  Honestly, I completely forgot all about it but this year he …

Wait, do you even know about Punxsutawney Phil?  Let me slow down, Dear Readers.  For those who are not familiar with this whole ritual let me fill you in.  I’ll warn you in advance…. It is batty.

Punxsutawney Phil is a groundhog who lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (… pause … m’kay …).  Folklore tells that each year on February 2nd if it is cloudy when Phil the Groundhog comes out of his burrow then Spring will come early (really?  wha???).  If, when he comes out, it is sunny he will see his shadow and run back into his burrow thereby foretelling an additional six weeks of wintery weather until Spring finally arrives. (….)  Phil even has his own webpage if you are interested (stunned silence …  I know.  I know).

Punxsutawney Phil 2015

Punxsutawney Phil 2015

This year, after much pomp and ceremony, it was determined that Phil ‘saw his shadow’ and therefore predicted 6 more weeks of winter.  For what it is worth, our fair city’s own resident groundhog, Queen Charlotte, ‘saw her shadow’ and predicted another 6 weeks for winter for us, too.

I say “BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”.  Enough of the cold stuff!  Gah!  And I was feeling kinda bummed hearing this news and thinking of how interminable winters in the northern hemisphere feel.  Huff huff grump grump.

And then I looked around.  And I saw signs of Spring in my very own garden!  Definte, unmistakable, harbingers of warmer temps to come!  Wanna see?  Look!


Tiny crocuses


Delicate rosemary blossoms


Sweet little grape hyacinths


Daffodils, my favourite spring time flower


Lenten Rose looking lovely

Your Honour, I present Exhibits A thru E (above).

I see tiny crocuses poking their heads through by my front walk, the rosemary has delicate blossoms and the grape hyacinth are all starting to emerge.  The daffodils are further along than I had thought and the lenten roses are blooming all over the place.  Definite signs of spring and NOT another 6 weeks of winter.

BOOM!  Take THAT, Phil!

Clearly, you are mistaken.


And if it pleases the court, allow me to present data from NOAA (National Climactic Data Center) that proves Phil is nothing more than a cheap charlatan preying on the cold and prepetually chilled! Punxsutawney Phil Verses the US National Termperatre 1988-2014

You will also note that none of the other groundhogs around the country are any better than Phil at predicting when the winter will end.  I don’t mean to call anyone out but … Charlotte … I am looking at you.  (Yes. You, young lady)

As for me I’ll be putting more stock in to Mother Nature.  SHE sure knows when Spring is on it’s way.  We all just need to look for the signs.

Is your garden starting to show signs of spring?