The joys of container gardening – DIY tips and tricks of the trade

Many gardening enthusiasts may not have big yards, but they’re still keen to play in the dirt! Happily, flexing one’s green thumb is not out of reach for anyone!

Small spaces like balconies, decks, and windowsills are itching for a pretty pot of flowers.

Great gardening pleasures can be had by any gardener, even in the smallest spaces. As a former apartment dweller, I can say for the record that anyone who is keen to grow something, can have their own little piece of paradise, too.

Choice of container and design is limited only by the imagination, and of course the amount one is willing to shell out for it!

Containers range in size, shape, and substance. Clay pots, wooden barrels, wire wall/hanging baskets, and plastic urns, are just some examples. However, with limited space, one might want to keep in mind that some containers need to be stored in a sheltered site over the winter, especially clay pots which may crack in really cold climates like mine.

Not unlike a ‘conventional’ garden plot, container plantings require suitable preparation.

Space, light, soil, water access, plant food, and of course weather, should all be taken into account. By seeking suitable plant material for these conditions, one can ensure a bountiful show, so all that effort and investment going into those planters doesn’t go to waste.

Restricted root space may add constraints to plant preferences, too. Over the course of a growing season some varieties (like asparagus fern) are more prolific with their root multiplication than others.

Good drainage is key for successful container gardening. Nobody wants soggy plant roots that inevitably drown. Nothing kills a plant like kindness! (Take it from me, I know, lol.) This is easily avoided by making sure the container has holes in the bottom. With the addition of broken clay pot shards, pebbles, or even Styrofoam chips lining the bottom of the pot, excess water has somewhere else to go.

Along with begonias, geraniums, herbs, or flowing foliage plant bulbs, seeds, and yes, even veggies will thrive in a container!

Just think of the fabulous fresh basil, (plus other herbs), and even cherry tomatoes, all of which can be grown in a very small space. In fact, one year I grew a container full of ornamental corn!

Succulents are perfect for patios, and for on the wall, too! Most of all they’re drought tolerant and as a vertical garden, take up no floor or table space at all.

I like to use unusual containers, for example a bunt pan, which can go on the patio table with the big umbrella right through the hole in the middle. It’s a great way to save space! These can be picked up cheap at most second hand stores! Violets in spring would look nice in them, too.

Tropical plants love the heat and humidity. All of my houseplants go outside for the summer, with the added benefit of making my house seem a lot more spacious during the growing season! Some don’t like too much sun, and there is a downside… when I bring them back in, once again I have to determine who gets the best sunny spots for the winter, (as there’s only so much window space), make sure there are no pests clinging about, (yuck), and our house seems once again, a little less spacious! But that’s okay!

In the past, I’ve layered the two big whiskey barrel containers, (since replaced with cement pots) from our porch with flowering bulbs. Simply plant them beneath the roots of any other plants that are dug in for the rest of the growing season. Tulips, daffodils, or crocus will shoot up and offer a lovely, early spring display! I let bulb foliage die back naturally. Other plants growing around them cover that up, and the bulbs can be planted in the ground, if you have a space, for the next year. It’s a great way to offer seasonal interest!

It’s also fun to experiment with different plant combinations, colours, textures, and foliage every year. Or not, because if you find a planting package that works for you, by all means, go for it!

Do keep in mind that many tender plants may not over-winter in containers, which are exposed to really cold temperatures that gets at their roots, unlike perennials that are insulated from frost by growing directly in the ground.

Unfortunately, most annuals aren’t hardy enough to get through a Haliburton Highlands winter. (However, I’ve had good luck overwintering parsley and kale in our raised beds). But, most annual plants grown in containers are cultivated for one season only and composted.

Geraniums might be the exception to this for me. I do over-winter a few of my favourites by bringing them in the house. Out they go again in late spring once any chance of frost damage is long gone.

In any case, there’s something to be said about gardening in containers!

Imagine a beautiful show without the aggravation of maintaining a big lawn or weeding flowerbeds!

Personally, I’m quite happy to mow a bit of lawn, and weed the garden too, which I find relaxing, though the size of our lawn shrinks every year because my garden keeps expanding, lol, (funny how that happens!) but in this, I may be an exception to the rule.

Happy Gardening!

 

The flower power of Nasturtiums – More than just a pretty face! Edible flower gardening

Nasturtium – A real power flower!

Did you know? Edible flowers contain many vitamins and minerals. They’re rich in nectar and pollen, too.

When I was a little girl, I remember quite clearly a time when my Mom grabbed a daffodil away from my hand (that I’d just picked from her garden), and was about to shove in my mouth to eat.  I have two points to make about this little flashback.

1) NEVER eat anything from the garden unless you know it’s okay! (Daffodils are NOT okay, and your Mom will agree).

2) For some reason, I’ve always looked at flowers in a way that some people look at a big juicy steak!

Years later, now with a garden of my own, (and a bit of knowledge thankfully), I grow flowers that not only attract pollinators, but some I can eat, and so can you!

Rose hips & Lavender

For the rose connoisseur, rose hips are particularly high in vitamin C and may contain up to 50 times more of this vitamin than you’d find in an orange. In this post however, I’d like to talk about Nasturtiums.

I’ve grown these pretty, eye-catching flowers for many years so they’ll trail along the front of my garden border. But the best part is that this plant is edible.

It’s fairly well known that the flower can be used in salads and stir fry’s. With a slight peppery flavour, it reminds me of watercress. More than just tasty, nasturtium flowers are high in vitamin C., (about the same amount you’d find in parsley), and in addition, they contain the highest amount of lutein found in any edible plant.

Lutein is a natural carotenoid found in orange-yellow fruits/flowers, leafy vegetables like kale, (carrots of course), and egg yolk. (A flamingo’s diet is rich in carotenoids which gives them the pink plumage that makes them so beautiful!)

In our eyes, carotenoids are present in macular pigments, where their importance in aiding against ocular disease is currently under clinical research. So eat your plants. 🙂

Saving Nasturtium seeds

I save nasturtium seeds to plant more next year, but I also harvest some unripe pods to create condiments, especially spiced herbal vinegars.

For this recipe, simply steep them in a jar of vinegar for a week or two, along with any other herbs you like for additional flavour, (shake daily), then strain and bottle. It’s really that easy!

The leaves are also rich in vitamin C, and in addition, they contain a sulphur compound that apparently offers an excellent anti-fungal, antiseptic, and antibiotic source when eaten.

Nasturtiums, Hollyhocks, Scarlet Runner beans

Edible flowers should be picked in late morning after the dew has gone, but before the sun is high in the sky. Pick the fully open flowers.

Never eat any flower that’s been in contact with chemicals or other poisons such as pesticides or herbicides. Organic is always the way to go! If you grow it yourself, you know it’s safe for your family. Otherwise, the local farmers’ market is another great source to find healthy food.

Much like growing grapes for making wine, flowers of the same variety, but grown in different locations, will have a slightly different taste.

This ‘terroir‘ as it’s called, (and I just love this word!) 🙂 is pronounced tĕr-wär′. It offers the complete set of local conditions where a particular fruit, vegetable, or herb, (cheese & other hand crafted food), is produced, including the soil-type, weather conditions, topography, obtains its individual character.

Flowers and foliage may taste a little different at the end of the growing season too, and can vary from year to year. Think of dandelion leaves which for me, always taste best in spring.

And, the best part you ask? Flowers are mostly free of calories!

Once more

Do NOT eat ANYTHING from the garden if you aren’t absolutely sure you know what it is first! – Thank you!

More edible flowers

Bee balm
Borage
Calendula
Chamomile
Chive flowers
Dandelion
Daylily
Lavender
Lilac
Marigold
Mint
Nasturtium
Pansy
Rose hips
Sage
Squash blossom
Violet

Have fun experimenting, and happy gardening! ~ Karen

Rehashing 2019 with #hashtags – Happy New Year, Everyone!

New Year Wishes
– Public Domain

With a New Year (and decade) fast approaching, perhaps like many of you, I’ve been pondering the past twelve months by mulling over some of the topics that really captured my attention in 2019.

No, not politics, though admittedly there are times I let myself get drawn into a Twitter fray, (a New Year’s resolution is in place to rise above that), but moving on, the truly engaging subject matter I (re)discovered was from that same social media site.

Most of us are familiar with #hashtags and how to use them.

Garden related tags are usually my go-to clicks on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, & Twitter etc., which places that specific subject matter on my radar when I’m seeking horticultural inspiration, via green-thumbed individuals/organizations from across the globe.

For some reason in 2019, I noticed some particular hashtags on Twitter regarding topics that hadn’t previously floated through my feed.

Curious, I took to scrolling through related content people were sharing under several monikers.

Morgan le Fay, by Frederick Sandys (1864) Public Domain

A few of these include:

I’m so glad I clicked them because almost instantly, doors and windows opened to knowledge on a diversity of subject matter that I’d always been keen about, but had yet to invest much time or effort.

Part of that good feeling, (in addition to blogging), includes meeting kind, sharing, and like-minded people out there in cyberspace, while at the same time (re)discovering that no matter how niche/narrow you may think your own particular interests might be, there’s an inclusive crowd for that particular universe open to anyone willing to explore.

A portrait of a fairy, by Sophie Gengembre Anderson (1869). The title of the painting is Take the Fair Face of Woman, and Gently Suspending, With Butterflies, Flowers, and Jewels Attending, Thus Your Fairy is Made of Most Beautiful Things – purportedly from a poem by Charles Ede.

My first discovery was #FolkloreThursday, which led to #FairytaleTuesday and #MythologyMonday.

Not much different from a light being switched on in my head, I found myself wanting to learn more about myth and folklore, especially after reading so much engaging information with other people.

Many of the items I’ve been reading related to stories from my childhood. Instantly I get to travel back through time to The Snow Queen, a favourite tale that I devoured as a young reader. Now, like that and many other stories, they’ve acquired a new depth as I continue to learn more of the history behind these tales. For me, this is extremely exciting!

In fact, many of the stories I/we read as kids, (and still read today), were diluted and smoothed out over time. Much of the original sinister bits have been ironed out via contemporary media, like Disney for example. Not that I’m putting them down by any means… I grew up with Bambi, etc. and still enjoy these representations too, but knowing now that there’s so much more meat to these tales than meets the eye, and that the original author’s who spun them had so much more to say, (certainly a deeper moral or spiritual meaning), is what I find so completely enthralling.

It was wonderful to learn that many a fairy tale was not written with children in mind, but in most cases for adults. That in itself piqued my interest.  It made me want to travel back through print to get a glimpse of the mindset of those people who first wrote them down.

“The Deluge”, frontispiece to Gustave Doré’s illustrated edition of the Bible.

To trace the story’s lineage nearer to its point of origin, or at least as far back as I can go in order to learn about the times in which they were written, and to figure out how history may have played a part in shaping those darker bits, is like entering another dimension entirely.

The more I read, the more I started to realize, (naively to most scholars, I’m sure), just how connected folklore, and especially myth, is throughout recorded history. I see many similarities and links between ancient origin and flood myths to Gilgamesh, as well as Egyptian, Greek, and Roman mythology, the Iliad & Odyssey, up to King Arthur and Beowulf, which leads us to more contemporary times, including the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and yes, even Harry Potter!

That’s just a few off the top of my head, so for me, this feels like an archaeological word expedition through the use of storytelling, where one can uncover the layers of tales told by a multitude of voices, who have come to offer us so many beautiful interpretations of many heroic adventures.

“Arturus rex” (King Arthur), a 1493 illustration from the Nuremberg Chronicle

That’s a lot of cake to digest, but there is icing! – Illustrations.

In hindsight, and in keeping with my own arts background, pictures may have been what originally captured my attention, prior to any hashtag.

Not to belittle visual interpretations by any means, as we’re such a visual society these days, but what better way is there to capture the essence and promote fairytales or ancient myths, (whether they’re shared on Twitter today, or contained in a 150 year old book now archived and in the Public Domain), than through the artistic achievements of first rate illustrators?

Many of these artistic depictions sprang from the Victorian & Edwardian eras. I think there was a renaissance-like quality to folklore back then, and many of the best images were created by some of the most prolifically creative people in history, who like many of us today, must have been totally inspired to produce such a magnificent library of art after reading fairy tales.

Tristan and Iseult, painting by John William Waterhouse (1916)

All of this leads me to ask, why is folklore and myth surging once again in popularity?

It can’t be from the pictures alone. Could it be caused by the type of society we find ourselves living in today? Perhaps good stories are not only timeless, but a means of escape from the pressures of modern daily life, a seemingly angry society, peak consumerism, and just a very busy world.

For me, the act of re-reading fairy tales and classical mythology is not just some guilty pleasure with which to pass the time. I’m happy to tell you that as a forward thinking person having reached mid-life, I get to look back and revisit my childhood with fresh eyes.

And despite not having 20/20 vision any longer as we approach the year 2020, I do find some humour in that, but with thanks to hashtags, and the lovely people who linked them, it’s led me here.

If like me you’re interested in learning more about folklore and/or mythology, along with the above hashtag links, these are some great places to start:

In any case, take some time to enjoy the journey of exploring whatever subjects interest you!

Happy New Year and all my best wishes for the coming decade.

~ Karen

#FridayFlowers in winter? Not so much! Still, there is beauty to be found in the garden

This time of year, there’s nothing blooming in the garden, however there is still much beauty to be found. 

The hydrangeas have long since faded and dried, but I like to leave them over the winter because of the lovely snow-laden look about them.

Lucky to have several garden obelisks around the property, (with a big thanks to my handy hubby), they support all kinds of things I like to grow from spring to fall, including peas, runner beans, clematis, and morning glory.

These sturdy stands offer much winter interest this time of year! Sculptures that hold the snow, and my attention.

There are lots of berries still on trees. Food for the birds, but also a bright red colour that’s in such contrast to what can otherwise be a very monochromatic season.

And, not unlike this geranium by the kitchen window, (which blooms several times over the winter for me, inside of course!), I’ll (try to) patiently wait for the next time I can be outside  again, basking in the warm sunshine flooding the garden.

With the equinox and winter solstice this coming weekend, the days will once again grow longer. It’ll be good to be back on the right track! Happy Solstice to all. ~ Karen

 

Milkweed and Monarchs #ThursdayThoughts

What more can I add to the already enormous amount of factual information & interesting literature in cyberspace, stating why we should plant milkweed in the garden to help Monarch butterflies?!

Not much, I admit…

(Sharing those links below).

In any case, I’ll try to promote the idea by sharing here how this past summer, I let the milkweed roam & grow where they liked.

Did I mention their scent is lovely? Well, it really is. -> Next year, take a snootful and see (smell) for yourself what I mean.

Rarely, but on occasion, the ‘o.c.d./weeding/tidy up the garden’ gardener in me, reached in towards the flower beds in order to pluck a few out.

But, I came to my senses and resisted… then scolded myself in the process.

Glad I restrained myself, because when it comes right down to it, what is a garden really for?

Our personal enjoyment yes, but also to encourage and help the other beings on this planet thrive, be they insects, birds, or mammals.

At the end of the season I was duly rewarded with plenty of seeds pods that burst forth in a spectacular fashion! Truly, they are nature’s understated fireworks.

So, I collected many seed pods and dried them in order to scatter those seeds all around our property next spring.

Here’s hoping it helps our winged friends, even a little bit, and that many of them will visit me next year.

Just some thoughts on a snowy winter day. 🙂

Further reading

Nature Watch Canada

National Wildlife Federation

PBS 

Monarch Watch

Biodiversity Heritage Library