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!

 

A door closing opens new paths. Reflecting with gratitude about life’s changes

This past January I closed my brick-and-mortar boutique.

Faced with the prospect of new landlords, lovely people, but inevitably suggesting rent/heat hikes, or the alternative, a quasi-colonization of my beloved shop, the decision to close the store was the only course of action this very independent minded person could make.

As the dust gradually settles, I feel much better about the situation! After all, people are in business to make money, and even though I’m certain the store could have remained open as long as the status quo remained intact, it wasn’t in the cards. Unfortunately I wasn’t in any position to aid the landlords in their goals, nor they in mine. Moving on, I wish them well!

The business of Wall Flower Studio sprung up at home, so it now scales back to its roots! This is an exciting prospect.

I’ll continue to offer my products through various online e-commerce sites, offer lessons in online marketing, helping and setting up social media sites for other small businesses, and have enough time and energy to focus on garden design, photography, this blog, and that bloody book I’ve been putting off writing for the past few years!

Except for our basement, currently looking like a contender for that show Hoarders, with everything now home from the shop, I’ve actually enjoyed sorting and organizing, de-cluttering, (planning that garage sale in May), and having time to cook proper meals for my wonderful husband, much to his delight and both of our amazement!

This time at home has been a period of reflection about the evolution of the business over the past four years.

Yes, there were ups and downs, small personal triumphs and many frustrations that at the time seemed cataclysmic, i.e. flooding, mountains of ice/caution tape in front of the shop, driving in snow storms, moving the physical location of the store, and even a car accident, to name but a few.

However, ninety-nine percent of it was the most rewarding activity of my life so far, and with that in mind, I’ll always look back with a full heart towards that store.

Lavender Harvest

Corporate-types won’t likely understand this, but to have had the opportunity to fully engage with one’s true entrepreneurial spirit, and believe me, Wall Flower Studio began on a threadbare shoestring, I feel enormous gratitude and pride to have taken the risk to open a retail storefront. I had the pleasure of meeting many like minds and pursued my passion, even within the context of a small enterprise, which is what many might have judged Wall Flower Studio to be.

I think that’s something to write home about, even if I’m the only one who reads it! 😉

Upon reflection and turning a new page, closing the store doesn’t suggest the failure that I first feared it would. The only way to fail is to never try in the first place. I’d like to celebrate by declaring this isn’t the end of Wall Flower Studio, it’s a new path!

With that in mind, a big thank you goes to family, friends, and each lovely customer who supported this former shopkeeper’s independent spirit on Minden’s Main Street! It truly was my pleasure.

– Karen

What’s growing in the July garden on a WordlessWednesday

Gardening for pollinators and other wildlife

When we strike a balance with nature, creatures of all shapes and sizes with whom we share our neck of the woods all benefit, so it’s a win-win!

When we seek to create a garden, it can become a hub of activity, much of it we may not even be aware of, but activity that caters to wildlife. If we are mindful of life beyond ourselves and provide eco friendly spaces for other living creatures, we offer refuge to many a beneficial visitor.

Insects, birds, and smaller mammals begin to thrive, visit and maybe even take up residence! That’s usually because creatures smaller than themselves are also in the vicinity, offering a food source, so the chain of life begins.

Spring is an ideal time to embrace local biodiversity. We gardeners can see the effects of our handiwork in our own plots.

Perhaps not overnight, but over the course of a season when our yards yield evidence of the wildlife we’ve attracted. This is done when we create a natural space in which they can prosper.

Take the humble bumblebee. I’m going to risk the raising of eyebrows from fellow dog lovers and state that bees are up there with our pooches as ‘man’s best friend’! But seriously, some hard working pollinators might seem scary to a few folk, but they very rarely sting and if they do, it’s as a last line of defence. Beyond that caveat, a bee’s hard work and importance to us as a species cannot be overstated.

Can you imagine a garden without flowers? Or an orchard without fruit? In some parts of the world, this dystopian outlook is closer to reality than we might fear…

Approximately 80 percent of food crops grown around the world require pollination and that’s mainly done by the hardworking bee. Unfortunately bees are having a particularly hard time at the moment. It has become entirely clear to many that habitat loss and the use of pesticides and herbicides, mainly by big Ag are the main contributor to our loss of bees. (I believe Monarch butterflies may also fall victim to these practices for similar reasons, but I digress..).

Millions of bees have died and this disturbing occurrence is not just taking place in North America, but all over the world. Because of this, it’s crucial that we gardeners plant our plots to ensure the survival of the bee. We can offer them a safe haven from chemicals, and considering just how important they are with respect to our food supply, the consequences could be devastating to say the least, so our help no matter how small is vital.

We can help by offering bees, and other pollinators, plants that are attractive to them when  foraging for food. Consider growing bee balm (Monarda) in the garden. It’s an excellent choice and certainly lives up to its name! The bonus is, bee balm is extremely appealing to hummingbirds and butterflies, too!

Just off the top of my head, I’d like to name several varieties in my garden that I’ve found appeal to bees and other creatures:

Aconitum (Monkshood), Chives , Dandelions,  Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), Digitalis (Foxglove), Bearded Iris, Lupinus X polyphylla (Lupine) Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant), Pulmonaria (Lungwort), Sunflowers, Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus), Hollyhocks, and Gaillardia, just for starters! Of course the best thing any gardener can do is to have a progression of blooms throughout the growing season, which is a tall order for even the seasoned gardener, but definitely a great goal to have.

The same gardening practices that attract and help wildlife also improve our air, water and soil quality. The benefit goes beyond our gardens, and it only takes a few plants and some forethought to create these habitats.

We can even attract creatures to our garden by adding a couple of containers with some flowering annuals. Gardeners with limited space may even want to plant vertically. Using wall space, arbors or fences to grow perennial vines like honeysuckle, Virginia creeper or annuals like sweet pea, morning glory, or scarlet runner beans and even hanging baskets will woo pollinators.

If you’re ambitious, consider selecting a wide variety of plants that provide blooms from early spring into late fall. Hummingbirds happen to prefer red tubular flowers and will visit all season long for them. Butterflies are usually drawn to more open-faced yellow and purple flowers, as well as herbs like lavender, dill, thyme, oregano and parsley.

Many herbs can be grown in containers in the smallest of garden like a balcony or windowsill. And I’ve yet to mention native plants, which offers the ultimate gift to wildlife as they are even more attractive a food source for local pollinators than anything else one could grow.

By making a conscious effort to not use harmful chemicals in the garden we encourage beneficial insects like ladybugs to visit, who happen to eat aphids! Toads and frogs are great allies in the garden as well since they eat slugs and grasshoppers. For them, I have a couple broken clay pots turned upside down, which offers these creatures some shelter during rainstorms. I also strategically place large seashells in the garden which collect water to offer them a drink on a hot day.

With very little maintenance, the garden will be a welcome haven for all kinds of insects and birds, and wildlife, while adding beauty and creating sustainability at the same time. Whether it’s mulching beds, reducing the size of lawn, which happens to be the most unnatural landscape of all considering the chemicals and water use that go into maintaining one, or by harvesting rainwater in a barrel for use on annual containers, we all benefit by preserving the environment and creating an ecological balance in our own backyard. Remember, preserving the environment is one of the most fundamental elements of gardening.

Have fun in the garden, and at the same time lend a helping hand, and those green thumbs to the pollinators in your neck of the woods. 🙂

Blooming blues – Sharing floral hues and flower symbolism while waiting for spring

bachelor button

Centaurea cyanus

Veronica spicata

Veronica spicata

A blue flower, according to Wikipedia, “is a central symbol of inspiration“,  standing for desire, love, and the metaphysical striving for the infinite and unreachable. It also symbolizes “hope and the beauty of things.

Borago

Borage

That’s quite a mouthful. Obviously, the colour blue has much historical significance, and reverence!

Admittedly that’s easy to relate to right now, and this post has come about due to an infinite hope for spring’s seemingly unreachable arrival. You see, we had snow fall overnight here in cottage country, and it’s chilly outside to say the least.  Like many of you, I am itching to get in the garden.

forget me nots wfs

Myosotis

Feeling starved for colour,  with a monochromatic landscape looming outside, I took to viewing some flower photos on my Flickr site.

In doing so, it dawned on me just how many blue flowers are in my garden.

bearded iris

baptisia

Baptisia australis – False indigo

Of course, they don’t all bloom at the same time, (a bit of a shame considering the show they’d offer!), but on the other hand, it’s nice to have constant flow of colour throughout the season.  In any case, Wikipedia’s description seems quite fitting, indeed. So, in honor of spring’s imminent arrival, I’d like to offer up some visual hope right here.

Feel free to share your favourite blue flower here with me. Happy Spring!

Omphalodes

Omphalodes

Scilla siberica

Scilla siberica

 

Not quite blue, but I do love lavender.

Not quite blue, but I do love lavender.

Echinops ritro wfs

Echinops

Blue cardinal flower

Blue cardinal flower

 

Morning glory

Morning glory