Saturday, October 28, 2017

Pruning Hydrangeas

I put a picture of the sad peewee hydrangea that was in the garden here.


I thought perhaps that it was done for, but one side of it did produce a number of pretty blossoms this summer. And when digging in that bed, I kept bumping into its root system which is massive. I thought surely it has the will to survive.

So a lot of reading online and watching videos has convinced me that there is something that can be done for this poor tree. One of the gardeners at Gerbers told me that it will flower on the side where it has sun and certainly that appears to be so. The left side of the tree is practically dead, although it did make some new shoots this season.

I had thought of just cutting it right down to about 18" from the soil, but I have read that will make for weak branches and smaller blossoms. So I will take the pruning more slowly and will wait until early spring to do it. That way, I can be sure that I am not cutting off the next year's blossoms. So it will get a hard cutting back next March/April but I will be cautious and not hack it back so severely that it can't recover.

Great advice on this site

I found the site by putting in a search for hydrangea tree half dead and then clicked on the image that looked as sad as mine. That brought me to the above website which is full of good advice on landscape ideas.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Bulbs all planted

Eight more bags of leaves have been filled for a total of 21. And there are still more, at least another 5 can be filled. I think we have all the leaves on the street, no one else seems to have any. But then we have all the trees, so I guess that is fair.

Yesterday Isaac and Sarah helped me to plant the 30 daffodil bulbs I bought from Isaac's school fundraiser. We got into a nice rhythm, with me digging the hole, Sarah dropping in the bulb pointy end up and Isaac filling the hole with some nice topsoil. These are planted right near the entrance to the front yard, so they will be the first flowers to be seen come spring.

In front of this Virginia creeper, I planted 20 more woodland hyacinth bulbs. I couldn't think of any other place to put them. I don't like to have those early flowers coming up in beds where there are other perennials, because once they have flowered, you have to leave the foliage on them until it dies back. And sometimes it can look unsightly.  That is why I planted all the daffodils in the lawn, so that the leaves can be left for a month before being mowed and then the bulbs will store up what they need to come back the following year.

And now I have resorted to being the lazy gardener. I decided to "sheet mulch" a strip along the ramp beside the Virginia creeper. I lay down two paper leaf bags, then covered them with bagged topsoil to the depth of about 2". Then soaked the whole area with the hose. This is supposed to result in the paper decomposing and the grass and weeds underneath being suppressed. Which means that this should be a plant-able bed next spring. I figure there is nothing to lose trying this and, if it works, that will be just super. I want a bed of super-tunias bubblegum pink in here. If it doesn't work, then I can simply dig the bed manually next spring.

A shot of the front yard with 4 leaf bags ready to be picked up. Plenty more leaves have fallen since yesterday as this area was clear when we finished raking yesterday afternoon. I just have to remind myself that all those fallen leaves make good soil in the days to come.

Now I have no more excuses. It is time to paint the basement walls.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fall Days

The leaves are falling hard and fast now. This week I raked up 13 bags of leaves and there will certainly be that many more in the weeks to come. I will also just mow over the remaining ones and leave them as mulch for the grass.


And over the past two days, I managed (with the help of Nick) to dig the remainer of this bed. It is bigger than it looks, at least 15 feet long by 3 to 4 feet wide. The only thing planted here are the three hydrangea shrubs, at either end and in the middle. This gets partial sun, mostly filtered morning sunlight so it will be a shade bed most definitely.

I will put some more foxgloves in here, as well as campanula bellflowers. I think this bed would be good for plants with some height to them. They need to hide the scrubby bush in the lot behind it.

We had a second kitchen window put in this week. This brings much more light into the dining area and we can now see the lovely oak tree that is just outside the window. Oak often hang onto their leaves through the winter, so we may see these leaves for months to come. It will be a great spot to hang a bird feeder to watch the birds over the next five months. And sometimes the deer come through this way and we might see them up close without them knowing.

The only downside to this is that now the kitchen needs to be painted. I already have the paint and tools lined up to do the basement this week, the kitchen may end up being a project that takes some time to finish.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

100 Daffodil bulbs

Today saw the rest of the daffodils from Veseys planted. Following the advice of John Holden of, I planted these in clumps of 2-3 daffodils per hole and spaced them like a checkerboard with more bulbs towards the front of the area. This is supposed to result in the daffodils looking as if they naturalized this way.

So many tree roots! I dug up a small square of sod, turned it over and then dug deeper individual holes with a trowel, then dropped the bulbs in, covered with loose soil and then put the sod back, stepping on it to make it go back into place. The result is that you can't see where anything was planted and these should come up next spring in a scattering over this part of the lawn. There are 100 daffodils in all in this space. You could probably plant twice that number and it still would not be crowded. But I think I have done enough digging for a while.

 This is a spruce and maple that grow side by side right beside the driveway. Someone left Christmas lights in this spruce and I should plug them in to see if they are still working. The grandkids would like that.

I am so enthralled with this piece of country property. I have always wanted to live in the country, on a farm preferably, but circumstances dictated otherwise. It is wonderful to have a small piece of land in a small town, so that Nick and I are not without the things we need at this stage of our life (like doctors, grocery stores, banks and wine stores).

Today began chilly but the afternoon was a lovely day for working outside. It was very breezy and bright with sunshine. The sun on the turning leaves is just gorgeous. My camera simply doesn't capture the luminous type of light that we had today.

A perfect sky, with only a few scudding clouds. This is a large maple in the front yard, behind it is an oak. In front is a mountain ash that doesn't look well. I am having trouble convincing Nick that it needs to be cut down, he is a tree-hugger. But a diseased tree is not something you want in your yard.
Perhaps it will simply disappear one day when he isn't looking and he won't even notice. He is quite attached to this tree because it shows the holes made by piliated woodpeckers. However those holes also look the ones made by yellow-belly sapsuckers which destroy trees by taking out their sap, as their name implies. There are plenty more trees for the woodpeckers.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fall Colour and bulb planting

We have two large maples in the back yard, quite close to the house. This one is near the garage and the photo does not do justice to the sunlight on the leaves. They look absolutely golden but then I am looking into the sun when I see that.

The other tree is situated on the other side of the house and overhangs the clothes line. This tree looks as if it was struck by lightning at some point, there are scorch marks up one side of the trunk. The tree seems fine however. There is another tree in the front yard that has the same marks, it too is a maple.

The true red maples are now gone; apparently those are the sugar maples and they turn colour first. They were at their peak about three to four weeks ago and the leaves dropped off two weeks ago. Now the majority of the countryside looks yellow with the maples and birches and a soft apricot as the oak leaves change colour.

Yesterday I began planting daffodil bulbs. I have 100 of one type from Vesey's and another 60 or so coming with an order placed at the grandchildren's school. I put 20 bulbs in next to one of the hydrangeas on the far edge of the front yard. 


I dug out another section and removed the sod from it. But for the rest of the bulbs, I am going to plant them in a meandering path between the trees in the front yard. I think I have enough to do this.

And I planted 15 Glory of the Snow in the front of the bed with the foxgloves. These are pretty star-like blue flowers that are one of the first to poke through the melting snow in early spring. I have a sneaking suspicion that those foxgloves won't return, but there are plenty of other perennials to choose from next year if they don't come back.


                                             Image result for glory of the snow
                                           Glory of the snow - photo from

And in this bed, scattered throughout, I put 40 crocus. There are another 40 crocus to plant, haven't decided where those will go yet. One gardening reference says that deer eat crocus, another says that they are deer-resistant. We shall see.


And on the far right of this bed, I planted a dozen wood hyacinths, also known as Spanish bells. I had these in Halifax and they were lovely flowers and lasted several weeks.


This part of the bed gets some afternoon sunlight; the section with the Heuchera gets no direct light at all. It will be home to Solomon's Seal and some nice ferns next year. And pots of begonias should bring the bed some colour.

                                          Image result for wood hyacinth   
                                    Wood hyacinth - photo from

Friday, October 13, 2017

Finished this bed

I am done digging this bed. Even though it is only 12 degrees Celsius outside, I have broken a sweat doing this.

It now has the nice half moon shape that I was aiming for. And half of the bed has nothing in it, so it will be great to just plunk some flowering annuals into this next June.

In front of the boulder, I planted 10 iris reticulata.   Let's hope they don't look like little soldiers all in a row.            

These are dwarf iris that will be predominantly white with some blue and lime green accents.

Image result for planting iris reticulata bulbs

This is a view of the bed from one side. The darker mulch is simply wet as it was just applied.

The area without mulch is where I planted two iris rhizomes. The advice is not to cover this type of iris as it needs to be warmed by the sun in order to produce roots. I don't know how long this has in this zone; it will be pretty cold soon and I think it is going to need some coverage. Perhaps just some dry leaves will do until the snow blankets it.

This is the place where I want to see a lot of bright pink flowers. I would love to see something like supertunias bubble gum, but I think that might be a bit hopeful for this location as it only gets about 5 hours of direct sun. A better spot for these would be in the back yard where there are some spots with all day sunshine.

                    Image result for supertunias in part shade

Can you believe the above photo is of just one plant from a 4.5" nursery pot?  incredible, I will definitely have to get one of those next summer. Supertunia bubblegum from Proven Winners. It seems that almost every plant I bought this year came from Proven Winners. There is a fascinating video on YouTube that shows the main nursery in Michigan where shrubs are nurtured and grown prior to heading out to the smaller nurseries where we can buy them. Quite the operation. I have put a link at the bottom as it is fascinating to see how they grow and cultivate shrubs.

I will probably do better with impatiens if they are available next year. They have been very scarce the past two years as they have been hit by a blight. The New Guinea variety seem to be fine however and they are lovely. Another possibility is dianthus or commonly known as "pinks". Whatever the choice, it is going to be pink.

Video of Proven Winners Nursery

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Deer and more planting

I noticed yesterday that the deer had eaten a good part of the annabelle hydrangea and the viburnum that I planted in the back yard. I should have sprayed these with the deer repellent solution I bought at Dwight's.  But I thought, since the other hydrangea had remained unscathed, that these might be okay as well. But they are at the far edge of the back yard and that is where the deer run through regularly. I have seen their footprints in the soil near the plants. I bought something called Bobbex which stinks. You mix it one part to five parts of water and spray the foliage. Hopefully these two sorry plants will have enough left on them to give the roots what they need to grow before the cold winter sets in.

I continue to dig out the bed by the driveway, which is right next to the new neighbour's yard. My husband asked if I was sure that this was our property, it might be hers. I am pretty sure our line comes from the fire hydrant to the pole in the back corner, but the neighbour really shouldn't care as it is her garage that is on this side and she won't ever see this garden until she comes around with her mower.
Besides, it might actually please her to see flowers here close to her yard.

I am digging out the bed in a half moon shape. Just one more section to be dug after today. This is tiring work, digging up the sod and tossing them into the wheelbarrow, then banging off what earth can be salvaged. I then mixed the original soil with a bag of Compost Plus and put it back into the bed.

Next to the boulder (moved by Isaac and Sarah), I have planted Aronia Melanocarpe "Low Scape Mound" which is a new dwarf chokeberry. It is extremely hardy to zone 3 and will do well in half a day's sun. It grows to about 24" across by 16" high, which is a nice tidy size. It is a low-growing ground cover shrub with dark glossy green foliage in summer that turns an intense red in the fall. In late spring, it bears loads of white flowers that appear similar to hydrangea and these are followed in the fall with dark purple, almost black, berries.


This bed now has irises at the top edge, then three peonies marked by the sticks and this new aronia.

I still have one-third of the bed to dig and this will be left unplanted until next spring. I have a dozen iris riticulata to plant and I will cluster these next to the boulder. The warmth from that might bring them up early. I would love to see some soft pink flowers next to this boulder as well. Perhaps impatiens or petunias. Definitely this bed will be planted with annuals so that there is continuous colour throughout the summer. 

The excess soil was taken to the raised beds in the back yard. Slowly, slowly these beds are filling up. And it amazes me when I press down on them with my fingers, they are soft and spongy to the touch, and this is looking good to me for vegetables next summer.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Time for irises

Just before the Thanksgiving weekend, I got an order from Vesey's bulbs. I always feel such urgency to get everything planted, but I am sure that things will last a few days or a week till I get around to them.

Since we had company over the weekend, with 29 people for a Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday (great time and wonderful to see everyone), the plants would have to wait.

Yesterday, I enlisted the help of 7 year old Isaac and 5 year old Sarah to dig out a new bed for some bulbs. What we actually did was dig out a hole into which we then rolled this 300 pound rock. We had asked the guy who was preparing the lot next door if we could have one of the rocks that was dug up during their digging. He kindly brought the rock over and dumped it into a spot near a planned bed. But it landed wrong side up, in my opinion, and I wanted to roll it over. My husband strongly advised that I have a hole ready for it or it would roll on back over into the lot and there would be no moving it then.

Voila!  Isaac and Sarah were thrilled when we gave it the old heave-ho and over rolled the big boulder right into the hole we had dug for it.


The rock will be in the middle of a bed that should be filled up with perennials next summer. There will be pink flowers of some kind next to the rock, as I think that pink flowers next to a grey stone is so pretty. On the left is hydrangea jack cataraqui, which has just sent up two blossoms. And the top of the bed also has goat's beard and a pretty grass. The holes dug are for iris bulbs.

I put 3 bulbs into each hole for a total of 12 bulbs. These are blue and white irises and should grow to about 20-24" tall. They are planted about 4" deep and will be covered with mulch before the frost comes.

Next I planted two iris rhizomes in the same bed, between the goat's beard and the ornamental grass. These are iris germanica, a type of bearded iris. I love iris flowers, I think they are incredibly beautiful and these rhizomes are iris germanica in two shades of pink and purple. I know nothing about growing irises and I am hoping that YouTube is steering me in the right direction. I guess next year will tell.

I covered these with just a little soil as the recommendation is to have the rhizome close to the surface as it needs sunlight directly on it to flourish. I don't know how these will handle the winter freeze, but perhaps there will be lots of snow to protect them. And if they don't survive, then Vesey's will make more money out of me as I order more.

Plenty more digging to be done. I have daffodils, peonies, wood hyacinths, crocus and black eye susans. I also bought tulip bulbs which are loved by deer unfortunately. So I will try them in pots and over winter them in the garage. Then bring them out in the spring onto the steps or deck and see what happens. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Beautiful weather calls for shrubs

A quick trip to Home Hardware for some mushroom compost netted a new shrub - Viburnum trilobal, also known as American highbush cranberry. I didn't know that cranberries were viburnums, the things one comes to know when learning a new subject. Cranberries used to grow wild and cultivated in Nova Scotia; they seemed to thrive in the maritime climate and sea air.

I figured I should get as many shrubs into the garden as possible, since they form the bones of the whole endeavour. Flowering perennials and annuals can come later, but the shrubs need to get started if I want to see them get to any size within the next couple of years.

This is just tiny now, hopefully this location will be good for it. Viburnum can grow in any type of location from what I have read, but they do better in full sun. I was going to put it in the front yard on the perimeter between two birches, but then thought that it would be nice to see the flowers and berries in the back yard. And the fact that it will attract birds in the fall and winter is a great feature of this shrub.

So I have put it close to the black-eye susans; this spot gets full morning sun and filtered afternoon sun, then another hour of full sun at the close of the day. I was inspired to put it with the black-eye susans from this picture of Amy's magnificent garden.

Amy blogs at
She has one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen. And the fact that she lives in Wisconsin with a climate similar to ours here gives me hope that I can grow flowers like she does.

In reading about viburnums, I realised that these include the snowball bush that I recall from my childhood, a shrub that I never liked. But then I read that some species have the lacecap type flowers similar to climbing hydrangeas. This is my favourite flower at present and has been for a number of years, since I discovered them in Nova Scotia (where they thrive).

This is an image of the lace-cap type flower of viburnum - almost identical to climbing hydrangea. I think they are the most delicate flowers, they really do resemble fine lace. I hope that this viburnum that I planted will have this type of flower, but if it doesn't, I can adjust for sure. And the red berries will be delightful.

Image result for viburnum