Garden Sketch

Drawing from life in the yard

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Gardening as an Act of Creation

Gardening as an Act of Creation

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in Backyard, Flowers, Front Yard, Garden Design, Gardens, Inspiration |

I’ve always brought green things into my life.  My first year of university, I bought a plant so I could share my boarding house room with another living thing.  I always pulled the weeds and planted annuals in the gardens of our rental houses, but it has been here in this house that gardening has become an act of creation.

Breaking it down, I would say that I garden for three reasons: beauty, to create spaces and joy. The beauty piece is self evident.  It’s why we buy tulips on those grey days when winter seems in its final convulsive fits.  Beauty seems like a luxury in tough times but it is also very powerful.  Beauty draws us in and brings us closer.  And as fleeting as it seems, it connects us with the human condition as Robert Frost once said, “Nothing gold can stay.” Wandering my yard, I have realized that what gardens do is create spaces, like small acts of architecture.  As someone walks by on the sidewalk, they are invited into the space created by the ridiculously cheerful wall of Black Eyed Susans.  I’ve watched the smiles come over their faces as they reach out to check if the flowers are real.

The front sidewalk

The front sidewalk

On the other side of the same garden bed, there is a completely separate space–one that is shared with the people invited into my home.  It’s a view that is private and separate from that public facade.

The Other Side of the Garden

The Other Side of the Garden

In the backyard, the cute low fence keeps the dogs in, but still grants a view.  Here the pergola gives us a place to site our deck chairs as we enjoy the coolness of the evening.  With a few bird feeders, we’ve also created a space for creatures to visit.  The chickadees, juncos, finches and sparrows hover and flit, filling the space with life.  Our most welcomed guest is the Rufous hummingbird, who always exits the yard with an acrobatic flourish. IMG_0874 When we create these spaces for beauty in our lives, we can’t help but create joy.  I feel it as I sit here in the early morning scribbling my words.  I know it as I putter, watering my charges and pulling weeds.  I indulge myself as I daydream about the plants I will add next year.  The beauty of the garden is a luxury, but there are precious few things that we can do that bring us such joy.

What about you?  Why do you love to garden?

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Introducing Garden Sketch

Posted by on Jul 24, 2014 in Do it Yourself, Flowers, Garden Design, Garden Sketch, Gardens | 1 comment

The Front Garden

The Front Garden

My quest to build a gardening App began two years ago. We had finished landscaping the yard at my new house. The lawn and garden beds were beautiful, but empty. I knew I had to get started but I had no idea how. It was classic blank page syndrome.

Front Yard Blank Slate

Front Yard Blank Slate

As I stared at my property from the sidewalk, I thought, “There must be an App for that!”  It’s exciting to be here a couple of years later and be introducing Garden Sketch, our flower gardening App.

At the time, I visited out the App store looking for something to simplify the job of mapping my yard so that I could plan what to plant. To my great surprise, there weren’t any. There were encyclopedias and ‘look books’, gardening magazines and weird photo Apps, which would allow you to take a picture and then paste pictures of plants into your garden on top.  Nothing to help me map the yard and then make a good plan for a flower garden.  There were lots of functional Apps to lay out vegetables gardens, complete with tips about how to grow carrots and lettuce. I was interested in planning flowers gardens. Vegetables would come later.

In the absence of a technological solution, I reverted to pencil and paper and got started.

Rough Sketch August 2012

Rough Sketch August 2012

We planted a Japanese Maple and added in the Shasta Daisies. I had loved the cheerful Black-Eyed Susans all summer, so I lined the sidewalk with them. It seemed like a couple of Smoke Bushes would add a wide brush stroke of colour to compliment the Maple, so those went in as well.   We planted in September and then we waited. Unsure how anything would look the next summer. It has been all trial and error, but I am happy with the way things have come along.

As I was moving through this process, I began talking to other people, friends and neighbours, but most understood and seemed excited about the idea of doing their garden planning work on an iPad. So I approached Todd and Tylor from Denim and Steel about what it would take to actually build what I imagined in my head. This past winter we applied for and received funding from Creative BC for the purposes of building a working prototype of what has become Garden Sketch.

With a cash infusion, we’ve begun construction. This past Thursday night we shared an Alpha vesion (early days!) with a small group and they got to play with the App and provide feedback to what we’ve built so far.

Alpha Testing Team for Garden Sketch

Alpha Testing Team for Garden Sketch

Our testers had a short steep curve to get started by learning how to use the App. They quickly go the hang of it and were soon calling out suggestions, especially to brighten the colours and the thickness of lines. Our older eyes are rather unforgiving. Here are some of the maps and designs they produced.

Alpha Tester's First Garden Sketch

Alpha Tester’s First Garden Sketch

I’m afraid our Todd from our tech team has thumped us all with his beautiful plan of what his perfect yard would look like.

toddsieling_2014-Jul-19

 

Coming soon? Water features.

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The Quest for a Perfect Rhubarb Pie

Posted by on Jul 16, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Gardens, Inspiration, Recipe | 4 comments

Summer Flavour

Summer Flavour

The joys of summertime in Canada are the flavours that burst from the earth as soon as the ground warms and the snows melt away.  My all-time favourite flavour growing up was my Mummo’s homemade rhubarb pie.  I haven’t had a slice in nearly thirty years but I can still imagine its tanginess tickling my tongue.

Recently, I set out on a mini quest to try and recreate the culinary marvel of my childhood.  It was not like the rhubarb pie that you’d buy from the bakery at the grocery store, deep and puffy.  The profile of her pies were quite low, probably about 10 cm or so.   The filling was more like a rhubarb puré.  The texture was very smooth and did not have the stringiness we usually associate with rhubarb.

With this is mind, I turned to the internet and posted a query on Reddit.  In response, a generous gentleman posted a recipe he had from an old cookbook.  I decided to give it a try, figuring that if nothing else I would have a baseline to work with in my quest to recreate Mummo’s delicious pie.

Crazily, I chose Canada Day, July 1st to launch the experiment.  It was record breakingly hot day here in White Rock and I harvested the stocks of rhubarb from my back fence.

Rhubarb: easy  to grow and delicious

Rhubarb: easy to grow and delicious

Thank goodness for my granite counter tops that day as I rolled out the dough.  It kept things cool enough that the crust didn’t stick too much.

Rolling the Crust

Rolling the Crust

I learned to make my pie crust from our family friend Sylvia Rukkila.  Her secret, which she learned in turn from her father, was to replace the one cup of shortening called for on the Crisco box with equal parts shortening, butter and margarine.  I’ve always found this to make a wonderfully flaky crust.

The filling recipe shared with me by le127 on Reddit called for:

*4 cups cut rhubarb pieces

*1 2/3 cup sugar

*1/3 cup flour

*1/8 tsp salt

Mix together and let stand 15 minutes. Fill pie shell, dot with 2 tbsp butter and apply top crust. Bake 40 min @ 400F.

With all the ingredients added, I topped it with dabs of butter as required.  Would this be the secret ingredient?

Is this the secret, dabs of butter?

Is this the secret, dabs of butter?

Then added the top crust and fluted the edges.

Rhubarb Pie with fluted crust

Rhubarb Pie with fluted crust

As the temperature rose inside the house, I could have baked the pie on the counter, but the air was filled with aroma of baking rhubarb.

The pie looked beautiful.

Rhubarb Pie: fresh from the oven

Rhubarb Pie: fresh from the oven

My son and I enjoyed a slice à la mode, and it was very tasty.   However, it was not quite the same as Mummo’s.  Next time I’ll try a little less rhubarb and try to grate it to get it really fine.  My quest for the perfect rhubarb pie recipe continues.

Rhubarb Pie à la mode

Rhubarb Pie à la mode

How about you?  Ay secret tips for an amazing rhubarb pie?  I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Tentative Gardener

Posted by on Jul 9, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Garden Design, Gardens |

Very few things are permanent in my garden.  I plant them, stare for a while (sometimes for a couple of years) before making a change.  I guess I’m something of a tentative gardener.  I need my plants to be hardy enough to sustain a move or two.  I suppose the best way to avoid this problem is to make a good plan.  Unfortunately, however, sometimes I fall in love with plants at the nursery and have to find a place for them when I get home.  Other times I second guess myself and must reverse the initial decision.  Finally, there are the times when I just realize that the plant just needs a better home.

Let me give you a few examples.  I really love what Proven Winners has done in the last few years.  You can buy a set of four to six plants to create your own beautiful containers and hanging baskets.  I bought this white set and added the Heliotrope to the centre for a bit of colour and some height. As the plants grew in, it looked ok, but not perfect, at least in my mind.

Container Garden Original

Container Garden Original

So I replaced the purple with a bit of Japanese Blood Grass that I had in another pot.  This is how that looked:

Container Gardening Take 2

Container Gardening Take 2

I think I really like the difference in height better.

Check out the side garden in my back yard the first summer after I set my hostas.  The was a fun exercise the autumn before.  Having spent so much money on landscaping, I then pillaged Ian’s and my friend Debbie’s garden for donations.

Stater Hosta Bed

Stater Hosta Bed

As I stared at my garden over the next summer, I decided that the lack of symmetry, was making me a little crazy, so I decided to move the large hosta from the front row to a position in the far right corner.  I also decided to split the Siberian Bugloss in the middle which had really begun to spread this spring.

The garden looks more balanced now.  It benefits from the symmetry, and of course the additions I have made.

Hosta Bed Makeover

Hosta Bed Makeover

There are risks.  My Siberian Bugloss looked rather limp for about six weeks after I made the move. I had split this chunk off to create a third patch.  Siberian Buglosses have become one of my perennial favourites.  It is one of the first plants to emerge in the spring and then literally explodes with tiny blue flowers reminiscent of forget me nots.  With a little prune, their variegated leaves have a metallic sheen for the rest of the summer and last long into our temperate winters.

Traumatized Siberian Bugloss

Traumatized Siberian Bugloss

I needn’t have worried.   With six weeks of gentle rehabilitation, my Siberian Bugloss had made a nice recovery.

Rehabilitated Siberian Bugloss

Rehabilitated Siberian Bugloss

There are lessons of course.  For me anything I bring into the yard will have to be hardy and bear with me as I find the ideal spot.  This may mean a couple of moves, but that is the way of the tentative gardener.

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Summer Joy: Daisy Explosion

Posted by on Jul 1, 2014 in Flowers, Gardens, Inspiration |

Happy Canada Day everyone!

I always feel like summer is like riding a roller coaster.  During May and June we are chugging up those wooden tracks the days getting longer and longer.  Then on July 1st it is a huge whoosh! and before we know it, the days rush by getting shorter and shorter and it will be September again.  The past couple of mornings have been warm enough to head out onto my deck with a cup of tea and my notebook to write my morning pages.  I love the quiet and being able to look out over the yard.  I hope you have a special place to enjoy this summer weather too.

Today I thought I would share a some pictures that capture that pop of colour from one day to the next.  Over the last couple of weeks or so my Shasta Daisies have burst forth in a daisy explosion. It’s pure summer joy.

Shasta Daisy Ready to Burst

Shasta Daisy Ready to Burst

I love wandering the garden in the coolness of the evening, keeping an eye on things and predicting when the will bloom.

It happens in the blink of a yellow eye.

Shasta Daisy Full Glory

Shasta Daisy Full Glory

There is something about these daisies that can’t help but make you feel cheerful.  I recommend them for a sunny garden.  They are low maintenance and bloom for about six weeks or so, although they do need to be deadheaded to keep the plant looking perky.

Shasta Daisy Riot of Cheerfulness

Shasta Daisy Riot of Cheerfulness

Coming up next: a wall of Black Eyed Susans.

IMG_0479

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