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Drawing from life in the yard

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Grape Updates

Posted by on Jul 14, 2015 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Gardens, Inspiration, West Coast |

Last year I launched a project to redesign our backyard.  We built a pergola and afterwards, I planted grapes on the corner posts as I documented in this blog post.  About fourteen months later I think it’s time for some grape updates.

Here’s how things looked when we last left you:

Baby Grape Pic

And here’s where we are today:

Grape Updates II

 

Grape Update

 

No grapes to date, but maybe next year!

We’ve moved the currants from the back fence and used them as a shield from the walk by traffic.  Ian cut out the sod and laid some beautiful stones, to which we’ve added some creeping thyme.  We’ve also added three smallish trees that provide wonderful perches for our resident bird populations.  We’ve had a very dry summer here, so our hanging baskets have suffered a bit.

So how about you?  Any summer backyard projects?

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Spring: Celebrate Life in the Garden

Spring: Celebrate Life in the Garden

Posted by on Apr 2, 2015 in Backyard, Flowers, Gardens, Inspiration, Spring, West Coast |

Spring has sprung. While much of the rest of Canada still digs out and thaws from its deep winter freeze, west coast gardens have busted through. We’ve sprinted through the early spring blooms with colourful rapidity, leaving cherry blossom petals as the only white stuff on the ground here. Our Crocuses were drawn from the early February mud by days of unusual sunshine that has also lured us outside to enjoy them. Tall Daffodils created their own helioclimes of warm yellow. Now Tulips and Bleeding Hearts paint away the brown of winter landscaping. It’s no surprise that many of these harbingers of spring grow from bulbs, planted long before. It’s the best time to celebrate life in the garden.

Cherry Blossoms

But when we planted those bulbs in the autumn, it was hard to know how things would turn out. Should we plant in blocks or patterns? Will they bloom this time? We dig and dream. The energy stored within these little bulbs provides the biological drive: a life force that defies our long dark winters and often bitter cold. We tidy up the stems a bit after they bloom, but the floppy leaves do most of the work to return nutrients to the bulbs for next year.

Daffodils

And they come back. Even though the winter garden appears razed to the ground, first a little leaf unfurls and before long a whole plant bursts into bloom; each according to its own rhythm, a symphony of colour played slowly over the spring and summer months.

Bleeding Hearts

So it is in spring that I am struck by the faith and wonder of gardening. It’s a faith in nature and the universe that after getting progressively darker every day for six months, everything turns and slowly and gradually, we see more light. To reward our faith, we are trothed the gift of colour.

Planter Colour

We also have the stick of a Rhododendron newly planted in our yard. Its parent lives on the Sumas prairie: a giant bush whose branches became so heavy, this one dropped to kiss the ground. Uncle Neil selected a few most likely to succeed for us. His plant in turn had come from the family property in New Westminster where they were all born and grew up in the teens and twenties of the last century. They lost the house in the Crash, but transplanted their home by way of Rhododendrons, Snowdrops and rhubarb when they moved. In our turn, we’ve also drawn from them, to help us make our homes. They have been part of our shared hope to make things better–but we also don’t forget how tough it can be.

Transplanted Rhododendron

Uncle Neil died in February.

We’ve lost his loving presence, his curiosity and deep knowledge of the people and world around him. But we’re grateful that he’ll live on in our gardens.

Snowdrops

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Frosted Fall Gardens

Frosted Fall Gardens

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 in Backyard, Flowers, Front Yard, Gardens |

We’ve had a hard frost here in Vancouver most mornings this week.  The cold has freeze-dried the plants in the garden and finished off most of my annuals.  I got out last weekend to catch the shapes and colours of my frosted fall garden.

Twists of Japanese Blood Grass

Twists of Japanese Blood Grass

I couldn’t resist the look of the Japanese Blood Grass this morning.  It’s leaves must feel like my super dry hands this week as the cold sucks the moisture from my skin.  Happily my fingers haven’t curled up like these leaves–yet!

Siberian Bugloss

Siberian Bugloss

I’ve raved about my Siberian Bugloss before.  It’s the first of my hosta-type plants to re-emerge in the spring and it’s the last to die off.  It’s a great add to any shady garden for its beautiful variegated leaves and whimsical blue flowers.  It may even bounce back from this frost depending on the weather in the next few weeks.

Organic Symmetry

Organic Symmetry

This plant is normally a taller, but has given way to the cold.  I don’t know what it is called, but brought a little of it over from Point Roberts where it seemed to thrive under the tall Hemlock Firs (which my neighbour also has along the property line).  It has very pretty pink and white blossoms in the summer.

Chickadee Chats

Chickadee Chats

This guy was hanging out with me in the yard this morning.  Obviously really happy that I had refilled the feeder!

Nearly Headless Marigolds

Nearly Headless Marigolds

Yes, the frost took it’s toll on the annuals.  Still robust last weekend, they have bowed to their fate.

Leafy Lettuce

Leafy Lettuce

I’m not sure that the texture of this lettuce would be very palatable now.  I wonder if it might rebound once the rains return.  It does seem to like this sunny spot in the garden.

Free Dried Japanese Maple Leaves

Free Dried Japanese Maple Leaves

The leaves on my Japanese Maple were incredible this morning.  It reminded me of picture of frozen waves from Lake Superior last year.  It’s like they curled around the wind that blew so hard this week and froze in place.

IMG_2603

The cheerful pink of these plants has finally faded, but the Crocosmia have retained their orange hue.

Well, I had left a bunch of plants in the ground, because it shame to pull them up while they were still blooming.  These heavy frosts have definitely dealt them a death blow and set up one last weekend of work before I start my winter rest from the garden.  I’ve really loved my garden this year.  How about you?  Any special victories in your yard?

 

 

 

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My Autumnal Garden

My Autumnal Garden

Posted by on Oct 25, 2014 in Backyard, Front Yard, Gardens |

I just got home from a long business trip and couldn’t wait to see how my garden had fared my absence.  That night we had a terrible wind storm and pounding rain.  The next day, we awoke to uprooted trees and even more heavy rains.  I was really happy then, when all of a sudden, the sun burst out on Thursday afternoon.  The greens seemed greener and the remaining pinks and oranges popped.  I rushed outside to snap a few pictures of my autumnal garden.

Dahlias Returned to Beauty

Dahlias Returned to Beauty

Well, in my absence and with all the rains, my Dahlias were looking a little bedraggled.  With a few snips and the deadheads removed, my huge Dahlia pot was returned to a state of beauty.  It was my bargain this fall.  I picked up two for fifteen dollars at West Coast Gardens!

Pot of Lettuce

Pot of Lettuce

I have to say, it doesn’t look like my lettuce minded all the rain.  It is one of the joys of gardening here in Vancouver that we can plant a second crop in the fall, then barring a heavy frost or prolonged cold, we can feed from our gardens in to the New Year.

Summer Blossoms and Autumn Offerings

Summer Blossoms and Autumn Offerings

I can’t believe that these summer flowers are still threatening to crowd my autumn kale, but  I really love how the colours go together!

Irises now well past their prime

Irises now well past their prime

It looks as though my Irises are ready to call it a year.  Their wretched condition made me wonder if we’d gotten some really cool weather while we were away. Time for some garden clean up.

Black Eyed Susans, now little more than black eyes

Black Eyed Susans, now little more than black eyes

My Black Eyed Susans clearly need a good deadheading, but there is a delicious creepiness to their fuzzy black eyes, especially with Halloween around the corner.

Pinky Winky Hydrangea in Autumnal Hues

Pinky Winky Hydrangea in Autumnal Hues

My transplanted Pinky Winky Hydrangea is clearly much happier in its new location.  I’m tickled by its ethereal colouring.

IMG_2345

My row of hostas in the back underneath the neighbours fir trees have clearly made the transition into fall.  They seem to have entered a living dead, zombie state whereupon they have started to decompose but remain standing.  I do appreciate the pop of yellow to provide contrast to wall of green.

Fiery Blueberry Bushes

Fiery Blueberry Bushes

With all the blueberry farms around Vancouver now, one of my favourite things is to drive by at this time of year and see rows upon rows of the fiery red leaves. I consider myself lucky to have a few in my own backyard too.

 

How has your garden been faring with all the rain and autumn weather?  Have you already cleared your summer plants or are you happy to let nature take its course?  We’d love to hear from you.  Share your photos here on our website, on our Facebook Page or via our Twitter Feed.

Happy Autumn!

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It’s our Day! It’s our Special Day! Garden Sketch App Launch

It’s our Day!  It’s our Special Day! Garden Sketch App Launch

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Flowers, Front Yard, Garden Design, Garden Sketch, Gardening Apps, Gardens, Inspiration, iPad App |

The long wait is over.  After much fussing, planning and worrying it is finally time for the Garden Sketch App launch!  It is now available for iPads in the App Store.  Click here to download.  Garden Sketch will be free for the next few weeks, after which the price will be set to $3.99.  So download it now!

Use Garden Sketch to map your yard with the house, sheds, existing trees and gardens, then create new plans of future garden designs.  There are preset logos for plants, shrubs and trees in three sizes and different colours.  There is also the option of straight or freehand lines and freehand shapes to define spaces.  You can easily add notes to create plant lists.   Export your designs to email or social media platforms as screen grabs or pdfs.

Garden Sketch has a quick and an easy learning curve, but also has plenty of subtlety.  As your skill improves and the designs get better and better and you can fine tune the details.  We’ve found that working with a Stylus really helps to get nice lines and precise plant placement.

Autumn is a great time to use Garden Sketch.  Your garden is still beautiful and full of summer colour.  Use Garden Sketch to record all the plants in your garden and get a head start on your ideas for next year’s plans.

Send your comments and questions to me via email to maija[at]gardensketchapp.com.

Thanks to Jane for sending us this design!  Feel free to share your plans on our Facebook page or with us on Twitter – @GardenSketchApp.  Stay tuned, for a contest with prizes!

Garden Sketch Plan

Garden Sketch Plan

We’ll have a series of posts over the next few weeks with tips for you to get the most from Garden Sketch.

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Bush Beans A-Plenty

Bush Beans A-Plenty

Posted by on Aug 20, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Gardens, Recipe, Vegetable Gardens |

In addition to the joy I get from my flower gardens, I love being able to go into my own yard and pick vegetables for dinner.  One of the easiest things that I have found to grow are Bush Beans.  Unlike pole beans they do not require any special structures. They grow about 30 cm high and produce lots and lots of beans.  If you are very organized, it is worth planting new batches about every two weeks so you spread out your harvest and you can enjoy fresh beans for a month or six weeks. The big caveat with beans is that they are best planted when the soil is warm, so I waited until nearly June to plant my first crop.

Last year I purchased this package of tricoloured seeds.  Of course you can tell from the seeds whether you can expect yellow, green or purple beans.

Bush Bean Seeds

Bush Bean Seeds

I planted the seeds in front of a south facing fence that received full sun.  The seeds sprouted within ten days.

Bean Sprouts

Bean Sprouts

They grew with little intervention on my part, save having run the weeping hose down the middle to water them most days.

Young Beans Plants (about 4 weeks)

Young Beans Plants (about 4 weeks)

Then about six weeks or so, they began to flower.  They really filled in the empty spaces in my garden quite nicely with a beautiful green ground cover.

Beans a-blooming

Beans a-blooming

At about nine weeks, we were able to begin harvesting.  I think I might have planted them a little too close together, but they seemed to do alright.

Thick with Bush Beans

Thick with Bush Beans

I was able to harvest at least three times from these plants.  The results were beautifully colourful.  The purple ones are my favourite.

Tricoloured Bush Beans in Yellow, Green and Purple

Tricoloured Bush Beans in Yellow, Green and Purple

What to do with all those beans, especially if you plant multiple times?  Bush beans seem to freeze well and I was able to share lots with the office.  My all time favourite recipe though is for spicy Szechuan Green Beans courtesy Gwendolyn Richards of the Calgary Herald.  It smells amazing when you fry up all my favourite things: garlic, ginger in some sesame oil, then topped off with some toasted sesame seeds.

Spicy Szechuan Beans

Spicy Szechuan Beans

Interestingly, the purple beans turn a shade of green when sautéed this way.  Enjoy!

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