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Drawing from life in the yard

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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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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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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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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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Grapes for my Pergola

Posted by on Jun 17, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Inspiration | 2 comments

My Backyard Now

My Backyard Now

On of my goals for the backyard was to make the space more usable.  The back deck off the house is nice, but is in the shade after about 3 pm.  Since we’re so close to the ocean, it can be a little chilly sitting there.  So, I had our handy handyman Chris build a Pergola.  I’m still not sure how we’ll use it yet, but I made it big enough for a six person rectangular table, but also lovely for just a couple of Muskoka chairs or maybe a hammock, should I find the right one.  The structure was very nice when stained, and I was ready for phase two, which was to plant some grapes for my Pergola.

So I picked up three grape plants from a local shop.  I decided on one green and two red grape plants.  Then proceeded to dig up my lovely grass.

Breaking Ground for Grapes

Breaking Ground for Grapes

The instructions I found recommended digging a hole 12″ x 12″ and 12″ deep.

I worked into my wheelbarrow so I didn’t have to pile dirt on the grass.

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

I had read that it was a good idea to fill the bottom of the hole with compost, so you can see the lovely black stuff here:

Compost in the Hole

Compost in the Hole

I added the grape plant and used some of the soil from the wheelbarrow to top it off.

IMG_0273

 

Here’s how things looked when I was done.  I can’t wait to have them climbing the posts.  I’ve read it could take two or three years to get grapes, so I’ll have to be patient.

Three Grapes in the Ground

Three Grapes in the Ground

Do you have grapes in your yard?  What do you do with them, snacks or beverages?  Be sure to send us a picture.  We’d love to see your vines!

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Garden Inspiration

Posted by on Jun 9, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Garden Design, Gardens, Inspiration | 2 comments

 

 

Inspiration

Inspiration

 

 

This whole project (meaning this particular yard and everything that has flowed from it) began two years ago when I purchased my home. The guy I bought it from had renovated much of the inside but had not tackled any of the outdoor work and it was in very sad shape.  We were in need of some garden inspiration.

 

My Backyard when we Moved In

My Backyard when we Moved In

Yes, the backyard was particularly bad.

 

Backyard from under Deck

 

I was horrified by the quote we received from a landscaper for leveling, sodding the yard and putting in the garden beds. My partner Ian, who had done similar work on his own homes in the past, figured he was up for the task. It took us about six weeks over the summer of 2012, but slowly the yard and gardens took shape.

Here’s a little peek at how far we have come:

 

My Backyard Now

My Backyard Now

 

Through this blog, I am hoping to share some of the projects and decisions we’ve undertaken along the way: both for the build and the day-to-day yard work.

I don’t have any special training. Most of what I do is by trial and error, relying on suggestions and advice from friends and professionals, in person and online. If there is a better way, let me know. I am open to it.

My end goal is the desire to recapture a space like my grandmother’s yard when I was a kid. She had immigrated from Finland in 1930. When I was growing up, she and my grandfather owned a small two bedroom house in a Toronto suburb. The yard had a raised platform for her to hang the laundry and for us to launch our adventures. A traditional Finnish swing that had been built by my maternal grandfather could serve as a car, train or airplane depending on our journey. Privacy was ensured by the lilac hedges that ran the property line and tucked underneath were tiny lilies of the valley.  No place smelled better during May.

She also had a round perennial garden with purple and yellow Violas juxtaposed against some tiny white flowers a little like Alyssium but which returned every year. Behind the garage she had a small vegetable patch where she would grow carrots, English cucumbers and rhubarb. My grandmother always had a four gallon pail filled with clean water beside the garden so we could rinse our freshly picked carrots before we ate them. The whole yard was dominated though by a huge cherry tree.  For a few weeks every year, we would climb onto the garage roof and eat our fill, gorging on summer goodness.

When we were sent outside to play, this yard marked the passage of time in flashes of colour, scents and tastes.

As I talk to people about the gardens and gardening, it seems like everyone has a similar story.  We are all drawn to a personal Eden: sunny summer days that we hope to recapture and share with a new generation. We do it in different ways and in different places from our original Edens, but they prove satisfying nonetheless.

Every week, I will publish some successes and failures from my garden and share the stories I collect from others. I am hoping to post lots of pictures and harvest a few tips.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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