I had to take this picture the other day at the nursery. I knew we were located in an affluent area, and that we attract people and gardeners from all over……but this looked like a Range Rover commercial was being filmed ! When I went back inside, I jokingly said in my loud voice ‘Would anyone NOT driving a Range Rover please leave’! The two or three customers there gave a nervous laugh and I reassured them that I was only kidding, as I also drive one !
December 11, 2014
October 21, 2014
I took this picture out at our farm in Langley to share all this beauty with you, my readers ! This (mid-October) time of year is spectacular ! A few of the 70 Acer rubrum (red maples) that I planted seven years ago are showing in this picture. The bright yellow tree is an old Catalpa bignoides , right in front of our little house. The very tall trees are ancient Douglas Firs, which can be seen from miles away. Eagles perch in the tops, but nest elsewhere. Some days there are amazing conversations in the sky between the eagles, which sound like someone playing musical spoons on drinking glasses .
September 2, 2014
The lovely annual vine Thunbergia alata is usually seen in its plain orange form. I found these rusty toned ones at another garden centre (!!!) and thought they might look good on my tripods in my veggie garden. They are growing like weeds ! I am relieved that they are only annuals ! The tripods add height to the overall picture, a bit of casual formality. Several of my dahlias show in the background.
It is now September, and my David Austin roses ‘Carding Mill’ are re-blooming beautifully. They are a soft apricot colour and smell terrific! I can detect their scent in the air as I walk by. A few different ground-covers are used to suppress weeds. The lime green Sedum ‘Angelina‘, a silver Artemisia ‘Silver Mound‘ and Woolly Thyme all do well in the full, hot sun that the roses also enjoy.
The hardy Cyclamens are starting to bloom. The older plants are producing masses of flowers under some tall trees. These are Cyclamen coum hybrids, that come in shades of pink, magenta and white. They are best left undisturbed, and will surprise you with self-sown babies in unexpected places (like the lawn). You can buy them now at our nursery for only $3.99 each!
September 1, 2014
I now only grow the tomato variety called ’SUNGOLD’. This is the result of the past seven years of having lots of space gobbled up by crummy,disappointing monster plants that produced hardly any fruit. Not any more! I am literally unable to pick all the delicious fruits this variety produces. They are the best tasting tomatoes ever! I attempted to ‘stake’ them, but it is impossible. I just let them scramble…. and they do. Fruit-laden branches are 10′ long, and still growing. So, next spring, either buy the seeds (we always have them) or a few plants (often sold out….) and you will become as big a fan of ‘SUNGOLD’ as I am.
August 20, 2014
Although our main garden is now out at the farm in Langley,B.C., Brent and I also love our centrally located Vancouver condo. It literally overhangs Van Dusen Botanical Gardens , separated only by a lake. The all-concrete building is very 70′s, with ridiculous amounts of space .We have two decks, one is 20′ x 20′ and is shown in these pictures. Every year, I like to experiment with colour, but not using flowers. Coleus steal the show (as usual) and are fed monthly with 20-20-20 dissolved in water and applied liberally. The orange Coleus is ‘Sedona’ , my favourite of them all. I don’t know the name of the reddish one with the toothed leaf edges. I am nuts about the small orange-flowered begonia. It is called ‘Sparks Will Fly’ and was new in 2013. It has silver-veined foliage and lots of tangerine blooms. This deck receives full sun all day long. It is also on the roof of the building and is very hot. The plants love it as long as I remember to water (by hand) every two days. The glass ‘icicles’ light up at night. They are available in many colours, and are $150.00 each with a 12 volt lamp inside, or $99.00 unlit.
The silver trailing plant in this urn and in my long planter is Dichondra. This is a must-have annual- I couldn’t garden without it. My chairs are by Fermob, the famous French patio furniture company. This model is called ‘Luxembourg’, and available at Southlands Nursery.
Above: Begonia ‘Sparks Will Fly’ , with Coleus ‘Sedona’
I love the large-leaved ‘Dusty Miller’ variety ‘Cirrus’, with its bolder, simpler white leaves. It lives through the winters here. I cut it back hard, to encourage fresh, clean growth. It breaks up all the orange with sharp, contrasting blocks of white. The evergreens in the background are in Van Dusen Gardens.
August 8, 2014
In 2012, I decided to recreate (out at the farm) a vision I’d seen in a French magazine. It was a sunny slope, entirely planted in Lavender. I chose the variety called ‘Hidcote Superior’ because it has done very well for me elsewhere on our farm property. It is a showier dark blue than most other varieties. It clips well and blooms for two months or more. I hired a ‘soil blowing’ company to place 60 yards of topsoil in the area where the old sod had been removed. This took a couple hours to do, and saved a few people’s backs from a severe workout !
The soil is delivered under strong pressure and can be directed anywhere. I wanted it about 8″deep.
I thought planting on an angle would look more interesting than just straight across. This string gizmo was very handy!
The tall grass is Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’. I thought it would make a good backdrop for the lavender, and a segue into the lawn area. It is totally drought tolerant and carefree.
July 26, 2014
When I noticed my friend/soul-mate /separated-at-birth fellow garden entrepreneur Deborah Silver of Detroit Garden Works blogged about this amazing dahlia on her amazing blog ‘Dirt Simple’ (check it out !!!),I felt I had been scooped !! I’ve grown it for a few years, and now grow it as a cut flower for one chic florist shop (not my own ex-shop…) in Vancouver. Last fall I saved ONE seed head (dead flower, really) and scrounged 34 seeds from it. The seeds are dried skinny little husks that look impossibly dead. They are darker than the ‘chaff’ , which is pale tan colour and fairly easy to distinguish. I planted the seeds in March in my heated greenhouse, and planted the individual seedlings into 4″ pots. In May I planted them out at our farm in my dahlia patch……very excited to see what children of such a gorgeous and unique Mommy would look like. Now it is July and they are all blooming. CRAZY !!!! Not one looks anything like Mommy ! None are cream or white . They are mostly orange or red. Some are Cactus-types ! A couple are fantastic and I will hang onto them. One is a twisted bronze-purple with orange reverse, one is very dark red mini-cactus on a 6′ plant. Who was Daddy??? I guess this shows that bees are little tramps who visit the neighbour’s dahlias, too. One seedling is a 12″ bush of soft orange and yellow flowers – nothing close to anything in my collection. What this has shown me is how special Cafe au Lait really is. There isn’t another dahlia in this colour range, period. At some point in the past, it, too, was a first-bloom seedling, somewhere. The gardener or hybridiser must have been spellbound by its beauty, and wisely introduced it to the world. We will have the tubers again, next spring - the best $4.00 you will ever spend !
Here are some pictures of the children of Cafe au Lait ! It is hard to believe….but true! It kind of reminds me of my own family!
July 7, 2014
‘Faux Bois’ is a French term meaning ‘False Wood’ , and is a bit of a lost art . I bought this pair of wonderful antique planters at an auction in Philadelphia, and had them shipped to me in Vancouver. The shipping cost as much as I paid for planters (!!!) , but they are very unique and worth it! They are very heavy, being made of concrete. I have long admired the wonderful, handmade faux bois railings used everywhere in Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C. There are garden benches, birdbaths, seats, bird cages and garden bridges made in this charming style. Look online at auctions to find ‘faux bois’ pieces. Don’t let Martha Stewart get them all !
The ‘arms’ of my stumps each were deliberately partially blocked with styrofoam chunks to prevent soil from washing down the middle.
The colours and forms of the Sempervivums really look great when displayed this dramatically. They need virtually no care, live through the coldest winters and have replaced tender succulents like Echeverias in my garden creations. I added a couple ‘Woolly Thyme’ (Thymus pseudolanguinosis) to the top openings in each stump. I like the shaggy tumble of grey foliage this plant makes when grown in pots.
July 5, 2014
The roof replacement at the Bloedel Conservatory atop Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver is almost completed. It is two months ahead of schedule, and there was a party there the other night to celebrate! What an incredible job they have done. Invited guests were alowed to climb up on the scaffolding (with help) and see upclose just what is being done. The acrylic ‘bubbles’ are each being replaced . The new bubbles are so clear that I worry about foliage burning inside the dome. The cloudy haze of the old bubbles did filter out a lot of sun…., which tropical plants prefer.
I don’t like heights, and only made it up half way. The entire job cost 2.4 million dollars. In Vancouver – speak, that is only 1/10th of a bike lane.
You can see just how clear the bubbles are once their protective plastic coating is peeled off . The same local company that made the originals also made the new ones.
Entertainment was provided by the ‘rope guys’ who were amazing. They came down dripping in sweat, as it is very hot up there.
Although very tempted….. I decided not to go up on the rope harness. I need to stick around for our big bash in September,where we will be having a big public celebration of the saving of the conservatory . This is going to be called ‘WE DID IT!’ – A Bubble Bash ! A celebration of the successful campaign of the people of Vancouver to save this special place from closure. If YOU live in a city ( like Seattle!!) where there is a real threat to close your greenhouse/conservatory , DON’T just sit there. Raise Hell !- it works!
July 2, 2014
A statutory holiday like Canada Day (July 1st) means an extra day off to millions of Canadians, including me. I did lots of hand watering out at our farm, and remembered to have my camera nearby. This clump of Japanese Iris , Iris ensata, was planted about four years ago as a bare root single division. I am going to find out the name of this cultivar and add it to this posting , I promise. Our second family of baby ducks has arrived. There are about twelve adorable ducklings hovering around their mother, but I missed them today.Stay tuned !
Hydrangea aspera ‘Plum Passion’ is a recent introduction from Dan Hinkley/Monrovia Nursery. I was very very very excited when Dan emailed me a photo of the original cuttings he took of this selection. Now it thrives in my woodland garden in Langley.Nobody thought it would be hardy, but it sure is. The purple-tinged new foliage is a knockout ! In only two years it has reached 6′ x 6′ . It seems very happy in semi-shade and moist soil.
Our man-made lake drains into this little creek, which was already there. I started planting it, including all the Skunk Cabbages (Lysichiton americanum) only one year ago. I finally acquired a few plants of the much rarer white- flowered Skunk Cabbage, (Lysichiton camschatensis) by grovelling, begging, extorting from the few people I knew who had some.This was my # 1 most wanted plant. I hope the yellows and the whites will hybridize and create some dreamy, creamy children. I saw these at Beth Chatto’s influential and humbling garden in England years ago, and my brain never got over them! Other moisture-loving perennials planted here include Darmera peltata and different types of Rodgersia, Primula, and a nice dark-leafed Actaea (Cimicifuga) ‘Hillside Black Beauty’.
Seedlings of ’candlabra-type’ primula are popping up by the thousand ! Mother Nature knows exactly how to do this…. I couldn’t get germination like this if I tried ! I am plucking out little clumps and planting them in moist shady spots all around our lake.