Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Six cool birdhouses for a cold day

Adorable multicoloured green roof seen at Joy Creek Nursery near Portland
Winter 2015 is for the birds – and so are these nifty birdhouses. That's just about all I have to say on this record-setting-cold-streak, Almost-Wordless Wednesday. Except: Enjoy!

Give your fine feathered friends the licence to move in. This great recycle even looks like the roof is InsulBrick – a good grippy texture for itinerant mosses. Seen at Bella Madrone near Portland OR.
Charming Quebecois-style red roof in a Quebec garden. Strangely, it reminds me of a cartoon character. Maybe Pogo.
(Do you see faces in everything, too? It's called pareidolia.)
Rather swish abode for an avian family in Pittsburgh PA
This zigzag bird condo in an east Toronto garden looks like something from Dr. Seuss. I think I like it, Sam I Am.
Ceramic birdhouses by Kennedy Creek Pottery were spied at Joy Creek. The green one followed me home.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

We interrupt this winter to bring you… colour

Colour as punctuation: a bold blast marks a point of entry and a transition between levels
Bet you're as fed-up-to-the-teeth as we are with February 2015's relentless, white-on-white colour scheme. Let's think colourful thoughts, shall we? Have a looksee at the inspiring ways this Portland garden has used colour – Colour! Remember what that is? – to try in the (hopefully) near future.

How's this for a utility area? This is a blast of colour, for sure, but good planning means it holds together.
For example, when I look at how colour elements are placed in this design, I see many interlocking triangles like the ones I've drawn. It moves my eye around the composition yet creates a sense of balance – even with a bright palette like this. Try it yourself now with the picture just before this one. How many triangles (or zigzags) do you see?
Colour repetition: chartreuse is repeated here in grasses and chairs; browns and rusts in art, furnishings and foliage again – all in a variety of textures. To me, this repetition creates a cohesive space, with a bit of blue to prevent it becoming too monotonous. What do you think of it?
Colour framing: see how the clivia picks up the red in the dancing girls planter and even the car? Now think how this might work differently (and maybe not as well) if the clivia pot were swapped with the hot pink hydrangea. Same plants, same colours, but different balance.
Colour echoes: the blue star-shaped grass picks up the blue Saturn rings in the glass birdbath.
Same colour, different texture. You could do this with plants as well. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Evergreen Canada Native Plant Database for Ontario

Native echinacea (Purple coneflower) and monarda (Bee Balm) attract all sorts of butterflies and other pollinators. 

This is one native plants for Ontario database I don't want to forget, so I'm posting it here. Evergreen Canada is such a marvellous nature and environmental organization, and we are lucky that we have a headquarters here in Toronto, at the Evergreen Brickworks, one of our favourite places. On the database linked above you'll find a simply massive compendium of pictures and information about good choices of native plants for Ontario. Trees, shrubs, perennials, wildflowers, the whole shebang.

I love that they include recommended tree species for schools and daycares. They list nectar and host plants for butterfly gardening. Butterfly gardens need to have both, as caterpillars have to eat too! It takes a lot of eating to be able to turn into a butterfly. Another helpful aspect is the way the database divides nectar plants into seasons. The fall nectar plants, like solidago and New England Aster are listed, as well as spring varieties.

Want to learn about plants for rain gardens? You'll find it in the database. You'll see a sample of a rain garden onsite at the Evergreen Brickworks too. Rain gardens are a new way of dealing with storm water runoff. Find out about what rain gardens are and why they are useful.

Interested in wildlife? Check out the native shrubs with fruit sources for birds. Looking for a water-efficient garden? Evergreen's database has a list of trees and shrubs that aren't water hogs.

Anyway, check out the links, and savour all the many ways you can make your own garden become more beneficial to wildlife and a greener environment. Start your 2015 garden list here! And the fact that many native plants will naturally be  a little less fussy to look after, and some will naturalize themselves, (like the monarda and echinacea above in my garden) is an added bonus.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Valleyview Gardens - A Great Full-Service Garden Centre in Toronto's North-East End

A sea of Bromelliads in bloom at Valleyview Gardens

I have a new love. Where have you been all my life, Valleyview Gardens? We at Toronto Gardens have been bemoaning the lack of a really good, full-service garden nursery in the east end of the city for years. Long ago we lost White Rose nurseries which wasn't perfect, but it was convenient.  We were sad when Reeves Nursery came, and went. We have much love for East of Eliza and the East End Garden Centre, which are both excellent, but small. But in the growing season, we normally make trips to the excellent Humber Nurseries and Fiesta Gardens in the west end for our special garden purchases.

I just found out about Valleyview's existence from a Facebook acquaintance. A large, well recommended nursery in Toronto I didn't know about??? (For shame) A Google search told me it's located on Kennedy road north of Finch, so I took a trip out there one rainy, cold winter day and what a delight! Huge greenhouse rooms that go on forever, full of healthy tropical and exotic specimens. Massive tropical, vining, and succulent plants in all varieties, all well taken care of, many tree-size. Looking for a huge ficus benjamina for your office or living room? Valleyview is the place to go. And they also sell smaller pots of many of the same. I marvelled at a huge bench of large, robust looking Jade plants in six inch pots, for around twelve dollars each. I was amazed at the reasonable prices. (No, Valleyview is not paying me to say this!)
Family operated and owned since 1970, Valleyview encompasses close to five acres of working land, including 45,000 sq ft of covered greenhouses and is among the biggest and most varied in the GTA.
Another of their specialties are potted citrus trees, in a myriad varieties. All different sorts of oranges, lemons, grapefruit. Walking through the trees full of blossoms and fruit was a fragrant delight on that grey day.

This is their winter incarnation. In the growing season, they are a full-service nursery who can source just about anything you want, according to my Facebook contact. 

I walked out of there with a blue-green echeveria, a dracena and some insecticidal soap. I wanted to buy more. I will be back.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Floral fireworks for New Year 2014-15

A little siss-boom-bah! from one of the many inspiring gardens we visited in 2014 – Floramagoria in Portland OR
Sending you all a wish for a very Happy New Year – plus good health and great growing in 2015!