Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter Lovliness

We are lucky enough to live where snow is around for most of the winter.  Of course, it does come with one major drawback - it can be so cold!  If you look very closely at the picture to right you can see that the thermometer says -30 degrees Celsius!  Very cold!  But, winter lasts a long time in this part of Canada so we try to make the best of it.  Of course, the kids are much better at this than the adults.  They can play outside for hours with nothing more than a few old sand toys (for snow fort building) and some toboggans.  But I am really trying this year to see winter through new eyes and learn to appreciate the beauty that winter offers.  So here are a few pictures of my winter garden...

First some seed heads -goldenrod, my favorite allium, my sunflowers covered in snow, and a clematis seed head (so fluffy).
Then my favorite trees - our green ash, our old little crabapple, a cotoneaster with the cool black berries and then a mountain ash with the awesome red leaves - this one still hasn't lost all its leaves.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December is here!

I absolutely love this time of year!  I am positively bursting with Christmas spirit.  And what's the best way to put all this energy to use, when my lovely garden is covered with a foot of snow safely sleeping for the winter...why crafting of course!  I thought that I would share this project with you.  I have made an Advent Calendar for Family Fun!  I got the idea from Andrea Tomkins here.  It looked like so much fun that I had to try it out for myself.  An additional challenge that I gave myself was that I wouldn't buy anything new to make this, instead I'd try to use up some of the mounds of crafting supplies that I have lying around the house.  So, since I was a little short on paper, instead of making envelopes, I made little tags.  One for each day in December leading up to Christmas.

The family fun idea for the day is hidden behind the tag.  Then I hooked then on to some yarn and taped it to the wall.  Doesn't it look cute!  I am very excited about all of the things I have planned to do with the kids over the next 24 days.  I will share some of our activities along the way...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

And so it began...

Winter that is.  In case you hadn't heard, winter has hit the prairies and boy did it come in strong.  It has been snowing for three days straight after a amazingly warm and extended fall.  The kids love it!  I must admit it is nice to play in the snow and I don't even mind shovelling it yet!  And it means that all my left over chores for the garden will have to wait until the spring so I get a nice reprieve.  Yes, those are my sunflowers still standing in the back corner of my yard with about 6 inches of snow on them.  Now they are my winter sentinels.

 And my first seed catalogue have come in the mail!  Ah, the planning for next year has begun...I can picture it already...I'll have the most lush overflowing annual planters and a vegetable garden to die for!  The anticipation is the most fun!  But for now we snuggle inside our warm houses, put on some nice music, do some crafts and bake cookies while we settle in for the long cold winter ahead. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Garden Summary for 2010

Let's see...a summary for the garden this year.  Well, let's break it down.

First there are the potted annuals.  They did pretty good this year.  I always seem to fall back on the traditional favorites.  I guess they're favorites for a reason.  The impatiens, lobelia, alyssum, vinca vines, snapdragons, petunias, geraniums and marigolds did great, as always.  However, the sweet potato vine did not.  I keep trying it in different spots and it never looks like it does in the magazines!  I think that maybe our nights are just too cold for it to thrive.  I tried adding some perennials to the pots this year and I really liked the viola, lamium and English ivy.  Gotta be more reliable watering my window boxes.  The neighbours' looked great, but I know she watered everyday religiously.  Maybe there is some new gimmick I could try?  But not that weird gel stuff.  I'll have to think about it.

Next, we have the perennial/mixed garden beds.  I added  two new beds this year.  One against the back fence (perhaps my fall garden?) and one in the area between our house and the neighbours.  Both turned out pretty good.  Lava Girl really wants to add a bench to the back garden bed so I might have to rearrange some plants in the spring.  Overall everything did pretty good this year.  We hardly watered (since we had the wettest summer ever! - have I mentioned that before?).  I fussed a bit to one of the beds (I think I'll call it the summer bed) to add some more summer flowering perennials.  Can't wait until next year when they've filled in.  Also, my front yard spring garden performed great this year!  I just finished adding some more spring flowering bulbs, so next year is going to be even better!
Here is the fall garden when it was first planted in June.
Here is the fall garden in October - it has filled in a bit.  I still haven't decided what to put at the left.
 The garden between the two houses was a group effort between myself and my neighbour who is an awesome gardener!  Her garden is fantastic!  I'm trying to learn as much as I can from her.  Anyway, we wanted to keep this garden simple, so we planted mostly tough shrubs, lots of junipers, and then had fun with a few barberries.  I'd also like to add some elephant ears fro spring colour and maybe some ferns at the back for some more height.  That can wait until next year.

Here is the garden between the houses before the makeover in June.
And here it is in October - for some reason I forgot to take a picture immediately after the makeover.

Lastly there are the vegetable garden beds.  Most things did pretty well this year.  The corn, tomatoes and squash had a tough year.  I think I'll skip the squash next year.  I have become obsessed with home made pickles, so I think that I'm going to have some devote some space to some cucumbers.
Here is the garden in July - the rhubarb is huge!

And here it is in October - I've already started clearing it out, but the sunflowers are huge!
Well, that's all for now.  Time to plan for next year!  Happy gardening!

The Battle of Native vs. Invasive Plants

For some reason, I have become obsessed with weeds lately. Weird, I know. But think about it. They are amazing! Half the time they grow where nothing else can, they can spread amazingly quickly, and in the course of a summer, they can manage to outwit my weekly weeding, lawn mowing, dumping of salt and vinegar(gotta be green) and still manage to grow, thrive, flower and send hundreds of seeds out into the wild. Pretty incredible! But what makes them so special? What makes them thrive where other plants wither and die? I guess it could be that they are more suited to the environment or that they are an introduced species that does not have any natural predators. Of course, other gardeners I talk to often suggest that I should try a "native" plant to try and solve my tough gardening areas. Aren't they always tougher and therefore better? Can they stand up to the weeds?

I read this interesting article at Cold Climate Gardening about what is a "native" plant. Of course, we all know that everything is native to somewhere, just maybe not here. But what is interesting to think is that even the plants we call weeds are native plants somewhere. Do people plant them in their gardens wherever they come from? Or are they weeds there too?

Then I remembered this article I read on the Garden Rant about how some foreign plants actually seem better suited to our environment and how the local fauna is actually using them. Does that mean all invasives are bad? It's an interesting debate.

As it stands I am fascinated by weeds and, one day, I hope to post a comprehensive catalogue of those that visit my backyard. But that will have to wait for another day - I'm going to go and try to pick the last of them before winter sets in. Hey, even a lover of weeds doesn't want them in my garden!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

So how's the garden been doing anyway?

Well, we had our first hard frost a yesterday. Time to start tidying the garden for winter. We did have a soft frost a few weeks ago and lost the rest of our tomoatoes, corn and squash, and some of the annuals too. I began looking up recipes for fried green tomatoes - do you know that the traditional recipe has them fried in bacon fat! But I digress...

The beets and carrots don't mind a bit of frost and there are still a few flowers blooming right now. Since we had such a cold wet summer, some things are a little later than usual and some things didn't flower at all. For some reason, my purple coneflower didn't make any flowers this year. I think it is in a marginally sunny spot and maybe this year she just didn't get enough sun - we had alot of rain this year!

But I just had to run out and take some pictures of the frost. It looked so cool! And it showed how some plants didn't mind it at all - like the lupin, while others look a little sad - like the beets, tomatoes and corn.

But the sunflowers did great this year and my goldenrod is flowering beautifully. And the phlox has started blooming. Love the purple! Of course, my Autumn Joy sedum is loving the autumn and my beebalm looks good. I really love fall-coloured flowers in the fall. Just seems to complement all the tress. So pretty!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Here are some fall photos from a wonderful little hike called Many Springs in Bow Valley Provincial Park, only a 45 minute drive from Calgary. This is a great hike for kids since it is fairly flat and there are lots of interpretive signs. My three year old thought it was the best hike ever!

This last photo shows a great view of Mt. Yamnuska which is a popular rock climbing mountain and also the classic example of the McConnell Thrust. The McConnell Thrust is a fault line dividing the harder, older carbonate rocks on top from the softer, younger clastic rocks below(covered in trees). This shows how the mountains were built!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It has been a while!

Wow! It has been a while! A couple of reasons I guess. Partly because we were having so much fun over the summer I didn't have much time for the computer. Also, partly due to a feeling of my blog being judged somehow. Seems weird, since I'm posting stuff for the world to see, how can it NOT be judged! But, I decided that I am just keeping this log for myself and that I should just have fun with it, so here goes!

So, since I have a few quite moments early on a Sunday while the kids are watching TV, I thought I'd share some photos of the awesome fall we're having in Calgary this year. It started off rather cold and rainy (very rainy!), but the last two weeks have been great! And the trees have loved all that rain because the fall colours this year are fantastic! Fire Boy and I went for a walk in Fish Creek Park while the older kids were at school. It was beautiful! I got to enjoy the tress while he threw rocks in the river and we also collected some fall leaves. I have some craft ideas.

Then yesterday we joined up with some friends to go Geocaching. Our first time ever! It was fun! The kids loved the thrill of the hunt and we enjoyed a nice walk on Nosehill. Handy Man was in charge of the GPS and the kids were in charge of randomly racing through the grass.

We manged to find three. It was neat seeing the different things that other people had left and all of the kids got to go through the knickknacks and pick something to trade for one of the knickknacks we'd brought from home. We will definitely do that again!

Well, that's all for now. Hopefully I can get back into the habit of making this a regular thing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bloomin' Wednesday

Ack! We are drowning! There has been so much rain this year and it is cold! I wish it was summer. Well, at least I don't need to water. I thought that I would show some more pictures of my annuals since they are pretty much the only things bloomin' at the moment. Well, I do also have a most fantastic tulip blooming. It is called Angelique and it is angelic. Most of the others have faded. I'll have to plant something so she'll have more company next year...maybe siberian iris? Do they come in pale yellow? Hmmm, I'll have to think about it. But on to my annuals...

Most of them are in pots as I've mentioned before. Here are the two window boxes:

Then I have my hanging baskets. They are looking a little droopy from the rain we've had lately. I know we should be happy for what rain we get here in the "high and dry", but I gotta admit, even I am wishing for a bit of dry. Hopefully it'll warm up a bit and then everything will start growing. The cold weather just seems to cause a standstill in the garden.

Then I have my vegetable garden. I barely have carrot and beet sprouts and I'm worried that the corn we planted will rot because of all the cold. But the peas are doing ok. I have to get my trellis out.

And the cosmos are blooming! So pretty! I love the delicate foliage almost as much as the flowers!

Of course, while it is raining, it is still no excuse not to get work done in the yard. My dear Handy Man has been fantastic. He spread compost on the front yard and spread some more shade tolerant grass seed (maybe this will give us the natural, lush lawn we dream of?).
He also built me this awesome new rain barrel! Looks so great! And he built a ledge for it to sit on, so that I can fit my watering cans under the spigot! Now if only we could get the fence painted...