Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Celebration

It's Halloween and everybody has gotten dressed up

As any kid will tell you, the best way to pick your Halloween pumpkin is directly out of the pumpkin patch.

In honor of Halloween we will carve our pumpkins with scary faces

and place them out on the front step so that giggling children dressed in costumes will know where to find us

There will be black cats

and candy

And when the festivities are through we will give each other a hug and congratulate ourselves.  For not only is this Halloween but it is also the one year anniversary of when we moved to this house and began this time in our lives here at Canoe Corner.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

New Flower Bed

Although the mornings are frosty the afternoons are still bright and warm.  So the gardening season is still ongoing.  I looked at my compost bins last weekend and realized they were full.  Both of them.  So much for building two extra large bins.

The bin on the left is very near capacity but the bin on the right has gradually sunk down over the last couple months.  The compost is still quite 'chunky' and I had intended to leave it over the winter but as I've run out of space a new plan had to be formulated.

Over the summer I've accumulated a few plants.  Well, to be perfectly honest, I may have made a newbie beginner's mistake.  Or maybe it was just the mistake of an overly anxious, terribly excited gardener.  The fact is I bought way too many plants.  Many of you are probably saying to yourselves - Ridiculous!  How can you have too many plants?!  When you haven't got a place to put them, you have too many plants.  The fact is I should have spent all my efforts creating beds this year but I couldn't resist and I purchased plants and had no place to put them.  The result is I've dumped hoards of plants in one, much too small, bed.  These plants will start to expand next spring and my problem will be compounded.

What to do?  Build a new bed now so I can start moving plants in the spring.  And stop buying plants.  (well, okay, maybe that's pushing it, but I definitely need a new flower bed).

After seeing how well the grass decomposed underneath my raised vegetable beds I wondered if I couldn't just pile that half finished compost on some grass and create a new bed.  Lay down some newspaper and pile the compost on top.  If I do it now, by June it will have sat for 7 months, that should be enough time for the grass to die and then I can just dig in some plants.  But where to put it?

I had previously contemplated putting a bed for cutting flowers along the side of the garage.  But I worried that the garage might get moved and then I realized that this spot only receives morning sun.  It is completely shaded in the afternoons which isn't good for a lot of flowers.
Morning sun, but in shade during the afternoons
However, on the far side of the garage the sun beats against the building all afternoon.  Unfortunately I can't see this spot from the house but the entrance to the garage is on this side and flowers would certainly liven it up and make it more welcoming.

But what about moving the garage?  Well, what we've decided is that we'd really like to move the garage.  But the cost is somewhat prohibitive and we have A LOT of other things to spend money on that are higher priority.  Things like a new roof, replacing the porch, renovating the kitchen, etc.  So the garage will stay put for now, or possibly permanently.  Either way, I'm going to make it more cozy so I can enjoy it now and if it moves a few years down the road so be it.

Work has now begun with sheets of newspaper being laid down, followed by 5 or 6 inches of half finished compost.  I believe the combination of newspaper topped with compost will keep the light out thereby killing the grass.  My hope is to come back in June and turn the soil over and then start planting.

The first buckets of compost have been laid out.
I have a couple high priority plants intended for this spot.  First is the plume poppy.  I bought this tiny plant at a local perennial plant sale in the spring thinking it was a regular poppy.  It's not.  It's a slightly invasive oversized perennial that reaches up to 8 feet tall.  Over the course of the summer it grew from 6 inches to 3 or 4 feet high and wide.  It's overtaken the bed I popped it into and desperately needs its own space.  Sticking it behind the garage seems like a suitable spot.  I can't see it from the house and if it turns into a monster, well, out of sight out of mind.

What could I possibly put with such a large formidable plant?  Hollyhocks.  My mother has red hollyhocks that she has taken with her from house to house over the years and this past summer she took seed from her plants and posted them to me.  Hollyhocks will start to bloom their second year in the ground so I would like to start these seeds as soon as possible.  They can also grow up to 6 feet high and have large leaves so they shouldn't look out of place next to the plume poppy.  The red flowers may even complement the poppy's purple tinted foliage.  There are other plants that might make an appearance in this bed but for now I'd be pleased just to get the poppy moved.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Triumphs and Tragedies

I'm pretty late posting again this week.  Over the summer I would come home on a Friday evening and take a turn around the yard recounting all that I had done over the course of the week and the events that had happened.  Unfortunately the evenings have become incredibly short as of late and I tend to squeak into the driveway just in time to see the sun go down.  Not nearly enough time to do any work outside in the evenings nor to take my walk on Fridays.  I may need to retire Triumphs and Tragedies over the winter, or perhaps just make it an occasional posting as opposed to weekly.

In any case I thought I would share with you my little red oak.  Purchased from the MacPhail Woods Nursery this past spring he was my prize purchase at $50.  The trees at MacPhail Nursery are field grown and I've been concerned as this guy's taproot was damaged when he got dug up.  But he has persevered and grown considerably over the summer.  Now, to my delight, he has shown us why he is called a red oak.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wildflower Wednesday

What do you mean that's not a wildflower?!  It grew there all by itself with no help from anyone.  And it's got lovely colour.
Honey mushrooms and Turkey Tails?  Sounds like an
interesting dinner but I'm not sure I would eat these for
fear of misidentification.

Now that we are deep into fall the mushrooms and fungi are bursting into bloom.  Some of them are extremely eye catching and beautiful to behold.

Meadow mushroom?  Quite possibly, but I still wouldn't eat it.
When I see these lovely specimens I generally drop to my knees and imagine a world of fairies and gnomes.  Despite the fact that this isn't my yard, or my house.  Gosh I hope no one was looking.

Flavivolata I think.  But I could be wrong. 
Some of them aren't as pretty to look at but they're certainly just as interesting.

Morel?  Right shape but highly unlikely.
The mushroom cap in the photo above looks pretty slimey but how about that lacey skirt hanging beneath it.  Beautiful artistry to my eye.

I attempted to identify my finds (as you may have guessed) but after spending an hour perusing the internet and comparing photos I just couldn't be sure.  And that's part of the mystery surrounding mushrooms.  Some of them are very good to eat.  Some of them will make you see things you can only dream about.  How to tell the difference?  Looking at photos on the internet or in books certainly helps but I read over and over and over again that yummy mushrooms and toxic ones often look the same and if you don't know anything about identifying mushrooms then ask an expert.  Where are these mushroom experts?  And where do they learn this coveted information?  Seems like it must be a very hands on type learning experience but learn it where?  A google search for mushroom identification gave me listings for poison control and sites discussing the gathering of magic mushrooms.  Not so helpful.

In the meantime I'm happy to just look at them.  I think what I like best about mushrooms is they always make an interesting photography subject.

If you would like to participate in Wildflower Wednesday please pop on over to Gail's blog, Clay and Limestone, where every fourth Wednesday of the month we celebrate the wild side of our gardens!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Triumphs and Tragedies

This week we are celebrating a Triumph, though not of a gardening variety.  Many of you may know that my partner and I moved from British Columbia, the most western province in Canada, to Prince Edward Island, on the eastern side of Canada last year.  It was a big step for us as we left family, friends, home and jobs behind.  We did it with the hope that we might change some aspects of our lives and better realize our dreams.  The first thing we did was purchase our first home which is something we have both been very excited about and grateful for.  We have a house we love, a welcoming neighbourhood, room to garden and for Jody, space for a workshop.  While I simply exchanged my job in British Columbia for another one here in Prince Edward Island, Jody decided to change careers completely and follow his dream to design and build furniture.  It's a scary proposition to leave behind the only career you've known and start your own business.  To combine that with a cross country move, a new home, and a new community is taking on a lot.  Lesser persons might have thrown in the towel but he has stuck with it and this week his perseverance paid off.  Jody has been accepted into the Interior Design Show in Toronto this January 2011.  Touted as Canada's largest contemporary design fair Jody's furniture will be showcased at Studio North which features independent designers and ateliers from across the country.  It's thrilling to have all his hard work recognized by adjudicators at such a large show and I'm very excited for the world at large to get to see his work.

If you would like to see Jody's work please visit him at Modern Revision.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Monthly Garden Bouquet - October Edition

First off, I have a confession.  I gathered this bouquet and took these photos over a week ago.  I got my days weeks mixed up and thought the Monthly Garden Bouquet was last week.  But I'm glad I did because if you saw my last post you know that my dahlias got hit hard by frost in the last week and I would have had nothing to pick if I had waited.

Dahlias for me are one of the last flowers to bloom in the summer and their demise marks the end of the gardening season.  I'm feeling a bit sorrowful over that.

I must also confess that I took a hint from Jennifer @ Three Dogs in a Garden for this month's bouquet.  Jennifer made a lovely combination of dahlias and sedum not too long ago that I was, maybe not so secretly, coveting.  When I went looking for a bouquet I was determined to use the gorgeous dahlia bloom's that have been coming my way in the past month.  But when I wondered what to pair with them I instantly thought of Jennifer's combination.

I combined the dark colours of ripening sedum blooms and branches of Diablo Ninebark with bright white and yellow dahlias.  The result was terrific.  Very sharply contrasting and eye catching.

If you'd like to participate and create your own bouquet visit Noelle at Ramblings from a Desert Garden who hosts the Monthly Garden Bouquet.  Starting on the 21st and running through to month's end you too can showcase the latest blooms from your garden.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Storing Dahlias for Winter

Not only did my tomato plants dislike our recent frost, the dahlias took it very badly as well.  In weeks past they looked like this

And after the frost they turned to this

As you can see the plants blackened and the flowers simply nodded their heads and gave up.

Dahlia's are native to Mexico, a much warmer place than Canada.  A dahlia's root system is made up of tubers which can survive in warmer climates but here in the north we must dig them up each fall after the first killing frost and take them indoors for safekeeping.  Some people regard this as too much work but I think it's rather handy.  Each year I can move them wherever I need to fill some space or add a jolt of colour.

So in addition to cleaning out vegetable beds I also dug up my dahlia tubers this past weekend.  First I cut back the plant so the stems were only a few inches long.

Then I dug the roots out by inserting my shovel into the ground about a foot away from the trunk of the plant and lifting slightly.  I continued to do this in a circle around the plant.  I left a lot of space for the shovel so as not to damage the tubers.  When I had finally loosened a circle around the plant I lifted.   You never know how much the roots have grown over the past season so caution was exercised.

I'd say this particularly root has almost doubled in size since it as planted in spring.

The next step was to hose down the roots and get as much dirt out of the crevices as possible.  By doing this I removed any pests and got a chance to see if any damage had been incurred.  If you take a close look at the photo below you'll notice that one of the tubers on the right hand side has a big hole in it from insect damage.

Once the tubers had been allowed to dry out I was able to trim and clean them up, removing anything that was damaged by insects or my shovel.  Often people divide their tubers at this point, creating more plants.  I've done this in the past and it's quite simple to cut or break apart the root system.  The only catch is to make sure that each tuber has an eye and piece of stem attached.

This year, for the first time, I'm not dividing my tubers and I couldn't figure out a way to remove damaged portions without causing a lot of damage to the rest of the root system.  So I'm letting them be and crossing my fingers it won't cause the plant any undue harm.  

After I cleaned them up as best I could I put them into my new bulb baskets.  I had hoped these new stacking trays would help keep things neater and allow air flow to the roots, thus avoiding any rot.  Unfortunately the tubers turned out to be a bit larger than I anticipated.

oops.  Well the idea is that you want your tubers stored in a cool dry location.  They shouldn't get wet or they'll rot nor too dry or they'll shrivel.  A bed of sawdist or peat is a good option.

If you're interested in dahlias there are many many websites discussing their virtues.  There are societies, breeders and lovers all eagerly talking about growing, displaying, caring and storing your dahlias.  You might want to start at, or Dahlia  And if you're looking for detailed information on digging and dividing dahlia tubers I would check out this link which is extremely helpful.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cleaning Up the Vegetable Garden

Well I finally got down to business after seeing this yesterday.

It was time to put the vegetable garden to bed for the winter.  I had already begun cleaning out the beds but the hard frost we had two days ago killed off what little was left.  So in I went, with hoe in hand, removing the frozen tomatoes, the blackened marigolds and zinnias.  Despite the frost I did manage to find a few goodies and we enjoyed our final fresh salad of the season last night for dinner.  Made from a few small leaves of lettuce, a beet, onions that had been buried and the last of the cherry tomatoes.  Oh I miss summer already.

When I put these raised beds together in the spring all but one had the grass dug out from beneath them.  As I pulled the remaining plants out of the beds I was surprised to find how deep the zinnias and tomatoes had dug themselves in.  Their roots extended wide and deep, penetrating into the forked soil below the range of the raised boxes.  Obviously removing the grass and digging into the soil below the boxes was the right thing to do as the plants took full advantage of the extra space.  It also allowed insects and worms to travel through to the boxes from below.  I found numerous worms making themselves at home as well as a violent ground beetle.

There is however one box that did not have the sod removed.  I layered newspaper over the grass instead and placed the box on top and filled it with dirt.  I thought now might be a good time to go in and remove that grass.  This box, oddly, is the one our feral cat Priscilla has chosen as her litterbox.  As soon as the plants were removed she moved in and has made herself at home.  Priscilla was found, just recently, to have a case of tapeworms.  Yup, that's gross and seriously unsanitary.  So I decided to kill two birds with one stone.  I removed all of the dirt from the box and used it to fill up a flower bed that we are building.

We've been removing grass out of this area for the last month to expand the bed and it needed to be topped up with soil.  As there won't be any edibles grown here I don't mind placing the contaminated soil in this spot.  Once the soil was removed from the box I was able to scrape back the newspaper and assess what work needed to be done to the grass below.  Good news!  There isn't any grass.

Running my fork through the newspaper I found that the grass had been composted and all that was left were some roots.  All that is necessary is to turn the soil and loosen it up.  Then I can fill the box with soil again.  I'm leaving that job until spring though.  In the meantime, I covered up all of the boxes with layers of straw (and when I ran out of straw I used cardboard).  The straw will keep the soil warm, and keep the weeds and cats out.

In case you're wondering, there are a few plants still sticking out.  One of these is the perennial chives and the others are carrots.  Since we had such as seriously large haul of carrots I thought I might attempt overwintering a few.  The thought of fresh carrots in the spring has me attempting this trick.  I'll report back to let you know how this works out.

Also, Priscilla is now receiving worm medication.  I found a nice veterinarian who sold me some tablets which you can put in the cat's food.  All of our feline friends have now been treated.  Even so I'm still working on keeping the cats out of my beds.  The biggest problem seems to be there is nowhere on this property that isn't covered in grass.  Cats like to dig and hide their mess.  The texture of wood mulch and dirt are highly attractive to them as they can easily paw through it.  I'm wondering if it would be completely insane to dig an area that would be just for cats to use.  Ya, okay it would.  Chances are, being cats, they would turn their noses up and dig in my garden beds anyway.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Triumphs and Tragedies

I woke up bright and early on Thursday morning to discover this.

It's no surprise really.  I knew it was coming but it's a little disheartening to discover the gardening season really is at a close.


The positive side of frost is how it encourages the trees to show off their incredible colours.

My previous home in southern British Columbia does not have colours like this.  The climate there is that of a temperate rainforest and the trees are of a different breed.  Seeing how the fall landscape changes here in Prince Edward Island is really thrilling for me.  Something I doubt I'll ever get tired of.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

oh yellow, how i love thee, let me count the ways

I've read a few postings lately that suggest yellow isn't everybody's favourite flower colour.  What a shame.  Let me show you what you're missing.

The bobbing heads of dahlias bouncing in the wind.  Their yellow faces so bright that I can see them clear across our property.

Echinacea 'Maui Sunshine' bursting forth in sharp contrast to the purple Diablo Ninebark it is seated next to.

Or how about flowers that are partly yellow.  The bright buttons of daisies and chamomile always catch my attention while the white petals help to soften their glow.
The layers of petals in the centre of this gorgeous white dahlia are accentuated by a tint of yellow.

I love yellow so much that I dream of creating a border simply in green and yellow.  It would include not just flowers but hints of yellow like the variegated foliage of this hosta.

Or the yellow tinted evergreen needles of Old Gold Juniper.

While a strictly yellow border may not be everybody's cup of tea it does pair nicely with other strong colours for an eye catching effect.  In this case I used the yellow flowers of Achillea 'Moonshine' and the red flowers of Achillea 'Summerwine'.

Are you sure you wouldn't like a little more yellow in your garden?

Monday, October 11, 2010

With Thanks

Our local grocery chain celebrates Thanksgiving
For those of you who aren't aware it's Canadian Thanksgiving today.  We like to get our turkey on a little earlier than most folks.  There's been a lot of talk this past week about pumpkin pies, mashed potatoes, turkey and cranberries and it got me to thinking about the food we consume on a daily basis.  We are so lucky to be able to experience such largess, sitting down to a meal with family and friends and eating until we cannot eat any more.  This year I have grown much of my own food in my little vegetable plot and our freezer is full of items like apple pie, carrot soup, and tomato sauce.  But I know that when my stockpile runs out mid-winter I only need to drive to the grocery store to get whatever I need.  Who supplies that food?  Farmers.

I do not grow my own meat.  I have no chickens or cows roaming my yard.  I don't grow wheat for bread or the straw that I use as my mulch.  Without farmers my table would be quite empty despite my vegetable garden.  And yet how often do we thank these people that contribute so much?  Unlike my 9 - 5 job, farming requires you to be in the fields from sun up to sun down and as evidenced at this time of year when potatoes are being collected, into the wee hours of the night with only a spotlight to guide you.  It's also a dangerous job with numerous injuries and fatalities each year.  It's a difficult job that many of us would never consider doing yet we expect our food to look good, taste good and cost us very little.  For all that they do, for the food they provide us, I'd like to say thank you.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Searching for Bulbs

I have had every intention of buying garlic bulbs for weeks now but inevitably every time I thought of it there was no time.  So yesterday I finally decided I had the time to visit Veseys and buy my fall garlic.  Uh oh.  Their website says they're sold out!  If you live on PEI you'll know that Veseys is a very popular store.  Well known for their seed and bulbs, as well as shrubs and perennials.  They sell, online, in both Canada and the US.  For those of us privileged enough to live in PEI we can purchase products right at the store, IF we get there in time.

What's a girl to do?  A quick call to Jewell's Country Market confirmed that not only did they have garlic bulbs but all of their bulbs are 40% off as they are closing for the season!  What a bargain.  Jewell's is still open until Monday if, like me, you've put off purchasing your fall bulbs.  They are located at the corner of York Road and St. Peters.
Other items for sale include fall flower arrangements, pots, fresh vegetables and other garden items.  Know what else they have?  Goats.
They aren't for sale but you can feed them if you'd like.

This is the second time Jewell's has come to my rescue.  In the spring I purchased a cherry tomato plant at another nursery which became very sickly and had to be tossed.  I had lost precious weeks of growing time and was desperate to find a new tomato plant.  I ended up at Jewell's, which has numerous greenhouses as well as the marketplace, and got my wonderful Sweet Millions tomato which has done extraordinarily well, not to mention some basil and various annual flowers.

So it looks like I'll be planting my garlic this weekend after all.  oh, and 75 bulbs of Siberian Squill*.  They were on sale after all.

*Thanks to Jean for suggesting this bulb.  After looking into it I think they will be the best choice to fill in the lawn as they bloom early and can stand the competition from the grass.  They will also naturalize over time and I hope to have a sea of blue in my front yard in years to come.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Triumphs and Tragedies

Oh another Friday has passed.  How can that be.  The weeks are racing away quicker than ever bringing us to winter.  If you're new around these parts let me explain that Fridays for me are all about ending the work week and spending a wee bit of time walking around my garden.  Too often we let a whole season pass and then try and remember how things went.  I try to take stock each week about the goings on in my garden.  The good, the bad, and the weird (which coincidentally is an incredibly funny, action packed Korean western movie should you get the chance).  I try to post the things that went well and revel in my success but also remember the tragedies that inevitably come too.  There is much to be learned from both.

I have finally finished mulching all my newly planted trees and weeding of beds.  In my new zone 5 garden there is proper winter to be expected which requires more work to be done than I would normally undertake.  Everybody now has been safely tucked in for the winter.

Made it out on a walk last weekend while the sun was shining and fall is beginning to show it's true colours.  Literally.

Feral cats eat small animals.  It's an unfortunate fact of life.  Even more unfortunate is that by doing so they contract worms.  I'll say no more.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

While Driving in the Country

On my drive into town this morning I saw this

Nothing I could ever do in my garden would equal what mother nature does best

Monday, October 4, 2010


Crows like cherry tomatoes

And apples

They taunt the cats and steal my mulch

They're rowdy and talk a lot, hanging out in large groups like bands of teenagers

Despite their flaws I like them.  They have many good traits as well.  Crows are very intelligent.  They try to steal food out of the compost bin when they think I'm not looking, which is highly amusing.   They're intensely curious and can't resist shiny objects.  They live in family groups and juvenile crows stay with their parents for many years, acting as babysitters to the parents.

But more importantly they patrol my lawn and eat the grubs and other bugs.