Friday, February 25, 2011

Hosta of the Year

I'd much rather talk about hostas!  They are being hybridized like rabbits! There are so many beautiful new varieties out there that it is hard to remember that one is not the official collector for the neighbourhood.  But just take a look at some of the new varieties and try not to own at least one of them!
Praying Hands a slug resistant,  medium size hosta 16 inches tall by 30 inches wide, is the 2010 Hosta of the Year.
But one Sheridan Nursery, near me,  is going to carry is called "Designer Genes" 30 cm by 80 cm It has bright red stems and chartreuse foliage.  Just try to beat me to the nursery for this one!

This catalogue from a nursery in Iowa is great for pictures of hostas and all types of plants.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Herb of the year

Horseradish root
Yep, that is the herb of the year.  For me, roast beef is just an excuse to eat horseradish. The most pungent horseradish I ever ate was at a Steer Roast in Buckingham, while visiting my sister. While sitting down to dinner and yakking about all manner of things, I took one unsuspecting bite of horseradish and my sinuses received a jolt that went straight to my eyeballs!   Every orifice watered!

Apparently,  once the root is scraped or grated, a volatile oil called allyl is produced as its glucoside sinigrin comes into contact with its enzyme myrosin. According to renowned herbalist Maude Grieves, it is only when these two substances meet that isothiocyanate, also contained in black mustard seed, is created: this accounts for the pungent, hot, yet subtly sweet taste of horseradish. 
According to Carol Little, a registered herbalist in private practice in Toronto.  Horseradish contains antibacterial, antibiotic, anti-parasitic, anti-anemic, and aperient properties. It is also a coronary vasodilator, a digestive, a diuretic, and an expectorant,  which means that it stimulates a number of body systems and can be used to aid mild circulatory problems, digestion, and water retention. I’ve used it to help to encourage timid appetites – a potent digestive elixir can be created by combining a small amount of horseradish with carminative herbs and apple cider vinegar. You can view her new blog at
According to Richard Mabey, author of The New Age Herbalist, “Horseradish is a powerful circulatory stimulant with antibiotic properties due to the mustard oil it contains. It is effective for lung and urinary infections because mustard oil is excreted through these channels.”

 A recent study by the University of Illinois shows that horseradish contains substantial quantities of glucosinolates – compounds shown to increase human resistance to cancer. The power of this ‘humble hot shot’ root is created chemically when it is grated or agitated to release constituents that, when put together, produce magic! An effective daily dose of horseradish can be as little as 1 gram or less than a teaspoon. (
Eat up - you'll be right in fashion.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Winter Pictures while they last

Even the curled leaves of the Rhododendron add interest in winter.

The bare umbrella of the small tree creates shadows in the snow.

Plump evergreens nestled by the birch are striking against the snow.  The Blue Spruce in the background compliments the scene.
You might be right in assuming that birches are my favourite tree.  I love the startling whiteness of them, the shaggy bark and the fact that they have such a history of providing canoes to this land.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Structure in the snow

Euonymus, the Peegee hydrangea e between the birch trunks and the shadows add interest, and  help draw your eye to this scene.
The architectural structure of the weeping tree adds to the winter interest even without leaves. 
When you stare out the window or go for a walk in the winter, little vignettes catch your eye.  When you are planning your garden, it is important to think about what certain spaces in our garden will look like in the winter if you still want to enjoy the scene.  Some plants are worth planting for their structure, like the hydrangeas and the smaller weeping trees.  Make some notes now, on areas of your garden which would benefit from height, structure or interest in the form of swaying grasses. Then plant in the Spring to achieve the season long vistas that will gladden your eye. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Roses for Valentine's Day

Mark Cullen had a good suggestion: give a rose bush for Valentine's Day. I think that is a great idea. In my shady garden I still enjoy roses with their long blooming colour. But you have to be careful which ones you pick. I have an Iceberg climbing rose newly planted last year. I will let you know how it does. I also have Carefree beauty which blooms it's little heart out on a scant 4 hours of sun.
Another recommended variety for a shade garden is the shrub rose,"Therese Bugnet".

I want roses which are hardy and don't require much winter protection. You do have to cut roses back to about 1 meter or less in our climate so the winter winds won't whip the canes around and you also have to hill them up. I put 20- 40cm of loose soil around my roses as close the first frost as I can manage.  It probably helps those confounded Japanese beetles survive the winter, but I have a ruthless crushing policy as they emerge. (Shake and drown in soapy water, also works well.)
The other job is to get out early enough in the Spring to get the mound of soil off the roses and cut back the winter kill on the canes.  Be sure to use sharp pruning shears to cut out dead wood. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hey, I like this tip!

If this works, it will be worth it's weight in gold! or should I say lily beetles.  I'm so sick of squashing those things!!!!

Death to the red lily beetle…
Use coffee grounds around your prized lilies, they hate it and it does deter them.

This was donated by someone at Cloverleaf!  If it works, you are blessed!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gardening tips to share

Junk Mail Paths: We shred our junk mail and I use it to mulch the pathways in the garden. It breaks down over the winter months. It can also be used to mulch around large plants like potatoes and under vines like cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash. I have also noticed bird nests with some of the shredded paper in them.Submitted by fourpetesake

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's really winter here!

Skating on the Rideau Canal
Sure the weather has shut us down today, but we just heard all kids favourite winter words "Snow Day!".  It's a perfect day to read Snow Day by Ezra Jack Keats to someone you love.  I love shovelling the snow when there is no rush to get anywhere and I can do it at my leisure. ...And what better excuse for staying in and curling up with a book, than a weather warning that urges you to stay off the roads.

Ottawa may have the distinction of being the coldest capital city in the world, but it certainly is pretty in the winter. And when you know how to take advantage of what the season has to offer, you can enjoy all kinds of weather. There is nothing quite like a blazingly bright sunny day in winter, with the sun creating diamonds off the icy snowflakes.  Skating on the Rideau has gone on for more that a hundred of years, and there is a sense of history and a tie with the past, in the opportunity to skate where early citizens also enjoyed winter.  I am reading "Roughing It in the Bush" the classic tale of pioneers by Suzanna Moodie, published in 1852. Her early roots in  the cultivated meadows of England and the unexpectedness of her growing love for Canada shines through in her description of her pioneer settlement of Canada. She describes the countryside and the wildness of nature with such awe, and states how she came to love this country. She is describing terrain so familiar to me; the entryin to Quebec City from the St. Lawrence; sailing down the St. Lawrence to Montreal; and then making her way to the Peterborough region.  It feels like I'm reading someone's letters, there is such a sense of connection. I urge you to read it (preferably on an e-reader, where you can make the print any size you wish.)

A garden on the Rideau River. Gardens in winter can be stunningly beautiful. Imagine if this was your view...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Garden in Winter

Snow blanketing the euonymus, and sugaring the wagon wheel create a pretty picture. 
This vignette is pretty in all seasons!
We always read in gardening magazines that we need to add 'winter interest' to our garden. Sometimes I stare our the sunroom window and try to imagine what I need to add interest to odd corners.
detail of the garden bench with the majestic lions holding a load of snow. 
 It doesn't really take much - a bench left out to be covered in snow; shadows created by garden art left out; birds flitting to and fro - to keep your garden interesting and vital all winter long.
This isn't my garden, just a favourite garden of mine!