Garden spirit

Gardening thoughts and inspirations

Category: Uncategorized


I have to say that I was surprised to see my last post was from January – of last year! I obviously had very good intentions to do regular posts but now, I feel rather sheepish. I think of writing a post and then the season gets going and it gets put on the back-burner. […]

It’s a Marshmallow world in the winter…


2017-01-01-08-01-02Happy 2017! We have had quite the winter weather over the last couple of weeks. The snow has really stuck around with the freezing temperatures which makes for some beautiful garden pictures like above – the weeping willow in my garden at home.

A coral bark maple covered in snow…and ice!2017-01-01-08-18-37

Unfortunately , the last snow storm did some serious damage to our cedar hedge. This is what I woke up to…


That was some pretty heavy wet snow – so there is not much I could do about it. Multi stemmed hedges like cedar don’t stand up too well to snowfalls like this. Part of the problem is that I didn’t prune the whole hedge last year. If you look at the picture , you can see there is less damage to the hedge on the left side of the picture. This is the section I did prune late last summer but I ran out of steam to finish off the rest and I paid the price. Proper, regular pruning can keep your hedge stronger. By pruning the hedge appropriately, you can keep the bottom of your hedge wider then the top – so that it is tapered as it gets taller. This helps to keep the snow from splitting your hedge in half. Although my hedge did bounce back a bit once the snow came off, I will still have to prune that area of the hedge hard – probably 2-3 feet lower in early spring. This should help it bounce back to its original shape. Then I will have to prune it again later in the year to maintain a better shape to ensure this doesn’t happen next winter.


If you have a pond with fish, it is always important to have a pump running that will keep oxygenating the water during the winter. Also, if it gets cold enough to freeze completely , you must keep an opening in the ice to allow for gas exchange from any decomposing material in the pond. This can be done easily with a small aerator with aeration discs.


As you can see in the above picture, it got a lot colder! My two openings (from aeration discs) actually froze over completely. Never smash ice on a pond with fish – the sound-waves through the water can actually damage or kill your fish. It is much safer and less disruptive to pour some boiling water over the openings to melt the ice. This is what I did just before taking this picture.

And finally , ice on your pond can be beneficial to some animals….


My cat enjoyed being able to stroll out to the middle of the pond and drink water from the openings in the ice! Silly cat.

Even though this weather adds a unique beauty to the landscape, I have had enough of it. Is it spring soon?! I read this quote today that I thought was pretty funny…

“I think its time for old man winter to get Mother Nature drunk, and have a little fun making spring…”

Enjoy your garden…!

#winter #gardening #pond #hedge #snow


Cool Waters


Its finally summertime and our temperatures are starting to rise over the past few weeks. With warmer temperatures, our ponds need a little extra care and attention to stay healthy and clean. We also need to keep a close eye on our fishy friends who inhabit our ponds.

Are your fish behaving normally? Do they seem stressed out – gasping for air near a waterfall? Warm water carries less oxygen then cold water. In the warmer months, your pond may be the most deficient in oxygen. This is also the time of year when your fish are most active, so oxygen levels can easily become low. This leads to stress on your fish which can lead to diseases and so on…


happy fish


There are some preventative measures you can take in order to keep your pond from becoming a warm, unhealthy mess. It all starts with a well-designed water feature. Depth, plant coverage, shade, and circulation should all be considered when building a pond. Here are a few helpful tips:

  1. A well-designed filtration system should bring water back into the pond through a continuously running waterfall for constant aeration.
  2. Add more oxygen to the pond by placing aeration discs into the pond. You can also install a small fountain pump that is continually breaking the surface of the water.
  3. Aquatic plants like water lilies are important for providing shade. Make sure to stock your pond with a variety of plants – a good rule is to cover up to 1/3 of the surface area with plants.
  4. Remember to remove dying leaves and flowers before they start to decay in the warmer water.
  5. Be careful not to overfeed your fish. Decaying fish food in the pond breaks down faster in warmer weather and will quickly create poor water conditions.

If you have a pump continuously re-circulating the water in your pond, you should not have a problem because your water will be constantly filtered and oxygenated. You will have a balanced ecosystem.



The bottom line is that you need to keep an eye on your pond especially during the warm summer months, and let your fish and plants do the talking – but don’t fret about it!

Don’t forget that ponds are meant to be a relaxing oasis, providing relief from the stresses of the day. Running out and testing a pond every day is not relaxing. Just a few simple tasks is all you need to keep your fish healthy and happy. Enjoy your pond…!

pond life 3

Personal slice of the rainbow

Happy New Year! Its 2016 and another gardening season begins. Even though its cold outside, even though our gardens are filled with frosty remnants of last season and the trees and shrubs are bare – we can still garden! What? How is that possible?

Winter is the perfect time to dream and plan our gardens for the coming season. On a cold January afternoon, it is possible to gaze out of our windows and imagine the possibilities of the coming season. We can daydream about planting up that empty bed, dividing that overgrown perennial, moving that shrub just a little more to the left and even ripping out that annoying lilac that only ever has one flower! Whether you are just starting out your garden or if you have been gardening for years, you can dream of the beauty you can create this coming season in your own patch of earth.  Gardeners are such an optimistic bunch….

02102012_optimism-pano_13959Image: Getty

Usually around this time of year gardening magazines and articles are filled with the next great trends for gardening.  I have even done this myself with my blog last winter: check it out here  Sometimes its nice to get some inspiration from these lists.

This year though,  I am not going to tell you the must do trends or to plant the perfect new heuchera, or hydrangea or ….hellebore or…well whatever the new hot plant is this year. I am going to tell you to focus on what you want to see in your garden this year. This should always be the most important guide for what we do in our gardens. How can we as gardeners create a garden that is filled with plants and features that we actually like?

Sometimes it is easy getting caught up in what a garden is supposed to look like. What such and such a book tells you should be planted; the right colour scheme to follow; the correct arbor to use. We can often end up with a garden that …well, maybe our neighbor might like. We all want to create a garden that is a thing of beauty but our gardens should really say something about each of us. Every garden reflects its owner. The amazing thing about visiting gardens is enjoying the uniqueness that each garden holds.

Of course, we need to follow some basic design guide posts but gardening should be fun right? How can we add that personal touch that makes our garden our own special place?

It helps to start with a few basics:

  1. Know your site – soil conditions, wet and dry areas, zone, exposure etc. – before jumping in to plant anything.
  2. Plant the right types of plants in the right places. No sun lovers in the shade or vice versa.
  3. Think diversity – Use a mixture of annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and even tropicals. Diversified plantings encourage healthier, wildlife friendly gardens. Diverse plantings also let us be more creative.
  4. Think about form, texture and structure – not just flowers.
  5. Take the time to think about what you want to use your space for – a cozy seating area, a veggie garden, a flower garden and so on.
  6.  Work out a plan, even if it’s a rough sketch. If you can afford a designer, go for it. If not, just do a rough pencil drawing. It is just for you – no one needs to see it. Plus, you can always change it – this isn’t set in stone.
  7. But most importantly, let your passion and creativity guide you!



This photo is one I took in my garden last week. I love it. The beautiful frost covered ornamental grasses and perennials create a natural piece of art. I sometimes like to go out and stare at this spot during winter – it just gets me excited – which may sound weird to some , but I think every gardener feels this about some part of their garden.  I so liked this picture that I wanted to post it on our company facebook page. But my wife said “I don’t know. Are you sure? That picture looks like the garden is half dead… Its all frozen and when I look at it, it makes me want to go inside and wrap a blanket around myself.”

Oh. Well I never thought of it like that. What is a thing of beauty to me, is maybe not so much to others. Now,  I am not trying to prove anyone right or wrong. But it made me realize – we all have our own version of beauty in the garden. When planning our gardens it is essential to make sure that we are following our heart and what we like. (Of course, taking into consideration those that live with us – a garden full of frosty ornamental grasses might be a bit of an overkill!)

This also reminded me of a short passage in a book by Daniel Hinkley (Winter Ornamentals) that always resonated with me. So, I will just quote it here:

“I once walked with a well know British Gardener and author through his magnificent garden in southern England’s county of Kent. He led me to a specimen of spirea gold flame, brightly glad in orange/red foliage…bright blue and pink hyacinths under planted the pyrotechnics. ‘How do you like my combination?’, my host asked…..I admitted that I did not….my host chuckled contentedly, ‘ But I love it!”.     This underscores the need to follow your own sense of proper colour combinations. ….careful observations of colour and textures in the garden will make apparent your own personal slice of the rainbow.”

Keukenhof Gardens Desktop BackgroundKeukenhof Gardens – Located near Lisse in Holland.

Read, visit gardens, look at pictures on pinterest and houzz, visit garden centres and make notes and observations about what gets you excited, about what kinds of combinations you enjoy. Then start planting and make your own beautiful, personal slice of the rainbow!

Enjoy your garden.

Winter Water Features

Water features are a beautiful addition to any garden. During the summer time, you can sit outside in your favourite chair and let the relaxing sights and sounds of the water take your mind away from the daily stresses of life. But during the winter, what should you do with your pond or fountain to protect it from the cold? How can you still enjoy your waterscape during the winter months when it is too cold to sit out in your favourite chair?!  There are a few easy steps to maximize the enjoyment of your water feature throughout winter and some helpful tips to winterize your feature properly …



If you have a pond you really have 2 choices – leave your pond up and running or close it down for the winter. If you have a waterfall or stream, you can enjoy the beautiful ice formations that form as the frosty temperatures set in. A pump that provides at least 2000gph can be operated throughout the winter without a problem. Always make sure that your stream or waterfall is clear of ice to keep the water moving and all is well. You can shut your system down but it is important to oxygenate the water still. Here are a few helpful winter pond tips:

  • Oxygenate your water – Even if your waterfall is still running it may be necessary to put a small fountain pump in your pond as well to keep an area free from ice. If you are shutting your pond down then it is essential to have a fountain to aerate the water. The hole in the ice is important to let harmful gasses escape and let oxygen in , which is very important for your fish.
  • Add Beneficial Bacteria – Adding cold water bacteria to your pond helps maintain a strong biological balance, providing clean, clear and healthy water conditions. Most winter bacteria can work in temps as low as 0 degrees C. With leaves falling and organic debris blowing in from the wind , you can get quite a build-up of organic matter in your pond. Pond bacteria will go to work quickly by breaking down this debris, reducing ammonia and nitrite and balancing out your system.
  • Stop feeding your fish – Once the temperatures drop to 10 degrees C. you can stop feeding your fish. Goldfish and Koi will end up going to the deepest part of your pond and and stay there. Their metabolism slows down naturally and they go into a form of hibernation. Don’t worry if they are somewhat motionless at the bottom of the pond. They are fine and will be up and raring to go when spring comes.
  • Maintain water levels – It is important to make sure there is enough water for the pump to operate properly. If you have a pump in a skimmer or pump vault make sure to monitor your water levels once ice starts to form. You may need to add some water to compensate for water loss due to ice and even evaporation during winter.
  • Protect your Fish –  During the winter water quality can vastly improve. The crystal clear water is great to check up on your fish. But it is also great for predators to spot your fish too. Without the protection of water plants , it is important to consider covering your pond with a protective netting. It is easy to do, and can give you peace of mind that your fish are safe.



If you have a fountain scape – gurgling stone columns or a fountain, there are obviously no fish to worry about. Again, you can leave your fountainscape running through the winter or close it down for the season. As there is usually more splashing from say a gurgling stone column, you will have some amazing ice formations when it gets frosty. Here are some tips to care for your fountainscpape through winter:

  • Maintain water levels – As your fountain or gurgler has more splashing and more ice, you will also see your water level drop faster. Most water resevoirs for a gurgler are smaller , so be sure to check your levels regularly and add some fresh water.
  • Keep the water moving – You may have a fabuous ice sculpture but make sure that water is still able to flow. You may need to chip back some ice from time to time.
  • If shutting your fountain down – Make sure to remove the pump and store in a frost free location in a bucket of water. This prevents the impeller from seizing up once it is stored.


With some careful planning, you can ensure your water feature can be enjoyed from inside the house as well as outside. This way even when it is too cold to sit outside, you can sit inside and still enjoy the sights of your waterfall, with a cup of coffee in hand!

  • Proper placement – When installing your water feature, location is so important. Not only is it important to direct the waterfalls for the best outdoor viewing, but make sure you can see your pond and waterfall from inside too. Angling a waterfall or gurgling stone towards your living room or kitchen window allows you to enjoy that view in the winter as well.
  • Light it up! – Water lighting is so important. Put a small up light on your waterfall and you can enjoy the light sparkling on the water on a dark winter night. It gets dark out so early in winter too. If you don’t have any lighting on your waterscape, it just disappears at night. But light it up, and you can open up a whole new look to your pond – water at night it just magical!


With a few maintenance tasks you can enjoy the aesthetic rewards of the winter water feature.  If you decide to shut down the system, a few precautionary measures will be sure to preserve your fish, pump life and extend the life of your system.


Rich Earth is a Landscaping company providing Garden and Water Feature maintenance, renovations and installations in and around the Fraser Valley of BC. For more info

Rain, rain gone away…

I can’t believe it has been so long since my last post. We had such a mild spring in the Pacific Northwest this year and then summer started early, so work has just been hopping along since February. Now, I finally feel there is time to catch my breath and post again….

The Alaska Mountain Range and the Chulitna River in the Clear Mid Afternoon

Summer Sizzle

We have had warm summer temps that started in May. Then June was incredibly hot. July started the same and only yesterday did we finally get some rain. To west coast standards the rain we had was pretty pathetic. More of a light drizzle. Plants are suffering, lawns are a burnt brown already and its hard to work in the constant heat.

According to the weather network we usually receive on average about 81 mm of rain from June 1st. This year we are at 7.4 mm since June 1st. Forest fires are being fought all over the province. Last week our sky was a hazy fog of smoke from some forest fires burning in our area. The sun was a spooky orange glow from behind the haze and it was actually hard to breathe outside for some people. Many local municipalities have introduced water restrictions and some have put an all out ban on lawn sprinklers due to the low level of our water reservoirs. There was significantly less snow pack this winter and significantly less rain this spring. Our area is experiencing what some people might call a crisis.

Water wise?

I have a client that I do occasional garden maintenance for. He is an older gentleman , and I help out with things he can’t get to. He is a very nice guy and we usually chat when I am there to garden. Of course, we discuss the weather and on my last visit the drought we are experiencing was a topic. I noticed how his lawn is still green. He told me he is only allowed one day a week to water due to water restrictions.  So he was quite proud of having very little browning with 3 months of little rain. He explained – he gets up at 5am and starts in the front. He has quite a large front lawn and has to move the sprinkler 4 times to “hit all parts” of it. He then moves to the back lawn and has 3 moves…one of his proud weapons in his arsenal is a stainless steel impact sprinkler that can shoot up to 40 ft. Wow! I didn’t know what to say. By 9am he has to switch off and his 4 hour water sprinkling job is done. I wonder how much water he uses in that time? How much of it hits his driveway and runs off quickly to the drain in his cul de sac? A few hundred litres? In 4 hours , I would expect even more.


This years drought has been worse then usual. Some people blame the El Nino weather pattern, others blame climate change. I am not wishing to argue one way or another, or get into a pointless argument on what is causing it. The fact is our region IS experiencing our worst drought ever. I know that the last 3 summers have had long periods of drought. I feel that this is going to be a regular pattern for us. Many other areas in North America have had and are experiencing similar patterns.

A change will do you good!

I feel that we need to change our attitudes towards water use. We need to start learning how to manage our water resources in a more conscious way. I applaud the municipalities that have introduced an all out ban on lawn sprinkling and others that have put restrictions on when people can water.

The lush green lawn and white picket fence were ingrained into our society in the 20th century. The ideal suburban lifestyle. For some reason the white picket fence fell by the wayside but the perfect , golf green looking lawn is still stuck in our psyche of what a home must have.


I understand the benefits of lawn. I have children that play soccer, badminton and run around our brown/dry lawn all the time. It will come back once the weather cools down and the rain comes again. A little bag of grass seed and some soil for topdressing will help it bounce back. Its not the end of the world.

Using a sprinkler to water a lawn for 4 hrs twice a week is in my opinion unrealistic.  Lawns don’t require endless watering. In times of drought a lawn will turn brown. In times of extreme drought a lawn will go completely dormant. I would argue that 90% of people don’t use their front lawns in an urban environment anyway. They are just there for looks. Should we waste our valuable water resources on cookie cutter parcels of lawn? Just for aesthetics?


This photo was taken on July 10th at a clients garden. I have watered it 4 times since May. There are drought tolerant alternatives to lawn that also add more biodiversity.

Every drop helps!

My client is of an older generation. He won’t be convinced of reducing his sprinkling efforts. He must keep his lawn green at all costs. His municipality doesn’t have an all out ban yet and until it does he will continue to get up at 5am and start his 4 hour lawn sprinkling routine. I don’t think any argument will stop him. But we must start educating the next generation to understand that our water is not a never ending supply , especially in times of drought. We have to educate everyone to understand that we all must make a sacrifice and compromise. We must reduce wasteful water consumption.

I think that everyone would agree that it is more important to have a water supply that supplies us with drinking water. We may have a brown lawn for a couple of months. But I feel it is worth it. It is worth it for us now and for our future generations. Do you agree?


Hot trends for 2015

With the new year just around the corner, it is a great time to think about your outdoor space and what you can add to your garden to give it that extra spark of interest for 2015. Here is a list of some of the hot, landscaping trends for 2015 that experts have predicted.

  1. Garden- tainment: Consumers are projected to spend billions on outdoor décor in 2015. Homeowners will use their outdoor spaces as an extension of their homes to entertain. Your outdoor space can be as comfortable and welcoming as the inside of your house. Outdoor furniture doesn’t have to be white, plastic, rickety lawn chairs! New outdoor fabrics are made to be waterproof, fade resistant and are available in many patterns and colours. Use them on comfortable outdoor furniture that will help create your outdoor living room. Readymade pots and planters can be quickly added to bring fresh colour to any patio setting before a party. Add a small outdoor fireplace to create a cozy hot spot for you and your family to enjoy in the evenings.


  1. Edible Gardens : The latest trend is to combine edibles and ornamentals in your garden beds and pots. By adding fruits and vegetables to your outdoor space, you will offer more diversity, and energy to your garden. Plus you get a bountiful harvest out of it too! New dwarf varieties of berry producing bushes like blueberries and raspberries make it possible to plug these shrubs into already established beds or small patio pots.


  1. The birds and the bees!: Since the news that our bee populations have been dwindling started to hit the airwaves , people have been consciously adding to their gardens with bees in mind. 2015 will be no exception. Basil, aster, goldenrod and lavender are a few options for the pacific northwest. You can also design your garden with butterflies and birds in mind. Planting ceanothus(California lilac) is a great source of nectar and food throughout the season for butterflies. Phlox, lupines and fall sedum are other great butterfly plants. Also, think about the birds by adding a bird bath or small fountain for them to splash around in.
  1. Waterscapes: Water features are a popular addition to gardens and 2015 looks like no exception. From Patio ponds, small fountains and gurglers to ponds, streams and waterfalls – there really is an option for every space and budget. The sound of water drowns out noise, it is relaxing and soothing after a hectic day at work, and water features attract life of all kinds – birds, butterflies, dragon flies and frogs. Your outdoor space will be transformed by your waterscape. It will become the focal point of your outdoor room.

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  1. Privacy planting: Life keeps getting busier and busier. All the more reason to create a private piece of paradise at your home. That means planting to create privacy. This traditionally takes the form of a hedge. But it can be as easy as a row of container plants on your deck or patio. You can also plant a natural screen with a mix of perennials, ornamental grasses and shrubs.
  1. Tripping the light fantastic: When night falls, why should you have to leave your beautiful garden and head inside? Landscape lighting can help extend your time in your outdoor space. Customized lighting can easily highlight some focal points in your garden or keep your patio warmly lit. Outdoor lighting keeps your walkways and entry ways safely lit up too. Enjoy adding another dimension to your garden as you can relax on your patio and experience your “night garden.”                                                                                                                                             Landscape-lighting
  2. Bed Head Style: A purposefully un-styled outdoor space is the result of intentionally working within the natural landscape. This is sometimes called ‘naturalistic” with the emphasis on form and structured rather then just on plants that flower. This casual landscape style expresses an effortless personality with an “anything goes” attitude. This usually involves a mixture of ornamental grasses and perennials and a desire to create a low impact on the environment. Drifts of plants in close groupings reduce the amount of weeding and water loss. Plants are usually left through the winter as their seedheads, stalks and the wispy grasses shine in the winter light.

 2014-10-03 11.53.37

Start planning now, and good luck gardening in 2015!

For more info or ideas visit our website at:  , check us out on HOUZZ and visit our Google plus page at .

Forest bathing….

Have you ever had a stressful day at work? An argument with someone or a difficult paper to write for a course that has just added too much stress to the already busy daily grind? Perhaps you needed to relax and get your mind off it all and went for a walk outside or for a run. Or maybe you just stared out the window and gazed out onto your garden or the trees on your street. Without even knowing it, your subconscious has turned to nature to help to calm your senses.  Biophilia, the innate human attraction to nature, is a concept that has been recognized for several decades by the scientific and design communities.


The term Biophilia (from the greek root – meaning love of nature) became a popular idea in the 1980’s when a biologist – Edward O. Wilson, realized the long term consequences of our suburban sprawl with our destruction of nature, and our insensitivity to the natural world around us . He pioneered a new school of thought on bringing people back in contact with nature.  “Biophilia is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms.” The concept of biophilia suggests that humans hold an actual biological need for a connection with nature. This connection is based on physical, mental and social levels. Our connection to nature (or lack of connection) can greatly affect our personal well-being, productivity and societal relationships.

But is that possible? How could we even quantify it? Is this just some flowery idea made up by the liberal, left wing, environmentalist hippies…..?!?

In reality, improving community well-being through biophilia can impact productivity costs and the bottom line. There is actual financial potential for businesses to grow their profits by this sound, economic investment. There are good economics behind Biophilic design. There have been many studies, based on scientific research that shows the very real savings on today’s high productivity costs.   In 1978, ING Bank directors shared a vision for their new 538,000 square foot headquarters in Amsterdam. The focus of the building design was to maximize natural lighting, integrate organic art, and install water features to enhance the productivity of its workers while also creating a new image for the bank. The productivity savings in this case were astounding: absenteeism decreased by 15% after construction was completed. Employees looked forward to coming to work and voluntarily tended to the natural features in the office. The bank additionally saved an estimated $2.6 million per year after all energy system and daylighting units were installed. Overall, ING’s image as a progressive and creative bank corresponded with the growth of users who decided to switch to ING as their primary bank, bumping it from the fourth most popular bank to the second most popular bank in the Netherlands (32. Romm and Browning, 1994)


Biophilic design can also help patients to heal more quickly in hospitals. I attended a landscaping conference a few years ago where a speaker talked about the effects of his garden designs in hospitals across North America.  The healing benefits of the gardens he designed and installed were astounding. Not only did it create a space that improved a patients recovery but also helped improve the day to day living with a terminal illness. Healing gardens promote good health, evoke pleasurable memories and act as a place for social connections for patients. Even family members visiting patients feel more relaxed, rejuvenated, and positive. The effects on the health care staff were also recognizable as they were able to use the garden space to take breaks in and get some time to relax and recoup from their demanding jobs. The health and alertness of nurses in hospitals is crucial to the comfort of the patients. Many hospitals in North America are now incorporating large-scale healing gardens into their design layout.

In Japan there is a name for the healing process of surrounding patients in nature. Sharin-yoku is the ancient Japanese practice of restorative walks in nature. In English Sharin-yoku translates into “Bathing in the atmosphere of the forest”. There have been many studies in Japan to look at how effective these walks can be. In the forest, volatile and non-volatile compounds called phytoncides are emitted by plants. Inhaling these organic compounds has been proven to decrease blood pressure and stabilize autonomic nervous activity (Ohtsuka, 1998).


Our bodies response to daylight is also another important clue on how we can harness the power of biophilia. It is proven that exposure to natural light helps to balance our hormonal levels of serotonin and melatonin. Using natural light in the design and planning of hospitals, work places and schools can only increase our health and productivity.

So, next time you are feeling stressed out and even if you sometimes feel like life is beating you down – head outside into the fresh air and bathe in the atmosphere of nature. Afterwards, you will feel better – its biophilia dude!…everyone’s trying it!

2014-11-16 11.00.14

Fall – ing into winter….

We have had some great weather over the last couple of weeks on the west coast. It was really quite warm for October – but all of a sudden the temperature has dropped and the rains have arrived. The wet, cool, grey days of fall are upon us. But before we pack it in and forget about going outside to enjoy our gardens – we can find ways to extend the interest into the fall and winter and plan for spring!

     SAM_2562            OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sedum ‘autumn joy’,Japanese blood grass.    Aster,torch lily,fountain grass, rudbeckia.

This is the time of year to enjoy the last burst of colour in our gardens. If you have any ornamental grasses in your garden beds like me , then you will be excited as the colours begin to glow and change in the fall light. A mixture of grasses and perennials is a sure fire way to extend the season. The seed heads of the grasses look spectacular in the blowing , autumn winds. The contrast of seed heads of a perennial like black eyed susan or sedum look wonderful next to the airy, wispy quality of the grasses.


Miscanthus ‘Yaku Jima’


Miscanthus ‘Huron Sunrise’

There is also colour to be found in the various shrubs that provide winter interest and food for the birds with berries. Adding 1 or 2 shrubs that produce berries is a great way to add some vibrant focal points in the fall and winter as well.


Callicarpa ‘beauty berry’ and Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’



But back to the grasses…..I have written about the benefits of grasses in the garden before : drought tolerance, low maintenance, long season of interest. The only draw back is when the grasses get cut back in early spring , there are a few months when ones garden can look quite bare. A perfect solution is to plant some spring blooming bulbs. Fill in the gaps between the cut back grasses with vibrant colours from Februrary to May. This is the perfect time of year to get some bulbs in the ground before winter creeps in.


I like to plant a few early blooming crocuses. Then I mix in some early dwarf narcissus like Jetfire, and some later blooming daffs like Tete a tete and  King Alfred. Finally I choose some mid to late blooming tulips to add the late spring burst of colour before the grasses begin to grow again. The great part is the grasses can cover up the dying leaves of your bulbs.

This is a great project to do and lots of fun choosing the colours to start off with in spring after a grey winter. Be bold, have fun and plant away. Check out your local garden centre now for beautiful bulbs….


Monty and the Ephemeral Garden

Recently, my mother recommended that I try watching a gardening show that she was enjoying. It was all about French gardens – British host, Monty Don, traveled around looking at gardens and discussing the historical context of these gardens and how they related to garden design through the ages. Monty Don is a very famous British gardening guru – he has hosted a gardening show on the bbc for a number of years, been on the radio, and written books and articles on gardening for various publications. He has quite a following in the UK. Monty is closer in age to my parents but I thought I would tune in and give ‘Monty Dons’ French Gardens’ a try. (He also has a series called Monty Dons Italian Gardens).

images (3)


 I was pleasantly surprised – his passion for gardens and the excitement he shares on his show have a youthful exuberance. He is an excellent presenter. He obviously loves gardening, has a great deal of knowledge about the history of gardening and garden design and his passion is quite contagious. Monty has stories of Queens, jealousies and competitions between Kings about some of the gardens he visits.

He travels through France, stopping at beautiful gardens along the way. I feel that one of his great gifts is his ability to appreciate every garden, no matter if it is not quite to his taste. So many garden critics tend to be so negative about this garden or that garden style. They spend all their time cutting down others. Monty was always so positive and appreciative.

He has a real passion for hedges!  One tv critic wrote in a review of the show. “There are few things in life finer than a good hedge,” says Monty Don, standing by a very high one that seems to go on forever, horizontally as well. To be honest, I can think of a few things finer (in fact about 10 billion), but he does seem to mean it. Monty’s enthusiasm is not put on for the camera, I think – it’s real. He really does love his hedges.    Yes , he really does!

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Monty had worked in the south of France as a young man, so he revisits some areas that he hadn’t been to for years. It was interesting to watch him enjoy the same French countryside with an older perspective. On one of the episodes Monty was posing a slightly pretentious question. Can a garden be art? Or is it just a garden first and art later or only just a garden. He visits 3 very different gardens and asks each garden designer to answer, which I found very insightful.  

Monty Don also has a great gift in articulating his feelings. He talks about how gardens force you to be in the moment. He describes how all the natural elements come together to bring you present in that precise moment. How the smell of lavender, the sun shining through the trees and the wind blowing can create this moment where everything else drops away and one will be fully present and experience it. Then the wind shifts, the sun changes and its gone. That moment can never be recreated. It happened, you experience it and just like that its gone.


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Monty Don has written of his struggle with depression since the age of 25 and his diagnosis with Seasonal Affective Disorder. He describes in his memoir “great spans of muddy time” in which there is nothing but depression. He has said that “‘Earth heals me better than any medicine”.  Monty Don has always been candid about his garden’s role in helping him with his depression. In his book ‘The Jewel Garden’, he elaborates on this much more. Monty also suffered a minor stroke in 2008 which lead to him having to step away from the cameras and his gardening show to recover. His spent his time getting better by working on his own organic garden at his home. He has also done a gardening show where he worked with recovering drug addicts to build a garden as part of their recovery process.

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 Here is a quote from Monty that shows his love and passion for the garden :

“The routine of a garden is a huge part of its attraction. Sarah (his wife) says that I am like an old dog plodding round the same beat morning and night, but for me the walk is measured with constant change. Following May Day – surely the most exciting date in anyone’s calendar – those changes are exploding with every step. This year has had spring more tightly coiled inside it than any other I can remember. Now, at last, it is like a struck match, flaring with a million green flames at every sweep of the eye. Tulips blossom and the last of the winter flowers and first of the summer pitch in with colour, but this is undeniably the high green day of spring.”


Heading out into the garden can be a real, positive distraction from the stresses of life. It also has the power to heal – physically, mentally and spiritually. Take the time to be in the moment, outside in a garden, no matter how big or small. Lose yourself in the plants and the trees, it will be worth it.

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