Posts tagged plants

Costco Time Machine

After a morning of watching yet another 10 cm of fluffy snow fall on the Queendom, we finally heard the plow drive past on the main road to town. We drove in to do the weekly shop. Camouflaged Trumpeter Swans filled the nearby fields. It finally feels like winter has arrived.

Winter looks like it is finally here to stay.

After months of cold temps but no snow, winter looks like it has finally arrived.  The snow just keeps on coming down. Hooray!

We went in to Costco to grab a couple of jugs of milk and somehow we found ourselves wandering through the *gardening aisle*!

Why is Costco always four months beyond real time?

Why is Costco always four months beyond real time?

Does anyone in Canada buy potting soil in mid-February? How about barbecues, tents, kayaks and grass seed? There was a bafflingly wide selection of camping gear, patio planters and gardening gloves.

There must be some logic to this marketing ploy. I suppose that some suckers fill their carts with this summer merchandise in hopes that it will make winter pass quickly. But most locals know that the frost-free date stands fast at May 24 and no amount of wishful thinking will change that. Filling a quarter of the store with unseasonal goods seems crazy to me but someone must be buying this stuff. It is pretty valuable stock space to dedicate just to amuse the patrons.

The part that frustrates me is that when I really need new gardening gloves or a hose in August, this section will be filled with artificial Christmas trees and reindeer. Bah humbug!

This snowman says, "Spend less time at Costco and you're life will seem richer!"

This snowman says, “Spend less time at Costco and you’re life will seem richer!”

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You Have to Start Somewhere!

With the arrival of summer, so came the arrival of our families. Everyone was keen on visiting our new home and checking out our rural lifestyle. I am proud to show off our place, with its wrap-around deck and new-car feel.

Home Sweet Home – but no garden in sight

But stepping back and looking at the photos that were taken, I can’t help but notice the abruptness of the modern house plonked in the center of wild land.  There is no gentle transition from wild to domestic. When settled on the porch, sipping a mug of something, I find that I am not really pulled to step off the deck into the surrounding nature.  We need to create a warmer feel that helps blend our home into its setting.

A garden is needed.  A small garden at the front of the house which will soften the edge of the gravel driveway and give the impression that the house has naturally sprouted and grown here.

A bit of a junk yard has developed at the side of the house as we continue to figure out where everything should go.

Can I count these weeds as a garden?

A lovely view of the weeds, concrete supports and our spider web collection!

With the beginning of the school year upon me yet no class to call my own, I decided that my September project would be the front entrance garden. I figured that a little hard physical labour would have me begging for the sub finder phone to ring.

I started the project by digging up the weeds and scraping up the gravel. I filled about six wheelbarrows of gravel just trying to find soil beneath it.

Next, I pulled out the tiller. Once again, FM had insisted earlier in the year that we would need a tiller and, once again, he was right. I fired up this tough little machine and next thing I know, I was being dragged around the driveway area like a rag doll! I spent the better part of two days churning up the earth and liberating rocks the size of watermelons. I managed to free up the soil to a depth of about 40-45 cm.

I headed out to the local hardware and garden stores where I selected a bunch of shade-loving, deer-resistant plants.  This is the north side of the house and receives only 5 hours of full sun at the height of summer. I want this area to be evergreen yet get a bit of colour variation through small flowers and variegated leaves.  I insisted on getting a few dwarf conifers (or specimen trees) that will anchor the garden yet never grow too high to obstruct the view from the porch. I also purchased that ugly black garden border in order to keep the soil from running all over the driveway during heavy rains.

The toughest part of this project was inserting the ugly black garden border. I guess I was in a hurry to get to the plants and it took freakin’ forever to nestle the plastic deeply enough. After that, I simply mixed in a few bags of topsoil and arranged the plants in an orderly way.  After planting, I covered the beds with a black mulch that really makes the plant colours pop.

A sitka spruce ‘papoose’; 2 azaleas, 2 heathers, 2 Euonymus – one columnar and one trailing

A weeping Norway spruce, 2 more azaleas, 2 more heathers and 2 more Euonymus

A Gold Coin dwarf Scots Pine – perhaps my favourite!

I used all those watermelon-sized rocks to cover and hide the concrete deck pillars. I am particularly pleased with the effect.  The log round works as a natural step up to the porch.

Would you believe that this project took me about two weeks from start to end?  I didn’t work on it the whole time, mind you. I will have to take one more photo of the front again for comparison   Although it is a small area (3 ft deep x 25 ft long), it is a step in the right direction.  And it makes a world of difference when you arrive at the front door.  Come on by and have a look!

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What Were You Thinking, Scotland?

Thistles. They have become the bane of my existence, here at the Queendom.


Beautiful only in photographs.

If you do a little research, you will find the “Canada Thistle” classified as a noxious weed in the six largest provinces of Canada and in 43 states. They not only spread by tufted seed heads, like a dandelion, but also through their taproots, which can grow 6 METERS in a single year (that’s 20 ft, my US friends)! A single taproot can send up a new shoot every 10 cm. The mathematical calculations required to figure out how many plants can grow from a single thistle are far too complex for my mind. Besides, my problem does not concern the spread of a single plant. We have five acres of mostly cleared land that thistles claimed as their own and I think the battle was won before we even moved in.

This field of thistles isn’t mine, but this is a fair approximation of my current battle.

By mid-summer, the thistles began to flower and the magnitude of the issue came into view. I couldn’t sit back and watch those flowers go to seed. I had to take action, no matter how inconsequential my efforts would be. With FM’s handy old tree-planting staff (my shovel of choice for all things gardening) and thick leather work gloves, I headed off yonder to show them who reigns the Queendom now.

Honestly, these plants make me look diminuitive!

Well, I’ll be. These things are huge! Many of them tower over me, reaching over 6 ft tall. I spent the better part of two weekends digging and pulling and piling thistle plants. The cull will have to be burned once the fire ban is over. We sure can’t compost them!

If you don’t look too closely, it seems that I emerged triumphant this time as I kept most of the flowers from going to seed.  But sadly, there are many new sprouts showing up, proving that nature is relentless.


and so on and so on …

“an ancient Celtic symbol of nobility of character as well as of birth, for the wounding or provocation of a thistle yields punishment” quote taken from wikipedia. This author is willing to abide such punishment for her purposeful actions against the sacred plant.

A quick little history lesson – It is said (by Wikipedia) that in ancient times, a Norse army was sneaking up on a Scottish encampment and had successfully come within striking distance unnoticed. One Norseman stepped on a thistle plant and cried out in pain, revealing their position and alerting the Scots. Thereafter, the Scots held the thistle  in high regard.

Hmmm…perhaps I too should revere the thistle as it is keeping the Queendom safe from invading armies (of zombies?)

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The Landscape Plans (aka the 20 year plan)

When we were looking for a house on an acreage, it seemed that all our searches led to either renovations needed in the house or landscaping needed on the property (or both).  When we opted for the Hellicar house, we chose a long-term landscaping project.

The first thing that we did upon moving in was consult a landscape designer.  Cassandra from Paradise Plants came for an hour walk-around, listening to our wish-list and giving her first impressions.  Our main wish is to have a big deer-fenced area for all our vegetable beds and fruit trees.  We voiced our concerns about the drainage issues on the front of the property.  We are also keen on letting most of the acreage go back to nature – with tall trees giving canopy to thick undergrowth.

A few weeks later, she gave us her landscape drawings.  She warned that these plans are long-term, as in a 5-year plan in order to plant it all, but at least it is a starting point for us.

Property overview

PROPERTY OVERVIEW –  This shows mostly the big trees that we will plant in the naked front area to give some privacy to the house. Once we have some canopy, the undergrowth will be encouraged to go back to natural rainforest, with huckleberries, salal, mahonia, and whatever else chooses to grow here. We are not keen on the hedging she proposes on either side of  the driveway but we are super keen to plant a bunch of giant sequoias and weeping willows!

House area

HOUSE AREA – This area will hopefully give me my fill of flower beds and weeding. There is quite a complex legend that goes with this (let me know if you want the list) but mostly it consists of shade trees and deer-resistant shrubs and perennials. One change we will make to this drawing is the proposed car port. We will eventually build a car port/garage but it will be attached to the workshop instead. In that place, I am keen to build a small fenced area to hide the compost bin, the yard bags and extra patio chairs. We also want to make some small garden beds on either side of the entrance steps.

Veggie Garden

VEGGIE GARDEN – This area is on the sunny south side of the workshop which we will protect from deer with 9 ft fencing. Hopefully, it will grow enough beans, peas, kale, chard, broccoli, tomatoes, etc. to keep us fed. There is a greenhouse (P) and some fruit trees too.

Cassandra left us with the name of a company who can help us solve the drainage issues, re-grading and excavation.  We contacted Dallas at Oasis Hydroseeding and he was super keen on redesigning the land. Once he heard that we didn’t want 5 acres of golf-course grass, he was full of ideas on how to make the land usable and beautiful. His plans are much more vague than Cassandra’s since he uses a lot of terminology that we don’t yet understand but it is obvious that he has done this before and knows what he is doing.

During his two scouting visits, the land was super wet and soggy. He figured that he won’t be able to bring his large machinery in until late June, since they will just get bogged down in the muck.

His main proposal is to (1) install drainage under the garden area (2) re-grade the area around the house and add 4″ of topsoil (3) hydro-seed the area immediately around the house with grass  (4) install drainage from the driveway to the pond and re-grade part of the front area.

I feel much better about this project now that it has been cut into workable chunks.

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