Friday, June 30, 2006

Should Garden Centers Sell Thugs?

Sedum acre
Now here's an interesting question. Should garden centers sell plant thugs?

In most gardens, Aegopodium or Goutweed or Bishop's Weed is a rampant spreader and a major pest. It never met a plant it didn't want for dinner and to crowd out if at all possible. It spreads and is barely confined to a garden bed by concrete lined beds.

So should nurseries produce this plant? Should garden shops sell it to unsuspecting gardeners?

Somewhere, in a past life I broached this question to a sales executive of a major Canadian nursery and the response was predictable. "We only grow them because there's a demand for them." In other words, somebody wants it - so we'll grow it no matter how badly it messes up gardens. It isn't the responsibility of the producer nursery to make decisions for gardeners.

And it isn't the responsibility of the garden center to make that decision either - or is it?

I saw flats of Sedum acre for sale in garden centers this year - even though it used to be listed as a noxious weed in this province. It is possible and legal to produce and sell a noxious weed?

In the case of the Bishops Weed - it does make a good ground cover where few other plants will thrive. And when pruned with a lawn mower, it rebounds to produce a dense mat of foliage. In the case of the Sedum acre, its brilliant yellow flowers blaze across rock gardens.

We know that the vast majority of plant thugs were introduced by the governments of various states or provinces and touted by them as "solutions" to problems. (can you say Kudzu vine) so the ornamental horticulture industry isn't to blame for these things. And gardeners aren't as well.


The question still remains - do we produce and sell plant thugs?

And who defines plant thug?

I discovered this major garden thug - Plant Invader of the Month

Oh-Oh! I discovered this garden thug growing naturally down beside my shoreline - well away from the gardens but snuggled nicely into the long grass and growing quite nicely - thank you very much - in several large and attractive clumps.

The problem with Anemone canadensis (thanks for those who pointed out my mistake) is that it rarely stays in one place for very long and whether the ants or birds take the seeds is irrelevant, something takes them and moves them around. It has a lovely white flower in early summer and I've seen it sold in more garden centers than I'd care to mention. In fact, I was in one the other day and the manager (a really nice guy) and I were laughing that they were on the bench for sale.

But once it gets into a garden, it won't let go. It is tenacious. It was imported naturally into a large perennial border at the old farm gardens and I worked for 5-6 years to get rid of it and never really did. I dug, I sprayed, I did all the things you're supposed to do and it still popped up here and there (mostly there).

So in this case, I already have it and I'm prepared to let it live down at the shore (some 200 feet from the gardens) but if it pops its head into my cultivated garden, I'll declare war.

And if you have any doubts about this little gem. I really don't think you should be buying it even though it is for sale and "cute".

What's your nomination for Plant Invader of the Month in your own garden??

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Borrowed Views in the Water Garden

It doesn't matter how you expand your point of view in the garden, it is a useful thing to think about when you're designing.

In this case, the reflective pond in front of the tower (a rather famous but private garden in Quebec, Canada) gives us two views.

The trick then is to do this in your own garden AND decide how you're going to enjoy this viewpoint. In other words, there's little point in creating a great view if you don't have a plan to sit and enjoy it - or a walkway that forces you to see it.

Create the view - whether it is an architectural water feature such as this or a special plant or ?? But then figure out how to enjoy it as well.

That's as deep as I can make it on this approach to a big holiday weekend. ;-)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Three friends in the garden

The middle frog in this picture is a special friend of mine. That's Fergus with a few friends in his hot-tub. Now Fergus and I go back a very long way in life. In fact, Fergus is probably the oldest frog in the world as he and I grew up together.

Fergus isn't just any old Frog. Nope, Fergus is a talking frog. And how he learned to talk is a long story all by itself but one I told my kids when they were quite small. Fergus was quite the rascallion in his youth, getting us into more trouble than you can possibly imagine. From driving a car to stealing my electronic control sailboat and almost getting eaten by bass at the cottage, Fergus lived life like only a great adventurer could.

I told my kids some of these stories when they were smaller but didn't tell them the really interesting stuff because I didn't want them to get ideas.

Fergus is currently writing his memoirs though and he has promised me he'll be telling all the sordid details of my childhood unless I come up with a few more flies and increase the hot water in the hot-tub.

Ah, blackmail works.

Picking a flower of a different kind

Thought you might like to see how we have to move this "flower" of my imagination. This is CHOIR being launched last Monday. All 5000 pounds of mahogany of her. She's sitting well in the water as we speak and the mast goes on later this week. Then I'll take her garden touring. :-)

For the record, this is a Folkboat - a 25' sailboat designed for the Baltic and North Sea - a true blue-water boat that has a special place in my heart.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Hunt for a Red Iris

The New York Times wrote an interesting piece on trying to create a red iris. This is tougher than you might think because the red gene doesn't exist in iris.

We're talking biotechnology here. You decide if it's worth it (it will be in monetary terms to the successful breeder).

But is it an "iris" if it has a gene for producing lycopene (the "red" in tomato) taken from a red pepper ?

That's like a "blue" rose.

What vanity. What nonsense. Spend your life making a difference somehow -- better than creating Frankiniris for matrons with more money than common sense.

New Perennial Plants

One of my favourite plant introduction nurseries is a Dutch operation called Darwin Plants. They have just put together a marketing package that bypasses the traditional marketing programme - instead of moving their new plants (some fantastic varieties I love in my own garden) through big wholesale nurseries, they are packaging them up and selling them to smaller nurseries in what they call a "sampler pack". This means you can go to your small local nursery and tell them to contact Darwin - (or Beelen Bulb Co., Florasource Ltd., McHutchison and Vandenburg Bulb Inc. their distributors) and these small nurseries can now obtain a sampler of these brand new introductions.

This is great news for the small local nursery that was never able to get these great plants.

I will tell you that when the Darwin catalog comes out, the sales teams at every major wholesale perennial nursery stare and drool over their new introductions - trying to convince the production teams to grow them all. :-)

Check out this European website if you want to see what's on the way to your garden center next year.

In an effort to be honest here - I should also explain that Darwin sends me a sampler package every year to try all of their new perennial plants. I trial all these plants in my garden and then photograph and report on them.

p.s. the picture is Helenium 'Chelsea'.

The World's Most Popular Rose

Here's a link to the World Rose Organization that has just voted and made 'Eden Climber' the world's most popular rose. Over 100,000 members in 36 countries vote on this award every year.

And just for the record. While these lists are kinda fun, they might give you a guideline to look for a rose or any other of the plant "award-winners" - they are no guarantee of success in your garden.

With roses for example, a rose that grows well in California might very well be a bomb in the cooler Northeast or vice versa.

So take the award with a grain of salt but if you see the rose in a local garden shop - (at the right price of course) then do try it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Pond for Kids

pond fountain
I raised 4 kids and one of the constants was that they all loved messing about with water. Not necessarily swimming but messing about with sprinklers and water jetting here and there. This water feature is a kid's pond - complete with copper ornament that sprinkles water up onto the edge of the pond where a kid can play under the cooling jets on a hot day.

This is fairly simple and any handy person could drill out some holes (small ones to start) and bend a copper pipe (or put elbows etc into straight ones if bending pipe is beyond the technology you possess). I don't see any reason why black plastic pipe wouldn't do the same thing (other than the look of the thing - copper is much more elegant but we're talking a kid's pool here - elegant may be a word we can ignore). Hook it up to a pump and you've got a sprinkler. Just make sure you've got enough water in the pond or an automatic refill system.

Note the slotted rock that streams the water back down into the pond.

And how old do you have to be to no longer be considered a kid?

Friday, June 23, 2006

One of my favourite garden memories

I am the insanely proud father of 4 wonderful children - and when they were growing up on the farm, we always had a rather large vegetable patch that meant we were pretty self-sufficient in veggies. With one exception.

I could never grow enough edible podded peas to keep us going all summer. No matter what I did - those flowers never seemed to produce peas. We grew 'Sugar Snaps' at that time and these were very sweet and were a family favourite. I did all kinds of things to try to boost the productivity of those vines but nothing seemed to work.

What did solve the problem one day was seeing my 5-ish year old daughter slipping out of the pea patch - her shirt pocket and pants pocket jammed full of peas. The floppy hat on her head was stuffed with peas and jammed back down so the theft was "disguised" and her already voluminous and father-adored cheeks were stuffed so her voice was inaudible. Those big brown eyes were so happy to have all these peas that I couldn't get mad. I had to chuckle inside in a big way - particularly at the hat jammed full and pulled down to the ears.

I remembered the look I got from her that day when I had my first edible podded pea of the season this afternoon. I had to smile as I crunched through what will be the first of a bumper crop of peas.

The only problem of course is that she's all grown up now and moved away to the city so I'm going to get a bumper crop and I have to eat it all myself. What I do have though is indelibly printed on my mind - the look of those peas in that hat and those big eyes staring back at me. I might not have had the peas that year - but I've been feasting on that memory for a long time now.

Thanks for the memory dear and thanks for the tears of happiness this afternoon.

Walled Garden: Cheap, Easy and Fast

You have to admit that this isn't your average garden wall. But think of it this way - it's fast to build. It's cheap and easy to build. And after the season is over, you can compost your wall to feed next year's crop of flowers or vegetables. Or, you can actually take it one step further and build permanent straw bale walls.

As I said, cheap, easy and fast.

I note this wall was in one of the gardens at FLORA, Montreal.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I want this garden design element in my backyard

garden design
This Montreal FLORA garden was designed by a Chelsea flower-show, (U.K.) gold medal winner from Australia (how's that for a mixed bag of locations)

Whatever or wherever, this garden design construction is one I'd be delighted to have in my own backyard. Constructed of metal framework, lined with wood and waterproofed with cement on the outside, this two part gazebo (what else can you call it?) and pond captured my imagination.

You can see the fireplace in the section facing us - what you can't see in the longer one is the dining area (after you've grilled the steaks on the firepit).

It might be a little difficult to move it to the island but when they take down FLORA in October, I'd sure like to try.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What's a pilates ball got to do with garden design?

I visited Flora Montreal last week and all I have to say about it is WOW! I confess that sometimes I'm a jaded garden visitor. I've been visiting and building gardens for over 30 years now so I expected same-old, same-old garden design from this landscape exposition.

Instead I got some of the best landscape ideas from the 45 gardens on display and came away all refreshed and looking at my own garden design again (and changing it hourly after seeing and thinking about the designs at this wonderful expo).

Can you tell that I'm enthusiastic? Let's just say that I took 207 pictures at this place and am working on a new site just for them. This is excellent stuff.

If you have a chance - visit Montreal this summer. While FLORA will stay around for the next 10 years - each year the gardens will be different (yeah!!!) giving me an excuse to visit this wonderful city every year. (as if I need an excuse to visit one of the finest cities in North America)

If you like eating, drinking fine wines - and want an exotic visit (80% of Montrealers speak English as well as French - so visitors are fine in this friendly city) then do put FLORA on your agenda before October 8 when the gardens will be taken down.

I'm not so sure about the balls though. Wait till you see what I do want in my backyard!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Garden Design by Lawnmower

I have these trees and shrubs on my front yard and it is a pain to try to mow around them. In fact, it is pretty much impossible to mow around them as you can see from the tall grass around each.

I have the choice of letting the grass grow long like it is now or getting rid of the grass and mulching it. Or, I can simply build a garden bed around each shrub.

So that's what I've decided to do. I ran the mower around each shrub and tree on the lawn and because they're so close, the circles started to intersect. I smoothed out the curves where the circles met and slowly but surely the circles started joining up. I kept circling and smoothing until the garden shape emerged.

So, this is what I'm currently thinking of building. I'll get rid of the grass (newspaper and mulch) and simply create a large flower bed. Planting will start next fall and continue for the next few years as I create this front garden bed.

I'm considering calling it the lawn mower school of garden design effect. :-)

Emerald Ash Borer in Indiana

The Emerald Ash Borer has been confirmed in Harris Township in St. Joseph County, Ind.

As a result, Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources established a countywide EAB quarantine, which also includes Mishewaka and South Bend.

Other EAB infestations have been found in Indiana's LaGrange, Steuben, Randolph, Huntington, Hamilton, Marion and Adams counties.

The department warns that scam artists are trying to take advantage of the situation. "If someone comes to your home claiming to be able to cure your ash trees of EAB, be suspicious," said Jodie Ellis, Purdue Extension Horticulturist.

reblogged from NMPro.

Nursery - Rice Creek Gardens is closing

Here's an interesting counterpoint to the wailing of closing nurseries. Those who grow alpines will miss this little treasure a lot more than that west coast closure. But, as with all things - 5 million dollars speaks pretty loudly. Too bad it had to happen - in a contest of highways over people - the highways mostly win. And "that" speaks volumes about what is valued as a society.

Monday, June 19, 2006

This really p***** me off

I was garden touring this past week and watched two women pick a bouquet of roses each from a rose in a public park.

It wasn't a single rose - it wasn't a spent blossom or two. Nope, they picked the rose and buds right off the big bush. And enough of them to handsomely populate a vase each.

What's the deal here? Ignorance? Rudeness? Lack of appreciation that this is a "public" space and not one's personal garden.

This is one of the reasons that serious public gardens are dying on this continent. You simply can't keep flowers in them without them disappearing. Unless we put our plants behind walls and keys with security, the flowers disappear. Any public garden curator will tell you amazing stories of plants lasting 24 hours (if that) before somebody digs them up leaving behind the planting holes and precious little else - not even the tags. I remember giving some rock garden plants to a public garden and being told they hadn't even managed to last the day before someone walked away with them. Only donated twice - the first time and the last.

But this level of rudeness - they even vamped for the camera when they realized I was taking their picture - just p****** me off.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Walled Gardens of Hotel Dieu

The Hotel Dieu Hospital in Montreal, Canada has a rare little gem of a garden that is very seldom open to the public. This garden - within a walled stone area - was part of the original hospital grounds started by the Sisters of the Religious Hospitalers of St-Joseph (English translation) I was fortunate enough to see this garden this past week and can recommend it as a little gem in the middle of Montreal.

The only way you can see this garden is to phone the Hospital Museum (use the regular switchboard) and make a reservation for a Sunday viewing. It is NOT open to the general public (it is still the home of the sisters) except by reservation on Sundays. In other words, you can't just wander in - even on Sundays. You gotta reserve folks! But do so. And happily donate to the cause of keeping this walled garden alive.

The gardens are not filled with rare plants but rather they are well laid out and colourful. The history lesson on the tour is also interesting as you'll be exposed to life in 17th century Quebec.

My recommendation. I'd go there once for the garden and the history tour but I'd go.

The Last Time I Emptied My Battery Pack

The last time I emptied my battery pack, I shot 485 pictures. Not only did I empty the pack but I put a dent into the replacement pack and almost filled up a gig card of pics (it takes about a 1000 pictures at the resolution I shoot for on the internet).

All this in pursuit of great garden touring this past three days in Montreal, Canada.

More to come - more pictures, more information and tons of fun stuff.

Edit - for the record - 577 pictures in 2 full days of visiting great gardens.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Remember Me Rose - 9-11 Memorial Rose

This is the press site at the National Gardening Assoc announcing the Memorial Rose - I went to the Bailey nursery site listed on the link but all they had was the same announcement. There are few other links to the rose gardens. So if you're interested in this rose, here's a good starting point and fresh off the news wire.

Monday, June 12, 2006

You get a better view from your knees

Oh Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener's work is done upon his knees"
Rudyard Kipling "The Glory of the Garden"

It strikes me every now and then that I should keep my camera beside me when I'm grubbing around doing some weeding "upon my knees". I compromise by leaving it on a stump or nearby stairs (otherwise I'll plant the darn thing by accident or leave it out in the rain) and fetching it whenever I see something I rather like.

And this view of Peony 'Red Magic' was one of the delightful visions of yesterday.

It really is important to be on your knees in the garden if you want to know what's really going on. And while I try to minimize knee time by mulching my perennial garden with 3-4 inches of wood chips, I still get to assume the posture. I'm all the better for it I note in hindsight.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Got a more sensuous flower?

I don't know about you but this Iris pallida 'Argentea Variegata' takes the prize for having a sensuous flower. The fragrance is typically iris - a light floral fragrance - but the flower is all curves and light like your very first girlfriend.

Taking care of it is so darned easy and it has resisted all the wind in my garden over the past few days (considerable) to keep standing upright. I'm going to propagate this one for sure and give it a bit of a clump in the mixed perennial border.

Propagating is easy and in another month to six weeks after flowering, I'll dig up the clump and break up the corm so that every bit has a bit of a green leaf - a fan - and some roots. Replanting right away will let it establish itself nicely before fall and put on some growth.

There's always a balancing act with iris propagation. You can get a LOT of iris plants (with corresponding fewer flowers) if you take small chunks. Or you can get fewer plants with flowers. It depends on whether you have the self control to go without flowers for a year while the plant is growing.

We'll see how much control I have in another month or so.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Variegated Daylily - my new project

I've had this variegated daylily for some years now but never done anything with it. Every year it throws a new green shoot instead of the variegation and if I don't do anything, pretty soon the green is as large as the variegated part. If I left it alone, I'm pretty sure the green would crowd out the other part. This reversion bothers the heck out of me and this year is the start of me doing something about it. I'm going to pollinate the flower (an orange) with some of the nearby fancy hybrids, collect the resulting seedlings and start a breeding programme to see if I can stabilize this leaf colouring. Probably not - but I'll have a heck of a lot of fun trying.

I don't know about you, but I need a project or five to interest me in going out and doing the weeding.

It is so cold here today that I need to dream about future gardening because when I go out later this afternoon to work, I'll be wearing long-johns and touques. Where did my summer go?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Make Your Bamboo Fountain

bamboo fountain
If you have a small pond, you could try making your own bamboo fountain. I suspect you wouldn't have to make it out of bamboo either if you had a more modern garden. A bevy of stainless steel gongs and clackings could be tuned to different sounds and a melody (or cacophany depending on your mood) could be quickly created.

Clematis - Love 'em

I do like clematis as a flowering vine - and at some point, I have no doubt I'll cover my humble cottage walls with them. The only clematis I have in my garden right now is a summer-fall blooming bush-type that I'll post pictures for when it comes into bloom. For the moment however, I'm enjoying the flowers in other folks gardens. And I'm continuing to play with my digital camera and get those closeups from 10 feet away with my x32 digital zoom.

Abkhazi Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia

Abkhazi Gardens is a rare treat of a garden in Victoria, Canada. Relatively unknown outside of the province, this excellent garden was the life work of two dedicated gardeners, the Georgian Prince and Princess Abkhazi - who are described by folks who knew them as completely in love with each other and their garden.

And it shows.

Currently owned by the Garden Conservancy of British Columbia, the garden is being constantly upgraded as this 80-strong, brave band of volunteers pays off the mortgage (this is a one acre parcel in the middle of the city) and continues to maintain the planting. The garden has great bones with rocks, large oak trees and waterfeatures and the plantings are complete and well-maintained. This is particularly impressive given that it is largely a volunteer effort with only a few paid staff to run this place.

Plant choices and combinations, such as the giant allium and agapanthus, are wonderful - others are too numerous to mention but I had forgotten how lovely Cerinthe is and how much I want to grow this annual flower until I saw it's blue spikes in the garden again.

Let me simply say that this garden is worth a few hours of precious travel exploration and the next time I'm in Victoria, I'd go back without having to even think about it. Great garden!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Jacob's Ladder Picture and Link

I happen to really like Polemonium and have grown every new variety as it emerges from the breeder's trials. Here's a pic of one of the latest with some other thoughts here about growing this plant.

Easy to grow in part shade in fertile soil. Tough to grow in clay.

Easily divided in the early spring.

Great ferny foliage.

What's not to like in perennial flowering plant?

Nice Sized Rhododendron

OK - so I can't grow one this big in my cold USDA zone 5 garden. This fact of nature doesn't stop me from admiring this big fella sitting on the UBC campus.

Offhand, I'd say it was about 15 feet tall and 25 wide.

But you know - all that colour gets rather tiresome after a while. (insert chuckle here)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Heronswood Closing

There's anguish and tearing of hair across the land as gardeners react to the closing of the famous Heronswood Nursery.

But really.

There's precious little money in small specialist nurseries. You do this for the love of the game rather than for the fortune it will bring you.

If Dan Hinkley - whom I admire tremendously for his plantsmanship and writing skill - chose to sell to Burpee, then it was a business decision. He got more money and his personal needs met by selling than by continuing to own this nursery.

Now is Burpee to be blamed that the nursery - on the west coast - didn't make any money? Amy Stewart - who I admire greatly for her writing - goes on a rant about the big business of nurseries and how California and the western states are just as populous as the East. Point taken. But if the nursery wasn't making a profit on the west coast - who's to blame for shutting it down.

Blame Burpee for closing the doors on a money-losing business?

Blame the west coast customers? Lovely folks all - but apparently not enough of them to support the rarified plant list at profitable levels.

The rarer the plant - the smaller the market for it. The more expensive the plant, the smaller the market.

Ask any small specialist nursery across the country and they'll tell you they're getting by...or not. But none that I know are rolling in the bucks. And those that don't have a national audience for their plants are even worse off. Maybe somebody knows of a small specialist nursery that is returning inflation plus a 10% profit after taxes but I don't.

And having said that, the proliferation of perennial nurseries has been dramatic over the past 30 years. The owner of Sunny Border nurseries in CT estimates that he had 12 competitors 30 years ago but that he has 300 today.

The perennial and plant market is changing drastically as the market changes. You're going to see even more nurseries - larger and smaller - go down in the next 3-5 years as the retail market shakes out. So while Heronswood may have had a massive plant list, it didn't have a massive market share to support the costs. Fact of life folks. It may have "owned" the rare plant connoiseur on the west coast but there weren't enough of them to turn a profit - and money talks in the nursery business just as it does in any other business.

What is often lost - the nursery business is a business for those who run it. It is however, a passion for those gardeners who use the nurseries. And much of the time passion runs the small nursery at the expense of the balance sheet. When it doesn't, then those small nurseries and family garden centers close down sooner or later. So the anger and passion about losing the nursery is about the passion gardeners have for their gardens and plants rather than any sense of real financial analysis.

Plant lovers - and I count myself among them - will lament the loss of yet another small nursery. The upside is that we still have Dan Hinkley's writing and his love of plants. That will re-emerge sooner or later.

But in the meantime, let us apportion the blame equally between those that owned the nursery and those that didn't support the nursery enough to make it truly profitable.

Japanese Bridge

This is a garden bridge over one small stream at a rather large pool at the Royal Roads University, Japanese Garden (Victoria, Canada). The bridge is a marvel of repeating arches and the reflections in the water are quite wonderful.

I note this garden has had some major changes in it since the last time I was there four years ago. Some fences have been torn down, opening up the garden and making it much more spacious. There are new plantings and the maintenance is much better. I still note there are several large beds infested with horsetail that require a full renovations (that stuff is pernicious) but this is one of the little-known garden gems out on Vancouver Island. This garden - and the associated Hatley Hall gardens are well worth visiting as good gardens and good garden design.

I'd give it my garden visiting recommendation. I'd go back.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Gardening is so Boring (Rant)

This is so - so - so boring. And no wonder.

I've been spoiled over the years with having my own nursery of unusual plants. I would grow between 600-800 varieties of annuals every year (and all the newest introductions) as well as over 1500 varieties of perennials. When I worked for another nursery in the past few years, it had approximately 1500 of the latest and best perennials being introduced.

Now I shop locally for my plants. Boring.

Let's start at the big box stores. They almost always have the same predictable boring plants. In the same predicable boring colours. No wonder every house in the burbs looks the same. Boring.

Here's my take on the local box stores.

Chain stores don't know how to water. Mind you, many garden centres have this problem. Watering takes time. Time is a cost. So if you water the plants - you incur a business cost. Watering is a cost. If you don't water - you don't incur a cost. Or if you water fast - you incur less of a cost. Anybody who has gone to a box store and not found a bevy of wilted plants is either not paying attention, has gone right after the plants have been unloaded or is outdoors after three days of pelting rain.

The best. Home Depot. They had the widest selection, the neatest aisles and the best looking plants. A few of the newer plants including the 'Kong' coleus and 'Sunshine' impatiens - not much else though. Mind you, I caught them after a new shipment had rolled in and most of the plants were still fresh off the truck. Not able to answer basic questions properly about fertilizing and rose care. And the selection is still limited to the most popular.

Second best: Rona (Canadian equivalent of Home Depot) Good presentation, good quick service. Plants uninspiring. Plant maintenance barely acceptable.

Almost tied for worst - Walmart. Plants not tagged, never heard of watering, poor selection of uninspiring plants. Carts of plants blocking aisles and other plants. Indicted with my partner (a serious non-gardener) saying that she "knows all the plants at Walmart". What could be worse?

The worst. Canadian Tire was messy with tons of dead and dying plants (particularly those poor tuberous begonia baskets on sale by the door). I hate dead plants and hoses in the aisles. Selection not overly great. Maintenance very poor - whoever does the watering needs to learn which end of the hose the water comes out of.

There's a place for these chain store garden shops but man, it isn't in my garden.

I did however pick up two good looking shrubs at Green Things (a small garden centre) in Brockville (automatic watering systems installed and spot watering to keep things alive and healthy). The prices were slightly higher but the plants were healthy and strong. (I took cuttings off them this morning to increase the numbers I plant in my garden - that's how good they were).

(End of rant)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Cheap, Homemade Mosquito Control

Forget those expensive mosquito magnets and other high-tech sucking stuff.

Here are the simple and big-time cheap instructions for constructing your own mosquito control system from a pop bottle and some sugar/yeast.

Note that the pictures aren't the best (and the original instructions are in Chinese) but that the translation works well to figure this out.

Get rid of them bloodsuckers!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Recognize This?

If you've seen the x-men movies, you may recognize this shot. The latest film (yes, I've seen it) :-) shows this exact picture during the memorial ceremonies. The memorial in the center is real in this picture but covered over in the movie. The garden pictured is the formal garden at Hatley Hall at Royal Roads University outside of Victoria, British Columbia.

This garden has had some major work done on it in the past few years and is much improved. Between the formal gardens and the adjoining Japanese garden, it is worth a trip to see.