Welcome to The Tranquil Garden

I hope you will enjoy the journey I'm starting today. I welcome all your comments and questions on my blog posts and hope you will find my observations about my garden interesting and possibly helpful. I am not an expert (far from it!), so this will be a learning experience all round. I'm planning to do research when questions come up that I can't answer. Frankly, the only reason I feel qualified to write a blog is because anyone can do it! The reason I chose to blog about gardening is because I love it, and I think it's therapeutic to get one's hands (or gardening gloves) dirty by planting things that with luck, educated guesses and a bit of sun and rain, will grow!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vacation Musings

One thing I love about traveling is noticing how gardens vary from one part of the world to another. Of course this has a lot to do with growing zones; but just as no two gardeners will create the same garden in the same region, there must be differences that arise from culture, traditions of that particular region, local gardening trends, etc.. I find it fascinating and, though the contrasts are not glaring from Nova Scotia to Quebec, there are some worth noting.
Walking through Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, yesterday, my husband and I were struck by the number of a particular kind of hydrangea that we saw in front of many of the colourfully painted, cedar-sided houses just outside the "downtown core" (okay, the main street!). After doing a little on-line research, I discovered that it is called "peegee hydrangea" and is a tree-type. The ones we saw had off-white clusters with pink tinges extravagantly covering the whole tree. The picture is one I took myself and is quite typical of the ones we saw.

Another plant I noticed in a couple of gardens was a rhododendron or possibly an azalea (hmmm...I should know the difference! Hold the phone...). What struck me was the size of these plants! I saw more than one that would have been more at home in the tropics, it was so enormous. Also, it had buds on it, and I thought these were spring-flowering plants. The photo I took is below, right. The plant is so large that there is sizeable maple seedling growing up through it that probably has gone unnoticed until recently.

Right, I'm back-- and now I know that Rhododendron is the genus name (spelled with a capital "R") and azaleas are a species of that genus (lower-case "a"). I always wondered about that. I also learned that there are indeed late-summer flowering types, although most seem to bloom in spring. There you are! You're welcome! They prefer acidic soil and semi-shade, too, FYI. I found a terrific site in case you're interested in growing these finicky babies in your garden. http://landscaping.about.com/cs/treesshrubs/a/rhodo_azaleas_2.htm

I'm going to end this for now, but I'm posting a picture of a garden bed I saw beside Notre-Dame in Paris. It's quite a different style than you'd find here, but beautiful. The bed is mostly low-growing annuals (verbena, perhaps?), but here and there a tulip pops up. If it had only been one or two tulips in someone's private garden bed I would have said that they were just strays forgotten by a squirrel or missed by the gardener, but these seemed to be deliberately planted that way. In Canadian gardens tulips are invariably planted "en masse" for the head-turning effect that produces, but why not try this sometime? Pick the right colours and it could be just as alluring and just think of all the gardeners who would stand staring quizzically at your front garden, wondering "Was this an accident? Do I like it?" Food for thought...this is how trends start!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

More Rose Ruminations and Conundrums

HI, All,

I got a question via FB about roses so I thought I'd put my answer (such as it is!) here on the blog so if anyone else finds it helpful to their gardening journey, all the better! Here's my friend's note:

"...Wilderness is winning in my backyard, but on the plus side, I do have some new growth on two rosebushes that I thought were completely dead! Oh - the lone rosebush in my front yard is about 8 feet tall with no blooms whatsoever - is there anything I can do about that? I'm going to cut it in half, just so it doesn't look so ridiculously floppy, but I'm happy to get some advice on that one..."

I have a few rose bushes in my yard, some that bloom no matter what and others that bloom reluctantly. I do find I have some success with the following policies:

1) I always prune the bushes fairly hard in the spring, down to an outward-facing bud about 8 inches to a foot from the ground on each main branch and I cut out the weaker looking branches plus any dead wood. Always prune on an angle so the rain can drip to the ground and doesn't pool where the stump is and cause rot.

2) Also in the spring I add a shovelful of compost or composted manure around the drip-line of the rose bush and sort of gently scrape it into the top inch or so of the earth. Also, I've started spreading a cup or so of epsom salts around each bush with the compost. This is supposed to stimulate blooming as well and it seems to be helping my more reluctant bloomers.

3) Roses are sun-worshippers so if your rose isn't blooming it may not be getting enough sun. Don't hesitate to move it to a different spot, preferably in spring. I can do another post this fall on transplanting, since fall is another good time to transplant most perennials. Also, water roses liberally at the roots, avoiding the leaves so you don't encourage blackspot and mildew.

4) Your eight-foot rose bush, has it ever bloomed? What kind of blooms does it have and when? It definitely may need some major pruning, but at this point in the year you might be better off going gently on it and doing the major job in the spring. Do cut out any dead branches, dead-head any spent blooms and thin out the inner branches and shape it gently all around.

That's all I have time for now, but I'll write more soon! Roses are touchy creatures but their blooms and scent (if any!) are worth the trouble. I'll talk later about dealing with the insects that seem to love them as much as we do.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Plantings!

I am lucky enough to have a good friend who is also an avid gardener and who is very generous with her plants (when they're big enough to be split, of course!). Today I planted the last of three items she generously gave me (thanks, Linda!).

The first was a perennial anemone that is listed as an "easy" plant if you look it up on the World Wide Web (aka, the "Internets"). I actually ended up dividing the portion she gave me into three plantings, which probably means I will be over-run with them in a couple of years, but they're so pretty I may never put them on my "love-hate" list. It was suggested that they would fare well amongst the hostas so that's exactly where I put one of them, the others ended up at the back of the garden along the fence.

The second is bee balm, which I have been wanting in my garden forever, so I'm pretty excited about it. I seem to end up with way too much pink and yellow in my yard in mid-summer, so now I have a lovely red bee balm (aka, monarda, or bergamot) to break it up with. This is a very tall plant (Linda's is at least 5 feet tall) so it needs to be planted with that in mind. Of course, I stuck it in the center of my center garden bed, a place of honour that I may come to regret!

The third is a purple butterfly bush that is potentially an even larger plant (6-15 feet tall). I planted it in front of the deck to hide the hot tub from the garden, but now I'm thinking if it gets that big it'll hide the garden from the deck... Oh, well, I can move it again some other day but I had to get it in the ground before going away on vacation, so I'll think about re-considering its home at a later date.

Looking forward to vacation, but will miss the Tranquil Garden! Happy Gardening, all of you!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Beauties that Wear out their Welcome

I mentioned in my first post that I yanked out a bed of perennial geraniums that was obnoxiously elbowing out its neighbours. The sad aspect of this story is that these geraniums are lovely, prolific bloomers that come in several colours (pink, purple, blue and white, etc)and can really fill out an empty space quickly. Therefore, it's tempting to accept a donation of such a plant (easily obtained for free, not surprisingly) from one's mother-in-law or friend. Accept such presents under advisement! They can be wonderful, but plant them in an area where they have room to grow and won't inhibit the growth of others. Here is a short list of other plants with whom I've had a love/hate relationship.

Chinese Lantern: More of a hate-hate relationship; bought it on a whim, planted it in an isolated spot and watched while it popped up twenty feet away across the driveway. To be avoided!
Bachelor's Buttons: A nondescript plant, whose leaves grow up from the ground almost like an iris, produces vibrant, blue three-to-four inch flowers with lacy edges. Very prolific, sprouts up everywhere, but actually fairly easy to keep under control and a repeat bloomer if you dead-head it regularly.
Oregano: A wonderful herb that flowers abundantly in sunlight and spreads like wild fire. I'm intending to cut it back, but I keep seeing the bees landing on it so have hesitated for their sake. Probably best grown in pots.
Black-eyed Susans: Lovely plant, but very vigorous. Dig out and give away the excess and enjoy its long-lived blooms
Echinacea: Same advice as the Susans. Comes in a few nice colours, the most common being pink.
Goutweed: Was afflicted with this plant in my previous garden and eventually had to dig it out completely and for all I know it has come back to haunt the present owners of the property. It's an awful creeper but I suppose has its uses if you just want to fill up a space with something other than grass. It has variegated (green and white) leaves and small white flowers that grow in bunches on a tall stalk. Quite pretty (she said, grudgingly...). To be avoided at all costs, in my humble opinion (IMHO).
That's it for now. I was going to add links to a couple of sites about geraniums etc., but I can't figure out how. I'll try to get that sorted out.

P.S. My sister tells me I should keep watering the Hawthorn for awhile because it might not be completely dead, so I'm going to do that and see what happens.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tranquil Garden Philosophy

What feeds your soul? What activities or experiences make your heart sing? Those are some of the things that you have no control over in your life; that you can't be logical about or choose. For that reason, they are part of the primal "you" and should be acknowledged, wondered at and cherished. The things that feed my soul are music (playing great music or listening to it);reading wonderful books; hanging out with my loved ones (friends and family); and gardening or being in the garden, just observing what's going on there. It's amazing how an activity can be the stuff of life for one person and leave another entirely cold, but there you are. One of the mysteries of life. I could try to explain how being in the garden makes me tranquil, settles me, gives me pleasure, exercises both body and mind in a meditative way, but if you don't experience it you'd have to compare it with some other activity that does the same sort of thing for you. For instance, I suspect that my husband gets that same sort of enjoyment out of playing the tuba. I don't really "get it", since I don't play the tuba and have no wish to, but it works for him. It gives him contentment and relaxation, or something that defies explanation. We both play trombone for a living, and I think we both enjoy it a lot, but the tuba gives him something the trombone doesn't. The tuba is his "garden".

Although there are garden jobs I avoid and think I don't prefer them, once I start to do them I tend to get into a rhythm that has a pleasure all its own. I'll think, "Oh, God, the weeding...it's endless, I can't possibly do it today," and put it off. However, if I happen to be in the garden, thinking of something else-- just doing my garden tour, as I call it-- I might absentmindedly notice a weed in a bed and pull it out, then another and another until I've pulled out all the weeds within a certain radius. At that point I come out of my reverie to see that I've made that little part of the garden more beautiful and I feel more relaxed and happy than when I started. That's the beginning of the explanation of why I love gardening.