Category Archives: Reference

18 Feb

Garden Dispatch # 5

The Garden Dispatch is a weekly compilation of useful and interesting resources for gardeners and landscape designers.

How to pick the healthiest plants at a nursery

Plants sale

Image by Susie Nishio

The best tip that I can give to someone who is purchasing plants at a nursery is: ‘Look beyond the obvious’. Plenty of flowers or shiny foliage does not necessarily mean that the plant is healthy and free from pests and diseases. There are many other factors that determine the health and quality of a plant – formation, color and texture of foliage, root system, time of the year, age of the plant etc. Dr. Holly Scoggins, associate professor of horticulture, shares a couple of useful tip for finding the best plants at a nursery.

Designing landscape? Do not make these mistakes (again)!

So you are planning to design or remodel your landscape design. There are plenty of beautiful landscape design inspirations but every landscape is unqiue. What works in my landscape layout may not work for you. You have to balance all the elements (size, colors, form, climate, personal preferences, maintenance requirements etc.) of landscape design to make a harmonized effect. But there are some fundamental principals that apply to every landscape design project and you should not breach those principles. Here is a list of 11 common mistakes landscape designers make. Make sure you do not.

Plant of the Week: Monarda fistulosa

Monarda fistulosa

Monarda fistulosa / Image by Joshua Mayer

Commonly known as Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa is a drought-tolerant perennial that grows well in landscapes and rock gardens. The plant is known for its aromatic leaves and attractive flowers. Monarda fistulosa can grow up to 4 feet and tends to form clumps of erect branches. Flowers of white or lavender shades appear in summer and continue to bloom through the season.

Monarda fistulosa grows in dry or slightly moist soil under full to partial sun.

Links of Interest

08 Dec

Garden Dispatch # 4

The Garden Dispatch is a weekly compilation of useful and interesting resources for gardeners and landscape designers.

Guide to Safe Plastic Products for Gardening

I like plastic pots for my plants and there are many reasons for it. They are lightweight, they retain moisture and they are available in a variety of shapes, colors and textures. Besides plastic pots, today gardeners use a number of plastic-made tools in their garden (such as hydroponic equipment). However most gardeners do not realize that not all plastics are safe for plants. If you are using tools, equipment or pots made of plastic, I would recommend that you go through this informative article: Which Plastics are Safe for Gardening.

How to Prepare Your Garden for Winter

Winter is just around the coroner and now is the time to prepare your garden for the coming months of frost and freeze. Before the seasons actually sets in, there are a couple of things you can do to keep your garden tidy, organized and free from trouble during winter. Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor University of Vermont, has shared some useful tips for winterizing your garden.

DIY Project: Make your own Grow Light System

 

Grow Light System

When you are short of gardening space (you live in a high-rise building) or you do not get sufficient light or appropriate climate for growing your favorite plants, an indoor grow light system can be really useful. And it does not cost much to make your own grow light system. Rachel of growagoodlife.com has shared a step-by-step guide to making your own grow light system. Check it out.

Visit to the Geelong Botanic Garden

Geelong Botanic Garden

The Geelong Botanic Garden is a heritage garden in Victoria, Australia. It covers an area of 200 acres and hosts a number of rare trees along with iconic Australian species and other exotics. Alexander Krasovskis has recently been to the Geelong Botanic Garden and has shared some beautiful pictures from there. Click here to view full story.

Other Interesting Articles

13 Nov

Garden Dispatch # 3

The Garden Dispatch is a weekly compilation of useful and interesting resources for gardeners and landscape designers.

The 101 of Growing Hedges for Big & Small Gardens

No matter what the size of your gardens is, hedges make a good choice when it comes to mark borders of your heaven. Hedges have many benefits when compared to stock fence panels. Hedges are beautiful and environmental-friendly. They attract birds by providing them safe perching places. They also act as wind barriers and crime-deterrents. Check out this comprehensive guide on growing and maintaining evergreen hedges.

Featured Plants: Yucca rostrata, Washingtonia filifera,  Pellaea mucronata

Yucca rostrata is a drought-tolerant and low-maintenance plant suitable for xeriscaping projects. The plant is characterized by spiky blue-grey leaves that form a nice symmetrical rosette.

Washingtonia filifera is an evergreen palm tree and is known for its beautiful large fronds. This drought-tolerant plant makes a nice specimen tree in gardens and landscapes.

Pellaea mucronata makes a good low-growing plant that can be used in garden landscapes as filler as well as attractive foliage plant. Pellaea is equally good for hanging baskets because of its delicate stems that are usually covered with small and fresh-green leaves.

Pellaea Mucronata

Pellaea mucronata

Article: Mulch or No Mulch

To mulch or not to mulch – Read this interesting article on pros and cons of mulching.

How to…

How to make clay containers

Brittni Mehlhoff gives step-by-step guide to making your own clay pots and containers to hold small plants.

DIY Clay Planter

DIY Clay Planter

How to make moss checkerboard

Follow these simple tips on making a nice moss checkerboard by Janell Hobart.

How to grow moisture loving plants in a dry climate

If you are living in a region where summer is long, hot and dry, growing moisture loving plants like ferns or air plants can be a bit tricky. However, there are several quick and easy ways to maintain appropriate level of humidity for your plants and keep them healthy and happy in hot and dry summer. Discover some simple and practical tips for growing moisture-loving plants in a dry climate.

Featured Garden: Garden of Designer Chris Moss

Designer Chris Moss has used his own garden in Stockwell, south London, as a mood board. A dark and bright combination works so well here that he shows clients round to persuade them of the logic of black. Have a look at Chris’s garden.

chris moss garden

Beautiful combination of black and green

08 Oct

9 Practical Ideas for Beautiful Balcony Gardens

A year ago, I moved from my home in Lahore and settled in Toronto. Aside from the cultural changes that I had to embrace, one major challenge as a gardener was to start my gardening hobby afresh in a very different climate. It is a big change – from a 600 sq. feet rooftop garden to a small 36 sq. feet balcony garden space.

Not only I have a limited room for growing plants but also I cannot grow some of my favorite plants here. Toronto has continental climate – warm and humid in summer, and very cold in winter. I did not add much to my small balcony garden yet, but I have started planning it. Here are a few ideas for my balcony garden.

Examples of Beautiful Balcony Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

09 Sep

Garden Dispatch # 2

The Garden Dispatch is a weekly compilation of useful and interesting resources for gardeners and landscape designers.

3 Practical Tips for Fall Pruning

Fall is around the corner and it is time to prune your shrubs and trees for the next season. Though not all plants require regular or seasonal pruning, but it is advisable to prune your plants, whenever required, to keep them in desired size and shape. So here are 3 practical tips for fall pruning by Jim Lounsbery.

Special Merit Plant: Impatiens hawkeri

Commonly known as New Guinea impatience, Impatiens hawkeri is a lovely annual that grows up to 4 feet serves as a nice border plant. Also suitable for flower beds,  Impatiens hawkeri produces flowers of many hues ranging from pink, coral, orange, salmon, red, lilac, lavender and white. See more information on growing Impatiens hawkeri in your garden.

Impatiens hawkeri

Impatiens hawkeri / Image by Tom Potterfield

Free Smart Phone App: Garden Insects Guide

The Garden Insect Guide is a free smartphone app for gardeners. Available for iPhone/ iPad and Android phones, this free smartphone app serves as a quick reference when you are in the field – hunting for nasty bugs. You can use this smartphone app to identify good as well as bad bugs and get information about getting rid of bad bugs.

Garden Insects Guide

The application has three guided sections:

  • Identify common pests: This section helps you identify bugs by the kind of threat that they pose to your plants.
  • Spot insect friends: This section introduces friendly bugs that keep the bad bugs away.
  • Keep pests away: This section provides detailed information on getting rid of infesting bugs and preventing their attack in future.

How to Grow Roses

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. So true! You will hardly meet a gardener who is not a fan of roses. They are attractive, sweet, colorful and regal. If you are new to growing roses, this comprehensive guide on growing roses could be handy.

How to grow rose

Growing Vegetable in a Window Garden

Growing your own grub can be an existing and satisfactory experience. Fortunately, you do not have to have a large piece of land to grow your own vegetable (unless you are trying to grow pumpkins 😀 ). You can utilize small spaces such as windowsills to grow herbs and vegetables. Follow this link to find step-by-step guide on  utilizing your windowsill to grow your own vegetables.

Windowsill garden

 

27 Aug

9 Lovely Plants for Beautiful Indoor Foliage

Indoor plants are a great way to freshen up your house. They add softer and natural touch to your home interior. However, selecting the right indoor plants for your home interior is a bit difficult especially when you do not have a green thumb. This post lists some lovely indoor plants that produce beautiful foliage and can be grown in most indoor conditions.

Ficus lyrata / Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree

The first plant in the list is Ficus lyrata or Fiddle Leaf Fig tree. I would highly recommend this plant if you are looking for a fresh, bold and a modern look to your home interior. With its prominent and lush green leaves, Ficus lyrata makes a nice foliage plant. Ficus lyrata likes a well-lit spot (preferably near a window) and slightly moist soil. It is not a demanding plant.

Ficus lyrata has a vigorous root systems therefore it should be repotted annually in a bigger pot size until the plant reaches the desired size. Larger plants should be provided with a fresh layer of top soil every year.

Sansevieria trifasciata / Snake Plant

Sansevieria trifasciata or Snake Plant is known for its unusual and beautiful foliage. The plant produces succulent upright leaves with beautiful shades of green, white and sometimes yellow variegation.  Sansevieria trifasciata makes a nice indoor accent plant. It requires bright sunlight and moderate watering in a well-drained soil. The plant can be propagated easily from division.

Philodendron

Philodendrons are widely grown for their beautiful foliage. Easily grown indoors, most species of Philodendrons produce large and lush green foliage that creates a dramatic effect in a home interior. Most Philodendrons require moderate light and slightly moist soil.

Crassula

Though not common, Crassulas are nice foliage plants to grow indoors. They offer a large variety of color, size and texture. Most Crassulas form small clumps of rosette-forming plants. They are suitable for growing in an indoor dish garden. Like other succulent plants, Crassulas are hardy plants that love indirect light and slightly moist conditions in a well-drained soil.

Ficus elastica / Rubber Plant

Commonly known as  rubber fig, rubber bush, rubber tree, rubber plant, or Indian rubber bush, Ficus elastica is a popular houseplant. This hardy plant can be grown in almost any indoor condition. For best results, provide your Rubber Plant with bright light and water only when the soil is slightly dry.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia / Zanzibar Gem

Zamioculcas zamiifolia are not usually seen in indoor settings but this lovely plant makes an excellent indoor plant because of its attractive foliage. Commonly known as Zanzibar Gem, Zamioculcas zamiifolia is an easy plant to grow and maintain for indoor foliage. In fact, it can easily sustain a little neglect. For best foliage, provide your plant with bright light and ample water. Water only when the soil is dry.

Pachira aquatica / Malabar Chestnut

Pachira aquatica is another plant to try, if you are looking for something unusual. This lovely plant produces nice foliage and does not require regular repotting. Pachira aquatica loves ample sunlight and sufficient water. When growing it indoor, make sure that you keep the soil moist and remove dead leaves regularly.

Yucca elephantipes / Stick Yucca

Yucca elephantipes or Stick Yucca is one of my favorite plants to grow in indoor settings. This hardy plant produces striking foliage and does not require special attention. It is a slow growing plant and will grow happily in its pot for many years.

Aloe vera

It is rather unusual to see this plant growing indoors, but you cannot beat this plant for its ability to adapt to almost any indoor conditions. Aloe vera produces fresh and succulent leaves. This lovely plant grows nicely in compact corners, and requires only occasional watering and bright sunlight.

 

14 Jul

Garden Dispatch # 1

The Garden Dispatch is a weekly compilation of useful and interesting resources for gardeners and landscape designers.

How to turn empty spaces into a beautiful meadow

With a little planning and selection of the right species, it is not difficult to transform woodland into a beautiful meadow. Read more on making a beautiful meadow out of an empty landscape.

Meadow Design

Geranium palmatum

Looking for something new to try in your perennial garden? Try Geranium palmatum; it is not fussy about growing conditions and produces lovely flowers in later spring or early summer. Read: How to grow Geranium palmatum.
Geranium palmatum

A Garden Makeover

Follow this link to see how a nondescript front yard can be transformed into a remarkable garden.

Frontyard Design

How to grow Safrron

Corcus sativus, is a beautiful autumn-flowering perennial known primarily for the production of precious Saffron. Saffron is widely used in Indian, Persian, European, Arab, and Turkish cuisines and is sold for $4.00 and $17.00 per gram. Besides its commercial and culinary usage, Corcus sativus has its horticultural value too. The plant produces brilliantly hued flowers of pastel shade that range from lilac to mauve. These lovely flowers have a sweet aroma that is reminiscent of honey and grassy or hay-like notes. Read more about growing Saffron in your own garden. Read more on growing Saffron in your garden.

Saffron

How to prune groundcovers and grasses

Read these useful tips on pruning groundcovers and grasses to keep your garden neat and attractive.

Prunning tips

DIY: Grow a small herb garden in your apartment

Living in apartments and high-rise buildings should not subdue your passion for gardening. There is a lot that you can grow under limited light, humidity and temperature conditions. Here is an interesting article on growing a small herb garden in your apartment by Erin Boyle

Herbs garden

10 Jul

15 Beautiful Landscape Designs using Succulent Plants

I am a big fan of succulent plants – they are versatile, offer a great variety of shapes, sizes and colors, and are easy to group with their cousins. Traditionally, succulents have been grown in pots as display or accent plants. In recent years, they have become popular landscape plants. Modern landscape designers are now appreciating succulent plants for their architectural forms and using them in traditional as well as experimental landscape designs.

Most succulent plants grow solitary or form small groups. They rarely outgrow their environment and thus make good plants for grouping with their cousins. You can find succulent plants in all sizes – we ranging from mat-forming ground covers to low-growing foliage plants and from large globe-forming succulents to tall and cylindrical plants. Most succulent plants have similar requirements which makes it easier to group succulents plant from different genera in a landscape design. They require well-drained soil, less frequent watering, and occasional cutting or division.

Some common succulent plants that do very well in landscapes include several varieties of cacti and a large selection of plants from the genus of Aeonium, Agave, Aloe, Crassula, Echeveria, Euphorbia, Sedum, and Sempervivum.

The following gallery provides 15 good examples of landscape designs that use succulent plants.

[Do not forget to see 15 tips to help you create a beautiful succulent garden by Debra Lee Baldwin]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

03 Jun

A Visit to Allan Gardens Conservatory, Toronto

Allan Gardens Conservatory is my favorite retreat from the hum drum of corporate life. It is a serene oasis jewelled right in the middle of the busy Carlton, Jarvis and Gerrard streets of Toronto. The garden that hosts conservatory has long stretches of green grass and more than 300 old trees. Some noticeable species are sugar maple, American beech and red oak.

The conservatory consists of six greenhouses that cover 1, 6000 square feet and house a huge variety of tropical, sub-tropical and exotic plants that are rare to find under one roof.
While crossing through the greenhouses you actually move from one climate to another and experience a whole new world of lovely plants in each climate. Neat pathways edge along plant beds that are nicely maintained.

The tropical houses maintain warm and humid environment for exotic Orchids, bromeliads, begonias and other plants that bloom year-round. You can find many hard-to-find plants like Jade vine, Platycerium, cycads, and some exotic foliage plants. The water features inside the tropical houses not only decorate the conservatory but also help maintain the climate.

The ‘cool’ house has selection of Mediterranean plants. The Palm House grows a nice variety of palms, tropical vines and some seasonal plants. The arid house showcases cacti and other succulents that include varieties of haworthia, aloe, agave, and sedum.

Besides permanent collection, you can see a nice collection of seasonal bloomers in Allan Gardens Conservatory. Depending on the season, you can find really nice variety of hydrangeas, lilies, coleus, caladiums, cannas, chrysanthemum, and poinsettia. Seasonal plants at Allan Gardens are grown in pots that are sunk in soil – making it easy to remove them at the end of the season.

On my recent visit to Allen Gardens, I was able to see Jade vine and angel’s trumpet in full bloom. Other noticeable bloomers were daffodils, gerberas, plenty of hydrangeas, some hoyas, bird of paradise, and foxgloves.

Allan Gardens Conservatory has a nice collection of ferns and air plants too. No matter what part of year you visit Allan Gardens, you will always find something interesting, colorful and aromatic.

Enjoy some of the pictures that I shot at Allan Gardens Conservatory. For high-resolution images, you can visit my Allan Gardens album on Flickr here. For more information on Allan Gardens, see this.

Allan Gardens Conservatory

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08 Mar

Composting: Turning Trash into a Garden Treasure

Have you ever thought about compost? As a gardener, compost is a great source of organic matter as well as fertilizer which can be mixed into the soil when planting. Whenever you do some gardening or planting, using organic fertilizer is a great idea.

The great thing with a compost is that it is cheap and helps the soil in water retention where it’s needed. So what makes up a compost pit or what is a compost pit made of? A compost is made up of organic matter like the fallen leaves, trimmings of plants, clippings of grass or remains of other plants. There are fruit peels, kitchen and household wastes, coffee grounds, egg shells and so much more. Did you also know that you can also use shredded papers into the mix? Well, we do know that paper decomposes – just limit the amount of paper added in the compost because the more you add, it will clump together and the longer it will decompose.

Though we mentioned that the compost is made up of organic materials, here are some of those organic materials that should not be added in the list: grease, dairy products, meat scraps, or those materials that produces bad odor because these will attract wild animals. It is also a ‘no-no’ to add cat litter or dog and other animal droppings into your compost as they may contain parasites and other harmful organisms.

Knowing which organic materials can be used for your compost, you now need to locate where in your yard that you need to allocate for your compost pit project. Keep in mind that the area should be level, have a good drainage and can be hit partially by the sun. Make sure there is a good water source near because you will need that for your compost.

Basic Steps for Preparing Your Own Compost

1. Building your compost pit – structure. You can use wires woven together, big barrel, concrete blocks or treated lumber (1 by 4 inch dimensions). If you don’t want to make your own compost structure, you can buy prefabricated compost bins in hardware stores or turf suppliers.

Compost Bins

Compost Bins / Image by London Permaculture

2. Starting your pile. This is where your materials that you collected come next. You need to arrange them in layers.

3. Keeping the pile moist. Always keep a constant check of your pile by squeezing a handful – make sure to wear garden gloves for protection.

The compost takes 4-7 days before you are able to turn the pile and mix the materials. Make sure that the pile should heat up and that it should be moist enough.

When the compost is done which usually takes six weeks to a year, it should look dark brown and crumbly – soil consistency with a sweet and musty smell. Then you can use them in your garden bed.