Many gardens have areas of shade. Don't consider these areas to be dead parts of the yard filled with gravel. There are many lovely ideas to brighten up these darker areas of the landscape. Here is an inspiring article from Better Homes and Gardens complete with gorgeous pictures! Contact me to help you implement these exciting plans.
Homeowners often want to know how much should they be spending to landscape their property. A tough question to give a one word answer. I usually find that people that don't garden have unrealistic expectations of cost. For example, people with 2500 s.f. homes can't realistically landscape their property for $500 (and yes I've had people call me up with this expectation).
Think of your yard as a room of your house. It's probably going to be the largest room you have. How much are you willing to spend to renovate a room in your house? Not everyone gets invited into your home, but everyone has the opportunity to see your front yard without invitation. First impressions are important and lasting.
According to Better Homes and Gardens, real estate studies show that property values can increase by 5-15% with improved landscaping. Therefore a budget of 5-10% of your homes value on landscaping could be recouped immediately. As trees and shrubs grow larger they increase in value over time; so will the value of your landscape.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Last September we were in Ireland celebrating our wedding anniversary. Even though it was getting late in the season for flowers, dahlias were still in bloom and looking lovely. I've never planted dahlias before as they need to be lifted from the ground in the fall here and stored over winter to be replanted in the spring. It seemed like too much work for me but now I think it may be worth it. Fall gardens in Calgary can start to look lackluster, and who doesn't want colorful blooms all the way up to frost?
This morning I went shopping and bought a couple of dahlias - Thomas Edison and Lavender Perfection. I'm going to grow them in large pots as I've run out of room in the garden and it will make it easier to lift in the fall. I'll start them off in the house near a sunny window and will move the pots outside when there are no more frosts. If we have any surprise snow storms in August or nasty hail storms throughout the summer, I can always bring them inside and protect them until fair weather returns.
Here's a photo I took of dahlias at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin.
Now that we've enjoyed a few warm days, one starts dreaming of spring and gardening of course. I always look forward to perusing plant catalogs to see if there are any new and exciting varieties available as well as heirloom favorites. This is eye candy for me!
Follow this link to the 2017 Perennial Guide from Van Noort Bulb Company Ltd. for a comprehensive catalog of perennials, shrubs, vines, and summer flowering bulbs. Remember that Calgary is zone 3/4 as there are some plants listed in the catalog that are not winter hardy here.
Ask me about designing and installing a garden customized for your landscape. Spring is just around the corner.
As my back yard has many trees, certain sections of lawn do not receive enough sunlight to thrive. Over time the lawn has become pale, grass blades have thinned, and the area has become overgrown with weeds. I didn't feel like turning the patch into a shade garden, but wanted to have some sort of "lawn". After some experimentation, I have succeeded in finding a ground cover that grows happily in this space - Dutch White Clover.
My first attempt for this area was to add dense shade tolerant grass seed. The product is marketed as able to grow in areas of dense shade with as little as 3 hours of sunlight per day. As you can see in my photo, there is some dappled sunlight in the area so I thought this would be a suitable choice. Results were disappointing so I moved onto Plan B.
My second attempt involved planting sheep's fescue grass seed. Sheep's fescue grass is a fantastic choice for lawns for several reasons:
My third attempt was to add Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens) seeds to the existing lawn. I sprinkled it all around the grass and watered daily for about two weeks. Look at the results! A deep green lawn with flowers that have overgrown the existing grass and is absolutely low maintenance. It can be mowed but I choose not to mow it. I leave the flowers for the pollinators to enjoy. I do provide water when required and that's really it.
Dutch White Clover is a legume which is a group of plants that have the ability to utilize atmospheric nitrogen and convert it into a usable form through a process called nitrogen fixation. Therefore, the addition of nitrogen fertilizer is not required as the plant produces it's own. It has a build in food factory.
It's always interesting to experiment with your garden as some ideas don't always work out, and some are better than expected. I consider my white clover lawn a success and encourage others to consider this groundcover as a lawn alternative, especially in areas too shady to support the growth of other plants.
Have you ever considered adding native plants to your garden? They are excellent choices as they have naturally survived and thrived in our climate as well as providing a food source for native fauna.
Better Homes & Gardens have compiled 15 native plants for our region, and with the exception of Idaho Fescue (zone 5), they are great choices for Calgary gardens.
Gardens by Laura supports sustainable gardening practices. In a nutshell, this means we follow practices that will allow future generations to meet their needs by attempting to protect, restore, and enhance landscapes to provide ecosystems that benefit humans and other organisms.
There are a number of practices that we can all do to protect our environment. The Missouri Botanical Garden has an excellent article that outlines some of these activities. Click below to read:
Sustainable Gardening Link
Why not add a vertical garden to your landscape? Here's one we built this year -
Vertical gardens are ideal for:
In addition, tender plants can easily be moved inside if there is a risk of frost or hail damage. Throughout the growing season, plants can be changed as desired. For example, in the spring, bulbs are early bloomers and look lovely in pots. Then as the summer approaches, they can be exchanged for summer bloomers. Later on, chrysanthemums and asters will keep flowers going well into autumn.
There's no need to get bored with vertical gardens. You can easily experiment and get creative. Ask me about adding one to your landscape!
By Helen Briggs, BBC News
"Here's your prescription, walk in the forest five times a week for an hour."
According to experts, it is not inconceivable that doctors will be giving health advice like this in the not too distant future.
After decades of research, the scientific world is moving closer to pinpointing how exposure to nature seems to promote well-being.
A recent US study found that being close to nature might soothe the mind by reducing rumination - when negative thoughts get stuck on repeat, playing over and over in the mind.
A team at Stanford University compared the effects of taking a nature walk through a greenspace with a stroll in an urban environment - in this case beside a busy road in Palo Alto.
Brain scans showed reduced activity in an area of the brain linked to risk of mental illness in participants who took a 90-minute walk among oaks, birds and squirrels.
They also reported lower levels of rumination.
Gregory Bratman of Stanford University, one of the researchers on the study, says moving to cities has "happened in a blink of an eye in terms of human evolution".
As he points out, never before have so many of us been removed from nature - already 50% of the global population lives in towns and cities; a figure that is projected to rise to 70% by 2050.
Some cities and nations are already thinking about the mental health benefits of nature when designing urban areas.
"There's an increasing body of evidence showing that natural versus urban areas benefit us at least emotionally with our mood and possibly also our cognitive development too," says Mr Bratman.
"You could think of these mental health benefits of nature as a psychological ecosystem service."
The Stanford University team is looking at ways to tease apart the "active ingredients" of the nature experience to find ways to bring nature into the city.
Greening up towns
Meanwhile, Britain's Royal Horticultural Society is trying to encourage the public to bring nature into their own backyard, by replacing concrete with plants.
A garden at the Hampton Court Flower Show for the Greening Grey Britain campaign showcased ways to make urban environments rich in both vegetation and nature.
Plants from the garden are to be moved to Bristol to green-up a street for the community, including St Mungo's hostel for the homeless.
Nigel Dunnett, Professor of planting design and vegetation technology at the University of Sheffield, is behind the garden.
He says we "evolved with nature and it's completely unnatural for us to be separated from it".
He wants a shift in thinking to make developers invest in providing natural surroundings and for horticulturalists to get involved in green infrastructure projects.
"There is a big role for horticulture in this whole movement of greening cities," he adds.
"We have to be really radical, really innovative to get into places where you normally wouldn't get to see things growing."
One health trend that is popular mainly in Japan and South Korea is Shinrin-yoku, a term that means "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing".
A study conducted in 24 forests across Japan found that walking among trees lowered blood pressure, the pulse rate, and levels of the hormone cortisol, which is released in response to stress.
According to psychologist Dr Mathew White of Exeter University, research into the link between nature and well-being is increasingly focusing on effects on the body and brain, such as how brain activity corresponds with the nature experience.
"It does start to tell us some of the cognitive elements that could be at play in why urban environments are so taxing to the brain," he says.
He says several projects are underway to try to develop "green prescriptions" for exposure to nature that would be of benefit people going through anxiety or depression.
The Stanford University research is published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For those of you yearning for spring, here is a small reprieve for you. Last year after the flood, I went to the Deane House for tea and to view their garden. I was wondering if the garden survived the flood and was very glad to see that it had. This is a wonderful cottage garden containing annuals, perennials, herbs, and roses.
If you're looking for ideas for your garden, start with another Calgary garden that appeals to you. You can get some ideas about layout as well as plants that grow well here. This particular garden uses raised flower beds and a pergola to welcome guests. Here are some photos of the garden, but you should go there to enjoy it close up!