Drawing inspiration, and a few updates.

 

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I still can’t get over those delphiniums.

It has been such a hot, dry summer so far. While I was away, I was told we had a significant amount of rain… and then back to old business of dry, hot summer. It was almost as though it really didn’t rain, but there was a visible difference in the garden, with a marked increase in the overall size of…everything! And boy, has it been hot, with very little escape except driving from point A to B… oh how a simple thing such as a car with air conditioning can improve the quality of summer livin’.

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This one is called ‘Aqua Marine’ 

I decided to dive into a world of daylilies last week at a local daylily farm, and oh my god, I had no idea there were so many variants of every color. Fat ones, frilly ones, tinny winny, spidery, smelly, striking, and common. Open your eyes beyond the Stella de Oro!! I managed to make it out of there with my credit card intact—and 4 new daylilies, of which I had never heard of until that day. Let me tell you about them.  A daylily is such a tough perennial, and on top of that, very prolific and intensely satisfies a person’s need to collect something, as I have seen at this farm. Unfortunately, I don’t like to collect things unless there’s a designated place to showcase them. The good news is, I have blank spots all over my turning circle garden’s plan, so I will house them in amongst my rock garden until I begin breaking ground in the turning circle. Not till after buggy season dwindles down.

The clearance events have been beginning to sneak up on me too, and I’ve been diving into the discounts, collecting more azaleas and rhododendrons as well as perennials. This is probably the second most exciting part of the year for me. FORGET BLACK FRIDAY! Let’s call it green Thursday! There should be a completely refilled launchpad by the end of august.

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Just a sliced piece of a log makes a fine mount for a staghorn fern. 

But that’s not all I’ve been up to lately. I’ve been traveling. I went to my favorite (so far) botanical garden, from where I draw a LOT of my inspirations. You can get inspiration at many public garden displays, but this one offers things I don’t see locally: large, tropical greenhouses.

 

20160712_113523.jpgI went this year to get as much technical information as I could on the construction and workings of their tropical houses, as well as some of the displays hung, built and set up in there. The way they mount and display some of their potted and epiphytic specimens really coincides with my personal business passion.

20160712_111353.jpgSo I was shutter crazy, to the point that a woman approached me (or rather, cornered me into speaking terrible French) to see if I needed further questions answered. Unfortunately, the Horticulture Info desk was closed. Frankly, I’m not sure they were prepared to answer both my technical or English speaking questions.

I have a second greenhouse frame sitting by the Privet hedge, and it’s just waiting to be transformed into something useful beyond a place to grow beautiful gardens of Queen Anne’s Lace. I took a few notes on what I’d like to get installed, and it should be possible in this greenhouse, as it is only small and would not cost as much to heat.

The greenhouses that excite me the most are the tropical type. When you enter and your glasses are immediately fogged by the humidity, that is kind of a happy place for me. Well, okay, this week? Humidity has become a little excessive.

So what am I going to plan in my tiny greenhouse frame? I used to joke that garden visitors will exit through my gift shop, but I no longer want this greenhouse to be a gift shop in a traditional sense.

This greenhouse will be covered the same way as my large one, with a double layer of inflated plastic. I’m hoping to find some twinwall polycarbonate to install on the front and maximize the light. The back wall will be wood, or other material to hold a false natural layer of things that simulate trees or rock. I took a really good look at the trees on which the Bromeliads perched. Yes, I’ll be installing Bromeliads and Orchids here, and there will be hooks to hang or display some things that I will sell.

It will be heated. From all of my conversations with other greenhouse keepers, the best option is propane.  And there will be an automated mist system to keep things at their optimum humidity level. Scaling it down to my frame’s size will be the puzzle. The orchids will likely benefit the most from this. It’s meditative to spray them in the house, but it comes to a point where dozens of plants to mist and water becomes very time consuming. And they sometimes seem out of place. They gaze longingly outside, I know they do!

It’ll be a tiny tropical oasis in the dead of winter.

But for now, Queen Anne’s lace lives here.

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July fun! Dawn does Pinterest!

So I promised myself I’d have a little fun this summer, so I thought i’d do some Pinterest inspired crafts around the property. After such a suffocatingly hot (but beautiful!) week in Montreal, followed by endless horrible news coming from every direction, I needed a little distraction. Or at least, enough to feel like I’m accomplishing something. Sometimes, a simple, quick fix to being bummed out is just accomplishing something, no matter how small (as you will discover below)

One thing I noticed that was becoming well received is water. Every time I would water any garden, I discovered that nature comes in quickly to suck it up before the plants do. This includes flies, bees, wasps, butterflies. I watched a butterfly sit on a piece of mulch with its proboscis merrily poking into the crevices. This told me that I needed to make a puddler so  insects can get a drink they so desperately need when there are heat waves and very little rain to speak of. (When I first had this brainwave, it was dry. I came home to a rain gauge that said 40mm though, so it may not be so critical now. But it’s only July).

So I thought I would try a very simle bee puddler project. It was a pin I had pinned probably years ago, which leads me to a dead link today. But I’ll show you what I did.

I gathered up some materials, so if you wanted to make this same puddler, you need the following:

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  • A saucer (this one I think is about 8″)
  • decorative (or real) sand
  • gravel
  • A rock with a nice surface area.

 

 

So once you get them together, it’s ridiculously easy to slap together.

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Add it however you want, but I built mine like this, it’s kind of pleasing looking. According to the pin’s description, the small stones and the sand allow bees to sit and drink without drowning. The flat stone is there if a butterfly should also want to land, it can spread its wings and warm itself while drinking.

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A little water (or a lot, i guess in this case) gets added in. It will be very hard to rinse/refresh, so it doesn’t have to be too deep or full of water. You could allow it to evaporate a little. Critters don’t need that much, as I learned from the butterfly on the mulch.

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I added this one to my rock garden, added a little shim so it will stand level. Don’t mind the weeds! It looks nice now, and hopefully it won’t get wrecked by a torrential downpour too quickly.

That is a really simple little thing to do and enjoy that helps to benefit nature in need during the hot spells. And, if you had a way to separate the gravel from the sand, you could always pack this up for next year once fall hits.

 

20160703_153222.jpgThe other project I started was making compost tea with Comfrey. As you may or may not already know, Comfrey is absolutely full of good stuff, and you can use it herbally, bees love it, it’s a great compost accelerator, and it’s also a good tea ingredient to feed your plants organically. So I plucked some comfrey leaves and started stewing it to fertilize my plants with. My comfrey patch is gigantic, and at this point, beginning to fall down from the lack of water and from the heat of the summer. Gotta harvest it before it begins to completely go downhill, as they sometimes do.

I used a pin that takes us to this guide

20160703_153441According to the tips on this page, I had to brew this bad boy for 20 days.  So before heading to my vacation, I filled up the bucket ¾ full as advised, with leaves, put a brick on the pile to weigh them to the bottom and then topped the whole thing with water. Don’t forget to add a lid to prevent evaporation and mosquito infestations.

She’s brewing as we speak. I can’t wait to apply it! Well, okay, I am dreading it a little bit… It’s gonna stink. I’ll update you on the tea project during an agenda post. It should be fun to observe the benefits taken in by the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a side note, I walked my property after coming home and in just a week of HOT weather along with the apparent generous rainfall, all my gardens are getting almost prehistoric huge! There should be tomatoes soon I hope!

Hope it’s a great week for all you gardeners. The bugs are hungry here, and persistent. Next week, if I don’t get carried off and be made the queen of the deerflies, I will tell you my reviews and things I’ve done so far to cope with the bugs. After all, I have a week’s worth of weeding to catch up on!

Scale Insect – Experimenting with Treatments

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So I may have mentioned previously that I recently came upon an unfortunate case of scale insect at some point in the last year or so. Sometime between moving here, and bringing plants inside, they got scale. Or perhaps a newly acquired plant did not get properly quarantined. Next thing you know, you are finding sticky splatters on the floor, sticky leaves (with cat hair stuck on them, as I find in my home), just sticky everything around it! It’s really unsightly, and left too long, it’s disastrous. I have thrown plants away that were too far infested. I remember a beautiful bird’s nest fern. It was given up on. I don’t like doing it, and I definitely DON’T doom my plants to the compost heap if I have had them a long time and grew very attached to them. Some of the ones I love dearly have had a brush with the Scale.

Where I work, there is occasionally a customer who comes in with scale problems. I usually pity them as much as Goutweed victims. There isn’t a LOT out there, in Nova Scotia, that will successfully eradicate scale, as there is no systemic insecticide available in a hardware/garden shop that you could use. And even doing so is risky, as I know a gardener who killed a few of his citrus trees from systemics. Even garden center owners I have enquired about Scale report they do the Alcohol/Q tip method. It’s just not a thing to use a systemic, and only those who boldly import from across the border typically use it. But I’m here to help you, the less ballsy gardener, who may not want to do daring feats or use potentially toxic systemics.

So let’s continue. Let’s say that you have scale. You see them, likely on new growth. Or a few here and there, on a plant that has few leaves. Check the undersides, and check the stems. They can hide very well on stems as I have discovered, almost posing as part of the natural look of the bark.  And they cuddle right into the midrib of leaves for a sap snack. If it is minor and you feel as though you can tackle them easily, you will need:
1) A bottle of rubbing alcohol (and a bowl or something to pour some into)
2) Cotton Q-tip swabs

Sit down and pop on some music. Dip your swabs in the alcohol, and apply directly to the scale. You will find it will pop them off fairly easily with only a small amount of pressure.  Depending on the type of plant that you are treating, you could probably apply a fair amount of pressure to really penetrate that scale shell and flake them off. I tried this (and gave up) on a poinsettia. That was a hard one to swallow, but I gave up before I could come up with trying a more effective solution (such as the one I have below). Citrus, ficus, and other tough leaves will withstand this treatment with no issues or bruising at all.

Once your swab is really gross, flip it over, use the other end, continue. I usually go through a lot of swabs. At first, I started treating my staghorn ferns in this method. But it wasn’t enough. 2 weeks pass, and there it was again, back with a vengeance. Now, I’m not saying there were hundreds on the plant. I would say I could find 12-15 of them on the entire plant every time I checked them again.

That’s the next issue with scale, if you can’t get it all because you don’t see it, they’ll find their way back on the plant from those crevices you missed. This is probably a moderate infestation at this point, by my standards. This is where I move to the next step.

Previously, I attempted a product called End-All. This did not work. Don’t make a special trip for it. It is quite effective on spider mites and aphids, but I wasn’t sold on the “treats scale” side of things.

20160708_073355The next thing I tried, as I saw on the label that Horticultural Oil treats Scale. So I made up a litre bottle of Hort Oil and spritzed down all of my infested plants. I treated a Ficus benjamina (Minor problems), Staghorn Ferns (Moderate), Goldfish Plant (Severe), Jasmine (Minor), and Variegated Lemon tree (Minor), and Adeniums (severe). Horticultural oil is fairly easy to get your hands on. Mine came in a box paired up with Lime Sulphur. You often find these two pals together in Dormant Spray Kits.

The result? They required 2-3 sprayings, after which, I removed my jasmine and citrus from the spray routine. After a 3rd spray application, the staghorn is showing no scale issue as far as I can see. I revisit every 7-10 days and really look them over, even if they were all clear. My Ficus, as you see in the above photo, still has scale, but it’s incredibly minor, and still receives regular sprayings until the infestation is gone. I’m also finding that ants are interfering with my efforts, and they often show me where the scale is. Ants treat scale very similarly to the way they treat Aphids. When spraying horticultural oil, SHAKE IT FREQUENTLY. Otherwise, you’re just spraying water.

Hort Oil is effective due to the oils clogging the pores of the insect pests, causing them to die. You may need to flick the dead carcasses off the leaves, as they sort of latch on once they find a host.

Depending on the severity, I will sometimes also prune the plants back, as scale might like the tender new growth. But don’t do what I did with my goldfish plant. I pruned it back so hard it was incapable of recovery. I would suggest cutting back NEVER any more than 1/3 of the new growth (Always use the 1/3 rule with most plants). So I learned from this experience.

The other thing I would reccommend is when spraying, do it in a place where you don’t mind overspray. Do it early in the day, so the plants don’t burn from the droplets magnifying the sunlight. (And definitely don’t forget your staghorn ferns in the greenhouse in the hot sun as I did…oops)

So let’s say you don’t have or want to use horticultural Oil. I have another trick I have seen used by other gardeners. The 50:50 Rubbing alcohol:water spray. This will also work, as far as I’m told, but I haven’t escalated to the point where I needed to explore another option. But if you are having this problem, you can explore this option. And if I am still fighting scale on my adeniums by fall, I will also try it and report my findings.

The other thing you can do if your infestation is severe is to repot your plant. Scale will also live in the root area/soil. Repotting will refresh the soil. With my Adeniums, because they are so tiny, I unpotted them, washed their roots and then applied horticultural oil to the root zone before repotting with fresh soil again. Their infestation problem is still a problem, which is still being treated with oil.

20160707_134124But you can see from the photo how they began as vigorous young seedlings, and suddenly, a few tiers of growth later, they got very stunted with puckered leaves. Then later, the growth resumes at a semi normal rate. This is where the oil had begun to work. (Pardon the water droplets, I had just watered them at this time) You can still see one scale on the trunk just above the lowest leaf. This one is likely dead. If they are dead and the oil was effective, they should just wipe or flick right off. They are no longer causing damage.

 

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Always check the undersides of leaves. That’s why they always sneak up and cause visible damage before you notice them. 

 

 

 

20160704_191749.jpgSo how do you prevent scale?

  • Quarantine all your new plants. I know you got it from a reputable person, or your bestie. Do it anyway, you’ll be glad you did. If it’s infected, you can either spray it, or discard.
  • Don’t overcrowd your plants so that their leaves touch the leaves of their neighbors. Scale travels easily this way, and it’s a surefire way to spread many insect problems, not just scale.
  • Avoid stressing plants out by over/under watering, moving it to a bright/dark location, etc
  • Avoid putting them outside. If you put them outside, spray them well before bringing them back in. Trust me, you will be glad you did.

That concludes my Scale rant for today. Try these. Check your plants regularly, and don’t let them cuddle too close! 😉

Next week might be a mix-up post between some super simple pinterest-inspired projects and pics of the Montreal Botanical Gardens. Yay!

July.. Just enjoy

 

July marks the time where I have every intention to actually relax, and take a hard work vacation from gardening. By that, I mean enjoy the reasons I DO dig all these beds and plant all these shrubs and perennials. I do it to be proud of it. To smell things, deadhead things (so therapeutic!), sit outdoors and read, drink lots of mint water (and mojitos after hours), and hang around with people, friends, go places, do stuff other than gardening. Basically, be a human that enjoys the outdoors.

So, I guess I’ll hang up the shovel for now.

In that vein, we just celebrated Canada day here, and it was a great time with the whole family. I think my minor changes in the deck arrangement was well received. It was just a HOT day!

Since my last Agenda, I’ve done some things around the property. I planted a PILE of newly acquired daylily divisions from a gardener friend as well as planted some hostas and wood poppies, bunchberry and trillium, in the forest. I am beginning to lose track. The daylilies will likely bloom so that will be something to showcase soon in a later entry, I hope. I have no idea what any of them really look like, so it’ll be fun to watch as they come.

Speaking of the Rhodo forest, it’s  becoming a back-and-forth labor of watering the forest, as it is pretty much tinder dry in there, and we’ve had very little rain to speak of this summer. For all of those who complained about the spring being wet and dreary, it really wasn’t. We did not get much rain. A little drizzle, and a lot of cold. But not rain.

20160624_124915I’ve also been doing the dreaded task at the end of last month that I just couldn’t bring myself to do. I FINALLY dug the area I needed to start my Lavender hedge. The cultivar I chose was Lavandula angustifolia ‘Ellagance Purple’ Mostly because it was cheap, on hand at Dayjob, and they had lots. So there, that’s about 8 feet of a small variety of Lavender.  But because nothing is ever the same in every garden center every year, I decided to order some seeds of this variety for next spring’s sowings. I’ll grow enough for myself, and sell the rest from my business.  Yeah, the hedge doesn’t look like much right now, but I tell ya, comparing it to a more established clump like this one in the rock garden, you tend to get pretty excited about the way it will mature in time. It has been a little under a year, and I really do miss walking past the lavender hedge at my last house and running my hands through the foliage (not so much the flowers, because beeeees!)

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An established lavender, flanked by Borage, Borage everywhere.

I’ve also been preparing things for a short break from regular life. The jaunt to Montreal is coming very soon, so weeding the veggie garden in the evenings (Hoping to catch up) has been my priority as it has such fertile soil that the weeds are thriving. Some of which I think I could even eat (but never would). I could also thank the father in law (manimal dad) for puttering around the property for me. It’s always good to have a 2nd set of eyes to scope out things that I often overlook.

I’ve been giving a lot of consideration on raised beds in the vegetable garden, and I think we will go for it next year, maybe build 1-2 beds a year until the whole garden is done in raised beds. Gardening in the greenhouse beds has been extremely simple and really easy on the back. Why are we making things so difficult for ourselves?

The productive, semi imaginary side of myself has made a stern vow to weed a bucket’s worth of weeds a day. That’s 10 gallons of weeds. That’s totally doable right?

If we think of it, there might be an application of lawn fertilizer where there is actually lawn. Which is basically just under our giant maple tree. There will be a conscious note to keep the mower blades extra high too, because you  never want your lawn to be too short in the heat of the summer.

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I swear there are fewer weeds since I took this photo…less lettuce too!

In the veg garden, I will be adding a side dressings of compost, particularly to the radish/bean beds after they’ve all been harvested, and in the tomato bed as well.  I’ll also plant another round of slow-bolt lettuces like red salad bowl. I harvested my first bit of Buttercrunch, and it doesn’t get better than fresh lettuce out of the garden. The Lettuce will get planted under the trellis Manimal built for the cucumbers to scramble up. They’ll do better in the cooler shade. The cukes just need to scramble up already. I’ll also plant some more peas, carrots, beets, kale. All of these will be for a fall harvest.

So that concludes my agenda for July. Seriously! All the other necessary tasks are just things like deadheading and the odd weeding. I’ll just try to have a little fun and focus on garden crafts and things. I want to do at least one crafty thing with concrete, test some deer fly avoidance tactics, and hopefully have a post prepared with my success so far with tackling scale insect on some of my plants.

But I’ll never wish time away or the summer, even if it’s a hot, humid sort of spell and we’re always cursing at the discomfort. Stay present, enjoy the view, appreciate the good company of family and friends and being in the outdoors. Winter doesn’t take long to creep up on us. And birds just don’t sing quite like they do right now.

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Chesapeake peppers, Bhut jolokia peppers, Carolina Reaper Peppers (for the infused vodka), beans, Black Krim tomato, Golden Cherry Tomato, and some beans, all planted up in my second raised greenhouse bed.