Gardening is Not Cancelled – Continued…

by Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

Just 3 short weeks ago I shared my thoughts on the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on our gardening activities, shortly after the World Health Organization declared it to be a pandemic.

So many events have been cancelled – garden shows, seminars, Seedy Saturdays (and Sundays) – that even the cutest cat photos are not making us feel any better. (yes these are my two cuties – Lulu and Roxy).

girls

Although garden centres and nurseries that grow their own stock are permitted under the conditions of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (as an agricultural activity), many of our favourite nurseries have closed their doors to in-person shopping and resorted to online sales with no-contact pickups at their entrances in order to protect staff and the public.

vandermeer
Source: http://www.vandermeernursery.com/

Fellow gardeners are panicking. After all, this is the time of year when we finally get outside again, clean up our gardens, start seeds, decide on our plans, and look forward to purchasing our favourite plants at the stores.

However, gardening is not cancelled. This year will definitely be different, and we will have to adjust.

In these chaotic times, let gardening be therapy, providing a place for you to find calm and peace.

Working in the soil, with the sun on your face, can take away your worries, at least temporarily. You are using your hands, digging in the dirt, taking in the fresh air, watching the birds flutter around the yard and – best of all – all the news and social media is in the house! Your garden is an escape!

For families with kids at home, gardening offers the opportunity to get the kids outside and busy, while building their self-esteem and bringing variety to what has suddenly become a lot of time spent together. For those on their own you are never truly alone in a garden – there are always birds, bugs, plants or other living things to observe all around you.

small-83025_1280

COVID-19 is forcing us to re-examine how we live, and how we consume goods and services. This has translated into an increased interest in people wanting to grow their own food, taking us back to World War II, when millions of people cultivated Victory Gardens to protect against potential food shortages while boosting patriotism and morale. victory garden

We still don’t know whether we will be able to get starter plants, so many people are ordering seeds. As a result, seed companies are experiencing a deluge of orders, with many stopping new orders until they can catch up. Your local Master Gardener groups and horticultural societies can help you out if you need some advice on how to grow plants from seeds.

  1. Start some seeds. Just seeing something grow out of the soil is a very positive experience. Hopefully you have some seed starter mix around (or can get some) and you can use anything to grow seeds in – from old roasted chicken containers to yogurt cups to folded up newspapers.
  2. Check out social media gardening groups – there are groups out there for every topic under the sun, from seed starting to plant identification to perennials. Since the pandemic began, I have noticed far more people joining these groups, which is wonderful because gardeners just love to share their experiences.
  3. Plan your vegetable garden – figure out which ones you can grow easily from seeds. Learn from others and search Google for ideas.
  4. Stuck inside on a rainy day? Find some online gardening classes or check out YouTube for some good instruction videos on any number of gardening topics.
  5. Get outside for a walk in nature – while maintaining physical distancing, enjoy getting some exercise and seeing all the plants emerging from their winter slumber.
  6. Repot your houseplants. You might just find they reward you with some lovely blooms once we start getting more sunshine.

Hopefully soon we’ll be able to look forward to getting plants at our favourite nurseries (you can be sure they are working very hard to find safe ways to do this). When we do, make sure you support your local nurseries and #buylocal as much as possible.

Until then, find your inner gardening zen, whatever that may be, and enjoy all that spring has to offer. I know I will be sitting by my garden pond, thinking about brighter days ahead.IMG_6524*For best information on the COVID-19 situation contact your local health unit or the Government of Ontario website. Peterborough Public Health, led by Medical Officer of Health Rosana Salvaterra, also has great resources.

 

 

 

What to Do About Road Salt Damage

By Judy Bernard, Master Gardener

With a retaining wall and a paved boulevard, we have never had to worry about salt damage to our lawn and plants. Now, living in a new development with grass growing right to the street and grass boulevards, salt damage from road salt is a new fact of life. We have all seen the damage to certain trees (cedars especially) where the foliage has turned brown from salt spray. Sod gets chewed up from the plows and grass at the side of the road turns brown as well.

In addition to the mechanical damage from snow clearing, there are some other things which are happening to cause this damage:

  • The salt spray causes the foliage to dry out. On deciduous plants, the buds can be desiccated by the salt.
  • Salt absorbs a lot of water. Even if the ground is wet, if there is salt in the ground it is preventing the plants from accessing the water.
  • Salt breaks down into its component ions of sodium and calcium. The calcium gets absorbed into the leaves preventing photosynthesis. The sodium prevents the roots from taking up necessary nutrients.

In early spring there are things we can do to help our plants to recover from and to mitigate the effects of salt and salt spray:

  • Gently rake and remove as much of the salt and sand that has been left behind around the curb area after the snow has melted. For the rest of the lawn, you need to wait until the ground has thawed and dried out; you don’t want to leave foot impressions in the lawn.
  • Hopefully we will have lots of rain to wash the salt spray from the boughs of the plants, and to wash that water away. If not, then wash the spray off of the plants.
  • Water, and lots of it, applied slowly over several days is the way to rinse the salt that has gotten into the soil out. It takes 7-8cm of water to rinse 50% of the salt out of the soil; 13cm to wash 90% out. If we have a dry spring, and don’t get that much water over a few days, then where possible augment rainfall with water.

As we get ready for winter we can take steps to protect our gardens in the fall:

  • Put a good layer of mulch in the form of leaves over the perennial beds close to the roads. This can then be removed in the spring, taking much of the salt with it.
  • Protect trees and shrubs with burlap wrapping.
  • Put up a barrier or screen to prevent salt runoff back onto your property.
  • Use other materials around your home, like sand or salt alternatives to provide traction in icy conditions.
  • Use salt-resistant plants close to roads and sidewalks.

Now, let’s hope for lots of spring rain to freshen up our gardens and get the growing season underway!

The following web sites will give you more information about what to look for as well as having suggestions for salt resistant plants:

Salt damage in Landscape Plants
Salinity, Salt Damage

Before and after the same spot of lawn.

 

Sweet Peas

by Mary Jane Parker, Master Gardener

Somebody once told me that you should try growing something six times unsuccessfully before you give up. I have not stopped there yet with Sweet Peas. I grow them but they never are as full and beautiful as the pictures I have seen or the seed package covers. So I bought The Sweet Pea Book by Graham Rice. It has lots of interesting ideas and a multitude of cultivation tips.

book

The first thing that I learned is that some varieties were selected over time for our climate of hot summers and cold winters. Cuthbertsons and the Royals are two examples. This is at variance with the British climate where they can be planted either in pots or the ground in the fall and overwintered outside.

Another thing that I learned is that timing is everything. I planted mine March 6. If you grow them and pinch the growth at 3 inches, how much more will they grow and how fast? Graham Rice says that if they get too tall and lanky before planting out they will not thrive. The package says to plant in April outside and I remember my Dad (he of the farming roots) saying that they used to plant peas as soon as the ground could be worked – sometimes even in February. This, I think, has been my downfall in years past.

Planting is straightforward and cultivation is pretty easy. Low nitrogen fertilizer every couple of weeks and good organic compost. Situating your sweet peas is pretty important. Here iour zone they require full sun in early spring but not so much when temperatures heat up. As with lots of other plants, do not plant in dry zones around walls of buildings and tree bases.

So here’s hoping that this year’s crop of Sweet Peas will be an enormous success at last.

butterfly-2537098__340

Gardening and Our Quality of Life

by Sharleen Pratt, Master Gardener

There are many different reasons to garden. Some garden to enhance the look of their homes, some love to grow their own vegetables, and many of us garden for colour after a long hard winter. There is another more powerful reason to garden. It can be a medicine and a natural source of therapy. Gardening can relax and invigorate us. The medical profession now recognizes gardening as a means to help heal people.

Being in the outdoors, whether gardening or walking in a wooded area can relax us, rejuvenate us and enliven our senses to what is around us. We can connect with the natural world and be creative and forget for a moment all the everyday worries that we carry with us.

My meditation comes when I’m out digging or planting in the garden and yes, sometimes I will be caught talking to myself. It is my time to be ‘in the moment’ and like many other gardeners the hours will slip away peacefully.

I have a fond memory in Grade 5 of a teacher during a really hot spell in June taking us outside and reading a book to us while we sat on the grass under a mature tree. Why do I remember this? I can’t remember the book but it has something to do with the coolness of the tree, the peaceful surroundings and maybe just the feel of the grass.

Science is now supporting what we have intuitively known for many years. By deepening our relationship with nature, we can reduce stress levels, increase creativity and improve our mood.

IMG_1644

Kawartha Conservation offers Forest Therapy walks that are used to help support healing and wellness. Forest Therapy is inspired by the Japanese practice of shinrin yoku which translates to “forest bathing”. For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods. Florence Williams set out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain in her book, The Nature Fix. She has travelled extensively and investigates cutting-edge research to demonstrate that even small amounts of exposure to the living world can improve our creativity and enhance our mood. Through her research, Williams shows how time in nature is not a luxury but is, in fact, essential to our humanity.

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), founder of the biodynamic approach to agriculture, was a highly trained scientist and respected philosopher in his time who later in his life came to prominence for his spiritual-scientific approach to knowledge called “anthroposophy.” Anthroposophy is a formal educational, therapeutic, and creative system which he established by seeking to use mainly natural means to optimize physical and mental health and well-being.

IMG_3900

In Kent, England there is a unique facility, Blackthorn Trust, which offers specialist therapies and rehabilitation and their work is based on the belief that more than medication is required to effect positive change in people. The work of Rudolf Steiner underpins all their work, and the belief that people should pay more attention to feelings, to the imagination, to the emotions, to the body and space it occupies and to nature and all its rhythms.

Community Gardens can play a large role in helping people feel more connected with the natural world, supply good physical exercise, allow creative juices to flow, supply opportunities for those in small urban settings to participate in an outdoor activity, escape the stresses of everyday life, and improve well-being by creating a reduction in neighbourhood-based fear. Community Gardens have been popular in England for many years and one of the more interesting ones in Oxfordshire is for people with Parkinson’s disease. To learn more about the community gardens in the Peterborough area, visit Nourish.

The Royal Botanical Gardens have realized the benefits of using plants and gardening to enhance emotional, physical and mental well-being. They offer a number of programs from yoga and tai chi, afternoon teas, making mead, kids and family programs as well as lectures and workshops. (Editor’s note – unfortunately due to a recent announcement from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health regarding COVID-19, the RBG will be closed until April 6, 2020)

IMG_1647

In summary, if you are finding this to be a long winter and you are feeling overwhelmed with everyday stresses, I encourage you to go for a walk in a nearby wooded area, be observant of your surroundings, take a deep breath and enjoy. I guarantee you will return home feeling calmer and rejuvenated!

Gardening Is Not Cancelled

by Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

Just when Ontario gardeners thought spring was peeking through the piles of snow – with warmer weather and the change to daylight savings time – we’ve been derailed, and not by Mother Nature.

GDD2

It’s been a tough few weeks with the increasing spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to North America. People are becoming increasingly alarmed, and in the past few days we have seen measures by our local health authorities and governments to ‘flatten the curve’ of the pandemic by imposing restrictions on travel, movement, and large events. For best information on the COVID-19 situation contact your local health unit or the Government of Ontario website. Peterborough Public Health, led by Medical Officer of Health Rosana Salvaterra, also has great resources.

curve
Flattening the curve – Proactively instituting protective measures to protect our healthcare system’s capacity to respond.

For Ontario gardeners, the past week has seen the cancellation of two major garden shows, numerous Seedy Sundays (and Saturdays), various Ontario Horticultural Association District meetings, and local meetings (in venues that have closed their doors to external groups). 90116313_3010310689020706_8668654371803758592_oThe biggest shock was the last minute cancellation of Canada Blooms just before its opening (March 13-22) as so much hard work and preparation goes into this event (6 days of building, but also plant-forcing, planning, designing etc.). But all is not lost! Thanks to Paul Gellatly (new Director of Horticulture at the Toronto Botanical Gardens), Sean James (Master Gardener and gardening consultant), and Helen Battersby (Toronto-based writer and garden speaker), we have photos and video of Canada Blooms before it was dismantled so that everyone can appreciate the results, even if we don’t have “smell-o-rama” and can’t see it in person.

Photos of Canada Blooms (thanks Paul Gellatly) Here and here

(note that all the TBG’s plants from Canada Blooms will be on sale at the TBG at 777 Lawrence Ave East on March 14th and 15th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Video Tour of Canada Blooms (thanks Sean James) Here

More Photos of Canada Blooms (thanks Helen Battersby) Here

gardenshow

The Peterborough Garden Show is also a huge draw for Ontario Gardeners. This year was to be the 20th Anniversary show – completely community run by volunteers from the Peterborough Horticultural Society, with all profits being reinvested in the community in Peterborough.

In addition, our beloved Peterborough Seedy Sunday this March 15th has been cancelled (along with many others across the province). Organizer Jillian Bishop (of Nourish and Urban Tomato) is encouraging people to visit the website and click on links for the various vendors to support them by buying seeds online.

89690140_2770661179669493_8297570305530920960_o

What are Gardeners to Do?

Don’t give up hope.

  1. Bring spring inside! Check out my recent blog on bringing dormant spring flowering branches inside and forcing them for early colour and bloom.forsythia-4083551_1920
  2. Plant some seeds! You may not be able to go to Seedy Saturdays/Sundays but you can order seeds from local companies or find them at your local nurseries. A great activity for March Break with kids.
  3. Do some virtual garden tours! Google Arts and Culture has some, or there’s a virtual tour of Prince Charles’ Highgrove Gardens that I just found. I’m sure a quick Google search for “virtual tour” and “gardens” would bring up many more.Highgrove
  4. Plan your 2020 garden. Whether it’s reworking your perennial beds, planning a new garden, or deciding on your vegetables and herbs for this year, best to get your design ideas laid out now before spring arrives. Maybe think about a rain garden or pollinator garden for this year?
  5. Clean your tools. Get in your garage or garden shed and take inventory of what tools need repair or replacing, and what new tools may be helpful this season. Clean your tools now so you are ready for the season.20190713_140635
  6. Get outside. Yes we might still have snow (well some of us do) but that doesn’t stop you wandering around your garden and dreaming does it?
  7. Go wander in nature. Many of the COVID-19 restrictions are stopping our regular activities in our communities. But that is no reason not to enjoy our wonderful environment. Take this opportunity to get out for a hike, see the plants emerging from their winter hibernation, listen to the spring birds singing, and relax in nature. (more on this in our MG Sharleen’s blog on Monday)09_RiverView

These are challenging times, but our gardens and love of gardening will help get us through. If you have other ideas please tweet them out to us or share them on our Facebook page.

 

 

Book Reviews: “Bringing Nature Home”, “Nature’s Best Hope” and “The Living Landscape”

By Cheryl Harrison, Master Gardener

Are you concerned about the natural world? Do you want to know what you, one person, one gardener, can do?

Douglas W. Tallamy is Professor and Chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware, USA. In 2007, Mr. Tallamy’s book, “Bringing Nature Home”, was published. It has been updated and expanded several times since then but his message has remained the same:

Plants are not optional on this planet. With few exceptions, neither we, nor anything else, can live without them.”

Plants, through photosynthesis, take energy from the sun and turn it into food. Only plants can do this, we can’t and we, like all other creatures, depend on plants for our energy in order to survive. Mr. Tallamy explains the reliance that exists between the diversity of animal species and the diversity of plants. He explains the damage we are causing with our large lawns and our ornamental trees, shrubs and garden plants. Mr. Tallamy explains what one person, one gardener, can do and why we must. “Bringing Nature Home” is a beautiful book. Its language is compelling, its photos inspiring, and by the end, you will want to tear out your ornamental garden and plant all native plants! Or, at least look at your garden and re-evaluate and elevate what you are trying to achieve…..a pretty garden just won’t cut it anymore.

“The Living Landscape”, published in 2014, and written by Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy, again explains why, then how, to develop home gardens that are ecologically sound but beautiful and that meet our other land use needs (eg. vegetable garden, kids and dogs play area). They help us to also understand that, by using native plants, we will make a “layered landscape” that supports diverse wildlife and a healthy ecosystem. They provide beautiful photos to show us what can be achieved followed by detailed information to tell us exactly how to achieve it.

In 2019, “Nature’s Best Hope” by Douglas W. Tallamy was released. In this book, Mr. Tallamy tries again to not only inspire us but to also unite us in his vision of “a homegrown national park.” At first, I was disappointed with this book….ho hum, more of the same with fewer, and less dynamic, photos. Mr. Tallamy does explain again why we must start living on the earth in a way that is sustainable. However, with this book, he proves to us that we can do this because we want to and not because we feel we are forced to. We can create biological systems in our own yards that connect to others in your neighbour’s yard…..”a homegrown national park.” We can do this with native plants which will attract native insect species including pollinators, native birds and so on, to spread out across the food web to humans. “Nature’s Best Hope” was a harder read maybe because Mr. Tallamy states just the facts. In Chapter 11, titled “What Each of Us Can Do”, he succinctly lists exactly that. Mr. Tallamy believes that humans have “the intelligence, knowledge and ability” and “wisdom” to successfully restore natural habitat and ecosystems. I do too.

I recommend that you read all three of the books listed.

Resources

Darke, Rick & Tallamy, Doug.( 2014). The Living Landscape. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, USA.

Tallamy, Douglas W. (2016 – 10th printing). Bringing Nature Home. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, USA.

Tallamy, Douglas W. (2019). Nature’s Best Hope. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, USA.

butterfly-17057_640

Where Do I Go but Up?

By Suzanne Seryck, Master Gardener

I’ve just spent a rather pleasant afternoon looking through one of the many gardening catalogues, occasionally glancing out at my snow covered garden; trying out ideas in my mind to create more space. Having had a one acre garden for over fifteen years I am still trying to get used to a smaller space. No longer can I just go out and build new beds, or purchase trees or shrubs without having a space to plant them. No longer can I try out different pumpkin, squash, zucchini or cucumber plants without some kind of a plan. To create more space for all the vegetables and fruit I want to grow, I am going to have to get creative making use of all my available space.

Vertical vegetable gardening is a great way to grow vegetables when space is tight. Supports such as obelisks, trellises, fences, stakes, even other plants can be used as a support for many vegetables. Ensure that you select ‘vine’ varieties of specific crops instead of the ‘bush’ varieties. Certain vegetables such as beans will produce tendrils allowing them to climb up supports by themselves, others such as squash or zucchini will need a little help and can be tied at regular intervals. Supports do not need to be expensive; you can build many yourself using cheap materials or in my case left over materials I find in my husband’s workshop. If you don’t have the time or inclination, there are many different plant supports in catalogues or stores. Fruit trees can be espaliered to a fence, while fruit bushes can be grown either against a fence or up stakes; pruning to keep them from becoming too wide. I grow my currant and gooseberry bushes as double or triple cordons (a cordon is a single main stem growing vertical), which take up less space than a traditional bush shape and for me are easier to pick.

IMG_0215

My mother loves scarlet runner beans which are vigorous climbers with beautiful clusters of red flowers. Last year I grew them in 2 raised beds side-by-side, creating a tunnel between the two beds using bamboo stakes. I only used up a 4 inch wide strip in both beds and was rewarded with beans for many meals. A lot of people grow beans on a teepee structure which also works well, with a side benefit of being able to use the space under the teepee for planting lettuce. Beans can also grow up other crops such as corn as in the Three Sisters Guild.

Fences and walls are ideal spots to create living walls, especially if located in sun or part-shade. They are ideal for growing leafy vegetables such as lettuce as well as herbs. There are many examples on the internet showing living walls, examples include using wooden pallets, window boxes and gutters. The photo below shows a gutter bed that I had in my last house that I used to grow lettuce and spring onions. The bed worked really well and was both weed free as well as pest free, and if you have difficulty bending down this makes harvesting pain free. The only thing to remember when creating a living wall is to add drainage holes and use a soil that both retains moisture and provides nutrients.

2010-06-97

As you can see from the above photo, tomatoes are growing upside down in hanging baskets. This method worked really well for me, although I have heard many negative stories about growing tomatoes the wrong way up. Tomatoes work really well grown in pots as does asparagus and peppers, you just need to ensure that you are growing the correct variety when growing in a pot. You can also grow salad greens in pots which works really well if located on the patio outside the back door where they are easy to pick. Again you do not need to buy expensive pots, I have been known to grow many vegetables in recycle bins, see picture below or even in an old laundry sink. Again, you just need to ensure you have drainage holes and use a moisture retentive soil combined with compost.

And finally, one last space saving idea that I am planning on trying this year is a pillar of peppers. This idea is from a newsletter that I receive monthly called ‘Dallying in the Dirt‘. Peppers are grown in a pillar made of heavy wire and landscape fabric. The pillar is then filled with soil, holes cut into the fabric at intervals all around the pillar and filled with pepper plants. I’m not sure my pillar is going to be quite as tall as the example shown, but I like to experiment in the garden and this sounds like an interesting method of growing peppers.

 

Late February: Tree Pruning Time!

By MJ (Mary-Jane) Pilgrim, Master Gardener

Last year at around this time on a beautiful, sunny and mild Saturday, I found myself in an apple orchard south of Norwood learning the intricacies of pruning apple trees. Fruit trees need to be pruned in order to open up the tree canopy to sunlight and air circulation which promotes fruit production and a healthy plant.

Most trees benefit from some pruning, but an important aspect of the task is knowing when to prune. Proper timing helps to insure attractive, healthy, productive trees and shrubs.

February through March is generally regarded as the best time to prune most deciduous trees. The absence of foliage at this time of year gives the individual a clear view of the tree and allows the selection and removal of appropriate branches.

The best time to prune flowering trees or shrubs is right after they’ve finished blooming. Unlike other trees in this article, pruning of these is unlikely to have anything to do with February or March!

Prune evergreen shrubs, such as juniper and yew, in late March or early April before new growth begins. Light pruning may also be done in mid-summer. Avoid pruning evergreen shrubs in the fall as fall pruned evergreens are more susceptible to winter injury. Late winter is the best time to remove unwanted lower branches on evergreen trees.

Back to the apple orchard. Late February to early April is the best time to prune fruit trees in our area. Pruning should be completed before the fruit trees begin to break bud (leaf out) in early spring.

branch-3873825_640
I learned that the first rule of pruning is to remove any dead, injured or diseased branches. Cut just past the “branch collar”–the wrinkled part where the branch connects to the trunk or another branch.

Then, moving up and around the tree, look for branches that cross each other and eliminate the ones that are not evenly spaced or are not at the best angle. Competing branches will cause problems for the tree. Fruit trees should only have one central leading branch. If two or more exist, choose the healthier one and remove the others.

It was definitely an interesting afternoon. Much thanks to my friend Carl for the lesson!

Three Items of Likely Interest

While we’re on the subject of trees, I thought the following timely items would be of interest to our readers.

Ecology Park Spring Sale, Victoria Day Weekend. Mark your calendar now and plan to support Ecology Park programs with purchases of over 150 species of edible and native plants, shrubs, and trees that thrive in our region of Ontario and provide important habitat for wildlife and pollinators.

ORCA Seedling Program — Otonabee Conservation can assist you in reforesting or planting additional trees on your property through the Tree Seedling Program. Orders for trees can be placed in early March for delivery in late April. Tree whips (3-4yrs old) come bare root. Trees range in price from $1 per tree to $4 per tree, but there is a minimum order of 25 trees of a single variety so you may want to split an order with a friend or two (or three). See the link below for more information. Order deadline this year is March 10, 2020.

Coincidentally, the Peterborough Horticultural Society speaker this coming Wednesday February 26 (2020) is Vern Bastable from Peterborough Green Up. Vern will be speaking about “Choosing the Right Tree”. Guests are always welcome for a nominal $2 charge. The meeting is held at the Peterborough Lions Centre in Ashburnham from 7pm-8:30pm sharp and refreshments are served before the meeting.

Lastly, here are some resources that you may find helpful.

Bringing Spring Indoors

by Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

I’m trying something new today. If you’re like me, you’re going a bit loopy by mid-February. The snow just keeps on falling, you have no more room for new houseplants, and you just want to see some green or flowers. Two years ago I went to visit friends in Florida and it just rejuvenated this gardener’s soul to see the two Gs – green and growth, plus some beautiful flowers like these.

IMG_9653
Starburst (Clerodendrum quadriloculare)

Where was I? (distracted by looking through all my February Florida flower photos!). Back to the blog topic at hand.

Often people force bulbs like paperwhite narcissus, muscari and hyacinths in mid-winter, but in many cases that requires remembering to put the ones that require a cold period in the fridge or other cold spot (and I never remember).

Then I saw someone “forcing” flowering shrub branches and I said “I can do that!”. The key is to cut branches and fake them into thinking it’s spring and time to flower.

Under normal conditions, warming spring temperatures and lengthening days trigger flower buds to swell and open.

The process is fairly straightforward:

  • Head outside in your garden, preferably when the temperatures are above zero Celsius and it is sunny
  • Using sharpened secateurs, look for branches with plump buds and cut branches about a foot or so in length; make sure to use clean pruners and proper cuts to protect the rest of the plant
  • Plunge the branches immediately into a bucket of very warm water inside (about as warm as you can stand on your hands); the water helps move that first burst of moisture up into the stems; some people advise submerging the entire stems in water in a bathtub overnight
  • After 6 hours, make fresh cuts (see next bullet) and move branches to water-filled vases. Use narrow necked vases, bottles, or mason jars to keep the branches standing upright
  • Don’t smash the branch ends (old advice) – make a slit or two in the bottom of the stem so it looks like a cross or star pattern from the bottom.
  • Add floral preservative to the water or 1 tablespoon of antibacterial mouthwash per quart of water to prevent bacteria growth
    • Another option is to leave the cut branches in the original bucket of water until they bloom. Then they can be moved into vases, as needed
  • Keep in a cool area (no more than 18 degrees Celsius/65 degrees F) and in indirect light (warmer temperatures cause buds to develop too rapidly and not open properly and direct sun can cause bud drop)
  • Change the water weekly (adding new preservative). If the water discolours or begins to smell replace it, and in 2 to 4 weeks, the dormant flower and leaf buds should open
  • Mix the blooming branches with a cut evergreen branches for a free bouquet

Branches that are a half-inch or less in diameter work best, as do plants that flower earliest in spring. Make a fresh cut whenever the cut ends are exposed to the air for any reason – that exposure will lead to healing, and when the cut end seals, it can’t take up new water.

Among the best bets? Plants that naturally flower before May – things like fruit trees, lilacs, azaleas, rhododendrons, redbuds, witch hazels, forsythias and magnolias – species that produce their flower buds the year before.

It helps to understand each species’ different “chilling” requirements before buds are in position to open. Chill time occurs at 4 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit) and less. Most spring bloomers are ready to flower after about 6 weeks of chilling, but some late-spring bloomers need eight or 10 weeks*.

* Trees and shrubs suitable for forcing from January on: Cornelian cherry dogwood, filbert, forsythia, fothergilla, witch hazel; from early February on: apple, cherry, crabapple, ornamental pear; from mid-February on: beech, birch, Japanese maple, lilac, magnolia, quince, red maple, serviceberry, willow.

What a perfect way to brighten your house in winter while impressing everyone with your gardening expertise. And best of all it’s free..

I’ll be planting some witch hazel this spring to be ready for next year!

cherry-blossoms-4066631_1920

Here’s some other great suggestions from Ottawa Master Gardener Kira Burger on things gardeners can do to keep occupied until the snow melts.

Planning and Dreaming

by Judy Bernard, Master Gardener

Winter is a time for planning and dreaming about our gardens.

Since we decided to move and downsize, I’ve been planning on how I want to create my new garden. Right now, under the snow, is mostly compacted construction zone. Debris from bricks, rocks, and stones ( I’ve collected some of the larger stones for garden beds) and weeds have been partly covered by sand fill. I’m hoping that we will have topsoil and sod fairly early in the spring. In the meantime, I’ve been dreaming and planning.

watercolour-2045917_1920

Our house is oriented east-west. There are two story houses to the north and south of us. Before planning on what shrubs and plants to put in those areas, I want to see how much shade they provide and for how long during the daytime. I’m keeping a record of where the sun is in the sky relative to those areas. The front and back are wide open, like a blank canvas.

summer-4282857_1280

At the same time, I’m making plans for what trees and shrubs I want to put in those areas. My choices are for mostly native shrubs, trees and and fruit producing plants. Other than the usual garden centres, I’ve been looking for places to purchase native plants and have found some close by Peterborough that grow shrubs and trees. Richardson’s Pineneedle Farms in Pontypool is one. They are a major commercial grower and have a lot of native shrubs and trees for sale. You can buy in bulk there. Another one Eastern Evergreen Inc. grows white cedar for hedges and is located in Warkworth.

With an office in downtown Peterborough, Cedar Ontario has a long track record of providing healthy natural eastern white cedar trees and installing hedges throughout Peterborough and the Kawarthas.

2019-Smith-8' 3rd season-2
Photo courtesy of Cedar Ontario

When it opens, Ecology Park in Peterborough is another good place to purchase native plants. Their big annual plant sale is Saturday May 16th at 10 am. Remember to bring your own containers for leaf compost and cedar mulch. The bulk sales are self loading , with a 20 bucket limit per person, per visit. Knowledgeable staff and are there to help you (and often Master Gardeners are there too).

plantsalecourtesyofGreenUpFBpage

In the meantime, I’m researching trees and shrubs, drawing plans, and dreaming.

 

 

Peterborough, ON, Canada