Sunday, October 10, 2021

First planting in the new garden… at the new house

I am so excited!! We spent a couple days putting together a new raised bed, of the many yet to come, so that I could get the garlic in for next July harvest. I prefer planting about September 15th, but will go as late as October 15th. So it needed to happen right now. The deer fence isn’t up yet, but the buried garlic bulbs should be safe until it is. 

This year I lost all of my old garlic to what seemed to be simply a failure to thrive. They were small and stunted and a lot had bright yellow cloves. So I disposed of the lot of them and just used the other garlics from plantings from the nursery and farms. Here is the bowl before they were separated. They are HUGE. Some are Music and I think some are Red Russian. 




This new raised bed is made with our usual formula. Small fallen alder trees in the bottom. A thin layer of soil. A sprinkle of Urea. A thick layer of soil. A heavy sprinkle of Fish Bone Meal and a tiny bit of Urea. Then about five more inches of soil. With a bit more Fish Bone Meal in the top layer. 

This year I have planted 45 nice big fat cloves. They are exactly 6” apart. I poked 3” holes with my dibber and positioned the cloves so that each had about 1/2” of soil over it. Some cloves needed a bit of soil pushed in the hole so they didn’t sit too low and other had to be wiggled in a bit further down as they were HUGE. All in all, what a fun day planting in the rain. I love everything about growing garlic. 

Precision holes poked

Laying out the garlic


Garlic planted and wire down to keep the wild turkeys from scratching in the bed

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Old Mrs. Butterworth syrup bottles


I have a wonderful 5’ tall crawl space in this new house I bought. There was a small amount of stuff left in there by the previous owners. I found a treasure. I love old things like Pyrex. So these old wonderful Mrs. Butterworth syrup bottles remind me of my childhood just like Pyrex does. The largest is about 11” tall. The smallest about 9”. I always thought they looked like glass dolls. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Yet another Leylandi Cypress hedge… gone! Beautifying the garden world one hedge at a time.

My new house came with a Leylandi Cypress hedge. You may recall my old posts about the hedge from hell at my Sidney house? That hedge (row of HUGE bloody trees) was my nemesis. Refresh your memory here. This one was only eight years old and were less than a foot tall when planted. They were already about 17’  tall and the largest trunk was about 9” across. So I immediately booked a backhoe operator as soon as he was available and our fire rating decreased so machinery was allowed again. That day was yesterday.


You can see the hedge through the window. It doesn’t look like it in this Realtor listing photo, but the trees are about 15+’ tall. 

Some of the branches trimmed off for chipping. 



A twinned fir tree that was cut down ages ago. 


Too heavy to lift and take way, but roots are out for us. I’m betting it will be slow tedious work with the chain saw. 

Friday, September 03, 2021

A little holly tree of my own

When I bought my house I didn’t really give much thought to the very few plantings as most were not my style and would be coming out. I noticed this tree that was full of dead branches and really barely hanging in there. I inspected the leaves and thought it was perhaps a laurel. When I took a few minutes one day and really had a good look at it, I looked up. In the green leaves were some, not a lot, green berries. My excitement level went to a ten. I took a photo and zoomed in. OMG, is this a holly?! I started looking at the leaves again. It is obviously older and they lose that classic pointy holly leaf shape and smooth out. But sure enough, it is a holly. I am pretty sure an English Holly. My favorite nursery (Dinter) informed me a while ago, that because English Holly is now considered an invasive species, they can no longer sell it. I have been trying to propagate cuttings from mine at my old place. In a full year, I did get one variegated to take, but not a single green. So this is pretty thrilling for a girl who loves her holly. I have fertilized it, given it lots of water, trimmed off most of the dead tips and branches. And now, back to wallpaper removal. 




Sunday, August 22, 2021

Wallpaper removal. Yes it is as much work as people say it is!

I have just spent the first few days in my new house. The first thing I noticed is how big it seems. Also, with my incredibly terrible sense of direction, I get lost. True story…on day one, I headed from where I was, to go somewhere else. I walked around and did a big loop through three rooms and found the place I was looking for, which was actually right beside the spot I started from. It had been right behind me. I have been dealing with this ‘directional disorder’ my whole life so I just laugh. I did shake my head, because this was bad even for me.

Wallpaper removal is a nightmare. There is quite a bit of it in this house and three of us have been working at it for three days and have two rooms done. I think my sister is right with her one week estimate. 

Update: two months have gone by and I am still cleaning glue off the stripped wallpaper walls. I took a total of maybe seven days that I didn’t work on this. “One week estimate”… I snort with laughter. 











We are now working in a hallway and kitchen. 



Thursday, August 05, 2021

I love garlic cleaning day!!!

Since I first started growing garlic 10 years ago, my favorite part of it is cleaning day. Today was that day. By far the rock star this year was the Music Garlic that I got from Wild Rose on Gabriola. Look at the size of the one in my hand. For the record….my hands are not petite. The bowl of garlic is the seed to plant this fall. 





Large beer mug for scale. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

My first ever Phalaenopsis Orchid to reflower



I have been growing orchids since I was about 18. Roughly 47 years. I have grown lots of different varieties, but the one thing I could never do was get a Phalaenopsis to re-flower once it’s initial flowers died. Until this week. At the urging of a dear friend I bought an LED grow light panel and hung it in front of my temporary orchid stand, and within about a month the baby spike showed itself. I am so thrilled to see this darling. I adore the pink. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Can you believe it, I bought a house!!!



I am lucky enough to live on one of the Gulf Islands off the West Coast of Canada. Quiet, rural, small… And I’m also lucky enough to have had my offer on this ‘full of potential’ house accepted. 

As you can see the .37 acre yard is pretty much virgin and that is exciting. The soil in this area is not good so there will be much amending to do. (You will notice the two very stunted lilac trees in the lawn) But that is a project I am excited to start. What it does have here, is water. Which is quite rare on the island. 

I am anxious to share this journey with you. I take possession in about a month, so we will continue this part of my story then…

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Last of my plants from my old garden are planted

It has been quite an experience bringing my favorite plants, many grown close to or over forty years, from my old house in Sidney to Gabriola Island. Some were dug out and moved, some I took cuttings. Some bulbs moved too. Today I got the last of them in the gardens. I particularly enjoyed planting my Bleeding Heart. It had always been in a pot, because they never did well in Sidney's clay. I found a shady but bright spot for it in lovely soil. I have such high hopes for it. They have been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. I had hydrangeas from cuttings. Fuchsias grown from cuttings. I brought one rose bush, a David Austen ‘Graham Thomas’. The other large rose bush I left, but took cuttings. Two of the three took and are now both in the gardens. 

This is an old primrose that was given to me by a friend and co-worker when I 
worked at the Post Office in about 1981. He lived in Sooke and was a lovely human.... thank you Alan. 


My forty year old Ogilvie Peony thriving here


I brought several of my hydrangeas with me. Flower buds!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Gardening is a great stress reliever in this unusual year

I feel very lucky. Now that it is spring, there is so much to do in this huge yard, that I forget there is a pandemic. I forget the stress. I forget for a while, that I can’t see or hug my friends and family. I just dig. And weed. And go to my garden calendar to see what needs to be planted in the next few days. I can focus on my tomato seedlings. I can prepare a hoop house for the onions and leeks that need to be planted now. I also have someone to hug and love here. I am blessed. 


Saturday, April 17, 2021

Mulching the flower gardens

Doing a second very thorough weeding before putting mulch down. There are acres of meadows full of weeds that scatter seeds everywhere and it is virtually impossible to keep ahead of them.

I am using animal bedding wood shavings. Laying it several inches thick.

This bed was done in the fall and you can see that the bedding turns a darker more natural looking colour. There were maybe a dozen little weeds in this bed vs thousands in the others. 

One of my favorite narcissus. Tahiti.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

I never dreamed I would make my own orchid bark

I have been growing orchids for about 45 years. Sometimes I have more of them, sometimes less. Right now I have about 16. I have been upping my orchid game lately and bought a wonderful LED grow light panel. The one thing that has eluded me in the location I live now, is a good supply of orchid bark mix. There is literally nothing available on Gabriola Island and there is only one brand available in ALL of the garden centres in Nanaimo area. I hate to complain, but it is horrible. They seem to have completely cornered the market as there used to be bags of plain fir bark chips you could always get in any garden centre to make your own mix, but no more. The available ‘mix’ has pieces of wood that can be skinny slivers or wide chunks 4-5” long right down to almost powder. I have found what looks like dried long grass in every bag. There is so much very fine charcoal and perlite, that half the bag is more like sand than orchid mix. I thought I got a bad batch and bought two more bags but they are exactly the same. So... I planned to contact the Victoria Orchid Society next time down island and buy some from them. It is beautiful. But that didn’t help me now. 

Then my garden buddy said... “our neighbour has a whole pile of fir bark that he said we can have, that I could chip and see if that would work for you”. So yesterday we flashed up the wood chipper and I’ll be darned, it worked. We used a screen and sifted it into two basic sizes. So I have a huge container of roughly 1” pieces and another of fine. That should take care of my orchid needs for years. 


Chipper at work

Sifted out larger pieces


Fine pieces


Repurposing our old recycle bucket for bark storage


My lungs can’t take wood dust at all, so one of the masks 
Mom made for me for Covid works just perfectly 


Pile of raw fir bark slabs. Raw beauty.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Spring... isn’t it glorious

Spring. Even the word makes your heart feel good. It is so much fun to start plants that you watch grow into full grown bedding plants. My favorite still being tomato plants. We bought a second upright freezer this year to keep frozen produce from the gardens. So whatever I can grow, I have room to store it now. 

The other thing about spring is the blooming things, after months of no colour. Here are a few things blooming around the gardens right now.