Tips and Tales

I would like to share with you some Tips and Tales involving my gardening and tea drinking experiences!


Winter is coming but thats no reason to stop gardening!

There are many reasons why I enjoy the winter season in the garden: #1) My work load is lighter, all I have to do over winter is sweep up the dead leaves!  #2) It’s not so hot, yes its cold but I bundle up and its really nice especially if its a sunny winter day.  #3) I can see the “bones” of the garden, the foundation that the other seasons are built on.  Once all the plants are pruned I can move things around.  For example I had a toad lily in front of a heuchera, good colour combo but the toad was too tall, it was moved to the back of the bed. #4) Its a good time to get caught up on my documentation and record how plants did this past season.  #5) I can plan for the changes I want to make next year.  #6) Finally the number one reason I like the winter season is the Hellebores are all coming up!  Now Is the time to top dress the baby shoots with good quality soil, remove any dead leaves, clean up debris from around the plants and wait for the lovely blooms to appear.  Hellebores don’t actually bloom, their blooms are extensions of their leaves thats why they last for so long and do well even in the worst weather.  My yellow hellebore grew right up through the frozen hard snow last year now thats a hardy H plant!


I just finished reading a really good book called “The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns”, the main character Gal is an ammeter rose breeder who has been diligently trying for years to breed a new Hulthemia hybrid rose.  When I first saw the breed Hulthemia Rose I thought the author made the name but to my surprise it really is a type or subspecies of rose.  It is known for its distinctive coloured blotch at the base of the petals and in the centre.  I have cared for roses, researched them and entered them in shows and in almost 20 years I had never even heard of a hulthemia.   Apparently in the rose world there has been a race to hybridise a hulthemia with a hybrid tea and now after years of trial and error there are now hulthemia hybrids ready for sale under the brand name Eyeconics.  Rose breeder Jim Sproul of Bakersfield California was instrumental in breeding the hulthemias.  Brad Jalbert of Select Roses here in Langley BC, said the rose is not available in Canada yet and may not be good for our damp West Coast climate, hulthemias in nature grow in dry, arid conditions.  its exciting though, it’s a new breed of roses!

Use discarded deli trays to catch water

I do a lot of gardening in pots and to conserve water and keep the plants moist I always put a drain tray under the pot. It can get expensive buying the fancy trays from the garden centers so my solution is to keep all the trays from Chinese takeout, spinach dips, cakes, deli trays and fruit trays.  I always have a variety of sizes on hand.

When I worked for my previous employer I was often found butt up in the recycling taking out the big trays after they were thrown out from a big corporate event.  The Costo  ones last for at least one season and to quote Eddie from Christmas Vacation: “That’s a good reusable item Clark”.

Tag Bags…They really work!

Every gardener needs a way to document the plants they have purchased otherwise how does one know a) where the plant was planted and b) the name of the plant once it’s in the ground.  The answer is not to stick the tag that comes with the plant from the garden centre in the ground with the plant.  The reason is they deteriorate, sink into the ground or get blown away by the wind then the poor plant has no ID.  Some people think they can remember where they planted everything, as for myself this never worked!  I gardened for 7 years in my Maple Ridge garden and never documented one plant!  So after my 3rd bag of Lolly Pop Lilies, I totally forgot I had bought the first two bags, I thought there has to be a better system.  So I gathered up all the loose plant tags and put them into a bag, then when the next spring arrived and the plant buying began I stared a new bag.  In big black letters I wrote the year on the bag.  So at the end of the year I went to the mish-mash bag and took out all the tags for plants that did not grow that year.  Then when we moved plants from the old garden to the one I currently have I brought all the tag bags with me, about 10 years worth.  Ok, sure some of the plants did not move with me but it was a great way to see what was brought.  Another tip is when you put your tag into the bag note the year and where the plant was planted on the tag.  This works great, even a few days ago I looked at the tags in the bag for 2014 and refreshed my memory about the plants I had bought and where they were.  This saves money because you can see if the plant came back and also what plants are coming up so you don’t end up with 3 bags of Lolly Pop lilies!   There were lots of ‘I don’t remember buying this’, or seeing a plant come up and being able to say oh yah, thats my ‘crocus mix’ or ‘Sunny Girlfriend’ split-corona Narcissus…without the tag in the bag there was no way I would have remembered their names!

A Funny Tea Tale!

A few weeks back we set out from our home in the Fraser Valley and headed west to Vancouver, this is about a 1 and 1/2 hour drive, the reason for our trip was my husband had ordered some lighting for the basement cabinets from a store on West 41st.  After a lengthy study of the Google map, (we are a bit low tech.),  we decided on the best route to the lighting store.  Once in the area we parked the car and walked down the sidewalk and right up to the Adonia Tea House!  What a lovely surprise, as it turns out the tea shop and the light store are almost side by side.  After picking up the lights we went into the Adonia to look around.  It is a really pretty shop, very authentic with lots of old world charm and cozy seating.  I was not expecting an afternoon taking tea but since we were there we stayed for some amazing Irish Cream tea and a try of delicious treats.  It was funny though seeing my husband sitting at the little table with his frilly tea cup in front of him so the waitress was obsevant enough to see he would prefer a mug and brought him one.  It was still frilly but a little more substantial for his tea.  What a fun and unexpected experience finding this treassure of a tea house, it made the long drive so worth while!

Gardening TIPS:

As gardeners we like to buy and add plants to the garden, but its important to think about what is going on in the dirt.  A plant in poor soil will inevitably show the signs above ground:  not growing, wilting back, leaves falling off or changing colour…these are just a few signs.  Before I even put a plant in the ground I amend the soil, soil is alive with lots of good things plants need, more detail on this later, so I am always enhancing it.  Build up the soil with lots of good organic matter.  My motto is ‘feed the soil so it can feed the plants’. I like to add well-rotted steer manure, everyone has a favorite poo, along with steer I like lama poo too as the animal has the ability to digest everything, even seeds.

Now its time for a TALE:

There is a lady in the Maple Ridge Garden club who sells lama poop by the bag, as mentioned, lamas are very thorough digesters so their droppings contain no seeds.  So I ordered 5 bags to add around the garden in our old property.  If you have never seen lama doo doo the droppings look like big pellets, long and oval.  So I add all 5 bags to the back  garden.  About a week later my husband who tries, but at the time, couldn’t  tell the difference between a rose and a hydrangea goes out to the garden to work on the fence.  He sees all the lama poop I spread around but in his mind he thinks an animal has descended on the back garden and shat all over the place!  He came in quite distraught and said “you should see the back garden, something has @!*#!@ all over the out there”!   It was sooo funny, I told him I put the poop there as a fertilizer!

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