Last Blog of the Season

The gardening season is about to begin and soon I’ll be up to my knees in dirt–digging, planting, and weeding. I won’t have the time to write blogs.

Over 100 tulips have already popped up and together with yellow basket-of-gold and lilac-colored catmint, the front garden this spring should be charming.

My thanks to all the bloggers who have followed me on Facebook and Twitter. I hope you enjoyed reading the blogs as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Heartfelt thanks to Genesse Carrillo of Montana Moon Productions for arranging the texts and photographs so beautifully.

So for the time being, it’s farewell to dear Jane Austen, Penelope Lively, landscapers, the Armani-clad Earl le Baron, the cigarette puffing Hiram I. Swindell, and of course that optimistic DIY-er Mark Malarkey.


In the meantime, don’t forget to order your copy of Too Late for Regrets. Hard copy and e-books available here:

Garden Containers

Of all the garden ornaments, containers can be the most satisfying way to express one’s artistic leanings. They can transform a drab section of the garden or brighten an apartment balcony. Vast acres and a deep purse are not needed for this hobby. Large containers are indispensable for use as focal points, while the smaller ones are useful for moving around or filling in seasonal gaps in beds.

Various containers grouped imaginatively can have an immediate impact on a bare concrete path or patio. While large urns or wooden tubs should be positioned with care (and once placed are difficult to move), smaller pots can be constantly moved to suit a gardener’s whim. The advantage of large containers is that they allow the gardener to create bold, lavish designs and if planted with a long term shrub can provide year-long interest. Fox example, a large urn with a centerpiece of either clipped rosemary or a small Alberta spruce with cascading verbena can be striking. Large containers lined up and planted uniformly make a useful boundary marker; this method could be used to break up bare expanses of wall.

Garage sales can turn up a surprising number of quirky and unusual containers. Old tin buckets, milk pails, and watering cans with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage would make an interesting centerpiece for a cluster of small pots. Daisy-like flowers such as gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta) or Coreopsis “Sunray” create a more informal look.


On an apartment balcony, a sense of summer can be evoked by using pots of various sizes and planting them with perennials and annuals. Perennials such as lavender, marguerite, and pincushion flowers are but a few of the myriad choices. A north-facing balcony could have pots filled with impatiens or begonias. Ferns incorporated into this shady scheme would add textural contrast.

Vegetables in Containers:

Certain vegetables will grow happily in pots–another boon for the sunny balcony. Voracious slugs and their equally repulsive brethren are less prevalent in container-grown vegetables. Lettuce (buttercrunch), spring onions, and radishes will make a nice little salad. While you might not be able to feed ravenous guests with the modest output of your little garden, it will give you a sense of satisfaction when you snip a lettuce, parsley, and spring onions. Tomatoes too can be grown successfully in a container; the taller plants might need staking.


  • Containers must have adequate drainage. Place a few small stones over the drainage hole to prevent soil seepage.
  • Mix half cow and compost and potting soil to fill container to within a  few inches of the top.
  • The plants should be well-watered before planting. Plant in the cool of the evening. After planting, sprinkle with Osmacote or any slow release fertilizer. Water gently but thoroughly every morning and evening during hot spells.
Classical Urn

A classical urn.

Another Classical Urn

Another Classical Urn.



Annuals in a variety of pots.

Annuals in a variety of pots.

A charming cluster of stone pots and baskets.

A charming cluster of stone pots and baskets.

Water Features

The human fascination with water features in the garden goes back thousands of years. A shared reverence of nature inspired the Chinese and later the Japanese to become masters of the art of using water and rock. Experts in the management of water, the Romans built aqueducts and fountains, some still in use today. Islamic gardens always included water to counter the fierce heat. Their influence spread to Southern Spain. The most notable of these designs exists today at the palace of the Alhambra, with its formal canals, rills, and fountains. Gardens today can be improved by including some part of water feature.

There once was a heron–a fairly large bird,

He came quite early before we had stirred,

He ate my prize fish, almost every one,

Then he gobbled the last one just for fun.

Boxwood encloses this fountain.

Boxwood encloses this fountain.

A lion's head fountain.

A lion’s head fountain.

A tranquil scene.

A tranquil scene.

Lily pads float on surface.

Lily pads float on surface.

Water cascades down huge rocks. See "Too Late for Regrets" page 251 for a description of Timothy's water feature.

Water cascades down huge rocks. See “Too Late for Regrets” page 251 for a description of Timothy’s water feature.

Water trickles into pond.

Water trickles into pond.

Tulips surround fountain.

Tulips surround fountain.

Glorious Roses – Part Two

The following roses can be added to the list of desirable roses.

In harsher climates, the rose fancier should limit choices to the hardier varieties. For example, Canadian roses.

Some gardeners prefer own root roses as they develop deeper root systems. The disadvantage is that they will be smaller than container-grown roses, but in time own root varieties will become stronger.


These annoying pests can be dealt with by relying on the gardener’s best friend, the ladybug. If there is a paucity of them in the garden, they can be purchased in mesh bags from the nursery. The bags should be kept out of the sun until the late afternoon; this is the best time to scatter them. They will go to work immediately with amazing efficiency.

Another–though tedious–method is to rub the buds and stems of the plants gently between forefinger and thumb. This will dislodge and squash the pests, giving the gardener much satisfaction.

"Winnipeg Parks"

“Winnipeg Parks”

Pink "Touch of Class"

Pink “Touch of Class”

Climber, creamy, white "Sally Holmes"

Climber, creamy, white “Sally Holmes”

Musk rose "Ballerina"

Musk rose “Ballerina”

Yellow "Sunsprite" and pink "Simplicity"

Yellow “Sunsprite” and pink “Simplicity”

Why Latin is Important

Latin is a dead language,

As dead as dead can be;

It killed the Ancient Romans,

And now it’s killing me! 

Using botanical names is important. Without them, the gardening world would become like the Tower of Babel. Common names can vary from region to region, but Latin is the unifying language. Making the effort to study botanical names has its benefits. For example, when you’re in a group of frighteningly erudite and knowledgeable gardeners and “Helenium autumnale” lightly trips off your tongue. It beats “sneezeweed” hands down.

There was a French gardener, Monique,

Whose English and Latin was weak,

She bought plants quite wrong, they didn’t last long,

Mon Dieu, were those tags all in Greek?

Pictured below are lovely photos of perennials. Their botanical names are quite a mouthful, but take the weekend to learn them! Otherwise, you’ll end up like poor Monique!

What are some of your favorite Latin phrases that can be thrown into casual conversation?

"Helenium autumnale, heliopsis helianthoides"

“Helenium autumnale, heliopsis helianthoides”

"Sedum spectabile, rudbeckia fulgida"

“Sedum spectabile, rudbeckia fulgida”

"Heliopsis helianthoides"

“Heliopsis helianthoides”

A Stunning Garden Featured in My Book, “Magical Gardens”

Rich and Carol Lillard manage their 0.75 acre property in the suburb of Lakewood without any help. Rich mows the lawn; Carol takes care of the design, digging, planting, weeding, and pruning. Carol’s knowledge of gardening, her artistic eye, and–above all–her devotion to the garden are what make it so special. Her restrained good taste in her selection of ornaments–birdbaths, benches, containers, plaques, window boxes, statues, and fountains–all contribute to the peaceful atmosphere.

Carol relies on groundcovers to keep the weeds at bay: purple creeping veronica, blue-hued thyme, sedum, phlox subulata, white snow-in-summer and basket-of-gold. In spring, splashes of color appear; tulips, daffodils, white candytuft, and purple grape hyacinth. These are followed by waves of irises, peonies, yarrow, larkspur, garden phlox, and asters.

Trained against the pale-hued wall, a spectacular combination of glorious red climbing roses and purple clematis form a pattern around a wall fountain. Two equally stunning clematis “Jackmanii” planted against the wall of the house clamber to a height of 15 feet!

Window boxes ablaze with impatiens, petunias, and lobelia are positioned in between these purple beauties.

Carol’s sensibilities are evident in her design, color combinations, and flair in choosing just the right weathered ornaments to stage her tableaux.

If you had unlimited funds (and time) to spend on your garden, what would it look like? Daydream away in the comments below!

Candytuft blossoming in spring.

Snow in summer blossoming in spring.

How would you like to look out your window and see this sight?

How would you like to look out your window and see this sight?

A traditional stone statue provides a classical touch.

A traditional stone statue provides a classical touch.

A landscape shot of the same statue surrounded by lovely flowers.

A landscape shot of the same statue surrounded by lovely flowers.

The pale-hued wall fountain that provides the perfect canvas for colorful flowers.

The pale-hued wall fountain that provides the perfect canvas for colorful flowers.

Bright purple colombine.

Bright purple colombine.

Orange tulips.

Orange tulips.

A rustic gate.

A rustic gate.

Purple iris.

Purple iris.

Window Box

What would you plant in your window box?

Spring Flowers

Okay, I know it’s not spring. But I can dream, can’t I? Another five months ’til that glorious season is upon us.

Here are some beauties to look forward to that should be planted in the fall:

The ruber/corm of Anemone “de Caen.” It would seem unlikely that an exquisite flower could be produced from the unpromising knobby object. In spring, however, parsley-like foliage emerges followed by sturdy stems with plump buds. These unfurl to reveal glowing flowers with velvet centers. These are wonderful flowers to cut for bouquets.

Here are the requirements for successfully growing these:

  • moderately rich, well-drained soil
  • some afternoon shade
  • before planting, soak the tubers overnight in a bucket of water
    The tuber/corm of Anemone coronaria 'De Caen' is hard and raisin-like.

    The tuber/corm of Anemone coronaria ‘De Caen’ is hard and raisin-like.

    Korean lilac 'Miss Kim,' candy tuft

    Korean lilac ‘Miss Kim,’ candy tuft

    A mix of daffodils and tulips.

    A mix of daffodils and tulips.

Clematis – Queen of Climbers

In Too Late for Regrets, there is a description of a spectacular blue and white border, the background of which is a magnificent display of clematis, “Royal Jackmanii.”

There was a pleasing balance between the white, blue and purple perennials. The silvery border of artemesia anchored on either side by French lavender, the elegant spires of snapdragons, and at the back on either side of the clematis, Russian sage. They would stretch the bloom period into fall.

-Too Late for Regrets, Page 78

Clematis are bluish, pinkish, reddish. After some hail, they'll look quite deadish.

Clematis are bluish, pinkish, reddish. After some hail, they’ll look quite deadish.

Clematis is the queen of climbers; every garden should have several of these beauties. Their colors are entrancing; pink, red, purple, mauve, and white. If treated well, they will bloom with vigor and reliability. This lustrous climber is a rampant grower, though it will take a few years before it starts ramping. It’s a carefree plant and once established for two or three years, all that is required in spring is fertilizing and a good supply of water.

Plants can be like friends and relatives; initially, they are eagerly awaited and made welcome. However, after a prolonged stay, some become tiresome and one longs for them to go. There are others like clematis that are much anticipated; their presence enchants us, their departure leaves a void.

Here are some tips for growing clematis successfully:


  1. Choose the right site. Check the tag for this information.
  2. Prepare the planting hole with compost and manure.
  3. In spring, prune those that need pruning. Don’t worry if you forget to prune, they’ll still bloom.
  4. Never allow the plant to dry out.
  5. In the spring, fertilize and guide the tendrils onto their supports. I use a lot of chicken wire fixed either to a wall or fence.
A stone urn filled with lobelia erinus, alyssum, dianthus, and petunias is nicely complemented by the glowing backdrop of "Ville de Lyon"

A stone urn filled with lobelia erinus, alyssum, dianthus, and petunias is nicely complemented by the glowing backdrop of “Ville de Lyon”

You will be rewarded with a gorgeous display of shimmering color from this most obliging plant.

Here is a list of recommended clematis:

Purple “Jackmanii”

Pink “Ernest Markham” and rose pink “Ville de Lyon” (pictured right)

Pale mauve/pink “Hagley Hybrid”

Pink ‘Nelly Moser” (an early bloomer, some shade)

“Sweet Autumn,” which are small delicate white flowers that flower late.