Monday, November 23, 2015

A conifer collector's confection

I've been to a few "Collector's Gardens" – gardens of true plant-a-holics that collect non-run-of-the-mill plants. Mostly they've been garden writer friends or folks that work for nurseries that can more readily get their hands on unique plants, or hard-to-find cultivars of more common plants. In my experience, they're usually less "designed" and more of a hodge podge of plants (well-suited to their spots) that the owner gets excited about.

This plant collector's garden, just outside Toronto, blew me away.

The Marion Jarvie garden was more of a curio cabinet of a garden. Or it looked as if you were touring a botanical garden, condensed into a small suburban lot. The more, and closer, you looked–the more there was to see.

Mostly featuring dwarf conifers of every size, shape, and color, it also hosts wonderful trees, shrubs and even some perennials I'm sure came from other planets.

This was just one of the dozens of gardens toured as part of the 2015 Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto this past June. More than 70 gardeners attended. It was difficult to get photos without other gardeners in them–crouching, stretching, and contorting to get their photos taken. I wouldn't want it any other way. You can learn a lot touring gardens with 70+ people smarter than you that can answer questions, make you look at things you wouldn't normally see, or even just ask great questions themselves.

Not much else I can say. You'll just have to appreciate the photos...
The side entrance to the garden. A prelude.
Sorry about some of the photo lighting. It was a bright sunny day and it was the afternoon. Not the best for shooting.

Gardener shown for scale.
Texture, texture, texture.
Random potted annuals/tropicals, as well as artworks were mixed in with the garden inhabitants.
Verticals were used to offset the low mounds of the compact and mounding conifers.
Who couldn't look at this all day?
Alium turned out to be the Toronto Fling signature flower.
Damn Barbara Wise kept getting into my photos. Or was I stalking her? I can't remember.
I need a white blooming tree.
So much at which to look.

The details of the garden were infinite. If the bus wasn't leaving, I'd still be there shooting photos.
So many unique details, like this juxtaposition of leaves that may never have been
combined at any time previously in history.
Left to right, there's Jim Peterson, publisher of Garden Design Magazine; Helen Yoest of Gardening with Confidence; the lovely and talented Susan Harris, of (among other blogs and sites); and one of our daily Toronto hosts for the trip, gardener David Leeman.
All these garden bloggers just add more color to the garden.
I can only dream of a garden this sophisticated and complex.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pot lights for the potting shed

I wanted some solar terracotta pot lights for the potting shed (the shed has no electricity). What potting shed should NOT have a plant pot light? Seemed simple enough. I went looking for something like this by Googling and searching on Pinterest, but came up empty.

So I went to my friendly local hardware store, bought the solar lights and pots. The hardware store folks were a great help in suggesting how best to drill terracotta, the exact "L" brackets that are bendy enough to adjust its angle, and suggested the neoprene (rubber) washers for the screws.

I think they came out pretty well. The lights are rather dim, but this was just the first night's photos. I don't think the lights got enough sun power before I put them up. Even if they are on the dim side, they still work well. Glad I painted the interior of the pot white.

At first I tried drilling the holes with wood drill bits. It worked, but it took about 45 minutes to drill two holes. I have a masonry drill bit now, and it was suggested that I add water as I drill and that may help things along. Then I just added the solar light on top with just a couple dabs of glue. Almost any glue would work. I had some glass/metal glue on hand and it works fine. UPDATE: The masonry drill bit worked wonders. Keeping the area wet, it drilled through with little effort. I drilled six holes in three pots in ten minutes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gardening on Instagram

I'm new to Instagram as of about four weeks ago. I like to jump on trends years after they begin. 

It's a very visual medium. I've been blogging here for nigh on nine years. The blog is writing and photos. Facebook is short blurbs and images and links. Pinterest is my visual "file folder" of things I find I like and can easily refer back to. Instagram's strength, in my opinion, is it makes a viewer focus on one image at a time. It's got plenty of garden porn for my visual pleasure. 

Through Instagram I am able to share the thousands upon thousands of garden photos I've taken over the years – from garden blogger meet-ups, trips abroad, garden tours locally and around the country, visits to botanical gardens, hikes, and my own garden and neighborhood. Some photos have been published on this blog, most have not. It's nice to have a venue for them – as opposed to sitting on a hard drive on my desk.

I'm still getting the hang of how it all works. Hashtags are new to me. Do people really use them? The interface on my desktop computer is lackluster and basic (and frustrating). The iPhone images seem so small at times, especially for complex photos. The iPad is just right.

If you're on Instagram, look me up, you can find me at jimcharlier.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

I am Grout, the potting shed update

Almost ready for winter. I'm grouting the diamond-shaped slate tiles along the foundation this weekend. Then I just have to frame in a couple small windows.

Then, it's "winterized." Or, at least, the exterior is 90% finished. As long as these nice weekends hold, I may be able to get some work done inside – principally a potting bench and pegboard walls. Over the winter will be decorative elements – window boxes, lattice, an arbor, and a shelf under the window you see above, all built in the basement – the house basement. No, the potting shed doesn't have a basement.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dragging-of-the-Plants Weekend

This was the annual Dragging-of-the-Plants Weekend (also known as the Scratching-of the-Floors Weekend). Shown are the before and afters of some of the rooms after the plunking down of potted plants. Their summer vacation outside is over.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015

Update on the mother-of-all-potting sheds

With only summer weekends to work on the shed (and some of those weekends lost to trips, vacation, family visits, and weather), much progress was made this summer on the Harry Potting Shed.

Mid September 2014, just an idea.
Before the snow flies, there's still plenty to be done – adding a foundation of slate tiles, fully enclosing the bay window side panes with glass, and getting a lock for the door. Those are on the mandatory list. Anything else I can get done – that the weather allows – is a bonus.

If I can get the slate tile foundation done in the next couple weekends, there may still be time to transfer the Harry Potter Garden plants back into their spots along the driveway side of the shed (on the left in these photos). If the weather holds out a bit, it'll give them a good head start on spring growth, as opposed to transplanting them in the spring.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Garden of the Gods, Colorado

This is less of a garden post than the title implies, but Garden of the Gods is the actual name of a Natural National Landmark park just outside of Colorado Springs, CO. The park features 300' red sandstone rock formations against the backdrop of Pike's Peak. And they are quite impressive.

There are nearly 17 miles of hiking trails - from short, easy paved paths to longer nature trails to be taken. The greatest threat to the native plant life in the area is the crowds of visitors (1.7 million) that visit each year - and keeping them on trails, as opposed to trampling plants and compacting soils when visitors leave defined paths. Add in natural erosion, and inadequately managed water runoff to the human impact and you have a recipe for degrading parts of the park severely over time.

It is more lushly planted than compared to the late 1800s. Planting of non-native Rocky Mountain juniper, Ponderosa pine, and white fir. As flammable as these particular trees are, the absence of forest fires, due to human fire suppression measures, has also contributed to its lushness.

There are invasive plants to worry about too. There are crowding ones like New Mexican Locust and Siberian Elm taking up valuable space and competing for nutrients with natives. And there's noxious weeds like Leafy spurge. field staff are also trained to look out for weeds that are invasive in other parts of the state - but are not yet found in the park – like Yellow Start thistle and Purple loosestife.

We didn't spend a lot of time there, we just walked around the paved path in the more popular walking areas (staying on the paths!). It's a stunning park. If you're ever out towards Colorado Springs, it's worth a visit.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hanging Lake, Colorado

Just outside of Glenwood Springs, CO is a great hiking trail up into the mountains to Hanging Lake. When we got there very early in the morning, we debated on doing the hike because it was raining, alternating between very light to moderately. My wife wanted to continue on. The teenager was adamant about not wanting to. And I was on the fence. Having hiked it, and coming back drenched in rain and sweat, my daughter and I renamed it "Hanging Mom Lake."

It was a one-hour all uphill climb (about 1,000 feet), about 2.5 miles. But it was the Rockies, so it was dry air (except for that rain), and gorgeous scenery at every turn. The trail up zigzagged with a stream with many falls and pools the whole way. The hike was worth the effort - the turquoise colors of the lake are from carbonate minerals that dissolved in the water. The water is absolutely clear.

It was early morning,
so the fog was still lifting.
The lake gets its name from the the plants and mosses that hang over the falls' precipice, as well as the exposed roots of those plants. They are growing with both areoponics and hydroponics naturally.

Normally a very crowded trail, there were very few other hikers because of the weather. We climbed down, taking just under an hour and headed back for breakfast and a swim in the world's largest thermal pool – one immense pool at 98º and another large pool that is 104º year round.

That's how you end a hike!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

My no-longer-horizontally-challenged fence

I finally had a horizontally-oriented fence built. I've been wanting one for quite a while. When you live in such an urban setting, on only a 60'x80' lot size (with a notch taken out of even that), and nine neighbors surrounding us, with six of those actually sharing the fence, fences are important.

Early on, the bamboo seemed like a good idea – blocking
neighboring views, and providing a pretty green backdrop.
The existing fence was a standard 6' picket, not painted or stained, so it's gray and slowly rotting in place. The fence we had installed is only the 30' section at the end of our driveway. Formerly we had bamboo planted there that was invading our neighbors behind us. They are very nice and asked us what we could do to get rid of the bamboo – knowing that it will never be gone completely. Never, NEVER, let bamboo touch the ground unless you own the surrounding acres. Plant in well-constructed unbreakable, invincible pots or troughs. Or line the area for many inches deep with corten steel (the roots don't go too deep).

The fence was falling apart, and the area between our two garages was so engulfed with Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), an old chain link fence, and a large stump, that we decided together to have someone come in and clean out between the two garages and build a new fence. Most fence companies don't do the clean-up portion of the job, nor the bamboo-be-gone digging that would be required. But we did find a contractor that could fit this in between jobs.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Toronto Island gardens

From Algonquin Island. Doesn't it look like something from a Wes Anderson film?
(Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom, etc.)
I have lots of posts left to cover the Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling from this past June. But I figure I've got all winter to post them, as there isn't much else to post once winter hits.

Each year there's an official Fling photo.
This was taken on Ward Island. Nice view, eh?
The Fling is a get-together of abound 75 garden bloggers (freelance writers, book authors, columnists, garden enthusiasts, and more). The one thing we do all have in common is blogging. Only folks with established garden blogs (and are currently posting) are encouraged to attend. It's not a garden tour for just anyone that likes touring gardens.

In the past they've met in Austin, Chicago, Buffalo, Seattle, Asheville, San Francisco, Portland, and, this past year, Toronto. in 2016, we'll visit Minneapolis. I've attended Chicago, Asheville, Toronto – and helped organize the Buffalo fling.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Betty Ford Alpine Garden, Vail, CO

On a recent trip, we visited the Betty Ford Alpine Garden in Vail Colorado. It's billed as the world's highest botanical garden, and at 8,250 feet above sea level, you'd have to be higher than we were to argue.

It wasn't just alpines, but also mountain-growing perennials.
It's a relatively small garden (and free) that you can visit in less than an hour (unless you're a garden blogger, then you might be able to spend a day there). It's a walkable distance from the center of Vail – we actually rented bikes and were riding around and got to it very quickly.

It's conveniently located adjacent to the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, and next door to the the Ford Park Athletic Fields, which is along Gerald R Ford Memorial Highway. Vailians apparently liked President Ford. He brought a lot of media when he visited on skiing vacations in the '70s. The town was only incorporated in 1966, starting out in 1962 as a village established at the base of the mountain for local residents and offered lodging for visitors. By 1969 Vail was the most popular ski resort in the state. In 1988 Vail opened China Bowl, making Vail the largest ski area in North America.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Taj-maShed Progressing

The mother of all potting sheds, the Shrieking Shack, is slowly progressing. Major projects still include the roofing and the tiling of the base with slate tiles. Small projects abound, from framing the round-topped window (NOT looking forward to that), trimming out all the windows and door with stop and trim, adding latches and a lock on the door, and siding the entire back side (it can't be seen, so it wasn't a priority!).

Tomorrow I'll probably add the fourth, and last window that goes in the bay window area facing the street. It'll look much more finished when that is done. All the windows were our attic windows that got replaced this year. Even the door came from the house originally.

The goal now is to make it weather tight. Then later this fall, and in the spring, I can add planter boxes, lattice trellis, and arbor, finish up the painting, add some solar lights, and outfit the interior with a potting/work bench and peg board and the like. And I have to start to put the Harry Potter Garden back in front of it.

It won't have electricity or water. It does have wifi though - because it's so close to my home office.

I love working on it. It's like constant problem solving and I can work on it for hours at a time.

I've found the secret to carpentry, for me anyway, is the art of mistake covering – you build a frame and make mistakes – and cover it with paneling. You make mistakes with paneling – and you cover it with clapboard and shingles. You do sloppy clapboard and shingles – and you cover it with trim pieces. I just have to get better with trim – there's nothing to cover that with.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Vallarta Botanical Gardens/Vallarta Jardin Botanico

We visited the Vallarta Jardin Botanico in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, way back in April of this year. I'm finally getting around to posting about it. I'm WAY behind.

 I was first made aware of the botanical garden during the North American Conference of the International Garden Tourism Network, when they were named one of the Top Ten North American Gardens Worth Traveling For.

While at the conference, I briefly met Jesus Reyes, then the Gardens' Director of Operations. I mentioned I would be visiting Puerto Vallarta in just a few weeks from then, and he encouraged me to visit.

I convinced my friend Jay, whom we were visiting in Sayulita, to take the trek out to the Gardens. He'd never been there, but knew of it and had friends that were volunteers there. He's got a fantastic garden and is always up for learning more. It's a much different plant palette than what he uses in NYC on a terrace.

It was nearly a two hour drive from Sayulita. It's about 45 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta itself (and Sayulita is a good 45 minutes north of Vallarta!). Beautiful drive along the coast though.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Garden Walk Buffalo - put it on your bucket list

My house. I know, it's subtle.
I've been a bad blogger and haven't posted in quite a while. I've had lots of great garden experiences, including a garden/sustainability bus tour, a gardener's party at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, hosting a garden bus tour from AAA, visited some Open Gardens, was a stop garden-by-bike tour that was part of a Roswell Park Cancer Institute gala prize package, and a couple other garden parties. not to mention participating in America's largest garden tour, Garden Walk Buffalo. With 416 gardens open for free for two days, if anyone can find a larger residential garden tour - please let us know!


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