Monday, 26 December 2016

Garden Trends 2017

Health, happiness and wellness play an ever larger role in our home and gardening lives in 2017.

Are you on trend? Have you created a home haven for relaxing, clean eating, entertaining, and happy living?

1. Lawn Alternatives

After several years of drought with tough local watering restrictions, we're finally getting real about lawns and finding better looking, exciting alternatives.

Saying goodbye to yesterday's high maintenance, boring, manicured lawns and welcoming natural, more organic looking ground covers.

With so many to spectacular choices, is a wonder we ever grew lawns to begin with! From meadow lawns to prairie grass lawns, drought tolerant shrub and flower beds to ornamental grasses, or my favourite option, a blend of mosses and other low growing, flowering, groundcover plants.

Not quite ready to give up on the look of a traditional green lawn? Check out the new eco grasses or clover blends, which are both low maintenance and require little water to thrive. Fantastic new synthetic lawns give you the look of a perfectly manicured lawn without the work ... and maybe your own personal putting range, too ; )

2. Hyper-localism 

Wow, what a term, hey? Sounds fancy schmancy, but what does it mean? Simply put, it's all about sourcing local for both plants and yard products. So, not just native plants, which have been trending for many years, but regional gardening products, too.

Reducing carbon emissions by purchasing local steppers of sandstone or flagstone, compost from the neighbourhood recycling centre, re-using or revamping vintage products in new ways. Turn them into planters, greenhouses, potting sheds ...

It is also about growing a landscape that suits your climate and region. Gardens and plants that look good and work here in our wet west coast winters and dry summers, may not necessarily work on the prairies or the east coast.     

3. Space for Playing and Entertaining!

A super fun trend that is all about happiness and wellness. Folks want some down time at home, a place to play, hang out, and entertain.

Add a great fireplace or pizza oven to your yard, or an awesome fire pit for wienie roasts. Outdoor dining areas, doggie bathing areas, a putting range, or maybe a Bocce ball court. How about an area for badminton, horseshoes, or croquet? Old fashioned, outdoor games are back in a big way. A wee mini golf range seems to be calling my name ; )  

Grow your own clean food 

4. Organic, Fresh and Clean

Growing our own clean food and supporting local organic farmers is a trend that continues to grow.

We all want to know what is in and on our food crops, no chemical fertilisers, additives, or pesticides used on either the crops or the seeds. Growing our own groceries means we know what we eat, reduce our carbon footprint, and save money at the grocers, too. A predicted 40% hike on the cost of fresh fruits and veggies in 2017 here in BC, has us all more determined than ever to grow our own organic crops and buying more local produce. 

Micro-dwarf Honeycrisp apple tree 

5. Dwarf Plants for Smaller Yards

Houses are being built on smaller and smaller lots, making yards more compact with no room for regular sized trees, shrubs or plants. Luckily, dwarf plants come in pretty much every species now, so you can get the look you want without constant pruning to keep them in check.

Dwarf evergreens make it super easy to create a low maintenance, healthy garden with great curb appeal, as they come in every shape and shade of green you can imagine. No need to stop there, however, as you can also get compact hydrangeas, rhododendrons, weigelas, lilacs, all sorts of perennial flowers and shrubs to suit your personal style.

My gardening style is all about growing food, and luckily enough, most all fruit trees and shrubs can now be found in dwarf size! From apples and peaches to blueberries, figs, and grapes.   

'Keeping It Real 'gardening

6. Back To Nature 

Keeping it simple, keeping it real. Get rid of anything that you do not love, that does not make you happy. Create a natural looking, peaceful, and healthy landscape, that you actually want to spend more time in.

Remove any plants that are time consuming or that you simply don't like. Remove cluttering knick knacks and 'stuff' from the yard, simplify your life and your landscape. Let vines go and flow, plant veggies amongst flowers, flowers amongst veggies, go with low maintenance eco lawns and no more chemicals.

This trend likely has it's roots filtering down from the permaculture system of growing sustainable, self sufficient agricultural ecosystems, not overly pruned or chemically treated. As we use more companion planting instead of pesticides, and mulching instead of watering, we are starting to treat our planet in a more organic way and this is reflected in looser, more natural looking landscapes.

Cotton, wicker and wood says cosy and homey

7. Nostalgia

The au naturel landscaping look is being realised in our landscaping and decorating tastes, too. Seems we are using more organic and homey feeling materials, like wood and stone, furniture like lazy, swing back chairs and hammocks create a sense of peace and tranquillity.

An organic, sort of 'old-fashioned' look has come back into style, with swings hanging from trees and rockers on porches. Gives us that warm and fuzzy feeling of going home.

 Diversity in the garden draws in beneficial insects for natural bug control

8. Bye-bye Bugs - Natural Pest Control

Controlling bugs using nature instead of sprays ... economically, aesthetically, and environmentally wise.

Plant colourful and fragrant flowers throughout the veggie patch to attract beneficial insects that eat or destroy the bad bugs, plus birds, bats, and other wee little critters that eat mosquitoes and other nasties.

Herbs with strong scents, like lavender, thyme, chives, mint and sage, or citrus scented plants like citronella, lemon balm, lemongrass, and lemon verbena, emit oils and fragrances that repel mosquitoes and bugs.  

Encourage wildlife to your garden. Put out bat and bird houses, logs for frogs and snakes to hide under, cute little bug houses for mason bees, spiders, and ladybugs.

 #pantonegreenery from

9. Pantone Colour of the year

As always, last but certainly not least. Pantone's colour of the year for 2017 is called 'Greenery'. A bright and fun yellow-green that is refreshing and symbolic of spring and new beginnings.

So, how about it? Are you on trend? Making your life a bit more natural, a bit more organic, and fun, too?

Wishing you all much health, happiness, and wellness in 2017, as you simplify your garden life. 
Plant lots of Sunflowers to attract natural bug control and pollinators to your garden

Friday, 16 December 2016

Hot, Hot, Hot!

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but inside is quite delightful ... as I prep for the holidays.

I have been jarring up this crazy smokin' hot pepper blend for gifting and selling. The blend this year is made from just the really super hot peppers, the hottest peppers in the world, not mixed with anything else!  

Ghost peppers and 7 Pot White

Trinidad Scorpion Peppers

A variety of colours in the Ghost Peppers. 
Yellow, Caramel, Red, and Orange. 

I grow all my pepper plants from scratch, starting the seeds in early February and growing them on all summer, to harvest, sauce, pickle and dehydrate in fall.

These beautiful, almost waxy looking peppers are called 7 Pot Whites. 
Though they are super pretty and look kind of harmless,
they are extremely hot at about 1 million Scoville Units! 

We had an amazing pepper year at the greenhouse this year, with all peppers, from sweet, to hot, to broiling, all thriving really, really well. An abundance of peppers of all kinds.

I pick and eat veggies as I work in the greenhouse....
Sometimes it's carrots, sometimes tomatoes, or maybe tomatillos ... or peppers.
Love my job ... fresh, heirloom veggies on hand all the time!  

I personally cannot handle any heat whatsoever, am a total wimp and like my peppers sweet only, no heat at all. My salsa has to be super mild ; )

However, I am totally out-numbered in this family! Both kids plus hubby love hot peppers. They like them dried, pickled, sauced, or in salsas ... as long as it has lots and lots of heat, they like it!

Growing hot peppers in the greenhouse

So... although I do not eat them, or want them, or like them..  I truly LOVE to grow food crops. If someone in my family wants it, I will grow it. As they all seem to want and like hot peppers, I grow them...  from mild, to hot, to super hot, and with pride, at that!  

Super duper hot peppers, by the bushel full! 
A pail full of the hottest peppers in the world.
Carolina Reapers, Moruga Scorpions, Trinidad Scorpions, Bhut Jolokias, and more.... 

Therefore, this year, I grew a beautiful mix of super duper hot peppers, which were then all dried and mixed into a super hot pepper blend, which can (apparently, omg) be used in soups, stews, chili, salsa, dips and more...
 Dragon's Fire Hot Pepper Blend

And here it is... I am calling it Dragon's Fire, as it is that hot. My eyes water and nose twitches when we open the jar. This stuff is hot, hot, hot... but really, really pretty looking. Keep it away from the kiddies and pets, please. Be cautious and smart.  

May your season be bright, may it be happy and wonderful.

Have a smoking hot Christmas, everyone! 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Greenhouse &Garden Ramblings in December

 Birdseed wreath

Yikes! The whole country seems to be having a snow storm or in the midst of a deep freeze this December. Our typically mild and rainy island winter is looking like it may even stay white till Christmas! Eek!.. and Ugh!

So, what's a gardener to do in wintry times such as this?

Poseidon rose

In the yard... 

Cut back roses this month to prevent breakage. Just take down some of the longer canes, but leave the actual pruning for shape and size till March.

Brush the heavy wet snow off of your tree form roses (standards) so that they do not snap from the weight.

Fruit trees can be pruned anytime between now and end February, while they are dormant.

Spray roses and fruit trees with a dormant oil/lime sulphur mix to kill off over-wintering pests and fungal diseases. This will cut back on the amount of black spot, rust, and powdery mildew you get on your roses, scab on fruit trees, plus kill scale, mites, aphids, leaf hoppers and white fly. Several applications during the dormant season is best. Pick up the horticultural oil/lime sulphur kit from any garden centre, please follow directions on the box.

Prune grapevines now. Perfect timing, too, as you can use the vines for wreath making or other yuletide crafting. 

Remove spent blossoms and yellowing leaves from geraniums

In the greenhouse... 

Water only when plants are dry, to prevent rot, mould and diseases. I am watering most plants once a week, and the citrus in large pots only get watered about once a month.

Remove any yellow or brown leaves from pelargoniums (aka geraniums) and other plants, as they quickly get mouldy, if left in place.

Herbal fire starters smell fantastic! 

Bits and Bobs of This and That...

Wondering what to do with your lemons and other citrus trees? Read my last post all about winterising citrus trees HERE!   

Do some wintry Christmas crafting...

Make birdseed wreaths to keep your feathered friends happy for the holidays. For the recipes, see HERE!

I made these lovely herbal fire starters using sweet bay laurel, lavender, rosemary, lemon scented geraniums, cinnamon sticks, orange peels, and a bits of kindling. Easy peasy fantastic fire starters that smell so wonderful.

I'm already working on my garden plans and colour schemes for spring

Journal - Start planning your gardens, making lists of your seed selections and colour schemes. I jot down ideas as they pop into my head, or when I see a fantastic picture that piques my interest. I may not use them all, and often change my mind as I go, but I love going through my journals and reviewing all the ideas.

Planning ahead saves you money, too, as you will already have a plan and know what you are looking for when you go shopping on line, or at the shops. Save even more by ordering with a group of friends, divide up the shipping cost and take advantage of bulk pricing.

Here are the seed companies that I order from most often for great organic, heirloom, open-pollinated seeds.

Canadian companies...
- The Cottage Gardener  (
- Heritage Harvest Seed (
- Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds (

There are others that I will buy from now and again, such as Richters, Salt Spring Seeds, Terra Edibles, and Gardens North.

American companies...
- Renee's Garden Seeds (
- I used to order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, however, they have hiked their out of country shipping fees so high, they are no longer an affordable option for us Canadians. Check them out if are in the US though.

Happy Yuletide Preparations! 

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Lemons in Winter

Meyer Lemon in the greenhouse

You can totally grow lemon, orange and lime trees outdoors here on the wet, west coast. However, you may be wondering how to over-winter them and protect them from hard frosts?

Contrary to popular belief, the answer is not to bring them indoors for the winter months, unless you have a cool sunroom or 'conservatory'. Citrus do not thrive (and may not survive) indoors, as our homes tend to be much too hot, much too dry, and not really bright enough.

In the greenhouse or sunroom... 

I pop my citrus trees into a heated greenhouse for the winter months. As heating a greenhouse is super expensive, I keep the temps down low, at +5°C from November through till March. The citrus trees love the cool, humid greenhouse, and will flower and fruit all winter long.

Kumquats growing in the winter greenhouse

However, if you have no heated greenhouse...  

All citrus fruit trees have pretty much the same care requirements, whether lemon, lime, grapefruit, or orange. They are happy to live outdoors in our mild, wet winter weather, however, will require some kind of protection when arctic winds threaten to drop temps below 0°C.

Container grown citrus trees .... 

Potted up trees are easy to move around from spot to spot, as needed. In general, while temps are above 0°C, leave them outside, on the front porch or doorstep, under the eaves, or under some kind of overhang, to keep the soil from getting overly wet from all the rain.

Citrus prefer to be on the dry side, only watered when fully dry. Wet soil will cause leaf curling, leaf drop, fungal issues, and even rot.

Most of the winter, you will likely not have to do anything else to your citrus tree, except check for water.

Light bulbs will raise the temps enough to get you through a cold snap

When arctic temperatures threaten, however, you have three options to get your potted citrus through the cold snap...

1. Place into an unheated greenhouse, a bright garage or shed, and add a portable heat source. A small heater will do the trick, or a light stand with several bulbs that emit heat. No LED lights. Pop lemon back outside when the stormy weather abates.  

2. Or... Bring into the house for the duration of the cold snap. Choose a bright room that is not too hot, and make sure to mist several times a day. Place back outside during the day if only the nights are cold, and then back out for good after the cold snap is over.

3. Or... Another way to keep it warm is to leave it outside, wrap with a strand or two of old-fashioned Christmas lights and then some frost blankets. Do not use the LED's, as they emit no heat.

Pic from 'Hitchhiking to Heaven'

Wrap the light strand around the branches and place your potted tree under the eaves, sheltered from excess rain or heavy snow, close to a plug in.

When frosty weather threatens, wrap with white frost blankets 
or these super cool tree covers that look awesome when lit up! 

When cold weather threatens, wrap the tree with two or three layers of the white frost blanket, and plug in the lights to keep the tree cosy and warm till temps go back to normal. I found the above pic on the internet, some kind of super cool tree huts that look just amazing! However, frost blankets are cheaper and easier to find ; )  

Unplug lights when cold snap ends, though you can leave the frost blankets on till spring, if you like.

Pretty at Christmas time, even if no cold snap is in sight ; ) 
Pic from 'Hitchhiking to Heaven' 

Planted in the ground citrus trees... 

Yes, we can grow citrus trees in our yards outside, even here in Canada, in our Zone 7 - 8 climate. I know, right? I am equally amazed about that, even after all these years.

Plant them on the west or south side, preferably close to the house for the additional protection and warmth, or in a well sheltered, hot spot corner of the yard. Make sure you have really well draining soil, ideally build a raised bed for your tree.

Well before winter hits, wrap with strands of Christmas lights. The bigger the tree, the more lights you need. Then wrap the tree with a couple of layers of frost blankets, and just plug in the lights when 'weather' hits. The frost blanket will keep the temps above zero beneath the cloth, so that you do not lose any of your fruits. Flowers and fruits are generally produced from fall through spring.

Grow your own blood oranges! 

Happy winter growing! 

Moving Thyme

Sadly, the Nitty Gritty Potager blog is no more... but the good news is that I can now be found at my new blog called the Olde Thyme F...