Neighbours talking over the garden gate has long been a tradition. They share gardening tips, complain about the weather and pests yet are ever eager to discuss their gardens. That is what I had in mind when creating this blog. So stop by my garden gate to find out the latest happenings in my garden.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
"All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child." ~ Madame Marie Curie"

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Ants can be beneficial or harmful in the garden. First they irrigate the soil and for the most part don't harm the plants. Some are predacious on a wide variety of insects. However some ants like carpenter ants are harmful not to the garden itself but to any wood used for structures. Even smaller ants can cause a wide variety of problems in the house. Some can inflict painful stings as well. Other than the carpenter ants, I haven't really tried to identify the ants we have as they seem to be beneficial for the most part. For the most part though, I think ants are pretty cool!

Black Ants with larvae

The vegetable garden was originally outlined with larger rocks. When we removed the rocks to extend the garden we came across several ant colonies. Now, I find any kind of insect fascinating! I just had to take pictures of the ants and the larvae. These ants are fairly common in the garden. They don't do any damage to the plants so I leave them be. Sometimes I disturb a nest while planting. Then there is a host of activity! The ants scurrey about to protect the young by moving them deeper into the colony tunnels.

Red Ants with larvae

We also have reddish brown ants in the garden. They don't bother the plants either and I seldom see them. When the rock was turned to reveal the colony it suddenly bust into a buzz of activity. The ants came to move the larvae to safety. It is interesting how such a small critter can lift something almost it's weight and size with seemingly little effort!


We have only noticed this activity on our front sidewalk yet have no idea what causes it. A stretch of about three feet suddenly becomes swarmed with ants. The phenomena only occurs in this one area. We have no idea as to why or what causes it. Since it is close to the house the ant colonies are destroyed with boiling water.

My philosophy as always is to let Mother Nature take it's course. So as far as ants go unless they are doing any damage, let them be. To keep ants out of areas where you don't want them, like the kitchen, keep the area as clean as possible all the time. Sprinkle cinnamon or mint oil, neither of which ants like. Bay leaves will work too.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is a true beauty. The name is a little confusing as it isn't a rose at all, it is really a Hibiscus. It is a medium sized ornamental bush with showy blooms throughout the summer. There are several bloom colours to choose from and the blooms can be either single or double petal. The blooms attract hummingbirds, butterflies and small insects. Rose of Sharon is a popular hedging here and it is easy to see why. The plant blooms on new growth. Pruning is best done in early spring in our area. Other than that the plant is low maintenance and will even tolerate neglect.

Rose of Sharon Bushes

When we bought this house we discovered an overgrown stand of Rose of Sharon along with purple lilacs. All of the gardens were overgrown and very neglected. The former vegetable garden was downright horrid! Our intentions were to rip out everything in that area and start fresh using raised beds. Only by careful observation were the Rose of Sharron was discovered. The rose of sharron were sadly neglected and overgrown with brush that needed to be cut out so we trimmed them right down. In the same area there naked lady lilies, lilacs, a ton of unidentified weeds, wild grapes, and poison ivy. We have slowly worked to irradicate the harmful while keeping what we want. The Rose of Sharron have responded by giving us blooms and healthy growth but it will be a year or two before they are as we want them. I think they are a beautiful part of our gardens. They provide a wonderful backdrop for the vegetable garden!

Hibiscus syriacus 'Aphrodite'

Aprodite was the first to bloom for us so will always be just a little special. The bloom is a single petal pink mauve with a deep magenta eye. Within these bushes there are two box elder stumps that set up shoots. They cannot be removed without damaging the Rose of Sharon and we are leary to use any type of herbicide for fear it will damage the surrounding bushes. So we keep trimming any shoots that appear. Box elder trees are really problematic here, best described as a junk tree by many.

Hibiscus syriacus 'Diana'

Diana surprised us the second year we were here. There are two bushes mixed in with the Aprodite bushes. The bloom is single petal pure white with no eye. It is a sharp contrast to the deep green foliage of the bush. There is no possibility of separating the two cultivars or either from the lilacs so we prune and let them be. I'm planning on cross pollinating the two to see what the results are.

Hibiscus syriacus 'Blush Satin'

Blush Satin is very pretty! I love the colours on this plant. The blooms have a candy striped appearance with alternating bands of pale pink and deeper rose pink with a deep magenta eye. This bush is not in the same area as the others. We planted it in another area closer to the house after we discovered the other Rose of Sharon. It was only twig size and we had doubts it would survive. It proved us wrong! The bush is now about six feet tall and blooming well.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome

Friday, July 21, 2006

My Plants Have Issues!

This is meant to be a tongue in cheek expose. I just spent an hour or so trying to whip bed #2, the herb bed, into shape. The weatherman was wrong again so despite the promised cooler temperatures it is still hot and humid. These were some of my thoughts as I worked. Sorry no pictures today.

My Plants Have Issues!

My plants have some serious issues! Where can I find a plant psychologist? I should have known I was in trouble when I saw them out there partying with the rabbits and drinking the slugs' beer. It should have been more of a clue when my square foot gardening book landed on my doorstep with a thud along with a note that read "not in your lifetime". A day or so later a ransom note showed up asking for organic fertilizer or else. So I gave in only to realize it was some sick trick on the veggies part. Oh yes, they wanted that fertilizer to use as a weapon!

No plant wants to stay in its alloted square foot. The lemon grass needs a serious time out! It got a real trimming today so at least my hands smell nice. Golden oregano is next but they already ganged up on me so I'm in the house planning my second line of attack. Speaking of attack, the zucchini and cucumber are just taking over. Both refuse to stay in their beds and have set up a picket line I can't cross. The cucumbers have taken over the phone lines and several of the paths. They stand guard for the zucchini as if that bully needs any guarding. But they aren't the only plants with issues!

The pole beans were given an eight foot trellis. Both are very nice trellises custom made just for their own private use. That should have been plenty but NO they want more! They have talked to their union and I'm sure they will be on strike soon or I'll get another ransom note. The tomatoes have decided to fight dirty usning end blossom rot as a weapon. I think we have them appeased for the moment. Then there is the herbs. They are waging their own little war! Who wins is anyone's guess.

The rabbits are taking note while sitting in my lounge chairs sipping sun tea and observing the whole affair. They send their scouts, the squirrels out to gather information. Once in awhile they send in reinforcement like a snake just to watch me do the happy joy joy dance or heart attack which ever comes first. They have bugged the house too. It's only one fly but it is a fly on the wall with a microphone and note pad. Very suspicious if you ask me ;)

Where the heck is Dr. Phil when you need him?

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Attack of the Monster Zucchini

The zucchini plants have decided to take over the garden. There is a little competion from the tomatoes and beans but so far the zucchini are winning.

Zucchini Plants

I have five zucchini plants this year. I'm averaging three to four zucchini ranging in size from six to eight inches daily. We eat a lot of zucchini! The two zucchini plants in bed #5 are smaller than those in this picture of bed #7. Bed #5 receives more shade. Bed #7 also has yellow marigolds planted around the perimeter. The front four squares are planted with cucumbers. They really need to be staked but with the zucchini crowding them, I might just let the cucumbers wander a bit. For the most part the zucchini plants are quite healthy. There has been some damage by a Japanese beetle on a couple of the leaves. I'm taking active but natural control of this insect. So far I have only found two, one on the zucchini and one on a stand of wildflowers. Both insects were destroyed and I'm keeping a close eye on all the garden beds.


The zucchini are such beauties! Finding ways to use them is never a problem. Four from this stack were dried for zucchini chips. The chips are a nice low fat alternative to potato chips as they aren't fried. One was used for a quick steak and potato left-over stir fry. I will freeze shredded zucchini and we will eat a lot sauteed with mushrooms and onions or grilled. I like adding shredded zucchini to meatloaf. Other plans for using up the zucchini besides giving some away are: zucchini bread, zucchini muffins and a large batch of tomato zucchini sauce. A good friend gifted us with a very large bag of fresh caught perch so I gave him four zucchini in return. Tonight's dinner will be fresh perch and our favourite zucchini saute mix.

Monday's Basket of Goodies

I was pleased to see the bush beans ready for picking on Monday. Last year they did not do well especially the Royal Burgundy. This year the bush beans are performing nicely with a little over a quart a day. I'm really pleased with the performance of the Slederette bush beans so will plant them again next year. The Royal Burgundy are grown more for novelty not freezing or canning. The yellow wax beans are a little behind but have picked up the pace. The tomatoes are just starting to ripen on the outside vines. The vines all look healthy as does the fruit. I really think the trick is the epsom salt! My mouth is watering just thinking of the first toasted tomato sandwich of the season.


Slenderette beans are a nice tender bean averaging six to seven inches long. I like picking them young to ensure a tender bean especially when freezing. The Royal Burgundy are a smaller bean but quite tasty. The pale pinky lavender blooms give rise to deep purple beans. They tend to get noticed and commented on a lot by garden visitors who have never seen them.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Weird Flower!

My daughter sent me a photo of one of two weird flowers growing in her garden. It appears to be a mutant form of a black eyed susan.

Weird Flower

The flowers were part of a wild flower perennial shade mix from Alymer Seeds. The other black eyed susans appear to be normal. Two of the flowers appear to be mutants. The entire head is about the size of an average palm. The centre is about two inches long. The total plant height is about two feet.

I've asked her to save the seeds from both flowers. My theory is this is some type of mutation and I would like to see if I can get the seeds to grow. They may be infertile but it's worth a try.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Zucchini & Tiny Tim Tomatoes

My vegetable beds are looking good for the most part with only a couple of minor problems. The peas are beginning to wind down. The beans are showing signs of a healthy harvest. The Kentucky Wonder pole beans despite my concerns over a couple of plants with yellow leaves are making daily progress and are looking quite healthy with lots of flowers. Most of the bush beans have flowers and small beans on them with Slenderette being the biggest at almost four inch long beans. It won't be long now! The herbs need serious trimming so I'll be trimming and drying herbs this afternoon.

This Morning's Basket

During my morning garden checks I note what needs attention then pick throughout the day as I see the need. This morning's pickings included the first ripe zucchini, royal red lettuce, Chinese mustard leaves, edible snow peas, and Tiny Tim tomatoes. So far, royal red lettuce has been the only lettuce not to bolt. The weather forecast is for rain today followed by temperatures in the nineties (F) for the rest of the week so that might change quickly. I expect with rain followed by high temperatures there will be a lot of changes in the gardens.


The zucchini plants in bed #7 are threatening to take over the garden. They are huge and loaded with baby zucchini. The zucchini plants in bed #3 are much smaller despite being planted earlier. This is the first zucchini picked from bed #7. I like picking zucchini when it is six to eight inches long which explains why I have so many zucchini plants. We eat a lot of zucchini in the summer either sauteed with onions and mushrooms or grilled. It's always a wonderful feeling picking the first of any crop and I must admit I got pleasure out of picking this zucchini. It is a little misshaped but I'm sure it will taste just fine for tonight's dinner!

Tiny Tim Tomatoes on Vine

I always grow cherry tomatoes of some type because they are expensive in the stores and kids love picking them. They make delicious snacking tomatoes too. I'm growing Tiny Tim tomatoes in the greenhouse only this year. Grape cluster is growing in bed #1 in place of Tiny Tim. I wanted to have at least one Tiny Tim plant for earlier tomatoes and to have something to compare the Grape cluster tomatoes to. One of the primary reasons for growing in the greenhouse is to collect the seeds as well. In my early years of gardening I neglected to collect seeds. Now, I collect seeds from anything I can especially the higer producing vegetables. Tiny Tim has always been a good producer for me. There is a little browning of leaves on the bottom portion of the vine. This is not due to disease but rather heat damage. The greenhouse temperatures soared while we were away on the long weekend causing the plants to dry more than usual. I was lucky that we only lost a few seedlings with the rest rebounding from the ill effects.

Tiny Tim Tomatoes

The Tiny Tim vine is loaded with cherry sized tomatoes. The flavour is good yet not as sweet as Sweet Millions. It is more a juicy burst of semi-sweet yet tart flavour. The colour is an orangy red. It is a good, dependable producer with few problems.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Garden Delights

I've made several entries regarding vegetables so thought I would share some of my other garden delights. As I was going through the flower pictures so far, I realized most of my flower choices this year have been in the warm tones.

Asiatic Lily

Lilies are about the easiest perennial to grow! We have Tiger lilies (a common wildflower), naked ladies (Amaryllis belladonna), Stella de Oro daylilies as well as this beautiful lily. I got this beautiful what was thought to be a "daylily" from a friend who was cleaning out her garden. However, a very kind soul on the Gardenmessenger group told me it is an Asiatic lily not a daylily. I planted these lilies on the north side of the house. The colour of this lily is so deep and rich it almost looks like plastic. Now I need to research to identify the variety and how to propagate these lilies.

Water Hyacinth

Every garden needs at least one water feature. I have two but will likely add more. This year I decided to experiment using a five gallon planter with the plug left in and planted it with water hyacinth. Water hyacinth is a rather strange looking floating plant until it blooms. The leaves are thick and waxy that give no indication of the dainty pale lavender blooms to come. This plant spreads easily and is an ideal pond plant. In some southern areas it is considered a noxious weed that is to be destroyed because it spreads fast enough to block water intakes. We can grow them here as it freezes over winter to kill them off. I buy one fresh plant each spring from a local pond supply store as I've never been able to keep water hyacinth growing indoors in the winter. It hasn't been from lack of effort so once again I'll try this year.


Last fall I didn't think this rose bush would survive. A service man hacked it right to the ground! It was not a happy day for him when I found out. Thankfully the rose bush survived and has put on a wonderful display of roses. I don't know the name of this rose. This bush and a climbing rose bush were here when we moved in. Both are on the south side of the house. I'd like to turn that flower bed into a rose bed. The beautiful rosey pink roses are about 4 inches in diameter. I met a gentleman who is quite knowledgeable on roses who thought from the description it was a rose named after Queen Mary. I'll take a picture of both roses the next time I visit in the hopes he can identify them for me. In the meantime I'm reading on how to care for roses.

Coreopsis 'Moonbeam'

Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' is also known as tickseed. It is a compact, cheery perennial with delicate leaves and bright yellow flowers. It is a very pretty plant that is sure to bring a smile! 'Moonbeam' is not as delicate as it looks. I've moved this plant a couple of times with no ill effects. I have it planted on the north side of the house. This area also gets east and west sun exposure. Each year it gets bigger and puts on quite the display. My neighbour would like to try growing 'Moonbeam' so this year I'm going to try harvesting some seed.

Bonanza Flame Marigold

The Bonanza Flame marigold is one of my favourite flowers for companion planting with vegetables. I love the two toned colouration of this variety. It is a well behaved bushy plant that gets about nine inches tall. This marigold will give good colour from about the ADLF to the ADFF for our zone which means early May to late October. This year I went overboard. A total of ninety-six of these marigolds are planted in the front garden beds while four pots of the same sit on the stairs. Across the small west facing side of the el are another ten. At the back door are two more post of marigolds. Fourty-four bonanza flame marigolds frame bed #1 while each of the two of the new beds are framed with twenty of the same. The middle new bed is framed with twenty yellow marigolds for something different. Two more pots of bonanza flame marigolds each with seven plants are in the vegetable garden as well. That brings the grand total of bonanza flame marigolds planted to two hundred and six with about twenty-four seedlings left over!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Peas and New Beds

The vegetable garden beds are really enjoying the rain and heat. We've had very hot weather with high humidity that has resulted in thunderstorms later in the evening or sometimes throughout the night.

Beans & Peas: Bed #3

The beans and peas are growing by leaps and bounds. Bean varieties I'm growing include Kentucky Wonder pole (green & yellow), Romano pole, Edible Snow, Little Marvel, and Lincoln Homesteader. The vines have all entertwined so it is somewhat hard to distinguish between all but the snow peas. If left to mature the snow peas form nice sized peas. The pods are edible just perfect for stir fries.

Little Marvel Peas

This is a heritage variety of peas. The pods are deep green and nearly round. The peas are a good size! Each pod is tightly packed with 7-8 very sweet, tender peas that freeze well. I've been harvesting enough peas to fill a little over a quart after they are shelled. These are being froze as they come in. I am very happy with the performance of these peas!

The new raised beds are making good progress. It's hard to tell that beds #6 and 7 are new as they are performing well right along with the other beds. Bed #8 isn't fully planted but still looks good.

Bed #6

Tomatoes, peppers and marigolds are planted in this new raised bed. Considering the tomatoes were planted much later than the tomatoes in bed #1, at 20" tall they are quickly catching up to the 3' plus tomatoes in bed #1. The tomatoes are Heinz, Glamour and Beefsteak bringing the total number of tomato varieties I'm growing this year to nine. These are: Heinz, Beefsteak, Glamour, Better Boy, Lemon Boy, Big Beef, Ultra Sweets, Grape Cluster and Sweet Millions. The peppers in this bed are Ango. Other pepper varieties include Hungarian wax, bell, habanero and jalapeno.

Bed #7

Zucchini, cucumber and marigolds are planted in this new raised bed. There are already a few baby zucchini! I like picking zucchini when they are 6 - 8" long so have five zucchini plants to keep me in a steady supply. Cucumbers are grown on supports once they get big enough. I'm growing sixteen cucumber plants. Varieties include straight eight, improved long and cross country. Cross country is a semi-bush variety of pickling cucumber

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome