Oh Painted Fern, Where Art Thou?

Sometimes my lackadaisical attitude to gardening and haste to ‘get things done’ backfires.  Last fall I engaged in a flurry of transplantation, shifting plants from one part of the garden to another for various reasons.

Some, like a couple of good-sized blueberry bushes that live in my ornamental garden, just needed more space.  The expansion of the garden that we undertook last year provided that, so the blueberries were uprooted  (gently) and moved out where they’ll get a little more sun and to allow me easier access for picking fruit.Blueberries

Several smallish hydrangea and a dwarf rhododendron were also repositioned to balance the planting in my shade garden.  Then I started transplanting perennials.  During the summer I’d been taking notes (in my head, of course) of which plants had outgrown their location, or weren’t thriving because of a lack or surfeit of water or sun.

I love the delicate Erodium planted behind my Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) and it thrives on neglect and drought, blooming non-stop all summer, so I unearthed a few chunks and planted them on the other side of the tree, between two own-root roses, where nothing seems to want to grow.  Next summer that garden will be a medley of pink blossoms!


Erodium spilling over the pathway

I transplanted my Corydalis flexuosa from an altogether hidden spot to a place of pride under my Shin de Shojo Japanese Maple.  Those gorgeous blue flowers and delicate foliage deserve to be seen!  I know that it will look ragged after blooming and then go dormant by midsummer so I planted something else in front of it that will emerge a little later and not obscure the sapphire blue blossoms when they’re peaking.  If only I could remember WHAT I planted in front…

Corydalis flexuosa

Corydalis flexuosa

A rambunctious Hosta ‘Striptease’ has been relegated to a shady, damp corner where it’s not likely to smother any less vigorous plants and one of my favourites, a Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum pictum) was rescued from oblivion behind a lush peony ‘Karl Rosenfeld’.  If only I could remember WHERE I planted that fern!  I’m fairly sure that it’s somewhere nearer the house, where I will see it more often, but I’m not exactly clear on where I put it.

Hosta 'Striptease'

Hosta ‘Striptease’ trying to smother Hydrangea ‘Little Lamb’

The problem is, all these perennials were moved as dormant clumps, with little to no top growth (handy for locating them) and then to top it off, quite literally, I put a fresh layer of compost over the entire ornamental garden, burying any subtle hints of vegetation.

Now I’ll have to wait until my painted fern breaks dormancy to see where I put it.  There are two or three places where I may have planted it, including in front of the corydalis,  but I don’t want to root around, potentially damaging soft new shoots on newly transplanted plants. So I’ll just wait…

Posted in Autumn, Blue, Shade Garden, Spring | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Your guide to spring plant sales | Vancouver Sun

See on Scoop.itCommon Sense Gardening

Dozens of gardens clubs all over B.C. are busy at the moment preparing for their annual plant sales. It’s a big deal. It’s how clubs raise money for their programs and charity activities and other community projects.

Janis Cormier‘s insight:

This is great info, for those who live on the lower mainland or are willing to part with a chunk of dough (that could otherwise be spent on plants) for the ferry trip.  For those of us who live and garden on Vancouver Island check out the Victoria Horticultural Society’s event details page at http://vichortsociety.org/event-details/

Plenty of Vancouver Island plant sales listed here, along with other ‘hort-events’!

See on blogs.vancouversun.com

Posted in Garden Advice, Spring | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

My Greenhouse Has Arrived

My beautiful new greenhouse has arrived, delivered by a very personable Russ Davis, agent for BC Greenhouse Builders.  I’m sure that Russ enjoys his job, delivering and building (yep, he does that too) these top quality structures for people like me who are probably all a-quiver with excitement when he shows up with their new toy.

My New Greenhouse

My New Greenhouse

For me, it will be a torturous wait for my greenhouse because I know that it’s going to be several months before it’s done.  For now, the bundles of aluminum frame, polycarbonate panels, door and all the other bits and pieces are tucked away in the garage.greenhouse bits and pieces

greenhouse bits and pieces

The giant hole where a building will one day sit is now more of a small lake than a building site, thanks to our typical west coast winter weather.  We have the drain pipe needed to begin site prep, but my husband refuses to work in the driving rain (can’t say that I blame him), plus he spent the last sunny weekend ferrying our eldest child off to the big city to begin his post-secondary education.  There goes my tech support…

Greenhouse Lake

Greenhouse Lake

The greenhouse comes with a detailed book of instructions and a video, which I watched right away and will probably watch a couple more times before construction commences.  It’s your basic ‘how-to’ instructional video, narrated quietly by Henry Heinen, owner of BC Greenhouse Builders.  Henry’s calm delivery of advice is peppered with gentle ribbing of the young men as they build a greenhouse that is the same size as the one I bought, though with glass instead of polycarbonate panels.  The tips he offers will, I’m sure, prove very useful.  Gems like, “If you think that you need to get out your hacksaw to make something fit properly, well, maybe you’d better give me a call” made me chuckle.  When he retires from the greenhouse business maybe he should consider a new career as sidekick to Canadian comedian Red Green.  At the very least he could probably improve RG’s handyman skills, because, as you know, “If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy”.red green

Hopefully the weather will improve soon and I will have some progress to report on my greenhouse construction project.

Posted in Greenhouse, Winter | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Spring Chicks – Uh-oh, someone had better stop me!!

See on Scoop.itCommon Sense Gardening

Or pick up at Fanny Bay location.

Red Rocks and Cinnamon Queens are all sexed female.

Buff Orpingtons and various mixed breeds are unsexed.

Various ages. Pricing as per age of chick starti

Janis Cormier‘s insight:

It must be Spring… I’ve been cruising the classified ads, looking at chicks I don’t need – or even have room for.  But I want them, I want more chickens, it’s an addiction.  I need poultry anonymous!


Maybe I need a bigger coop…

See on www.usedcampbellriver.com

Posted in Backyard Chickens | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Greenhouse Construction is Underway!

The first big job is done;  namely, the excavation of a largish hole and a deep ditch leading to the house that will tie the greenhouse drainage into the house drainage system and carry electrical services and piped water out to the greenhouse.  I hired a local company, Sawbuck Contracting and am very pleased with the work they did for us.  The foundation hole was dug with a standard Bobcat, and then they dug the ditch with this smaller piece of equipment.little digger

I’m sure that Richard from Sawbuck hears this all the time, but I love that little digger!  It looks like just what I need to do all the back-breaking work that comes with a gardening obsession.  Of course unless I win the lottery I can’t really justify the cost of buying one, but a girl can dream!

Greenhouse construction project - drainage

Men (and machine) at work

Greenhouse foundation hole

That’s a big hole – and way too much dirt for one man to dig and shift!

When we began making plans for greenhouse construction I told my husband that we should definitely hire someone with machinery to do this digging job. After he hand-dug my new garden last summer and injured his back in the process, I didn’t want him attempting this one.  At first he agreed, and then he said that he wanted to give it a go.  Fortunately, after removing the sods he realized how big of a job it was going to be so we called Sawbuck.  Yesterday, as they were finishing up, he told me that I should let my blog readers know that he was very grateful that he didn’t have to do all that digging – it would have taken months and probably re-injured him.

Now we can begin setting up the drainage system and bringing out services from the house before we form up and pour our foundation.  In the meantime I’ll do my best to avoid falling into the drainage ditch when I go out after dark to put my chooks away!

The chooks were nervous about all the noise

The chooks were nervous about all the noise


The bridge – that I will try to use each and every time…

I’m expecting delivery of the greenhouse itself next week but it will be going directly into my garage for storage.  I’m sure that despite a commitment to taking my time with this greenhouse construction project, once I have the greenhouse here I will be very motivated to get cracking on it. The thing is, with an incredibly busy spring looming I need to curb my enthusiasm – I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

greenhouse construction project

Ready for the next step

Posted in Greenhouse, Winter | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Growing Food in the Northwest Territories

See on Scoop.itCommon Sense Gardening

Doug Whiteman is a subarctic potato farmer who battles permafrost year-round, lives about 140 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle, and over the past seven years has gone from coaxing 300 pounds to 30,000 pounds of potatoes out of his stubborn land.

Janis Cormier‘s insight:

These folks up north are working to address their issues with food security and the ridiculous cost of obtaining fresh food where they live.  It’s inspiring to see their efforts ‘bear fruit’ in such a hostile environment and begs the question; Why aren’t people who live in more hospitable climates doing more to produce at least some of their own food?

Perhaps as the cost of food rises (as we are all warned it will continue to do) more people will be convinced of the benefits of vegetable gardening and small scale farming.  These benefits go far beyond simply getting fresh, tasty food.

Caring for a garden, chickens and other livestock provides fresh air and excercise, the opportunity to teach your children life lessons and create and build communities that share with and care for each other.

The comments at the end of this article are interesting, I wonder how many of those spewing vitriol over the idea of gardening in the north know anything about gardening at all – it sure doesn’t seem like they do.  They seem to think that the north is a frozen wasteland and dark all year, when in fact their summer growing season, although short, can be very productive because of the long daylight hours.

See on news.nationalpost.com

Posted in Garden Advice, Vegetables, Winter | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Heuchera and Heucherella – With Foliage This Brilliant, Who Needs Blooms?

See on Scoop.itCommon Sense Gardening

Janis Cormier‘s insight:

Yet they do produce flowers as well!  I have several heuchera and heucherella in my garden but I should really add a few more, because they’re bomb-proof and beautiful.  The only drawback is that deer love them, one year they climbed the steps to devour some heuchera I was growing in a planter at my front door.  Now they’ve been relocated to my fenced back yard!

See on i3.photobucket.com

Posted in My Favourite Plants, Shade Garden, Winter | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

During winter, devoted gardeners on the Pacific coast learn to find beauty in subtlety.  We enjoy the muted shades of bronze and purple brought out by cold weather on certain rhododendrons and cryptomeria, the icy blue of some cedrus and spruce cultivars and the rustling tan of frost-kissed ornamental grasses.  There are a few plants, however, that shine brightly on leaden coastal winter days and one of the most brilliant is a shrubby dogwood named appropriately, Midwinter Fire.

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ was discovered in a German garden by H. Venhorst in about 1980, but wasn’t named ‘Midwinter Fire’ until 1990. RHS website

This vigorous shrub is hardy to -15 Celsius and tolerant of a range of exposures, but plenty of sunshine produces the most vividly coloured stems.  Just like the other shrubby dogwoods that are grown for winter colour, the stems need renewing regularly or they will become corky and brown with age.  This is easily done by removing several of the oldest stems each year, prompting the plant to continually throw up fresh stems with the vibrancy that youth bestows.  If only that were so for people; I’m feeling rather corky, brown and fissured…

Cornus 'Midwinter Fire' and Rhododendron 'Black Satin'

Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ and Rhododendron ‘Black Satin’

Last summer I planted a little Midwinter Fire shrub in the new garden we created in the middle of the back yard.  I’d had it in a winter container with some heather, a little conifer and a few mini tulips but when that display was done it needed out, so out it went.  I placed it strategically in the foreground with a rhododendron ‘Black Satin’ behind it (from the vantage point of my house) so that the two will dance together during the winter months.  Black Satin is so named for its foliage, which darkens with cold temperatures.  It’s not much of a show yet as both plants are still fairly small but I’m looking forward to a glorious winter display of orange, scarlet and peachy stems against the rich purple-black rhodo leaves as the two size up in future years. Cornus 'Midwinter Fire' and Rhododendron 'Black Satin'

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New Greenhouse Project

For the past 8 or 10 years I’ve experienced the joy of greenhouse gardening, thanks to an old neighbour.  Well, he wasn’t that old, but he sold his house and moved away so that makes him an old neighbour.  In fact we have moved too, so it was an old neighbour in an old neighborhood who gave me an amazing deal on a 6’ x 8’ single wall polycarbonate greenhouse (the kind you can buy at Canadian Tire).  Being a meticulous sort of fellow, he had built some sturdy, two tiered wooden shelving for it, but when it came to actually using it, he didn’t!

small greenhouse

Greenhouses are beautiful, even little ones!

When he sold his house he wasn’t interested in moving the underused greenhouse, but the folks who bought his house weren’t interested in buying it from him and I guess he didn’t want to do them the favour of leaving it there, so he offered it to me for about what it would have cost to buy the two by fours to build the shelving.  Lucky me!

I remember how excited I was on the day that we shifted it from his backyard to ours; we enlisted a crew of about eight people and simply lifted the bloody thing over the six-foot fence between our yards and carried it up to the back of the garden.

How I loved that little greenhouse!  The ability to grow tomatoes that don’t keel over from blight at the end of the season, peppers that actually set and develop a good crop of fruit and a sheltered place to overwinter my tender, potted treasures has been extremely rewarding.

The only thing is, I’m a greedy gardener, and always want more…

When we moved to our new house and I began to design the layout of the backyard, I left space for the greenhouse that I wanted, rather than the one that I already owned.  I imagined a lovely big greenhouse, with a shed at one end and a pergola running along one side, dripping with grapes.

My small greenhouse in the new yard

My small greenhouse in the new yard

After building a new house (and going over budget, as every new home construction project I’ve ever heard of does) there was no way I could afford that lovely big greenhouse too!  The pergola, however, was a reachable goal. My husband built the pergola and I snuggled my small greenhouse up to it. It looks rather ridiculous, but what’s a gardener to do?

New Pergola

Almost finished…

Four years (plus) later I’m finally going to achieve my dream!  Just a few days ago I ordered my new greenhouse from BC Greenhouse Builders and I’m eagerly anticipating spending the next several months obsessing over every detail of my new greenhouse project.

There are many things to decide upon and tons of prep work to be accomplished.  First I have to clear off the site, which involves moving the small greenhouse to a new site so that I can continue to use it this season during construction.  I’ve already moved a bunch of soil from the temporary raised bed that I created by dumping an entire bin’s worth of compost on the ground right where the new greenhouse will sit.

greenhouse construction prep

I need to remove this garden before excavating for the greenhouse

Then we’ll need to:

  • Excavate;
  • Bring water and electrical services from the house;
  • Pour the cement foundation, and
  • Build!

Don’t ask me if those are in the correct order; I’m the grower, not the builder.  Even my very smart and skilled husband admits that the scope of this project is just a bit more than he is comfortable handling alone, so we are enlisting some professional help with the tricky bits.

greenhouse plans

Making plans!

I’m hip deep in diagrams and research to determine important stuff like:

  • How tall the shed will be;
  • What sort of permanent beds do I want in the greenhouse;
  • Where in the greenhouse to put them;
  • What kind of material to side the shed with, and
  • About a million other options, choices and decisions to be made!

I hope to find a funky exterior door and window(s) at our local Restore, maybe a big sink for the greenhouse too.

This is going to be SO MUCH FUN!!!!

pergola and grapes

The pergola is dripping with grapes…

Posted in Garden Plan, Greenhouse, New Garden | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

I’m So Excited…

See on Scoop.itCommon Sense Gardening

B.C. Greenhouse Builders offers the largest selection of greenhouses and is the leading manufacturer of quality built hobby greenhouse kits and custom greenhouses.

Janis Cormier‘s insight:

So excited to be on the verge of buying my dream greenhouse from BC Greenhouse Builders!  My little 6′ by 8′ just isn’t cutting it anymore so I’m moving up!

These sturdy, aluminum frame greenhouses come in array of configurations, sizes and materials.  I’m choosing 12′ by 16′ twinwall polycarbonate and plan to build a 12′ by 8′ shed off of one end.  I’ll run a water line and electricity from the house and my family might never see me again!  Just kidding… sort of!

See on www.bcgreenhouses.com

Posted in Garden Plan, Greenhouse, New Garden | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment