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St.James 48 hr makeover!

8 Dec

From Protest-drab, to central-park chic, St. James has been transformed over the past 48 hours by a fleet of volunteers from Landscape Ontario and the Ontario Sod Growers Association.  You may recall that St.James Park was home to the Occupy Toronto group for 5 weeks which trampled the gardens and lawn, leaving behind a muddy-mess.

With $60,000, over 100 volunteers (+35 Toronto Staff) and 11, 000 square feet of sod, St.James park has never looked more beautiful! As a resident of a condo overlooking this park, I created a short time-lapse video that shows the transformation of St.James Park as OccupyTO grew and the leaves fell throughout November. Check it out!

Thank you volunteers for revitalizing this important city green space!


In Flanders Fields… the stoic poppy grows

11 Nov

Poppies (the plastic version) are everywhere today in support  of our fallen heroes and stoic veterans.  These lipstick colour badges are in fact inspired by a gorgeous, though short-blooming,  flower which you can enjoy in your garden.  NOW is actually the best time to plant them and this one is easier than 1-2-3!

But it’s November… how is that possible??? Well, the Remembrance Day poppy, Papaver rhoeas, is an annual flower whose seeds need a cold period to germinate.  So simply sprinkle the coffee-ground-like seeds  right on top of the soil.  Then, amazingly, they’ll just sit there patiently all winter and burst into a swathe of uplifting and bold red in early July.

Add a patch to your garden so you can provide yourself and your neighbours and uplifting sign of hope and reminder of the hardships endured by those before us.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
~ Lieutenant Colonel John McCraie, May 3 1915

Red hot for Fall!

7 Nov

We often rely too heavily on flowers to deliver pops of colour in our garden.  Every Fall we watch the spectacular show of vivid reds, burnt oranges and golden yellows that many deciduous plants put on display.   Here are my 3 favorite plants that provide relentless red colour for your garden!

1. Burning Bush or Winged Euonymous (Euonymus alatus)

No other bush provides such intense scarlet red and purple-reds every Fall.   This shrub grows up to 8′, often wider than tall and can handle heavy pruning to maintain a smaller form. It works perfect in a grouping to form a hedge or as stand-alone specimen as well.  The stems are odd-looking with  four corky ridges or “wings” which adds further interest to this bush.

Burning Bush, Euonymous alatus

2. Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

A Canadian staple for any sub-urban yard or larger landscape area, Red maples provide the iconic harbinger of Fall in Ontario.  Be sure to provide this tree plenty of room  as over time it will grow up to 25m tall!

3. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

If you love the colour of Red Maples, but don’t have the space, consider a Japanese maple.  The unique form, delicate and often colorful leaves and smooth gray bark give Japanese maples year-round appeal. These graceful trees work in traditional landscapes as well as theme gardens. There are more than 300 cultivars! With so many options, it’s easy to picture one of these serene beauties in your landscape. My fav is Japanese Maple ‘Inabe Shidare’ shown here.

5 Tips for Cottage Gardens

8 Sep

Ontario’s northern landscape proudly displays the grandeur of speckled smooth granite boulders, towering stands of swaying pine and birch and soft sweeping carpets of mosses, wildflowers and grasses.  For the avid gardener, you may wonder what “improvements” if any can be made to this gorgeous landscape?

My friend Caroline Coulson seems to have found the answer to this at her evolving Georgian Bay island cottage garden.  Her garden teaches us 5 simple tips to creating the perfect cottage garden.

1.Be Inspired by Nature

Any hardscaping elements such as pathways and retaining walls should be constructed using local materials (if not from the actual site itself).  Notice how her garden beds have been formed in the lowest areas in the granite surface.  Not only does this appear more natural but also ensures maximum water availability as water collects in these “pool-like” indentations.  Also, granite boulders found on the property have been moved to create organically-shaped retaining walls.

2. Pick Non-fussy Eaters!

The soil in cottage country is thin and low in available nutrients.  As a result, if introducing non-native species, ensure that they tolerate well-drained infertile soil.  That doesn’t mean you have to forfeit beauty. For example, add a range of early to late summer blooming day lilies and hardy Black Eyed Susan’s for colour throughout the summer.

3.  Plan for Hot Days & Cool Nights

Soil temperature in cottage country varies greatly throughout the day and puts added stress on plants. The large granite boulders can end up “baking” plant roots.  As result, select plants that are drought-tolerant and can handle hot days and cool nights.  For example, this garden bed contains Black Eyed Susan’s, variegated Sedum and early summer day lilies.

4.  Grow Food for the Soul

Nothing goes better with the great outdoors than eating freshly-picked produce.  Again, select veggies and herbs that prefer warm days and cool nights and consider growing  in containers to help keep soil moisture and temperature more steady. Caroline has had great success this year with her 9 different varieties of tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers!


Tomato plan in pot


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Don’t Fence me in! I’ve got style!

26 Aug

When it comes to fences, it seems that the ‘creative box’ is exceptionally square and small.  ENOUGH! Fences are a significant investment in your landscape so don’t settle for the status quo.

*yawn* the standard fence does little to impress

A well designed fence is like the perfect pair of jeans. It immediately communicates the style or look you are trying to achieve. If your favourite jeans are from Wal-Mart, the standard fence may be what you want.  However, if you’ve picked up your favourite jeans at H&M, you’re likely in the market for a more contemporary style.  In short, knowing your personal style will ensure you pick a fence that suits you!  Here are some fence styles that you may want to try on for size.

Simple Modern Fence Design

Modern Revival contemporary landscape

‘Ray of Light’ in your late summer garden

24 Aug

It’s sad but true, we are closing in on the last few weeks of summer. ..but don’t fret!  I know the perfect plant that will keep your garden bright, playful and full of  “sun.”

Consider the very easy-to-grow Black-eyed Susan.   This perennial comes in several varieties of yellow/golds which will bloom continuously from July through October.  They also attract butterflies  and other pollinators to your garden so you’ll have playful visitors to brighten your day!

For a more relaxed cottage look, consider the native variety called Three Lobed Coneflower (Rudbeckia triloba). Local butterflies will show their love by fluttering in droves to this new addition in your garden.

Native Variety - Three Lobed Coneflower

Growing Tips

– Sun, sun, sun!

– Soil: perfect for less fertile soil (sandy) and make sure there is good drainage

– To promote blooming, remove spent flowers (gardening term= deadhead)  to encourage new blooms to develop

Learn about other pollinator and late summer perennials by watching this video.

Fix that dull & drab balcony!

16 May

Looking for a simple to install product that will dramatically change the look of your balcony?  Consider EON deck tiles.  They are 100% recyclable, zero-maintenance and absolutely stunning.

Watch this short video to see how they look on my balcony and to learn more.

Find them at Canadian Tire or on

A natural touch at the Royal Wedding

29 Apr

Savvy Kate chose Shane  Connolly, an English  floral designer,  whose is known for using seasonal, organic flowers and employing a sustainable approach by using as much growing, rather than cut, plants and trees in his floral arrangements.

Kate’s Bouquet

The bouquet personified Kate – classically beautiful, thoroughly English and reserved with purpose.  Containing all organic, freshly cut flowers, each were selected based on their significance to the Royal Family, the Middleton Family and the Language of Flowers.

  • Sweet William means gallantry (how appropriate!!!)
  • Lily-of-the-valley symbolizes the return of happiness
  • Hyacinth signifies the constancy of love
  • Ivy signifies fidelity, marriage, wedded love, friendship and affection.
  • Myrtle is the emblem of marriage and love

Kate herself requested that all the cut flowers will be donated to local charities BUT  what ever will happen to her bouquet?  Personally, I would’ve loved to see Kate toss it over her shoulder following the romantic balcony kiss!

The Abbey

The dramatically simple floral displays in Westminster Abbey featured all locally grown flowers from the Royal Estates and other growers in the country including azaleas, rhododendron, euphoria, wisteria and lilac.

The most impressive feature were the six 20 feet-high English Field Maples and two Hornbeams that lined the dramatic aisle.  Thankfully much care as been taken with these trees as they were planted in large custom designed containers.  Following one week of public viewing in the Abbey, they will taken to private royal family gardens  (Highgrove Gardens) to be replanted.  Now that’s a wedding keepsake that will grow and flourish as they do!

Save $$$ and Live Green

14 Apr

Get the one card that will keep money in your pocket as you Go Green!  The Live Green Toronto Membership Card is available to people who live, work, and shop in the city of Toronto – and it’s FREE!

You can easily save between 5-15% on many of  the organic and eco-minded products that you already buy in Toronto.

For example, enjoy discounts at over 84 restaurants and cafes such as my favorites:
Gilead Cafe & Bistro: 5% off any retail & deli items
The Healthy Butcher:  Save 10% on whole Certified Organic, Locally Raised Chicken
Balzacs Coffee: 10% off Fair Trade coffee.

But there is more than just food, you can save on travel, fashion, home decor etc.  For example:
Grassroots: save 10% on tons of great organic home items such as sheets, towels; natural personal care products; cleaning products and organic baby products.
Zipcar: Save $55 when you sign-up as a member

Sign-up is fast and free! Within 2-3 weeks your card will arrive in the mail and you can start saving.
Click here to get yours!

Beyond the Hour

26 Mar

TONIGHT @ 8:30
Let’s be honest… turning the lights off for one hour is not the goal nor does it make a significant impact.  Earth Hour is the opportunity for everyone  to commit to specific actions that will help us tread more lightly on our delicate Home.
So, whether or not you turn off the lights tonight… please commit to one change today that helps our planet. Here are 3 no-brainer ‘pledges’ that will help the earth and save you money!
1.  Drink tap, not bottled water.
2.  Run the dishwasher only when full and when finished, leave the door open to air-dry.
3.  Wash only in cold water (85 to 90% of energy used is to heat water). And guess what? Your clothes will last longer!

What will you do “beyond the hour?”