Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Eleanor Frances on her Wedding Day

In her mother’s garden, in the late evening, under the light of a summer’s full moon, holding hands on the brick garden path, Eleanor Frances accepted the marriage proposal of her Vimy Ridge Hero.

William Charles had just returned from a peace keeping mission after the Great War.

There, in that Aylmer Quebec Garden, on August 2, 1921, my grandparents (Anna’s great grandparents), celebrated their wedding day. I have imagined it all my life. So so very romantic.

I guess you could say that creating wedding flowers from the garden is in our souls.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


My Grandfather had a potting shed. It was beautiful. It had walls of old wood, exposed brick & stone with a gravel floor. Hanging in the rafters, tied up with twine were Peonies, Lavender, Ladies Mantle & Herbs – drying, to be enjoyed on a winter’s day.

It was organized in a dishevelled sort-of-way, with old tools, watering cans, wooden flats and weathered terra cotta.
In his shed he whistled Broadway tunes while he seeded & transplanted. In summer his buckets overflowed with cut flowers and in autumn with bulbs. And then came the harvest: squashes, pumpkins, beets and the like.

This most surely inspired our Sheds – where we create beautiful wedding florals, offer workshops and display for sale our garden treasures, decoratives & antiques.
I think Granddad would approve.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

...from The Potting Shed

I am up to something new - once again re-inventing myself as Oprah might say!

with plans for lots of teaching and speaking from the potting shed - sharing a lifetime in the garden...

also I am developing interesting products each month - following the garden season along - this is fun !

many of our new products will be featuring beautiful artwork designed by our fav. illustrator ! thanx Yvonne ! (you'll need to check back to see her work in progress !)

so stay tuned and we'll see just where all of this leads !


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Drying Hydrangea

Drying Hydrangea is very simple and a lot of fun !!! It just takes a little know how. This I discovered entirely by trial and error (having listened to the advice of many, including my own mother - and having read way too many gardening books!) In the end - there is just nothing like trying it out your ownself.

In doing so, I discovered that different techniques are required for different varieties of hydrangea. For this purpose let's divide them into three groups.

Hydrangeas similar to the one in the illustration we'll call "Fancies", add to that the big fluffy ones "Annabelle", and then the "Pee Gee" Hydrangea. For all hydrangeas the success in drying is in the timing of cutting the bloom.


Wait until the hydrangea is fully in bloom and at it's peak in vibrance of colour. For some this can be after the first cold night or even a frost. Once the colour begins to fade or the petals begin to lose their moisture - the hydrangea is past the optimum time for drying - but still worth a try! "Fancies" need to be placed in shallow water - be certain each stem is actually in the water - this is called the water method of drying. The water keeps the petals open. Blooms with stems not touching the water, usually wither and wrinkle. The length of time depends on the humidity each summer. I have had success in 3 days and some years it took 10. One particularly humid summer, they did not dry at all for me. I use a scrunch test - I squish the bloom each morning and if it sounds crunchy - I take it out of the water. (very technical terms!)


These are the big fluffy ones you notice in many gardens in late summer. In bud, they are a brilliant chartreusse green - very pretty! In full bloom, they are white and make a big impact in the garden(and by the way have limited success as a cut flower). Then they start to turn green again (wow that is confusing) - at this point, when they are fully green again - this is when you pick them. Another clue is when the stem thickens and becomes stiff. (If they are going dry and brown in the middle of the bloom - it is too late to keep them green when dry.) The Annabelle is at this point already in the drying process - so you do NOTHING !!! I have found that if I put them in water - they continue their life cycle - which is to continue to die - and so they will go brown! Also you do not need to hang them upside down as you do to "Air Dry" lavender or roses. You can just go ahead and use them right away! Simple as that !

Pee Gee:

Pee Gee's are the late bloomers - the ones that are cone shaped - and start out a vanilla white. In the fall they take on a pink (a bronze/pink) beginning at the tip of the bloom & then extending back to the stem - a cold night or a frost intensifies this colour - that is when you pick it - do NOT put the stems in water - they will dry on their won - hanging them upside down assists the stems to remain upright during the drying process!

Have fun! It's a great way to bring the garden indoors for the winter !

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A "Dig"


Some years ago a good friend, Wayne Townsend, the curator of the Dufferin County Museum (I was on the board at the time), invited me to go on what he liked to call "A Dig". On this occasion, he had permission to dig up plants at an old abandoned house, prior to its demolition.

We found some wonderful day lilies and peonies near the foundation. But it was when we walked around the back that we both got a surprise!!! - there we found two crazy things! Sedum had taken over an entire field - and another (what seemed like half an acre) - was entirely filled with Garlic Chives!!!

The scent was distinctively both - the chive and the garlic. I'd never seen, nor smelled, anything like it!

Garlic Chives are similar to regular
Chives in their uses, and just as handy
to have by the kitchen door.

Beautiful edible white flowers, slightly larger than the purple ones on regular chives, make terrific garnish to decorate a salad,pasta,fish or meat. You may however want to remove the faded flower heads left on the plants, to prevent self seeding everywhere – they can take over a garden! (well - or a field!)

The leaves are strongly flavored with
Garlic, so use sparingly.

This weekend starts our Culinary Herb Festival here in the Distillery Historic District - and our 4" potted herbs are on special 3 for $10 - and you guessed it ! This includes Garlic Chives !!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

my favourite (and easy) Pesto recipe

Ingredients for Pesto Sauce:
• 4 cloves of garlic
• ½ cup pine nuts
• 1 Handful or so of Parsley
• 2 large handfuls or so of Basil
• 1 cup of Parmesan Cheese (tempting to use more but we find it makes it all too salty)
• 1/3 to ½ cup of really good Olive Oil
• All tossed in a food processor (rather like cheating – but oh well!)
To learn more about culinary herbs - join us at our Culinary Herb Festival in the Distillery Historic District - July 18 to 25 - daily workshops see our website

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Drying Lavender

Nearly everyday in our Studio, I hear a lot of great ideas about how to dry flowers.

I still prefer the old fashioned way - the way my Grandmother taught me. (sort of, ain't broke/don't fix attitude)

The lavender starts to bloom from the bottom of the spike up the stem and finally the top. It is best to pick Lavender when it is blooming 2/3 of the way up the stem - with the top third yet to open.

Create a bundle of "disorganized" Lavender - with the flowers at varying heights in the bundle.(not perfectly lined up at the same height as we do when flower arranging) - the theory being that the random bundle has more air circulating around each bloom - which is better for drying and will avoid mildew in the process.

Next, an elastic band goes around the stems - about a third of the way of up, to hold the bundle together (I used to use twine - but noticed that sometimes in the drying process, as the stems shrink - the lavender would fall out of the twine - where the elastic tightens as the stems shrink - dah!)

Then, the lavender is hung upside down in a dry (ish) spot out of the direct sunlight.

The moisture from the stem travels to the flower - opening the top third of the bloom ready to dry. The drying process takes anywhere from a few days to a week or so - depending on the humidity.

If your lavender is already fully in bloom - it is still worth a try - you just may lose some of the flowerlettes on the bottom of the bloom - they may fall off - or they may turn brown - or you may be lucky and it will all be just fine!

It is best to dry the flower on the stem - so if you are looking to create potpourri or for culinary use - dry it on the stem first - and once dry - remove the budds of the dried lavender.

Good Luck !

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lavender Cookies

Lavender Cookie Recipe
1 cup unsalted butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
5 tbsp icing sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp organic lavender buds
¼ tsp salt

Cream butter, gradually add sugars,
then flour, lavender and salt.
Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Roll out and cut with cookie cutters.
Add light dusting of organic sugar.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes
Makes 24 Cookies

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy Shamrocks !

It seems so early this year - Spring - but I do recall this is not the first time!

Perhaps foolishly - I have been keeping a garden journal for 25 years - and so this thought prompted me to go back and review the whole thing.

Saint Patrick's Day 1995 was indeed very very mild - over 20 degrees - and the garden was advancing.

I kept delaying the spring clean-up thinking this will never last - and best to leave the winter's debris as insulation

but the garden had a mind of its own !

Eventually - I gave in and believed that it really was Spring - and got out there to rescue all the tender perennials - struggling under the mulch !

Monday, February 1, 2010

...extend the life of the bloom our studio this weekend we had the most beautiful and fragrant potted hyacinths in full bloom.

Today I have noticed that some of the blooms are bending way over - from the heavy blossom and it reminded me of a tip!!!

This is exactly the right time to cut the flowers - as long a stem as you can! (right back to the bulb) - and place the cut flowers in a vase (room temperature water) - to extend the life of the bloom!!
.....who knew ?

Left on the plant - they continue their life cycle - which of course includes withering and making seeds (let's just call a garden spade a garden spade - the thing is dying!!!)

But as a cut flower - it can last another week !

So instead of developing some crazy system to hold up the flowers with a home made splint - ribbon or string - that always looks silly...

Be brave - get out your garden scissors - and cut those babies off !

Enjoy them in your favourite vase instead !

there's a video you might like to see

and scroll down to "Seven Garden Gadgets"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

.........the bulb patrol

Anna always won....
the bulb patrol.... it was a bit of a contest of sorts at our Hockley Valley Garden.

Anna always scoped the place and found the first bulb popping up through the warming soil.

The snowdrops were first - under a birch clump at the edge of the woodland garden - viewed from our garden room called as it was set on the north side of the house and calling it a sunroom seemed overly optimistic!

The delicate blooms were often hastening spring - blooming even under the blanket of snow.

I recall a year that spring came extra-ordinarily early - Jennifer was visiting from Edmonton - the morning started with a foot of snow on the deck - it was so unusually warm and sunny (plus 20 !) - that the snow melted by noon
by 2pm - what had been frozen soil mere hours ago - was filled with emerging crocus- by 230 - the crocus now accompanied by the iris reticulata were opening up to full bloom - it was like watching time lapsed photography!!! They opened, they fried, they died - by 4pm it was all over but the crying!

My fav's - I have two - Muscari (also called Grape Hyacinths - why do we call flowers so many different names anyway?) and Fritillaria Meleagris (that's quite a mouthful - if only it had another name!) (although I have heard it called chocolate lily???)

anyway - the point is - we got in our first shipment from our greenhouse today - of Muscari (pictured above)

....Spring can surely not be that far off now !!!

hope to see you at our Cabin Fever Breakaway Brunch - Feb 21st - there we will be sharing secrets to forcing branches and bulbs to early indoor bloom - and decorating with the potted bulb - we call it the Moss Thread - and you can see it on Daily Web TV - access it through our website

Saturday, January 16, 2010

...time to force a little spring !

It’s time to Force a Little Spring!
Here are some of my tips on forcing branches:

It’s that time of year again!

You know, I have been cutting branches and forcing them into bloom now for 40 odd years – and it still strikes me as magical!

It’s a stretch to believe that what seems like dead sticks in the middle of winter, will actually sprout not only lovely tender green leaves, but actually flower! This is a really fun activity to do with young children, who indeed must think it is magic!

You will need to choose a day when the temperature is going up at least 5 degrees – better if it is 10. It can be very, very cold – well below zero – it just has to be going up. Also it is best to do this on a sunny day – because what we are actually doing is tricking the plant into thinking that Spring has arrived.

Cut the branches longer than you intend them to be in your arrangement. This is because you will need to give them another clean cut (about 3 inches) when you bring them back into the house and place them into a vase. The stem will have already formed a scab at the cut as a natural protection to lock in whatever moisture or nutrition it has to sustain itself (pretty clever of Mother Nature I’d say).

Now give some scientific thought to this – if we continue to trick the branches into thinking it is Spring – what happens in Spring? It gets sunny, warmer, the frost comes out of the soil and the water can begin to get to the roots and ergo, the branches once again.

So – having said all of that – we need to get water up those stems – fast - and there are two recommended ways to do that. One is to hammer the ends of the stems to soften the wood. My preferred method is to give the branch a cut vertically up the stem, sort of splitting it in half, exposing the inner stem to the water.

Place the branches in cool to tepid water – NOT hot – afterall in spring the plant would be getting very cold water in fact – so we do not want to shock the poor thing. Similarly place the vase near sunshine – but not in the direct south-west sunny window – you will fry it!

Wait anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, changing the water weekly to avoid bacteria in the water – and amazing! Blossoms!!!

The two that bloom the quickest are Forsythia and Magnolia – my theory is because they are also the first to bloom in the spring. I have tried just about every shrub and flowering tree over the years and I find that you can force just about anything that blooms in the garden before mid-to late May (zone 6 ish). I have had some luck once or twice with Lilacs, but really it seems to be all in the way you hold your mouth frankly – absolutely no rhyme or reason to it. So why not - just try it !

Here are the ones I have found to be most successful:

Forsythia, Magnolia, Quince, Deutzia, Purple Sandcherry, Bradford Pear, Mock Orange , Schubert Cherry, Dogwood, Apple, Peach, Plum, Cherry, Sweet Almond, Azalea