Welcome to our Garden Journal

Insects ~ Our Garden Partners

It takes all kinds to make our gardens healthy
Just like people it takes many to play many roles. white_tail_skimmer_Its_About_Thyme_Nursery

The charismatic ladybug and acrobatic dragonfly have a better chance of winning respect from the entomophobic than the pesky mosquito or thuggish ground beetle, but the truth is the work that is done in our gardens by these hard working critters is often overlooked or even worse misunderstood.

A mating pair of beetles known for devouring aphids all day and into the evening are a welcome sight in any garden, but would you recognize their offspring? They cleverly set their babies up for success by depositing the yellowish waxy eggs on the underside of a leaf very close to a good source of aphids.

Once the larvae morph from the pupa stage they are on the prowl and eat a large quantity of soft bodied garden pests , including mites and scale insects. It is worth investigating what our garden partners look like in their various life stages so we don’t unknowingly eliminate them.

The Hawk moth is a fascinating insect. I mistakenly thought it was a baby hummingbird grazing nectar from my oenothera biennis one summer evening. It was a magical sighting. I was awestruck. I will be observing caterpillars a lot closer from now on.

Swallowtail_Its_About_Thyme_Nursery What makes them
or Ugly?
Plant a patch
for the

Pollinators are in the spotlight . We need them, therefore we learn about them. Honeybees most typically come to mind, but the list of bees is long and colourful. Honey bees are social and most people are familiar with the concept of their hive, division of labour and their Queen. What many don’t realize is there are more than 450 species of bees in B.C. Some of these are also social, like the beloved and popular Bumblebees, at least six species of Bombus on the south coast. Perhaps you are not so familiar with Sweat bees, Mining bees and Hairy belly bees. These are mostly solitary bees. Some nest in the ground in holes excavated by the females. They are all pollinators and the most significant threat to them is loss of habitat. In the last few years as we increased our supply of pollinator attracting plants at It’s About Thyme Nursery, I have seen an increase in the diversity of tiny solitary bee species.

Then there are the WannaBeesmaybe they don’t really,
but the Robber Fly and the Hover Fly both, do look a lot like bees.The easiest way to tell the difference is their little antennae.
Compare them to the bee antennae in the photos above. Robber flies or assassin flies are important predatory insects. They wait in open, sunny, dry areas and attack almost any other insect in a raptor-like manner. They help keep numbers of other insects in balance. In the larval stage Hover fly are also voracious predators, but as adults they fly and eat like hummingbirds. These flower flies feed on nectar and pollinate while doing so.

So you see the long black legs, the small pinched waist, the terrifing stinger and you run for the RAID, right? Please no! you are lucky to have the parasitic wasp or Ichneumon wasp at your service. She is searching diligently through your garden foliage for those soft little caterpillars of many moths. Her needle pointed ovipositor is not for stinging , but for laying eggs.

‘The balance of nature is a complex , precise and highly integrated system of relationships between living things which cannot safely be ignored any more than the law of gravity can be defied with impunity by a man perched on the edge of a cliff.’
Rachel Carson 1962

For an informative read on this topic , please explore
Insects and Gardens
In pursuit of a Garden Ecology
by Eric Grissell
Cuckoo Wasp

Crab Spider


All photos and text by FiddleheadDesigns.ca

5th Annual Pumpkin Day ~ 2019

Once again, It’s About Thyme Nursery was the place to be to see this season’s array of Award Winning Squash. Stephen Beattie of Artisan Landscaping first delivered his Magic Organic Veggie Blend to Jeff’s Urban Pumpkin patch five years ago and a delightful relationship has been growing ever since.

Each year Our event has evolved. With a focus on Community and Harvest fun, this free Family Day brings a little more magic to Burnaby’s Secret Garden. A Fundraising Raffle, with all proceeds going to Hives for Humanity means a lucky winner will receive 3 yards of Organic Veggie Blend soil, a Consultation with Victory Gardens, Hand tools, seed packets from West Coast seeds AND a Gift certificate for It’s About Thyme Nursery plants! Tickets still available until October 31, 2019

In spite of the very wet October day, our local carvers dove in and transformed Jeff Pelletier’s Backyard Beauties.

See More Images

Pumpkin carving Day
Carvers ~ Rob Turriff and Gerry Sheena ~ George Rammell ~ Ben Lee
Learn More about Jeff Pelletier & His Pumpkin Passion
Its_About_Thyme _Pumpkin_Day

More Trees, please

It’s hard to imagine our environment without trees. There are many reasons to plant them and so many to choose from. How does one decide?
Perhaps you are needing a replacement tree and you are wading through a list of unfamiliar names?

Start with what you know. Think of your favourite colours, seasons, fragrance. What are your site conditions? Take note of your light intensity, soil type and drainage rate. Don’t forget to look into the future for a minute and imagine how your tree will look in years to come, growth patterns, shape and size! Or maybe you have a special event to commemorate? All the more reason to get to know the tree you are choosing. Understand its unique characteristics; textures in the bark, leaf qualities, seasonal transformation.

By planting a tree you are improving the aesthetics of your personal space. You are also creating important habitat for our birds, pollinators and other urban wildlife. You could be improving the stability of your landscape and reducing soil erosion especially on sloped terrain. Your new tree will make important environmental contributions by creating shade for other plants and animals or shelter in extreme weather conditions. It’s no coincidence that we feel better after walking in the forest or park. Trees filter the air we breathe and improve our mental health with their beauty and movement.

You may prefer a conifer for year round evergreen coverage or a deciduous tree that changes with the season. Japanese maples are a popular choice, of which there are many! Read more about choosing one. With careful consideration you will reduce or possibly eliminate the need for pruning or reshaping your new tree.

Once you have made your decision what to plant give it the best start with these planting tips.

Listed below are links to more information about Trees and what we can do to improve our urban ecosystem.

What is a Specimen tree anyway?

More on the climate cooling role of trees.

Urban Forest Quest & Habitat Mapping in your Neighbourhood

Hedge Fun


to surround, enclose, encircle, border, edge , keep within bounds, confine, obstruct… Once upon a time hedges were not what we planted, but rather what was left around the edges when the land had been cleared for cultivation. Native trees and shrubs were left in a diverse mix of species as a border to define a particular boundary providing much shelter and habitat for wildlife.
The trees left standing, shielded buildings, soil and livestock from the weather, providing shade and windbreak. The first hedges date back to Neolithic times, once protecting cultivated land over 5000 years ago. Today Taxus, or Yew hedging is one of the most common choices for a formal, clipped screen. As well as creating privacy, hedging contributes to seasonal colour and beauty in the landscape.

It filters noise from neighbouring properties and traffic. Hedges have become more important in our urban environment than our rural landscape. Fast growing Privet is another popular choice for classic screening. Early summer blooms and glossy evergreen leaves are appropriate as border or topiary specimens.
Aucuba and Euonymus , also great evergreen choices and more drought tolerant once established than a lot of more traditional hedging. Both also suitable for more shady screening challenges.

As an alternative to the more classic Taxus, these versatile shrubs can be pruned to any size and shape. The elegant variegated foliage provide coverage and colour year round.

Use blooms instead of fences for defining your space. Often berries follow, this contributes to longer periods of interest and colour. Why not create a hedge that also grows food? Why spend time and money clipping when you can snack on the fruits of your labour. Columnar apple trees are a fabulous way to maximize growing space and create a mini hedgerow.
Grow a pollinator’s garden.

The spring flowers are beautiful, the fruit delicious.
Or, fill in some gaps with the summer blooming Clethra. Hummingbird bush, as it is sometimes called, although appreciated equally by the butterflies and bees too.
Plant strong, native shrubs like Physocarpus for great colour that transforms through various shades with the season. Hedges enhance our urban habitat continuity. By planning wildlife corridors for birds bees and other insects we design ecological gardens that enrich our residential environments.

Water works

Think of water as many tiny links in a chain.

If the chain is broken the plant dries out.

Most plants give off water at night, but need it during the day so water early.

When the plant releases water from its leaves the water chain moves more water up through the plant tissue.

Water deeply and less often to encourage roots to grow deep and then let the soil drain. Light, frequent watering does not give the plant a good drink…like only a sip when you are really thirsty!

Water the soil gently, but thoroughly. You should see the water soaking in, not running off the surface.

Don’t blast the soil or leaves… this exposes the roots and can damage the leaves, especially if it is sunny as the water droplets magnify and burn the sun’s rays. You can’t water faster with more pressure. Turn the volume down and more water will go where it’s needed.

Remember that it’s lively soil that keeps our plants healthy. All those little soil critters need water too. (Read “Soil is not a dirty word“)

Soil is not a dirty word

Not all soil is created equally…

When planting something new, I like to think about from where this particular plant (family) has originated and try to mimic these conditions. Is it a Lavender shrub that once grew only in a Mediterranean climate and thrives in any moderately fertile, free-draining , chalky or more alkaline soil in full sun? Or a Pacific Huckleberry that shows its lush green best in the forests of our West coast, rooting into an old cedar nurse log, moist and decayed, under the canopy of large trees that provide just the right filtered light..? Different types of plant material have different water, light, nutrients and soil texture requirements.

Soil texture refers to the size and shape of the particles that make up a particular soil sample. Therefore, there is variation in the amount of space between these particles for air and/or water. All soils are made up of four important components that effect water retention and nutrient availability for our plants. Clay, silt and sand grains, together with organic matter, such as decomposed leaves and wood are the basis of our garden soils. One seldom regards the precious microscopic world within our soil. Without it, our gardens would cease to exist, but it is these miniature animals and their relationships that give our soil life and our garden plants good health.

A general summary of ecological planting practice can include:

Amending the soil with a rich amender early in the growing season, when the weather is cool to add organic matter and enhance the soil community. Save leaves to mulch around plants to reduce moisture loss in hot weather and soil erosion in wet weather. Do not compact soil during wet weather. Mulch with clean cardboard to reduce evaporation. This provides an organic  weed control and encourages fungal environment for trees and shrubs, A fungal environment in the soil creates a microscopic network that increases the exchange of moisture and nutrients around the root zone.

Do not put chemicals on your plants and in your soil. This kills the natural organisms that live there. For more information on this topic research soil food web.  Or, read ‘Teaming with Microbes’ , by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis