Welcome to our Garden Journal

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

Hedge:

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