Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

outdoor living Archive

Wednesday

18

April 2018

Tips for helping robins

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Tips for helping robins in winter | see more at hopereflected.com

I think we all understand that it’s no longer winter, but seeing as we’re experiencing one last (we hope) blast of winter before spring sets in, today I’m sharing some tips for helping robins. You’ve likely noticed all the robins flitting about in your yard, along the sides of road ways, and in the streets.

Here are some suggestions and tips for helping robins in winter (or in this unseasonable stormy and cold spring):

Tips for helping robins in winter | see more at hopereflected.com

  • It’s a misconception that robins only eat worms. Robins also enjoy various types of berries, and they’ll even eat cracked corn. If you have robins in your yard, set out some berries to help the little guys get through this cold spell: Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, raisins, and even apple chunks are favourites.
  • Fresh water. You may think that we’ve got enough precipitation, however even in these cold and freezing temperatures, it’s important for robins (and other birds) to stay hydrated and have a fresh source of water for keeping clean.
  • Ground to forage. This one is tough, especially with that layer of ice that seems to be covering everything, however if you’re able to clear a spot on the ground, robins are creatures who love to forage. You’ve likely noticed them along the sides of your house, or in any place where there’s a clearing (like on the sides of highways and streets).
  • Don’t panic. We have this notion that robins can’t survive cold temperatures or that since they’ve migrated north after all winter that they’re not accustomed to or can’t handle winter weather. They can! But that doesn’t mean we can’t help them out.

For more information about robins, visit Living With Wildlife.

Tips for helping robins in winter | see more at hopereflected.com

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Thursday

15

June 2017

Roses: Rosa Hybrid Pink Promise Tea Rose

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Last year, Wes and I planted our first four rose bushes. While roses are delicate and relatively high-maintenance, we enjoyed our experience with the beautiful blooms so much last year that we planted a fifth rose bush (rosa hybrid pink promise rose) early on this season (beginning of May).

pink promise roses

Planted in a different location of our garden than the other bushes, we were impressed with the rich green foliage of the Pink Promise hybrid tea rose from the very beginning. The pink promise rose bush was already about two feet tall when we purchased it, and with the addition of blooms, it continues to grow (this hybrid tea rose bush grows to be about 4 feet tall at it’s maximum).

 

While initially I was so excited that the latest addition to our rose garden seemed healthy, it wasn’t long before we noticed some clusters on the bush. After some research and polling my #gardenchat friends on Twitter, we realized we were dealing with aphids. You may know aphids as “plant lice”, and whatever you call them, they’re a total pest and they feed on new plant growth.

 

The good news is that a swift blast of water on the leaves and bloom of our pink promise rose bush seemed to get rid of the aphids. The problem is that they tend to come back. We’ve been keeping an eye on the pest situation, and we think we may be dealing with more than just aphids, as now we’ve got almost transparent spots on the leaves of our pink promise rose bush. From the experience with our other four hybrid rose bushes last year, I’m fairly sure we are dealing with sawfly larvae again.

pink promise roses

Besides the potential for pests, hybrid rose bushes are some of the most beautiful and rewarding plants to enjoy in your garden. There is something so satisfying about watching the development of new blooms on a rose bush that is both beautiful and inspiring.

Our pink promise hybrid rose bush has just produced its first bloom, and we are looking forward to many more throughout the summer.

The pink promise hybrid tea rose requires 6+ hours of daily sunlight, which makes it a perfect fit for our front garden. The elegant pink flowers have a creamy white centre, and are a classic choice for cut roses (they work well in a floral arrangement or as a standalone bloom).

While we were promised that the pink promise rose is incredibly disease and pest-resistant, I’ve got to say between the aphids and the sawfly larvae that we put them in the same category as our other rose bushes: Delicate and high-maintenance.

For more on our experience with roses, check out these posts on the other rose bushes in our garden: Our bolero floribunda roses, singin’ in the rain roses, ten-ten hybrid tea roses, and our beloved Oscar Peterson roses.

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Tuesday

16

May 2017

Gardening: How to grow garlic

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how to grow garlic growing garlic

Last fall, we shared some tips about when to plant garlic in your garden as well as how to plant garlic. Now that the winter is over and we’re well into spring, we’d like to share some helpful and realistic tips on how to grow garlic.

This is the first year that Wes and I are attempting to grow our own garlic. We planted the cloves last fall in an area of our yard that gets full sun. Now that warmer weather is upon us, we’re seeing the garlic shoots grow more and more each day. The photos shared in today’s post were taken about three weeks ago.

The varieties of garlic that we planted last fall will all harvest mid-summer, and we’re looking forward to enjoying the fruits of our labour later this season!

how to grow garlic growing garlic

Today, I’d like to share some practical advice with you when it comes to growing your own garlic. If you’re contemplating how to grow garlic, here’s what we’ve learned so far:

  • Record which variety of garlic is planted in which row of your garlic garden. I told you last fall that we were keeping track and were going to label each row of garlic in the spring, and do you think I can find our list anywhere?! The consolation is that we only planted four garlic varieties, and Wes and I are both confident the garlic is planted alphabetically (Israeli, Persian star, Sicilian, with a row of elephant garlic at the end) so we have that going for us.
  • Make sure you leave enough space between each clove of garlic. We heard from a seasoned source that if you plant your garlic cloves too close together, they can cluster. Wes and I spaced our rows of garlic about 6 inches apart, with about 4 to 6 inches between each clove. As you can see from the photos in today’s post, the shoots aren’t necessarily growing up evenly.
  • Depending on your taste preferences, you will want to water your garlic garden regularly. The more you water your garlic as it grows, the more mellow it will taste when you harvest it. On the other hand, the drier the season or the less you water your garlic, the more potent it will taste when you harvest it.

More to come as the season moves along! If you’re a seasoned gardener, what are your best practices for growing garlic?

how to grow garlic growing garlic

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Tuesday

14

March 2017

Outdoor Living | Birds of Winter

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bird feeders

While it’s no secret that Wes and I love birds (you’ll recall that last Spring we welcomed a family of robins to our patio) this winter we’ve had some issues attracting more feathered friends to our yard.

At first we thought maybe it was the feed, then we thought perhaps it could be our timing (we waited until well into December before we set up our winter feeders), and then we discovered it was really just the bird feeder placement.

We’ve got three bird feeders:

  • A tube feeder (metal, enclosed hanging feeder that feeds seed out at ports with perches) which is store-bought,
  • A suet feeder (metal/wood construction with spots to hold two suet cakes),
  • Our favourite is featured in today’s post. A handmade cedar tray feeder which we bought from one of our neighbours (he constructs them as a hobby).

bird feeder

We started our cedar tray bird feeder out on one of our stone benches, but found the only creatures it attracted were squirrels. Last weekend, Wes relocated the tray feeder so it now hangs outside one of our kitchen windows, and after repositioning the bird feeder to eye level, voila! We’ve got birds, people!

Likely a combination of the location of the feeder, as well as its proximity to the fence, our cedars, and our Japanese maple tree, we have a real community of birds visiting our bird feeder once again.

I’ve yet to capture some decent images, so for now you’ll have to enjoy these quick snaps. In the past few days, we’ve enjoyed watching cardinals (both male and female), dark-eyed juncos, slate-coloured juncos (according to our bird book, the slate-coloured junco is a rare variety), as well as house sparrows. (Wes is somewhat concerned with the territorial nature of the house sparrows, as they have been known to extremely aggressive against other birds.)

What birds are frequenting your feeder this winter?

bird feeder

 

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Thursday

23

February 2017

For the Home | 3 Outdoor Living Spaces to Make You Swoon

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There’s just something about an outdoor living space with comfortable, fluffy chairs, a welcoming layout, and a warm fireplace that I just LOVE. If you follow me on Pinterest, you’ve seen some of the inviting spaces that inspire me. Today, I’m sharing 3 outdoor living spaces to make you swoon. Complete with all the essentials — lots of cushions, covering, and greenery surrounding, — these outdoor spaces are sure to inspire your outdoor living area this spring and summer season.

 

1. Ode to tradition. There’s something about an outdoor living space that’s completely covered and yet completely open that is absolutely beautiful. I can picture summer Saturdays spent in this space reading and summer evenings spent lounging by candlelight with family and friends.

outdoor living spaces

img src athomearkansas.com

 

2. So many spots to sit. Especially when you’re looking to entertain outdoors, having more than one sitting area is an appealing (and functional!) idea. This space has a great layout: A fireplace at the helm, a casual lounge area under a shade pergola, and a more formal dining space.

outdoor living spaces

img src Architectural Digest

 

3. A firm foundation. While this look wouldn’t work in every yard, this outdoor living space is anchored by four strong, sturdy, white pillars that really complement the other elements of this set up. The fireplace in this space is equally as strong, and acts as a focal point in this gorgeous garden space.

outdoor living spaces

img src Traditional Living

Looking for more inspiration for your own outdoor living space? Be sure to follow my Outdoor Living board on Pinterest for fresh ideas!

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Tuesday

31

January 2017

Planning Your Spring Garden

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The middle of winter is a great time to get dreaming about your spring garden! Wes and I have already started planning our outdoor projects for the warmer weather, and we are so excited for gardening this year. You may be wondering how to start planning your spring garden, or where to start, so here are some tips to get a head start on planning your outdoor living oasis.

Planning your spring garden doesn’t have to be hard, in fact, quite the opposite! It should be a fun experience; a time to take note of the outdoor projects you want to complete, and narrow down a list of what’s actually realistic for one season.

Tips on planning your spring garden:

1. Take note of the perennials already in your garden. This will help you determine what (if any) new varieties you want to introduce in the spring. Keep in mind that some perennials — such as hostas or peonies — expand and grow year after year. Unless you catch the peonies before they go to seed, expect more peonies this spring (and that’s a beautiful thing)!

planning your spring garden

 

2. Determine what annuals you want to include in your garden. This can be as easy as looking online, browsing local seed catalogues, and figuring out what’s going to work for your outdoor space. Depending on the annual, you’ll want to get your seeds early, and possibly even start them indoors before the thaw. Last year, Wes and I tried our hand at a few different annuals. While our zinnias started out strong, in the end only the bachelor buttons survived. Prepare yourself by getting any potting supplies you’ll need for spring (we like to pot our annuals, as it makes for a portable garden).

planning your spring garden

 

3. Start preparing for any major outdoor projects now. Many people have a misconception that planning your spring garden involves solely plants. Not so! If you’ve got dreams of building an outdoor patio or outdoor living area, get your plans completed now so when the weather breaks you can start strong! Last summer, Wes built a few dry lay stone benches, and also completed a dry lay border around our gardens. We had the supplies in hand long before the outdoor work actually got started.

planning your spring garden

 

4. Cultivate what you already have. It can be tempting when spring rolls around to get all excited about new plants and making changes to your property, and rightfully so! However, keep in mind while planning your spring garden that you need to care for what you have already planted. Cultivating a full and lush garden involves a lot of manual work, and consistent maintenance makes that work a little easier to manage. Did you trim back any perennials in the fall and do a final weed? If not, get ready to weed your garden and trim back any old growth before your plants come out of dormancy.

planning your spring garden

If you’re looking for more tips on how to get planning your spring garden, head over to my Pinterest and check out my Gardening board.

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Tuesday

10

January 2017

Gardening: 5 Benefits of Evergreen Trees

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Gardening

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benefits of evergreen trees

By definition, an evergreen is a plant or tree that maintains its leaves throughout the year. Whatever the season, the leaves of an evergreen are always green (hence the name, ‘evergreen’). The opposite of an evergreen plant or tree is a deciduous plant or tree, which by definition is a plant that loses its foliage during the fall, winter, or dry months.

benefits of evergreen trees

Did you know that there are more than 100 species of evergreen conifers throughout North America? It’s true! While Wes and I only have four species in our yard, the possibilities and styles are endless if you’re looking to incorporate evergreens into your property landscape.

benefits of evergreen trees

While some prefer more challenging trees with which to landscape their property, Wes and I both are fans of easy-maintenance evergreen trees for several reasons:

  1. Evergreen trees provide colour and character year-round. While deciduous trees lose their leaves, evergreens maintain their green colour all year long. In the middle of winter, when everything else is looking dull, evergreens bring some much-needed colour and character to your property.
  2. Evergreen trees provide an excellent wind-break. While this fact may be of more interest if you live in an area of the country that experiences harsh winters, wind-breaks are not only effective in protecting your home from wind and snow, they can also help conserve energy. Alternatively, evergreens also provide shade in the summer, which again, can help conserve energy.
  3. Evergreen trees provide a home for birds and other wildlife. You may not be an avid birder, however there’s something so special about watching birds flit about your yard. If you’re looking to attract birds to your yard, evergreen trees are certainly a suggestion, and you should also have a feeder equipped with food for whatever variety of bird you’re looking to attract.
  4. Evergreen trees are low maintenance. I’m all about plants that look good but that don’t require a whole lot of maintenance. Wes and I have a few different varieties of cedars in our yard, and we love them. We love them not just because they look good, but because they don’t require a lot of maintenance.
  5. Evergreen trees are great for the environment. Not only does one acre of trees provide enough oxygen for up to 18 people, trees also clean the air, save water, and even prevent soil erosion.

benefits of evergreen trees

benefits of evergreen trees

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Tuesday

15

November 2016

Gardening | How to Prepare Hostas for Winter

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This past weekend, Wes and I were finally (finally!) able to get out and complete some much-needed yard work in preparation for the cooler months ahead. Mainly, we (Wes) were able to clean up the blowing leaves, trim back the hostas, and trim back the peonies for winter.

how to prepare your hostas for winter

As you can see, we’ve got lots of hostas around our home. We love them; in the summer, hostas are one of the most easy, low-maintenance plants you can get. They require very little attention, and they look fantastic. All. Summer. Long. We’ve been fortunate this year in that our hostas looked good well into October. Each year, we take care to cut them back before the snow flies, and so far, our methodology of how to prepare our hostas for winter seems to work (each year they come back stronger).

how to prepare hostas for winter

If you’re wondering how to prepare hostas for winter, here are a few tips:

  1. Trim the hostas back after the first frost. Try to do this before the leaves of the hostas get too wet and start to rot. Using shears or scissors (I used scissors), cut the hostas back and remove the leaves. I usually leave a good 3 inches or so on the stem.
  2. Dispose of the old leaves. For some reason, hostas seem to be attractive to slugs and snails. By trimming back the leaves and properly disposing of them (don’t leave them laying in your garden), you remove any protection or ‘home’ for the slugs. I’ve also heard from several avid gardeners that leaving a small bowl of beer out in the garden around your hostas is a great way to rid the garden of slugs and snails.
  3. Make plans to divide your hostas. Typically, gardeners recommend dividing hostas every few years. I was extremely fortunate, as all our existing hostas were gifted by our generous neighbours. Our hostas are coming into year four, and Wes and I need to decide which varieties we’ll divide next Spring. Dividing hostas is best done in the Spring.

preparing hostas for winter

Some people may choose to cover their remaining hostas stems with mulch; I’ve read mixed reviews on this method of preparing your hostas winter. In the photo above, you can see how Wes and I leave our hostas for the winter. We don’t cover them with mulch, we don’t do anything other than trim them back and get rid of the old leaves, and so far we haven’t been disappointed.

Any other tips you use for preparing hostas for winter? I’m interested to know!

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Tuesday

8

November 2016

Gardening: How to Plant Garlic

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Last week, we shared some tips about when to plant garlic in your garden. We thought it would be neat to share our experience of planting our first garlic garden, and provide some tips on how to plant garlic (and then next Summer we’ll follow up and see if it worked).

how to plant garlic

First things first, we had to find the right spot in our yard. Good advice when you’re selecting a spot in your garden or yard to plant a garlic garden, choose a location that gets full sun. Wes removed the sod and worked the dirt, before adding black earth to the garden. You want your soil to be dug over. If you’re working with land that’s sandy or clay-like, that’s OK!

how to plant garlic

As we mentioned last week, garlic does best if you plant it in the Fall. In the garden, we created small pockets 4 to 6 inches apart. We also dedicated each row in the garden to a specific variety of garlic (more on that below).

how to plant garlic

Wes and I did some research before hand to see best practices on how to plant garlic. While some experts advise you should break your garlic cloves apart several days before planting, others advise that breaking the cloves apart too early will cause the cloves to dry out. Up to you, but we opted to wait until just before planting to break the cloves apart. Also, don’t peel the husk, leave the paper on the garlic cloves for planting.

how to plant garlic

When planting your garlic, place each clove about 2 to 4 inches deep in the ground. You’ll want to make sure the flat root is at the bottom, with the stem of the garlic clove facing up. Again, we planted our garlic, dedicating each row to a different variety. Rows should be about 6 inches apart, with about 4 to 6 inches between each clove.

how to plant garlic

Another important tip when considering how to plant garlic in your garden, is the fact that you shouldn’t plant just any garlic. We heard from several seasoned sources how garlic bought at the grocer’s doesn’t grow well (or sometimes at all) in the garden. The varieties of garlic that Wes and I planted this year were all purchased at the Stratford Garlic Festival.

Here’s some information about the different garlic varieties we planted:

  • Israeli garlic: A hard-neck garlic that harvests mid summer, Israeli garlic has white skin with purple flushes. Israeli garlic has up to 10 cloves per bulb.
  • Persian star garlic: A hard-neck garlic that harvests mid summer, Persian star garlic has purple-striped skin. Persian star garlic usually has about 8 cloves per bulb.
  • Sicilian garlic: A soft-neck garlic that harvests mid summer, Sicilian garlic has white skin. Sicilian garlic can have up to 14 cloves per bulb.

We documented which row each garlic variety is planted, and next Spring we’ll label the rows so we can keep track of which varieties thrive and grow best.

how to plant garlic

 

 

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Tuesday

25

October 2016

Gardening: How to Grow Cockscomb

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cockscomb

Low maintenance, fragrant, and absolutely vibrant, cockscomb are a flower oft-overlooked and taken for granted. Cockscomb, also known as Wool Flowers, or even Brain Celosia (because that sounds appealing), are beautiful blooming annuals that grow to be 12-30 inches in height.

Wes and I first came across these beauties at Stratford’s Garlic Festival this past September, and, you guessed it; we’re growing cockscomb next year!

While Stratford’s Garlic Festival is most widely known for its garlic (obviously), one of the booths we passed by was selling cockscomb stems for $1.00 each. Needless to say, after hearing a bit about the blooms and how you can save the seeds and plant the following seeding season, we purchased two with the intent of including them in our Spring 2017 garden.

Since mid-September, we’ve had our cockscomb blooms hanging upside down in a dry place, with a bowl beneath. After drying, the seeds fall from the cockscomb bloom, and can be planted the following season.

cockscomb

As you can see from the photo above, after a month and a half of drying, the cockscomb drops its seeds (the seeds come from the part of the plant beneath the coloured bloom but before the stem).

Cockscomb flowers usually come in four colour varieties: Yellow, pink, orange, and white. Interestingly, the name cockscomb comes from the similarity to a cock’s comb on a rooster’s head.

cockscomb

Aspiring gardener tip: When you’re drying your cockscomb, make sure you place a bowl beneath the plant in which to let the seeds fall. As you can see from the photo above, after about a month and a half, there are plenty of seeds collected or our garden next Spring. (Note: The seeds are the round black pieces, the lighter pieces are the seed casing or shells.)

cockscomb

I am very excited to see what happens next Spring when we plant the seeds rom our first-ever cockscomb plants. Cockscomb flowers are beautiful annuals, and it will be interesting to see how our latest gardening experiment turns out!

If you’re planning to plant your own cockscomb seeds next Spring, here are some tips:

  • Plant your cockscomb flower seedlings into moist soil in late spring.
  • You may opt to start your seedlings indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before your region’s last frost.
  • Outdoors, plant your seedlings about 8 inches apart.
  • Cockscomb seedlings grow best in full sun.
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