Living Christmas Trees

miniature christmas tree and live trees

Living Christmas Trees

Truly Live Christmas Trees
Bringing Home and Living Christmas Tree
After the Holidays
Living Tree Tips

“The answer to all your holiday tree-related woes!”

When it comes to Christmas trees, the classic conundrum for years has been choosing between a cut tree or a fake one. Cut trees come with an authentic aroma and environmentally-friendly nature, but also an expiration date. Artificial trees last for years and can even be purchased pre-lit to save time, but they lack authenticity and just take up space in our already full landfills when they’re disposed of. Wouldn’t it be nice just to get a tree that looks real, smells real, lasts for years, and actually helps the environment?

Truly Live Christmas Trees

Living Christmas trees are the answer to all your holiday tree-related woes! Unlike their cut companions, these trees keep their root systems intact so they can last year after year totally alive. How do they do it? Like our houseplants and container gardens, these trees are potted, so they can keep on living even after the holidays have passed.

Once they’ve played their part in the house, you can keep them in their container to enjoy another year with some coddling or you can plant them in the ground to add beauty to your landscape! Not only is it a great way to commemorate a special event, like baby’s first Christmas or an anniversary, it’s also incredibly beneficial to your home. Having a tree not only increases your home’s market value, but it also brings down your electricity bill by offering windbreak in the winter and shade in the summer to regulate temperatures naturally! How’s that for a selling feature?

Bringing Home a Living Christmas Tree 

To bring home all the benefits of a living Christmas tree, you’ll want to start by digging your hole. If you’re planting it after the holidays, chances are the ground will be too frozen to bring up, so you’ll want to do that earlier in the season. Here in Alberta, the ground is pretty solidly frozen by about mid-December, so may want to break your rule of waiting until December to get started with the holiday decorating.

Dig a hole as deep as and much wider than your root ball. You’ll want extra space around your tree to fill in with workable soil it can use when the rest is frozen. Loosen the soil in the hole and bring the soil you dug up into your home to keep it workable.

Cover your hole with wood or a tarp to keep it from filling in with snow and ice. It’s hard to plant a tree when there’s a popsicle in its place.

Keep it well watered. Like our other potted plants, living trees will go through their limited water supply much faster. Water every other day while outside and every single day inside to keep it quenched. Make sure the water flows freely from the bottom each time.

Don’t bring it inside until a few days before Christmas. Your tree won’t like the warmth your house is probably filled with at this time of year, so keeping it outside as long as possible will keep it happiest. When you do bring it in, slowly acclimate it to its new temporary home by bringing it in the porch or garage for a few hours a day beforehand.

Place it away from vents, heaters, or fireplaces. Excess heat will trick your tree into thinking it’s spring, so it will adjust to those temperatures, which could cause shock when moving back into the blustery cold after the holidays. Keep it cool and content.

Water every day. With the excess heat and drier climate our homes tend to have, your tree will

Limit its time indoors. If left inside too long, not only will your tree be missing the sun, it will also become more susceptible to shock when moved back out again. Only keep it inside for 7-10 days to limit any unnecessary stress.

Dig in with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog for more great insights on holiday plants and decor!

After the Holidays

When the holidays are over, and it’s time to transition your tree outside, remember to acclimate it slowly, just as you did bringing it in. Then, once it’s ready, you can get planting!

Take it out of the pot and loosen the root ball very gently before placing it in the hole. Fill it in with the soil you stored inside and water thoroughly to settle it in place. Top it off with a layer of mulch for a little extra insulation and you’re set!

If you happened to pick up your tree a tad late in the season to have dug your hole, don’t start stressing that it’s all over just yet! Simply bring your potted tree outside to an area that is sheltered from the desiccating winds and keep it well watered until the ground is workable.

Of course, you can always leave it in the pot, too, just remember to water it very frequently and remember to re-pot it when needed as it grows.

Living Tree Tips

Use LED lights to prevent burns. Incandescent lights burn hot to the touch and can singe the needles of your tree. LEDs run cool and keep your tree burn-free.

Use lighter ornaments to prevent damaged branches. Heavy ornaments can weigh down branches and damage them in the long run. Keep your tree full and healthy by using lightweight bulbs and decorating gently.

Take clippings to decorate your house next year. When the time comes to give your tree a haircut, take those pruned branches and use them in your wreaths and home decor!

Don’t forget to decorate outside. As beautiful as your tree looks with lights and ornaments inside, it’ll look twice as good when decorated in its own natural element.

Don’t confine yourself to choosing between a slowly dying specimen or a plastic alternative. Give yourself an authentic tree that lasts for years, not just beautifying your home for one holiday season, but for many to come!

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DIY Whoville Tree

DIY Whoville Tree

DIY Whoville Tree

What You’ll Need
Prepping Your Station
Creating Your Whoville Tree
The Finishing Touches

“Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot…”
– How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Sure, our traditional Christmas trees are classically beautiful, but anyone who has seen The Grinch knows the Whos down in Whoville knew how to take Christmas decor to a new, whimsical level. The best-known Christmas decoration in Who-lore is their iconic curved conifer. This tree is as fun to make as it is to look at, and is a perfect weekend DIY to get you and the little ones in the festive spirit!

 

DIY Whoville Tree supplies - wire cutters, decorations, cedar, ribbons

What You’ll Need

To get started with your Dr Seuss creation, you’ll need to grab a few supplies:

A container for your tree
Oasis floral foam
Port Orford Cedar, 3-5 branches
Western Red Cedar, 3-5 branches
Ribbon
1 large focal ornament
Smaller ornaments to fill the rest of the tree
Wire floral picks
12-gauge aluminium wire
Garden clippers
Scissors
Wire cutters
Bread knife

 

Prepping Your Station

To keep the D in DIY meaning “do” and not “disaster”, preparation is key – especially when working with children. Set up your stations first and keep your Whoville creation fun and safe for everyone involved.

 

trim your Porch Orford Cedar branches

 

Cut your greens. Line up your Porch Orford Cedar branches, trim them all to about 2 feet in length, and set aside. Then, take your Western Red Cedar branches and chop off the smaller branches extending from the centre branch. Split these smaller branches into 2-3 pieces and set aside. (Pro tip: Always cut stems on an angle to allow for maximum water absorption.)

Soak your foam. Fill a bucket with hot water, place your floral foam on top, and let it sink like an anchor in the sea. It’s a much slower process than giving it a nudge under the surface, but this method will prevent air pockets in the foam that will dry out your greens.

 

 

Fit your floral foam. Once saturated, drop your floral foam block into your container and trim away any excess foam 1 ½ inches above the top. Don’t go tossing away that extra foam like the wrapping paper on Christmas Day just yet, though. Use whatever you need to fill in the gaps between your block and the sides of your container for a sturdy fit.

Creating Your Whoville Tree

While it usually makes us cringe to see our plants drooping in any way, the most iconic part of this cartoon tree is its curved shape. Here’s how to make that happen:

 

wrap your Port Orford Cedar branches with 2 pieces of aluminum wire

 

Grab your trimmed Port Orford Cedar branches – which we use because they’re nice and floppy for the ultimate curve factor – and 2 pieces of aluminium wire about 3 feet in length each.

Bundle the branches together in your hand and wrap them together with one of the pieces of wire, using a spiral motion, and leaving a few inches at the bottom. Be sure to keep the wire tight as you wrap – you’ll need it to be strong enough to hold ornaments!

 

wrap your tree with the other alumminum wire again for the criss-cross effect

 

After you’ve wrapped it once, grab the second piece of wire and repeat in the opposite direction to create a criss-cross effect. Once you reach the tip, use the excess wire to create a hook that will hold your focal ornament.

Once it’s wrapped not once, but twice, you can shape the bend of your tree. Don’t worry about it being perfect just yet – you can always adjust it as you add elements for that perfect touch.

 

plant your whoville tree into your floral foam

 

To pot your Whoville Tree, simply stick it into the foam slightly off-centre to keep it balanced. Plan your positioning carefully first. You should only push it into the block once and leave it there, or you’ll squeeze all the thirst-quenching ability out of it. If it doesn’t look just right – that’s okay! Like I mentioned before, you can always adjust your bend to fit.

 

The Finishing Touches

By now your show-stopping centrepiece is taking shape, but your arrangement isn’t quite ready to make the Grinch’s heart grow 3 sizes just yet. Give it that extra bit of oomph with these finishing touches:

 

closeup of western red cedar clippings

 

Fill it out with greens. Remember those little Western Red Cedar clippings from earlier? Grab them and begin sticking them into the rest of the foam base. Start in the centre around your tree and work your way outward, turning as you go. Continue filling until the foam disappears!

Add your focal ornament. Whether you’re using a grandiose vintage bulb or a modern, whimsical shape, dangle your featured piece from your wire hook at the tip.

 

add christmas decorations such as berries and gold ornament balls

 

Fill in your tree. Working in groups of 3-5, add ornaments around your tree. Use whatever colour scheme you like, or none at all – just make it uniquely you!

 

add ribbon tabs

 

Add ribbon tabs. To make the ribbon billow out from your tree, take pieces and fold them in half. Pinch them in the centre and use a wire to secure it in place, leaving a little extra to attach it to your tree or foam.

 

add wire spirals

 

Add wire spirals. To make your own wire spirals, simply take your wire and wrap it around the handle of your clippers or even a pen, leaving a straight piece at the end. Slide it off and stick it into your tree or foam for an artistic touch.

 

gold christmas ornament ball

 

Add other decorations using floral picks. Use the little piece of wire to attach any ornament to your arrangement to personalize however you want. The wooden pick will do all the heavy lifting in keeping it in place so you can put it wherever you so choose!

 

finished DIY whoville tree

 

With the final personalizing touches, there you have it! Your very own Whoville tree that will have everyone as green as the Grinch with envy.

Dig in with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog for more DIY tutorials!

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Holiday Proofing Your Houseplants

houseplants at home

Holiday Proofing Your Houseplants

Before Leaving the House
How to water from Afar
Houseplants for Frequent Travellers

“I’ve have had a holiday, and I’d like to take it up professionally.”
– Kylie Minogue

Recently, my family and I got away for some rare holiday time. As a parent, there’s nothing better than seeing your kids excited to see somewhere new. I admit, I may have been more excited to visit Disneyland than they were. But as we all know, there’s no going on vacation without the onslaught of work leading up to it. With all the planning, packing, and email answering going on, it’s easy to neglect our houseplants. Our poor plants are stuck at home missing out on the fun, so the least we can do is set them up to survive an empty house.

Before Leaving the House

There’s lots to do in the days leading up to your vacation, but preparing your houseplants for your departure only takes a few minutes. Here’s what we did before we caught the plane:

Give them a good watering a day before you go and make sure the soil is well soaked. Make sure you see some water collecting in the saucer below the plant pot. Pour this water out before you leave your home to avoid standing water issues.

Remove dead plant material to help your plant use resources on healthy growth instead of deadheads.

Make sure your plant doesn’t catch a draft near any doors or next to frozen windows. Our cold, dry Alberta air is prone to drying out plant soil.

Bring the heat down a notch. Your plant doesn’t mind the indoor temperatures that make you reach for a sweater. It would much rather keep its soil moist than be in warmer air, which quickly dries potting soil out.

Take them out of direct sunlight. Sunlight keeps plants alive, but like us pale Canadians, too much sun can overdry them. Leave them in a spot with indirect sunlight or in a west-facing window that gets fewer sunlight hours.

Place your plants closer together. Plants conserve humidity better when clustered in a group. They also won’t be so lonely, since you won’t be around to cheer them up.

How to Water from Afar

If you’re simply heading out for a quick weekend getaway, a good watering is just fine. For extended trips, though, you may need to call in some backup to keep your plants thriving on their own.

Try drip-irrigating. Drip-irrigation systems release water slowly over time. There are all sorts of options on the market, from high-end electronically powered systems to pocket-friendly water globes and spikes. The best fit depends on the size and variety in your houseplant collection.

Craft your own irrigation system. All simple irrigation systems use similar mechanics to transfer water to your plant, so it’s possible to make your own drip watering system with common household materials. Common ones include empty wine bottles or mason jars with twine. Pinterest is full of great ideas for these homemade systems.

DIY a more humid climate. Humidity trays are quick and easy projects that increase the moisture content in the air around your plants. Just lay a flat layer of small stones or coarse gravel in the drip tray beneath your plant pot. Add water, and voila! Now your plant can enjoy a tropical vacation, too.

Dig in with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog for more great insights on houseplant care!

Houseplants for Frequent Travellers

If you’re a true globe-trotter or you have multiple long-term trips planned this year, lucky you! In that case, there are many species of low-maintenance plants that may be a better fit for your home. Snake plants, succulents, ZZ plants, and cacti are great choices for your nomadic lifestyle.

Once your houseplants have been holiday-proofed, you can look forward to getting some much needed R&R – and coming home to a home that’s still as green and beautiful as you left it.

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Christmas Tree Trends 2018

Tree Ornaments

Christmas Tree Trends 2018

Creating a Theme for Your Christmas Tree
Decide on a Colour Scheme
Unconventional Christmas Tree Ornaments
Traditional Christmas Tree Decorations

“It’s not what’s under the Christmas tree that counts, it’s who’s around it.”
– Charlie Brown

Shopping for Christmas trees is one of my favourite holiday traditions. There’s something magical about selecting the perfect tree and bringing that gorgeous pine scent into my home. Then, there are the possibilities. Once the tree is propped up in its stand, it becomes a blank canvas for your festive artistry.

Creating a Theme for Your Christmas Tree

If you’ve been browsing Pinterest during the Christmas season, you’ve undoubtedly seen scads of impossibly beautiful trees. For those of us who grew up in homes where the Christmas tree situation was more Charlie Brown than Martha Stewart, achieving that perfect festive look seems daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. The key to achieving a gorgeous tree is to plan the look you’re going for. Here are some of the Christmas tree decorating trends that are all over social media lately.

Decide on a Colour Scheme

If you pay close attention to the most beautifully decorated trees, they generally have a consistent colour scheme. Sticking to ornaments in 2-3 complementary colours is a shortcut to making your tree look elegant. Here are some of my favourite combinations.

Blue and White is a wintery combination that works looks gorgeous against blue, teal or grey walls. This look can be a little harsh with only one shade of blue, so it’s best to blend several shades of blue with your ornaments to add more dimension.

Silver and White is a classic combination that is both beautiful and easy to put together. This pairing works especially well in homes with cooler toned décor. Choose white lights with a white or silvered-white garland and decorate with white and silver ornaments.

Gold and White is a little more traditional and works well with warmer toned décor. To enhance the traditional feel of this look, add Red accents for a richer aesthetic. To make the look more contemporary, opt for tiny golden twinkle lights instead of a garland for an Insta-ready holiday focal point.

Multicolored trees have a homey and nostalgic feel when balanced with a neutral tone. To keep the look from going too over-the-top, choose multi-colored ornaments with white lights or multicolored lights with subdued white or silver ornaments. I like to add a few strings of warm white lights to rainbow-lit trees to soften the effect of the colour.

Dig in with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog for more Christmas decor ideas!

Unconventional Christmas Tree Ornaments

I love the look of a tree with creative, unexpected decorations. If you’ve grown tired of the same old glass balls and tinsel kicking around in your basement, it may be time to think outside of that cardboard box.

Flocking is the spray-on product that adds that “snowed-on” look that mentally transports people to an Alpine lodge. This subtle decoration looks amazing with something as simple as a burlap garland or mirrored ornaments.

Ornate Tree Skirts add another visually interesting layer to your tree display. Choose a base colour that acts as a complementary backdrop to your wrapping paper to make those gift boxes ‘pop’ on Christmas morning.

Found Decorations from the outdoors, such as driftwood, pine cones, natural vines and firm berries enhance the natural appeal of your tree. Natural ornaments look stunning with strands of white lights.

Silk Flowers have a delicate, whimsical appeal with that makes guests do a double-take. Thread them together for an enviable garland.

Traditional Christmas Tree Decorations

The classics are classic for a reason. A simple beaded garland with traditional red, gold and white ornaments never goes out of style. Space out your decorations evenly to keep your traditional tree looking polished.

Just like everything else during the holidays, a little planning ahead goes a long way when designing your Christmas tree. Once you know the look you’re going for, that Pinterest-perfect holiday magic will come together quickly. You can leave the all-nighters to Santa Claus.

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Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

The Miracle Plant
How to Take Care of an Aloe Vera Plant
How to Prepare Aloe Vera

“Aloe you vera much.
Unknown

If you’ve ever spoken with me about plants, chances are that you know I’m not all about looks. Sure, a flower can look nice and bring beauty to a garden, but beyond its visual appeal, it really doesn’t offer much. The plants I’m much more interested in go beyond the blooms and pay you back for all the hard work you do to keep them healthy with a little hard work of their own. Like aloe vera.

The Miracle Plant

We’ve all heard of this succulent’s amazing ability to soothe any burning effects – everything from accidentally catching your arm on the stovetop to an extra hour in the sun. Whatever burn may ail you, the age-old remedy has been the gel of a little aloe plant.

Recently, though, it’s reported list of benefits has grown quite significantly. Found in everything, from ointments to juices, aloe has been labelled as a cure-all for everything – including dry skin, open wounds, wrinkles, acne, dandruff, digestion, and even weight loss. With an impressive list of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino and folic acids, too, it’s even been labelled as a superfood.

The truth is, though, not enough science exists to support any evidence that aloe even has any medicinal benefits at all. In fact, the medical community only classifies aloe as “possibly effective”. However, they do admit its soothing effects for inflamed skin (and I can tell you from experience that it makes an accidental lobster tan feel a whole lot better).

How to Take Care of an Aloe Vera Plant

More at home in the desert, you won’t find many succulents growing in the wild prairies of Alberta, our winters are just too cold. Instead, to keep them happy here, we treat them as houseplants to keep them healthy and warm year-round.

To get started with your healing houseplant, plant your aloe vera with cactus soil – or potting soil amended with sand – in a pot with plenty of drainage. Aloe veras, like their cacti cousins, hate standing water and are very prone to root rot, so keeping their roots dry is key.

Once potted, place your plant somewhere it will get plenty of light. Like other succulents, aloes will wilt without their daily dose of vitamin D, so a South or West-facing window is best. You won’t want to let it burn in the sun, though. (How’s that for irony?)

When it comes to watering, the most important thing to remember is to let the soil dry completely between waterings. In the summer, this may mean every week or two. In the winter it’s a little closer to a month or two. There’s no exact scheduled timeframe to follow, but just checking in with the soil every so often will be enough to tell you what your plant needs.

Dig in with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog for more great insights on houseplant care!

How to Prepare Aloe Vera:

While science can’t speak to all the other “benefits” of aloe you may see on the internet, it won’t deny how great it is at soothing burning and itching. And if you’re already growing it at home, why not take advantage of this effect with some homemade ointment.

The famous first-aid gel can be found in the plump leaves of your aloe vera- all you need to do is cut it open. To make sure you’re keeping your plant healthy, you’ll only want to take off 1 or 2 leaves at a time – taking only the outer leaves, which are the most mature and ready to go. Pick the fattest, juiciest one and cut it off clean at the base.

Before jumping right into it, you’ll want to drain the sappy substance that leaks from the freshly-cut foliage. Just place it against the edge of a bowl and leave for an hour or so before moving on. Then the rest is easy.

Simply lay the leaf flat and peel off the top layer of skin with a knife. Then, with a spoon, just scoop out the clear gel inside (a.k.a. the good stuff). If you like a thinner consistency, blend it up before refrigerating, but it’s not necessary.

With centuries of continued use and quite an impressive nutritional facts sheet, aloe vera is certainly a plant that is more than meets the eye. Not just a treat for the eyes, it’s also a treat for the body, making it a must-have in any houseplant home.

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Cats and Houseplants: What You Need to Know

Cats and Houseplants: What You Need to Know

Why Cats Eat Houseplants
How to Keep Cats Out of Houseplants
Toxic vs Non-Toxic
Toxic Houseplants for Cats
Safe Houseplants for Cats
Tips to Remember

“Curiosity killed the cat.”
Proverb

I love cats. They’re like little, take-home versions of the majestic and powerful feline rulers of the animal kingdom; tiny Simbas that every so often grace us with a little cuddle on the couch. Trouble is…I also love houseplants. And as every feline lover knows, houseplants aren’t always safe for our curious cats. But having cats doesn’t mean our houses have to be plant-free, it just means we need to do a little extra self-educating to keep our fur-babies safe.

Why Cats Eat Houseplants:

Cats are carnivores, right? So why does our indoor green garden intrigue them so much? Well, while we may think they’re pretty senseless to find chasing a laser pointer for an hour to be entertaining, they’re actually incredibly intelligent.

They know that the green stuff is packed with beneficial vitamins and nutrients that keep them healthy and strong. They also know that a little dose of the good stuff can be amazing for their digestion, especially when it comes to breaking down hairballs.

Plus, beyond the health benefits, it doesn’t help that many of our favourite houseplants bare a striking resemblance to a lot of their playthings. Little leaves vibrating in the wind or tendrils dangling down, begging to be pounced on? We honestly shouldn’t even be surprised!

How to Keep Cats Out of Houseplants:

Just because our cats may feel like stealing a taste of our prized plants, doesn’t mean that we should let them.

If they need a fix of green try bringing in a few plants dedicated just for them. Choose plants they prefer, like cat grass or oat grass and replenish often with a little overseeding as needed. As we all know, catnip is also an excellent choice to keep them occupied, but replacing it every day after they annihilate it getting their fix won’t be saving you any time or stress.

If bringing in other plants just isn’t for you, you can try protecting the ones you have by putting them up on a high shelf or in a hanging basket. If your cat is too much of an acrobat for that to work, try adding a layer of rocks on top of the soil (think bigger, not litter). Or you can try spraying something unsavoury on the foliage, like lemon juice, vinegar, or Bitter Apple.

Toxic vs Non-Toxic:

As much as we do our best to keep them away, accidents happen, and our poor cats could find themselves in some pretty serious danger with just a casual taste test. It’s our job as owners to know what’s safe and unsafe to protect them better.

Toxic Houseplants for Cats:

Toxic houseplants for cats can often mean just a little discomfort, like drooling, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, or irritation of the skin, mouth, and stomach. These plants won’t usually cause serious, lasting side effects, but should be approached with caution:
• Asparagus Ferns
• English Ivy
• Dieffenbachia
• Dracaena
• Pothos Plant
• Philodendron
• Fiddle Leaf Fig
• Snake Plant
• Poinsettia
• Primrose
• ZZ Plant

Other toxic houseplants can come with much more serious consequences, like seizures, kidney failure, coma, or even death. These plants should be avoided by any and all cat households:

• Azaleas
• Aloe
• Lilies
• Cyclamen
• Mistletoe
• Daffodils

Safe Houseplants for Cats:

Houseplants aren’t all bad for cats, and many can be kept in the house without fear for our pets’ safety. These houseplants all come with little to no side effects for cats:
• Boston Fern
• Staghorn Fern
• Maidenhair Fern
• Spider Plant
• African Violets
• Air Plants
• Prayer Plants
• Bamboo
• Hoya
• Echeveria
• Sedum
• Christmas Cactus

Tips to Remember:

If you’re ever in doubt about bringing a plant into your cat-friendly home, never be afraid to use a little Google power to double-check. Remember always to assume it’s poisonous until you know.

If you find yourself with a suddenly sick cat and a chewed up plant, always seek immediate veterinary care. Try to bring a sample of the plant with you and make sure to note each and every symptom to ensure your pet gets the effective and immediate care.

Having cats doesn’t mean not having houseplants and creating a healthy habitat for both is simple with the right information. With this guide and the power of Google on your side, you can feel confident in getting your cat-friendly indoor garden started today.

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Mindfulness in the Garden

Mindfulness in the Garden

What is Mindfulness?
A Mindful Garden
Mindful Gardening Exercises

“Wherever you are, be there totally.”
Eckhart Tolle

Amidst the chaos and clutter of today’s world, it seems like the thought on everyone’s mind is how to find a sense of peace and calm. Everyone’s got their thing, whether it’s watching the latest ASMR video or attending a yoga class, we’re all just looking for a little peace of mind. That’s what mindfulness is all about – and your garden may just be the perfect place to find it.

What is Mindfulness?

Stemming from roots in Buddhism, mindfulness comes from a practice of getting in touch with the mind, body, and soul. Before you start picturing sitting criss-cross-applesauce down in the mud, chanting “ohms”, it’s important to note that this isn’t your average meditation. Rather than trying to clear your mind of all thoughts, mindfulness encourages the deliberate acknowledgement of everything around you, instead.

Mindfulness is attempting to reach a state of total awareness of the self – inside and out – to fully engage with and enjoy the world around you, relieving stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts as you go. I know, I know, that’s a LOT, but I’m not talking about finding the meaning of life or unlocking your brain’s true capacity, and we’re certainly not talking about achieving Nirvana here. It’s literally as simple as just stopping and smelling the roses.

A Mindful Garden:

Studies have been documenting the calming and relaxing effect of nature and the garden for years. They’ve even found chemical and biological explanations in the soil for why getting down in the dirt makes us feel better. As a naturally calming environment, that makes your garden a just plain logical fit for a space to practice mindfulness.

Our gardens are a place of calm amongst the craziness of everything happening around us. While we’re busy worrying about work deadlines and after school activities, our plants are just existing – soaking up the sun and the rain, basking in life. That’s what mindfulness is, so we can really learn a thing or two about it from our plants.

Mindful Gardening Exercises:

Getting started with practising mindfulness in the garden is as easy as taking your time. Don’t give yourself a time limit or a goal when going into it. Instead, just prepare yourself to get lost in the wild wonder of your outdoor oasis.

Ground yourself. Before you dive into the garden, take a moment to mentally prepare yourself to get swept away. Don’t rush. Step outside, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and just focus on yourself. What do you feel like? What do you hear? What do you smell? Slowly take yourself through all the motions. It’s better than drinking chamomile tea, trust me.

Lose yourself in the flow. If weeding needs to be done, really focus on every detail. Look at the weed and discover more about it. Feel the resistance from the roots clinging to the ground as you pull. If you’re pruning, really feel the sensation of the shears cutting through the leaves. Allow yourself to be totally involved in what you’re doing in the present. Remember, today’s a gift. That’s why they call it the present.

Indulge your senses. Take yourself through them all – smell, sight, touch, tastes, and sounds – and really feel them. Listen to the wind rustling through the leaves. Taste the sweet sourness of that freshly picked raspberry. Feel the sun touching every pore of your skin. It’s a lot to take in, so just give yourself the time you need to get lost in it.

Give up control. In our everyday lives, there is so much that we are in charge of controlling and our gardens are definitely one of them. We want plants that are thriving and beautiful, free from pests and diseases, even if that means strictly controlling their environment as much as we can. Problem is? Nature is one environment we can’t control. Our plants are living and dying and going through the motions of life all around us, and that’s a pretty cool thing to witness all in one space. Very grounding, too.

Mindfulness is all about existing in your body in this moment that is happening right now and what better place to practice it than your garden? It’s a place of peace and tranquillity and right out there in nature for you to soak in the sun, fresh air, and all the life that’s happening around you. Just go out, get lost in it, and really take it all in for a sense of peace and calm unlike any other.

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Landscape and Housing Value

Landscape and Housing Value

Does it Increase Value?
Reaping What You Sow: What Works and What Doesn’t

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
Warren Buffett

When it comes to landscaping, one of the most frequently asked questions is about the value it will add to your home. While you may be landscaping for yourself now, how much of your investment will you get back down the road if you sell? The answer may surprise you.

Does it Increase Value?

Salisbury Landscaping Sherwood Park

Researchers have been looking for patterns linking landscape and housing value for years. The general consensus is that a well-landscaped exterior can increase a home’s value anywhere from 5 to 15%. Not all landscaping features pack the same amount of punch for their dollar, though.

According to studies, the top-yielding landscaping projects are those that add lifestyle value beyond aesthetic. For buyers browsing the market for a new home, they want a home and yard that does more for them. As far as landscaping is concerned, they will look at features that not only add beauty to the home, but those that add comfort, are convenient, use the space well, lower the cost of heating and cooling, create a quieter space, and don’t require too much upkeep.

Dig in with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog for more great insights on home gardening!

Reaping What You Sow: What Works and What Doesn’t

This year, the National Association of Realtors released the 2018 Remodelling Impact Report: Outdoor Features from their research department. This report details the impact that landscaping has brought to housing values seen by realtors in recent years. They highlight specific landscaping features and how much of your investment you may see again in resale.

Lawn Upkeep – If you want a simple way to get your money back and more, regularly maintaining your lawn, garden, and trees is the way to go. With regular mowing, pruning, weeding, planting, and fertilization, you create a polished look that buyers want. It’s also very cost-effective, and for what you spend, you could see a return of 100 – 250%!

Sprinkler Systems – When buyers are looking at homes, they want one they don’t need to work too hard to maintain. Sprinkler systems allow them to maintain a lawn and garden with the simple flip of a switch. They can bring back 85% or more of your investment.

Walkways – Clean stone or brick walkways lined with bushes, shrubs, trees, or plants add an aesthetic and comfort value. For what is spent, a return of over 80% may be seen.

Patios and Decks – Patios are something that we as homeowners may love, but when it comes time to sell, they typically yield less than 70% of their value back. Wooden decks, however, with proper railing, stairs, and sealing may see a return of 80%.

Outdoor Kitchens – These features are excellent additions if you plan on using them lots before you sell. However, they typically require a bit more maintenance, and some buyers don’t value the use of outdoor space. You may only see about 70% of your money back.

Fire Features – Adding a backyard campfire feel is a great way to build a sense of community. When it comes to the resale value, though, they don’t make much of a splash, meaning you may only get around 65% of your money back.

Pools – Pools are something that everyone believes will bring them a lot of money when it comes time to sell. After all, who doesn’t want a nice, cold dip on a summer day? Unfortunately, pools require a lot of upkeep to keep them clean and pristine, which buyers see as more work and inconvenient. When it comes to adding one of these just to drive up value, reconsider, as you’ll probably only get back half of what you spent or less.

While many people landscape for their enjoyment while they live in a house, it can also be a great way to add some value when the time comes to sell. If you’re landscaping just to sell, though, you’re better off keeping it to simple lawn and garden care. For what you spend versus what you’ll get back, the real value is how much use you’ll get out of it. Spend now to get the use out of it, regardless of the money, and enjoy a little extra return when the time comes to sell.

Images courtesy of Salisbury Landscaping. View the full Gallery here.

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Low-Maintenance Planting

Low-Maintenance Planting

Low-Maintenance Planting
By Rob Sproule

Let Go of the Lawn
Using Native Plants
Mulch
Design Ideas

“Native plants give us a sense of where we are in that great land of ours. I want to look at Texas like Texas and Vermont like Vermont.“
– Lady Bird Johnson

If I could sum up 2018’s landscaping trends in one word, it would be “lifestyle”. People are wanting to extend their living space outdoors more and more. They want to spend more time outside, and most modern landscaping happens to support that goal.

But what about our plants? We still want them to be gorgeous, but we don’t want to spend our extra time outside watering, weeding, and fussing over prima-donna plantings. The Low- Maintenance Planting trend is all about freeing up more time to enjoy our backyard lifestyles.


Let Go of the Lawn:

Where do you spend the most time when maintaining your yard? Chances are it’s mowing, watering, and fertilizing the lawn.

In some phases of our lives, like when the kids are small, we need lawn. After that, however, the best way to save time in your yard is to ditch the lawn and install beds of native, low- maintenance plants, instead.


Using Native Plants:

The best way to reduce watering is simple: avoid plants that need a lot of water, like tropicals and tender perennials. As a general rule of thumb, if it won’t survive the winter or must be babied to do so, you’ll need to water and fertilize them regularly.

Native plants are a lazy gardener’s dream. They’ve evolved and adapted to the rainfall your yard normally gets, so in a normal year, you likely won’t need to water at all. Of course, some supplemental watering and a touch of fertilizer will make them healthier and better able to resist pests and diseases.

As a happy side-effect, natives are the most environmentally-friendly plants you could choose. They’ve developed natural resistances against the pests that plague imported plants and local pollinators flock to them as the most known and trusted food source.

Dig in with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog for more landscaping and gardening tips!


Mulch:

Wood mulch is the unsung hero for low-maintenance gardening. It’s cheap, easy to install, and here’s what you get:

Watering Help: The mulch prevents soil evaporation and keeps moisture on the roots, where it needs to be. This decreases your need to water as frequently.
Weed Control: Smother those weeds! Cut holes for your existing plants to grow, and cover the rest. The only weeds that you’ll see will be from the odd seed that lands on accumulated soil on top of the mulch.

Biodiversity: This is usually overlooked, but the healthiest yards are those with resident predators to keep pest numbers under control. Whether it’s ladybugs, ground beetles, or spiders, mulch (particularly nuggets) provides ideal hiding and overwintering spots for your backyard mercenaries.


Design Ideas:

Low-maintenance is in vogue. Manicured, perfectly groomed gardens are less popular and have been exchanged for the “bed-head” look.

A bed-head garden is exactly how it sounds. It’s messy, wandering, and exactly how it’s meant to be. It uses native, low-maintenance plants and lets them grow as they will, without interfering or pruning. The idea is that a natural, micro-ecosystem will emerge that self-regulates pests, attracts pollinators, and bring its own style of rugged beauty to the yard.

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Container Gardening Trends

Container Gardening Trends
By Rob Sproule

Colour of the Year
Water Garden Containers
Succulents Galore

“The earth laughs in flowers.“
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Gardening is, at once, unchanging, yet always in motion. The essentials of why we do it, like the urge to nurture and express our story through the earth, never change, but how we do it is as seasonal as fashion trends.

Container Gardening is the dominant art form in gardening trends. It is the art of creating living, dynamic sculptures. It’s also, especially with our short summers, very non-committal! Here are a few of the dominant trends to watch out for in container gardening this year:


Colour of the Year:

Every year, we’re told which pantone colour will be setting the trend for indoor and outdoor decor. After a couple years of “meh,” 2018 promises a colour that gardeners can sink their teeth into: Ultraviolet (18-3838 to be exact).

One of the most complex colours on the spectrum, ultraviolet is complex and very moody. In a container garden, it can look vibrant and boisterous during the day, then downright brooding under evening’s shadows.

It sits on the edge of our visible spectrum. The next time you look at a deep ultraviolet flower, consider the fact that you actually can’t see some of the colour; your eye is giving you the closest available likeness. A visiting bee, however, with a fuller spectrum of vision, is getting the full show.

Fun fact: ultraviolet is actually a real colour that you can measure, while “purple” is an imagined colour that only exists in your brain, but this is all above my paygrade.

How to use ultraviolet in containers:
• On the colour chart, violet sits opposite yellow. So add some simple, sunshiny yellow to spice up your complex ultraviolet array.
• Ultraviolet tends to get lost in shade or shadow, so pair it with a brighter companion (chartreuse foliage works well), to give it more life.
• Violet looks amazing in the fall, when the lower sun begins to play tricks with light, so it’s a great way to add vibrancy as the days get shorter.


Water Garden Containers:

This trend is for people who love the idea of pond gardening, but not the commitment that comes with it. It’s literally taking a pot without drainage, filling it with water, and putting pond plants inside. Simple as that.

Compared to the hassle of digging and building a pond, filling a large bowl with water and adding some plants seems incredibly more desirable. To get started, you’ll want to have heavy clay soil (water-loving plants don’t fare well with regular soil) and you’ll want to buy specific water garden plants from the Garden Centre.

You can add sounds effects by adding a small pump. By putting it on your patio, you’ll be able to enjoy the gentle white noise it creates for relaxation. It will also increase ambient humidity around it, so surround with lush tropical containers to suck up the moisture.

Water plants bloom best with over 6 hours of light a day, so put it in the sun. Be creative with your container – remember that anything without drainage will work!

Some things to watch out for:
• You may need to empty and scrub the algae out once or twice a year. If you don’t have fish, you’ll have a lot less algae.
• Add a small pump for a the bubbly sound and to deter mosquitoes from using the still water to lay eggs, or add a dash of organic larvicide to keep them away.
• You’ll want to add water as it evaporates. Let it sit for a couple days before adding, thought, to let some of the tap water chlorine evaporate.
• Avoid half-whiskey barrels, as old toxins could leech in to harm plants and fish.

Learn more about gardening trends with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog


Succulents Galore:

Succulents have been the “it” plant for years and there’s no sign of that slowing. They combine ease-of-care with a contemporary design style.

Find a shallow container (terra-cotta works well) and a Garden Centre with a big selection, and get choosing. Opt for a blend of different shapes and colours (try not to have all rosettes, even though they may be your favourite). With any luck, there will be some String of Pearls or Burro’s Tail to add trailing appeal.

If you have a planter that’s felt too ornate, old world, or vintage to use for annuals, this is how to use it. Or, to be really on trend, head to an antique mall to dig out an old birdcage to plant them in.

Succulents can be expensive, so here are a few ways to trim costs and have a better looking planter as well:
• Choose a few succulents to bring indoors in the fall. Keep them in their pots when you plant them and give them lots of winter light. They’ll become specimen pieces as the seasons go by.
• Blend succulents with less expensive bedding plants to save money. Avoid the costly “designer” annuals, which will devour your succulents, and go for sun-loving marigolds, zinnias, portulaca, and other classics.
• You could bring your whole container indoors if you have room, but be sure to spray for bugs a couple times before bringing in.

You’ll want a better draining soil than your average container mix. As a rule of thumb, blend a peat-based potting mix (Pro-Mix, etc), with cactus soil as 1:1 ratio. Consider adding a layer of pebble on the bottom for even better drainage.

Make sure your pot has sufficient drainage holes. If they’re too small you’ll risk them getting plugged and/or leaving your succulents sitting in wet feet.

Keep yourself on-trend this year with these simple tips for the 2018 gardening season and you’ll have a stunning garden all year long.

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