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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10 Instagrams to Follow If You Love Plants

“If you tell a kid, ‘You’ve got to pick music or Instagram,’ they’re not picking music.”
Jimmy Iovine

I may be surrounded by plants day after day in the greenhouse, but I can assure you I never get tired of it. If you’re like me, you also can’t get enough of everything from the flora family, and these Instagram accounts are about as follow-worthy as it gets for getting your plant fix every day.

 

altman plants

Altman Plants (@altmanplants)

If you’re a succulent savant, this one’s for you. A family-owned and operated business, Altman Plants is the largest grower and breeder of succulents in the world. Based in California, they’ve been growing their living treasures since 1975, and they definitely know their stuff. Their feed is alive with succulents of all shapes and sizes to satisfy your houseplant craving when your desk at work just can’t hold anymore. (Although, is there such a thing?)

 

 

costa farms

Costa Farms (@costafarms)

Just as their tagline says, Costa Farms is passionate about plants, and it definitely shows on their feed. A grower of tropicals, houseplants, annuals, and more, they have it all and flaunt it with bright and beautiful lifestyle images that will certainly have you saying, “I want that.” If you’re looking for ideas to inspire your next plant project (or just looking for an excuse to bring more home) look no further.

 

 

dewar nurseries

Dewar Nurseries (@dewarnursuries)

For the biggest, brightest, and boldest colours, you won’t want to miss out on Dewar Nurseries. They may specialize in roses and fruits, but this nursery’s instagram is filled with so much more than that. From hibiscus to veronica, they put together the most beautiful, colour-blocked feed of plants that make designing next spring’s garden that much easier.

 

Dig in with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog for more great articles on plant, gardening, and more!

dramm and echter

Dramm & Echter (@dramm_and_echter)

Another California native, Dramm & Echter have been making flowers look good since before instagram was ever around. Their top-quality, crisp photos make florals and foliage look simply irresistible and background-worthy. For the prettiest plants you’ll want to repost over and over again, you’ll definitely want to follow them.

 

 

heemans

Heeman’s (@heemans)

A Canadian favourite, this family-run garden centre and berry farm is on the next level of Instagram greatness. Not only can you expect to see perfect plant pictures, but you can also enjoy drool-worthy snaps of their farm-fresh fruits. (Seriously, their strawberries are so red, every time I see them I want to reach into my phone to grab one just to taste the sweet, juicy flavour I know they have). While you’re there, don’t forget to follow their story, too, where they feature Heeman’s customer snaps!

 

 

kurt weiss greenhouses

Kurt Weiss Greenhouses, Inc. (@kurtweissgreenhouses)

What’s better than stunning photos of all your favourite plants? Stunning photos of your favourite plants with a DOG in them. Well, one dog at least. You’ll get your garden fix and your puppy fix all in one go with this one. Not only does Kurt Weiss have some of the most amazing photos of flowers, succulents, and more, they also on occasion feature their famous furry friend, Fritz Weiss!  

 

 

metrolina greenhouses

Metrolina Greenhouses (@metrolinaghs)

As the largest single-site, heated greenhouse in the United States, you know you’ll get a year-round hit of beautiful blooms. With Metrolina on your feed, it’s always sunny springtime (even when the weather outside is a little more frightful than delightful). Their gorgeous garden favourites are sure to make you green with envy shortly after giving them a follow, but their hypnotic shots are sure to leave you wanting more! Plus, you’ll get the bonus of meeting the wonderful people who tend to their plants every day, which just makes it all that much better.

 

 

dutch growers

Dutch Growers (@dutchsaskatoon)

Another Canadian native, Dutch Growers prides themselves on being more than just your average garden centre. Not just about the plants (though they certainly have the quality), they’re all about everything lifestyle and their high-contrast photos of beautiful plants alongside high-quality homewares and clothes truly live up to the name. So, if you like your fabulous flora beauty shots to be served with a side of decor and fashion, you’ll definitely want to follow them.

 

 

sheridan nurseries

Sheridan Nurseries (@sheridannurseries)

The Toronto-based Sheridan Nurseries compromises nothing when it comes to sensational snaps of plants. Their top-notch closeups make everything look so crisp and clear you’ll swear you can smell their floral fragrance on the air as you’re scrolling. They also like to show off unique and interesting ways you can display your plants, which makes them an ultimate go-to for figuring out your next move the next time you’re visiting the greenhouse!

 

 

venture out nursery

Venture Out Nursery (@ventureoutnursery)

For the quirkiest, most unique photos of plants you’ll ever see, the tiny Venture Out Nursery from Whidbey Island has got all others beat. They love featuring not just cute candids of all their plant pals, but also their people-packed workshops and zany planters – like boots and shoes that don’t seem fit for anything but feet, but just look so good with plants pouring out of them! (Not to mention, I’m a sucker for anyone who’s not afraid to show off adorable stuffed mice holding picket signs!)

 

 

These Instagrams have got plant pics pinned down, and if you love fantastic flora, you won’t have to look much further. That is, of course, unless you’re not already following @salisburygreenhouse. Not to toot our own horn or anything, but not only will you see superb shots of our top-quality plants, you’ll also see cute candids and customer features because we believe that the people are the best thing in our greenhouse!

These Instagrams have got plant pics pinned down, and if you love fantastic flora, you won’t have to look much further. That is, of course, unless you’re not already following @salisburygreenhouse. Not to toot our own horn or anything, but not only will you see superb shots of our top-quality plants, you’ll also see cute candids and customer features because we believe that the people are the best thing in our greenhouse!

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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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Why is My Houseplant Brown? And Other Common Annoyances

Dying Houseplant

Why is My Houseplant Brown? And Other Common Annoyances

Dying Leaves
Yellowing Leaves
Drooping Leaves
Sticky Residue
Mold

“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.”
    Erma Bombeck

Even the most experienced horticulturist started with a few dead houseplants. The way I see it, killing a houseplant is a coming-of-age experience, a catalyst for that “what-did-I-do-wrong” moment that all plant lovers have had. It makes us want to be better plant caretakers, to learn more and to exercise more discipline. I’m happy to report that it’s been a while since I’ve killed a houseplant, but I’ve also been practising for a long time. I invite you to learn from my mistakes with these tips for keeping your plants alive.

Dying Leaves

When leaves start browning, you know something isn’t right. Thankfully, this situation isn’t the end of the world. The cause is usually easy to pinpoint when you know what to look for.

Have you watered your plant enough? Probably the least shocking cause, under-watering is the easiest way to kill a plant. Some plants only need a day of neglect before starting to look sad. Water is essential for keeping your plant alive, and when there isn’t enough, the leaves are the first things to go. If your soil is dry, just add water.

Have you watered your plant too much? We all need water to survive, but no one wants to live in a swimming pool. Over-watering your plant can cause rotting of the root system, which seriously interferes with the plant’s ability to metabolize soil nutrients. If the soil seems very damp or muddy, give it some time to dry out a little and see how it goes.

Is the air in your home dry? Here in Alberta, this is an especially common issue in the winter. If you’ve noticed the need to reach for the hand cream more often lately, your plant may also be suffering from dry air. Try increasing the humidity by spritzing the plant daily, or putting a layer of pebbles and water in the drip tray beneath the plant pot.

Are you using too much fertilizer? Fertilizer helps maintain the nutrients in the soil, but it can also be high in natural salts that can burn plant roots like a garden slug. If you notice a white residue inside the pot and your leaves are looking worse for wear, save your plant with a generous watering.

Yellowing Leaves

While some plant leaves simply turn yellow on their way to turning brown, yellowing can also be a warning sign for other kinds of ailments.

Is the temperature okay? A tropical plant may not be living its best life seated next to a drafty window at the height of our Alberta winters. Keep plants looking their greenest by keeping them in a climate that’s as similar as possible to their native environment.

Have any pests moved in? Yellow leaves combined with other damage may be an indicator that you’ve got some unwanted company in your plant pot. Spider mites leave behind small, pinprick-like holes and mealybugs leave behind a waxy, whitish residue. If you have reason to believe that pests are afoot, prune off the affected areas, rinse your plant with water in a spray bottle and apply an insecticidal soap.

Is your plant getting enough light? Especially during these colder months, it can be hard for your plant to get enough sun. If you don’t have very many windows, a sun lamp can help your plants get the light they need. Plants near windows should be rotated from time to time to make sure all the leaves get their chance to photosynthesize.

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

Drooping Leaves

Wilting is another common issue, and is often caused by the same problems that cause leaves to change colour. If your plants are looking wilted, check for soil that’s too wet or too dry and examine the amount of light your plant is getting.

Sticky Residue

I’m not talking about sap, either. I’m referring to a mysterious stickiness that seems to appear out of the blue on your houseplants. The good news is, it can be fixed. The bad news is that it’s caused by a pretty gross pest.

Does your plant have a scale infestation? These little suckers leech onto the undersides of plant leaves and leave behind that sticky substance. They have a hard shell and look like dark bumps glued onto the leaves. You can use neem oil, or any similar horticultural oil, to gently get rid of them. Gentle to your plant, that is. Use lukewarm water to clean off the stickiness.

Mold

It’s gross in your refrigerator, and downright horrifying in your beloved plant.

Did you find grey mold on your plant leaves? Grey mold is a symptom of a fungal disease and often happens when dead plant matter starts to decompose on a live plant, in damp or humid conditions. Keep the moisture content of your soil in check and make sure to clip off those deadheads promptly.

Did you find white mold on your plant’s soil? Soil is mostly organic matter, and leaving it too damp will eventually grow a different kind of indoor garden than you were going for. Monitoring soil moisture is the key. This issue sometimes develops due to a drainage problem. Make sure your pots have holes on the bottom and your soil isn’t too compacted.

If you encounter any of these issues, don’t fret. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad plant parent. With this troubleshooting guide, your plants will be back to their original glory before you know it.

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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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Your Harvesting Calendar

Your Harvesting Calendar

Spring
Summer
Fall

“Be patient and wait for due harvest.”
Lailah Gifty Akita

The best part of vegetable gardening has to be the harvest. There’s just nothing like finally being able to dig into the fruits of your labour, and with a well-rounded vegetable garden, with something for every season, you can enjoy the thrill of the harvest all year long. For the ultimate produce yield, here’s your harvesting calendar for Alberta:

Spring:

Spring is a time for the cold-loving vegetables that like to be the first to the table. Where most of your garden is still waking up, there’s a little less to see after the first thaw, but these spring vegetables have had their morning coffees and don’t mind an early start.

Lettuce loves to get up and go in the spring, ready to fill your plates with fresh, green colour and plenty of vitamin A. Here in Alberta, lettuce will usually be ready to enjoy in May, when they are just reaching full size. To harvest, tear away the outer leaves, making your way inward, and cut off the whole plant just before it matures.

Radishes love to grow in the cold, as it gives them their most delicious and spicy flavour. Your radishes should be ready to pull straight from the ground in May, when the root is about an inch in diameter. You’ll want to get them young, before the ground heats up, for a crisper, more delectable taste.

Rhubarb makes its debut late in spring, just before berry season, when it is best jammed into a delicious pie. In June, watch for when your stalks reach about 10 inches long and then cut or break them off to enjoy that terrific tart flavour.

Summer:

Summer is, by far, the busiest time in the harvesting calendar, with more fruits and veggies in it than all other seasons combined. With plentiful sun and warm weather, though, it makes complete sense that the brightest and best the garden has to offer would happen then.

Tomatoes are made for summer, with drip-down-your-chin goodness everyone loves. In late June, look to harvest your tomatoes when the fruits are even in colour and just a little softer than firm. To pick them, gently twist the fruit until it falls off the vine.

Cauliflower and Broccoli are internationally adored for their amazing flavour, vitamin C content, and their little tree-like shape that kids love (although you may have to push them to eat it). You can expect these vegetables to be ready as early as late June, when they feel firm and tight, and are just about to flower. To harvest, cut off the heads with a knife at a slant.

Beans and Peas are seed-filled pods loaded with mouth-watering goodness and plenty of vitamins and minerals to boot. You can expect them around July, when they are looking firm and well-sized. A perfect on-the-go snack, just snap them off and keep moving!

Fruits, like berries and apples, need plenty of sun to make them the sweet, all-natural candy they are. Starting in July, look for fruit that is firm and evenly coloured. Whatever fruit you may be growing, it should easily break from the stem with a gentle tug.

Carrots may or may not make your eyesight better, but they are yummy and high in antioxidants. Harvesting these orange veggies in July is simple – just loosen the soil and tug them up and to enjoy (but try to wash them off first).

Squashes make their debut in summer, too, starting as early as July for summer varieties and lasting as late as September for the winter ones. When to harvest squash depends on the variety. Summers need to be cut from the vine before they mature and winters will need to wait until they are fully matured.

Of course, this is just the shortlist of summer-ready harvesting. You can also plan to enjoy beets, cabbage, cucumbers, garlic, onion, peppers, and many, many more!

Fall:

Fall is when the weather finally breaks into cooler, crisper air and it’s time we start pulling out our sweaters along with our harvests. With the days getting shorter and colder, we move back into a shorter list of produce, but luckily there’s still lots of fantastic flavours to pick!

Swiss Chard is garden-fresh green that makes its start as early as July, but continues to grow and grow throughout fall and winter, even as late as February. When the leaves are still young and tender, cut them off. Leave the main stem intact, though, to keep yielding.

Kale is a Pinterest-renowned superfood that loves to grow in cold weather. Just like its other leafy, cold-weather cousin, after harvests start in August, you can enjoy kale all the way into winter! You’ll know your kale is ready to pick when the leaves are about the size of your hand and you can start by tearing off leaves from the outside in.

Brussel Sprouts may be the bane of every kid’s existence, but their little compact cabbage flavour is hard to beat in a roasting pan. You can typically expect your sprouts to be ready in September, when the heads are firm and tight. Simply twist, break off, and enjoy!

Parsnips are the superbly sweet cousin to the carrot, turning starch to sugar in cold weather for amazing taste. They’re typically ready in November, when the ground is already pretty solid, so you’ll need a spade to help dig them out if you don’t want them breaking.

Our gardens are full of delicious, flavourful potential that can be enjoyed in every season of the year. To make the most of every season, plant your garden packed with a variety of veggies, with different harvesting times, to enjoy garden-fresh flavours every month of the year, no produce aisle required.

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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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The Social Network in Your Garden

The Social Network in Your Garden

Do Plants Really Talk?
How Do Plants Communicate?
Volatile Organic Compounds (VCOs)
Mycelium

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”
Peter Drucker

With everything in an online, interconnected cloud these days, it’s hard to imagine anything being completely on its own anymore. It’s as simple for us to connect with anyone as the push of a button, and connection is always at our fingertips. We’re not the only lifeforms with a complex, intricate web of communication, though. In fact, our plants may be just as linked-in as we are.

Do Plants Really Talk?

The short answer is – yes! Well, sort of… I’m not saying your plants have a secret language they whisper out of earshot when you’re not around. They certainly don’t talk the same way we do. We’re confined by the limitations of words and vocal chords, while our plants have mastered the art of speaking without words.

For the sci-fi nerds out there it’s either reassuring or disappointing that they’re not using telepathy or any supernatural means to chat away. While that would be the discovery of the century, the reality is a much more complicated combination of chemistry and biology.

How Do Plants Communicate?

The way plants communicate has been the focus of horticulturalists and PhD candidates for decades. You don’t need a doctorate to understand in intricacies of the plant languages, though. Here’s the basics:

Essentially, plants have the ability to emit organic compounds that give off signals to the plants around them. Think of it like fancy plant pheromones. When a plant is trying to communicate, it will releases these chemicals into the air or soil, where the other plants near them will find it and take the signal. They do this in two ways: VCOs and Mycelium.

Dig in with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog for more interesting plant facts!

Volatile Organic Compounds (VCOs):

VCOs are are airborne chemicals that travel through the air for neighbouring plants to pick up. Specifically, they are released when a plant is in distress from disease, infestation, exposure, or damage. They let the plants around them know that something is coming that could damage them, too, so they better up their defences.

If a pest comes to munch away on a poor plant, the plant emits a pheromone-like compound that warns the other plants what is happening. When these nearby plants get the news, they ramp up security themselves to keep themselves from becoming the next victim.

For example, if an aphid were attacking, these unaffected plants will release a chemical designed to make them less attractive to the little bugs, but more attractive to natural aphid predators, like wasps.

Mycelium:

Mycelia are complex structures that make up something not so complicated at all: fungus. You can find them not only in mushrooms, but you may have also seen them crawling around on your fruits and veggies. The little, fuzzy growth that frosts your edibles after too long in the crisper drawer? It may look like a nasty substance you want to be rid of immediately, but it is actually a gorgeous network of cells with the potential to bring plants together.

Studies have shown that these spider web structures will actually team up with the roots of plants, connecting them with the roots of nearby plants. In doing so, they create a mutually beneficial relationship where the mycelium takes advantage of the plant’s water and nutrient collection, while the plants use the network as an information highway to pass messages to their neighbours.

Much like what happens with VCOs, mycellia will pass along the plant’s warning signals of distress from the roots through their branches, known as hyphae. This works below the soil surface and isn’t subject to the fickleness of wind patterns.

As fancy as Facebook may be, plants have naturally developed their own, integral social network that not only keeps them alive, but helps them to thrive. Saving their breath on the small stuff, they pass along essential survival skills to keep your garden fresh and fabulous. Pretty and smart, your plants prove once again that they deserve a place in your life and your yard.

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Bog Gardening for Those Wet Spots

Rainy Garden

Bog Gardening for Those Wet Spots

Bog Plants for Sunny Spots
Bog Plants for Shade

“When you pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud, too.”
– Denzel Washington, The Equalizer

In a boggy, wet spot, you’re stuck with soil that never dries and seems to drown or rot everything you plant there. With attempt after attempt foiled, you may have even given up hope on ever gardening there at all. Well, have I got news for you! Turns out, there are plenty of bog-friendly plants that don’t mind soaking their feet, giving you a lush, beautiful, and full garden no matter where you’re planting.

Bog Plants for Sunny Spots:

If your wet spot sees plenty of sun all day, these plants will take to it straight away:

Ornamental Rhubarb:
Many of us have fond memories of a deliciously sweet and tart rhubarb crisp on a warm, summer day. This is not that rhubarb. Ornamental Rhubarbs live up to the name and give a beautiful, ornamental show best enjoyed with the eyes, rather than the mouth. You’ll love the giant, deep purple, variegated leaves that transition to green throughout the summer and the showy white flower spikes. Keep it looking sharp with an annual fall pruning.

Marsh Marigold:
For effortless ground-cover and brightness, the magnificent Marsh Marigold has got you covered. This stunning plant stands just over a foot tall and offers brilliantly bright buttercup blooms that perfectly compliment any garden. It’s a North American native that requires very little to grow. An occasional trim will keep it looking its best, but that’s about it! It has been known for its toxicity, though, so be cautious around curious kids and pets.

Globeflower:
For a truly unique addition to make your garden pop, Globeflowers are simply amazing. As the name implies, these beautiful blooms are made up of overlapping petals that curl together to create a round, globe-like appearance. They’re large in size and impossible to miss with bold colours like yellow and orange (although, the Orange Princess Globeflower prefers a shadier spot). To keep these flowers looking their best, give them a small trim in fall and enjoy!

Milkweed:
If there is one thing that Milkweed is known for, it’s its power at pulling in pollinators. In particular, monarchs just can’t get enough of this fragrant flower. And the best part? It is naturally found in bogs, so you can be sure this little lovely will thrive! This low-maintenance beauty comes in many amazing colours, but my favourites are the pink and white Cinderella and the simple, white Ice Ballet. Both look amazing in the yard and as a cut flower for double-duty beauty.

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

Bog Plants for Shade:

If your wet spot sees little to no sun at all, here are some plants that love just that:

Astilbe:
Astilbes are amazing bog plants for their showy flower spikes. These plumes of soft colour can come in various shades, all the way from white to crimson and every pink in between. They are low-maintenance, deer resistant, and a favourite of butterflies. All they need to succeed is acidic soil to start and an annual pruning in early spring.

Hosta:
Also known as Plantain Lilies, Hostas have been a number one choice of gardeners everywhere for years. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colours, and give an amazing show of big and bold leaves that can’t be missed. They’ll also sport spikes of little bellflowers in the summer, giving them an extra layer of texture to love. Try my favourites: August Moon, Big Daddy, and Blue Ivory for incredible variety.

Cardinal Flower:
Cardinal Flowers are amazing bog plants that skirt the line where shade is concerned. They do like a little morning sun, but can’t stand the harsh afternoon rays, so they’re best planted in that transitional spot. They sport gorgeous plumes of blue, tubular flower that hummingbirds and butterflies adore. While they can be low-maintenance in the right conditions, this flower is really only hardy to Zone 4a, so they’ll take a lot of tenderizing to make it in the winter. Also known for being toxic, take care around kids and pets.

You’ve heard the basic plant needs reiterated over and over again: “well-draining soil, weekly watering, doesn’t like wet feet”. With this in mind, planting in a boggy spot seemed impossible. No longer! These effortlessly awesome bog plants make filling your garden easy once more.

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