Mint 101

One of my personal favourites, mint is one of the most versatile herbs out there. Whether you’re going for a sweet or savoury dish, a crisp refreshing cocktail, or a warm mug full of soothing herbal tea, mint adds a just the zing you need for both flavour and fragrance. Mint is making a comeback in a huge way, not just in cooking, but in design too!

mint

Mint Colour Theory

The colour mint goes with nearly everything. We’re talking true mint, not the bright turquoise shade commonly associated with Tiffany’s. True mint is a soft, muted green-grey shade that has all the benefits of a neutral tone, yet it’s anything but bland. Green is crisp and revitalizing, but the hint of metallic grey gives it a contemporary feel, fusing plant life and nature with science and technology.

Mint is also growing in popularity because of its classification as a gender-neutral shade. Some folks aren’t into the ultra-feminine hues and you certainly see a lot of those in gardening, so mint green is a great option if gender-neutral tones are the goal.

A garden that has a mix of clean, mint green tones will complement whatever paint colours are featured in your home, blending seamlessly while adding a fresh, updated feel. You might assume a garden comprised of mainly green tones would be unexciting and conventional, but with the cool, silver undertones, it really adds that “wow” factor.

mint garden

Growing Mint in Your Flower Bed

Obviously, if you’re going to have a mint-themed garden, the first plant you should consider adding to the mix is – you guessed it – mint. Kind of a no-brainer there! This popular herb has an endless variety of uses (seriously, is there anything this plant doesn’t do?) plus it’s pretty easy to cultivate.

Mint is a perennial that likes partial sunlight with a bit of shade. So long as the soil is light with good drainage and watered regularly, your mint will be happy. It’s a speedy grower, and you’ll get a few chances to harvest it throughout the growing season, either by picking leaves off when you need them or cutting off the entire plant, leaving a stem about 1.5 inches tall.

Here’s a list of some of the many uses of this fragrant flowering herb:

Mint is a tasty addition to drinks, both hot and cold. Peppermint tea? Heck yes. Pineapple mint mojitos and cucumber mint gin sodas? Double yes.

It’s a versatile flavour in loads of exotic dishes. Vietnamese salad rolls, Thai green curries, and Mediterranean garlic yoghurt sauces all feature mint as the stand-out star.

It’s a nice palette cleanser. In places like Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, big bushels of fresh mint are served on platters, to nibble on between mouthfuls of flavourful, spicy meat and rice dishes.

It’s a wildly popular plant among pollinators. Bees, butterflies and other winged insects that pollinate our flowers are much more likely to frequent your garden if it’s full of this aromatic herb.

Yet, it’s not so popular among the unwanted pests. Biting insects and unwanted plant-munchers aren’t so fond of this fragrant herb. Mosquitoes, flies, ants, and even animals, like mice and deer, are repelled by mint.

It’s great for your gut. Mint improves digestion, helps balance gut flora, and freshens your breath.   
Plus, it’s good for the head and the heart, too. Mint has been shown to improve mental awareness and increase heart vitality.

Mint-Toned Foliage and Flowers to Plant in Spring   
Pictured Above: Dusty Miller, Artemisia, Echeveria

Mint-Toned Foliage and Flowers to Plant in Spring   

If you’re thinking of going for a crisp, green-grey colour scheme with your garden, here’s a list of other plants you can include in your mint green garden:

Eucalyptus: If you’ve been keeping up with Chip and Joanna Gaines and their spectacular home designs, you’ve probably noticed their recent love of eucalyptus. Simple, green wreaths made from eucalyptus are stunning additions to bare walls and doors, and a few strategically-placed sprigs throughout the home make a big statement.  

Echeveria Succulents: These waxy-leafed spiralling plants are all the rage right now. Images of echeveria are popping up in textiles and art pieces everywhere you look. They’re that pretty!

Dusty Miller: This fuzzy, silver-green plant has such a peculiar yet pretty shape– it kind of looks like it belongs in a coral reef. Dusty miller’s lighter metallic tones really amp up the cool tones in your flower garden colour palette.  

Blue Spruce Sedum: This popular variety of ground cover plant has a subtle, blue-green tint that makes it look kind of like spruce needles. Keep in mind, a pop of colour will briefly appear in June with this one when bright pink stems emerge from the foliage and lemon-yellow blossoms sit on top.

Artemisia: Many gardeners choose this shrub for their flower garden designs, as its soft, silvery-green foliage helps balance any colour palette, especially to break up two bolder contrasting colours. Adding it in the mix for your mint-toned garden will create a streamlined look that’s trendy and modern.

Whether you’re growing the herb to spice up your life, or simply taking the colour inspiration into your home, this year’s mint trend is hard to beat. To grab your own herb or mint-hued plant today, stop by the greenhouse today!


Cactus Care Tips PLUS Hottest Varieties

There’s no denying that cacti are some of the coolest plants out there. They come in all kinds of peculiar shapes and sizes – some miniature and some 40 feet tall! You might assume these hardy succulents don’t require much care since they’re able to tough it out in the desert, but every cactus is a little different, so there are a few things to keep in mind when caring for your own.                               

cactus care

Basics of Indoor Cactus Care

Since cacti are accustomed to the hot and sandy conditions of the desert (and not the cold and wet conditions of Alberta), you’re going to want to make sure your soil has excellent drainage. There are special soil blends available made especially for cacti, but you can also just mix some perlite with regular potting soil. Ideally, you’ll also want to find a pot that has some good draining holes in it. If your pot is sealed, it’s trickier, but not impossible to protect your cactus from splitting, or even worse: root rot. Just make sure you water it less and always check that the soil has dried out before you water it again.

Cacti typically like lots of sunlight, so placing them on a windowsill is your best bet. Keep in mind, cacti tend to lean towards the side that the sun is on, so if you don’t want to end up with a lopsided cactus, rotate your cactus 90° every month. Sometimes intense sunlight can be a bit much for a cactus and they’ll start to bleach, creating white, yellow, or orange spots. If this happens, move it to a slightly shadier spot. If the cactus is stretching thin at the top or is starting to look weak, it’s probably not getting enough sun. Instead of immediately moving it to a sunnier window, inch it closer day by day so it doesn’t get shocked by the change.

Caring for Cactus Plants Through the Seasons

At the start of each spring, repot your cactus into a slightly bigger pot than before. Pick off any dead bits near the roots, then firmly pack down the fresh soil around the base. After you transplant it, you’ll want to hold off on watering for a couple of weeks. Keep it away from super bright sunlight during this time, then transition it back to the windowsill over a couple of days. During the warmer spring and summer months, water your cactus with a little liquid 10-10-10 fertilizer mixed into the water.

Summertime is the natural growing season for cacti, but if you want to ensure that your cactus produces beautiful blooms, you’ll have to give it a chance to rest and build up energy by easing it into dormancy. This period usually spans from mid-autumn until the end of winter. All you have to do is move the plant to a shadier spot in the house, stop fertilizing it, and cut back on watering to about once a month.    

Hottest Cactus Varieties of 2019

Obviously, you aren’t going to want a 40-foot cactus in your house, but thankfully there are tons of ornamental varieties that are the perfect size for indoors. Just make sure you place them in a spot that you aren’t going to lean or bump into!

saguaro cactus

Saguaro Cactus [Carnegiea gigantea]: These tall boys are the ones you see out in the desert reaching colossal heights, but they’re so slow to grow that you can easily keep a small one in the house. They can even live for up to 200 years! Saguaros like to be watered about once a month.

old lady cactus

Old Lady Cactus [Mammillaria hahniana]: This one is kind of adorable and hilarious. As the name would suggest, this round cactus is covered in fluffy, white hairs like the top of your granny’s head and wears a crown of tiny bright pink flowers. Water it once every two weeks in the summer, then once a month in the winter.  

Bunny-Ears Cactus [Opuntia microdasys]: This knobbly Mexican cactus reaches heights of 2-3 feet, so it’s a reasonably-sized houseplant. Water it every three weeks or so, expose it to partial sunlight, and in summer you’ll see some white blooms and purple fruits!

star cactus

Star Cactus [Astrophytum asterias]: This popular variety is kind of like a curvy octagon, with a yellow blossom that sits on top. It’s on the smaller side, usually ranging somewhere between 2 and 6 inches in height.

thanksgiving cactus

Thanksgiving Cactus [Schlumbergera]: This one resembles a typical hanging basket houseplant more than your typical tall sturdy cactus. Depending on the kind you get, it can produce winter flowers in yellow, pink, purple, white, or the most festive option, red. It’s a little different than other cacti, because it’s used to the humid climate of Brazil, so it prefers weekly watering and a light misting every so often.  

easter cactus

Easter Cactus [Hatiora gaertneri]: This guy is pretty similar to the Thanksgiving cactus and prefers humidity, but instead of blooming in the winter, you’ll see bright blossoms in the early spring.  

Barrel Cactus [Echinocactus grusonii]: This tiny, spiny round cactus looks great on a bookshelf or as part of a coffee table centrepiece. Just make sure it gets lots of sun! Water it every 3-5 weeks in the summer and barely at all in the winter.

If you want a cool houseplant that really stands out, pick up a cactus for yourself and find it a sunny spot in your house. Let’s be honest, this plant is pretty badass, so it’s sure to bring a little attitude to your home aesthetic.

Bug Friendly Gardening

bug friendly gardening

Some folks tend to get a bit squeamish at the sight of bugs scuttling around their yard, but it’s time we shift our perspectives and appreciate everything that beneficial insects have to offer. For too long gardeners have treated all bugs as pests, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The long-term damage from overuse of pesticides has had some terrible consequences: 40% of pollinators are now at risk of global extinction and flying insect populations have plummeted by 75%.

Plants rely on pollinators to help them reproduce and grow, and if we don’t start making changes to the way we handle pest control, plant life will suffer, as well. Luckily, there’s lots of insect-friendly garden ideas out there to help make life easier for our tiny winged friends.

organic pest control bug friendly gardening

Prevent Pests Naturally with Organic Garden Pest Control Chemical pesticides do a lot more harm than good, so it makes sense to opt for natural methods of pest prevention that keep the good garden bugs safe and your vegetables chemical-free. Plus, many insects, like spiders and dragonflies, help to destroy the bad guys, so you want to make your garden a safe space for them to live. Consider these all-natural resources and techniques for keeping the invasive species at bay.

Soapy water: Filling a spray bottle with a mix of natural castile soap and water is an effective way of killing unwanted bugs that set up camp in your garden. Spray the bugs directly, as well as the underside of leaves where they are likely to hide.

Neem Oil: This is a powerful pest killer that doesn’t hurt bees, butterflies, or spiders. Mites, aphids, nematodes, mealybugs, and many other unwanted visitors don’t stand a chance against neem oil, as it prevents the maturation of larvae, clogs up insect breathing holes, and ceases feeding.  

Build DIY Traps: There’s tons of different bug traps that you can make with cheap, everyday materials you probably already have in your home, like old pop bottles and milk jugs. Look online for tutorials on how to build a trap specific for the kind of bug you want to keep out of the yard.

Plant Marigolds: These bright and sunny blossoms attract pollinators from far and wide, but they produce a scent that makes nasty pests run for the hills.

Beer: Yes, you read correctly! Beer is a great repellant of slugs and snails, so crack open a cold one, pour it into some shallow saucers, and hide them around the garden.

mason bee house bug friendly gardening

Gardening for Insects: Attract the Good Garden Bugs

Preventing invasive pests naturally is one part of the puzzle, but it’s also important to attract pollinators and other beneficial bugs. There are loads of things you can do to make your backyard a popular hangout for useful insects, so show these bees some love:

Plant native shrubs and trees: These blossoming plants are a familiar source of nectar for pollinators. Make some space for them in your garden and you’ll be sure the generate some buzz among the bee community.

Mow your lawn once every 2 weeks: This seems to be the magic number for attracting bees, because mowing every week will lead them to stop pollinating plants, which will prevent flowers from growing. Mowing every three weeks, however, causes the grass to get so long that pollinators have trouble reaching low-growing flowers.

Create more habitats for insects to thrive: Adding a pond to your yard or applying compost to your garden will help create space for beneficial insects to camp out and reproduce.  

Build a bee hotel: Simply drilling holes into chunks of wood will attract lone bees who are looking for a place to rest. Set your bee hotel up so the holes are facing south – this way it will stay nice and warm for them.

butterfly bug friendly gardening

Other Helpful Garden Insects and their Favourite Plants

Some plants are particularly popular among beneficial insects. Here’s a list of some of our favourite friendly insects and the flowers that attract them.

Lady Bugs: These cute, spotted beetles feast on aphids and other plant-destroyers, and they’re attracted to fragrant plants, such as dill, chamomile, yarrow, and goldenrod.

Spiders: Spiders trap and kill all sorts of unwanted pests, so make them feel welcome by planting nasturtium and sunflowers.

Hoverflies: These underappreciated pollinators are often mistaken for wasps, and they’re doubly useful as they also eat cabbage worms, mealy bugs, and aphids. They’re big fans of smelly garden herbs like cilantro, catnip, and oregano.

Butterflies: These little winged beauties don’t pollinate quite as speedily as other insects, but their long tongues give them access to flowers many bees can’t reach. Butterfly bushes, delphiniums, asters, and phlox are sure to attract them like a magnet.

Creating a bug-friendly garden and encouraging your friends to do the same can help reverse the harmful effects chemical pesticides have had on our ecosystem. It might not seem like much, but by taking these simple steps and making changes to your existing gardening practices, you can help the bee population thrive, while improving rates of pollination and food production in the process.

Planting for Mother Nature

There’s no doubt gardening is fantastic for your health. It’s easy to see the benefits of having fresh homegrown food and getting regular outdoor exercise. But sometimes we forget about the other beneficiary who continues to profit when we garden: Mother Nature. Now, anyone with a basic understanding of environmental issues knows that Mother Nature is a gal with a lot on her plate, and we need to make changes in the way we live day-to-day so we can reduce our negative impact and keep her healthy and thriving.

When you grow and care for plants, there are so many potential environmental benefits, but if you’re careless in your gardening techniques, you could be increasing your carbon footprint and actually hurting the environment. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to make your impact on nature more positive without breaking too much of a sweat.

Planting for Mother Nature

Gardening Plants and Environment Impact

One of the most pressing environmental issues we face is irresponsible waste disposal. In a world full of single-use plastics and disposable everything, we need to improve our habits and become conscious consumers, making environmentally responsible choices every day. A guiding principle to being successful in waste reduction is to always make the best use out of available renewable resources and avoid accumulating unnecessary junk.               

Growing your own food already helps to eliminate waste, because food from the garden means fewer trips to the grocery store, and less plastic bags and food packaging in your garbage bin. But to really optimize your impact through environmentally-friendly gardening, it’s best to try and go totally waste-free.

Compost

Easy Steps for Going Green and Reducing Household Waste

Get a Compost Bin. Make soil, not waste! Wasting food is a huge problem, with 1/3 of the world’s food getting thrown into landfills every year, producing high volumes of methane that contribute to climate change. When you compost natural, organic material instead of tossing it in the trash, you can reduce your household waste by up to 50%, while creating rich fertilizer that improves the health of plants and soil in your yard.

Start Upcycling. Finding creative ways to repurpose old objects that you no longer use helps keep junk from piling up in landfills. That old teacup with the small crack in the side? Perfect for sprouting seeds on the windowsill. The birdcage that’s been collecting dust in the garage ever since your parakeet -ahem- “…flew away?” GIve it a coat of paint and turn it into a plant terrarium! One less piece of garbage in the landfills is a big win for Mother Nature.

Avoid Unnecessary Packaging. So many foods, especially produce, come in packages that aren’t biodegradable. When you go shopping, bring your own reusable produce bags instead of the disposable plastic bags provided. Try shopping at bulk food shops where you scoop and weigh your items, so you can buy exactly the amount you need, without the cardboard box or foil bag they usually come in.

Freeze Garden Veggies for Later. Some edible plants can produce an overwhelming volume of food at one time, and it’s a shame to waste all that amazing food simply because you’re unable to eat it all in before it spoils. Tomato plants are notorious for this, but thankfully tomatoes are one of many other plants that can be easily tossed in the freezer for several months until they’re needed for a recipe.

Apply Mulch to Your Garden Bed. Not only is mulching a great way to make use of waste you usually wouldn’t think twice about tossing away (think grass clippings, leaves, and pine needles), it helps to conserve moisture in the soil, so you don’t need to water your garden with the hose as often. Plus, as the material breaks down, it releases loads of nutrients into the soil to help feed the plants.

Yarrow
Pictured Above: Yarrow

Plants That Help the Environment

Choosing certain plants to include in your garden can have a profound effect on soil quality and other elements in the surrounding environment. Add some of these to your shopping list next time you hit up our greenhouse, and Mother Nature will thank you:

Native wildflowers: Bright blossoms that grow naturally in our area, such as lavender and yarrow, are both highly recognizable and appealing to our pollinator friends. This gives the bees a food source and helps our garden grow and reproduce. Just remember to use organic pesticides that don’t hurt pollinators, because a chemical pesticide is no friend of the bees.  

Bracken Ferns: These lush leafy plants are actually highly effective at absorbing dangerous heavy metals like lead, copper, and cadmium from the soil.

Beans and Legumes: These tasty and filling vegetables are a popular option to include in an edible garden, but did you know they also deliver high levels of nitrogen directly into the soil? This improves soil quality drastically, leading to bigger and healthier plants throughout the garden.

Trees, Trees and More Trees: Having a yard full of trees not only produces high volumes of oxygen, but it could actually save money on your energy bill! Studies show that people with lots of shade and tree cover spend less on air conditioning every year.

Creating a garden that makes a positive impact on the world around us is pretty easy— you just need to practice responsible habits and find creative ways to reduce waste. Remember: be a conscious consumer, and think critically about what you purchase, how you use it, and how you dispose of it.


Breathe Life Into Your Home With Our Top 10 Favourite Houseplants

A house just isn’t a home without a houseplant. Aside from the multitude of benefits to be gained — air purifier, oxygen booster, mood booster — houseplants add an element of style to your decor that can’t be mimicked with furniture. There is something about the delicate demeanor of a lacy leaf overarching from its container, or the way a tropical plant immediately takes you to the islands. My houseplants help me stay in touch with the natural world – even in the depths of an Alberta deep-freeze.

That being said, it can be overwhelming to walk into a packed garden centre and select the perfect plant for you and your home. I’ve highlighted my top ten favorite houseplant families to get you started.

Up-and-Coming Freshmakers:

Most houseplants you see today have been around for years. It’s only recently that some particular varieties have caught the eye of the masses, and for good reason. These trendy plants add a lot of eclectic character to your decor scheme.

Our Top 10 Favourite Houseplants

Aglaonema

While the name is hard to pronounce, Aglaonemas are super easy to care for. As a plus, Aglaonemas clean the air for you, flushing out the toxins and oxygenating your surroundings. Low light, medium light or bright, indirect light – almost anywhere you’d like to place them, they’ll flourish. Oh, and you can call them Chinese Evergreens if you prefer. That’s their stage name.

ZZ Plant

Talk about a plant that’ll sit in the corner, not say a peep, tolerate the most intolerable conditions and still love you like the dog does when you come home from work. ZZ is the perfect plant to kickstart your urban jungle. Its upright branching habit opens to display sleek, glossy dark-green leaves.

Bromeliads

The family of bromeliads is vast! The variety of tropical foliage and flower combos are sometimes overwhelming, but their maintenance is most certainly not. Extra bonus: The blooms last a long time. Really long. With bright, indirect light shining down on them, they’ll find their happy place in your house.

Pilea

Probably one of the most sought-after plants on the market today, varieties of pilea are considered the pass-along-plant or Chinese Money plant which might have spurred their celebrity status. The round leaves that arch their way outward from the base give an impression of a silver dollar being gently placed in your hand. Pileas prefer brighter light to thrive and send a wealth of good omens your way.  


Tried-and-True Masters:

Grandma’s favourites are now our favourites. They say green thumbs skip a generation and that may be so, but for the most part, these treasured plants are being passed down as heirlooms.

Pothos

Ironically, pothos have been a hot-topic plant for their inability to die. Their genealogy spans for decades as each plant was lovingly propagated from your grandma’s grandma’s day. I think its recent surge in popularity has come along with the pothos’ new reputation as a trailing plant versus the upright, pole-hugging plant of yesterday.

Spider Plant

A name is just a name, right? In this case, it says EVERYTHING about this plant. The overarching growth habit of the Spider Plant resembles a spider – right down to its lil baby starter plants that spring off the mother plant! Typically found in variegation form, the Spider Plant prefers low to medium light and minimal watering. And it does NOT attract spiders!

Rubber Plant

Another one for the ages, the Rubber Plant is actually part of the Ficus family (think Fiddle-Leaf fig) but it’s more like the black sheep of the family. Its ultra-dark green, almost black, waxy leaves make a bold statement in any room. It’s less finicky than other fig varieties as its thick leaves are more tolerant of temperature fluctuations. Yet, bright, indirect light is best for the Rubber Plant to rise to the ceiling of your space.

Our Top 10 Favourite Houseplants

Sansevieria or Snake Plant

While the Spider Plant’s name is understandable, “Snake Plant” is tough to correlate to the plant’s habits. Same thought could be applied to its other name: Mother-in-Law’s Tongue. Regardless of its name, you can rest assured the plant doesn’t come with any imposing needs or a penchant for attracting reptiles. The Sansevieria’s strict, upright habit is striking – especially in varieties with contrasting, coloured edges. And it’s another “sit still, look pretty” type of plant that requires little maintenance, care, or light. Sansevieria is just happy to be here, wherever “here” may be.

Peace Lily

Most often known for being a remembrance piece following a family tragedy, the Peace Lily’s reputation is cluttered with mixed feelings. Truth be told, its peaceful and easy-going personality is everything one would desire from a plant. The Peace Lily never expects much, lets you know when she needs water, and tolerates some of the darkest spaces within a home.

While these are just a few of the options available these days, these houseplants would be a perfect fit for plant parents of any skill level – from ‘experienced houseplant masters’ to ‘serial plant killers’. Go on, fill your home with them. Trust me; you can never have too many.


Hot New Plants for the Landscape

Can you believe we’re almost halfway through March? Spring is so close, I can practically smell the lilacs already! It’s time to say sayonara to the snow, and hello to landscaping season. When it comes to choosing your backyard plants and designing a layout, it’s always more exciting to branch out and try new things instead of sticking with the same old, same old. If you’re in need of a little inspiration, take a gander at this list of bright and distinctive plants that will thrive here in Zone 3.

Backyard Landscaping Ideas: Out of the Ordinary Plants and Flowers

If you want your yard to really impress, why play it safe and stick to just the basics? Experiment with bold colours and exotic flowers that will give your garden some serious Wow-factor. It’s low risk, high reward! Here’s a few picks that are sure to make a statement on their own or as a centrepiece to some of your classic favorites:

Hot New Plants for the Landscape Out of the Ordinary

Columbine: There are so many neat colour combos of columbine available. I love the way the rounded inner blossom contrasts with the bold colours of its spiky outer petals. The foliage is pretty spectacular too— watch it change from deep green to burgundy as summer turns to fall.

Balloon Flowers: They’re the flower within a flower (flower-ception!) that starts out as a puffed-up balloon-shaped bud, but bursts open into a gorgeous star-shaped blossom. They usually begin to bloom by mid-July, and while they do best in sunny spots, a little bit of partial shade won’t hurt.

Alliums: These vivid, spherical blooms look like they’re straight out of a Dr. Seuss illustration. They’re actually an ornamental species of onion, and they come in many colours and sizes, some reaching up to four feet tall! They’re perennials, so once you plant them, they’ll come back to greet you each spring. However, it’s important to note that you can only plant these pom-pom flowers in the autumn, so if you like the look of these whimsical blossoms, you’ll have to plan ahead for next year.  

Shade Plants for Low Light Areas

It can be tough to find that perfect bloom that packs a punch even in the shaded corners of your yard. Instead of treating those spots like a chore to fill, try these stunners:

Hot New Plants for the Landscape Shade Plants

Bleeding Hearts: These flowers are eager to get blooming, so not only will they be one of the first to make an appearance in your garden this spring, they may very likely steal the show with their peculiar-but-iconic shape and bright pink petals. They like their soil nice and moist, so regular watering is a must.

Ladies Mantle: This shady lady is wonderfully low-maintenance, so you don’t need to worry too much about fertilizer or extra watering. A little rain is all it needs to stay happy. It’s lime-tinted blossoms are pretty subtle up against its bright green foliage, so no matter what your chosen colour palette is, ladies mantle shouldn’t clash. It doesn’t grow too high, so consider filling out some of the shadier patches and corners of your garden with this one.

False Goat’s Beard: As you can probably guess by the name, this plant sports a shaggy, pointy hairstyle (although its neon colours make it look a bit more like one of those Troll dolls, in my humble opinion). It blooms from June to September, so you can enjoy those cute colourful tufts all summer long.  

Ground Cover Plants and Flowers for Landscape Edging

Just because you need some plants for edging and borders doesn’t mean that they have to be boring. There are tons of classics out there to choose from, but why not try something new (you might find a new favourite!) this year in your garden to highlight everything else you have going on:

Hot New Plants for the Landscape Ground Cover Plants

Muscari: These conical indigo flowers don’t grow very high (only about 6-8 inches), so they’re a great pick for borders. They look particularly stunning when planted in front of tall flowers in bright contrasting shades of orange and yellow, like daffodils.  

Thrift: This low-growing flower comes in every shade of pink imaginable. It likes its soil nice and sandy with good drainage, so try not to overwater it, because root rot is its sworn enemy.  

Creeping Phlox: These pastel-flowered plants are pretty easy to please and can thrive in even the roughest of soil conditions. They tend to creep their way over rocks, so planting them around decorative paving stones can lead to some pretty fantastic results.

Dragon’s Blood Sedum: This flower obviously wins the title for most badass name, but it’s also pretty awesome as far as colour goes. It starts with a bright red bud that bursts open, revealing a star-shaped magenta flower that slowly gets deeper and redder as autumn approaches.

Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something different can lead to some pretty incredible discoveries, so why not get creative this year and design a backyard landscape full of these eye-catching beauties? Trust me, when the compliments from your neighbours start rolling in, you’ll be glad you went the extra mile to make your garden pop.

Edible Gardening with Kids

Edible Gardening with Kids

Edible Gardening with Kids

Getting kids to enthusiastically eat their greens isn’t always a walk in the park, (let’s face it, it’s hard to make broccoli seem exciting next to a chicken nugget). Luckily, we’ve figured out a great way to pique your children’s interest in fresh vegetables: getting them set up with their very own food garden.

Kids are curious mini-scientists by nature, and they’re sure to get a kick out of the process of creating a garden and watching it develop day by day. Anything that can get kids outdoors, eating healthy, and eager to learn without the use of Wi-Fi or a tablet is good in my books.  

Edible Gardening with Kids Activities

Children’s Gardening Activities

Start by helping your child pick out some tools and equipment for their gardening project. A sense of ownership and a little creative control can really motivate kids and encourage them to work independently. When it’s their own special project, they’re inspired to make it the best it can be. Purchasing some trowels, gardening gloves, and decorative planters in their favourite colours is a great way to kick off their first, and hopefully not last, edible gardening endeavour.

If your child is an artsy type, set up some paints and craft supplies so they can decorate their planters. Stick a couple of googly eyes onto a terracotta pot, give it a snappy name, plant some seeds, and watch as Captain Majestic grows a lush head of leafy green hair as he sunbathes on the windowsill.

When you’ve decided on which vegetables your kids would like to try planning, get them to write out and decorate some plant labels, and attach them onto toothpicks to stick into each pot to keep things organized.   

Edible Gardening with Kids Seed Starting

Edible Gardening Ideas for Kids

Planting seeds in small cups and letting them sprout on the windowsill until they’re ready to make their way into the yard is a good way to get started earlier in the season with your edible gardening, while also increasing your chances of a successful yield. Each morning at breakfast, your family can check up on their little plants and track their growth. By the time they’re ready to get transplanted into the garden or a bigger pot in the yard, the kids will be brimming with anticipation.

When you plant your seeds, make sure you put two or three in each cup. This way, as they start to sprout, you can pick out the weaker ones and cultivate the strongest one. This can be particularly helpful if you have multiple kids who tend to get competitive, because if one child’s bean plant isn’t growing quite as well as the others, they might get a bit crabby.

When it’s time to transplant your seedlings, choose a designated area of the yard to be their own personal gardening zone. Help them set up their decorated planters on a sunny corner of the patio or assist them in digging up some holes in the garden to place their plants in. Remind them to be gentle when placing their plants into their new home, because if the roots get jostled too much it could cause some damage.  

Edible Gardening with Kids Vegetables

Gardening Vegetables: Basics and Beginner Projects   

Some veggies are a little more low-maintenance and easier to cultivate than others. Here’s a list of viable options for a kid-friendly garden that will produce a sizeable amount of fresh food for your family to enjoy:

Green Beans: These really are the perfect starter vegetable for younger kids, since they grow quite fast. Plus, they don’t take up too much space, so you can grow them in containers or the garden – whatever floats your boat.

Tomatoes: Smaller varieties of tomatoes are also pretty quick to develop and the amount of food they produce is pretty impressive. Plus, they can be used in a lot of kid-approved meals, like pizza, spaghetti and nachos. If you end up with more tomatoes than you can manage to eat in time, encourage your child to bag some up and give them to friends and family. Trust me, if they’re anything like mine, they’ll love boasting about how they grew their own food.

Cucumbers: They aren’t too tricky to cultivate, and their mild flavour is a winner among fussy eaters who don’t like the bitterness of some raw veggies. Crack open a tub of dip and enjoy!

Radishes: Another fast grower, but with a zesty flavour that’s got just the right amount of spice for a kid to handle, radishes are a particular favourite among the younger crowd. Something about pulling out a radish from the soil to reveal a bright red clown nose evokes excitement in the most wholesome way.

With our world creeping closer and closer to being run by technology and spending time indoors, getting our children interested and engaged with the world outdoors is as important as ever. It’s a great way to make sure they explore, develop, ask questions, and learn with us as we share something so important.


Have-to-Have Houseplants for 2019

Monstera Delicosa

Split-Leaf Monstera
Monstera deliciosa
While Instagram may have made the Swiss Cheese plant popular, we’ve been admiring their splits for years! It’s truly magical to watch the ebb and flow of the leaves emerge and unfold into a palm-sized beauty. Beyond its good looks, Split-Leaf monstera is excellent at holding its own with bright, indirect light and minimal watering making it an ideal low-maintenance beauty to commit to. If the light is too low, the plant may grow a little lanky, sprawling outward, but will still perform well. There may also be less splitting in the leaves.


🌿For the exuberant at heart, Split-Leaf monstera mimic’s your best personality traits for the perfect wingman.

Starfish Snake Plant Sansevieria cylindrica
Image Via Gardening Know How

Starfish Snake Plant
Sansevieria cylindrica
A rare specimen unique to the Sansevieria family, Starfish resembles more of a fat-fingered succulent, than other flat-bladed Snake Plant varieties. The care is essentially the same – less is more – as this dreamycoastal plant prefers drier soil. Also, bright, filtered light is preferred to maintain their subtle striping, but if necessary lower light will still keep a Starfish pointing upward.

🌿Starfish Snake Plant is ideal for the roaming wanderlust-filled plant lover who travels often, yearning for the salty air.

Singapore Twist cordyline Cordyline fruiticosa ‘Singapore Twist’
Image Via Dave’s Garden

Singapore Twist cordyline
Cordyline fruiticosa ‘Singapore Twist’
Singapore Twist’s burgundy-purple foliage intertwines together creating a fan-like feature of epic proportions. Showcase its pompous twists where the leaves can they receive a lot of light and warm air, making a tropical vibe their home. When the summer rolls around, take your Singapore Twist to the patio for the party to reinvigorate their color.

🌿For the exotic beauties, Singapore Twist will keep your head in the clouds and your soul on the beach.

Variegated Cast Iron Plant Aspidistra elatior ‘Variegata”

Variegated Cast Iron Plant
Aspidistra elatior ‘Variegata”

A tried-and-true variety from the yesterdays with a modern-day spin, the variegated leaves of the Cast Iron Plant will shine in almost any environment. Minimal watering is needed for this foliage fox to thrive, in fact, it may go weeks before needing a drink. That’s tough like cast iron! Place this stout plant where the light is filtered and not too bright.

🌿Variegated Cast Iron plant will stand guard for plant parents needing bold structure in their gathering spaces.


Seed Starting Indoors

seed starting indoors

Here in Edmonton, we’re no strangers to freezing cold winters, so when spring rolls around, our soil often isn’t quite toasty enough to directly plant seeds in our gardens. Luckily, starting your seeds indoors is pretty easy, and it won’t compromise the quality of your plant if you follow the necessary steps.


Prepare to Plant Seeds

Before you dive into planting, make sure you check the back of the seed packet for any special instructions on preparing your seeds. Bigger seeds with hard shells, like beans and squash, need to be soaked overnight to soften up. Other seeds, like lavender and catmint, need to be chilled first to help break them out of dormancy by mimicking the conditions of transitioning from winter to spring.

Some seeds with particularly tough exteriors, like morning glories and nasturtiums, need their shells scratched up and weakened to help them sprout. You can do this by rubbing your seeds gently with sandpaper or putting tiny nicks into the surface with a knife. Just make sure you’re only cracking the outer surface of the seed while still leaving the inside intact.


When to Plant Vegetable Seeds

Figure out the frost date in your area (typically early May here in Edmonton) and plan accordingly. Every plant is different, so you’ll want to avoid transplanting them into the garden too early or too late. If you do it too early, they could fall victim to frost, and if you wait too long and keep them indoors for longer than necessary, they could get a bit leggy and limp.

Many common plants, like tomatoes, need about 6-8 weeks of growth before moving out into the yard, but some will need a little more or little less time. Just read that seed packet ahead of time to be sure you’re timing things out right.  


Planting Tools and Equipment for Seed Starting Indoors

To increase your odds of a successful seed starting endeavour, here are a few tools that will make things a little easier:

Grow lights. There isn’t exactly an overwhelming surplus of sunshine in February. So, to make sure your seedlings are getting enough rays, use a grow light for about 12 hours a day. Don’t leave it on overnight, though — remember, you’re trying to mimic outdoor conditions, so 24/7 sunshine isn’t gonna bode well for your plants.

Peat pots. Some plants have delicate roots that get jumbled up during transplantation, so to avoid this altogether, plant your seeds in plantable peat pots that can be popped directly in the soil. Easy peasy!

Dome lids. Edmonton air can be treacherously dry in late winter, and seeds that crave humidity won’t be too keen on our climate. Placing a dome lid over their containers should help to lock in moisture.


Plants to Start Seeding

Not sure which seeds to start with? Here’s some recommendations for easy-to-start seeds for planting a garden in Edmonton:

Beans

Lettuce greens

Tomatoes

Spinach

Zucchinis & other summer squashes

Radishes

Peppers

Cucumbers

With this handy list of planting and gardening tips, all you need to do to get started is to pick a sunny window in your home and put together a slick setup for your seeds to sprout in. But don’t get too attached to your funky window display, because these babies gotta move out to the garden at the tail end of spring!


Eat What You Sow

Eat What You Sow

Edible gardening is rapidly gaining popularity, and for good reason. Sure, regular houseplants are great and all, but why not make the most out of your gardening endeavours and get some fresh fruits, veggies and herbs out of the deal? Nothing beats the bragging rights you’ve earned when you serve your friends a meal made from organic food grown in your very own home.


Benefits of Urban Food Gardening

Even if you don’t have a sprawling backyard to fill with vegetable plants, you can still create a pretty slick indoor garden using smaller container plants. The convenience an in-home garden brings to your cooking routine is pretty spectacular. You reap the benefits of garden-fresh organic food, skip the trips to the supermarket, and eliminate the frustration of big bushels of fresh herbs wilting in the fridge.

On top of the obvious convenience of having a produce section in your own home, edible gardening has tremendous health benefits. The nutrient content of fruits and vegetables reduces gradually the longer they’ve been picked off the plant, so by picking the exact amount you need right when you need it, you’re getting healthier food, with less waste as a result.


How To Start Vegetable Seeds

The best soil for starting seeds should mostly consist of peat, with a mix of perlite for good drainage. Pop it in some small cups or fill up an old paper egg carton. Before planting your seeds, be sure to read the instructions on the back of the seed pack, because some need to be chilled, soaked in water or scratched before you go ahead with germinating. It’s a good idea to put two seeds in each container, so once they sprout you can pluck out the weaker of the two. Find a sunny spot by a window and set up your seedlings. Some seedlings need a little extra humidity, so placing a dome over the cup should help trap in moisture.

If you’re planning on transplanting your seedlings outdoors, take note of the frost date in your area and plan accordingly. Here in Edmonton we’re usually looking at an early March frost date. If you wait too long to germinate your seeds, your summer harvest won’t be too impressive with such a limited growing season. Starting seeds indoors too early in the season sets your plants up for failure, because they just won’t get enough light when the days are much shorter. Even if you use a supplementary growing light, this could cause your plant to start flowering too early, when ideally you want your plant to begin flowering after you’ve transplanted it to ensure the best possible yield.   

If you plan on keeping your plants indoors, make sure you’ve got a sunny window, preferably South or West facing, to set up your indoor garden by. If your home is particularly dry, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a humidifier, because many plants like lettuce and cucumber prefer the air to be a bit more moist.


Indoor Vegetable Gardening Tips

While not every fruit or vegetable is keen on growing indoors, there are more than enough viable options out there to make for a tricked-out kitchen garden. Herbs are always a great starting point— they don’t take up too much space, they’re easy to care for, and they make a huge impact on the quality of your cooking. If surface area is limited in your kitchen, try installing a hanging herb garden in your window— it’s like edible art, perfectly backlit by the sun.

Now, herbs aren’t exactly the foundation of a meal, so if you’d like to grow something a little more substantial size-wise, try your hand at growing some of these edible plants that fare well in indoor containers:

Lettuce Greens: We all could stand to eat a few more salads now and then, so growing lettuce at home is a great option if you’re looking for a quick convenient meal that doesn’t break the bank. If salads aren’t your thing, blend lettuce greens into a yoghurt and berry smoothie, and you’ll barely taste the difference.  

Arugula:Whoever said salads were boring obviously has never encountered arugula, because this flavorful leafy green has serious attitude. Balance out the spiciness with something sweet, like a honey-lemon vinaigrette with sliced beets and goat cheese. It also makes a great topping for burgers and creamy pastas. If you’re the impatient results-oriented type, you’ll love arugula, because this plant doesn’t waste any time, and reaches maturity in around a month and a half.  

Lemons: Pick up a dwarf lemon tree for your kitchen, and the hipsters and artsy types in your life will be swooning. Has anyone else noticed lemon motifs popping up everywhere right now? While this option may take a lot longer to produce food than the typical indoor gardening project, the payoff is so worth it. Dinner, dessert, tea time, and cocktail hour will be extra snazzy with a twist of lemon from your very own tree.   

Strawberries: These tasty fruits grow quite well in containers, but you just need to make sure they’re getting tons of light and good soil drainage. If necessary, a little grow light should help it along. Keep it on for about 14 hours per day, and you’ll be in business in no time.

Tomatoes: While tomatoes can be a bit trickier to pull off indoors, it’s certainly not an impossible feat. They need about 8 hours of direct sunlight per day, so it’s probably in your best interests to grab a grow light. Small upright varieties of tomatoes like Red Robins and Florida Petites will do best (leave the jumbo beefeater tomatoes for growing outdoors).  

Have fun putting together your own kitchen garden, and don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment with new fruits and veggies you haven’t tried before. What’s the worst that could happen? Nothing wrong with a little trial and error, it’s all part of the learning experience. You’ll love having so many fresh ingredients on hand, and it’ll make for some of the most spectacular farm to table recipes you’ve ever tried (or in this case, windowsill to table).