Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Red and white garden for Canada Day

A cottage garden feel in the colours of the Canadian flag (with sunshiny touches of yellow). And a matching red door.
Just in time for Canada Day, a Leslieville garden full of ephemeral red poppies and what look like common ox-eye daisies. This stopped me in my tracks as I passed. Happy, happy Canada Day!

Patriotic or not, what a glorious combination!
It's hard to see from the photograph, but these are two shades of red. The one on the left has more blue.
These pics are the best I could do with my phone camera – still, I hope they communicate the loveliness of this display.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Free Wood Chip Mulch Delivered to My House? Yes, Please.

Mulch is a must to keep soil cool and moist. 

[EDITED July 1ST 2015: Sadly, the company we wrote about below only takes orders from U.S. Addresses, even though their website clearly asks for "postal codes". We've written them to ask about extending their reach to Canada and will update when we hear anything. In the meantime, arborists in Canada, does this spark any ideas?]

This is an exciting prospect. I'm always looking covetously at piles of wood mulch when I see arborists at work— chipping up all the branches they've removed—and wishing they would just dump it on my driveway instead of driving off with it to parts unknown. Now we can do that, with help from a service from a company called About Trees.

Arborist Mark Russell, of heads up a project where wood chips can be delivered to an address close to where the branches were chipped. Right now you can sign up on their website for free wood chips. How can they do this for free?
Tree services save a LOT of money when they recycle their wood chip mulch close to where they are working.  It saves a ton of fuel and THAT helps our environment!  This is why we created the free mulch program.
There are so many benefits to a project like this, not the least is saving diesel fuel and keeping mulch out of our overcrowded landfills.

  Mark Russell explains;

 Since 1997 I’ve delivered mulch across the city to the dump sites, all the while knowing that I was passing people who would love it. The problem was  the inefficiency of tree services maintaining their own separate in-house mulch request lists. I realized that we needed one centralized list for maximum efficiency.  So we built phase one and people love it!
 The Free Mulch app from will be the fastest way for the clients to get their mulch.  It saves the tree service time and fuel, and for every connection the app makes it prevents an average of 2 to 5 gallons of fuel being needlessly wasted and 12-30 cubic yards of valuable material out of the landfill!

 About Trees is now using Kickstarter to develop a smartphone app to match homeowners with those free mulch piles even more efficiently. The app sounds like a great idea, helping mulch givers and mulch wanters connect. It's a little bit like an Uber for Wood chips, except you can't order a specific day to receive your mulch, as it all depends on who is doing tree work in your area. There is a bit of the luck of the draw in the system, but hey, it's free! You can sign up for a load of free wood chip mulch here on your browser:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A windowbox rainbow for today

An arch of curly willow and a spectrum of flowers
It was Pride weekend in Toronto, and I was walking on Queen Street. Whatever the designer's intention, I chose to see this sweet combination as a rainbow. What do you think?

Monday, June 22, 2015

What is that white fluff, anyway?

No, it isn't snow. It's the fluffy seeds of the eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides). A row of mostly cottonwoods sits on the horizon at Tommy Thompson Park on the Leslie Street Spit.
Walking on the Spit last Saturday, my friend Sharon asked, "What is that white fluff, Helen?"

I was so glad she did. Because I often find myself boring my friends getting unduly excited about plants we see when we walk. But, as we've quoted from Jane Austen before, not everyone shares our passion for dead leaves or live ones, or in fact any part of plants.

"Look up," I was happy to tell her, because she wanted to know. "It's coming from the cottonwoods."

And I realized today that this post about our native eastern cottonwood tree (Populus deltoides) has been three years in the making. At least. That's how long I've been snapping pictures, intending to write about them. While that's given me an archive of shots at different stages, there are gaps.

Fortunately, the wonderful Canadian Tree Tours website has tree ID pages (with catkins, bark, and more) on this and many other tree species in Toronto. Scoot over there after you're finished here.

The eastern cottonwood is a type of poplar (Populus), and the specific epithet in its botanical name deltoides means triangle, related to the triangular leaves. But not all poplars produce "cotton." Here, you can see the dangly earrings of ripe fruit-bearing catkins on the female tree, with capsules getting ready to burst into fluff-factories.
In June, the capsules open to release their fluffy, wind-borne seeds. Thousands of them. Millions! This article says 4 million to the pound. They float through the air like a summer snowstorm.
Looking up, you can see the white fluff getting ready to drift down from this mature cottonwood tree.
Looking down, you notice the "snow" clinging to the road's edge. And just about everything else.
Ever wondered if you can do anything with all that fluff? You aren't alone. Google coughed up this interesting thread from the Knitter's Review Forum. It talks about creating yarns from milkweed fluff, but mentions cottonwood and other natural fluff-makers in passing. And, for the sheer fun of visiting a site with the name Halfbakery, you might also find this anecdote amusing.

Thank you, Sharon, for helping me get that out of my system.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Product review: A great bag for long tools

For the past few months, this White Clover tool bag has been a decorative feature
in my front hall. You could say that my loppers have never looked so good.
Among the so-much! I've wanted to write about lately, my review for this White Clover tool bag (designed for those awkward shapes like loppers) is seriously overdue. But what comes first when you've just finished co-hosting a big event like the Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling? Your long-neglected family? Your long-neglected desk? Your long-neglected garden? Or your long-neglected blog? I'll let you judge by the evidence – or lack thereof.

The short story: I like this bag, which fills a gap in my gear that I didn't realize I had until it arrived. For small tools, I use one with the unlikely name Nantucket Diddy Bagg, purchased (considerably) on sale due to the neon colours, which suit me fine. But long tools like loppers and shears are a challenge to carry safely. Until this bag arrived, I'd resorted to juggling.

The White Clover bag is extremely well constructed of cotton canvas, with a double-reinforced bottom made to stand up to regular stabbing by pointy instruments. The 30-inch length is just long enough for me to squeeze in my longest-handled Fiskars loppers. But, when in a hurry, I've folded down one side and used it on an angle like a sling. There's room to toss in smaller tools, and the long, webbed handles, make it easy to sling over a shoulder, freeing up a hand.

The design is prettier than it needs to be. That's not meant as a criticism. Flourishes like the little flag tag (it's Canadian designed and built) and the outside key clip are nice. And the product tag cord has a little decorative bead that has encouraged me to leave the tag attached till I figure out another use for it. I do wonder how well the white canvas will stand up to (ab)use in the garden, but haven't had enough time to put it to the test.

While White Clover did send us a sample to review back in March (and also generously donated four bags as prizes for our Fling draw), to me the CDN$60 price tag is good value. Especially if you don't need to carry around as many bits and pieces as I do, it would be ideal for a one-bag gardener. For me, it will get a lot of use for the "long tool haul."