Monday, June 24, 2019

Growing "warm season" vegetables in cold climates

I have a vivid memory of seeing foldable glass protectors over squash and cucumber seedlings in England.  They were apparently meant to provide a bit of "greenhouse" warmth for what I'd grow as a warm season vegetable in the Southeastern U.S.

Growing tomatoes there -- well, that was a greenhouse endeavor, as far as I could tell.

I loved this small greenhouse full of tomatoes in a rectory garden.

Here in Quebec, I'm musing about how folks manage to grow any tomatoes or peppers.  I guess you're hoping for a heat wave in July and August.

These are lovely temperatures for outdoor activities, but not particularly squash, tomato, cucumber, or basil-friendly!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

A growing vegetable garden

Long days and warmer weather (highs between 60°F and 72°F, and up to 75° one day) mean the vegetables in my beds and in the ground are growing rapidly.

It's interesting to see the scarlet runner beans emerging as the soil warms up;  the spinach looks great;  the poor basil plant that I put out early, hmm, it's looking wan.

But kale and lettuce from transplants look great.  The broccoli needs more sun, I think, but looks fine, and the emerging beets, etc. also look good. 

Such a different climate than where I've grown vegetables in the past!

kale, chard, and kohlrabi

wooden container bed with chives, lovage, kale, and kohlrabi

side vegetable bed

Saturday, June 22, 2019


My sister has harvested delicious mushrooms in New Mexico and our neighbors in Asheville forage for wild mushrooms, too, with morels being a delicacy, of course

So it was remarkable to find (my gardening companion discovered them) these giant "yellow" morels. It's apparently late in the season, even for this far north.

The key fob is there for scale.

Ready to chop
The second two harvested.
 They were delicious, even just cooked in a bit of olive oil without salt or pepper.  I wanted to see what they tasted like "plain."

There's lots of interesting information about morels; I found it fascinating that yellow and black morels both include several species, and some are basically a "species complex."

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Cornus canadensis (Bunchberry)

Such a lovely plant!  It was in flower along the river walking path from Rimouski this morning.

I also enjoyed the abundant Royal Fern, along with all of the other ferns that look great right now.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

A great Garden Bloggers Fling

Thank you, Denver Fling organizers, for a great Garden Blogger’s Fling.  Remarkable gardens, great company, and expansive mountain skies.

I’ve visited a LOT of gardens over the years both as part of my work and during Flings and conferences and on my own, but this border in Rob Proctor and David Macke’s garden was amazing — perfect as part of a final Fling day full of great gardens.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Botanical Interests

I was so glad to be able to visit Botanical Interests seed warehouse today. Fascinating.  And they’re such a great seed company.  Their co-owner, Judy Seaborn, has been a long-time supporter of the Fling as well as being a participant.

So it was great to visit the company site today and enjoy hospitality in her home garden this afternoon.

Attention to quality is everywhere, from the beautiful seed packets to the high standards that she sets for the seeds.

Garden Bloggers Fling — a special experience

I've attended the Fling every year since the third one in Buffalo.

It's a wonderful gathering of garden bloggers who spend three days looking at gardens carefully selected by the host committee, whereever the Fling is.  I love going  -- it's so much fun to be visiting gardens in the company of other gardening enthusiasts, whatever their particular interests are, or the style of the gardens that we visit.  They run the gamut!  I've been a regular garden blogger since 2007, so I'm naturally inclined to participate.  I was part of the host committee in Asheville, at one of the earlier Flings, I realize now.  Ours was a simple fling, but enjoyable.

In big cities, they're a bit more complicated, often with far-flung bus travels to nearby communities.  But the pattern is now standard: three days of touring gardens, with a day-before kick-off reception/event of some sort.

It works for me.  I used to go to Botanical Garden meetings and Garden Writers, too, in my paid-work life, but the Fling is a LOT more fun than either! Hey, there are no promoting membership sessions, raising money sessions, or expanding your education program sessions.  Nor any talk about boosting your social media presence, developing your brand, etc.  These are all good things, but I'm glad to shed them for the simple joy of visiting gardens with other garden bloggers.

This piece on Cultivating Place, a favorite podcast about gardening, features Pam Penick as one of the founders of the Fling, and Judy Seaborn, as a lead organizer of the next Fling in Denver.  I enjoyed listening to it. 

Here's a link to the podcast.

Perhaps you would, too.  It exudes the joy of gardening and visiting gardens, as well as the fun of writing about gardens, too, on our blogs.

The Fling in Denver, now finishing our second and a half day, has already been great. 

I was reminded of Corona Tools sponsorship in our Fling material, swapping with a friend this evening; her pruners for my plant. A welcome exchange, and I’ll enjoy using the pruners as well as the trowel that was part of our swag bag.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Wonderful rock gardens and unfamiliar plants

I had a conversation yesterday with a fellow Flinger (a local first-timer) where she asked, why would I come to an gardening area so different than mine?

Well, it’s basically to see plants and gardens in different venues, I said, and certainly today’s gardens were like that.  The rock garden aesthetic as shown in some of these gardens was SO different than anything I’d seen before, it had me thinking that maybe there’s a sub-culture of rock garden design.  But combining roses, irises, and peonies, with rock garden plants in other beds.  Hmm.  That’s definitely different, and the small-scale enjoyment of the rock garden — I’m not sure I’ve experienced anything quite like that in North America.  Alpine gardens in Northern European botanical gardens focus on alpines, and have a similar feel, but these rock garden plants are coming from Mediterranean climates.  A very hairy-stemmed Stachys was quite extraordinary, although I’ve appeared not to have taken a photo of it.

Here’s a sampling of vignettes from the gardens today.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Urban plantings

Green space in a city, whether from planters and/or in-ground plants, make all the difference. Downtown Denver is a good example of what makes urban spaces welcoming, especially in their pedestrian mall and downtown parks.  I was particularly impressed with the Civic Center Park’s space.  The central core was full of food trucks patronized by folks on their lunch breaks, who enjoyed the beautiful day outside of their high-rise office buildings nearby at picnic tables and adjacent steps.

I was glad I didn’t need to return to a cubicle at one of them!

Some blocks are especially nice; these planters and window boxes were well-done.

And I loved these well-designed banners for Bike to Work Day!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Arriving in Denver

Arriving in Denver, I’m feeling guilty that I’m not staying at the Fling hotel — the Hyatt Regency downtown.  

When I looked at the website, and what the hotel looked like,  I thought, I just can’t stay in another downtown high rise hotel again. It’s not the expense — I’m fine with that, but  I really don’t like the experience of being on the 15th floor, taking elevators, etc. so I opted for an Airbnb a 25 minute walk away.  I’m sorry for not being compliant — I know that group bookings are an important part of managing the costs of groups and meetings, and I have stayed in the Fling hotels for most of the time I’ve attended.

My Airbnb is lovely, though in a gentrifying neighborhood, which is interesting, of course.  Apparently this neighborhood was historically an African-American one, reflecting part of that heritage in a nearby cultural center.  Some restaurants nearby, with more opening daily (I walked by one this evening). 

The Safeway that I walked to (for breakfast provisions) was a 15 minute walk through an interesting neighborhood that became more diverse there, too, with a thought-provoking mix of young people and public housing (?) or rehabilitation hospital residents, near the store.

On the way, I passed by a small housing block that had a playground and a small garden.  I loved the large bed devoted to strawberries.

And this nice median strip pays tribute to the gentrification that’s going on in this neighborhood.  I’m not sure if she’s the gardener, or not, but someone is working this space.


Airports aren’t usually plant-friendly places, but at least the one in Quebec City is full of windows and exceptionally peaceful for what would seem to be a big-city airport.  I’m on my way to Denver, for the Garden Blogger’s Fling, a favorite annual event that encompasses 3 1/2 days of visiting varied gardens in the company of other garden bloggers — always great fun!   It’s always enjoyable visiting gardens, whether they’re ones I “like” or not.  I always find the garden-making aspects fascinating, too, reflecting the gardener’s inclinations and aesthetic.

Here’s a post that I made recently on my second blog, Places of the Spirit, that’s partially about the Fling.

Driving from Le Bic yesterday, I was listening to Cultivating Place, an excellent podcast, which I have missed listening to, as Coffee Break French has been taking up most of my podcast time.

An interview with Margaret Roach about the updated version of her book A Way to Garden was a perfect example of why I enjoy this podcast so much — the host, Jennifer Jewell, does an exceptional job of bringing forward the multiple reasons that gardeners create gardens.  Another with Bob Hyland was equally interesting.

I’m looking forward to catching up on a few more episodes on my travel segments today!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

More vegetable musings

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that what I want to write about at the moment is my vegetable gardening efforts here in Quebec.  We're in such a special part of the world in terms of nature, but...I'm enjoying the nearby national park on daily walks.

A take-home message in our northern garden is, of course, paying attention to the weather -- an universal gardening message.  The lows have been around 45° F-- chilly for what we consider in the Southeastern U.S. for warm season vegetables.  Tomatoes, basil, squash, beans, cucumbers -- we want to have temperatures routinely above 50° F, day and night.

That's not happening here, yet, although I've happily planted and seeded all sorts of cool-season vegetables that are more difficult to grow in my 4-season vegetable garden in the SE.

Here's my tomato and basil protection, added each evening, for now.  I've repurposed some wind-proofing material for shrubs in winter that was in our garden shed.

Across from our mailbox pickup spot, I saw these wind barriers today in a front-yard garden.  I imagine they're protecting tomatoes and peppers.  Maybe a few other transplants.

If I lived here full-time, I'd definitely be investing in a sturdy poly-tunnel or greenhouse, to extend the seasons.  Day length is in your favor, here in this eastern part of Quebec.   Season extension (with non-heated poly-tunnels) should work well.  They're doing this in much more westerly locations on a commercial basis -- no reason home gardeners couldn't do this, too.  Our neighbor was trying this last summer, but his version apparently wasn't sturdy enough, as only the remnant tunnel components are visible currently.

I have a writing friend in Ireland who lives in Connemara and grows her vegetables in a VERY sturdy polytunnel -- plenty of wind there, too, as well as cool summer weather.  Not sure how long she's able to extend her season, but definitely to grow what I'd consider "warm season" veggies  - they need extra protection there.

Monday, June 3, 2019

A cold-climate vegetable garden

It is so interesting to see what people are planting (and not).

I made a visit to a local Le Bic community garden (with about 12 plots) that's part of a local park - Parc du Mont Saint-Louis. 

It includes lots of additional "ornamental" plantings (thanks to volunteers) in a remarkably lovely natural park that really doesn't need it, in my opinion, but the Parc does do a nice job of interpreting the two natural forest communities there.

Remarkably, although all of the plots were tilled and marked with the names of the gardeners, nothing yet had been planted.

Curious, I thought, as a gardener used to swapping out cool season and warm season vegetables, practically year-round.

I think they must be focused on tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and beans (warm-season vegetables, for sure), as the gardener near our mailbox hasn't put in anything yet either.  Perhaps they've sowed a few seeds.

I've fully planted my available beds now (thanks to my gardening companion having prepared them).  I'm growing all sorts of things that I can't normally grow-- what I've planted and sown so far is a delightful mix of Asian greens, broccoli and lettuce, bush sugar snap peas, broccoli raab, bulbing fennel, etc. 

What fun to have this summer to experiment!  And fruits -- well, the gooseberries look like they'll be flowering heavily, Tim's renovating the raspberry bed, and already planted more low-bush blueberries, and there are cherries to look forward to, as well.  We probably have Montmorency cherry trees, based on this sign in the Le Bic garden, where they have some heirloom fruit trees planted, too.

Heritage fruit trees planted in Le Bic

Sunday, June 2, 2019

A rainy day

It was a good day for my newly planted vegetable garden, with more seeding to come. It rained all day.

I don't have a lot of space, but have expanded space thanks to my hubbie, who prepared a bed for me (carved out from a former space next to the house) that was Bishop's weed before. It's a full sun afternoon space, so hopefully will be good for the variety of things that I planted.

It's all good.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

A vegetable garden in Quebec

Last summer, we were here for 2 short months, barely enough time to clean up the overgrown garden and plant a quick vegetable garden of greens.  Here's a post from late June about a delightful harvest of greens.

This summer, we're here for four months, so I'm being a bit more ambitious, and thanks to my gardening companion, have a wonderful expanded bed, in addition to the large container next to the back deck and my wooden boxes.

Wonderful to get them planted in their first stage today, with transplants and seeding.  It's such a short season here, it's interesting to get an idea of what people are planting (tomatoes seem huge, but they're apparently harvesting green tomatoes ahead of the first frost and storing them -- ripening as needed, according to my English library friend). I woiuldn't have thought of that.  She also said that traditional Quebecois vegetable gardeners wouldn't be growing what I think of as cool-season greens -- kale and collards-- although there are lots of broccoli and cauliflower transplants available.

So I planted transplants of broccoli (something hard to grow in Asheville in the shoulder seasons), lots of lettuce, a bok choi, some kohlrabi and cabbage, and then seeded beets, spinach, and a bush-variety of sugar snap peas.  There's kale, mesclun mix, baby butternut squash, and pole beans to come, sowing from seed, along with a few other things.  (I may need more gardening space!)

the container bed near the back deck

another view

my new vegetable bed, thanks to my gardening companion

a pole bean trellis that I created from old fence rails and jute twine

Monday, May 27, 2019

Traveling north to our Northern Appalachian garden

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A last spring view in our Southern Appalachian garden

The view out our front door takes in the sedum bed and the pocket meadow.  This evening, sunset light illuminated the volunteer Heuchera in the sedum bed and the almost in flower Thermopsis beyond, as well as Penstemon digitalis already in flower.

view out the front door

Heuchera reflecting sunset light

Looking towards the house, the pollinator-friendly pocket meadow is coming along nicely.  Our summer folks will enjoy it.

pollinator garden

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A charming hoophouse

I certainly haven’t seen a hoophouse devoted to be a flower garden before, although I know many gardeners use their greenhouses for tender ornamentals of all sorts.

This one was at The Organic Center, an interesting place in quite a remote spot north of Sligo Town.

I’d looked for the Organic Center before, without success, but had seen a sign for it, coming back from a recent far-flung excursion, so was emboldened to try again.

Nice to see a small-scale place like this seemingly flourishing. The rest of their polytunnels were filled with vegetables of all kinds!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Traveling in Ireland

My recent posts have all been about traveling in Ireland. This was the most recent

Follow along at Places of the Spirit, if you’re interested.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the feeder

We were delighted to see a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at our bird feeder yesterday and today.  They're such amazing birds.

I'd only see one once before, here at our bird feeder in the mountains; my gardening companion hadn't seen one before.

For now, we still have our feeders up, both seeds and sugar water for hummingbirds.  There are bears in our wider North Asheville, Town Mountain, and Sunset Mountain neighborhoods, but don't seem to be in our particularly urban bit so far, on a regular basis.

Here's a photo from

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Friday, April 19, 2019


Yesterday, at the end of my class about Designing with Native Plants, there was a question about Phlox.  What species did I recommend?  Hmm.

Well, we've added several now to our woodland garden, but my gardening companion acquired them, so I wasn't sure of the species that we'd added -- certainly there were at least four different "sorts" -- whether species or cultivars.

We have lots of native species in the Eastern U.S., as well as cultivars that do well, too, to choose from, too. 

Check out this Wikipedia list.

And, yikes, here's a nursery person's list of favorite species and cultivars.

Just a few of our native species here in the Eastern U.S.:  Phlox stolonifera, Phlox carolina, Phlox divaricata, Phlox subulata, and Phlox paniculata.

Phlox stolonifera (image from NC

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Designing with native plants

Of course, adding plants of whatever sort is really what I encourage, but native plants are my favorite plant palette as are the ones of my gardening companion.

Teaching a class at the NC Arboretum today had me adding the sidebar of the updated presentation,- "Designing with native plants" along with pushing up (on the side bar, too) my favorite "Home Gardening Fundamentals" references, that include Julie Moir Messervy's Home Outside: Creating a Landscape that You Love.  

What a wonderful book, as are her others! 

And Gordon Haywood's book about
Creating a welcoming garden, equally brilliant.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Crested Iris (Iris cristata)

Iris cristata is a favorite in our spring garden;  we had large patches in our Piedmont garden, thanks to one of my favorite SC Botanical Garden volunteers.

Here's a post from 2010 that I wrote about him (and how I appreciated that he shared his Iris cristata with us).

The small clump that we brought with us here is now in full flower, so I'm reminded of him this evening. 

He was the best sort of volunteer; even as he became increasingly unsteady with Parkinson's in his later years, he kept showing up week after week to help in so many ways across the Garden. 

Thanks, Rodger.

Our Iris cristata now in the mountains

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Adding plants and preparing for travels

A lovely Silene virginica to plant
A native Viola
We only have a few weeks here before we're off for traveling.  My gardening companion is in full swing, snagging various Phlox species to plant, a Silene virginica, and a native Viola, in addition to some colorful annuals to add to our porch pots for our summer folks to enjoy.

I'm trying to use up all of our "staples" -- wheat berries, rye berries, dried fruits, and nuts.  We'll be away for four months in Quebec this summer, and I want to leave a clean slate in our pantry hutch for our summer residents. Ditto, in terms of freezer space, too!

So, I baked whole-grain rye sourdough bread today (started yesterday);  I'm channeling the wonderful whole-grain bread we bought in Freiburg last fall.  These loaves have fruits and nuts added, so a bit different, but they're delicious.  They'll be a nice thing to have in the freezer as we count down the coming weeks.

I'll be away in Ireland for 3 weeks in late April to mid-May;  my gardening companion will be heading toward Quebec with Woody, and our Ireland HomeExchange partners will be here, followed by me for a week and then by our summer folks.

I'm grateful that we have the opportunity to do this.

Monday, April 8, 2019

A perfectly-hued tulip

ColorBlends, a wholesale bulb company has been a generous sponsor of the Garden Bloggers Fling.  Two years ago, attendees could choose among a variety of their color blends.  I'm not sure which one I choose, but it included a range of pastel colors.

This one was one of them, currently flowering in a pot in the raised bed garden.  Beautiful!

A search for "tulips" brought up a variety of posts over the years.  

It seems ironic on a day that I'll be talking about gardening for pollinators that I'm writing a post about tulips, but tulips have been a favorite since long before I was a gardener.

The first post that the search pulled up started with the phrase:

Sometimes, my screen around "plants that work for a living" includes plants that bring joy.

Woody and I were enjoying the tulips at Biltmore Estate in this photo from 7 years ago.

So much fun to revisit my tulip posts!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A gardening post on my sister blog:  Places of the Spirit, remembering a garden in Umbria.

I reposted this piece from April 4, 2018.

Puttering in the garden

I love the sense of adventure and delight that’s part of being in the garden each day. What’s new, what’s flowering, what shall I add or tend?
Away from my own garden, I had a lovely time tidying up here in our HomeExchange garden yesterday- simple weeding of bedstraw and foxtails and discovering what’s been planted.
I’m going to plant the window boxes and containers, too, as thanks for our extra time here. They’ll be here around mid-May for the summer. Perhaps some succulents and drought tolerant perennials!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Encouraging other gardeners

I've had such good experiences over the past decades encouraging folks about gardening.  There have been classes, presentations, newsletter articles, field trips, school groups, etc.

But my landscape consultations have become increasingly rewarding, too, in recent years.

I started doing 2-hr consultations when I cut back my hours at the South Carolina Botanical Garden to half-time about a decade ago;  I realized after doing classes about "Creating a landscape that you love" and "Home landscape fundamentals" that folks were delighted to have personal coaching/teaching beyond these classes. As a decades-long teacher, I realized that I was actually pretty good at helping people figure out what THEY wanted to do in their gardens.

I was able to encourage them to visualize their interests and visions for their gardens (usually). So when I started doing this, it was for a donation to Education Programs at SCBG.

Now, I do consultations as benefits for the various places that I teach classes or do presentations, or simply for a local non-profit, if someone has found me through my website, which is relatively unusual.

I am so delighted to help folks think about their gardens;  I've just done two site visits over the last two days, totally different, but both nice.

One contribution will go to a local native plant garden (Botanical Gardens at Asheville), where I teach regularly, with the other going to the Autism Society of Western North Carolina, where the main gardener contributes her time.  Both work for me!

Since I'm talking about Pocket Meadows again tomorrow, that'll be the image for this post.

in early August
It's a summer and fall front garden, for sure!  This image is definitely exuberant;  we were traveling a lot that summer.
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