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Gardening Tips

Gardening Tips began in September 2020 as a weekly collaboration with OnRichmondHill.com. Email recommendations for future gardening tips to GardeningTipsRHGHS@gmail.com. 

Society members may click Add Comment following any article, and post comments such as adding more retrospective, agreeing with the contributor, or even suggesting a correction. 

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  • November 25, 2022 9:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Indoors or out, you need to be sure that your level of lighting maps to the kind of light and the amount of light that your plant requires. Without the right amount of light, the right soil type, and the correct amount of water, your plants will not thrive. 

    As you begin to think about additions and changes for your garden for next year, lighting is an essential element to consider.  So, let’s look at lighting in this article.

    Outdoor Plants: 
    Most of us likely have areas of our yards and gardens that vary in the amount of sun they receive each day.  Some are in the sun the full summer day.  Others may have morning sun or perhaps afternoon sun.  And other areas may be in complete shade. If you have lots of trees or buildings near your home, you may find your garden in dappled sun from the trees or in the shade made by your home’s shadow, that of another building, or a fence.

    We refer to these areas as shaded, semi-shaded, partial-sun, or full sun areas.  I have some of each and around my home and in my fully shaded areas, I’ve found that ferns, Hostas, Lily of the valley, Jacob’s ladder, and Solomon’s Seal do quite well. 

    If you are searching for plants for a specific garden area, take note of its sun conditions. You may need to go outside and map the amount each specific garden receives throughout the summer to know the amount of light it gets per day and thus level of sun tolerance the plants you buy should have.

    Then test that against what you see on websites. As an example, many list lots of plants as shade loving plants but in researching each one, many of them actually need at least partial-sun to survive. So that plant would not be for you if you need a full sun or full shade plant. Bottom line, be sure you know how much sun each area of your garden gets so you can select the right plants for it.

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society
  • November 18, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Perhaps you have an area that is full to partial sun for which you’d like to try out some ornamental grasses. I found a lot of them while looking for those that need shade for my shaded areas of the garden. There are also several bamboo plants that can thrive in Canada.

    Some of the ones I came across are simply stunning. They make great borders and if planted in a design or flow of clusters present a wonderful sight of which you may never tire.

    Below are my Ornamental Grass findings for sunny areas of your gardens. These tend to grow in various soil types and enjoy dryer soil. They can grow up to 3 feet tall.

    Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) 
    Little Bluestem is a warm season clumping grass and is one of the defining grasses of the tallgrass prairie. It prefers dry to medium, well drained soils and can tolerate a wide range of soil types. It may not do well and the leaves will “flop over” if you plant it in too much shade or rich soils.

    Little Bluestem is loved for it’s blue-green foliage and drought tolerance. It will stay green through the toughest droughts. In fall it takes on an attractive bronze hue and sports fluffy seed heads. This is a very attractive grass and evens even looks good in the winter.

    The foliage of Little Bluestem feeds a variety of butterflies and its dried leaves are popular nesting materials for birds. Its seeds are also eaten by birds. Planting companions for Little Bluestem are numerous. In really dry soils, try pairing it with Butterfly Milkweed, Slender Blazing Star and Nodding Onion.

    Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha)
    June Grass is a cool season, clumping grass. It is usually found in dry, sandy areas but will adapt to most soils that are well-drained. It evens grows well in compacted soils, making it useful in ecological restoration.

    Junegrass is valued in native plant gardens for it’s drought tolerance and blue-green foliage. It also blooms earlier than most other and produces attractive, fluffy seed heads by mid summer.  Birds will eat the seeds. Companion plants for Junegrass include Prairie Smoke, Nodding Onion, Wild Lupin or Butterfly Milkweed.

    Sweetgrass (Anthoxanthum hirtum) 
    Sweet grass is a fragrant (smells like vanilla), low-growing, cool season grass. It spread by rhizomes and can be aggressive in moist conditions. It’s typical habitat is sunny, wet areas but it grows just as well in average moisture and light shade.

    Sweetgrass is sacred to the Indigenous people of North America who burn it in ceremonies. It is also used for weaving baskets.

    It can be useful in your garden as a fast-spreading groundcover. In fall, it turns attractive shades of yellow. Companion plants for this are Golden Alexanders and Canada Anemone. It also pairs well with most wetland plants.

    I hope you've enjoyed this series on Ornamental Grasses and have found one that might work well in your garden's shady, partially shaded, or sunny areas! 
    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • November 11, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As you read last week, I have been looking for alternatives to flowers and bushes that will grow well in a shaded area.  I came up with Ornamental Grasses.  Last week’s Gardening Tip was on those that did well in fully shaded areas and a few that didn’t mind fully or partially shaded areas. My research uncovered many grasses that would be good in partially shaded areas but could not withstand full shade. They are the focus of this article.  The Red Hook Sedge may get a trial next year as a border along the fence under the trees on the southwest side of my pool.

    1.   Hakonechloa All Gold.  PARTIAL SHADE 
    As the name suggests, this plant is all gold in colour, bright yellow atop a green base. The stems are quite slender and the bright yellow foliage resembles a small bamboo. It spreads slowly and gently via rhizomes, perfect for containers or mixed borders and only grows to around 16 inches (40cm). This is a very hardy variety which prefers partial shade but does also grow in full sun in moist humus-rich soil. This variety does die back for the winter so mulching in autumn with a layer of compost is recommended. NOTE: This is not a full shade grass so for me it would only suit a few garden areas.


    2.  
    Red hook sedge (Uncinia rubra). PARTIAL SHADE.  In this case the plants needs at least 4 hours of light per day in order to flower.
    Known as the firedance, this compact sedge is a rich red, bronze colour and is absolutely stunning. If you are looking to add a splash of colour, this mound-shaped grass is it. The leaves have vertical accents of red along with the otherwise olive-green leaves so it creates unique clumps that juxtapose other verdant plants or grasses you grow with it. This grass needs to be planted in partial shade in a sheltered position in well-drained soil. It’s worth mentioning that it can be grown in full sun but would then need moist soil to thrive. If you have full shade, this one may not suite your needs. It grows to 10 to 12” tall and 12” to 14” wide.

    3.   Tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa). PARTIAL SHADE.
    Known as tufted hair grass, this plant produces hair-like blades of green and yellow grass that grow in tufts. It forms clumps and grows in low, dense groups. There are flowers that cover the foliage come summer which take on tones of purple, green, gold, and silver, forming a cloud of colour above the foliage. They attract birds well and are tolerant of air pollution so you can plant them along borders near a road without issue. 

    From last week’s Gardening Tip, you’ll recall that the following Ornamental Grasses can be grown in partial  shade even though they tolerate full shade well:

    • Hakonechloa macra Aureola  PARTIAL or FULL SHADE
    • Snow Rush (Luzula nivea) PARTIAL or FULL SHADE
    • Sedge (Carex Ice Dance). PARTIAL or FULL SHADE

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • November 04, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    You may recall that back in the spring I was looking for some plants that I could use in shaded areas of my yard.  I had found some interesting ones over the years and a few extra from my research last winter and trials this spring and summer.  

    Recently, I received a book that talked about ornamental grasses. And many of them do well in the shade.  Of course, it also talked about ones that loved full or partial sun.  But my interest is in finding plants that do well in the shaded areas of my gardens; and, these shade-loving ornamental grasses could be the boost to my gardens that I’ve been looking for. 

    It seems that no matter which of these ornamental grasses I choose, they could fill an otherwise dull shady part of my garden with something stunning, simple, and easy to maintain. What’s more, I don’t have to settle on just one. If several of these are appealing, I can mix and match so that I can enjoy a multitude of colour and texture. I’ve seen photos where people have planted a variety in a large cluster or pattern along side other clusters of other varieties of grasses for a rather remarkable display!

    Below are my Ornamental Grass findings! From all I’ve read, I’ve decided to try out the Black Mondo Grass, Hakonechloa macra, and Sedge in my fully shaded areas. They meet my fully shade requirement and they are all of different heights and colours so they should make an attractive display.

    1. Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) FULL SHADE  This ornamental grass really stands out given its rich black coloured leaves. In summer it has light pink flowers that seem to crawl up the stems. This is ideal for ground cover, filling a shady area with pink flowers that seem to pop out of nowhere. At maturity, it will span about 12 inches (30cm) in both height and width. 

    2. Hakonechloa macra (Japanese forest grass) FULL SHADE  This adaptable ornamental grass loves shady areas. It produces loose, cascading foliage that arches and moves in the wind. The colours range from solid green to variegated, to bright gold. The plant grows between 8”to 20” (20-50cm) in both spread and height. It is easy to grow, requiring little in maintenance, and like all ornamental grasses has the resiliency to pests and diseases.  Grows well in exposed or sheltered areas and will thrive in most moist but well-drained soils.

    3. Hakonechloa macra Aureola  PARTIAL or FULL SHADE  This golden variety is perfect for shade as they are bright and stand out even in the shade which is what one looks for in a grass to plant in a shady area of the garden.  This grass needs to grow in well-drained soil, with partial shade or full shade. It has a handsome greenish yellow foliage which becomes tinged with reddish in autumn before produces seed heads. . It should be planted in fertile well-drained soil in a sheltered or exposed position. It is a smaller type of grass only growing to 8” to 12” (20-30cm).

    4. Snow Rush (Luzula nivea) PARTIAL or FULL SHADE  This grass, like many others, is resistant to pests and diseases and is very hardy. It is known for its snow-white blooms that grow on top of slender, rich green stems. The evergreen is clump-forming with medium blade widths. Small, it will reach between 12” to 16” (30-40cm) at its full maturity but the flower stems can reach some 36” (60cm) tall. It can be grown in sheltered or exposed sites and grows well in partial or full shade. It will grow in nearly all soils types from poor to fertile as long as its well-drained.

    5. Sedge (Carex Ice Dance). PARTIAL or FULL SHADE   Sedge blooms between April and July with insignificant flowers so the foliage is what everybody is talking about. Like all ornamental grasses, it is best known for its colourful leaves. This grass grows best in partial shade or full shade and requires moist but well-drained soil. The thin blades of grass grow in rich, verdant shades and span upwards of 4 to 20” (10-50cm) with a spread of around the same. This grass grows well in very shady areas.

    Next week we’ll look at Ornamental Grasses that require only partial shade.
    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • October 28, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I picked my first zucchini today (early September), albeit small, simply to give the smaller ones a better chance to grow. It measured only 30 1/2 inches long.

    They had a late start this year because they were not getting pollinated. Then I remembered my father telling me how to pollinate the Sicilian zucchini by hand, so I did. I remember my father telling me: “You have to get up early in the morning, pick a flower that doesn't have a little zucchina attached and put it on one that has a zucchina attached to the flower.” He said, “You have to make them kiss.”  I was a teenager when he showed me how to pollinate the zucchini. I'm so happy I remembered!

    Last year, my zucchini were each about four feet in length. These are also called Mediterranean Zucchini but mine were originally from Sicily and thus we call them Sicilian Zucchini.

    Editor Doreen’s note: I have zucchini envy and can only dream about all the wonderful zucchini dishes one could make with just one of those zucchini! These were grown right here in Richmond Hill in Paula’s backyard. Growing vegetables makes a beautiful garden in many ways including feeding your family! I also like that this reinforces the need to sometimes help nature when we see such things as pollination not occurring naturally.

    Article and photos submitted by Paula Gianasi, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society.

    BTW: Zucchina is the singular of Zucchini but also an alternate spelling in other languages. 
  • October 21, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Missing your warm afternoons in the garden?  How about growing an indoor plant from something you bought at the grocery store?  An indoor plant can be a source of food.  With this Gardening Tip, it could be both and indoor plant and a source of food.  And with patience once you eat the fruit, you can use it to grow another of that plant.

    I’m speaking of the beautiful pineapple!  You can grow your own pineapple right here is Richmond Hill.  Here’s how to grow a pineapple from another one. In the picture, you can see the new pineapple growing amidst its parent’s spiky, yet leafy, crown.

    1. Start with a complete pineapple that you bought to eat. Before using it, hold the body of the pineapple in one hand and the spiky leaf top near the base of the leaves with your other hand. You may want to wear gloves to do this. Gently twist the leafy crown (as if you were opening a jar) until it separates from the fruity base.
    2. Now gently pull off the last inch or so of the spiky leaves so the bottom part of the stem is bare of leaves.
    3. Place that base in water almost up to where the leaves remain.
    4. Keep the container in direct sunlight. If it is warm outside, sit it on the porch or deck during the day and bring it in at night.
    5. Change the water every other day or so and keep the container filled with the right level of water.
    You will notice roots starting in about a week but lots of roots by 6 to 8 weeks. At that point you can transplant it into potting soil.

    Once transplanted, it makes a great leafy green houseplant but it may take 1 to 3 years before it develops a new pineapple.  Blooming depends on the production of ethylene. Some believe that putting the plant in a plastic bag with a few apples will produce more ethylene and blooming could start in 2 or 3 months! 

    For more information about Scrap Gardening check out these sites:
    · Gardening Knowhow: Planting pineapple tops
    · Gardening Know How: Children’s Victory Garden: Ideas And Learning Activities For Kids
    · Monica Mangin’s Instagram (DIY expert) Click here.

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • October 14, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Helping your Self-seeding Plants to Regrow.

    Nasturiums are an annual flower that make a great flower that will grow endlessly in your gardens.  They are completely edible, are easy to grow, come in many colours, and they self-seed.  Self-seeding is important because I can let them go to seed. Once the plant has dried at the end of the season, I can simply shake  those seeds off the “dead” plant and they start growing in the spring! Very satisfying. 

    Indeed, I have several cherry tomatoes that have “regrown” themselves for the 4th time this past summer.  Done simply by allowing the last few tomatoes to fall into the soil then covering them with some extra soil. Voila – new plants the next year. 

    Other self-seeding flowering annuals include: 
    ·         Morning glory (Ipomoea tricolor)
    ·         Plains coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria)
    ·         Larkspur (Consolida ajacis)
    ·         Tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis)
    ·         Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
    ·         Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis)
    ·         Borage (Borago officinalis)
    ·         Beefsteak plant (Perilla frutescens)
    ·         Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)
    ·         Spider flower (Cleome)
    ·         California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • October 07, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    My late husband used to make stained glass projects for around the house.  Some of the items he made included Christmas ornaments, wall hangings, a jewelry box with inlaid glass, and a stepping stone. A couple of years ago, the glass was broken on the stepping stone due to service people using it to actually step on.  The one Ken made was more for looks than usage. I thought I’d see if I could repair it and in doing so, wanted to share the fundamentals of making a stained-glass stepping stone in case you wanted to give that artform a try.

    Below on the left are 2 photos of Ken’s stepping stone. Thanks to Chris Robart for resurrecting the stone from two old, low resolution photos.  To their right, is that of Val’s stepping stone. 

    Materials and Tools:Local stained-glass suppliers for stained glass and the supplies include Michaels in Richmond Hill, Glasstronomy Studios in Markham, and Aurora Stained Glass Works in Aurora.

    • Paper or pencil or black permanent marker
    • copier machine
    • glass: red, orange
    • dichroic glass pieces
    • glass grinder
    • glass-breaking pliers
    • glass cutter
    • sticky shelf paper
    • cooking spray
    • round stepping-stone plastic mold pan
    • quick-setting cement
    • bucket for mixing, mixing spoon, water
    • hammer
    • sponge
    • utility knife
    • glue stick
    • rags
    • scissors
    • glass cleaner dichroic glass powder

    Directions:
    1. Pick a pattern for your stone. Ken made his of a green frog sitting on a yellow lily pad in a blue pond beneath a lighter blue sky. But yours could be as simplistic as you wish. Maybe just squares and rectangles of colour or as many teachers of first-time students suggest, the head of a flower such as a sunflower or daisy. However, cutting so many curves may be difficult if you don’t yet have glass cutting experience.
    2. Measure your plastic mold to ensure the pattern fits within the mold leaving at least an inch around the outside edge. That edge will act as the “frame” around your picture.
    3. Make two copies of you pattern, and number each piece within the pattern on both copies.
    4. Using one copy, cut along the lines of the pattern and lay those pieces of paper on the original, ensuring that you have all the pieces.
    5. With a glue stick, glue each paper piece onto the selected glass for that piece. Ensure the numbers are facing down on the glass.
    6. Now you have to cut your glass pieces. Wearing safety glasses, score the lines around each pattern piece with a glass cutter. Break away the excess glass with glass-breaking pliers.
    7. Smooth the edges of each glass piece with a glass grinder.
    8. Place these glass pieces on the second copy of the pattern, paper side down, to make sure they fit.
    9. Cut out a piece of sticky shelf paper to fit the inside of the mold. Remove the backing of the sticky paper and place the adhesive side on the uncut pattern on which you placed your cut pieces.  Rub out all the bubbles under the paper.
    10. Spray cooking spray into the bottom and sides of the mold.
    11. Turn the entire glass piece over so that the shelf paper will be on the bottom, and the numbered pattern pieces that are glued to the glass pieces will be on top of that. Place that into the mold. Sprinkle dichroic glass powder between your glass pieces that are close to each other. Just to be sure of the order of the items in the bottom of the mold going up: sticky shelf paper, our coloured cut glass pieces with the glass powder between the pieces (not on the outside frame area).
    12. Mix the quick-setting concrete according to the manufacturer's directions, about six parts cement to three parts water. The consistency should be that of peanut butter. Work quickly because the concrete sets up fast.
    13. Pour the concrete over your glass pattern that is in the mold to about a ½-inch from the top of the mold. Tap the edges to force out any air bubbles. Let the concrete set up for 45 minutes to an hour.
    14. Turn the mold over to release the stepping stone. Peel away the shelf paper which should now be on the very top. Clean away any concrete that may have stuck to the glass before it sets permanently.
    15. Shine the stained glass on the stepping stone with a rag and glass cleaner.

    If you’ve worked with stained glass, these directions should be enough information for you.  But if you are newer to stained glass, then I’d at least recommend the very good YouTube series on doing this. It’s made up of 6 videos each about 2-3 minutes long as it provides good step by step instructions. The series is called. “How to create stained glass stepping stones” by ExpertVillage Leaf Group. If you’ve never cut glass before, you should ask your local suppliers if they offer a course on this.  

    Good luck! But keep some bandages close by; you are working with glass!  Our friend Valery also made a stepping stone and here is a picture of hers.  I’ve also included another item Ken had made during this time of stain glass work.

    One last note.  As I mentioned, Ken’s was more decorative and the glass was eventually all broken by sales people walking across on lawn and onto it to get across my flower garden to the front door.  If you don’t want yours to break, perhaps consider making your “picture” out of small mosaic tile, flat stones, or decorative buttons.

    Reference: “How to create stained glass stepping stones” by ExpertVillage Leaf Group in six parts:

    1. Starting to make a Stained Glass stepping stone. LINK 
    2. How to Mark the Pattern for Stained Glass. LINK 
    3. How to Score (Cut) Stained Glass. LINK
    4. How to Pour Grout for Stained Glass Stepping Stones. LINK
    5. How to Remove Stained Glass Stepping Stones from the Mold. LINK  
    6. How to add water sealant to your stained glass stepping stone. LINK 

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • September 30, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    After a cold winter, spring flowers peeking through the snow are a welcome sight!  Did you know some early spring bloomers will begin to show themselves before the snow is gone?  I’ve seen Snowdrops, Crocus, and even the tips of Tulips start pushing through the soil even though there is still snow around them.

    These early spring flowers are typically bulbs that are planted in fall and once planted, will continue to bring colour and warmth to your garden every year weeks ahead of schedule. Not only do early spring blooming flowers add beauty, but they can also help attract bees and other pollinators to your yard early in the season. What a great way to encourage the pollinators to make your garden a regular place to visit.

    Below are lists of plants started from bulbs that bloom in early spring.  And this fall – typically in late September until October’s first frost - is the time to plant them!  Names of the plants are provided with their Latin names in parenthesis.  I’ve tried to list mainly North American native plants.

    Early Spring Blooming Bulbs
    When it comes to early flowering plants, most people think of bulbs. Early spring bulbs include Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata), Snow Crocus (Crocus chrysanthus), Wood Hyacinth (Hyacinthoides hispanica), Grape Hyacinth (Muscari), Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), Spring Snowflake (Leucojum vernum), and Striped Squill (Puschkinia scilloides).

    Let the early spring flowers brighten your spirits after a long and dreary winter.  Even if the snow of winter has not left, you can still enjoy the beginning of spring if you take the time now - this fall - to plant some bulbs that bloom in the early spring.  Let them remind you that spring is already peeking her head out.

    Now if you get bulbs and forget to plant them even as late as early November, they likely won't be viable come the following fall to plant. So, if you find some unplanted bulbs while readying your garden in the spring, go ahead and plant them in your garden – its their best chance of survival, and they may grow. Or put them in the fridge for a few days and pot them as indoor plants!

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society
  • September 23, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    NEW GARDEN BEDS:

    Fall is a good time to create a new garden bed. Dig up the entire area, turning over any grass or perhaps removing the grass to make more depth for what you’ll be adding. Don’t worry about big clots of soil. They’ll be broken up by the action of snow and ice which is preferable to your backbreaking effort. Put in a thick layer of compost, manure, leaf mould, or any other organic material that is available.  Mix it in if you have time.  Either way, in the spring this area will be easier to work with, and after a little bit of spring raking you can get your seeds and seedlings planted.

    TREES & SHRUBS:

    Thinking of adding a fruit tree or shrub next spring?  Start this fall.  Dig the holes for fruit trees and shrubs in the fall.  If the soil you've dug out is poor, amend it with compost and return that amended soil to the hole. Then cover the hole with boards so it won't compact during the winter.  In the spring the soil will be easier to work and you’ll be able to get a quick start on planting your trees and shrubs.

    Perhaps you have a small tree or shrub that you no longer want in its current spot.  This is the time of year to move it.  Prepare the new area, amending the soil as needed.  Then dig out the old shrub or tree, and carefully move it to the new spot. Backfill the hole as needed then take the remaining soil removed to make the new hole and use it to fill the spot from which you took the shrub or tree.

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

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