Tag Archives: At Home

Making Winter Planters

Planter Christmas planter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that there’s snow on the ground, and the pumpkins and fall mums are all put away, my front step is looking awfully barren and boring.  Luckily for me, I have the great opportunity at Lacoste to have our designers make up a winter planter for me to bring home and pop onto the step!  Luckily for you, you can too! We offer both custom and pre-made winter planters that will add colour and flair to your outdoor Christmas decorating.

However, I know that many of you are fantastic diy-ers, and can create your own fantastic arrangements.  If you’ve never tried before, here are some tips from our expert container designers!

The Container

First, consider the planter that you’d like to use.  I typically re-use the same containers that I plant with in the spring.  Re-using is great, because it means that it already has weight in the bottom, AND I don’t have to move anything around!  Just make sure that you empty out the top bit of soil from the planter when you remove your plants, to make room for your greens, and to make sure that the planter doesn’t crack as the soil freezes.

The Greenery

Evergreen branches and boughs typically provide the main structure of a winter planter. Cedar boughs offer soft draping texture, and spruce and pine will create a sense of structure or height.  The different tones of each of these boughs will give texture and depth to your arrangement.  In our arrangements, we try to use a little of each!

In addition to the greenery of coniferous boughs we often add in twigs and large branches to create height in tall containers.  Birch trunks are a local favourite, but red and yellow dogwood, and twisty willow are some other great choices.  Including both in your planter can balance a tall design.

The Bling

My favourite part of every winter planter is the bling and accessories.  This is where you get a chance to express your style and personality! By using similar elements from your interior décor, you can create a sense of cohesion from outside to inside. The options are as endless as there is variety in Christmas décor.  Seed pods, berries and pinecones will enhance the feel of an outdoor Christmas, but it doesn’t need to stop there.  Sparkly twigs, artificial flowers, shiny ornaments, and lights and lanterns all add colour and style too!

The Design

The biggest consideration in creating the arrangement is proportion.  A balanced arrangement is generally two-thirds the size of the container, and widest at the bottom

Begin by outlining the container with evergreens draping over the edge of the container.  Once the outline is complete, fill in the rest of the shape, working in groups of three, five and seven.  Using a variety of lengths and types of evergreens, and branches, fill the container as much as possible

Once your arrangement is well formed, add the embellishments.

 

 

winter planter how to

Creating your own design is easy and it adds a personal touch to your decor. With very little effort you can have a gorgeous container to beautify your garden until spring arrives.

Vegetable Gardening

Twice in the last month I have had each of my sisters ask me about how to start a vegetable garden.  One has a rather large-ish city lot, but more interest in eating local than the actual act of gardening.  The other is helping a school create a large garden plot.  As I was researching various aspects of their projects for them, I came across mysquarefootgarden.net, which had a great comparison of three different types of veggie gardens:

Traditional Gardening

  • A large plot of earth tilled up, and organized in long rows.
  • Requires a lot of space, and a lot of work.
  • If you have good soil the startup costs can be very low–just purchasing some seeds.
  • Challenge:  weeds. Mulching can help, but you will inevitably battle as many weeds (or more!) as you have plants.

Square Foot Gardening

  • Garden beds are built and filled with soil. Raised beds are easier to access, especially for those with physical limitations.
  • Plants are spaced very close together, eliminating “rows.”
  • Utilizes vertical gardening–supporting plants with trellises, staking, etc. This reduces the space needed on the ground by growing vining plants up instead of out.
  • Challenges: startup costs can be much higher because beds must be built or purchased, and soil must be replenished each year. You may need fertilizer to provide enough nutrients for the plants to grow and thrive.

Container Gardening

  • For those with very small yards or just a balcony or a porch to use, container gardening is a great option
  • Many “dwarf” varieties have been developed to help those growing in such small areas.
  • Benefit: requires very little space.
  • Challenges: harvest may be limited, the soil will need constant improvement and fertilizer, and plants grown this way can be more susceptible to disease.

 

And because whenever I begin looking at pictures of veggie gardens, I have to dream a bit, here’s my ideal garden, a blend of traditional and square foot gardening!

Potager Garden

House Plants and Water

So many times when talking, about houseplants, I’m asked “how much water does it need?” or “how often do you need to water it?”

Unfortunately, the easy answer is never the most satisfying, as the easy answer is “it depends”.  It depends on the type of plant.  It depends on the amount of sunlight it receives.  It depends on the temperature of the room. It depends on the size of the plant.

In one of my kids bedrooms, there is two Pothos plants.  Both are in identical 6-inch grey ceramic pots.  Both are the same distance away from their respective windows.  Both are watered on the same day, with approximately the same amount of water.  However, when I went in this week to vacuum and water, this is what I saw:

pothos

To clarify, or complicate matters, the plant on the left is in an east-facing dormer window, the one on the right is in a south-facing dormer window.  The south window is shaded by a large tree, and generally seems darker, and the east-facing window seems to be the sunnier warmer location for the entire day.

Luckily, most of my houseplants benefit more from neglect, than from over-watering, and now both are thriving again. My best suggestion, as un-helpful as it may seem: water your houseplants when it seems like they need it.

To keep things green and healthy in your home, here are some other great options:

 

http://www.daviddomoney.com/2015/01/14/top-10-cant-kill-houseplants-lazy-gardeners/

All About Air Plants

After Gardening Saturday, an Air Plant (Tilandsia), made its way home, and landed on the kitchen counter, and there it stayed. My plan is to gather a few friends for this one, and hang them in glass terrariums that I have been eyeballing for years.  We have a bit of an abusive relationship with houseplants at our house, due to a cat that will eat anything stringy, a toddler that will pull off anything hanging, and two older kids who will make dinosaur jungles around the base of any plant that’s available (we do have several great options that thrive despite their enviroments).  I’m hoping that these Air Plants, hung up high will be safe from everyone!

Air Plants are so named because their roots do not need to be planted in soil; the leaves draw necessary nutrients from the air.  In the wild, they can be found clinging to rocks and trees with their roots.

Air plants need air, water and light to thrive, just as any other house plant. They can live in a container (like my future terrarium!) as long as that container is not sealed, and air can circulate around the plant.

Most plants draw moisture from the soil with their roots; since Tilandsia draws water from the air, it needs to be misted regularly.  Like any other houseplant it is important to consider that a plants hydration needs will vary drastically depending on its environment.  One article recommended bathing the plant once/week in the summer, and once every three weeks in the more humid winter.  Obviously in Manitoba, our dry winters and more humid summers would have us reverse that schedule!  Most Garden Centres recommend misting Tilandsia a few times a week.  Our Air Plant is eagerly misted every day, with reminders from our little gardeners!

Tilandsia likes to be in bright, indirect light.  Placing it in front of a south-facing window would probably not be the best option, but in a bright room without a direct sunbeam will allow it to thrive!

It is possible for Air Plants to bloom, but is tricky (not this tricky ).  They only bloom once in their life cycle, just as they reach maturity.  If you see one that is starting to produce baby plants (“pups”), treat it to a bit of fertilizer in its bath or water mist, and you may be able to see it!

Air Plants are so versatile in their ability to be displayed and grown. At an affordable price, they can be replaced in the same manner as cut flowers, and can also be displayed in a wide variety of ways to suit your own home’s style and personality!

collage

 

Planting for Butterflies

This spring, a large amount of our kids’ time has been spent trying to catch backyard wildlife to bring inside as “pets”.  Currently in my backyard I have four “traps”.  We hung a bird feeder, which is currently populated by sparrows.  I’m not sure how long it takes for word to travel amongst the sparrow population, but eventually they may figure out that each time they land for a snack, two eager preschoolers come running out the door to try to grab them.  I have an ant trap on the patio.  Not an ant-trap filled with poison, but rather a welcoming home for them made from a sandwich container, and filled with rocks.  A similar ladybug home sits nearby, but filled with dust from last year’s sidewalk chalk remnants (because of course that’s appealing to ladybugs!).  There is a worm farm on the deck (from April’s Young Gardeners’ workshop).  There are old carrots lying around, which I am under strict instructions are for the bunny, who we will (apparently) catch and bring inside.  However, all the efforts to attract wildlife to the yard are not just the kids’.  I also have made a contribution, in the form of a butterfly planter. I’m not about to advocate feeding the neighbourhood bunnies with your leftover veggies, but making an area of your garden attractive to butterflies is much less damaging to the other plants in your yard.

butterfly with caterpillar

Butterfly planters or gardens need to be in full sun, and may contain a variety of trees/shrubs, annuals and perennials.  The plants can reflect the needs of either the caterpillars, or butterflies or both!

Plants that caterpillars love: blueberries, cabbage, cherries, dill, hops, grasses & sedges, milkweed, parsley, pussy-toes, sunflowers, violets, wild mustard, and wild plums

Plants that butterflies love:

Annuals: ageratum, alyssum, butterfly weed, cosmos, dianthus, geranium, heliotrope, impatiens, lobelia, marigold, milkweed, nasturtiums, petunia, salvia, verbena, zinnia

Perennials:  asclepias (butterfly weed) asters, black eyed susan, coneflower, daylily, gaillardia, goldenrod, lavender, monarda, sunflower, wild bergamot

Trees & Shrubs:  chokecherry, crabapple, lilac, honeysuckle

018

When attracting butterflies to your yard, you can also include some homemade butterfly nectar, and food.  Butterflies love rotting fruit, especially bananas.  If leaving fruit out, remember to replace it once it dries out, or becomes mouldy.

Homemade Butterfly Nectar:

Mix 10 parts water with 1 part sugar, boil for 2 minutes.
Let cool and place in a shallow container (like a plant saucer).
Add a paper towel, saturated in the mixture, or a bright orange/yellow scrub pad.  The bright colour will help attract them, and provide a place for them to rest on.
The saucer can be placed amongst flowers, or on a post, or table nearby.
Extra solution can be stored in the fridge, and used to replenish the saucer as needed.

020

Once you’ve made your planter, sit back and watch carefully and patiently for the butterflies to arrive. And if you are so inclined, feed the bunnies, trap the ants and ladybugs while you’re at it!

What to Plant in Shady Planters

033

I love planning out our containers to plant each year; trying out new combinations of plants, and configurations makes the yard seem new and unique each year.  I certainly have some standby’s that I use each year, but trying something new is always fun! If you’re new to gardening or have been planting for years, I think it is always nice to have a fresh perspective to add ideas.  I’ve gathered a few ideas here for some shade planters to help inspire you as we wait for spring to arrive, and more importantly, stay!

The general rule for planters is to include a “thriller, spiller and filler”.

Shade Plants:

Thriller: Plants that add height and a bit of unique appeal.

Dracena, Ornamental Grass, Palms, Gartenmeister Fuschia, Elephant Ears, Coleus

Filler: Mounding plants that won’t reach the height of your thriller, but will fill in around and in front of the thriller.

Begonias, Impatiens, Fuschia, Coleus, Ferns,

Spiller: Adds interest and flows out of the pot. Can be either flowers or foliage.

Ivy/Vinca Vine, Torenia, Nico, Ivy, Creeping Charlie, Silver Falls, Lysmachia

 

The thriller is usually placed in the middle (if seen from all sides) or towards the back (if front/side views only). Then moving outwards/forwards add the fillers. Then finally along the outside edges add your spillers.

 

pot_placement

12″ pot= 5 plants

14″ pot= 7 plants

16″ pot= 9 plants

 

Remember, when you first plant your containers they will look sparse. They will fill in as the plants mature. Try not to over stuff them as it can result in over-crowded and unhealthy plants.

 

Bee Friendly Gardening

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you spend some time watching a flowering plant, eventually you will likely see a bee land and gather the nectar and pollen contained in the flowers.  It can be fascinating to watch them work; moving from flower to flower before eventually flying away to their hive. Bees play such an important role in nature, pollinating so many plants with their tiny bodies.  However, the use of chemicals in gardening and yard care is causing the widespread demise of bees, worldwide.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/what-s-killing-canadian-honeybees-1.1312511

At Lacoste we are committed to operating in a sustainable system. We use parasitic (“friendly”) wasps (read about it here) to control aphids in the greenhouse.  We do not use neonicontinoid pesticides.

At home, you can help the bee population too! When you plant your planters and gardens, you can create a bee-friendly place!

Create a welcome place for bees

  • All creatures that eat plants (including humans!) depend on pollinators.
  • ¾ of the foods we eat — fruits, nuts, vegetables, and herbs — need pollinators to reproduce.
  • Creating hospitable homes for beneficial insects in your garden means they are less likely to move into your house.
  • You’ll triple the yield of fruit and veggies in your garden — no more lumpy strawberries or shrunken squash!
  • Even what seems like a small contribution — just a tiny flower pot or patch — can provide valuable pollinator habitat.

These plants, organized by when they bloom, are just a few of the species that attract bees:

Early                      Mid-season        Late

Blueberry            Blackberry           Aster (perennial)

Cotoneaster       Cat mint               Beggar’s tricks

Crabapple           Catnip                   Borage

Cranberry            Chives                   Coneflower

Crocus                  Dahlia                    Cornflower

Foxglove              Hyssop                 Cosmos

Heliotrope          Lavender             Goldenrod

Hazelnut              Raspberry           Pumpkin

Heather               Sunflower           Sedum

Primrose              Yarrow                  Squash

Willow

 David Suzuki has a great article on other ways to make your garden bee-friendly, check it out for some more ideas

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/food-and-our-planet/create-a-bee-friendly-garden/

And don’t forget the best part about cultivating a healthy bee community.  There’s nothing tastier than local honey!

Spring Kick-off

IMG_3307

This morning as I walked out my front door, past my sad empty planters, and into the bright morning sunshine, I made a decision.  This is the year I’m going to gamble.  I’m going to plant at least a planter or two this weekend.  The last year we had a warm April, I debated planting early and did not, out of fear of frost.  My neighbour did plant early and his tomatoes were safe.

I’m not going to plant in the ground just yet, but planters can be easily moved inside if necessary, and maybe just maybe they won’t need to be!  There’s no hard-and-fast rule as to when to plant and when its safe; there are so many “rules”:  . . . May Long weekend, or the first moon in June, after the last frost.  However, there is no “garden police” that will come and tell me that I’ve planted incorrectly, so I’m going to try it!

The added benefit of planting early will be that all the beautiful, new, unique plants will still be plentiful. Come by this weekend to check them out, and while you’re here, grab a hotdog and make a donation as a part of our annual charity kick-off BBQ!  In addition to the BBQ, as always there will be great kids activities, and tons of beautiful inspiration to see!

Starting Seeds Indoors

Welcome to another great year of gardening! I’m super excited to share gardening tips and tricks, and learn new things along with all the staff and customers at Lacoste this year!  This year on the blog I’m hoping to try out some “gardening hacks” from around the web, experiments with new varieties and old favourite plants, and as always new recipes from local produce! I hope you’ll come along with me, and share your experiences too!

Today, I have a few thoughts on starting seeds for springtime.  The other night we were watching a program on Netflix called “The Mind of a Chef”.  Chef Sean Brock is very keen on using heritage crops in his cooking, and is a big proponent of seed-saving from one year to the next. Starting seeds indoors can be a great way to get a head start on your garden for spring, and help to speed the transition out of winter!

By the end of March, it will be time to start any indoor seeding, so now is a great time to gather supplies.  You’ll need a growing medium (peat moss), containers (cell packs are available at the store, egg-cartons will also work!), and a variety of your choice of seeds.  Most seed packets will have general instructions regarding when to start the seeds, how much light they need, how far to space them and how to water, but here are a few more tips!

  • Moisten the growing medium (peat moss) so that it isn’t soggy, but rather similar to the consistency of a wrung-out sponge.
  • Cover the freshly seeded containers with a transparent lid.  Once the seeds begin to germinate (sprout), remove the lid to allow air to circulate, and the plants to become stocky rather than stretch out.
  • Grow-lights, or cool fluorescent tubes are the best option for providing light, however a bright sunny window will often do the trick too!
  • Water the seedlings when the top layer of the soil appears dry.  Use a small watering can with a fine spray.  Be careful not to overwater, as soggy soil can lead to a fungal infestation!
  • Seedlings first sprout with two “cotyledons” or “seed leaves”, once there are true leaves, you can begin adding fertilizer when you water. Begin at half strength for a few weeks.
  • Once the risk of frost has passed, and you’ve gradually acclimatized your plants to outside, you can plant your plants in the garden!

When you’re choosing seeds to seed, consider what you will actually use, and enjoy in your garden.  Basil is a great choice for beginners, as are beans.  If you’d prefer to skip the veggies, and concentrate on flowers, pansies and petunias are also quite reliable!

Before we know it, all those little seeds will have turned into mature plants that every at-home chef can use for their own delicious creations!

What to Serve at a Christmas Party

veggies

For the past several years, we have hosted at least one Christmas gathering at our house, sometimes it’s a family gathering, sometimes friends, and often a work gathering as well.  Our friends-gathering started out as a retro-chic fondue party, but after a spilled pot of fondue oil, we’ve moved on to more casual gatherings for that particular group of people! The work-gathering occurs in conjunction with our Christmas party, so it is typically a little more formal.  The family gathering is somewhere in between, no fancy dress clothes, but typically a lower risk of spills (at least until all the babies are more mobile!) Each of these parties has its unique set of preparations that are required, however no matter what type of party you are hosting, making a plan in advance is a preparation that is essential everytime!

In October’s issue of Bon Appetit Magazine, Belle Cushing outlines 15 ideas for how to ensure a holiday dinner party sets off on a fun note.  As I was reading through the article, some of the tips seemed pretty straightforward, things like “make sure you have enough ice” and “good tunes are essential ”.  However, I was surprised that in a magazine that often seems to be on the far edge of new food trends, three of the suggested appetizers were Cheese Balls, Crudites (a.k.a. in my house as “Veggies and Dip”), and Shrimp Cocktail.  I had mentioned in a previous blog that the 70’s era houseplants are re-emerging as popular favourites.  I’m glad to see that the familiar appetizers from every single family gathering of my childhood are still popular favourites!

Of course, being a food/recipe/style magazine, the author had great suggestions of recipes to try for each of these appetizers.  However, realistically speaking if I’m hosting a dinner party and have determined a menu to cook, and cleaned up the house, it is very likely that I’m going to look for a bit of a shortcut where I can.  Luckily for me (and you too!) it is very easy, and just as tasty to pick up a Gourmet du Village dip mix, Cheese ball kit, and all sorts of sauces and preserves at Lacoste.  And because you mix them up yourself, you can embellish them and make them a part of your own secret recipe!

http://www.bonappetit.com/entertaining-style/parties/article/dinner-party-starters