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The Gardener’s Book List

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The Gardener’s Book List

In Manitoba, it can be tough to feel cheerful in February early March. The short days, bone-chilling temperatures, and snow-clogged roads all remind us how long it will be before we’ll see any signs of life outside. But during this time of year, the best thing we can do is embrace it!

The days may be short, but perhaps that can motivate us to find creative ways of bringing light into our spirits. The roads may not always be clear, but maybe we can use the time indoors to start dreaming up our master plan for this year’s annuals and edibles. The mercury may be plunging, but perhaps that means it’s the perfect time to curl up and ‘plunge’ into a good book in front of the fireplace. And perhaps we can do all three of these things at once. Here are some fabulous gardening books to pick up this month.

Colour Your Garden: Exciting Mixtures of Bulbs and Perennials by Jacqueline van der Kloet

Fans of bulbs and perennials will love this guide for capturing and enhancing the colours and shapes of these magnificent plants. Author Jacqueline van der Kloet offers practical tips and guides for creating stunning combinations for gardens of all

oakridge winter porch pot

sizes – from airy landscapes to balcony-sized container gardens. This is a must-read for those of us who get a rush from watching our spring tulips bloom!

Escape to Reality: How the World is Changing Gardening, and Gardening is Changing the World by Mark Cullen

For those who crave the soul-nourishing pleasures of gardening, Canadian gardening guru Mark Cullen’s recent release is the gardener’s very own Chicken Soup for the Soul. With beautiful design, touching

winter porch pot in urn

narratives, and practical tips, Cullen’s collaborative work – co-written with his son, Ben – explores not just how we garden, but why.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Christopher Silas Neal and Kate Messner

You’d have to dig deep to find a better way to introduce young people to gardening than Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. For parents and grandparents who wish to spark a curiosity about gardening in young readers, this book is equally filled with adorable illustrations, bedtime-worthy lyricism, and teachable information about the garden ecosystem. It’s the perfect way to share our love of the garden with our little ones and get them itching to explore the outdoors in the springtime.

Vegetables, Chickens & Bees: An Honest Guide to Growing Your Own Food Anywhere by Carson Arthur

You might recognize Carson Arthur as the host and garden expert on shows like Better Homes and Gardens’ Home, First Home, Global’s Room to Grow, and HGTV’s Green

closeup of holiday decorated porch pot with berries, lights and pinecones

Force. If you’ve been a fan of his, you’ll be excited to hear of the upcoming release of his first book. In Vegetables, Chickens & Bees, Arthur imparts the wisdom he’s gained over his 20-year career with an unconventional gardening book – to be released on February 26, 2019 – that speaks to a younger crowd of homeowners.

Prairie Garden 2019 Growing Food by the Prairie Garden Committee

Guest-edited by urban farming and gardening expert Tiffany Grenkow, the latest edition of the Prairie Garden Committee’s Prairie Garden guide is set to be released on February 24, 2019! This issue will be

wooden sleigh with winter porch pots

focusing on the edible gardening trend, but will cover so much more. Look forward to over 50 articles produced by local gardening experts, all with invaluable advice for growing gardens of all kinds in our region. If you’ll be in the Winnipeg area on the 24th, you can even attend the book launch at the Grant Park location of McNally Robinson at 2:00 pm.

closeup of red berries in winter porch pot

During these bleary days when the snow won’t let you into your garden, let your imagination take you there instead. We hope you find some inspiration in these titles, and maybe a new perspective to serve you well when the snow melts!

Seeding Indoors

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christmas decorated winter porch pot

Seeding Indoors

By Erna

While we can’t wish the deep freeze temperatures away, there are some things we can do as we wait for the weather to warm up. The time is near for beginning our indoor seeding – even if the cold weather outside doesn’t make it feel like garden season is around the corner. It’ll soon be the right moment to start giving our favourite annuals and edibles a “head start” into the season by seeding them in the warmth of our homes, giving us a longer window to enjoy them after their spring transplant.

Before You Plant Your Seeds

Gardening indoors during the winter can have a magical effect on your mood, as we’re able to get the joy of seeing fresh spring shoots before the real thing appears outside. Beyond the mental health benefits, however, seeding our flowers indoors has tangible benefits for our gardens, too!

Our growing season in Manitoba is unfortunately short, with most regions only

oakridge winter porch pot

seeing up to 125 frost-free days per year. While there are plenty of early-maturing flower and edible varieties out there, indoor seeding allows us to enjoy other varieties who wouldn’t have a chance to reach maturity if we waited to plant until after the last frost. Before you get started, though, you’ll want to prepare first:

Read your instructions carefully. The back of each seed packet has important information specific to that particular variety. Ensure you read the back of the packet before purchasing so you’re prepared to meet your seedlings’ special requirements – and that the end result is what you’re looking for.

Get familiar with your zone. The southern

winter porch pot in urn

half of Manitoba is predominantly zone 2a, 2b, and 3a. Review a plant hardiness zone map prior to purchasing seeds. While some that are from zones close to ours can be convinced to grow here, some seeds adapted to much warmer climates may start indoors just fine, but might not survive our climate after transplanting outside.

Start small and work your way up. If it’s your first year of seed starting and you hope to plant an entire edible garden, pause before you start seeding all your vegetables indoors! It’s better to start with one or two varieties and learn how to care for them well, rather than biting off more than you can chew with five to ten plants in the first year. It’s better to have one or two strong, healthy, high-yielding plants than several struggling ones. Besides, you can still always purchase starter seedlings in the spring if you still want to expand your edible garden.

Don’t start too early. While it may be tempting to start seeing something fresh and green as soon as physically possible, you find yourself a little underwhelmed by starting seeds too early. Most plants only need about six weeks of start time before they’re ready for transplant. Start too early and the conditions the plant needs to grow won’t be there for it yet, leaving you with a weak, lanky, or stunted seedling. Review a seeding calendar to plan your indoor seeding schedule first!

Planting & Germinating

      Once you’ve prepared properly, you’re ready to get growing! Here’s how to get your seeds started indoors:

    Use the right soil blend. Potting soil is great for houseplants, but plants that are being grown with the intent to transplant need different conditions. We recommend a

closeup of holiday decorated porch pot with berries, lights and pinecones

blend of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite, which should allow sufficient drainage and oxygen flow for your developing plant. Whatever your blend is, though, make sure it’s with new materials purchased at the garden centre and not pulled from your garden, because your vulnerable little seeds will need sterile conditions to get started. Then, follow the seed packet instructions for the correct planting depth.

Give seedlings a proper introduction to light. Before germinating, seeds haven’t developed a system for synthesizing light. So they should be kept covered to conserve moisture until the first leaf develops. Once you see the leaf emerge, place them by a sunny window. In our climate, your seedling likely won’t receive the necessary 12 hours

wooden sleigh with winter porch pots

of light it needs per day this early in the year, so supplement light during those dark hours with a grow light!

Be mindful of moisture levels. Seeds are already rich in the nutrients they need to grow, so they need no fertilizer, but they will need a consistently moist environment to germinate. Too much water can cause mould and too little can dry out the baby plant. Keep soil damp by misting as needed with a spray bottle.

Transplant thoughtfully. While those first few days of above-zero weather may make us feel like breaking out the shorts and t-shirts, it’s still a little early for your seedling to survive outside – especially in the chilly spring nights! After the risk of frost has passed, harden them off by giving them a few hours outdoors at a time, then move them back indoors. Repeat this daily for longer and longer stretches of time. Overcast days without wind or rain are particularly good starting points, as your plant is not accustomed to direct sunlight or rain. After a week or two, your seedling should be toughened up enough for transplanting.

closeup of red berries in winter porch pot

Plants, like babies and puppies, are a lot more work than you’d expect from something so small – but at least they have the manners to stay in one spot while they grow! However, as they mature, all the dedication you put into them is worth it. Before long, you’ll be able to look on proudly as they sway in the summer breeze – and this winter will be a distant memory.

Tablescaping 101

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christmas decorated winter porch pot

Tablescaping 101

By Megan

A lot has happened between the age of rotary phones and the advent of iPhones, and there’s a strong argument that reliance on technology – with instant messaging, around-the-clock reachability, and 24-hour shipping – has brought us away from nurturing meaningful connections. In a time when more and more people associate the word “hosting” with “websites”, have we lost our sense of hospitality?

It doesn’t have to be so! Let’s resolve, in 2019, to be more deliberate with our interactions. More personal. To honour our guests, new acquaintances, and dearly beloved, by creating an atmosphere of comfort and spiritual nourishment. And let’s start by setting the table.

What is Tablescaping?

These days, the focus of most meals is the food. We race the clock to deliver our sides, salads, and entrees so each are delivered, piping hot, at the same time. Tablescaping, at its heart, is inverting this focus. It’s about bringing the focus to the table – to the ambience that has been created, and the company you’re sharing it with. It’s an art, and in some circles, even a competitive event!

Where we can adapt it in the home is to get inspiration from artfully set tables, and create our own tablescapes with decorative objects that we can either purchase or

lemon table decor idea for tablescaping

modify from what we have at home. By putting in that little extra effort, we’re showing our guests that their presence is our privilege – and in turn, they might not mind waiting a few extra minutes while dinner browns in the oven

white candle with greenery

Simple Tablescaping Ideas

For most occasions, your tablescape doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Here are a few interesting ideas for decorating your table, no matter your budget or time frame. Candles & Greenery – This simple and romantic tablescape calls just calls for a few white pillar candles and some delicate

branches of foliage. Simply arrange the pillars lengthwise along the centre of the table, spacing them out slightly, and weave the greenery between them. Eucalyptus, either real or artificial, works beautifully.

Wildflower Vases – Create a simple and sophisticated Easter tablescape by arranging four or five bouquets of mixed flowers in shades of yellow, white, pink, and purple in matching glass vases. Try mixing different floral shapes – perhaps a bouquet of marigolds, roses, astilbe, and pansies – and place them down the centre line of the table. A basic white or cream tablecloth and matching cloth napkins completes the look.

    Rustic Vintage – Create a table runner with a swath of burlap or vintage lace. Arrange simple bouquets of voluminous white blooms, like peonies, with a few sprigs of baby’s breath in vintage vases or mason jars.

Special Event and Holiday Tablescapes

 For special occasions that call for going the extra mile, consider details like table favours and place cards. While these tablescapes require a little more planning and execution, the special touches will stay in guests’ minds and ensure the occasion is a memorable one.

lemon designed pot for lemon party

Lemon Tablescape – Perfect for occasions like engagement parties, baby showers, and post-wedding brunches, sunny lemons are the star of this arrangement. Along the centre line of the table, alternate bowls of lemons with yellow and white bouquets. Serve lemonade from attractive glass pitchers, filled with ice and slices of Meyer lemon, and in lieu of napkin rings, try tying napkins with yellow ribbon. You can have fun with table favours, with each guest receiving a lemon-themed gift. – perhaps a place card tucked into a real lemon, or a tiny bottle of limoncello.

Thanksgiving Tablescape – The objective with a Thanksgiving tablescape is to create a mood of coziness. Try using a warm fabric for your table runner, like a handsome plaid in colours that complement the rest of your arrangement. For your centrepiece, arrange tall white candles and bouquets of chrysanthemums with miniature pumpkins in orange and white. For table favours, miniature mason jars are on-theme and a perfect vessel for homemade jam, apple butter, or hot cocoa mix. Try using chalkboard labels or butcher paper for indicating your guests’ names.

sparkling gold christmas tablescape

Christmas Tablescape – The holiday season leaves so many options for creative tablescaping, the possibilities are endless! We love combining an element of red fruit, like cranberries or winterberry, with real evergreen boughs to create our centrepiece. Cinnamon sticks, tied to napkins with a small sprig of cedar, make a sweet and simple table favour that enhances the

aromas at the table. Candlelight is a must for adding soft light and warmth to the table – but you may want to stick to sturdy votives so nothing gets knocked over as guests pass the food back and forth!

christmas wax candles

A beautiful tablescape can come together quicker than you might expect, and it truly does a lot to make your guests’ experience memorable. Set the tone for a year filled with memories with a creative table setting of your own!

New Years Planning: Our Seed Reference Guide

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Beautiful Garden Flowers

New Years Planning: Our Seed Reference Guide

By Erna

While we’ve all flirted with the usual New Year’s resolutions – shed a few pounds, be more productive, and so on – that early January goal-setting mindset is an especially significant event for those of us who spend most of our summers in our gardens.

With a whole year ahead of us to take on a new gardenscaping project, it’s the perfect time of year to let our excitement for a new year kickstart our planning process. To help light the fire in your belly, we’ve put together a seed reference guide to our favourite annual and perennial varieties to help you visualize your spring garden layout!

Seed Reference for New Years Garden Planning

From bold colours to ground covers, you can find these varieties at Oakridge Garden Centre. For detailed information about our entire selection, our catalog is available in-store.

Our Favourite Annuals for Beds & Borders

  • Marigold Durango – These bushy, bright marigolds make a statement in your garden while attracting beneficial insects to your beds and borders. Prefers full sun.
  • Gazania New Day – These mounding blooms come in a wide range of stunning deep jewel tones. These gazanias are easy to care for and perform just as well in containers. Prefers full sun.
  • Hibiscus Little Zin – The deep burgundy foliage of Hibiscus Little Zin makes it a fantastic accent plant to complement bronze leaf begonias and deep red-toned blooms. Thrives in full sun.
Marigold Durango
Salvia Victoria Blue
  • Plectranthus Nicolletta – These soft and silvery spreading annuals make excellent ground cover. Their muted green foliage pairs well with neutral-coloured blooms and paler colour palette and will fare well anywhere from sun to shade.
  • Salvia Victoria Blue – Add height to borders and beds with these fragrant sky-blue flower spikes. Their long-lasting flowers bloom from late spring until the frost. Prefers full sun.

Annuals for Containers and Baskets

  • Lantana Cherry Sunrise – Show-stopping bursts of sunrise-toned blooms make these lantanas the star of any container garden. The delicate-looking, but surprisingly low-maintenance, flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and double-takes! Thrives in full sun.
  • Solenia Begonia– The delicate flowers of these brightly-coloured begonias bring cheer and sunshine to hanging baskets and container gardens. As delicate as they look, these bushy begonias are pretty tough – standing up to wind, disease, and intense sun.
Latana Cherry Sunrise
Zinnia Double Strawberry
  • Nemesia Angelart Peach – By the time these compact plants finish, their dark green foliage is covered with a dense blanket of blooms that look just like peaches! Containers with Nemesia Angelart Peach will overflow with flowers all season long, with fragrant blooms in shades of soft gold, pink and orange. Performs best in semi-shade.
  • Verbena Lascar White – These early-blooming plants boast clusters of bright-white flowers on deep green foliage. Their trailing habit looks positively elegant in containers and hanging planters. Prefers full sun.
  • Zinnia Double Strawberry – If you love zinnias, the punchy colour of Double Strawberry will steal your heart. Incredibly easy to grow, these sturdy magenta flowers perform wonderfully in drought conditions. Thrives in full sun.

Perfect Perennials with Beautiful Blooms

  • Aquilegia Songbird Cardinal – With stunning bi-colour, trumpeting flowers, these cardinals bring colours and shapes worth looking forward to year after year. Plant in part-shade in well-drained soil.
  • Echinacea Hot Coral – Feeling a little weary of standard purple coneflowers? Their neon-red cousins will revitalize borders and beds with scads of bold blooms. Talk about making your New Year’s firework show last! Plant in full sun or light shade, into well-drained soil.
  • Lily Tiny Double You – A true double flower, these gorgeous blooms have a dwarf habit that works equally well in containers as they do in beds and borders. However, the real “WOW” factor comes from their versatility in soil tolerance. Plant in full sun or light shade into any soil type from normal, to sandy, to clay – even rock gardens.
Aquilegia Songbird Cardinal
Perennial Phlox
  • Hemerocallis Fooled Me – These sunny daylilies bloom like nobody’s business, with over 500 blooms per year! Fooled Me is exceptionally hardy with excellent drought and disease tolerance, making them a perfect choice for standing the time in our Manitoba climate. Plant in a sunny or part-in area in moist, well-drained soils, ideally loam.
  • Perennial Phlox – When perennial phlox blooms, the foliage is nearly hidden from view under a soft blanket of rich, uniformly-coloured blossoms available in bold shades of white, pink, purple, and red. Plant in full sun, into moist, rich soil.

Perennials for Ground Cover and Foliage

  • Aralia Sun King – These bright green foliage plants look almost tropical, yet complement woodland foliage beautifully. They form a large flowering clump that attracts honeybees and dissuades deer. Plant in part shade in fertile, good-quality soil.
  • Hosta Rainforest Sunrise – These hostas start out deep green, and ultimately develop a chartreuse-to-gold toned centre. They also eventually produce a flower spike of lavender-toned blossoms. Plant in part-to-full shade in good-quality, neutral-to-acidic soil.
  • Heuchera Peach Crisp – These ruffled collectors plants produce foliage in an interesting peachy-gold shade. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil.
Hosta Rainforest Sunshine
Heuchera Peach Crisp
  • Astilbe Colorflash – These colour-changing astilbes are almost like mood rings in their variations of shades through the year, with foliage ranging from green to burgundy to purple. They produce light pink flower spikes which create interesting visual contrast during their flowering period. Plant in part shade in well-drained soil.
  • Panicum Hot Rod – This perennial grass makes an interesting accent in beds and borders, and develops burgundy tips early in the summer. Plant in part sun in good-quality soil, and water frequently.

Like a painter at their canvas, proper planning is essential for creating a masterpiece of colour, scale, and shapes in our gardens. The process of preparing for a new year of gardening can quickly become overwhelming, especially if you anticipate trying something new this year with your layout or variety choices. Even the best artists can occasionally benefit from a fresh pair of eyes! Speak to one of our garden experts for ideas, inspiration, and information about what’s new to in-store for 2019.

Charcuterie Board Plating

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Charcuterie Board Plating

Charcuterie Board Plating

After a long season of leaning over hot stoves and meticulously decorating cookies, we’re ready for a little break. As much joy as we might get from entertaining, we only have so much time and energy. On those occasions when we’re running low on both, we’re especially thankful for every great host’s secret weapon – the charcuterie board.

Charcuterie Board 101

Charcuterie boards are, traditionally, platters of all our favorite cold cured meats, but these days have grown to include samplings of meats, cheeses, and more – often served with condiments, bread, and crackers. What separates a charcuterie board from the simpler, straight-from-the-store meat and cheese platters commonly found at your typical social is a focus on quality ingredients and presentation.

Plating a charcuterie board is not unlike arranging a bouquet of flowers. You want to make sure that all your high-quality ingredients are displayed beautifully and in a way that every piece compliments its neighbour. A beautifully-presented charcuterie board should consider:

oakridge winter porch pot

Scale – A variety of heights on your charcuterie board gives the presentation appealing dimension. Try cutting firm cheeses and placing them on their side, or serving meats or condiments on risers for a tiered effect. Stacking and well-planned slicing not only give your platter more visual appeal, but the flexibility to fit more crowd-pleasers on a single tray.

Colour – An interesting combination of shades makes your charcuterie look much more appetizing. Try combining very different-looking cheeses with dried fruit, pickled vegetables, and fine condiments to add pops of colour, while matching their exciting flavours.

Flow – A charcuterie board is made for sharing, mingling, and experimenting. Create space between each element so guests can feast without being in the way of others. Encourage guests to try certain combinations by arranging specific complementary ingredients closer together. People tend to scan from left to right, so give some thought to which order you want people to explore the selection and place them accordingly.

Charcuterie Board Accessories

Chacuterie Board with apples, bread slices, nuts, cheese, salami

Beautiful accessories go a long way in making the presentation look picture-perfect. For starters, a set of cheese knives is a must-have for serving charcuterie, pairing function with grace. Opt for a dedicated surface, like a raw-edge wooden serving tray, which sets the stage for a gorgeous arrangement. Cute, tiny vessels for condiments will keep the area neat while adding visual appeal. And, of course, make sure any packaging you leave on the board is beautiful – keep any shrink wrap or price tags hidden away!

What to Put on a Charcuterie Board

The best part about charcuterie is it requires no heat, minimal prep, and you can usually get everything you need at the specialty foods shop. Really the only downside is how overwhelming it can be to choose from a hundred cheeses and meats! As a rule of thumb, we recommend each charcuterie board contain:

Charcuterie Board with condiments and meat
  • At least three types of cheese – Ideally something soft, something firm, and something a little daring.
  • At least three types of meat – Always try to have something mild and approachable, something a little more robust, and something spicy.
  • Condiments – At least one savoury and at least one sweet, but a little kick of spice is always good, too.
  • Carbohydrates for serving – Typically crackers or a selection of breads.

Foolproof Charcuterie Board Ideas

There are thousands of to-die-for combinations and options, but these boards are guaranteed to send the compliments rolling in. Try one of these serving suggestions at your next function, or use them as a starting point to inspire your own:

For Low-Key Gatherings

Cheeses:

Boursin – Soft, spreadable, mild yet addictive
Applewood – smoked cheddar – Firm, sharp, and smoky
Shropshire bleu – Has the savoury qualities of cheddar with the tang of a milder bleu cheese

Meats:

Genoa salami – A mild, easy-to-eat classic
Dry-aged prosciutto – Salty with a dry, jerky-like texture
Hot capicola  – Tender and very spicy
Condiments: Olive tapenade and liquid honey
Serve with: French bread and Ritz crackers

For Intimate Special Occasions

Cheeses:

– Baked brie – Try it seasoned with lemon zest and fresh herbs!
– Gorgonzola – A strong, soft-textured bleu
– Aged Irish cheddar – Sharp, delicious flavour with a unique texture

Meats:
– Prosciutto – A chewy Italian ham with an earthy flavour
– Chorizo – A boldly spicy dry sausage
– Soppressata – A full-flavoured dry salami with a kick
Condiments: Honey, fig preserves
Serve with: Pear slices, bias-cut discs of baguette


For Black-Tie Soirees

Cheeses:

– Délice de Bourgogne – Can be hard to find, but has an unforgettable buttery flavour and texture. Substitute – with Saint-André if unavailable.
– Castello Blue – A bold Danish bleu
– Manchego Viejo – Aged Spanish cheese with a slightly sweet flavour and crumbly texture

Meats:
– Jamón – A well-cured ham with a distinctive flavour
– Foie gras – A true delicacy. Substitute pâté if foie gras is not available.
– Hot Coppa – A spicy, dry salami similar in texture to aged prosciutto
– Condiments: Dried fruit, agave syrup
– Serve with: Water crackers, cream crackers, assorted bread, and dry toasts

Serving delicious foods to our guests doesn’t always mean hours of prepping, cooking, and plating. For a sophisticated serving that will be the hit of any soiree, these charcuterie boards will be a surefire success!

charcuterie board filled with meats, cheese, olives and a glass of wine

Poinsettias

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christmas poinsettias

The holiday season is upon us, and the hustle and bustle of gift shopping, meal planning and tree decorating is in full swing. In most households this season, there will be only one other plant in the house that competes with the Christmas tree for attention – the classic poinsettia.

There’s no mistaking the red and green foliage of a poinsettia. Not only are their festive and flashy colours a perfect compliment to any holiday decor, but they also make perfect hostess gifts at Christmas parties. They’ve become exceptionally affiliated with our holiday season, which is interesting considering the poinsettia isn’t native to Canada at all!

The Poinsettia Story

The myth that sparked the popularity of poinsettias was born in Mexico. According to legend, a young girl was on her way to church on Christmas Day when she noticed people walking past with elaborate gifts to offer at the altar.

standing water

The girl was poor, and when she reached the church and saw the bounty the townspeople had brought, she began to cry in shame. Another young girl saw this happening and consoled her, saying that Jesus cared little for expensive gifts. What really mattered was that the gift was given with love.

Heartened by her friend’s words, the poor girl searched and searched for something to bring to the church. All she could find was a patch of green weeds, so she picked them gently into a bouquet and carried them to the altar. As she passed, the wealthier townspeople snickered at her humble offering, but as she laid them down, something incredible happened.

The weeds transformed into vibrant and beautiful red flowers as everyone in the church stared in disbelief! The little girl’s love was rewarded with a miracle. From then on, every Christmas the poinsettias – or ‘Flores de Noche Buena’ (Flower of the Holy Night) – would bloom at the edge of every road in Mexico to commemorate the little girl’s gift.

Poinsettia Care

While the story of the poinsettia is a myth, it’s true that poinsettias hail from Mexico, and as common as they are to see in the middle of our frigid Manitoba winters, they are tropical plants that need a little warmth to stay healthy. Display poinsettias away from windows to protect them from cold drafts. They don’t need to be in a hot area, but the leaves are particularly vulnerable to the chilly weather.

Taking Care of your Poinsettias

By the same token, keep poinsettias away from hot air vents, which can dry them out. An area in your home with a comfortable climate and good air circulation will keep them happiest.

Poinsettias are sensitive to overwatering, which makes them a lovely low-maintenance plant at this time of year. We could all use more time for our endless to-do lists during this season, so take daily watering out of the equation!

Let the soil dry out before watering your poinsettia again. They thrive in the drought-prone regions of Mexico, and are well-adapted to going a little extra time between “rains”.

Picking a Poinsettia

To make sure your poinsettia lasts through the Christmas season, it’s important to be selective when visiting the garden centre! Deep, rich colour and expansive foliage are good signs that the poinsettia plant is healthy. Avoid choosing plants with discoloured leaves.

white Christmas poinsettia
pink christmas poinsettia

If purchasing in early-to-mid November, choose a poinsettia with buds. This is a younger plant that will continue to bloom over the longest period.

In late November to early December, look for poinsettias that are still yellow in the middle. This indicates a recent bloom, which will last several weeks.

Unless Christmas is just around the corner, avoid purchasing poinsettias with dark-coloured centres. These are older blooms which will lose their colour soon.

Poinsettias are a beloved tradition that add a dose of colour and a touch of tradition to any household. They may not be native to our wintery climate, but with a little care, they make an excellent Christmas companion regardless of geography. If you’re giving the gift of a poinsettia this year, just remember to give it with love!

Multi-colored Christmas Poinsettias

Fresh Table Decor for Holiday Dining

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christmas decorated winter porch pot

Fresh Table Decor for Holiday Dining

By Erna

As Christmas draws closer, so do our relatives. Hosting is as much a part of the holidays as gift-giving and tree-trimming, and is just as much of an art. Creating a comfortable gathering place takes a little extra planning and thoughtfulness that guests often don’t expect. Here’s how to decorate a holiday table that will set the tone for a warm and welcoming occasion:

Christmas Centrepieces

If we choose just one Christmas table decoration this season, it should be the centrepiece! There are so many creative possibilities for creating DIY holiday centrepieces that are both beautiful and inexpensive:

Birch Logs and Pillar Candles: Christmas tree farms are a great place to look for cut birchwood stumps, which can be repurposed as rustic candle stands. Arrange several with different heights and widths to create a “candle forest” arrangement.

Illuminated Evergreen Clippings: Arrange a garland of cedar or pine down the centre of the table and decorate with nature-inspired

oakridge winter porch pot

accents, like pinecones, winterberries, or flocking. To bring in some light, try adding candles or LED fairy lights to the arrangement!
Decorated Bare Branches:
For those of us who prefer the graceful silhouette of bare deciduous tree branches over traditional, lush evergreen needles, these arrangements look stunning. Arrange small clippings of bare tree branches into a vase and decorate them with lightweight, coordinating ornaments or twinkling mini-lights. Dogwood’s natural red colour is especially on-theme for this idea with stems as red as a Christmas sleigh!

Fruits of the Season: Glass vessels filled with holiday clementines make a zesty display paired with sprigs of evergreen or eucalyptus.

Holiday Succulent Garden: Re-pot succulents into a small distressed-wood box arranged with more traditional holiday greenery. This is a surefire way to put a contemporary twist on a traditional Christmas centrepiece!

Holiday Table Decor

Table decor comes down to coordinating colours and materials for a harmonious look. These easy holiday decorations provide a backdrop for our dinner table’s biggest moment of the year.

Table Linens: For minimalists, white crochet table runners are very on-trend

winter porch pot in urn

right now and contrast evergreen centrepieces and accents beautifully. For something a little more luxe, try pairing two table runners of different widths to create depth and richness. Rustic neutrals, like burlap, paired with a bold fabric, like a plaid or shimmering gold tulle, create a warm, homey look. For a fun look, an extra-long holiday scarf can work just as well!

Napkin “Rings”: We love the trend of wrapping napkins in ribbon or twine with a cedar clipping and a cinnamon stick tucked in the middle. It’s perfect for putting a natural, woodsy element on the table to match the rest of your decor.

Christmas Cutlery: It’s been easier and easier lately to find quality cutlery in holiday-friendly shades, like gold and matte black. Choose a set that works with your table’s colour palette to add the look of precious metal or a visually interesting element of contrast.

Table Favours for Holiday Gatherings

        There’s no better time than the season of giving to place table favours for your holiday guests! These customized tokens acknowledge each guest, helping them truly feel that they have a place at the table.

closeup of holiday decorated porch pot with berries, lights and pinecones

Cranberry Wreaths: A little fishing line, a large sewing needle, and a bag of fresh cranberries are all that’s needed to assemble these quick and pretty table favours. Cut butcher paper into miniature banners to make labels for each guest.

Custom Cookies: Baking a batch of sugar cookies? Use holiday-themed cookie cutters, cookie glaze, and a fine-tipped icing tube to customize each cookie with guests’ names.

Mistletoe: Whether fresh or artificial, mistletoe is a holiday tradition that has grown so old, it’s new again. Write

wooden sleigh with winter porch pots

guests’ names on elegant gift tags to tie into each sprig to place on each guest’s napkin and expect to witness at least one sneaky kiss!

closeup of red berries in winter porch pot

Your winter porch pot and coordinating decor will make your whole home look more inviting while lightening the spirits of all who pass it – and we all know that during these short winter days, we could use all the light we can get!

Winter Porch Pots

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christmas decorated winter porch pot

Winter Porch Pots

By Erna

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields that it kisses them so gently?”

-Lewis Carroll

On the coldest days of winter here in Manitoba, all we can think about is wrapping ourselves in warm blankets and snuggling by the fire with a mug of hot cocoa. Those cozy evenings have a way of making us feel like all is right in the world, despite the howling winds and blowing snow outside! After a day of work or running errands, when all you can think about is getting back to your toasty nest, it’s a wonderful thing to see a little bit of that cheerful winter spirit waiting for you on the front porch. With the power to lift spirits of guests or passers-by, and to bring a smile to your face as you reach for your keys, winter porch pots add a few extra degrees of warmth to your home’s exterior.

Making a Winter Porch Pot

Winter porch pots are, in essence, container gardens brimming with winter greenery. Evergreens are the natural choice for creating a seasonal look that keeps its colour and beauty. Simply select cuttings from a variety of conifers and other winter plants, and arrange them artistically to suit your taste. The basic steps to building your porch pot are:

Choose a Container – Your container makes almost as much of a statement as the greenery inside! Set the tone with a reclaimed wood barrel for a farmhouse look, a sleek-looking concrete planter for a modern industrial vibe, or a stately urn for

oakridge winter porch pot

traditional appeal. Fill your chosen container with dense potting soil.

Select Your Evergreens – Porch pots look best with boughs from 3-4 different conifers with contrasting sizes and textures, like juniper, spruce, pine, and cedar. Gather several clippings of each before you begin.

Assemble the Porch Pot – Sturdier clippings, like the spruce, look great in the centre, while draping pine needles look elegant trailing over the side of the pot. Juniper makes a great cover to fill in gaps. Fan-like shapes, like cedar clippings, look beautiful as a backdrop to the arrangement. Get creative with your placement, but make sure to sink each clipping into the pot deep enough to withstand strong gusts of wind!

winter porch pot in urn

Decorate the Arrangement – Add flair to your winter porch pot by adding sprigs of real or artificial winter berries, curly willow, or oversized pine cones. Stouter shapes, like the pine cones, will look best as a central focal point, but tall shapes, like the curly willow, look better as accents on the sides and near the back of the arrangement.

Holiday Porch Pots – To give your porch pot a little Christmas spirit, add festive decorations, like red buffalo ribbons and bows, and add string lights to finish the look.

Front Porch Winter Decor Ideas

    If you love the look of the porch pots, you may be tempted to coordinate the rest of your front porch decor to match. Here are some fun decorations you can add to finish the look.

Wreaths – You’ve likely hung your wreath on

closeup of holiday decorated porch pot with berries, lights and pinecones

the door before you’ve even though to take on a porch pot project! However, if you haven’t yet, consider matching the greenery of your wreath to the ones in your winter porch pot.

Birch Poles – Birch accents are all the rage right now, and a pile of birch “firewood” or crafty displays made with birch poles will put your front door decor in line with the trend.

Vintage Sleighs and Skates – These adorable decorations add a little Canadiana to your front entry when rested against your home’s facade.

Outdoor Benches – Add a little extra coziness to a covered front porch with an outdoor bench, complete with a plush

wooden sleigh with winter porch pots

blanket in a synthetic material and outdoor-safe cushion. Choosing a storage bench makes for a clever storage solution for de-icing salts and winter boots!

closeup of red berries in winter porch pot

Your winter porch pot and coordinating decor will make your whole home look more inviting while lightening the spirits of all who pass it – and we all know that during these short winter days, we could use all the light we can get!

Unique Houseplants to Love

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Unique Houseplants to Love

unique houseplants decorated in house

Each of us is a unique strand in the intricate web of life and here to make a contribution.

  – Deepak Chopra

Plants, like people, are unique living things. No two plants are exactly alike, even within the same species. However, some plants truly stand out from the crowd. They’re the ones that make you stop and take a closer look, the ones that make you wonder how they came to be the way they are. If you’ve had the good fortune to bring home such a plant, you may find that its strangest qualities are what you find the most endearing. Perhaps there’s a lesson in humility there!

Here are some of the more unusual houseplants we’ve grown especially fond of this year.

Goldfish Plant (Columnea gloriosa)

While real goldfish most likely appreciate a little live vegetation in their tanks, that’s not what we’re referring to when we talk about these plants! Goldfish plants are unique houseplants that are both cute and whimsical in equal measure. With their bright orange, fish-shaped blooms, they look just like a bowl of goldfish swimming happily around a cluster of foliage. They have become quite popular lately, as they add a little fun and movement to a room. Keep goldfish plants in bright indirect sunlight and let the soil dry between waterings.

Green and Red Goldfish Plant (Columnea Gloriosa)

Goldfish Plant by Kevan, Source: Flickr.com

Snake Plant (Sansevieria)

These unique indoor plants are known by many names, and not all of them are especially flattering! Despite their more disparaging monikers, snake plants have beautifully patterned leaves and are very robust. They are famously low-maintenance and add nice dimension to any space. Snake plants are sold as small as a few inches and as tall as 3’ high, with slender, snake-like leaves. They’re often found in waiting rooms, living rooms, and other spaces filled with low chairs and stout furniture, as their lanky shape balances those low silhouettes. Snake plants like to live in indirect sunlight and shouldn’t be watered too often.

snake plant (Sansevieria)

Monstera (Monstera deliciosa)

These strange indoor plants have exploded in popularity in the past year, showing up everywhere from art prints to fabrics. Their unusual leaves – which have earned them their other name, the ‘Swiss cheese plant’ – have captivated the attention of plant lovers everywhere for their bold, sculptural appearance. While monsteras are among

Monstera Plant

the most beautiful houseplants in the public eye right now, they’re also among the wildest (at least for us here in Manitoba!). The leaves and stems are toxic to people and pets, and they are capable of becoming invasive climbing plants if brought outdoors. However, if well-cared-for in a sunny indoor spot, and kept in peaty soil with good drainage, they behave just fine.

Closeup of Bright Green Ficus Houseplant

Ficus (Ficus benjamina)

Another one of the more beautiful houseplants on the list, ficuses are slender trees with a shock of shiny, bright-green leaves. However, the most striking feature of the ficus is their flexible trunks, which are often braided before being sold. The braid adds an unexpected texture to the plant that is both subtle and elegant. Ficus do best with a thorough weekly watering in a spot with bright sunlight. To keep the symmetry of the leaves, it’s best to rotate them when watering.

It’s truly amazing how nature’s creations come in shapes, sizes, and colours beyond our wildest imaginations. No matter where you live or who you are, there’s a houseplant just as unique as you are!

Growing Herbs Indoors

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growing herbs indoors

Growing Herbs Indoors

By Erna

“Herbs deserve to be used much more liberally.”

Yotam Ottolenghi

While the days of fresh vegetables from the garden have passed for the time being, the days of savoury stews and hearty dinners have only just begun. Of course, the secret to a truly memorable home-cooked meal is the addition of fresh herbs. Not only do they impart a beautiful flavour and aroma, they also add that great hit of colour that you simply can’t get with the dried varieties. Not to mention, it looks downright gorgeous when a dish is served with a garnish of thyme or rosemary sprigs!

Fresh Flavours Indoors

Here in Manitoba, the long and chilly months of winter can leave us longing for the warmer season. Luckily, we can still add some life to our homes, hearts, and plates by keeping an indoor herb garden! Rosemary, thyme, parsley, and basil can all thrive indoors with the right conditions and a little TLC.

growing plants indoors

Pests Off

If you’ve brought your herbs in from your outdoor garden, the first order of business should be to get them freshened up and ready for life indoors. Outdoor herbs can bring some unwanted guests inside with them, like spider mites or aphids, so they appreciate a gentle bath with a little warm water and dish soap just before settling into

aphids

their new homes.

If you notice more bugs than expected on your herbs, all is not lost! Insecticidal soap is safe to use on your edibles as you migrate them indoors. Wash them weekly with the insecticidal soap treatment until the pests are all gone. If you chose to use your herbs in the meantime, give your sprigs a good rinse before using to take care of any bitter residues.

Growing Herbs Indoors

Light is the most important gift you can give your indoor herb garden! Set them up close to a west- or south-facing window where they’ll be treated to full sun for as long as possible. Deep into winter, even a full day of sun isn’t all that much, so you may need to supplement with a grow light. A few

windowsill herbs

extra UV rays will make such a big difference in the height, health, and flavour of your herb plants.

Water: Herbs might experience a little culture shock travelling from their outdoor summer climate into an indoor winter escape. Just as the much as the dry winter air has most of us reaching for the lotion bottle, your herbs will be craving moisture when the humidity fades away.

fresh basil leaves

There are a few tricks for increasing humidity indoors – some of which might make your home more comfortable for you, too!

  • A humidifier is an excellent way to keep your herbs (and other indoor plants) happy and humid during the cold months. Plus, if you’re prone to coughs and colds, you may even find the humidifier also helps you breathe better!
  • Spritzing herbs with a misting bottle will help keep your plants looking vibrant, but during very dry weather it can be cumbersome to keep up with. If you don’t mind spritzing throughout the day, it’s hard to overdo it in the winter – so spray away!
  • Pebble trays cost very little and help a lot! Just place a layer of pebbles on a flat tray with a lip about ½” high. Add water until the pebbles are almost submerged, but not quite, then place the herb pots on the pebbles. The water from the tray will slowly evaporate into the air around the plants all day long. Just check the tray daily and top up with water to maintain.
growing herbs in pebble trays

When it comes down to it, it doesn’t take much work to grow your own herbs inside when the weather outside is frightful. That means you’ll have plenty of time for the real work – the cooking!