Category Archives: General

Planting Your New Tree

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Planting Your New Tree

Trees are some of the most important features of our landscapes. They provide shade, beauty, and structure to a property, and they add value to the home. Especially for families, trees often hold a great deal of sentimental value. From tire swings to treehouses, some of our most precious memories couldn’t have happened without our beloved trees.

As our communities grow and our landscapes change, many newer homes tend to lack mature trees. Planting just one new tree makes a tangible, long-lasting difference in an entire community. That tree is likely to stay on the property much longer than you will, and every year it’ll give a little more back. From its earliest days, your new tree will produce oxygen, then soon after it will become a shelter for wildlife. Then, someday, it will become a landmark that will always remind someone of home.

The Best Time of Year to Plant a Tree

The best time to plant a new tree is when the tree has gone dormant. Early spring is the most favourable time to plant a new tree, as the tree is just beginning to wake up and the air isn’t too warm yet. If you can get the tree or shrub into the ground before the buds burst into leaves, the timing will be just right for them to settle in and enjoy their new home before the temperature rises.

However, despite common belief, summer planting is not entirely out of the question! While there certainly is more possibility for transplanting stress in the summer, planting a pot-grown tree can be done anytime as long as you can get a shovel in the ground. 

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With the increased temperature, though, when planting in summmer it is important to remember to water thoroughly and regularly to keep the root ball from drying out. We recommend a generous drink every third day or so.

Planting a New Tree

Choose a location for your tree that will look attractive and suit the environment the tree is adapted to. For instance, if the tree prefers a wetter environment, a lower area in the landscape will collect more water during rainfall.

Before you plant your tree, make sure you’ve got some black earth on hand to backfill the space between the tree’s root ball and the surrounding ground. Fresh black soil has air pockets that will allow new roots to pass through easily as the tree establishes, whereas compacted old soil may be tougher for the new roots to penetrate. Allow several inches of space around the root ball. The tree’s label will tell you how much space is recommended.

The hole itself should be about the same depth as the root ball so the tree can be planted level with the ground. After planting, water the tree well and lay down a layer of mulch to conserve moisture and prevent weeds from sprouting in the fresh soil.

Your New Tree’s First Year

During your tree’s first spring and summer, water it well every 10-14 days to help it establish. Continue watering until the ground begins to freeze in the late fall. Freshly planted trees are much more vulnerable than established trees, so be very careful not to run over the root ball or bump the trunk with a lawn mower or weed whacker. Mulch the tree within about a foot and a half radius of the trunk to prevent the need for lawn tools near the planting site— just be sure not to pile up mulch around the base, because this could lead to rotting.

If you’re concerned about your new tree surviving its first Manitoba winter, try wrapping the tree. We carry a few tree wrap materials to help you guard your tree against harsh frost and wind. Our staff can help you choose the right wrap for your tree species.

A new tree is a significant investment in your landscape— one that you’ll grow to love more and more each year. As your tree matures and grows, it will begin to shape the way you and others see your property. With the right start, your new tree will be on its way to enjoying a long and healthy life.

Raised Bed Gardening

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Raised Bed Gardening

Especially at this time of year, when the weather is precarious and the threat of frost isn’t altogether gone, we’re all too aware of how precious the warm weather is. While we love our four distinct seasons in Manitoba, as gardeners we always wish the growing season was a little bit longer. We can’t control Mother Nature, but we can gain a bit more control over our growing conditions by building a raised garden bed.

Benefits of Raised Gardening

Raised garden beds solve a lot of the issues we face when planting directly into the ground. Not unlike the difference between heating a kettle of water and heating a swimming pool, soil that sits in our yards takes far longer to reach a warm and cozy seeding temperature than the soil we keep above ground in a raised bed. While we still need to keep our eye on the forecast, this allows us to plant some cool-weather tolerant varieties a little earlier than may be advisable in our standard garden beds.

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However, there are even more benefits to raised bed gardening. It’s far easier to control the environment in a raised bed, as we can simply replace all the soil with fresh, sterile soil and compost any time we need to start again. The contained environment is also far less vulnerable to pests and weeds, making it a suitable place to grow our more finicky annuals and edibles. Plus, it’s much easier to spend hours tending the raised bed, as the need to bend over is virtually eliminated.

Building Raised Garden Beds

There are several ways to build raised beds, but the most traditional way is with wood. Also known as ‘garden boxes’, wooden raised beds are a fairly simple woodworking project for anyone who isn’t afraid of a few boards and nails. There are many raised garden bed plans available online that vary in difficulty, so it should be a snap to find a project that isn’t too intimidating.

When choosing your plan, keep in mind the plants you hope to grow and how much room you’ll need to house them. Consider spacing, planting depth, and the room those root systems will need. Unless you have other beds you can transplant into, you’ll want to ensure your plants will be able to reach maturity comfortably inside the bed.

Some raised bed plans include raised walls, which offers a little extra wind cover. If the plan you choose doesn’t involve a higher wall, try to position the planter near a fence or wall that can shield plants a little from strong gusts.

Due to the weight of the finished garden bed, most folks choose to build them in the same spot the garden bed will sit. Keeping in mind that it will be hard to move it once it’s built, choose a nice spot for your garden bed before you build. A little bit of dappled shade isn’t a bad idea since raised beds tend to dry out a little faster than your typical garden soil. You’ll still want to make sure your plants are getting plenty of sunlight, but unless you plan to check on them frequently, choose a spot that will offer a little cover from the sun midday.

When choosing a raised bed style, don’t discount the importance of height. While many people are perfectly happy with a simple raised bed that’s just a foot or so higher than the ground, those with back problems may prefer one that sits on wooden legs or cinder blocks. The closer to hip-height your garden bed is, the easier it will be to work in. While a higher design may add some extra steps and materials to the building process, it’s important to consider how important that long-term benefit could be!

How to Choose Wood for Building a Raised Garden Bed

Like any permanent fixture in our gardens, materials make a huge difference in the longevity and appearance of a garden box. Most home renovation and hardware stores sell raised garden bed kits that have already been cut and partially assembled to make setup easy but beware of kits that are far cheaper than the rest. The heat, moisture, and bacteria that will inevitably fill your garden bed will lead to a faster breakdown of cheap woods, so your kit should ideally contain parts made from cedar or redwood.

These woods are ideal choices due to the oils in the fibres that naturally protect against rot and infestation. Cedar has an especially pleasant aroma, which can be reminiscent of a trip to the sauna. Redwood and cedar planks and kits may cost more than other woods, but they’ll pay for themselves as the years go on and you’re not left repeatedly replacing your garden bed!

Straw Bale Gardens

If you’re not dead-set on the look of a constructed garden bed, straw bales are an excellent choice for a maintenance-free raised garden! The straw functions as a great growing medium, as it boasts great drainage and plenty of slowly-degrading organic matter. A little extra soil on top can help keep plants in place as they establish, and then all they need is a little watering.

To make a straw bale garden, purchase a wheat straw bale and move it to an area with full sun in your garden. Place a barrier, like landscaping fabric or even newspaper, between the bale and the ground to prevent weeds from entering the bale. For two weeks, water the bale every day, fertilizing every other day with high nitrogen (or a higher first number) fertilizer. For the second week, add the fertilizer at half-strength for the first three days and switch to plain water for the last four days.

This process helps the straw start to compost and break down. To confirm the bed is breaking down properly, you should notice the temperature of the straw bale is noticeably higher. It may also be starting to show small specks of soil forming on the hay.

If you wish to sow seeds in your bale, add a little extra potting soil on top of the bale and plant as you would any other garden bed. To plant seedlings, gently separate the hay to make holes for your seedlings and secure them with some potting soil. Finish planting by watering thoroughly to help your new garden settle in.

Straw bale gardens work just as well as raised vegetable gardens or raised flower beds, but they do expire quickly. You should expect to need a replacement bale each year. If you have access to bales and you like the rustic country look of straw in your garden, they’re a low-cost option that’s perfect for beginners.

 

Raised garden beds are excellent options for those who have a hard time with ground-level gardening, with a little more room to grow than a typical container. With total control over the growing environment, raised beds may even enable you to grow plants you never would have considered trying out. If the usual plant maintenance chores have gotten harder on your body, a raised bed may be just what you need to reinvigorate your passion for gardening!

Incorporating Tropicals in Your Outdoor Containers

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Incorporating Tropicals in Your Container Garden

Most of us know and love tropicals as cheerful houseplants. As tough as it is to replicate their natural environment in the middle of a Manitoba winter, we certainly appreciate the little touch of the tropics to get us through! In the summertime, however, not everyone knows that we can bring some of that island aesthetic outside. In fact, incorporating tropicals into our container garden design is a great way to create a “staycation” destination in our own backyards. That’s especially great news for those of us who are passing on trips abroad this year!

Can I Plant Tropicals Outside in Manitoba?

With most of us sitting firmly in Zone 3 territory, it’s reasonable to be reserved about bringing tropicals outside. The fact of the matter is, though, while our growing season is famously short, our summers are perfectly hospitable to tropical plants! In fact, the best thing we can do for our existing tropical houseplants is to let them soak up all the extra sun possible during the warmer months. This is especially true if the plant has started to lean toward the sun, a major hint that the plant is craving more light. Treating them to direct sunlight is the least we can do after keeping them cooped up all year!

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Caring for Tropicals Outdoors

It goes without saying that our region is a long way from the tropics, but tropical plants are a lot more adaptable than we might give them credit for.

Sunlight is what tropicals crave the most (and even so, there are a fair number that are more adapted to the shady rainforest floor). When you think about it, sunlight is abundant here—in the summertime. We often forget that our summer days are much longer than the global average, so tropicals have a large window to get the minimum amount of sunlight they need during those warm July days. Allow them to adjust gradually by moving them into a brighter location, like a sunroom or gazebo, before moving them into direct light. If a plant appears to be yellowing, it may even be better off in a spot that gets some relief from the sun midday.

Watering is seldom an issue for outdoor tropicals. Manitoba summers can get fairly humid, which tropicals love, but we also get a fair amount of rain. Tropicals are adapted to moist soil and often prefer their soil to dry out between waterings, so enjoying the odd rain shower with the occasional watering suits them just fine.

Fertilizer for tropicals should have a lower middle number (phosphorus) than most flowering plants. Select a fertilizer specifically made for tropicals and follow the package directions for application.

Space can be an issue for larger species, like philodendrons, who tend to grow very large very fast in the right conditions. Make sure your container has the right space to accommodate your tropicals’ growing habits and keep an eye on them in case they need to be trimmed back.

Styling Tropicals in Your Container Garden

As with all container gardens, the rule of thumb is to include a thriller, a filler, and a spiller to balance the look and proportions of the arrangement. Since you’ll be fertilizing tropicals differently than most of your other plants, it makes the most sense to plant tropicals with other tropicals. This will also keep your arrangement looking cohesive. Here are some examples of tropicals to incorporate in your container garden design.

Tropical Thrillers

  • Palms
  • Croton
  • Canna Lily
  • Elephant’s Ear
  • Bird of Paradise
  • Philodendron
closeup of holiday decorated porch pot with berries, lights and pinecones
closeup of holiday decorated porch pot with berries, lights and pinecones

Tropical Fillers

  • Lantana
  • New Guinea impatiens
  • Dragon Wing Begonia
  • Cuphea
  • Ctenanthe
  • Succulents, like Leatherpetal or Ghost-plant

Tropical Spillers

  • Alternantera
  • Fittonia
  • Pilea
  • Peperomia
  • Clematis
  • Jasmine

Overwintering Tropicals

Keeping tropicals in containers makes it easy to bring them inside when the weather becomes less-than-ideal. In the fall, as soon you feel the urge to wear a light jacket, bring your tropicals back inside. Tropicals can’t handle frost, and it’s best not to tempt fate. Switch to a monthly dose of a balanced fertilizer during the cool months and keep them under a grow lamp in the evenings before bed when the days get short.

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Even though they come from far away, tropicals are happy to vacation outside with us while the weather is warm! Incorporating them into your outdoor container design is a fabulous way to enjoy them while they best suit the season.

The Basics of Soils and Soil Amendments

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The Basics of Soils and Soil Amendments

By Erna

As much as we all need soil, not many of us can say it’s our favourite part of our gardens. To a beginner gardener, soil may seem like a necessary mess that doesn’t seem too exciting at all. With experience, however, we can start to appreciate soil as a living organism that performs a lot of different functions to keep our plants healthy. Furthermore, like any living thing, our soil also needs to be nourished to stay productive.

What Exactly is Soil?

Soil is made from water, organic matter, gas, minerals, and network of living organisms. All soils are complete ecosystems, just like the forest or the sea, and are home to thousands of bacteria that play important roles in helping plant roots absorb nutrients.

When we talk about soil in a gardening context, we often focus on a soils tendency to drain or retain water and its content of 

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organic matter. When we’re just buying bags of soil, we often have the luxury of bags and labels that help us match the soil to the needs of our plants. When it comes to the soil we already have, however, it can get a bit more complicated. It’s up to us to determine the soil types on our property and to “diagnose” issues that may be holding back the performance of our gardens.

Soil Types

Soil types fit into six main categories, each with their pros and cons. They are:

  • Sandy – Composed of coarse mineral particles, sandy soil tends to allow water to pass through quickly.
  • Chalky – Chalky soil has a hard time holding onto both water and nutrients, and often contains a lot of rocks.
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  • Clay – Clay soil contains fine mineral particles, which hold onto moisture so well, it tends to pack down and impede airflow.
  • Silty – Silty soil has a similar texture to clay soil but contains more soil nutrients due to a higher concentration of organic matter.
  • Peaty – Peaty soil is high in organic matter but tends to be very acidic.
  • Loamy – The “gold standard” of soils, loamy soils have the best qualities of each type: nice drainage and airflow, high concentration of soil nutrients, and just-right water retention.

What Are Soil Amendments?

While just about every soil type is favoured by at least some plants, the soil we have isn’t always hospitable to the plants we want. Soil amendments are additives that allow us to “treat” soil problems by adjusting the overall composition of the soil. From drainage issues to an undesirable pH, soil amendments can help us adjust our soils to create a better environment for our plants over time.

Uses of Common Soil Amendments

Once you have your soil “diagnosis”, you can remedy issues with the many amendments we carry in-store. The most common ones are:

Compost/Manure – Organic matter is important to add soil nutrients and improve the structure of clay, sandy, and chalky soils.

 

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Water retention aids – Shredded bark mulch, peat moss, and vermiculite are highly absorbent and prevent sandy and chalky soils from drying out too quickly.

Gypsum – Like organic matter, gypsum adds nutrients and structure to the soil but breaks down at a slower rate to improve soil quality over the long-term.

 

There are many other soil amendments available for more challenging soils. If you’ve been struggling with keeping your plants going, talk to us during your next visit to our garden centre and we’d be happy to offer advice. With a proper plan of action, just about any soil can be transformed into a healthy home for your prized plants!

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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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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