Category Archives: General

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!

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!

Houseplants to Clear the Air

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Outdoor Fern

Houseplants to Clear the Air

By Erna

“Fresh air impoverishes the doctor.”  – Danish Proverb

What do camera phones, LEDs, CAT scan technology, and handheld vacuum cleaners all have in common? All these technologies exist because of all the hard work that goes into space exploration. We also have the fine folks at NASA to thank for finding out which of our humble houseplants put in the most work to keep our homes clean. Luckily, it’s not rocket science, so feel free to take advantage of their discoveries to help clear the air at home.

NASA’s Air-Cleaning Plants

The problem that NASA was working on in 1984 was simple enough (well, simple compared to some of their other rocket-based problems): they were researching building bubbles with carbon and the latest lightweight plastics to live on other plants. Problem was, they found that all the synthetics they had to use made the air inside practically unliveable in a matter of

NASA's air-cleaning plants

days. All those chemicals give off toxins, like formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and benzene, which were making those that breathed that air severely ill. In addition to all the complex filtration technologies they worked on, NASA also turned to nature in attempts to clear the air. They found that very common plants that many of us enjoy as houseplants did an amazing job at cleaning the air, not only cleaning up toxins, but using them to actually boost their own growth!

Toxins at Home

We don’t have space-station amounts of plastics and synthetics at home here on Earth, but as every year passes they seem to make up a bigger part of our lives. Air-borne toxins aren’t just NASA’s problem – our homes are slowly filling with a cocktail of toxins, too.

Air-borne toxins

Household Plants and Household Toxins

The simple version of the science behind air-cleaning plants is that they breathe (or “transpire”, if you ask a scientist) kind of like we do. They take in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, but they also take in tons of other chemicals as they breathe, too, pulling those toxins down to their roots to use as fertilizer. The same chemicals that

Household Plants and Household Toxins

can cause headaches, respiratory issues, or irritation for us can actually boost the growth of our plants. Even better, with indoor houseplants that don’t have to brave our Manitoba winters, our homes get a health boost all year.

Our Top Picks For Removing Airborne Toxins

Not every plant is equal when it comes to cleaning your air. Here are some of our favourite air-cleaning powerhouses:

Peace Lily: These plants are a blessing in every way. They thrive in low-light rooms that your other houseplants might not cut it in and are incredibly easy to care

Boston Fern: The oldest houseplant in the world

for. They also produce elegant, white flowers almost all year and are experts at eating toxins. These are an excellent choice for beside an entertainment unit where they can devour the acetone that come off the electronics.

Boston Ferns: This is the oldest houseplant in the world, and we can’t help but wonder if their ability to filter toxins and molds had a part in that. They are absolutely greedy for toxins in the air and will even treat you to a humidity boost around them.

Spider Plant: This plant is so easy to manage that it is often the unsung hero of houseplants. They’re practically impossible to kill, require very little light and care, and love cleaning up your air. It’s one of the few houseplants that will take on deadly carbon monoxide with enthusiasm, making it a great choice near fireplaces and kitchens.

Spider Plant - the unsung hero of houseplants

English Ivy: This vine is easy to grow (you’re more likely to be cutting it back than coaxing it to thrive) and is a gift for allergy sufferers. It gets rid of true nasties in the air, like mold or even airborne feces (yes, you read that right). You are what you eat, though, so this plant is toxic and should be kept out of reach of children and pets.

Bamboo Palm: Also known as “Reed Palm”, this plant is stately and compact enough to fit in any obscure corner of your home. It’s also a heavyweight champion when it comes to eating up benzene and trichloroethylene. This is a good choice to place near new furniture to make the most of its appetite.

Bamboo Palm is also known as Reed Palm

It wouldn’t be the first time that we “borrowed” space age research to make our lives here on Earth better. Thanks to some of the brightest scientific minds, we can breathe easy while enjoying a bright future of working with our favourite plants more and more as they work with us, too!

Coniferous Trees for the Holiday Home and Yard

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mosquitoes in Manitoba

Coniferous Trees

For the Holiday Home and Yard

By Erna

“The pine stays green in winter, wisdom in hardship.

  – Norman Douglas

As much as we’ll miss the lush gardens of summer and the colourful foliage of autumn, there really is something magical about winter in Manitoba. Sure, it’s chilly, but as soon as we get that first real snowfall – the kind that covers the streets and trees with a crisp blanket of white – we’re immediately transported into that holiday state of mind. Our pumpkin spice cravings are replaced with a longing for peppermint mochas, whipped shortbread, and of course, the smell of fresh evergreens.

Evergreen Trees and Shrubs

Also called conifers, or coniferous trees, evergreens are one of the two main tree families, the other being deciduous trees. The difference really boiling down to just needles versus leaves. Deciduous trees grow fruit and flowers, and shed their leaves in the fall. Conifers, on the other hand, produce cones and grow needles, which stay “ever-green” all year long.

standing water

Naturally, we love to have something green in our lives all year round, but there’s more to love about evergreens than just their colour. For us, it simply isn’t Christmas without that fresh, alpine fragrance in our lives. Thankfully, with so many different species of evergreen trees and shrubs, there are tons of ways to incorporate the look and smell of fresh evergreens into your home – whether that may be a live tree or two growing in your yard, or a few boughs for your holiday decor. Here are our top evergreen picks for home, hearth, and horticulture.

ageratum

For the Yard

Live evergreens tend to take a backstage to your garden in the warmer months, but as soon as the snow hits the ground, they become a centrepiece in your landscaping. Live evergreens adorned with lights instantly transform a frozen yard into a winter wonderland. Here are the best choices for Manitoba homes.

Black Hills Spruce – This North American native doesn’t mind the clay soils here in Manitoba and offers striking dark green colour in a slightly smaller and denser package.

Crystal Blue Spruce – These disease-resistant trees have striking, intense blue-coloured needles and look stunning against modern home designs.

Colorado Spruce – A handsome, sturdy evergreen with that classic “Christmas tree” look.

Hetz Midget Cedar – A short and sweet variety that looks great as “mini” globes to line a walkway.

Little Giant Cedar – At 3-4 feet tall and wide, this little tree makes a great impact in the landscape with globed form and vibrant foliage.

Skybound Cedar – These dense cedars can make great privacy fencing or a wonderful statement in your landscape.

Calgary Carpet Juniper – We simply adore these multi-purpose shrubs, which add life to everything, from rock gardens to holiday vignettes.

 

For the Home

If you’re just looking for an evergreen to visit for the holidays, you’ve got options galore! Here are our favourites based on aesthetics and aroma.

Scotch Pine – A long-needled, sturdy and fragrant tree that keeps its needles long after cutting.

Marigold as a mosquito repellent

Balsam Fir – The needles of the Balsam have a lovely aroma and a rich, gorgeous green colour with slightly more flexible boughs than most. If you love a simple look, they’re perfect with just string lights and garland.

Fraser Fir – One of the most popular Christmas tree varieties for their great scent and strong boughs. It also holds its needles for an exceptionally long time!

Tips for Christmas Tree Success: Saw a few inches off the trunk before bringing inside and keep it well watered to slow needle loss. Check water levels daily for the first week to get a good sense of what it will need. To feed your tree and prevent rotting, consider grabbing some Tree Preservative to add to your water, as well, for lasting performance.

Marigold as a mosquito repellent
For the Mantel

From ornate wreaths to candle-lit centrepieces, every holiday decor scheme can benefit from a few evergreen boughs. Here are a few that are attractive and easy to work with.

Noble Fir – These also make great Christmas trees, but they’re even better for

Christmas crafting. Their short needles and sturdy branches make stately, traditional-looking holiday handicrafts.

Common Juniper – A Manitoba-native species, their silvery-blue berries and attractive green needles are great for wreaths and decorations with a more contemporary rustic look.

Silver Fir – Known for their marvelous matte green needles with bands of silvery color, these boughs offer a sensational subtle contrast that is perfect for a modern decorating aesthetic.

Western Cedar – These gentle giants offer fantastic scaled, flat needles with a soft appearance that is perfect for giving your decor a smooth finish.

White Pine – With long, slender, light green needles, a bough from this beauty is sure to offer the perfect softened touch to any evergreen mantel.

Robin Bird

We simply can’t imagine Christmas without that authentic, pine-fresh scent. Whenever we envision a truly ‘holiday’ moment, it always comes back to cozy blankets and steaming hot mugs by the light of a fresh-cut, ornately-decorated tree. Whether you live on a sprawling acreage or a studio apartment, we hope these ideas will help you incorporate some evergreen magic into your living space this season.

Growing Your Own Garlic

Oakridge Lifestyle Blog
Growing Your Own Garlic

Growing Your Own Garlic

By Erna

“Garlic is divine.”            – Anthony Bourdain

It’s hard to imagine a good, old-fashioned, home-cooked meal without a generous hit of garlic. From garlic bread to Caesar salad, garlic is the star ingredient in all the most popular dishes on the table, and it even boasts some serious health benefits that have made it a versatile healing aid for millennia. Thing is, growing garlic is a long process that starts in the fall and yields in the summer. However, if you love garlic as much as we do, we think you’ll agree that growing your own is well worth the wait!

Garlic for Your Well-Being

While it tastes sinful, there are actually many benefits to a garlic-rich diet. It’s almost as good at preventing seasonal colds and bouts of flu as it is at kicking up your pasta dishes! If our harsh Manitoba winters seem to be taking their toll on your sinuses, keep your meals rich in garlic for a beneficial boost of Vitamins C and B6.

Growing Your Own Garlic

The natural antibiotic properties in garlic also make it a wonderful home remedy for feminine infections, chest infections, and coughs. Garlic is also high in iodine content, which is great news for people living with hyperthyroid conditions, as well.

Additionally, a diet high in garlic has been shown to guard the body against more serious conditions. Garlic has been shown to gently removes plaque from the arteries, which helps to prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease. It has also been shown to slow the growth of tumours related to cancer in the stomach, prostate, breast, colon, and bladder.

More amazing yet, garlic doesn’t just help your body on the outside. Crushed garlic was even used as a topical ointment for open wounds during the First World War!

To get the maximum benefit from this amazing little plant, consume up to 3 cloves per day – and if you take the time to grow your own fresh, it only makes it that much more irresistible!

Growing Garlic at Home

Growing Garlic at Home

Fresh-grown garlic is a truly an experience to be relished. Not only is it beautifully fragrant, but the flavour of fresh garlic is much fuller and fresher than store-bought, which is often treated with preservatives for longer shelf-life. Speaking of store-bought garlic, growing your own garlic is not only better but far cheaper.

Garlic planting season is in early October, which is a fleeting moment in Manitoba. As we Manitobans know, the soil could be frozen solid by Halloween, so it’s best to seize the day! Just don’t seize it too eagerly – planting too early can cause garlic to grow too vigorously, which will backfire once the frost sets in.

Pick a sunny spot in your garden with good drainage, preferably on sandy soil. The perfect garlic garden is neat and weed-free. Garlic likes company about as much as we enjoy company with garlic breath!

When you’re ready to plant, source your garlic cloves from fresh heads of garlic free from blemishes, bruises, and fungus. Select the fattest, firmest cloves to get the plumpest possible garlic heads at harvest time and do not remove the husks from the cloves – that papery layer is the closest thing your young garlic will have to a wool sweater out there!

Plant your cloves in holes about 2” deep, 6”-8” apart. Top with a little bone meal before covering with 3”-4” of organic mulch, ideally made from cedar or straw. This will protect your baby garlic plants from the cold through the winter months. Make sure to mark each clove so you know exactly where to look when the snow melts.

A Summer Treat

Once summer arrives and the bottom leaves of your garlic plants have died, your home-grown garlic will be waiting for you. Simply dig them up and get to work enjoying it in every meal you make! To get the best flavour from your hard-won harvest, avoid using a garlic press. Instead, slice cloves thinly before adding to recipes.

Growing and planting garden fresh garlic
Growing Fresh Garlic

Remember, fresh garlic is much more perishable than the kind you buy at the grocery store. Once you’ve dug it up, store it in the refrigerator to prolong its crispness. If you’ve grown too much, fresh garlic makes a lovely token of neighbourly appreciation. It’s a magical feeling to share the special flavour of garden-fresh garlic with others who have only tried its supermarket counterparts. By offering some as a “thank you” gift to teachers, colleagues or in-laws, you’re not only be giving the gift of great flavour but also the gift of good health!

Taste of Autumn: Picking & Storing Apples

mosquito
apples ripe for picking

Taste of Autumn: Picking & Storing Apples

By Erna

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

 – Martin Luther

We can’t decide if our favourite part of Autumn is the impressive colour display or all the fantastic fall flavours that we get to enjoy. Whether it’s every delightful shade of yellow, orange, and red, or tasting seasonal favourites like pumpkin spice, harvest time is the perfect way for our growing season to finish with a bang.

Apples are an autumn classic that embrace all the colours

and tastes of fall, and they certainly become available in abundance at this time of year. Here are all the tips and tricks for you to make the most of apples at home – as you harvest and into the winter.

Fairest of Them All: The Perfect Pick

Apples sweeten as they ripen, so they’ll only get better the longer that they “hang out” on the branch. As long as you don’t wait for so long that they end up in the grass, they’ll be at their tastiest when they’re nearly ready to drop. Picking them at the perfect time is easy if you pay attention to a few small details:

bright red apples on a branch

Where to pick: The outside of your tree sees the most sunlight through the season, so this is where your fruit is going to ripen first. The best way to enjoy your fruit is to simply pick (and eat!) your way inwards on the tree. Check the South and West sides of your tree first for deliciously ripe apples, as these more sun-exposed sides will ripen even faster.

What to look for: Most fruits make it easy to pick perfection as they give away their ripeness with colour! Generally, apples are ready to go when the last shades of their immature green have faded into a glossy red or yellow. Of course, though, this changes depending on what variety you’re growing. Some types will keep an unripened tinge for weeks after they are ready to pick, so while checking colour is a good rule of thumb, getting to know your own tree is important, too.

Knowing by feel: The best ripe apples are ready to drop right off of the tree, so they should be easy to pick with a slight twist of the wrist. If you’re shaking your whole tree and pulling with both hands, that apple probably isn’t ready to go yet and will need some more time on the tree to ripen.

Storing and Eating Apples

When our apples are ripe, they certainly come off the tree by the bucket-full! Many of us love our fresh home-grown fruit but can be a little overwhelmed with what to do with all the surplus. The trick to making the most of your apples is variety, and we have all the tips for how to enjoy your bounty now and later!

picked apples in baskets

Eating apples, like Honeycrisps, are best enjoyed right away. They are sweet and delicious right off of the tree, but aren’t the best to store for later. Fortunately, they’re so darn tasty that many of them won’t even make it all the way inside once you pick them. These types of apples are great as a snack or uncooked in salads, but will taste their best when you eat them the same day they are picked.

Cooking apples are ideal for storing instead of grazing while you pick. Stored properly, they can keep for quite a while, but you’ll want to make sure that you’re only putting away healthy and undamaged apples – any with blemishes could spoil the whole batch. Do a quick visual check as you pick these apples. Those that are free of marks and dents can be kept for later, while any that are damaged should be cooked and eaten right away.

Different types of apples will ripen at different times. If you aren’t sure if your tree is an early, middle, or late-season riser, Google tells all. Everyone’s trees are different but you can usually expect your early-season trees to be eating apples for consumption right away, while mid-season apples can be stored for a week or two and late season apples store for even longer.

To make the most of storing apples, wash and dry them before storing in a cool and dark place – a pantry, closet, or cellar is perfect. Choose only unblemished apples to store, and consider wrapping them in newspaper to prevent them from touching to get the most from their days in storage. Keep their storage area well ventilated and away from potatoes so that the ethylene gas they give off doesn’t over-ripen them too quickly. Also, consider storing them away from onions and garlic to avoid weird-tasting apples.

Local Picks: Best Apples in Manitoba

The colder provinces in Canada don’t have nearly the same variety to choose from as the warm orchard country, but what grows here in Manitoba is enough to keep most of us happy and well-fed.

Goodland apples are Manitoba natives that are hardy, delicious, and ready to eat

honeycrisp apples on the branch

right off the tree, but just as tasty in an applesauce. They’re delightfully sweet and don’t compromise at all in our cold weather – making them perfect for growing in the backyard.

Another eating apple you won’t be able to resist is Prairie Magic. These large, rose-hued apples have a perfect, crispy bite to them, with a sweet flavor that is hard to beat. Enjoy them when snacking or chop them into a fresh salad.

For fans of Royal Gala apples, the Odyssey variety will be a big hit on your table. With an unbelievable sweetness that pairs perfectly with spices, this apple is a surefire win for all your cooking and baking needs.

box of picked apples

Fresh apples are an essential part of the autumn harvest season, and we can’t wait to sink our teeth into them as soon as the season hits. With these easy tips and tricks you will be well on your way to getting the most out of your apples right now and into late fall. Don’t wait; tasty treats and baked goods are waiting for you!