Category Archives: General

Coniferous Trees for the Holiday Home and Yard

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.


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

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!

Planting Fall Bulbs

fall trees in the woods
trees changing colors for fall

Planting Fall Bulbs

When fall comes, we always end up asking how summer could have possibly passed by in such a blur. With cooler nights and the trees changing colours – not to mention back-to-school season already well underway – we can’t help but think about the long winter that we have ahead of us, nostalgically longing for when our gardens and yards were full of fresh, green life.

Fall Season, Spring Bulbs

Fall is full of opportunity for the gardener that wants to get ahead and promise themselves something exciting for the spring. Planting now, in the fall, before the ground gets too frozen will set the bulbs in the soil to be chilled over the winter season. Later, as the weather warms these bulbs will

planting bulbs in a row

spring into action and welcome you into the growing season once more! They’ll be your first blooms of the season and they’ll greet you with bright and cheery colour without any extra work.

Getting Your Own Bulbs

We all love spring bulbs and there’s good reason that flowers like tulips, daffodils, and crocus are so popular. With fall planting, it’s easy to bring these beauties home to your own garden to enjoy this year. Here’s how:

Your Best Picks

Like most flowers, not every bloom or bulb is created equal. Some love the harsh weather of our northern climate and are ready to thrill at the first sign of temperatures above zero, while others are more dainty and might not cut it in our occasional deep-freeze winters.

container full of bulbs

The best choices for here in Manitoba are Tulips, Alliums, Crocus, Fritillaria, Scilla, and Snowdrops. These tough, little flowers are ready to take on our winters without compromising their gorgeous displays in the spring. Some more tender varieties of Daffodils can manage, too, but will benefit from extra mulching for better winter protection.

Planting Fall Bulbs

The only hard part of planting bulbs actually couldn’t be easier! The only things that prevent people from taking advantage of planting in the fall is that it calls for thinking ahead and some people are too intimidated to ask. Don’t let procrastination and intimidation get the best of you, it’s actually

planting bulbs in the fall

one of the easiest garden habits you can practice.

Find a sunny spot to plant. You won’t even need to fear the shady cover of your trees, as these early risers will be blooming long before leaves start emerging. You’ll want to plant in small groups – a single tulip is underwhelming, whereas a group of them is an impressive spot of cheer in your garden.

For tender bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, you’ll want to plant them a little deeper to protect them from the cold. Press your trowel 6-8” into the soil and pull it towards you to create a space. Simply drop the bulb in (pointy side up!), cover, and repeat.

For more hardy bulbs, a shallow hole will do. Just use the trowel to plant them 2-3” deep instead.

No matter the type of bulb, they can benefit from some bulb food to give them the best start they can. Throw in some bone meal or Myke for bulbs into each hole before the bulb as you plant.

Don’t forget to water your bulbs well to give them the icy insulation they need in the winter.

watering garden after planting bulbs

Bulbs in the Spring

After the blooms are spent, the leaves that remain can be a little disappointing until the rest of your garden catches up blooming. However, if you want your bulbs to reappear next year, resist cutting back foliage for about 2 months after the bulbs are spent. The plant will pull nutrients back to the bulb

to prepare for beauty sleep over the winter, getting ready for their biggest show yet next spring.

Many gardeners find bulbs intimidating because they aren’t the type of plant that we are used to working with in our gardens, but they are actually incredibly easy to plant and enjoy! Planting bulbs in the fall is super easy and has tons of options to choose from to get the perfect look in your garden. A bit of thinking ahead to warmer weather today will give you a worthwhile treat in the spring when we’re hungry for a little colour in our lives again.

Your Guide to Fall Planting in Manitoba

fall trees
fall trees

Your Guide to Fall Planting in Manitoba

By Erna

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

-Albert Camus

After a long, hot summer, nothing is more welcome than the crisp, cool air of fall. The leaves decorate the landscape in beautiful, warm and fiery hues that seem almost to contradict the chill in the air, creating a sensory samba in our minds. While the trees are dropping their leaves and our garden beds are winding down, there’s still plenty of fall planting that can be done here in Manitoba.

Trees and Shrubs

Fall, along with spring, is one of the best times to plant your trees and shrubs. While many fear their newly planted arrivals won’t last through the colder weather, the truth is that they appreciate the calm temperatures that won’t stress them out.

planting a tree

For deciduous trees and shrubs, the best time to plant them is when they have gone dormant. In their state of hibernation, they are less prone to shock than if they are moved around at the peak of their growing season.

Evergreens may be stunning year-round, but the heat of the summer is best enjoyed for them if they are well-rooted and in place. Cool seasons, like fall, are a much more relaxed time for them and won’t stress them out like a Manitoba heat wave would.

To plant your tree or shrub, dig a hole that is twice as deep and as wide as the root ball. Carefully place your tree in the hole and backfill with rich, black soil with plenty of aeration. Water the roots well and mulch to protect them, being careful not to let the mulch touch the bark of the tree to prevent rot.

Spring Bulbs

It may seem odd to plan so far ahead, but planting your spring bulbs now will ensure they are ready to burst from the ground as soon as possible when the frost ebbs. No longer will you need to wait for the ground to thaw enough for you to work into it, because your bulbs will already be eagerly waiting to

planting spring bulbs in the fall

get to work as soon as they can.

To plant your spring bulbs – like daffodils, squills, tulips, and snowdrops – find a nice, sunny spot in your garden so they can make the most of the light in the spring. Dig a hole that is 2 – 3” deep for hardy bulbs, or 6 – 8” for less hardy ones (like daffodils), and drop your bulb in pointy side up. Fill in the hole and water well to ensure they freeze to last through the winter. Mulch is also a good idea to give them an extra layer of protection.

Cool Season Vegetables

Cool season vegetables are those that need the cold to help them germinate to produce early spring harvests of delicious, garden-fresh goodness. While you can plant them in late winter, when they will start germinating, pre-seeding them in winter will allow them to get to work as soon as the thaw starts

planting vegetable seeds

and the cold weather may even make them taste better!

The best cool-season vegetables to pre-seed in fall are your leafy greens – like lettuce, spinach, arugula, and kale – as well as garlic and radish. Plant your seeds just after a nice, deep frost to ensure it’s too cold for them to germinate and mulch well to insulate them for the winter.

watering garden after planting

While our gardens may be fading and our time outside is quickly being replaced with warmer endeavours indoors, there’s still lots we can do in the garden to prepare for spring. By planting your trees, shrubs, bulbs, and early vegetables now, you’ll be setting yourself up for success in the coming growing season for the best year your garden has seen yet!

Gardening as an Anti-Depressant

gardening as an anti-depressant
planting flowers in a flower bed

Gardening as an Anti-Depressant

By Erna

There are a lot of inarguable benefits to gardening that attract us to it. We love having a beautiful, thriving space in our backyard, we like having fresh food that we trust on our tables, and our families enjoy the benefits of a place to relax and play all summer. Nurturing life from simple dirt in our own homes is life-affirming and a great getaway from our sometimes hectic, screen-bound lives. Gardening makes a lot of us happy. It turns out that the glow we get from getting our hands into some fresh soil isn’t just psychological, it could come down to chemistry, too.

Happy Gardeners

There’s some evidence to prove that you do, in fact, feel better when you’re digging around in your garden. In 2007, a study from the University of Bristol first started to look into a common soil-borne bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae. This bacteria is harmless and they found that when they

standing water

exposed mice to it, it had some promising effects that showed a reduction in anxiety. This bacteria helps to stimulate the production of more serotonin in the brain, which is commonly known as the “happy hormone.”

While the brain and brain chemistry are incredibly complicated, and we are only just beginning to understand it, we do know that serotonin is closely connected to our mood, appetite, and memory, among other things. Having more in our system usually means feeling better, less anxious, and having better memory function – just like these mice did in the tests performed during the study! Even if mice are a bit of a far cry from humans, it shows a lot how these natural bacteria can be such a helpful influence on the brains of mammals.

Helpful Bacteria Right at Home

You get M. vaccae bacteria in your body the same way as any other bacteria. Our lives are full of these microscopic organisms that we can’t even see, and it’s reassuring to know that many of them making their way inside are actually helpful. Just having these bacteria on your hands from working with

walking on an outside trail

soil or even breathing in the fresh air of nature can introduce them to your bloodstream, where they get to work.

Gardening is one of the more direct ways to get introduced to M. vaccae regularly because of how involved you get with your own soil, but you can find these helpers in nature, too. A walk in the woods or being outside is enough to inhale them. There’s some science behind how much going for a walk or simply being outside improves your mood and reduce anxiety.

Healthy Soil, Healthy Home

Of course, the healthier your soil is, the healthier it will be for you. Soil is a living ecosystem that is incredibly complicated. Try to cut back on harsh, synthetic fertilizers and other chemicals in favor of some gentler, natural solutions, and you’ll be rewarded with a healthier garden that grows better, while rewarding you with better mood-boosting bacteria.

healthy soil

Learning Gardens

The benefits of these bacteria certainly aren’t limited to adults that need the stress release. Kids reap lots of benefits from spending time in the garden. They love to explore, they love the wonder of tasting the food that they’ve helped to grow, and they also benefit quite a bit from the exposure to a world of bacteria and dirt.

kids in the garden

The benefits of M. vaccae are still being looked into and refined, but we do know that they are very helpful in boosting memory and the ability to learn. We’ve also found over the years that exposing our kids to dirt and germs in a healthy way is important to boost their developing immune systems. Turns out, a healthy garden reaps even healthier benefits for our kids!

It doesn’t come as too much of a surprise to some avid gardeners that a healthy garden keeps them healthy in return. In fact, the more we learn about our gardens, the more we learn about their benefits for us and our families. More than just a beautiful backyard addition, gardening makes us not only healthier, but happier, too!

Saving Your Garden in a Heat Wave

summer garden
sunlight on summer garden

Saving Your Garden in a Heat Wave

By Erna

“If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?”

– Steven Wright

In Manitoba, we know what the cold weather feels like, so when summer finally hits, the last thing we want to do is complain about the weather. When our luxurious warm weather is interrupted with a heat wave, though, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.

In a heat wave like this one, everything around us feels like it is moving in slow motion – the days are long, and everything feels like it’s moving impossibly slow. It’s downright

uncomfortable to go outside, and even more difficult to get anything done.

As tough as the heat can be on us, our plants are feeling it even more. While we have the escape of the indoors and even air conditioning, our plants are rooted to the spot, taking the worst of it. As much as we want to be relaxing, sipping our lemonade in the shade, we can’t forget to give them some of our attention, too. Here are some tips to keep them from quitting on us when the weather gets hot:

Keeping It Relaxed

Heat stress is an efficient killer in the garden, but there’s tons you can do to help your plants escape it. Thankfully, preventing heat stress requires less work and stress from you, too.

Skip mowing the lawn. The heat doesn’t

avoid trimming full blooming flowers in a heat wave

just target your garden, but your grass, too! Keeping the grass on the longer side will give the ground some extra shade to keep roots cool. The longer grass will also help your lawn to retain moisture and avoid drying out. It’s also a great excuse to save yourself the work under the hot sun, too – what’s best for your yard is best for you, in this case!

Avoid any trimming. Step away from the clippers! A trim to your plants will give them the signal to start growing. This is the last thing you need in a heat wave. Your plants should be using their energy to stay healthy, not struggling with new growth. As much as you don’t want to be labouring on these hot afternoons, your plants don’t, either. Give everyone a break and save the trimming until the temperatures have cooled a little.

Keep It Cool

We’re all looking for ways to cool down this summer, from a chilled glass of lemonade to a dip in the lake. Our plants want to keep the temperature down at a manageable level too, but will need our help to do it.

Mulch – You’ve heard it over and over how

apply mulch to keep moisture in your garden

mulching will help to regulate soil temperatures in your garden, and this is exactly the circumstances that calls for it! If you had to walk around wearing a heavy dark shirt during a heat wave, you’d be pretty hot and upset. The dark colour absorbs heat and would be your last choice to stay cool. Soil works the same way. As such a dark color, it soaks up the sun and can hold enough heat to cook your plant’s roots. Use a lighter coloured, plant-based mulch, like straw or cedar, to protect your plants with their cooling effect.


Staying Hydrated in the Garden

This is one of the most obvious ways to keep your garden healthy in the heat, but is so important it’s worth talking about a bit more anyways. When the mercury rises a cool glass of water sounds more and more appealing. We’re sweating more to try and stay cool, so we need to replenish our water

water your garden in the morning

more. Soil has the same problem with water evaporating in the heat, and will need some extra care to stay hydrated.

Get to know your garden. Not every plant or root system is created equal, and some of your plants will need more help in this heat than others. Plants native to this area and zone will have an easier time tapping into water reserves with their deep root systems than the tropical annuals that keep their roots close to the surface. Keep them from struggling with extra water and care to help manage the heat.

Know when to water. You don’t want to be outside watering all the time, so choosing when to water can help you make the most of your time and effort. Watering at the hottest point of the day will have half your water evaporating before it can even get to the roots. Water when the temperatures are cooler and the sun is less intense. Morning is the best time for your plants to take advantage of it before the afternoon heat. You can water in the evening too, but if the nights start to cool off, you might be adding mildew to your garden problems.

Soak, don’t sprinkle. In extreme heat, little water droplets will evaporate before they can do much good for your garden. If you still prefer the convenience of sprinklers, consider using a soaker hose in heat waves. They keep the water close to the ground where it’s needed, saving you water, time, effort, and money, all while giving your plants the hydration boost they desperately need.

use a soaker hose in heat waves

When summer heat strikes, you don’t want to leave your poor garden and plants out to dry. Help them stay cool and hydrated in the heat with good garden habits so they can come out the other side of the heat looking their best, ready to shine for the rest of the summer. Remember to beat the heat and stay cool, in and out of the garden while the high temperatures last!

Not All Bees are Scary

cluster of honeybees

Not All Bees are Scary

By Erna

It’s myth-busting time, for the sake of our gardens and friendly local pollinators. Putting all things that buzz into the same basket – that is, assuming that all bees and wasps are alike – is like equating a sparrow and a hawk.

Bees are the pacifists of your garden. These unassuming bumbling pollinators will not be aggressive unless they feel really, truly threatened. While bees and wasps might come from the same order (Hymenoptera) that’s where most of the similarities end. Bees are vegetarians while wasps are carnivores; and they certainly do not work together, in fact, they are usually enemies by nature!

It breaks our heart when people come to us asking how to kill the bees in their year, mistaking them for their far more annoying or even dangerous relatives. We are sure that the more you learn about different bees in your yard, the less afraid of them you’ll be. They are some of the hardest working insects in your garden that bring a whole list of benefits with them and are just not dangerous unless they feel mortally threatened. With their populations struggling and as we discover more and more how much we need them, it’s time to get to know our buzzing friends so that we’re more comfortable with them in our yards and homes.


It would be difficult for us to exaggerate how helpful honeybees are. They are responsible for pollinating a third of the food we eat – meaning they have a significant role in our bountiful produce aisles at the store and in our gardens. But they also produce one of the most amazing foods on earth: honey.

jars of honey

We don’t just like honey; it’s a “perfect food” because it’s actually a bit of a scientific marvel. If kept in an airtight container, it never spoils. There have been reports of perfectly edible honey being found in sealed Pharaoh’s tombs thousands of years after their burial. It’s also a tasty food that is created in surplus as part of bees’ pollinating routine, so it is part of a bigger, beneficial process. Here’s how honeybees work:

Honeybee Hives

The actual size of honeybee colonies can alarm people. They live together in hives that can have more than 60 000 buzzing bees – there’s always a bit of a natural hum surrounding them that puts people on edge. These hives work like a little society, with incredibly well-organized hierarchies and

honeybee hives

communication networks to make sure it is working at peak capacity. The queen of a hive lives for up to 4 years, while workers only survive about 6 weeks. A dozen workers will make about a teaspoon of honey in their entire lifespan.

Once the mercury plunges and the flowers are no longer blooming, the bees settle in for the winter, but they don’t hibernate. They use the honey that they produced all winter as an energy source and crowd together to brave our winter extremes. They all work to vibrate their wings, which generates enough heat to keep the centre of the colony a balmy 30°C, even when temperatures drop well below -40°C! For the kind of energy to keep that going, a hive might consume about 40 pounds of honey per winter.

Honeybees in the Garden

Unlike wasps, who have earned their nasty reputation, honeybees aren’t aggressive and won’t sting unless their life, of the life of their hive is threatened. They’re much more focused on their job making honey and spreading pollen. It takes a lot to make a honeybee want to sting – you basically have


bees in the garden

to sit on them! The stinger on a bee is barbed, which means it sticks in your skin. When they sting, a large part of their insides is torn out of them with the stinger as they fly away, resulting in death. It makes sense then, why they aren’t quite so eager to sting the random passerby.


The majority of wasps are solitary, parasitic, harmless to humans, and nearly invisible. But there are a few more social species that have earned quite the bad reputation for all of them. The outdoor picnic-ruining Yellow Jacket is the poster child of these nasty wasps and is not only the most common but

yellow jacket wasps

a sleek, aggressive flyer that isn’t as shy about stinging as some of its distant bee relatives.

Yellow jackets love to nest below ground or in hard to reach places. Sometimes this helps us avoid them, but other times you aren’t sure where a nest is until you’ve run over it with the lawnmower. These wasps are attracted to strong scents like perfumes and colognes, as well as bright coloured clothing, and they’ll try to scavenge whatever sweets and meats left out on your patio that they can.

The important difference between the humble honeybee and the wasp is that while honeybees are grazing foragers, wasps are predators. They’re carnivorous and aggressive, and won’t spend much time pollinating when they can hunt insects like flies and caterpillars instead.

Their colonies might be much smaller, at only 1000 strong, but given the difference in disposition between honeybees and wasps, a much smaller wasp hive is still a way bigger nuisance.

While wasps are obviously not as imposing to us as they are to their prey, their stingers still pose an issue. They aren’t barbed like a bee stinger, making them much more willing to sting, and able to sting repeatedly when they do. To rub salt in the wound, as they sting they also release a pheromone that invited their friends to join the party. We might fear a visible swarm of honeybees, but even a solitary wasp can be more dangerous.

hornets nest


Hornets are actually a type of wasp, but they act a little bit different. We’re most likely to see bald-faced hornets in our area, who have black and white markings on a broader body than wasps.

Wasps and hornets are carnivores that technically eat enough pests in the garden

to be seen as beneficial, though most people don’t see their threat of stinging as worthwhile. They also love to eat rotting fruit, so you can expect them to show up where there is fallen apples or other fruits.

You’ll find a hornet in classic grey, pear-shaped nests – stumbling across one always gets the heart beating a little faster.

bumblebees in the air


We’re always amazed at how these gently, fuzzy blimps can even sustain flight on their itty-bitty wings. These gentle giants live in comparatively small nests of only 50-300 bees each, and only make enough honey for their own use over the winter – only the queen survives all winter, protected in holes

in the ground, meaning that much less honey is needed.

These adorable bees are timid, but they’ll still sting if threatened. Contrary to popular belief they can actually sting numerous times, but they still rather keep to themselves than bother you.

While honeybees have a short tongue and can be found in your open, full-blooming flowers, different bumblebees have different unique tongues that make them specialists at obtaining nectar and pollen from certain types of flowers. These specialized bees are very efficient with their favourite blooms, but their unique abilities also make them much less adaptable and more vulnerable to habitat loss.


Getting to know these bright pollinators and pests in the garden help to reduce a bit of the fear that comes with their ominous buzzing sound. Bees are such an essential part of how our gardens and food supplies work, that it’s a relief to understand how harmful they are, and how fortunate we are when they visit our own gardens!

Flowering Shrubs for Cut Flowers

roses in vase
cut roses in vase

The Best Flowering Shrubs for Cut Flowers

We love the charming elegance that our garden flowers bring to our backyards. With so many gorgeous shapes, scents, and colours, nobody can blame us for wanting to bring a bit of their style inside. The summer season always seems a little too short, so cutting flowers from your yard to bring indoors is the perfect way to make the most out of the best that your garden has to offer.

There are all kinds of iconic blooms that come from common shrubs that make enjoying your flowers in every way possible easier. Who doesn’t want to have some homegrown beauty lighting up their kitchen or living room? These are some of our favourite flowering shrubs to cut flowers from to enjoy inside:


Roses are an easy winner for the most universally beloved and sought-after cut flower. These blooms are gorgeous, delicately intricate, and come in a stunning variety to suit any taste. They’re a symbol of love and friendship, and we can’t help but associate them with gestures of romance

pruning roses

and affection. Why not take some of their charm indoors to enjoy, or surprise a friend or loved one with a homegrown bouquet?

As such a popular flower, there are dizzying numbers of rose varieties, offering choices in blooms, hardiness, size, and care needs. Roses have a bit of an earned reputation as finicky and difficult plants to grow, but newer hybrid varieties have started to offer gardeners the same gorgeous blooms with less particular care needs. There are so many options that the decision for what variety of rose to plant really comes down to gardener choice. While each type has its own set of particular needs, they all generally need lots of sunlight and rich, well-draining soil with some mulch. Water deeply every week and prune just before blooming season for a shrub bursting with blossoms for both your yard and home.


These shrubs boast spectacular blooms that are amazing for cutting. They simply overflow with globes of blossoms that are brimming with colour and bubbly personality. Many gardeners favour these plants for the fun that they offer them in the garden. Anyone can play at being a mad scientist


with their hydrangeas, tinkering with the soil chemistry to change the colours of their flowers! These shrubs will give a lot in return for only a little work, making their stately and effortless beauty all the better to enjoy.

Plant where they will enjoy morning sun, but only dappled sunlight into the afternoon, and sheltered from strong winds. Hydrangeas love rich soil and will benefit from mulch to keep the moisture levels at their roots consistent on dry days. Make sure to prune right after blooming to promote more gorgeous blossoms for next season. Cut these flowers when they are fully open and at their prettiest to help them last longer, dazzling in your home.


Lilacs are famous for their delicious fragrance, but their pretty flowers certainly don’t disappoint either. These blooms are so iconic that they have become the namesake for the shade of purple that decorates their petals, but they’re also available in an array of other colours and shades to suit your

cutting lilacs

tastes and decor. These are an excellent choice in a vast arrangement, as they lighten up the room while adding a delicate, summery scent to your home! Make sure to keep their vase full of fresh water to keep these thirsty flowers looking their best after they’re cut.

Plant your lilac in full sun in rich and well-draining soil. They love moisture but won’t tolerate wet feet. Mulch will be key to keep them happy by keeping the moisture locked in the soil without drowning them. Prune your lilacs every year after they bloom to encourage an even more impressive display next season. If you want to display cut flowers inside, cut them when they are only half-opened for most enduring results.


These might be among the more famous varieties of Rhododendrons – and with their drop-dead gorgeous beauty, it’s not hard to imagine why! These flowers offer breathtaking clusters of unique, trumpet-like flowers. Azaleas are most known for their shades of pink and purple flowers, but many

other coloured varieties are equally as charming.
To grow your Azaleas at home, start them off in well-draining, acidic soil. Staying on the acidic side is essential to help them develop properly without suffering from yellowing leaves. Choose a location with dappled sunlight and protection from strong winds and weather. Generally, these flowers are low-maintenance if you start them out right and mulch them. They will only need a little bit of extra water in dry spells or if you notice their leaves curling. Nurture them with a high-acid fertilizer annually and prune them right after their blooming ends for gorgeous flowers year after year.

mockorange plant

Just as their name suggests, this shrub doesn’t grow oranges, but it could certainly fool you. They offer delicate, white flowers that look nearly identical to orange blossoms, and they even release a delicious citrus scent that you, your family, and the local butterflies will adore. While they only

bloom for a short period they have wonderfully brooding, dark green foliage that makes a fun contrast in your yard or a great accent as a cutting. You might not get to enjoy tasty citrus fruits from this shrub, but you’ll love its southern appeal and pretty charm.

Plant your Mockorange in full sun or partial shade in well-draining soil that’s had a boost of compost. Keep the soil moist as it first gets established, but afterwards enjoy its low-maintenance upkeep. Water during dry spells when precipitation isn’t quite enough, and prune annually just after blooming for delightfully citrus-like blooms annually without all the effort.

It’s wonderful to be able to enjoy the best colours of the summer right inside your home, to savour the most beautiful fruits of your garden as much as you can. Simply cut your blooms early in the morning, trim on a 45° angle, and you, your family, and your friends can enjoy your flowers inside, as well as in the garden.

Dealing with Emerald Ash Borers

emerald ash borer
emerald ash borer on tree leaf

Dealing with Emerald Ash Borers

By Erna

“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.”


Trees are a commitment that we are delighted to bring into our yards. Unlike annual flowers and shrubs where we can have fun with the seasonal changes and trends, trees are a lasting legacy in our homes. With all the love, care, and investment that we pour into them, it can be devastating to see them get sick. Ash trees,

mountain ash tree

in particular, are facing a plague of pests causing damage at alarming rates in North America. With trees struggling everywhere, it’s time that we had a look at public enemy number one: Emerald Ash Borers.

Emerald Ash Borers

The Emerald Ash Borer is actually native to Asia, not North America. Most experts suspect that the beetles first made the journey across the ocean in untreated wood at some point in the 1990s. It took a little while for them to be recognized, but by that point, they had already set to work getting established and infecting more trees.

emerald ash borer damaging trees

These beetles cause their damage by living up to their name boring in and out of our trees. They begin their lives as eggs, laid by an adult beetle in the bark of a tree in the spring and early summer. Once these eggs hatch, the larvae burrow from their shallow homes under the scales and in cracks of bark towards the centre of the tree. After a few years, the larvae become adults, who will bore their way back out. These fully grown adults then make their way to new trees to start the cycle all over again.

The adult borers are easy enough to spot – they’re big and metallic, looking almost like a blue-green grasshopper. The larvae are also pretty noticeable at 8-14mm long, but these cream and brown grubs are often buried deep in the wood of Ash trees, so you wouldn’t be likely to spot one without digging.

How They Do Their Damage

These borers most obviously cause trouble for your trees with the damage they do when burrowing deep into their timber. As they create these tunnels into the wood of your Ash tree, they eat the inner bark. These tunnels disrupt the tree’s ability to circulate water, nutrients, and sugars where they need to go. Without these vital circulation highways inside the tree, part of the plant starts to die.

The problem becomes more significant due to this pest’s ability to spread. A single Borer can travel up to 20 km in a single year. Because of this, an infestation can easily spread from one tree to another, even if they are quite far apart. Their natural abilities to

bark damage
inner bark damage from emerald ash borer

to spread are unfortunately boosted by human movement, where they can be transported in an infected tree that is cut and moved elsewhere.

Dealing with Them

Since they made their way to Canada, the Emerald Ash Borers have destroyed millions of ash trees. It’s easy for them to spread unchecked, as they don’t have many natural predators over here. Unlike the trees of their native Asia, our Ash have very little resistance to them, and our frigid Manitoba

emerald ash borer tree trap

winters don’t seem to curb the populations, either.

But it isn’t time to lose all hope and resign your trees to pests. There are still options to tackle Ash Borers before they do irreparable damage to trees that hold a special spot in your heart and yard:

Spot them early: The first way to prevent borer damage is to catch them early on. This can be a bit challenging as they spend so much time under the surface of our trees, but your tree might show early signs of being infected. Look for trees with thinning or dead branches, or those with withering or chewed leaves. Check your tree for any cracks in the bark where they could get access or even an increase in woodpecker or squirrel activity. To confirm your suspicions, remove a small section of your tree’s bark to look for the telltale ant farm tunnels that borers will leave behind.

Neem seed insecticides (not neem oil) are an effective tool against these tricky pests. These can be injected into the base of the tree to be carried through their circulatory system, killing of larvae as it is distributed around the tree. This is the most effective, proven method to combat an Emerald Borer problem of a small scale.

Other methods, like Emerald Ash Borer Traps that use pheromones, or using natural predators, parasitic wasps, are sometimes used on a larger scale for widespread infestations but are still being researched and developed.

Destroying infested wood is the last, and very important final step in controlling Emerald Ash Borer populations. Don’t transport any wood that could contain these pests, but instead burn it onsite to prevent the beetles from spreading elsewhere.

Since they arrived by accident on North American soils, Emerald Ash Borers have been terrorizing our beloved trees. While we’ve already lost millions of trees, we still have the ability to work to minimize further damage by being more educated about how these pests work, how to deal with them, and how to prevent spreading them. Your trees are an important legacy and part of your home and yard, so it is important that you have the tools to protect them.