Showing posts with label Gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gardening. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Gardeners and Valentine's Day What a Great Combination Reviewed

There is no doubt about it, when February comes calling, gardeners are already itching to get into the "dirt" of the matter!

#gardeners gifts #valentines day gifts for gardeners #winning combinations for the gardener
Valentine's Day and Gardeners are a great combination.  Around every corner you will find something that will satisfy and excite the gardener in your life.  All gardeners are spending much of February pouring over Seed Catalogs and planning to attend the local Garden Shows that are sure to be happening in March.  I know that I am planning not only my flower gardens, but my vegetable garden too!  I can hardly wait for that first snowdrop or even (heaven forbid) that first dandelion!

What it means is that Old Man Winter is leaving and the warmth and loveliness of Spring is on the way.  Even dandelions with their yellow heads are welcome after a cold and dreary winter season.  And the ladybugs are just an added bonus.  

Valentine's Day is a great time to think about those things that will make the gardener in your family really happy.  There is a list and it can go on and on.  But let me help you make some good decisions when it comes to the gifts that a gardener would really love to have.  

First on the List is Books! 

I don't know any gardener that would not love a beautiful book that highlights not only plants, but gives great instructions on growing them too!  Along with books would be a subscription to Gardening Magazines of which there are many to choose from.  You can find magazines specific to your area and growing zones. You can also go to more general magazines that will cover a multitude of plants, vegetables, trees, shrubs and in gardening zones around the world.  Sometimes pictures are worth the time to dream!

Second on the List is Plants!  

Your local garden center will have a multitude of plants available, especially since it is coming close to Valentine's Day.  You don't need to buy cut roses to make a gardener happy.  Primroses, potted tulips and daffodils, even indoor tropical plants are a welcome addition to the household.  They are reasonably priced and will last a lot longer than any cut flowers.

Third on the List is Pots! 

I personally love pots that are beautiful to look at!  My indoor plants always look amazing because they are in pots that match or contrast with my decor.  It makes a plain plant look amazing when it stands out as a focal point in a room.  And the added bonus is that the indoor plants do a great job of cleaning the air indoors.  This is particularly important in the winter months when windows and doors are shut up tight to keep the cold out.  When you have some really good indoor plants working for you, the air never gets that winter "stale" feel.

Fourth on the List is Garden Tools! 

Every year I know there is another garden tool that I want.  It never fails.  From hoes, rakes, wagons, potting benches and saws to hand tools and garden hoses, there is always something I need.  Make it part of your conversations and I'm sure you will find there is something needed or wanted that would make a unique Valentine's gift.  You can find some great reviews here: Review This Gardening

Fifth on the List is Hand Soaps and Creams! 

Most gardeners are always fighting with dirt under the fingernails and hands.  Playing in the dirt can be very taxing on the skin as well.  A good hand cream/balm and some really fine soaps would be welcome by every gardener that I know.  Even though we love to play in the dirt, we also like our hands to be clean and our skin soft.  There's no need for calluses even though we work with our hands.

Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth on the List!

If none of the above floats your boat, then there is this extended list too......
6.  Garden lights, Tiki lamps, outdoor fireplace
7.  Garden seating, chairs, umbrellas, tables
8.  Bird Feeders, hummingbird feeders anything that will attract birds and bees.
9.  Bird baths, Fountains, running water.

Last but not Least the Tenth!

10.  I know I mentioned tools, but there are other things that would help a gardener that are a little less obvious.  How about garden hoses, timers for lights, Outdoor glassware (non-breakable),  or a good water bottle to keep that gardener hydrated!

This list is by no means complete.  There are always new products and garden decor that can change just as the seasons do.  It's a great starting point for anyone who wants to make a gardener they love happy at Valentine's Day, that's for sure.  



The products I have chosen to show are just a small sample of what's available.  Just remember that Gardeners love anything that will help them to grow something beautiful or delicious and sometimes both.  
Happy Valentine's Day
   May your garden overflow with the love that you pour into it.
valentine's gifts for gardeners, 10 great gift ideas for gardeners, Valentines Day and Gardeners a great combination





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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review

The Best Weed Field Guide for the West I've Seen


I just discovered the best field guide I've ever seen for identifying weeds here in California. I'll finally be able to properly name all those I find and photograph while out walking and on my own property. The book was sitting on the shelf at my local public library. At almost an inch and a half thick, Weeds of the West includes almost every weed I've seen in my area. It's published by the Western Society of Weed Science. Its seven authors all have advanced degrees and specialize in weeds. I'm reviewing the 5th Edition published in 1996, but there are later editions I haven't yet seen.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
Wild Cucumber with Grasses and Mustard, Photo © B. Radisavljevic


What I Love about This Reference Book


It's more like what's not to love? The picture quality is excellent. The arrangement of listings is logical. The descriptions provide all the information farmers, campers, gardeners, or hikers need to identify the weeds they encounter. Finally, the pages at the back make everything easier to find and understand.

The Photographs

Poison Hemlock

There are three photographs for each plant listed. Let's look first at the poison hemlock plant listed on pages 22-23 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West. It's a weed found almost everywhere in San Luis Obispo County that's not cultivated. Each listing has three images like this.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review. This book has all one needs to identify weeds growing in the Western United States.
My scan of pages 22-23 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West (Western Society of Weed Science)
First we see the overview of the plant in bloom in its habitat. We can compare its height to the other weeds near it. The opposite page shows a close-up portion of the stem, covered with the purple spots that help one distinguish poison hemlock from similar looking plants. We also get a close-up of the leaf. It's a much more detailed look that one would get from the overview shot.

In Roadside Plants of California, Thomas Belzer has given poison hemlock a playing-card size color photo of the top of one flowering stem. It has a good shot of the flowers and a couple of leaves, but the descriptive paragraph doesn't even mention the purple spots. It does mention that Wild Celery is a near look-alike that is not poisonous. Weeds of the West does not mention that.

The Sunset Western Garden Problem Solver's photos of  poison hemlock are so small they are almost useless. You get an overall idea of what one section of leaves and flowers looks like, but no view of the entire plant or its surroundings. You have to rely on the written description of the purple spots because the inset photo is only an oval of 1" x 1½."  It's a good book as far as it goes, but it's purpose is more to help gardeners identify the weeds so they can manage them.

The large full-page photo in Weeds of the West shows as much of an overview as possible, and if a plant is too tall for a photo to hold it all, you will see as much of it as possible for identifying its form. The two smaller photos on the opposite page under the description zero in on the two most important plant characteristics for identifying it. For poison hemlock you see the purple stem and a leaf. For western waterhemlock the smaller photos are a branch with leaves and a split distinctive root, its most poisonous part.

Matt Ritter in California Plants and Plants of San Luis Obispo County has photos with the same high quality, but the book lacks the overview shot. The book also has fewer plants included than Weeds of the West, since it's more specialized. See Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter for a more thorough review of his field guides.

Jointed Goatgrass

When I work in my garden, it seems the weeds that bother me the most are the grassy weeds. So far I've had only the Ritter books and the Sunset Western Garden Problem Solver to help me identify these pests, and they haven't helped as much as I'd hoped. But Weeds of the West identifies at least twice as many of these grassy weeds as the other books. I'll admit it covers more than just California, and that may be part of the reason why.

My scan of pages 408-409 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West (Western Society of Weed Science)
Look at the right page of the photo above. The top photo on that page shows the part of the plant where the leaf joins the stem -- something people like me might not even notice. (I do now.) This leaf juncture often provides key identifying information, but many books only show the grass blades or spikes and the flowering part of the plant (inflorescence) or seeds with or without a pod. I like that the photos in this book show a close-up of this juncture when important. The text also points it out so I know what I should look for.

The Arrangement of the Listings


Weeds of the West entries are arranged by plant families. Many other books are arranged by habitat. Both arrangements are useful, but I find the arrangement by family helps me see that plants I never would have suspected are related to each other. Since related plants don't always need the same growing conditions or share a habitat, having them together in a book section make the relationships more obvious. 

If you look at the tops of my scanned pages above, you will see the left page has the common name for the weed in boldface at the top. Under it is the scientific name in italics. On the page on the right we see the common name again followed by the plant family's scientific name. Under that is the common name for the plant family. I'm not surprised that poison hemlock is related to wild carrot and wild caraway. I am surprised that the bull thistle is related to the sunflower. I'm amazed at all the cousins the sunflower has.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
This photo I took in my yard features the wild cucumber (also called manroot.) Weeds of the West will help me  identify the wild grassy weeds that surround it. Photo © B. Radisavljevic


The Text Descriptions


The text that accompanies the photographs in Weeds of the West provides any other information it takes to identify the plant. It points out where to look for what in the photos. It tells you where the plant is native, its size, and its growth habit -- tall and erect  or prostrate and sprawling. Words describe the color and the odor of each plant part if it's a factor in identifying it..

Leaf descriptions include whether they are dull or shiny, how their edges look (smooth or sawtoothed), whether they are divided and if so how many times, how they are arranged on the stem (opposite or alternating), and anything special about how they are attached. Flowers and seeds are also thoroughly described.

The last paragraph explains where you are likely to find the plant (habitat.) It also mentions any other important  information you may need to know. Is the plant poisonous to humans or animals? If it's poisonous, does it resemble closely a plant that is safe?

Handy Helps in the Back of the Book


Many listings use terms laymen may not understand. So there is a Glossary at the beginning of the back matter. Next is an  easy-to-use "Key to the Families in Weeds of the West." It describes what the plant families have in common and what distinguishes them from one another. The final  aid to readers is an index that includes both common and scientific names.

Used editions of this book vary in price.

Should You Buy This Book?


If you live in the American West and garden or spend a lot of time outdoors where wild plants grow, I think you would find this book a helpful addition to your home library. I take a lot of photo walks in parks and I also garden. I like to be able to identify what I photograph, and most books don't supply the information I need. This book is more complete than any of the others I have seen or have on my shelf. The print is large enough for even me to read easily, and the publisher did not skimp on the photos.

 There are bound to be a few mistakes in a book this large -- 630 pages. I don't have the scientific background to judge the facts, but the authors certainly have academic credentials that indicate they know these plants well. I did find one omission quite by chance. I wanted to see if Queen Anne's Lace was listed in the book, since I hadn't seen it with others in the parsley family. It was in the index, but the name of the plant on the page I was directed to only said  "Wild carrot" with Daucus carota L. under it. Nothing in the page for Wild carrot mentioned that Queen Anne's Lace was another common name for it. I had to find that out on the internet.

As soon as I can afford it I will probably buy this book. I'm interested in nature and especially in wild plants, so for me it would be worth it. I like the convenience of a handy reference book when I have a question.



Buyers should be aware that this is not exactly a field guide. It's too large and heavy to take hiking. It does, though, draw attention to parts of plants you should remember to photograph to identify at home later. I have never realized how important it is to observe how the leaves are attached to the stem, for example. If you have found other books for identifying wild plants too limited, I believe you will find this book is different. I believe it's worth buying for the presentation and completeness of the information.




As I was finishing this review I saw another book that may be even more complete. If you're interested in California weeds, you may also like Weeds of California and Other Western States (in two volumes.) I used the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon to check it out and it, too, looks like a book I'd like to own.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
Photo © B. Radisavljevic

More I've Written about Common California Weeds


Poison Hemlock: Lovely and Lethal: a photo essay with original photos from my property and my nature walks.

Milk Thistle and  Hemlock: The Prickly and the Poisonous: A Photo essay that shows both these common western weeds at all stages of growth so you can easily identify them.

Oak and Poison Oak in Photos: Can You Tell the Difference?: This will help you recognize poison oak  during all stages of growth and in any season. Our local police department asked to use parts of this to help train their search and rescue teams.

Weeds I Love to Hate: Photos of my worst weed enemies and why I hate them

Vetch Runs Wild: Short post from my gardening blog with many photos of vetch I took while hiking

The California  Weeds You Need to Pull Now! If you get them while they are young they won't cause as much trouble later.





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Sunday, January 27, 2019

Review of the Meaning Behind Different Colored Roses

The Meaning Behind Different Colored Roses
Did You Know that Each Rose Color Has a Unique Meaning?

With Valentine's Day around the corner, there's nothing carved in stone that says you have to give Red Roses.

If you want to send a different message, check out the meaning of each colored rose as described below. Once you determine what you really want to say, send a dozen roses of that color instead.

Red Roses

This one you know. It generally means "I love you". Sending red roses tells the person in no uncertain terms that you love them. It also speaks to beauty and lets the person know, that in your eyes, they're perfect just the way they are.

Yellow Roses

If you want to send someone a flower that expresses thanks for the friendship you share, yellow roses are a good choice. Yellow roses tell the person that they make you happy and you're thankful to have them in your life.

Lavender (Purple) Roses

If you've just met someone and you've got that love-at-first-sight thing going on between the two of you, then sending them purple roses says you're eager to continue and grow this unexpected relationship. Purple is also associated with Royalty, so if you happen to fall in love with a Prince or a Princess at first sight, send them purple roses.

White Roses

If you're looking to send flowers to someone you just met, white roses are the ideal choice. They're used in weddings to symbolize new beginnings but you don't have to be getting married to experience a new beginning. Don't hesitate to send them in the case of anything new; new job, new baby, new friendship, new love.

Pink Roses

Is there someone in your life that you admire? If so, send them pink roses. Perhaps it's a person who has accomplished a great deal, been an awesome friend or set an unparalleled example with their life. Sending your mother pink roses speaks to your admiration for her. Pink also represents gracefulness. For the person with high integrity and who behaves in a classy manner, pink is their flower.

Orange Roses

Orange roses speak to your excitement about being with a person. You're anxious to take on new adventures with them and your relationship is all about enthusiasm and, where applicable, desire. Give orange roses to the person you want to take on the world with. It doesn't have to be a love interest. In fact, if it's a good friend, give them a combination bouquet of yellow, orange and white roses.

Peach Roses

Do you want to send someone a 'Thank you'? If so, then peach roses deliver that message. If you're grateful for someone and what they've done for you, or for just being in your life, peach roses say it without words. When you want to show someone how much you appreciate them, add peach roses to your bouquet.

Now that you understand the general meaning of each rose, consider the message you want to convey and either mix and match them or give a dozen of one color.

If real flowers aren't doable, here's a collection of faux bouquets to send to that special someone:




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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

What's Bugging Your Plants And How To Solve The Problem

Winter has set in for the long haul and if you live in Canada or the Northern United States, the plants you brought indoors for the winter months are probably showing some signs of distress.

Why does that happen and what can you do about it? 

Simply put, your indoor space as nice as it may be, is not the "great outdoors".  All gardeners wish they could just bring the summer inside so that they can survive those crazy cold winter months.  Alas, that is not possible.  We all have some plants that we love and want to "overwinter" in our homes.  I know I have a few that I just love and I always start early in the fall to get these favorites ready for their move indoors.


Olivia's Brugmansia

This is my all time favorite flower.  It is really more like a tree and in the southern states it grows to be as big as a tree.  Here in the north, with proper care it can also become quite large, but keeping a plant this big indoors over the winter months is not an easy task.  So I prepare early to bring in cuttings from this amazing plant.  It roots easily in water and once the cuttings have a good root system I plant the cutting in soil and bring that indoors.  You can also go through the process of keeping these in a cool cellar over the winter months, but that is another whole process.  I find it easier to keep just a few cuttings and watching them grow ever so slowly in the winter.  

What's the biggest problems with keeping plants indoors over the winter?

There are really three problems that will cause plants to decline over the winter months.
  1. Light, not enough of it.
  2. Water, too much of it.
  3. Pests, hitchhikers that you didn't expect to give a home to.
Today we are going to discuss the "Hitchhikers"!

There are six common pests that can attack indoor plants and most often they hitchhike in the soil.  They may be dormant for a little while, but once January comes around they seem to explode on the scene.  Let's find out more!

The six pests are:
  1. aphids
  2. soil gnats
  3. scale insects
  4. white flies
  5. spider mites
  6. mealy bugs

There are a few pests that can literally take over in a matter of a few days.  In the summer months when the plant is outdoors, it has the advantage of natural pest controls.  Ladybugs, praying mantis and just better growing conditions can make these pests less of a problem.  Once indoors the natural controls are no longer there.  Additionally, if you bring in the plant with it's soil from outdoors, you are probably giving the hitchhikers a first class ride into their winter residence as well.

Whenever you bring a plant from the outdoors in, you should take steps to make sure the pests are not coming in with them.  There are several ways to do this.  One is to drench the soil with neem oil products (natural and organic controls).  Spray the leaves and undersides especially to knock off the aphids and wipe out any eggs.  Or you can take cuttings that will be rooted and planted in fresh soil.  

If you notice a plant not doing well, leaves that are falling off, discolored leaves, tips that are browning and not growing, you know you have a problem.
The next step is to isolate the plant (most pests will gladly jump from one plant to another if they are in close proximity), and seek out information on what kind of problem you have.  Some of these pests are easy to find if you know what to look for.  Others might be a little harder, but you can get help if you need it from a reliable nursery.  Bring in the plant, or a leaf and see if they can help you identify the pest, then you can also purchase what you need to help control or get rid of your "problem" before it becomes an all out infestation.

Most people know about aphids, controlling them is rather easy.  You must be consistent but a good blast of water will dislodge aphids and within a few weeks your problem should be over.  Every three days check your plant, if you see aphids, get them into the shower and give them a good hard spray with lukewarm water.  Wash them all down the drain.  Keep your plant segregated until you see no more signs of aphids.  

Soil gnats are not really a "problem pest" in that they won't kill your plant.  They are rather annoying though.  When you disturb the plant, you will see little black flies come out of the ground and fly around and then go back into the ground.  Water your plants with neem oil added to their water and keep the soil on the dry side until you no longer see these little flies.  Over watering is one of the biggest mistakes made when bringing plants indoors.

Scale insects are much more difficult.  They are sneaky and if you don't know what to look for, you will miss them completely.  Scale insects like to hid under leaves and in the meeting of stem and leaf.  They can also attach to flowering stems.  One of my orchids has a scale problem and what set me to find this was a stickiness on the leaves.  This stickiness is from the scale excreting honeydew after sucking the plant juices.  Scale look like little bumps on a stem or leaf and can look like part of the plant.  If you scratch the edges of the scale, you will find it will lift off of the plant.  The easiest way to get control of scale insects is with rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip or cotton ball.  The rubbing alcohol will damage the scales outer shell and expose the bug for removal.  It is important to watch a plant with scale as they will suck the life right out of the plant in short order.  Check the plant weekly and remove any scale using this method.  
Scale insects on leaf and stem. (Picture from WikiCommons)

White flies are also a nuisance.  They attack the undersides of the leaves of many plants.  They also multiply readily, so an infestation is quite possible in a few days time.  Like aphids the best way to keep these under control is to knock them off with a good spray of water.  Do this every 2 to 3 days and then treat the soil with neem oil so that any eggs that may have fallen into the soil will die.  You can also purchase Yellow Sticky traps for these pesky white flies.  They seem to be attracted to the yellow color.

Spider mites as their name implies are very much like spiders, but they are tiny(almost microscopic) and you could need a magnifying glass in order to see them.  What you might see before you actually see the bugs, is a webbing all over the ends of the plant stems.  Imagine tent caterpillars in miniature.  The effect is similar.  When you see those webs all over the plant you will have to get that plant into the shower and wash them off.  Again the undersides of the leaves and the ends of the plant are favorite spots for this pest.  

Mealy Bugs like scale are harder to control and require that you actively search your plants for their presence.  They like the scale have a hard outer shell that will keep them firmly attached to the plant.  Using rubbing alcohol will dislodge them and kill them as well.  

If you want to know more about houseplant pests a great website is from Colorado State and you can find it right here!  They also have some great pictures of these pests if you want to know what they look like or you are not sure if what you are seeing is a pest or not.

I personally have a great collection of Rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs and cotton balls for my houseplants.  Once a month I water all of my plants with Neem Oil added to the water as a preventative measure to keep my plants happy.  Spring and Summer are on their way, but until then, keep a close eye on your favorite plants.  Make sure that no pests will spoil your indoor gardening period.

For your convenience I have included my must haves for over-wintering my favorite plants and keeping them healthy until they can go back outside again in Late Spring and Summer.  Hope this helps you keep your favorite plants happy too!










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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

How to Make Your Fall Garden Clean UP a Breeze

Fall Garden Clean-up Can be EASY with the right tools!  Let's Review two that will make your work so much easier!

Gardening is a hobby that tugs at my heart, but after a day out there, my hamstrings, back and arms are aching.  Did you know there are some really great tools available that will make the garden clean-up much easier and less labor intensive?

If you have trees in your yard, you know that there will be some clean up required before Ole Mr. Winter rears his head.  If you have trees that produce nuts, pine cones or fruits, there will be even more clean up required.   I'm here to tell you not to get your overalls in a knot!  I just saw and revelled at a new garden tool that I'm sure everyone will want.  No more stooping over to pick up all those "presents" that so many trees give us.

Leaving fruits and nuts on the lawn over the winter months is not a recommended practice. It is much better for you and your garden to get that mess cleaned up in the fall.  You will have a nice clean area to work with come springtime. Many fruit trees, nut trees, and evergreens can harbor diseases and small animals (rodents) and you really don't want that. Nut trees like Black Walnuts will damage your yard as they contain chemicals that prohibit the growth of other plants. Plus you will have to deal with the hassle of cleaning up in spring when it's wet and messy! This makes fall a much better choice. This Nut Harvester, will pick up nuts, acorns, pine cones, fruit that has dropped before ripening, lemons, limes, apples and more. Left in the ground these fruits are a magnet for wasps and other critters that bite! If you have children playing in the yard, that is definitely a no-no. Personally I have gone out to the garden and turned my ankle on an apple that had fallen off the tree. So I know that this is not a pleasant experience.

Walnuts, acorns, pine cones, crabapples, chestnuts and more can be easily removed from the yard before that last mowing takes place.  There is a new tool that lets you roll over all this detris and make it a thing of the past.  Made by the same people that gave you the Garden Weasel, this tool is lightweight, easy to handle and makes stooping down a thing of the past.



If you have a teenager living at home and a golf course nearby, they could get a job collecting golf balls too! Dual purpose and easy to do too.



Now the other tool that I really like will help you gather all the leaves that will be falling soon. This tool will require a little bit of stooping over, but your "Garden Hands" will help make each bend over much more productive.By increasing the size of your hands, you are able to pick up that much more and make the gathering of leaves a job that gets done likety split. 

The other option as far as leaf gathering goes, is to leave them on the lawn and mow them over a few times. Hopefully you have a mulcher option on your lawn mower, so that the leaves are broken up into small pieces that will nourish your lawn as they break down. This option is for gardens that don't have a lot of leaves. If you have trees everywhere, and lots of leaves on the grass, you are much better off to pick those leaves up. Breaking them down into smaller pieces will only smother the grass underneath if the layer of mulched leaves is too thick!  The grass needs nourishment, but doesn't like to be smothered under a blanket of rotting leaves.

Those are my two suggestions for making your Fall Garden Cleanup and much easier routine.  Besides enjoying the crisp fall air, you will get a great level of exercise in before winter hibernation routines kick in. 


Fall is one of the most beautiful times in nature and it's great to get out there and enjoy the sights, sounds and the beauty all around us.  



For more Gardening Reviews you can Check out this link:  Review This Gardening  There are lots of articles from fellow members of the Review This team!




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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Choosing Flowers for an East West Facing Home

A Popular Easy to Maintain Full Sun Flower Basket
featuring Bell Flowers, Petunias, and Verbena
A Review of Flowers for a House Where the Afternoon Sun is in the Front Yard and the Morning Sun is in the Backyard
Or the reverse.

Our home faces directly East-West and over twenty years ago when we purchased our home, I wasn't experienced enough with flower planting to understand how the sun floated around our home to keep the poor things alive for an extended period of time.

I'm not a gardening or flower expert by any stretch of the imagination, however I have, via trial and error, found some easy to choose flowers that will survive the daily trip around the sun.


Climbing Rose Bush in Front Island

Our Front Yard is Fully Treed - Easy Care, However Not Flower Friendly

Ha! That solves it. Little room for flower errors.

After filling our yard with greenery, it became difficult to get annual flowers to grow. So other than a few select potted plants, there are few flowers to care for in the front.

As you can see in the featured photo, we have a small front island, however, after trying and retrying a variety of flowers in it, nothing seemed to grow. So we placed easy to grow juniper as ground filler to contrast with the stepping stones, and stuck with one climbing rose bush.

However, it's not just a rose bush, it has a spiritual connection.

A friend of our family was sadly diagnosed with cancer, and before he passed away we were able to purchase this rose bush from his store, and it's thrived for about twenty years now.

More freakishly, these are the ONLY perennial flowers to have survived our front yard for over twenty years. Divine intervention? We think of him every time we look at the rose bush, so we like to think so.


Begonias on the Table - They Like the Shade
Backyard Flowers - Morning Sun that Floats Away from the House by 11:00am and Finally Leaves the Yard by 5:00pm

I've essentially stayed with three or four types of flowers.

The flowers closest to the house that only feel sun til 11:00am, are 'Sun Impatiens' also known as New Guinea Impatiens.

Unlike regular shade impatiens, New Guinea Impatiens can tolerate about a half a day of sun. Morning sun is best.

To add color to the patio table, we used Begonias. They like the shade, and since the umbrella is up most of the time, they work in that spot.

For the flower planter which gets sun all day, we selected a mixed arrangement featuring three of my favorite flowers, Verbena, Bellflowers (Campanula family), and Petunias. However, skip the Petunias for a mostly maintenance free bouquet.

Popular New Guinea Impatiens - Easy to Care For
they can handle about 3 or 4 hours of a sun a day,
morning sun is best

The Complete Story of How We Landscaped this Challenging Yard, More Here:




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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Landscaping Solution for Areas Where the Grass Won't Grow

Our Front Yard Fix - My DIY Stepping Stone Solution
When You Want to Keep Your Trees but Can't Keep the Lawn

If you don't have to, don't cut down the trees.

Let me start by saying that I'm not a gardening expert. 

However, I did manage to pull off this DIY. Review the photos featured here to get a good look at the results.

Over 20 years ago we moved into our home in a new tree-less development. Other than the one tree the city provided, the yard was simply grass and a builder's walkway.

Landscaping was a must for us so we got busy planting trees and had a lovely interlocking walkway put in around the home.

My husband picked a tree he liked, a Birch Tree, and I picked a tree I liked, a Blue Spruce. We had both planted in the front yard with the birch tree surrounded by a small island featuring easy to care for Juniper. 

We put Boxwoods along the walkway, cedar trees on each side of the garage doors and a Bristol
A Close Up of Part of the
Front Yard
Ruby Weigela by the porch. On the other side of the driveway we had an English Oak Tree planted, which today, is magnificent.

For the back yard we planted about 50 cedar trees around the fence. You can see pictures of the backyard here with some gardening tips here.

In those early years, the trees were essentially our height or lower so keeping the lawn green and healthy was never an issue, until the trees became very large and as you can well imagine the little bit of exposed lawn in the front yard turned into a disaster.

One Day, I Decided that Was IT! No More

LOL I'm not exaggerating. One day about ten years ago I arrived home from work and solicited the help of my sons to do some Diy landscaping. Off we went to the local Home Depot to purchase the stepping stones you see in the photos. 

I chose bigger irregular stepping stones for most of the what was left of the lawn area, and smaller ones to go in front of the island. 

Not wanting the dirt to show between the stepping stones and not wanting to wait for planted ground cover to grow, I choose small red gardening rocks to fill in the cracks.

The only thing I forgot to do was to line the area with a protection barrier fabric to prevent the weeds from growing through the stones. But that's ok, I just dig out the weeds between the stones from time to time. It's good exercise, in fact I just did it again the other day.

A Closer Look - DIY Stepping Stone Fix
Also, to finish the look I put red cedar wood chips around the bushes and along the walkway. 

Was This a Hard DIY?

No. Since the lawn was mostly gone, there wasn't much digging to do to get the yard ready to receive the stepping stones. We poured the small red colored rock between the stones. Oh, and my sons did the heavy lifting.

Had I Ever Done This Type of Work Before?

No. I was totally inexperienced. The only advantage I may have had was that in my real estate years I had seen a great deal of property, and thus had a lot of visual assistance stored in the back of my mind.

What Tips Would You Give?

The most important aspect, at least for me, was to look carefully at the yard to roughly determine the
A Section of the Backyard Along the Fence where
the Grass doesn't Grow - These stepping stones are NOT
positioned close together on purpose!
size of the stepping stones needed and then do a bit of math to establish how many stones to buy.

It's easier to be as exact as you can than to continuously go back to the store to get additional stepping stones. However, I didn't get it right the first time either; I ended up at the store twice.

Also, install enough stepping stones. In other words, don't try to save money by spacing them too far apart so you won't need as many.

The closer together they are, the better the finished product will look. Plus, having them closer together means fewer red colored rocks.

What Did this Project Cost You?

Ok.... Remember this was done around 2008. My estimated price for the work I personally did was about $1000(ish) Canadian. Of course that doesn't include the trees or the professionally installed walkways. That money includes the stepping stones, cedar red chips, and red colored rocks. No labour costs, as of course, it was a DIY.

Don't be afraid to try this, it's a lot easier than it looks. I am not an expert and managed, so I'm sure you could as well. The photos really don't do this DIY justice :)

This is a recent photo (2018) - Stepping Stones still Holding Up Nicely, 10 Years Later






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Sunday, July 8, 2018

How to Bring English Ivy Back to Life - A Review of What Worked

How to Repair English Ivy
Let me start by saying, I'm not a gardening expert.

What you'll find here is something I tried from an online search on how to bring English Ivy back to life … and it sounded too simple, but it freaking worked!

I can't guarantee you'll have as much luck as I did, but considering how easy it was, perhaps you'll be able to restore your Ivy as well? It's worth a try.

I've included a couple of videos, both taken just recently in 2018: One shows the disaster that our Ivy became this year, along with patchy, blotchy lawn.

The other video shows the results of new lawn growth and Ivy growth after using the two products indicated below.

BEFORE: Take a Look at the Disaster of our Ivy this Year. You'll also see the Lawn before the Repairs. What a Mess!



What Killed the Ivy You Ask?

The Ivy that surrounds our back patio has been there, without ever dying, since we had the patio installed in the early 1990s. I've NEVER had to repair it. The Ivy has always been a reliable patio ground-cover support.

We chose Ivy because it's maintenance free and has been so until this year, 2018.

So what took the life out of our Ivy? It could have been the harsh winter we just had, but I doubt that as we've had many harsh winters over the past twenty plus years. Or it could have been dog urine. We recently had a lovely dog visitor over the winter and he enjoyed choosing the Ivy to do his business on. Quite frankly, we suspect it was the doggie urine.

What Did We Do to Repair the Ivy?

The big secret was Miracle Grow. Honestly our Ivy was so bad that I really didn't expect it to work. After searching online for what to use to revive the Ivy, the most consistent response Google kept kicking back was 'Miracle Grow'. So I gave in, and tried it.

AFTER: Take a Look at the Ivy and Lawn After the Repair was Done this Year!




There's a Few HOWEVERS Though

1. However, as mentioned above, each year I repair our lawn with Scotts EZseed Patch and Repair. Scotts EZ is a combination of Mulch, Seed and Fertilizer.
Here's the Ivy fully Repaired - The Lawn Growing Nicely

I highly recommend Scotts EZSeed!

Every year I buy several large bags and spread it along the perimeter of our cedar trees and on the dry dead patches of our lawn.

The cedar trees suck the life out of our lawn, so after replacing our lawn three times over the past several decades, I decided to consistently repair it year after year instead. Best decision.

Also, I  did try another brand of Lawn Repair and Scotts was far superior.

The reason I mention the Lawn repair is because who knows whether the fertilizer in it somehow enhanced the Miracle Grow on the Ivy. Not being a gardener, I have no idea, but thought you should know.

2. That's not the only fertilizer in our yard. Each year I also put 36 Tree Fertilizer Spikes in the ground around the cedars. You can read about how awesome that works for the trees here.

So in summary, our annual routine is normally tree fertilizer spikes and Scotts EZSeed Repair for the lawn, but this year's disaster with the Ivy called for Miracle Grow to repair it, and it worked!

Here's What the Ivy Looked Liked Last Year and Every Year Before that - Before the 'Dead Ivy' Crisis of 2018.

We've restored the Ivy again and it's Well on it's Way to Looking Like it has for over 20 Years




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Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Review of Creativity on Review This!

(c) Kimberly Austin Daly, Artist*
Creativity Lives in Everyone!

My daughter is an artist.  She studied art in college, graduating with a degree in Fine Arts. But her creativity in this field has been present since she was old enough to hold a crayon.  All her life she has been compelled to draw & paint.  I've always admired her artistic ability because I can't draw a straight line with a ruler! :-)

*Artwork is the property of Kimberly Daly, Artist/Illustrator.  Copyright: Do not copy.  Permission granted for display in this story.






My hubby was a fine musician, having studied the violin for 14 years, then played the guitar for many more years and even had his own 'trio' during the 'folk music' era of our college days.
Today my son plays guitar and several other instruments and has his own local band with a group of fellow musicians.  I can't play any instrument and have no musical ability.

My brother sings and plays guitar.  My mother and sister could sing up a storm. I can't carry a tune in a bucket!  

Coastal Crochet Crafts on Etsy

I used to say to my talented family that I had no 'talent' for anything, until they reminded me that my crochet and needlework crafting was MY creative ability.  






Creative Talent is in Everyone


You don't have to be able to sing or dance, play an instrument or draw to be talented.  Creativity in ANY area is a talent all its own.  It was a nice reminder that we all have some form of creative talent, whether its in the arts & crafts field, music or dance, or simply being a wonderful cook.  Being able to express ourselves in writing is also a creative endeavor.  


Highlighting a Few Reviews Written by Our Talented Contributors on Review This!


Our team of contributors who write for Review This! review many products and do music, book and movie reviews, in addition to a wide range of other topics.  They are also very creative, sharing a variety of crafts, tutorials of DIY projects, cooking and baking recipes, and photography and gardening tips.  The following are a few examples of this team's creative talents.


Crafts Reviews



(c) Dawn Rae
How to Make Easy Christmas Tree Ornaments by Dawn Rae.  Dawn gives us easy step-by-step instructions on how to create with your children these simple, yet lovely, ornaments for your holiday tree.







(c) Bev Owens

For crochet crafters, Bev Owens tells us about this easy pattern you can use to create your own handmade poncho in her review titled Reviewing A Crochet Poncho Pattern.






(c) Wednesday-Elf

Wednesday-Elf loves to crochet, particularly stuffed animals.  Handmade crafts are her favorite, as shown in this A Bird in the Hand-i-Craft article.  In addition to her own crochet crafting, she enjoys sharing the creative talents of many other fiber art creators on Etsy.










DIY Projects


(c) RenaisanceWoman2010)
Clever & creative Diana (RenaissanceWoman2010) gives us a tutorial for a DIY Mason Jar Bird Feeder using a regular canning jar, a pretty plate or bowl, and a few other simple supplies (glue, wire, and a chick feeder base). Then just add bird seed and watch the local feathered friends in your area flock to your new bird feeder. 







Photography Tips



(c) mbgphoto
Several of the Review This contributors are photographers, but Mary Beth Granger (mbgphoto) goes one step further with sharing her fabulous photography tips for all of us to learn to take even better photographs. She shares the tips she's learned from taking photography classes and doing LOTS of practice. I would imagine Mary Beth seldom goes anywhere without a camera. Her favorite subjects are lighthouses! Check out her Review of Photography Tips for some helpful advice for your own photographs. 





Recipe Reviews



(c) Sylvestermouse

Sylvestermouse is our creative baker here on Review This! She loves to put together fancy cakes and cupcakes.  A quick look at one of her favorite cookbooks for baking (the Cupcake Cakes Cookbook) will give you an idea of some of the fun and clever ideas she often incorporates into her baking.








Gardening Tips



Olivia Morris is one of our resident gardeners.  In her How to Grow Your Way to Happiness and a Great Garden, she shares some tips for your spring planting. 




Articles on Creativity


For more articles on these creative reviews, click on each subject below:






What do you consider your 'creative' talent?  







(c) Review of Creativity by Wednesday Elf


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