Sunday, 29 March 2009

Gardening for the Butterflies

A butterfly garden is a designed to attract and encourage butterflies.

Flowers provide food that adult butterflies need in the form of nectar. Host plants provide the food source needed by caterpillars. A rule of thumb is, the greater the variety of flowers and shrubs, the greater the amount of butterflies that will want to visit your garden!

Try creating a habitat that butterflies will be attracted to. Offer some sheltered areas, which will mean that these beautiful winged creatures will expend less energy fighting the wind. Trellises and other garden structures, as well as plants like bushes and trees will make good wind breaks.

Most importantly remember that butterflies are insects, so never use insecticides. These harmful chemicals kill the butterflies. Even products such as Bt, Bacillus thuringiensis, will kill the caterpillar of butterflies. There is much talk that this is what is killing the bee population as well. Don't use them because insecticides never discriminate. Who needs that? Please look for organic ways of handling your insect problems! I'll follow this post up with more info on that. It's better for the planet.

My advice is to provide a diversity of flowers, especially ones that will bloom in succession of each other. This provides a consistant food source for the butterflies and makes good gardening sense, often being the goal of most gardeners that I know! More importantly, however, butterflies will have a variety of sources to choose from.
I prefer to encourage as many native plants as I can in the garden, which I feel is more than likely what the butterflies are seeking in their diet anyhow, since they have evolved through time with them. The butterflies will feel at home in a natural landscape. I must admit though, that annuals provide a good source of nectar to fill in between blooming times of perennial gardens. Besides, who doesn't like to see a window box bursting with annuals? This way, everyone, including the gardener and the butterflies, are happy!

Some flowers that butterflies will appreciate:
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)
Butterfly Weed/Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)
Goldenrod (Solidago)
Joe-Pye Weed
Privet (Ligustrum vulgare)
White Clover (Trifolium repens)
Hop Vine (Humulus lupulus)

Happy Gardening : )

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Earth Hour ~ It's Here!

It's almost 8:30 pm we are asked to turn out our lights for Earth Hour to high light global warming issues.

More info on Earth Hour:
Visit to find events in your community, news and our toolkit section for helpful Earth Hour information if you are planning tocreate your own Earth Hour event.
Items include:- Official Earth Hour logos - Event Planning Ideas - Posters
You can also visit the official Earth Hour online groups to join the conversation or add your Earth Hour videos and pictures.
I can't wait to seewhat my fellow Canadians are planning for Earth Hour 2009!

Join them on Facebook:
Follow them on Twitter:

By killing your lights for one hour, you are helping make a clear statement to politicians: climate change must be acted on. : )

Are you in Toronto?

Come celebrate under the stars! Free Concert Saturday, March 28 - 7 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Nathan Phillips Square, City Hall (Queen or Osgoode Subway)
Join Toronto's family-friendly celebration, see the lights go down in the heart of the city and catch some of Canada's hottest acts: .
Suzie McNeil - 'INXS RockStar' finalist and star of 'We Will Rock You'. Crash Parallel - #1 on Billboard Canadian Emerging Artist Chart. Karl Wolf - Award-winning songwriter, singer, producer. The Matt York Band - Acoustic soul rockers. Samba Squad - 20-piece Afro-Brazilian percussion troupe.
Presented by:The City of Toronto and World Wildlife Fund For more information please

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Test Your Ecological Footprint~Are you Stomping or Treading lightly?!

Click here to take the test -> Global Ecological Footprint Calculator

The footprint calculator estimates how much of the Earth's biocapacity is needed to support a person's consumption choices over the course of a year. The results can be compared to the global average or sustainable rate.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Orchids As Houseplants ~ Easier than you think!

Popular belief is that orchid growing is way too difficult and can only be done under greenhouse conditions.

The fact is that if you can grow African violets, then growing orchids will be easy for you!

Orchids compromise the largest family of flowering plants on the planet, and varieties of orchids, i.e. Lady Slipper's aka Cypripedium's, grow right here in Canada, but I'm getting off topic!

These durable plants with long blooming cycles, (up to 20 + weeks), provide a spectacular show during the winter when most indoor plants are recharging their batteries.

A friend of mine has a collection of 50 or so plants and she has told me countless times how orchids, particularly the Phalaenopsis, known to most as the Moth orchid because of the flower shape, is one of the easiest plants to bring into bloom.

Due to the foolproof nature of the orchid, it’s key to success is in the adaptability to thrive under different circumstances and conditions.

Whether it’s a bright window sill or under fluorescent lights, the Phalaenopsis orchid, with colours ranging from yellow, pink, purple, white, spotted, and yes, even striped, along with it’s unusual foliage, will likely become a favourite addition to your home.

My advice is to purchase from a florist or garden centre where the orchids are well cared for during their wait for you to find them.
The foliage should be a solid colour of green, without spots or other marks on them.
The potting medium used is bark, peat and vermiculite. It’s best when not mushy, since this could signify rotting roots, and the roots themselves, should be firmly entrenched in the pot.

One or two orchids will demand little of your attention. Providing them with a natural east or south facing window, (never full sun, but indirect, or they will burn), or if you have the room and feel like investing more money with a fluorescent light garden stand, success will be yours with these unusual and spectacular plants.

Don’t believe it when you are told that Phalaenopsis orchids require high humidity. During winter, when the air is really dry, just placing them on a tray, atop some rocks to keep their feet dry, which should provide ample humidity.

This addition to your home should be watered on a schedule, unlike other plants that get watered by demand.
Once a week, fill the sink with tepid water, with the level at half of that of the pot, and place your orchid in for one hour. Watering from the bottom, as with violets, will ensure there will be no damage to the foliage. The exception to the timing of watering is during the five or six weeks that the orchid plant has it’s dormancy period. At that time, cut your watering schedule to once every two weeks instead.

Feeding is recommended every third of fourth week. Water soluble fertilizer works best, and I suggest something higher in nitrogen. All that is required is about one teaspoon to a quart.
Having said that, orchids need to be repotted at the most, every five years or so.

If you feel uncomfortable with doing that, the florist or garden centre that you purchased it from is usually happy to do this for you, if you ask nicely! When I was a floral designer at a shop in Toronto, we often sold orchids, and many clients brought them in for some maintenance!

Orchids are relatively pest free, but if problems do develop with mealy bugs, scale or mites, a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol and dabbed on the pest will usually fix the issue.

Once people realize that orchids are not difficult to grow, then success with these unusual specimens is almost guaranteed, and will be appreciated as a beautiful addition to your home plant collection for many years to come.
Related Links: The Central Ontario Orchid Society & The Southern Ontario Orchid Society have a plethora of orchid information.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Vermicomposting - Composting with Worms!

Vermi Composting Is Composting With Worms.

It's very easy to do, really. Earthworms turn your organic waste into beautiful compost. It's by far, the best way to compost kitchen waste.

Worm castings contain five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus, and 11 times more potassium than ordinary soil, the main minerals needed for plant growth.

The casts are also rich in humic acids, which condition the soil, have a perfect pH balance, and contain plant growth factors similar to those found in seaweed. What could be better for your garden?
In Canada, where snow covers our composters and gardens, we all make excuses as to why we are putting vegetable scraps in the landfil instead of the garden, but vermicomposting can be done year round, right in your kitchen, and without any smell!

Here's how:

Purchase a plastic storage tote from the hardware store.
It is best to drill ¼-inch holes in the bottom, sides and top of the box, not just for drainage but for aeration. You don't want the worms smother!
The box should one square foot of surface area for each person in the household.
e.g: A 2' x 2' x 2' box can take the food waste of four people.
Bedding materials can include shredded newspaper, corrugated cardboard, peat moss, and partially decomposed leaves.
Worm boxes should be filled with bedding to provide the worms with a mixed diet as well as a damp and aerated place to live.
Tear newspaper or cardboard into strips before first. Bedding material should be moistened by in water for several minutes. Squeeze out excess water before adding it to your worm box.
Cover food waste with a few inches of bedding so flies won't becom a problem.
Red wigglers are the best for vermicomposting. They thrive on organic material such as yard waste and fruit and vegetable scraps.

Do feed them:
Coffee grounds or filters
Fruit and vegetable scraps
Small plant material
Tea leaves with bags

Do NOT feed them:
Milk and Dairy products
Greasy foods
Peanut butter
Pet/cat litter/feces
Vegetable oil/salad dressing

To Harvest castings, feed one end of the box for a week or more. Most worms will find their way to that side. Remove two-thirds of the worm castings from the opposite end and apply fresh bedding . Start burying food waste in the new bedding, and the worms will move back.

Here are some great links to get you started... Have fun!! : )
~A fun way for educators to Introduce Children to Vermicomposting

Or...Build your own bin. Click here:

Monday, 9 March 2009

Third Annual Earth Hour

Third annual Earth Hour.

The first one was held in Sydney Australia and during the 60 minutes of darkness, when 2.2 million Sydney residents and 2,100 businesses turned off their lights, energy usage decreased by 10.2 percent -- the equivalent of taking 48,000 cars off the road for a year.
Turn off to plug in ---

This year, Earth Hour takes place on March 28, from 8:30 pm - 9:30 pm, so turn off the T.V., switch off the lights and join millions of people for Earth Hour.

During this quiet hour of darkness, dream about how we can make the Earth a healthier place to live. Pass it on...!

The goal this year is to have 1 billion people turn out their lights. Why? Because the more lights we turn off, the stronger our message will be that the world needs action on climate change now!

Our governments around the globe need to know that we are all ready to take action for our planet and we expect them to take action too.

~ Earth Hour on Facebook

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Wall Flower Studio Garden

Victory Garden Renaissance ~ A Grass Roots Movement

A grass roots movement, or a renaissance toward Victory Gardening, is happening here in North America, and around the world.

Victory Gardens, which usually refers to small-scale farming, and a way of supporting community based agriculture, is where the past meets the present, and should be the way of the future.
Unfortunately, production of our food by corporate interests means that quality is ignored for quantity’s sake, and produce is bred for easy shipping across many miles, instead of taste. These crops are sprayed with poisonous chemical pesticides and herbicides, and burning of fossil fuels is used to transport the food.
In a time of global food shortages and high fuel costs it is becoming not only economical but also crucial to grow a large percentage of our own food at home or to at least, support the local farmers that do.

This resurgence of Victory Gardening happily means that people are starting to return to a more self-sufficient life style. Growing and buying organic, and even heirloom, fruits and vegetables, frees us from the chain of oil that binds us to the corporations that are ruining our planet with toxic chemicals and the use of fossil fuels.

During World War I and World War II, Canadian, American and British governments asked their citizens to plant gardens as a way to support the war effort, and literally, millions of people did just that. It was a place of pride, a national duty, and a community effort that brought local people together to feed one another.

Today, Victory Gardens are being created on rural acreage, small city plots, apartment balconies, and suburban yards. Growing vegetable gardens is in vogue!
To witness a grass roots effort that gives the us the means to feed ourselves, is a feeling of control over our own destiny, especially during the economic times of today.

"The Economist magazine - Victory Gardens - Digging their way out of recession”

IN 1943 Eleanor Roosevelt encouraged a return to the "victory gardens" that had become popular during the first world war, when the country faced food shortages.
Mrs Roosevelt planted a garden at the White House; some 20 million Americans followed her lead, and by the end of the war grew 40% of the nation's vegetables.Now a grassroots movement wants Barack Obama to plant another White House victory garden. The new secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, announced recently that his department would create "The People's Garden" out of a paved area outside their building. And he won't stop there. Mr Vilsack wants there to be a community garden at each of the department's offices around the world.”
Go forth and garden! : )

Monday, 2 March 2009

An Exceptional Weekend ~ Seedy Saturday!

Photo credit - © Susan Berman & Nur Intan Candau

Seedy Saturday was an awsome event! I'm told by the organizers that more than 2000 people ventured through the doors in four short hours! WOW...I believe it!
Being part of an event where there are so many other gardening enthusiasts was a real pleasure to say the least! I was already very inspired to get gardening, but even more so now!
I sold many of my seed packets, paper seed favours, lavender sachets, and of course, there was much interest in the citron seeds. Luckily, I had on hand the recipe to give anyone who purchased the citron seeds, and I wish them all much success with it!
Speaking of citrons, many of my readers may already know this, but I am the co-ordinator of the Stanhope Discovery Museum's gardens, which is where I grow the citrons. Each year, I hand over my harvest to the museum board, where they take it and make our citron marmalade, which in turn, I sell at our booth on Heritage Day. Last year, one of the Heritage Day demonstrators, Pat Bremner, purchased a few jars of it, which she does faithfully every year, but here is the twist to the story! On February 21st, 2009, Pat decided on a whim to enter it at the Culinary Historians of Ontario for the "Mad for Marmalade, Crazy for Citron!" program at Toronto's Fort York. Well, as I was standing at my booth during Seedy Saturday, didn't Pat walk up to me and tell me all of this, along with the fact that our marmalade had won First Prize! I'm quite sure my jaw hit the ground! My hearty thanks goes out to Pat for promoting both the marmalade and the museum!!
The other person I want to thank is a very dear friend of mine, Manneck Saatha. When I was the assistant horticulturalist at the Toronto Botanical Garden, he was, and still is, a dedicated volunteer there, without whom, the TBG would be lost! Manneck was kind enough to spend a couple of hours helping me out at Seedy Saturday. I am so grateful since it was much busier than I'd anticipated, so his help was immeasurable!
Lastly, I'd like to thank the organizers from Seedy Saturday. It was a huge undertaking, and such a successful event. Kudo's to all the people who made it happen. I'm sure to be back next year!