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Woman With Trowel: Starting a Kitsilano Garden? Here’s How to Use Color

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Are you starting a garden in Kitsilano this year? Whether you are thinking of a container garden for your patio or restocking your front yard, there are many things to consider before you start buying plants. I’ll touch on some of these topics in the next few articles.

A primary challenge in creating a satisfying perennial garden is determining what pleases you. Discovering what you want, then making that a reality. What is your version of a perfect garden? Let’s touch on color in the garden first.

What can color do for your garden?

Are you interested in a garden featuring a single color or do you want to play with combinations? Some gardeners like bold contrast while others prefer the subtler distinctions that come with using similar colors. As we go through these images, notice how you are reacting to the color and how one plant’s color impacts another.

The opening image has plants with varying saturations of the same basic color, so although the dahlia is robust, the rose is delicate, with the coneflower somewhere in the middle, the image works and the plants are seen as a group. You can still have a vibrant garden working with a single color. Read more…

Woman With Trowel: Spring Giveaway – Win a Hellebore & $50 to the Natural Gardener

Helleborus Harvey Hybrids. Photo credit: M. Brehaut Helleborus Harvey Hybrids. Photo credit: M. Brehaut

With Daylight Savings Time newly in place for another season, spring is very close. In anticipation, we are having a giveaway. Up on offer is one of the two hellebores shown, and a gift certificate for $50 to the Natural Gardener Garden Store. If you are new to gardening, you might spend the money on a pot, some soil and a trowel so you can plant your new hellebore. If you are an experienced gardener, perhaps Bob has something in his store to excite you. Either way, the winner decides which hellebore is selected.

How to Win

So how do you win? It’s easy – just add a comment to this article and tell us what you like the most about spring in Kitsilano. It might be the sight or scent of your favorite spring plant, perhaps a memory triggered by the added light of the longer days: you tell us. A comment will get your name into the hat. I’ll make the draw Friday, March 15. Then I will add a comment to the article, identifying the winner. Read more…

Woman with trowel: Early pretty little things

Cyclamen coum. Photo credit: M. Brehaut

Cyclamen coum. Photo credit: M. Brehaut

Can you feel it? Spring is coming. Everyone has signs that one looks for, signs that indicate the end of winter and the appreciated hint of another season of sun and warmth. My husband looks for the light. “Can’t you see it?” he asks me – it looks like yesterday’s light to me. But my early pretty little things, these I notice. They start coming up and I start hoping for spring. Read more…

Woman with trowel: A slow start

Galanthus elwesii 'Rosemary Burnham'. Image credit: M. Brehaut

Galanthus elwesii ‘Rosemary Burnham’. Image credit: M. Brehaut

It’s a quiet time of year for this gardener – while the weather is mild, possibly promising an early spring, and the snowdrops are starting to bloom, I remain a bit detached from my garden. I know I will be drawn in soon, but not quite yet. Thankfully, there are a few things to look forward to…

The Vancouver Hardy Plant Group is having its Spring Study Day on Saturday, Feb 16, holding it at the H.R. Macmillan Space Centre. The talks will get me charged up for another year of growing. Chris Beardshaw will be speaking this time, including discussion of his 2012 win at the Chelsea Flower Show. Non-members are welcome, so if you are interested, please check out their website for details. The study day in the fall was well organized with great speakers. I enjoyed the day. And their break treats are the best!

Another thing that I look forward to this year is the construction of my new greenhouse. My husband has been in the planning stages for a goodly while now and I am promised action soon. We have no experience with greenhouses or with building them so if you have any suggestions I would greatly appreciate a comment. I expect it to be an adventure… Read more…

Woman with trowel: Frosted beauties

Photo credit: M. Brehaut

At this point in the year, I have most of the front garden stripped down – the dahlia tubers are tucked in, and the foliage that does not age well, chopped and composted. It will be another couple of months before I see anything approaching an early spring display. But I do feel as though I still have a garden out front – I just have to look a bit harder for the beauty. Read more…

Woman with trowel: The joys of patio gardening

An informal container garden. Photo credit: M. Brehaut

Before we moved into this house, my husband and I spent years in an apartment in the Arbutus/York area of Kits. Our ground level patio faced north. We turned it into an abundant container garden that started us gardening and kept us happy.

There are advantages to gardening in pots. You can do a little or a lot. You can adjust the soil composition for the needs of each plant. And you can move things around, depending upon the season and your mood. With pots raised up on bricks and stumps, you can create dimension and a feeling of abundance that might not seem likely. With the smaller area of a patio, you can sit closely among your plants. The feeling of sitting in the lushness is what I miss most about that garden. Read more…

Woman with trowel: Pergola, arbor or tunnel?

In many urban lots, there are two passageways from the front to the back garden – one side is used and the other tends to be too narrow and congested and is generally avoided. Certainly that has been the case with our house and circulation patterns.

Along our west side path, we have three Styrax japonica (Japanese snowbell), lots of oxalis, and a large white Clematis montana that had been creeping up the side of the house. It is a thing of wonder while it blooms, but it had been unsupported for a few years and all the vigorous wandering stems meant that in walking down that side of the house, you took the risk of losing an eye.

Currently though, that risk is but a memory. This last summer, my husband and his friend Rainer designed and built me a glorious structure that supports the clematis. We are calling it a tunnel, although some might see a pergola or an arbor. I am surprised how it changes the feel of the area. Or rather, how it creates a distinct space where before there was just a mess of leaves and branches, and a feeling of peril. There is room now to move, increased privacy from the windows next door, and when it fills in, there will be partial protection from the rain. I use that pathway now, and no longer worry if others do. Read more…

Woman with trowel: Ghouls in the garden

I love Hallowe’en. It is my favorite seasonal event. Everyone is excited and happy, it involves candy, and most of the adornment takes place in the garden. Autumn shades of dark and orange complement pumpkins and various night creatures, all of which gather together for a final celebration before the serious business of wet fall and winter.

Here are a few images, with ideas for transforming your front garden into some place very scary:

Lawns make an ideal spot to set up a graveyard for emerging zombies… I wouldn’t leave the cedar needles on the grass for any longer than a few days. Read more…

Woman with trowel: Lessons learned gardening

Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’

I expect to learn a great deal this weekend at the Vancouver Hardy Plant Group Study Day. My own yard is another great educational centre. Here are a few of my recent lessons, taught to me by my plants.

1) Sneezeweed is one of the plants you can ‘chelsea chop’ in order to delay the blooming and encourage the plant to produce more blooms on slightly shorter stalks. The phrase means lopping off the top third of a plant in late May. It works, and you get blooms into October. Read more…

Woman with trowel: Adding art to your garden

I believe we are all vibrantly creative and it is for us to find our medium. I have discovered that I can be creative through the design of my garden: what I will plant and what I will place there.

Art in the garden is one way to express who you are. Custom made pieces can be the focal point of an entire space. Having something made for you that you have imagined is a very personal experience. Placing that piece of art in the garden can be a gift for all who see, a celebration surrounded by plants.

Kitsilano has its generous share of artists. My husband, Todd Wells, is one of them. He carves doors with Pacific North West themes, in his studio in our back garden. The door that will eventually find its home on our front porch tells the story of our family. He and Robert Barratt, a carver from Bowen Island, work with a client to formulate the images that tell the totem stories for that family. The result is an original manifestation of who that family is, what that family values.

My husband designed our door and it holds our story. Once it is hung, our front door will be surrounded by our garden, and it will fit into our creative expression. It will be his art within my art. That makes me happy.

Image: The spiritual realm reaches out to the physical; Twin Spirits Carving at

Photo credit: Kenji Nagai