Archive for the ‘Retail Therapy’ Category

Essential fall gardening tools
Andrea Bellamy |

Garant Enviro line rake

After a gloriously long summer (we had our longest dry spell in over a hundred years), autumn has finally arrived in Vancouver. While most of the active planting and harvesting is over til spring (garlic and favas excepted), there’s still lots to be done in the garden.

We recently moved from our townhouse into a house (yay!), and our new street is lined with gorgeous old oak trees (double yay!). For the first time in my adult life, I’ve got leaves to rake (not sure whether I’m yay or nay about that task yet. It’s still new. Although I do know it means no more collecting bags of leaves from the neighbours for the compost!). Which means I need a rake.

Enter the Enviro leaf rake from Garant. Made with 25 percent recycled plastic and a handle made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified, sustainably-harvested wood, Garant claims a 14 percent reduction in manufacturing-related greenhouse gas emissions on this rake, shown above, compared to similar products made with virgin materials. This is a basic lightweight, flexible rake with a comfortable grip. It does the job nicely. No frills, but just enough thrill.

Garant Enviro square point shovel

With all the renovations we’re doing (draintile, anyone?) I’ve also found the Garant Enviro square point shovel, shown above, helpful for moving quantities of sand and gravel. The shovel features the same handle design as does the Enviro rake, as well as a 20 percent recycled steel blade.


Another Garant product I’m enjoying is the Tubby, a flexible, lightweight tub that has seemingly endless uses. I use it as my weeding bucket, for holding grass clippings and leaves, and as a catchall for cleaning up the kidlet’s outdoor toys. It comes in 26L and 40L sizes and a ton of bright, fun colours. I could also see this used as the basket in a garden-themed gift basket, in kids’ rooms, or filled with ice and beers at a summer barbecue.

Garant products are affordably priced (under $20) and made in Canada to boot.

Full disclosure: Garant provided me with samples of the above products for review purposes. I was not financially compensated for this post. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience with these products.


Stuff a stocking with Sugar Snaps and Strawberries

Looking for the perfect gift for everyone on your list? I have just the thing.

Use Sugar Snaps and Strawberries: Simple Solutions for Creating Your Own Small-Space Edible Garden as your inspiration and “cornerstone” gift. Of course the book (and by extension, you!) will be adored and appreciated all on its own, but you could take it a step further and personalize it with one or more of the following tokens to really make hearts swell.

Here’s the formula: Sugar Snaps and Strawberries + personal token = holiday bliss.

Sugar Snaps and Strawberries was written with the novice gardener in mind. It’s perfect for those who are interested in trying their hand at growing their own herbs, fruits, or vegetables (and, frankly, these days, who isn’t?) or anyone who’d like some winter eye candy. But it’s not just for gardeners. It’s for food lovers, entertainers, the health- and eco-conscious…guys, gals, young and old. Pair it with…

For new or aspiring gardeners

  • A high-quality hand tool like the Cobrahead weeder and cultivator: a great, multi-purpose hand tool that I use for nearly all my garden tasks (digging, planting, weeding) and is built to last.
  • A colourful pair of gardening gloves. Some people go for leather, but I prefer flexible nitrile for the West Coast’s wet soil. Atlas is my preferred brand—cheap and cheerful!
  • Plant labels. Essential for marking rows and containers.

I love the idea of packaging these items together with a few packets of vegetable seeds in a cute little gardening trug or harvest basket.

For the eco-conscious

  • A compost keeper to hold kitchen scraps – odorlessly – until it’s time for the trip to the compost bin.
  • Reusable hemp produce bags to store garden- or farmer’s market-fresh produce.
  • A bat house. For our mosquito-eating friends.

For the dude

For the design-savvy

For the hostess

For the foodie

For the health-conscious


A wearable planter

It’s been a little quiet here at Heavy Petal, which is pretty much the opposite of the rest of my life right now. Where have I been? Not in the garden, that’s for sure! But I have been having fun promoting my book all over the Pacific Northwest. I spoke in Seattle at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, which was great fun. Then I spoke at Powell’s Books in Portland, which was so exciting (Sugar Snaps was in the front window!) and showed the host of AM Northwest how to make seed balls. Then I headed to Eugene to speak at the Lane County Home and Garden Show, which was a total blast. I’ve got other upcoming events as well.

All this to show you the wearable planter my husband got me as a “happy book tour” gift. I’m using it more like a vase, but it could also be planted up. Looks like ceramic, right? Guess what? It’s resin – painted and finished by hand.



Coveted: air plant pods by Michael McDowell
Andrea Bellamy |

matte white hanging air plant pods

How beautiful are these handcrafted air plant pods by ceramic artist Michael McDowell? Incredible, right?

Available in matte and gloss white, as well as matte sand, these stoneware ceramic pods are designed to house a tillandsia (air plant) and can be hung—each pod comes with a natural hemp cord—or set right side up (upside down?) for a more traditional display.


Clearly, they look amazing hung in clusters.


Mudpuppy’s air plant pods are available through Dirt Couture (seller of other amazing garden accoutrements such as hose clothes and those lovely Gallant and Jones deck chairs) for $30.


You should also check out Michael’s sweet little peace dove trio, stoneware moon bells, and, my personal favourite, his Peking blue bird sculptures.


Power Planter
Andrea Bellamy |

Power Planter

Given my penchant for indoor containers with a dash of quirky cool, I had to share GAMA-GO’s Power Planter.

The Power Planter is a small, porcelain, desktop planter in the shape of a nuclear power plant.  It comes complete with organic soil and wheatgrass seeds, and is $16 at GAMA-GO. This would also make a great vessel for growing cat grass. What? Your cat’s always on your desk, anyway.

Other funky indoor planters from my archives:

Science and Sons Park Planter

Vitamin Living’s IV Plant Pot

Pad Outdoor’s Pad Aluminum Planters

Boskke’s Sky Planter

Karim Rashid’s GroBal

Pastense’s Retro Planters

Design Within Reach’s Bordato Illuminated Planter


Lime green in the garden

lime green umbrellas

I love green in the garden. Who doesn’t? It’s the colour of new growth. Photosynthesis. Good health.

But that’s not the green I’m talking about here. I’m talking lime green. Pucker-yer-lips, jolt-to-the-system lime.

My back patio

I used lime green cushions in my back patio to add a punch of colour to an otherwise subdued palette. The lime of the pillows is echoed by the bright, bamboo-like foliage of Northern sea oats (Chasmantheum latifolium), which you can see peeking out on the left side of this photo. Lime contrasts so nicely with red cedar, as well as charcoal gray stone (or Sunbrella fabric, as the case may be).

Looking for other lime green accents? Here are some of my faves.

Green garden hose

Green hose clothes from Dirt Couture.

Bali garden

Green ceramic stool (similar to this one). Photo by David Tsay.


Panier side table from Hive Modern.

Freakshow 2

Lime green gravel! Photo by Sassy Gardener on Flickr.
Bauer Jardiniere

Classic jardiniere from Bauer Pottery.

Nicotiana x sanderae Perfume Lime

And then there are plants, of course. Like this lime green nicotiana. Photo by scott.zona on Flickr.

Heuchera 'Key Lime Pie'

So many lime green heucheras! This one is Heuchera ‘Key Lime Pie’. Photo via The Plant Directory.


Confession: I buy plants from Big Box stores

Acer palmatum 'Ao Shidare'

Acer palmatum ‘Ao Shidare’, purchased from—gasp!—Home Depot.

I realize that it’s deeply unfashionable to shop at such stores, and that my confession may come as a shock to some of you. After all, I’m a Hardcore Gardener, right? And Hardcore Gardeners are very clear in their disdain for Home Depot and their ilk (please see Exhibit A: Garden Rant).

Some of this scorn is well deserved, of course. Big box retailers are known for selling spectacularly crappy plants. Too often, they’ve been sitting around too long and are root bound, spindly, and stressed—a week away from the great compost heap in the sky. And finding a knowledgeable salesperson to help you? (Or any salesperson?) Forget it. I won’t even get into the ethics of labour policy or impact on small, independent businesses.

They do have their merits, however. They offer great value for “disposable” plants (cheap and cheerful annuals, which must be the mainstay of big box garden centre sales). I’ve also had good luck finding basic, mainstream perennials—again, for a great price (notice a trend?). I recently bought a great little Japanese maple at my local big box, after phone calls to several independent garden centres failed to turn up a dwarf green variety (apparently they’re too nondescript).

The secret to successful big box shopping, of course, is to get there when the plants are still thriving. They’ll receive regular shipments; you’ll want to be watching as they unload the truck. If you can’t do that, know what to look for in a healthy plant. Examine it for signs of disease, pests, and stress. Is it green and bushy, or gangly and yellowing? Check the bottom of leaves for pests like aphids, and the bottom of pots for slugs. Make sure it’s not root bound (do the roots circle the sides and bottom of the pot because the plant has outgrown it?).

I do love to support my local independent garden centres, and do most of my shopping there. Nothing rivals the thrill of going to a great little nursery with an hour or two to spend dreaming, planning, and, of course, buying.  Sometimes, though, it’s hard to resist a deal.

What’s your take on it? Are big box stores invariably evil? Or do you do most of your garden shopping at one? Did I just lose all credibility as a garden writer?


Contest! Win one of three sets of reusable totes or mesh produce bags from Bag the Habit

Bag the Habit tote in 'gray feather'

A while back I wrote a post called Seven tips to make gardening “away” easier, which consists of—you guessed it—seven ideas for making it easier to garden at community garden plots, guerrilla gardens, or any garden that can’t be accessed simply by opening your back or balcony door.

The main challenge with these “away” gardens, in my experience, is all the schlepping to and fro of various tools, water, plants, seeds, and other garden accoutrements. And that’s not even taking the harvest into consideration! There can be, let’s say, transportation issues when it comes to getting the goods home.

The traditional container used for collecting produce from the garden is the harvest basket or trug. As lovely as some of these traditional designs can be, they’re just not my thing. (For one, they’re big! Where would I store it? We have a serious space shortage at our place!) So what I use is a reusable shopping bag—one of those lightweight polyester ones that rolls up into a little pouch. It’s perfect because it fits in a pocket, holds a ton of produce, and is easily machine washed.

Even though I like the bag I use, I’m really loving those produced by Bag The Habit.

Their Luxe Tote, which comes in nine different colours and patterns (I love “gray feather,” pictured above), has padded handles (perfect for hauling potatoes or heavier groceries), and a sewn-in carrying pouch that doubles as an interior pocket. And, it’s made out of recycled fabric. So are their mesh produce bags (shown below). Available in two sizes, these mesh drawstring bags would also be great for transporting garden goodies. Plus, the breathable material extends the life of fresh produce.

Large Bag the Habit mesh produce bag

The lovely people at Bag the Habit are giving away three sets of bags, especially for Heavy Petal fans! For a chance to win, head on over to my Facebook page and leave a comment telling me which bags you’re coveting (a Luxe Tote Trio or a 2-pack of Mesh Produce bags) and how you plan to use them. Contest is open until Sunday, August 29 at midnight PST. You must be a fan of Heavy Petal on Facebook to win.


Solar garden lighting

lanterns in the tree

On hot summer evenings, our recently-renovated back patio is where it’s at. It’s private (well, as much as it can be in an urban setting) and peaceful (well, as much as it can be with kids playing street hockey a few feet away, and neighbours who love karaoke and mah jong). After a long day, when Lila is finally asleep, there’s no better place to relax with a glass of something cold and potent. The sounds and smells of the city just add to the feeling of being in our own little leafy paradise.

It’s also dark. There’s a porch light, but it’s rather ineffective – and does nothing for ambiance. When we redid the garden, installing traditional hard-wired garden lighting seemed like overkill for this tiny (12’x15′) space (not to mention the added labour and cost), so we skipped it. Perhaps that was a bad call, but I’m not convinced.

Like many people, we’re trying to reduce our energy consumption. Candles are a good option, but aren’t great when you want to play an al fresco game of cards. Solar lighting, in which a rechargeable battery is charged during the day by a tiny solar panel (often integrated with the lamp), seems like a logical solution, but I’m scarred by memories of dim, feeble solar lights from gardens past.

In a quest to find out if solar lights have improved, I interviewed Akshata Kalyanpur, a lighting expert at Canadian Tire.



Coveted: Shiraleah biodegradeable servewear

Shiraleah biodegradable dinnerware

The endlessly soggy, gray days we’ve been having here on the Wet Coast have me desperately craving sun and summer.

They won’t change the weather, but these cheerful, but eco-friendly plates, bowls, and ice cream “cones” from Shiraleah will brighten any day.

This is the time of year to stock up for outdoor eating, but the majority of tableware designed for outdoor use is plastic. These offer the sturdiness of plastic (they’re unbreakable, and dishwasher safe), but are made with biodegradable bamboo fiber. The fiber biodegrades in less than 10 years, and doesn’t leach. Yay!

Available from


Older Posts >>