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Garden Tour: Gordon’s cosy, canyon-inspired garden
Andrea Bellamy |

Moon Gate

Gordon Harris’ Campbell River garden.

The Basics

Name of gardener: Gordon Harris
Location: Campbell River, BC
Size: A narrow, trailer park lot
Orientation: South, but with a great deal of shade, and no sun in winter
Years gardened: Seven
Style: Natural/cottage mixture

The Details

Inspiration: A forested, box canyon
Favourite element: Peaceful ambiance
Favourite plants: Lilies, tellimas, hostas, Michaelmas daisies
Biggest challenge: Narrowness of the lot
Biggest save: A large, de-potted pine tree that was a cast-off from a nursery
Biggest splurge: The Russian Olive shade tree ($200)
Advice for others: Be careful what you accept from others – Welsh poppies are taking over the garden!!

Campbell River trailer park garden

Plants press in against pathways, achieving Gordon’s aim of making his garden feel like a box canyon.

Heavy Petal says: I’m delighted to be able to share Gordon’s garden with you today in this, the first garden tour of the year. In global terms, Gordon is almost a neighbour of mine: he lives on the east coast of Vancouver Island just over 200 km away. I wish he were an actual neighbour; he seems like a pretty handy fellow to have around, and is a true plant-a-holic.

What I love most about this story is Gordon’s resourcefulness. This is a guy, who, faced with a barren lot, lack of funds, and a pent-up need to collect plants after 15 years living on a sailboat, collected seeds and plants from back alleys and building sites, and even got a part-time job at a nursery so he could take advantage of employee discounts. (Come on, we’ve all thought about it!)

Back Entrance

Here, at the back gate, you can see how close the neighbours are. Living screens do a great job of providing privacy.

Money wasn’t the only constraint. The lot was long and narrow — making its design awkward. His trailer park had a fence height limit of four feet,  and the neighbouring trailer was just a little too close for comfort. As well, a huge underground concrete septic tank sat just four inches beneath the centre of the yard!

Gordon wanted a private garden, so he quickly set about building fences (keeping to the four-foot height limit) to contain his dog and to provide privacy. He planted donated raspberry bushes on the outside of the fence and a Virginia Creeper vine on the inside. Within a couple of years, these had both grown to well over four feet high and were providing privacy from the trailer behind him.

Main Garden

The main garden area feels enclosed and private.

To deal with the septic tank, Gordon built up a pile of compost and soil to a height of two feet over top of the tank and built a rough stone wall along the route of his pathway to hold the soil in. This later became a rock garden. In the middle of this mound, he set pieces of driftwood on end to resemble an old stump and planted a small flowering tree in the centre. This all added to the height of the tree.

The last difficulty, the long, narrow shape of the yard, was solved by fashioning the garden to resemble a box canyon. Says Gordon, “All I had to do was to cover the vertical walls with greenery!” What you see here is the result, seven years later.

Moon Gate

The moon gate offers glimpses of the garden beyond.

You can see many more photos of Gordon’s garden here. Thanks for sharing this inspiring garden with us, Gordon!

Like this tour? Check out the other garden tours on Heavy Petal. Then share your own garden with Heavy Petal readers: take us on a garden tour.

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Review: Troy Bilt lithium ion battery cordless string trimmer

Meeting the Troy Bilt trimmer

A little while back, Troy Bilt sent me their new TB57 Lithium Ion Battery Cordless String Trimmer to try out. That’s me, above, holding it gingerly and looking like I’m about to stroke its hair. What can I say? I’m not all that familiar with power equipment – I felt it best to approach with caution.

But before I get into my review, I wanted to reassure you that whenever I’m given something – whether it’s a book or a plant or a trimmer – I’m always honest about my experience with that product. I told the folks at Troy Bilt the same thing, and they were happy to hear it. They look for feedback and incorporate it into later models of their products. I like that.

So, without further ado, here’s what I liked about the trimmer (which, in my brain, will always be called a weed whacker):

* Unlike gas trimmers, this trimmer produces zero emissions. And unlike electric trimmers, there’s no cord.

* The rechargeable lithium ion battery really holds its charge – and the machine retains full power along with it. I’ve used it three times for between 10-30 minutes and it’ll still be good for another round. While I haven’t needed to recharge it yet, apparently that process takes just one hour.

*It’s convenient – there’s no cord to wind up or untangle, and no gas to refill. Just pick it up and go.

* At just 7lbs, it’s light for a weed whacker. It’s well balanced, which also helps.

    This is almost the perfect trimmer for small space gardeners or those needing light-duty weed whacking done. It’s awesome for edging lawns, but save nastier tasks such as battling areas overgrown with hardcore weeds for a heavier-duty tool. Gas and electric trimmers still out-perform in terms of sheer power.

    Now you’ll notice that I said *almost* the perfect trimmer. There are a couple of things I’d like to see changed with this model.

    Troy Bilt string trimmer in action

    The first, something that seems to be universally annoying among weed whackers, is that the arm is too short, forcing me to have to stoop over to get at the weeds. Despite the fact that I literally look like a giant in this photo, I’m only 5’10 — tall for certain, but presumably guys are in the target market for this device, too. The arm could easily use another 6-8″.

    Troy Bilt string trimmer line

    My other comment on this product is that its efficiency could be improved with the addition of a double line, which seems like it’d be simple enough to add.

    Fix those couple of things, Troy Bilt, and you’ll have created an ecologically sensitive, powerful little machine. Who knows? If I had a lawn, I’d probably buy one.

    (5)


    Why grow a rose?
    Andrea Bellamy |

    Rosa 'Bonica' in my mother's garden

    A month or so ago, I asked readers to tell me why roses deserve a place in the modern garden. Under the (d)elusion that roses were finicky, spindly, high-maintenance wusses that didn’t belong in a  environmentally-conscious garden, I couldn’t imagine why on earth I’d plant one.

    Then I heard from you. 71 of you – 69 of whom passionately defended the rose (the other two, well, they agreed with me!). There were so many great arguments. Several people called upon history and literature, saying that the rose is the “quintessential plant,” one that is necessary in a garden if it is to be truly called a garden. The practical among you told me, rightly so, that it’s all about finding the right variety. Some people actually argued – and I’m not at all convinced I agree! – that the appeal of roses is their difficulty (surely those are the varieties I’d want to avoid, being a somewhat “relaxed” gardener). Many of you reminded me of the scent of roses, truly a sweet perfume, and the romance it adds to a garden. And a few readers, knowing how to hit me where it counts – argued for the rose as an edible plant (I hadn’t considered that!).

    But Nancy (commenter #10) said all of that and more, so I’m happy to award her with the grand prize – two tickets to the World Rose Festival, held in Vancouver from June 19-21, 2009, as well as $100 in rose shrubs from Select Roses. Congratulations, Nancy!

    As a bonus, I’m able to offer a runner-up prize of two tickets to the event to Brian Cole (commenter #62), who had me feeling a bit sentimental with his entry. Any man who writes, “Roses remind me of the love of my life, my wife of nearly 50 years, whose beauty never fades” deserves a prize in my book! Enjoy the show, Brian!

    Thanks to everyone who shared their love of roses. I must say, I’m actually convinced and looking forward to finding the right rose for my garden.

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    Happy equinox!
    Andrea Bellamy |

    cherry-blossoms

    There’s hail and thunder and general meteorlogical grossness outside as I write this. But still. It’s officially Spring. Let the sunshine and new growth and jacket-less days begin! (Seriously, anytime now.)

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    New Year’s resolutions 2009
    Andrea Bellamy |

    My balcony veggie patch, future home to new raised beds.

    Happy New Year! Here’s to 2009 being good to all of us.

    Every year, I make resolutions for my garden. Sometimes they’re lofty, sometimes precise, and sometimes, like last year’s, general and acheivable.

    This year, everything revolves around growing more edibles. How much (more) can I grow in one little city garden? I’m looking forward to finding out.

    1. Build raised beds in the back alley. Inspired by Cait and Owen‘s back alley raised beds, which are home to potatoes and other root vegetables, I’m determined to create some more space for edibles by appropriating some alley space. Strata approval pending.

    2. Redo my containers. After three years of just mild refreshing (a bit o’ new dirt, an annual or two) they desperately need an overhaul. This year, I’m challenging myself to incorporate edibles in my decorative container plantings, which have traditionally been home to only ornamental plants.

    3. Add more raised beds. My third-floor deck is home to two raised beds totaling 16 sq.ft. and a motley assortment of containers. The containers are good in a pinch, but the raised beds are way better for intensive veggie growing. I’ll invest in a couple more.

    4. Lastly, I’d like to garden with Lila. She’ll be a year old at the end of April, and I’m hoping she’ll enjoy spending some time outdoors in the dirt with her mom.

    What are your garden-related resolutions for ’09?

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    Happy holidays, from our backyard to yours
    Andrea Bellamy |

    May your new year be full of new discoveries, grand experiences and small triumphs.

    xox
    Andrea

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    We have a winner…
    Andrea Bellamy |

    Congratulations, Katie! You’re the the winner of Fungi and Pods. Enjoy.

    (4)


    Get yourself some culture, son
    Andrea Bellamy |

    Culture by Nicole Dextras, an environmental art installation at Van Dusen Botanical Gardens, Vancouver

    Culture by Nicole Dextras, at Van Dusen Botanical Gardens.

    It’s the last day to enter to win your choice of two prints by Renee Garner. You have ’til 12:00 midnight, PST, so enter now. A winner, chosen randomly, will be announced here tomorrow.

    (4)


    Contest: Win a print by Renee Garner!
    Andrea Bellamy |

    Pods, by Renee Garner

    You may know Renee Garner, AKA Wolfie and the Sneak, through her weekly column, Petals and Pedals, at Modish. You may have seen her art for sale on the interweb, or read about her here on Heavy Petal. Or maybe you’ve been in Lila’s nursery and noticed the prints hanging on her wall (in that case, hopefully I know you). If you don’t know Renee, you should. She is an artist, crafty chick, gardener and all-round swell person.

    Air plants, by Renee Garner

    As of December 31, Renee is retiring Fungi and Pods from her series of posters, and she’s sending them out with a bang. One lucky reader will win his or her choice of two prints from the series, a quirky and colourful take on old school botanical prints.

    Fungi, by Renee Garner

    The prints are 13″x19″ on heavyweight matte photo paper and include the aforementioned Fungi and Pods, as well as the newest additions, Air Plants and Gastropods. Click here for a closer look at all four.

    Gastropods, by Renee Garner

    To win, just comment below, letting us know which two are your favourites. Who knows? You might win yourself a little holiday cheer! Thanks Renee for sharing your lovely prints with us!

    Contest closes December 15, 2008.

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    Sky Planter: turning houseplants on their heads
    Andrea Bellamy |

    Check out the Boskke Sky Planter. Yep, that’s it, hanging upside down there. Actually, it’s not upside down – it’s designed that way. (Another art school grad project! Thank goodness for design students. Without them, the world would certainly be less bloggable.)

    Using an internal reservoir system, the Sky Planter feeds water directly to the roots of the plant, so no water evaporates or drips. The soil is locked in (I wondered, too) so there’s no mess.

    There’s a lot I like about the Sky Planter. It uses up to 80% less water than conventional planters. You only need to water once a month. It saves floor space. And it certainly is a talking point.

    But wow, that palm (at top) is bizarre looking! I don’t think I could pull it off in my home. And I wonder about the plants: do they thrive? Don’t they try to right themselves? (I’m thinking of that palm again.) What do you think?

    Via Inhabitat.

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