Bring on the birds
Andrea Bellamy |

Song Sparrow in the Snow

I love this time of year in the garden, when I don’t do much more than look out at it from the shelter of our cozy home. Birds definitely are the primary users of our garden during the winter; every morning there are at least a dozen hopping around the patio, examining the husks of sunflower seeds for any remaining nibbles, and jostling for a turn at the feeder.

I look forward to hanging my feeder in late autumn, because I know that the songbirds will soon appear. I don’t see them during the rest of the year. In summer–and spring, and fall–the only birds around here are urban scavengers: crows, pigeons, seagulls, starlings. But in winter, the chickadees and finches and little brown birds of unknown name arrive to feast.


This year, in addition to a little wooden feeder, I’ve been hanging dried sunflower heads, harvested in mid-autumn from my plot at the community garden. I hung them to dry inside for a month or so before hanging them in the hornbeam on our back patio. The birds seem to dig them.

Top photo by Noel Zia Lee via Flickr.

January 14th, 2010 | COMMENTS (4)

My first week on the Cure, plus some inspiration from Pad Outdoors

Pad Outdoor POD Aluminium Planters

My husband and I are attempting to (re)decorate our living room. (I’m not sure whether we’re decorating or redecorating. We’ve lived here for almost four years, and the living “room,” which is part of an open plan kitchen/dining/living space, is completely dysfunctional.)

As an attempt to finally wrangle the beast, I’m reading—and following—a book called Apartment Therapy: The Eight-Step Home Cure. It’s written by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, creator of the massively (and deservedly) successful Apartment Therapy blogs. It’s an  inspiring, energizing book that steers you through an eight-week rehab program for your home. (That’s right. I’m having an intervention with my living room.)

My goals?

1. Pull together the jumble of styles (mid-century modern meets what I can only describe as cabin chic… then they both meet toddler.)

2. Acquire some vital missing furnishings, such as the area rug (which we got rid of once we realized the deep, cream, wool shag was not compatible with ground-in bunny crackers), a decent lamp, and some art for the walls.

3. Be able to manage clutter better.

But this is a gardening blog. So why am I talking about home decor? Because I like these  Pod Aluminum Planters by Pad Outdoors and wanted to share them with you.

Pod Aluminum Planter grouping

Despite having no talent for houseplants, I would love to find a place for a really great-looking plant in my new living room. Obviously, choosing the right planter is key. A bit of a splurge at $175 each (and extra for the stands), these spun aluminum planters make me happy.  They’re going in my “style tray,” as the Apartment Therapy book prescribes.

There are so many great options for indoor plants/containers, so I’m going to continue to explore and share my discoveries/living room decor possibilities with you. Check back often this month, and help me create a home I love (please?!). I’ll be eternally grateful.

PS: Yes, I’ll post some “before” photos. Soon.

PSS: Check out my only other online foray into decorating with Lila’s nursery on Flickr.

January 4th, 2010 | COMMENTS (11)

The big reveal: announcing The Book

sneak peek at book photography

Posts were few and far between on Heavy Petal in 2009, and if you’re still reading, I’m grateful (and a little surprised!).

I was busy writing a book.

There, I said it. I’ve been afraid to mention it here in case I jinxed it, but I’m forcing myself to do it now. Kind of a start-the-new-year-off-with-a-bang thing.

The book is about gardening, of course. About growing organic edibles in small spaces, to be specific. I can’t give you a title, yet, but I can tell you this: the publisher is Timber Press, and it’s coming out in the fall.

Despite the neglected blog (you should see my home! Thank goodness my husband picked up the slack in the child rearing department), the days (and nights) spent hunched over my computer, poring over books, and attending photo shoots were (almost) entirely enjoyable.

I feel so incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to write this book. To write about things I am passionate about. To be able to share, beyond this blog, my experience in growing food in the tiniest of spaces; on balconies, rooftops, and patios; in community garden plots, back alleys, and in all the rented apartments I’ve moved plants in and out of. I feel so lucky that my publisher saw something in this blog and asked me if I’d be into writing a book (my answer? Hell yes). I am grateful that they liked my ideas and believed in my vision for the book.

I’d like to thank all of you, my readers, for helping to make this happen. For the community created here, and for the endless inspiration you all provide. I couldn’t have done it without you. Oh, and, now that the manuscript is in the publisher’s hands, I promise I’ll have more time for Heavy Petal. Stay tuned. And have a fabulous 2010.

Photo credit: Jackie Connelly Photography. I am so fortunate that I was able to work with the fabulous Jackie Connelly on this project. Here’s a sneak peek at just one of the beautiful photographs appearing in the book.

January 1st, 2010 | COMMENTS (20)

Sneak peak at It’s Complicated kitchen garden
Andrea Bellamy |


Remodelista has a wonderful post up featuring the kitchen garden from the forthcoming movie, It’s Complicated (with the inimitable Meryl Streep). It’s all very idyllic in a potager-meets-Spanish-Colonial kind of way, and I want it desperately. Unfortunately, I don’t have the space (or the cash) but for those who do, Remodelista provides a simple breakdown of ways to steal the look. Check it out!

garden set up

December 17th, 2009 | COMMENTS (6)

Best gifts for gardeners 2009

Wait—how did it get to be December already? We just finished the Halloween candy.

Since there are obviously fewer minutes in an hour these days, I give thanks every time I click “add to cart” and check another name off my shopping list without setting foot in a mall. So here’s a little treat for you: a round-up of gifts any gardener would love. And they’re all available online.


The book vase by theshophouse has ferns and foliage tucked into its leaves ($44.00 on


These lovely botanical screenprinted napkins by Bloomsong add a touch of rustic luxury to your table ($17.00 for two, on

acorn necklace

This sweet sterling silver acorn necklace by GurKimel uses real acorns ($60.00 on


The Cobrahead weeder and cultivator is a fantastic all-purpose hand tool that is great for small spaces (it also comes in a long-handled version). ($19.95 on


The Grobal self-watering container lets you go a week between watering. At this price, pick up a few to give as hostess, teacher, or babysitter gifts ($14.30 on


Jane Joss turns fabric into fantastic foliage. I like this houndstooth fabric potted plant ($28.00 on

felco pruners

Felco classic pruners. There’s a reason these hand pruners have “classic” in their name. Felco is the name in secateurs, and you’ll never regret the investment in this quality product. This is another gift that will last a lifetime ($43.18 on

birdhouse stamp

This custom address birdhouse stamp by modernartstamps is a practical gift—yet one that is sure elicit smiles ($10.00 on Etsy).


Atlas gloves. Lightweight, breathable, and durable. What more could you need in an all-purpose glove? Great stocking stuffer. ($5.95 on

December 6th, 2009 | COMMENTS (4)

I’m scaaary…to aphids
Andrea Bellamy |

Lady Lila

Only a gardener would dress their child as a beneficial insect. Happy Halloween!

October 30th, 2009 | COMMENTS (11)

All kind beans
Andrea Bellamy |

all beans are kind

You know, I tend to agree. All beans are kind. Especially Fortex. I’m still harvesting handfuls of this delicious French filet pole bean, and loving every morsel.

What were the standouts from your garden this summer?

September 30th, 2009 | COMMENTS (11)

Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire now on TV
Andrea Bellamy |

I recently had the opportunity to watch The Botany of Desire, a two-hour special that will premiere on PBS on October 28 at 8pm. You should make a note of that date, because you won’t want to miss this.

Subtitled “A Plant’s Eye View of the World,” The Botany of Desire is based on the best-selling Michael Pollan book of the same name. It examines the unique relationship between humans and plants, with the premise that plants use us for their purposes just as we use them. Linking our fundamental desires for sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control with the plants that gratify them — the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato — The Botany of Desire shows that humans are intricately woven into the web of nature, not standing outside it, as so many of us like to believe.

This is a beautifully-shot film that is as fascinating as it is entertaining. Watch it on PBS on Wednesday, October 28 at 8pm, or buy it online.

September 24th, 2009 | COMMENTS (9)

How not to use a Japanese maple
Andrea Bellamy |


My husband works in a funky live/work loft building, which is full of artists, photographers, dancers and other creative types. Most of the gardens along the front of the building are eclectic, colourful and a bit boisterous. Then there’s this.

I think it’s the red lava rock that really makes it special.

September 11th, 2009 | COMMENTS (2)

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.

August 21st, 2009 | COMMENTS (12)

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