Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New for Spring 2008: Childrens' Maze!

Volunteer to help build a childrens' maze in the Osgoode Public Park! People are needed to dig and plant. On Saturday May 17 @ 9:00am, bring a shovel and a wheel barrow (if possible) and drinking water to the northeast end of the park. Everyone welcome. This event will only last one hour.

On Wednesday May 21 at 7:00pm, come with a shovel and a wheel barrow (if possible) and help spread soil. This is a one hour event. All welcome!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

the Annual Osgoode Public Garden Strawberry Social 2007

June 24th, 2007, 1:00pm until 4:00pm

3356 Leroy St. – NEW LOCATION!
Osgoode Village

All proceeds to go to the
Osgoode Public Garden, which relies solely on DONATIONS

Tickets: Mary Ann 826-2523

Strawberry shortcake, original music, garden art!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Osgoode Public Garden needs mulchers for Spring 2007!

If you have a few minutes this spring to help mulch the Osgoode Public Gardens, please contact Mary Anne Riley (613-826-2523) or Karen Fuoco (613-826-3079).

A word about mulch...

If you're looking for a way to save lots of time in the garden, look no further. Mulching your flower and vegetable beds will drastically reduce the amount of time spent weeding, watering and fighting pests. Mulch also improves the appearance of your garden, and keep dirt from splashing up on your flowers and vegetables when it rains.

If possible, consider using an organic mulch. Organic mulches are those that used to be living material, such as bark, straw, leaves, grass clippings and pine needles. These organic mulches improve the soil by adding nutrients as they decompose and encouraging earthworm activity.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

"Day of Caring 2006" : Ridgemont Highschool Volunteers lend a hand in the OPG!

Every spring, high school students across Ottawa participate in the Ottawa Day of Caring. This year, a group from Ridgemont Highschool showed how much they care about their community by weeding, pruning and cleaning the Osgoode Public Garden!

The group takes a lunch break at Ozzie's Pizza.
Yummmm ...best Pizza in the world!

Our volunteer gardeners are about to bus home after a long day of working in the rain.

The people of Osgoode Thank you so much for caring!

Come back and visit sometime... : )

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Seeds for Certain Success


As everyone knows, nothing is certain in life except taxes and death.

However, there are seeds you can sow that will reliably germinate and produce substantial annual plants in your garden that are worth growing year after year. These seeds are inexpensive and do not need any care. They are nature's high-tech solutions for your garden woes since all you have to do is "plug them into" the ground. That's it! You just walk away after that. In a few weeks, voila! A beautiful, colourful and easy care plant will thrive happily where there was none before.

These choice seeds for zone 5 are used as annuals in the Osgoode Public Garden:

  • Four o'clock
  • Datura
  • Nasturtium
  • Scarlet runner bean
  • lavatera
  • sunflower
  • verbena bonariensis

Four o'clock



Scarlet runner bean


verbena bonariensis

Sunday, February 12, 2006

YOUR Personality in YOUR Garden

Karen Fuoco, The Traveling Gardener

Typically, garden personality is synonomous with garden "decor". Personality can be infused in your garden with unique objects, however, there is so much more to your personality than what is in a found object.

Gardener, know thyself.

Your garden is a reflection of you; all gardens have a personality, whether it is subtle or not. The garden with the most apparent personality is created by the gardener who is self-assured and self aware. A fun garden exercise is to invite strangers into your garden (perhaps invite some garden club members or have an “open garden”) and ask for their honest opinion on the character that your garden displays. Talk about garden therapy! If they can easily identify personality traits like “creative” or “enthusiastic!” or “reserved”, for example, that genuinely reflect your personality, then you have an idea as to how much you have put your heart and soul into your garden.

If they do not seem to “understand” your garden then you may be holding back yourself. Fear is one emotion that prevents a gardener from exposing their true personality. There is a fear of killing a plant, of making the design too interesting or unusual. There is a fear of trying new seed varieties or of pruning a living shrub or tree. There is fear of experimentation and that is truly an obstacle in gardening. There is a fear of heights – as in vertical gardening.

How you garden is an expression of your personality. Some gardeners weed incessantly and others weed only a little. Each gardener expresses their personality in the way they maintain their gardens! For example, my garden is messy because I garden in a rather chaotic way, clipping a plant here and throwing some seed there…energetic and frenzied just like me. The thrown seeds result in a “sprinkling” of poppies or verbena in a hap hazard way, which I feel is magical. I actually leave many seedlings where they choose to grow, even in the middle of some paths or in the gutter of the garden edge. That’s me – not fussy.

I use plants as creative building blocks. Using hens and chicks, I made a three dimensional dinosaur with the hens and chicks as scales and iris for its spikes.

The more personality you put in the garden, the more therapeutic and regenerative gardening is.

The colours of personality

The most intuitive method of expressing your personality in your garden is with colour. Some people scoff at the idea of planting a particular colour, for example coral pink flowers. Instead, they would choose most any other colour. If there is a negative association with a colour then it is most likely is based on a negative experience. One of my friends hates purple because it reminds her of funerals.

Colour themes serve to accentuate a personality. Could it be that the gardener likes to “organize” objects of like characteristics and plant similar colours together? Or if the garden colour theme is red and orange, is it perhaps a reflection of the most extroverted type of person?

I am not fond of “pastels” and consequently I rip out any pastel blooms, keeping only white on my otherwise dark and striking colour palette. However, some gardeners enjoy the calm and subtle greens of a foliage garden.

Most of what is written about garden colour is simplistic. For example, red excites and blue calms, yellow is happy. So you like red. Every time you see a plant that blooms red, you buy it and put it into your garden next to a complimenting foliage plant. These actions so far are just good design sense. There is more to your personality than that. Think of why you like red. Are you drawing attention to yourself? Does it remind you of your favourite primary colours in childhood? Perhaps you like exotic environments? If you are using using this colour in any of those contexts, your garden will express so much more about you.

Personality through Design

Shape, contour, contrast, materials, silhouette, variation are some of the design aspects which show your garden personality. There is personality reflected in the hardscaping you choose, whether it be paths, arches, trellises, or any other garden “bones”. To find out what personality you expressed in your garden to date, take many black and white photographs of your garden and the surrounding context. Are all the photos in subtle shades of grey? There could be a need for a focus point, a specific object of interest. Are the photos mostly black, showing a lack of variation? You are not a boring person but your garden may be boring to look at.

The process of gardening can sometimes be overwhelming and when we are overwhelmed, we are not at our best. To infuse your personality in your garden, concentrate on one small area at a time and design it to your heart’s content. Really think and feel about the area. Would you like to sit there once in a while and enjoy the shade? Does it need a backdrop or do you find yourself being annoyed by the city traffic just beyond? Indulge in sculpting this area into a place full of the smells, sounds and colours that are meaningful to you. Then take another black and white photo. What are the differences from the original photo to the latest photo of your area?

Each garden area will present itself to you in a different way. Each time, you have the luxury of choosing specific items, plants and design shapes that are just right for that area. If it helps, name each garden. The name itself will add personality. I have named some of my gardens after my four children. Each garden reflects plants that my children like or that exemplify my children’s’ personalities. You can tie all the little areas together eventually by selecting an element that you like best and duplicating it in all or most of the other areas.

Be brave enough to show all of your personality, not just the socially accepted characteristics. If you like a lot of cottage style garden and a little of the classic style, mesh the two styles together to create a hybrid style all your own.

Childhood memories are rich with personal ideas. Remember back to when you had a tree house or played in a creek or went camping. Running down hills was exhilarating, watching butterflies evoked both delight and intimacy with nature. I could not build a tree house so I built a cabin for my sons. I love running water and someday I will build a meandering rill so I can float boats and leaves and flower blossoms. I love mazes so I made an informal parterre and to my delight, the neighbourhood children love to run around in it. I love Dr Seuss and am inspired to make trees into weird and wonderful shapes, standards, topiaries, and weeping monstrosities. I like secret gardens because they surprises people. I like stairs and bridges because they are elegant passageways.

If you can’t make it, fake it. Paint an image of what you cannot have. Paint a faux gate on a wall or embellish a plain wooden bench with details. Paint a fake landscape scene on the side of your house and frame it with shrubs.

Use the terrain to accentuate personality. Flat is reserved, hilly is energetic. Experiment with bridges, riverbeds, terraces, raised beds, sunken gardens, berms, mazes or dividers. Create the terrain you like despite whatever your land is when you bought it.

For a romantic garden, make use of “cascades” of plants and water. Topiary and pruned trees are cheap ways to add personality. Try opening up the branch structure in a distinctive shape. Mosaics, hand prints or leaf impressions in concrete are like modern hieroglyphics, a tale of the past… If you need a path, perhaps create a “memory lane” of stepping stones.

The emotional garden

Meditation gardens, humorous gardens, theme gardens are some of the types of emotional gardens which are very personal. Playfulness and humour are perhaps the more popular. A music or sound garden would appeal to anyone sensual. Listen to water trickling, seed heads shaking in the wind, poplar trees' distinctive sound in the breeze, the tinkling of metal chimes or the low hollow sound of bamboo chimes… Fragrance evokes emotion as well. I actually like creeping Charlie for it’s crushed aroma as I walk on it. At night, the Brugmansia makes me swoon from its heady fragrance.

Memory holds emotions for us. I have “sentimental” plants in my garden. That is because I value the meaning behind growing them. The lovely Concord grape vine was started as a cutting from my mother’s vine, which is so old that I remember it growing in my childhood back yard. I was married only a few feet away from it. There is an aster that was given to me by my mother’s best friend Jean. Jean died many years ago and I call it Jean’s aster and remember her every time it blooms.

Mother Nature as nurturer

The more you garden, the more you realize that the garden nurtures the creative and emotional soul within you. It can regenerate your creativity, your body mechanics, and your inquisitive mind. Your personality becomes stronger and more forthright. In my experience with garden design clients, I have noticed that after I have guided and encouraged people to build their own gardens, they become empowered to garden using their own visions and redefine themselves as very capable individuals within their private landscapes.

If you love wildlife, grow butterfly plants like verbena bonariensis. This plant is an excellent substitute for buddleia as it is easier to grow in a zone 5 garden, attracts Monarchs, and has a similar colour to Buddleia.

One year during a cold January, a beautiful ermine appeared inside my house! It visited us for 2 months, eating all the mice in the house and then taking offerings of meat from us. I learned all about how lovely a creature they are and so I always have a “stick pile” in my yard to house such a helpful animal.

I mulch completely with shredded leaves and do not disturb the delicate ecosystem underneath those leaves. The night crawler worms can be heard rustling under the leaves in the evening dew. The sound of them intrigues me. I plant diverse species to attract more insect life to my garden. I have always loved bugs. I do not use insecticides. My garden practices are about me and my relationship with nature. Seeing a snowberry clearwing moth excites me and gives me great satisfaction that it has visited my flowers.

Since I like to experiment so much in my garden, I never make any permanent structures. I can take apart any path, patio, wall or trellis with relative ease and reuse the materials. This affords so much more flexibility.

A reflection of lifestyle

Ignore trends. Instead, garden in an ecological way and be true to yourself. Try to assess if you are in denial. For example, are you still using insecticides and chemicals in a fanatical way? Why bother? Nature will take its course and fighting it is a losing battle.

Design according to your specific lifestyle needs. Your needs will be a reflection of your personality. For example, if you need extra living space, design with your interior preferences for furniture, comfort and decor. What you like in your house could be duplicated in the garden.

Garden details or Decor

By studying handwriting, analysts can tell many things about your personality by how you dot your “I’s” and how you cross your “T’s”. In the language of gardens, it is the details that people most often understand the gardener’s personality. A large statue of Buddha will give different information about the gardener as opposed to a scarecrow.

Signage and signposts are a wonderful way to add personality and function at the same time. Paint ordinary objects a colour that is rare in your garden to give cohesion to chaotic designs. You express your personality whenever you choose an object for garden accents.

Choosing plants that describe our personalities

Whatever garden style(s) you like, plant choices say something about you. A collection of demure, dainty plants can indicate your love of detail in nature, and a fondness for “precious” things. Over sized, broadleaved plants demand attention immediately and can serve as concealers, exclamation marks or drama queens. Dark foliage plants seem mysterious.

Some gardeners are “collectors” and will have many different variations of the same species. Some gardeners are interested in heirloom plants.

I am always on the lookout for the newest and improved varieties of plants. They excite me because I wish to push the growing zone envelope. I look for spectacular colour and am not as intrigued with foliage. But that's my taste...what gives you a gardening thrill?!

Accentuate what you create

Every act of garden creation is a reflection of your personality. Learn to accentuate what you create so your garden will speak your name loudly. It is not only fun to emphasis who you are but it is a way to gain self awareness and confidence.

For your reading pleasure:


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Dare To Share: Front Yard Gardening

Karen Fuoco, The Travelling Gardener

It is 2006 and the front garden has come a long way. If you search the internet for “Front Garden” information, it is evident that “anything goes” for front yard design, style, colour scheme and aestetics. It is now an acceptable place to show your personality and creativity. Front yard gardening is also about respecting biodiversity, regenerating community, accepting low maintenance practices and making the best use of what land you have.

The author's front garden

Lifestyle affects garden design and since backyards are very small with most homes nowadays, people are utilizing all available land on their property for a varied number of activities. Gardens are used for maintaining health, playing, working, relaxing and therapy. Front yard gardens are “interactive”. For example, neighbours come and visit front yard gardens by walking by it often and some joggers will actually change their routes so that they pass by daily. And if you offer plants and seeds to help your neighbours plant a front yard garden, the more beautiful your neighbourhood becomes.

Designing for high function and low maintenance

Upon deciding to brave the blank canvass of your front yard, how do you make an interesting, beautiful, low maintenance, ecologically diverse front garden? Start by hardscaping a large percentage of your land. That is the one key aspect that is not currently done enough in front gardens. Most have very little hardscaping save for perhaps a retaining wall and/or walkway to the front door. Hardscaping keeps maintenance to a minimum, saves expense and time on lawn maintenance, provides outdoor living space and adds structure to a garden.

After considering the architectural style of your house and the drainage, design the garden with a heavy emphasis on hardscaping the “floor” (decks, patios), “walls” (dividers, fences) and “ceiling” (trees, pergolas) of your garden living space. That old “shag carpet” which you call a lawn has got to go! Replace it with hardwood flooring or slate, just as you would for an indoor room. Hardscaping costs could be prohibitive and may be a compelling reason not to do it. However not all hardscaping is expensive and a front yard can be done in phases, just as your backyard was most likely done.

Some current design practices are : creative flooring, using vegetables as ornamentals, encouraging wildlife, using glass, fabric, metal, plastic or recycled materials, front yards as office space to work in and not just for dining, wildflowers - but not unkempt, using bold dark colours for more than just “accents”, building a Portico (a porch or walkway with a roof supported by columns, often leading to the entrance of a building), building a terrace or “greeting room” near the front door, painted planters that introduce texture, fragrance and color, using “movement” (moving sculpture, moving water), using self awareness to garden better, adding dramatic landscape lighting.

A bubbling fountain is easy to make

How you will use your front yard living space will help determine what design elements you’ll need. If you need inspiration for some creative design ideas, try this web site: http://www.creativegardendesigns.com/index.htm . Raised flower beds in the middle of your landscape or a meandering low wall in an asymmetrical pattern in the middle of your lawn can break up a large space. Stone walls are always beautiful and age well. The wall doesn’t have to “surround” anything as typical as the perimeter of the yard. It can be a piece of garden art. Add sphere, cone, and weeping shapes. If your lawn is large, intersect it with a large circle garden with a trellis or pergola right in the middle of the yard for soaring vertical gardening. Other vertical elements could be ornamental trees, sculpture, obelisks and fences.

Experiment with designing a garden right near the edge of your property at the curb as well as adding more depth to the shrubbery at the foundation of the house. Consider taking out overgrown foundation shrubs or renovating an old yew, cedar or young pine that has a nice straight trunk, sculpting it into a topiary or standard lollipop. This is cheap, easy and adds instant drama.

Hydrangeas spill over the fence to greet pedestrians

Mix up the terrain for an exhuberant effect. Create hills, valleys, dry riverbeds, platforms, berms, winding pathways, ponds, terraces. Use several of these - all on the same front yard! Consider liabilities, like ponds. Small children could fall in so check with by-laws.
Maintenance can be reduced by using inanimate objects as substitutes for structural plants. For example, some shrubs are used for low hedges yet a low stone wall could serve the same purpose and be maintenance free. Instead of planting a tree for shade, a pergola could do the job with no worry of damaging a house foundation. If planting annuals en mass interests you but you are weary of having to plant so many plants for your yearly patterns, substitute with a mosaic pattern using varied mulches, coloured cement patio stones, pavers, tiles, brick, colored gravel or crushed glass.

A garden upfront is occasionally affected by vandalism and theft. This is not often a garden topic but these things do happen. My advice is to be brave! Vandalism is just the thing that will wane with time when more front gardens are created. Front gardens exude pride in the community and children who grow up with gardens surrounding them will have a closer connection to nature and an appreciation gardens. If you do experience vandalism, clean it up quickly and resolve to clean it up every time it happens. Chances are, the perpetrator will give up or grow up and the community is all the better for it since you have stood your ground.

Curb side gardens add beauty to the neighbour-

Regarding theft, remind yourself that you are gardening on the “front lines”. For objects of art, display sturdy, heavy objects that are discretely pinned, bolted or chained down so they won’t be carried away. Trellises with cemented footings, large interesting rocks and concrete benches are all good choices for front garden décor.

Lastly, often missing in the front yard is unusual colours (like tourquois) on the front door, house trim and garden objects. To give your garden sparkle and cohesiveness, pick an unusual colour rarely seen amongst your plants and paint your front door and most garden accessories that colour.

Planting for beauty and biodiversity

Amending any soil type is a long process with slow results. Therefore, lay newspaper down (3 sheets thick) on the lawn where the garden will be and dump a huge load of triple-mix (1/3 black peat, 1/3 good topsoil and 1/3 mushroom compost) down about 2 feet high. If there is some lawn, edge the garden with a mowing strip if possible for maintenance free mowing. Vary heights of plants dramatically and for a bold statement, use lots of variegated plants, red foliage plants and blue conifers. Conifers with unusual growth habits are more expensive but worth the investment in our 4 season climate. Try Picea abies f. 'pendula' - Weeping Norway Spruce or Thuja occidentalis 'Filiformis' - Threadleaf Arborvitae.

Choose shrubs from your backyard that you will want to “clone” for the front garden. Propagate those shrubs by “layering” (http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-8701.html) and leave them to grow roots until the next year, when they will be ready to be cut from the mother shrub. This technique even works well for non-grafted roses like “Explorer” and “ground cover” roses. Collect seeds for easy-to-grow, drought tolerant plants such as poppies and larkspur. Take cuttings that root easily like Tradescantia pallida 'Purpurea' or Brugmansia candida.

To avoid yearly planting of annuals, use mosaics

There are more plant choices for a garden in partial sun/sun than there are for gardens in the shade so be perceptive about how your tall objects throw shadows. Limb up existing trees artistically, keeping the shape of the tree elegant. This allows for under-planting. The John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative studies explains, “Covering the ground: in order to maximize the efficiency of the garden and minimize maintenance, we work to cover every inch of exposed soil. Plant stacking begins with plants covering the ground like groundcover, with small plants and shrubs next, and small fruit trees or vines serving as the umbrella. This keeps unwanted or volunteer plants from moving in, the soil temperature stays even, irrigation water is conserved, and all leaf droppings, plant cuttings and compost can be worked directly back in to the soil around the base of the plants.” Some shrubs make excellent “dwarf trees” if pruned into standards or multi-trunk specimens, like Salix integra 'Hakuro Nishiki'.

Be daring and plant a rare beauty or unusual specimen plant for the public to see. Be prepared to answer questions. In my garden, people are curious about larkspur Consolida Orientalis (I grow in groups), dark red leaved Castor Bean Ricinus communis, Heliopsis 'Loraine Sunshine', alliums of any kind, “Lady in red” salvia, plume poppy, crambe cordifolia, fillipendula rubra “venustra”, variegated Jacob’s Ladder (polemonium caeruleum “Brise d’ Anjou), sun-loving heuchera ‘Purple Mountain Majesty’, phlox P. 'Red Riding Hood', ‘Torch’ Tithonia, double antique rose peony poppy, clematis 'Princess Diana', dwarf blue clematis, “Sunburst” honey locust tree, “Candied Apple” dwarf ornamental crab trained as a spiral, weeping red jade ornamental crab, aubrieta, prairie poppy mallow Callirhoe involucrata, baptisia, Verbena bonariensis, and huge annual zinnias. The more variety of plant species in your garden, the better for biodiversity. I grow milkweed in small clumps as both food for the monarchs and as a structural groupings.

Mixed hard-
scaping can replace lawns

Mix up styles of gardening to make your own hybrid style that is both a personal expression and is aestethic for your house. For example, plunk a formal topiary in the middle of a cottage garden! Grow herbs for aromatherapy and culinary uses and plant neighbourly species that are not invasive. Contain grasses in very large bottomless pots and keep hedges low near curbs and driveways for safety.

For water conservation, ensure that rain does not run off onto the street. Rain gardens are becoming popular as gardeners make use of the rain they do receive and direct runoff into their gardens. According to the Applied Ecological Services website, “a rain garden is simply a shallow depression in the yard planted with native wetland or wet prairie wildflowers and grasses. Rain gardens allow water to naturally infiltrate back into the ground, managing rainwater and stormwater run-off in a more sustainable way. Whether you live near a creek or miles away from one in the heart of suburbia, a rain garden can help preserve your area's rivers and streams.” Use mulched leaves on the beds. It is perfect to feed the soil and keeps constant soil moisture and temperature. Install drip irrigation to those plants that need watering the most and this will save you many hours of grunt work. It is prudent to group plants hydrozones (based on water requirements). Drip irrigation is now like the internet: if you don’t have it – get it.

Lawn Gone…

There are high tech products available now that can be suitable replacements for grass. Artificial turf is a growing trend. The product is realistic looking and maintenance free, although it can be expensive. Thyme lawns work best if thyme is planted as filler between flat rocks. The plants need the rocks for the moisture held underneath. Design a rockscape; mix and match coloured rocks, round rocks with flat rocks and intersperse with patches of varying mulch.

A patio dissolves into a pond

Finally, if you look at the potential of your front property, there will be endless motivation for you to landscape and garden it. Use your front yard as another living space. If you had another room, what would you do with it? Would it be a spa? A gym? A Dining room? An office? Go for it.

For further investigation and ideas: