Join a Parade, then Compost Your Pumpkin

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After your Halloween pumpkin—or pumpkins—have done their duty on the spooky night before, you might find a Pumpkin parade in your neighbourhood where it can have one last hurrah. 50 parks in Toronto host these fun annual events, so check out the link to one near you.

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Benefits of a Cool Spring

snowdrops

Snowdrops last longer in a cool spring.

Spring has sprung, but a lot of us are still wearing winter coats. The temps are still a little cooler than usual, and the trend is supposed to go through the first two weeks of April. The good news is that spring ephemeral bulbs like snowdrops—the very first flowers to arrive—are sticking around for weeks instead of being a flash in the pan.

That means we may enjoy crocuses a little longer than normal too, once they show up. The slow, cool spring may be maddening but once we have a few rains, things are going to be popping up all over.

In the meantime, we have time to sort through our seeds for planting, clean our tools, and as soon as the garden centre is open in April, buy some early perennials, and soil amendments, like compost and manure. Remember, you can always plant spring bulbs in pots as well. So as soon as the ground is diggable, pop in a few pots of crocus, or grape hyacinths in some bare spots in your garden. They will come up year after year.



Bitter Melon: Ornamental Vine & Edible Fruit

Bitter melon vine, showing flower.

Bitter melon vine, showing flower.

I came across this beautiful vine covering a chain link fence recently. The fence itself was almost completely obscured, which is a good thing in my books. (Practical as they are, banishing chain link fences would be one of my first orders as Queen of the World)

The vine leaves themselves are exquisite, finely cut in a way that William Morris—the Arts & Craft designer who took his inspiration from nature—would have loved. The leaf veins, vines and tendrils add to the pleasing array of form. Not only is the vine good at beautifully camouflaging an ugly fence, but it has smallish yellow flowers with the sweetest jasmine fragrance—swoonworthy on a summer evening.

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Plant Profile: Gazania

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You’ve got a dry, hot spot that gets full sun all day. What to plant? A perfect choice for a sunny spot like this is the impossibly cheerful gazania. It’s a low-growing, drought-tolerant flowering annual that shines through in those challenging spots.

Many annuals—like the ever forgiving petunia and geranium—can be plunked anywhere and they’ll more or less cope. Shady spots make fewer flowers, but you’ll still have flowers. Not so with gazanias: they are picky and absolutely must have full sun to show their spectacular blooms. If they don’t have sun, they fold up their petals and sulk. (Yes, the petals actually close.) And why wouldn’t they? They’ve got pizzazz and they want to show it off.

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Plant Profile: Floriferous African Blue Basil

African Blue Basil in bloom, with pollinator-friendly flowers.

African Blue Basil in bloom, with pollinator-friendly flowers.

Most basil plants we try to discourage from blooming because we mainly grow it for for the leaves, (pesto!) not the flowers, but African Blue Basil is different. The blue-purple flowers are one of the best parts of this plant, and in my opinion it’s a must in the pollinator garden. The bees absolutely love the flowers.

African Blue is also edible, with a strong basil taste with a stronger hint of the camphor flavour that most basils contain. You can use it for pesto, or any other recipe that needs basil. Of course, like all basils, you can eat the flowers too. And what beautiful flowers these make: blue-purple spikes atop all the stems, sprout upward in all directions.

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