Happy Design Accident

I posted on my Facebook page yesterday a comment about planting daylilies in drifts of similar or complimentary colours/sizes.

Here’s a happy accident of exactly that concept. These are my own hybrids, and since they ended up together, it’s possible they were from the same parents. But again, just like your kids are all different, but with some features of both parents and therefore likely will have some common traits among them, these two different day lilies have similar traits. Image

Monochromic–different shades of the same hue (have I got that right?), and with the same yellow centres. But the darker one is conveniently taller than the lighter, so both show off to advantage. They’re doing alright in almost full shade with a lot of bright light around, and only two years old–still babies, so I’ll leave them in this spot, will have more (of a “drift”) next year, and I’ll find out how they like the amount of shade.

Which leads me to an interesting concept: you don’t have to have it all right, all at once. My garden is very much a work in progress, and I expect it will be as long as I live here.

If you’re beginning your own garden design, be patient and kind to yourself. Read tags (Google is your friend as well), watch the sunlight, and don’t be afraid to TRY THINGS OUT. That’s really the whole point of this Real Life Garden Solutions–giving you tools so you can TRY THINGS OUT.

I’d love to see some of your happy design accidents. Post, comment, share, like–let’s get a conversation going :-).

Collecting Seeds Part II–Daylilies

Thanks to Sophie Cusson  for the inspiration, and numerous youtube videos  for the background of this post–Collecting Seeds Part II.

About 4 years ago I read about hybridizing your own daylilies, which sounded like something I should try. I was only reading about it at the time, and couldn’t quite figure out how this was going to happen, but I persisted, and ended up with lots of seeds that year. Stored them in the fridge until the following spring, and these are the progeny of that year and the next years’ efforts.

I carefully wrote out the names of the parents–“red spidery flower with plain yellow flower”, since I didn’t know the names of anything I owned. Or didn’t own, as in “red spidery flower with purple flower in front of bank”. And then of course neglected to save the labels with the seeds…


This is one of my favourites. I’d love to call it something…


Haven’t decided whether this is too dull–I’ll give it another year, it may yet mature to a slightly different colour


After all these years, still can’t take very good pictures of red.


The purple is a little dull, but if it’s next to some vivid yellows or oranges, might be pretty.


LOVE LOVE LOVE this. Definitely have to name it!


I think this is called a “spider” form, which was one of the features I was trying for.


I”m getting a little better with reds–this one really is this bright.


Did this really come from my seeds? I did buy some from a seed trader that first year…


‘Pandora’s Box’–have to admit to having actually bought it as a plant from Ontario.


Colour’s not very interesting, but the shape is amazing!

Now for some totally forgettable ones that I’ll pull out and give away–or throw away (unlike with the genetics of children, if I don’t like how the genes mixed up, I can just discard the resulting plant.)




Very dull.


Tagged for removal, altho’ the shape is sweet.


Very tagged!


Also tagged.

So that’s my seed collection post for today. Do you want to try for yourself? Pretty easy to do, and the joy of seeing something no one but God has ever seen before is VERY NEAT!

Comments? Questions? Click follow and share–see what others have to say.

Multiply Your Stock of Plants: Collect Seeds

There are some annuals in my garden that I just want more of, or I want to be able to give away to friends, so I make a point of collecting seeds as often as I can. But in many cases here in balmy Metro Vancouver, I don’t have to do the work, the plants do it for me.

Some annuals and biennials act like perennials. For example Foxglove and Sweet William are biennials, which means they have a two year cycle and then die. After they flower, they set seed, which falls to the ground. Next spring the seed germinates, and puts on herbaceous (green) growth, goes dormant in the fall. The second growing year puts on floriferous (flowering) growth. Then sets seed and dies. If the weather is favourable, and if they fall early enough, they may set seed, fall, germinate and start their first year of growth the same summer, then produce flowers the next year, their second year. So you had flowers this year, and you’ll have flowers next year.  Biennials, but they act like perennials.



Foxglove setting seed

Foxglove setting seed, still completely green, these won’t be ready for at least another month.

Then there’s snapdragons or larkspur. They’re annuals, but they set seed so well, and disperse if so effectively, they’ll grow more next year close by, and probably grow more than you had this year.

Snapdragon seed heads, not ripe yet.

Snapdragon seed heads, not ripe yet.

Seed head open, and black seeds visible.Columbine seed head open, and black seeds visible.

If you want to be sure to increase your stock, collect the seeds yourself, so you’ll get them before the chickadees do. You can either sow them right away, or save them in an airtight envelope in a cool place (fridge would do, not freezer) over the winter and sow in spring. You can even “winter sow” them–in containers, left outside in a secure area away form the racoons and the strong winter winds– and see them come up all nice and safe and prolific in the spring.

Want help figuring out how to collect seeds, or what to do with them once you do? Post a comment or question. Follow this blog to get more, or follow our Facebook page.

5 Tips To Understanding Plant Labels

So here’s the 5 main things to understand when you buy plants:

1. Hardiness Zone

2. Average Mature Size

3. Sun Exposure

4. Watering Needs

5. Planting Instructions

Hardiness zone.

This can be unnecessarily complex: there are USDA Plant Hardiness Zones which includes Canada, and bases hardiness zones on average minimum winter temperatures; Plant Hardiness Zones of Canada, which also uses average minimum winter temperatures but is different from the USDA zones; and Sunset Zones, which are much more comprehensive, using average warm and cold temperatures, humidity, length of growing season, and other factors, but which unfortunately is seldom used on plant labels or any other resource.

Most plant labels, even plants that are sourced in Canada, will use the USDA zones, so let’s go with those. Here in coastal BC most of us are in Zones 7b (slightly less cold than 7) to 9a. So bottom line here is that plants that are “hardy to zone 10” will generally die in average Metro Vancouver winters, and therefore are what we generally call “annuals”. But “hardy to zone 8” means we’re fine. This is the label to Rhodo ‘Jingle Bells’, Zone 7.

DSCN1530 DSCN1531There are a few things you can do with zones, first of all knowing what your own zone is: Here’s a great little site that you can zoom in and find your own almost neighbourhood zone. For example, I live in south Burnaby, zone 8b. Parts of North Burnaby are zone 9a, because it is closer to the protected Indian Arm of Burrard Inlet. Another thing about zones, is that you can “bend the rules”, depending on your own gardens microclimates. If you have a sheltered spot from the wind, you might be able to grow things that are technically rated as needing more winter warmth. There are lots of ways you can push the boundaries; that’s what Google is for. OK, enough already about zones. Let’s move on to…

Average Mature Size.

The above label says the “average size” of R. ‘Jingle Bells’ (implying “mature size”) is 3′ tall and 4′ wide. When you’re planting say two of these, the distance between the trunks of the two should be at least 4′. If you plant it next to something that grows to 6′ wide, you’ll want to have 5′ (radius of one plus the radius of the other)  between the two trunks. Knowing its mature height allows you to determine if you can plant something nearby that will look good towering above it, or if it would comfortably shelter something growing underneath it.

Now here’s a classic example of unhelpful;

Nunccio's Pearl

Nuccio’s Pearl Camellia

Here’ s the unhelpful part:


Note the “Average Landscape size”. CLICK on the picture if it’s too small.

“Slow growing to 6 to 8 ft. tall and wide, larger with age“. So if it doesn’t grow older, it won’t grow bigger. I’ve planted it in front of Rhododendron ‘Johnny Bender’, hoping that JB will grow bigger than the label says (5′ T and W) and that NP will NOT “grow larger with age”.

Sun Exposure.

A quick primer on Sun/Shade Exposure, starting with: spend a few days in various seasons watching where the sun hits the ground in your many garden areas.

Full sun: 6+ hours of direct sun

Part Sun or Part Shade or Dappled Sun or Light Shade: 4-6 hours of direct sun, maybe divided into early morning and later afternoon, or all early morning, or all later afternoon, or right across the hottest part of the day.

Full shade: At the most 1-2 hours of direct sun. But if your full shade has lots of full sun nearby, it’s still pretty light, and might support lots of “light shade” kinds of plants.

North-facing front yard. house casts full shade on the rhodos, but the rest of the yard is in full sun all day. The shade is bright shade even tho' it gets no direct sun.

North-facing front yard. House casts full shade on the rhodos, but the rest of the yard is in full sun all day. The shade is bright shade even tho’ it gets no direct sun. And even tho’ in this picture it looks like NIGHT.

Dense Shade: not only no or minimal direct sunlight, but lots of dense things hiding sun: like your own building and a highrise 20 feet away, and a 50′ cedar over to the right, and a maple to the left. That’s DENSE shade.

“South Facing” or “North facing” or whatever doesn’t always mean much. My “North facing” front yard is actually in full sun from 8 am until 8 pm. (in the summer), while my “South facing ” backyard has lots of areas that have no direct sun ever.

Water Needs and Planting Instructions

Almost every plant tag will recommend “fertile” soil. (There are a few plants that actually prefer poor soil, but that’s for another day…). So let’s assume you have decent topsoil and a little organic matter (compost, sesasoil, mushroom manure…) added. Once you have soil that will support decent plant growth, you should place together plants that have similar watering needs. For example, many sedges are the kind of plants that grow along river and lake edges, so should be in really moist soil. Don’t plant them in raised beds that will dry out quickly (unless everything in that bed needs to be in really moist soil). Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla)  and salvia are very happy in drought conditions (after giving them a few months to grow deep roots). So plant them together and don’t water them like the sedges.

plant labels d

Note the Care Instructions

Good plant tags will include watering instructions, but they don’t take into consideration what else might be going on in your garden–which of course the growers can’t do! Most plants need excellent watering their first year after transplantation (from the grower’s environment to your environment). After that they should only receive the amount of water they would need in their native climate. Many plants won’t need any extra watering above what we get in an average growing season. Best practice: grow plants together that have similar food and water needs.

There’s so much more to say on all these subjects, so if you have questions, do post them and I’ll either give you answers or direct you to answers. As always, look forward to your comments; click on the follow button to get regular posts fro RLGS.