Ten Yards of Mulch …

… is almost enough!

What a warm, dry summer it has been.  The early summer flowers like iris and lilac are long since spent and have been deadheaded.  And now it is the season for watering.


We have been watering at least twice a week, sometimes three since late June.


Sometimes it has seemed like we have done nothing else but water.


So a few weeks ago, we decided to use some of our precious savings and buy mulch.  There is no question that mulch provides a huge benefit to a garden bed.  It insulates the soil, keeping it cooler in summer and warmer through the spring and fall, it helps the soil retain moisture and (especially beneficial) it helps prevent weed seed germination.  Many organic mulches also add nutrients to the soil as they break down.

The down side of mulch is that it costs money and we usually have more volunteer resources than cash resources.  There is also the issue of the amount of labour it takes to spread it in a large garden like ours.  We have talked about it every year, but have never had (or been willing to spend) the money.


But the hot, dry weather finally got to us and we ordered mulch.  Ten yards of it.  Adams Brothers brought it in three loads and dumped it in three locations in the Garden.


We managed to get it all spread in three work sessions covering all the main garden and part of the habitat garden.


It hasn’t meant that we don’t have to water at all, but it has made a difference and looks great. It cost us over $600 of our hard earned cash, but we all agree that it was worth every penny.


Time flies!

It seemed like winter would never end but the snow finally melted and we started our spring cleanup on April 27th.


We got the leaves cleaned up rickety split and the following week the grass was green and the first flowers of spring were there to greet us.


Daffodils and primroses are reliably first.


We had only just started and took a week off.  Remember what we say about all work and no play?  Four of us joined a Master Gardener group from the Port Hope area for a bus trip of the Brandywine area of Pennsylvania and Delaware.  What an amazing three jam packed days of visiting world class gardens!

Here we are checking out azaleas bigger than we are at Winterthur

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and the most amazing “green” public washrooms at Longwood Gardens.

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Now we’re back home getting geared up for a very busy season.  We’re making plans for our Garden Days event in June and hope to start planting our Wildlife Habitat Demonstration Garden in the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow we’ll be helping Town Staff get the pond cleaned out and up and running .


We won’t have flower borders like Longwood’s any time soon, but we can always dream!

An Unexpected Gift – Dana’s Daylilies

A couple of weeks ago we received a call from a gentleman wondering if we would like to have the garden plants from his property in Dillon.  His wife had been a devoted and enthusiastic gardener for all her adult life and had created extensive gardens he could not maintain following her death a year and a half ago.  I visited the property and saw something impressive, though starting to be reclaimed by Mother Nature.  Dana had been the kind of gardener who kept records! There were diagrams of what was planted where, plant tags and photo albums!  Although most of the garden evolved around the topology of the Georgian Bay rocky shoreline and the home itself, there was a collection of daylilies planted in groups on a grid and a labelled sketch to go along with them.

We thought … SCORE!  Here is an opportunity to plant a daylily demonstration garden much like our new lilac collection.  Visitors can record the names of the ones they particularly like and acquire them for their home gardens.  Although our Garden is starting to have an abundance of flowers, it is much like a cottage garden filled with donated plants divided and shared from garden to garden.

So we accepted the offer and this week went for the daylilies.  On Wednesday morning we prepared places for them to be planted in groups of three around the circle amongst the lilacs at the base of the Tower.

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Doing this sort of thing is like setting dominoes in motion.  Those spots had been filled with the spireas and hostas that had been the only plants thriving in the garden when we started gardening 3 years ago.  We had dug them up and divided them (yes, spireas can be divided just like perennials … any shrub that spreads by runners can) to fill that empty narrow bed.  So we found other places for them.

The spireas made a nice hedge beside the cabin.

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and the hostas were divided and potted up to sell at our Garden Days at Tower Hill event.

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Wednesday afternoon we hooked up my trailer and headed to Dillon with our spades.  We dug, divided, labelled and packed them tight into the trailer making potting unnecessary.

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It was a daunting task, but a great place to spend the afternoon and our gracious donor/host, Don Clement,  helped lug the last of them up to the trailer and provided cold drinks when we needed them!

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They spent the next day in the trailer and we planted all of them on Thursday evening.  We spread them out on the grass

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and the mosquitoes and blackflies helped us with the sorting, planting and labelling.  And I must say, I’m getting pretty good at backing my van and trailer between the rock walls and up that walkway to the Tower!

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The extras were planted in all sorts of places, but mostly in the slope/rock garden between the Cabin and Pond.

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We gave them a good drink and called it a night.  They are looking a bit bedraggled but we expect them to perk up in a couple of weeks and to bloom in July.

Thank you Don and Dana for the gift and thank you Gardeners for the extra effort!



Creating a Lilac Walk


We are undertaking something bigger than we have done before.  During the winter we received Council approval for our plan for a Lilac Walk/Grove.  The plan was to add examples of a number of different Lilac cultivars along the walk around the base of the tower so that visitors could see that there are more than big lilac coloured lilacs available to plant in their gardens.  The walk will culminate in a grove of very special lilacs dedicated to Leonard Slater (a long time cottager in the area who developed them).

Here’s a look at the overall plan.

Site Plan

Despite our best efforts to spend it all, we had some funds left over from last season and we applied for and received a Special Project Grant from the Ontario Horticultural Association.  That was quickly matched by our Society and by the family of Leonard Slater.  So we were in business and ordered the plants!

They arrived on a big truck a couple of weeks ago and the Thursday night gardeners had their first workday getting them planted.


The early blooming French hybrids were already blooming and instantly filled the Garden with their fragrance.


We planted the drought tolerant Korean Dwarf varieties in the Rock Garden. The “Miss Kim” is so huge we could barely lift it.  It will be blooming in another week or so.

Miss Kim

But the “Palibin”, “Boomerang” and “Tinkerbelle” are worth a visit right now.


The later blooming Preston Lilacs are gearing up now.  This one named “Miss Canada” looks like it will be quite interesting.





After a long wait, spring has arrived!

Once the snow decided to melt, it disappeared in a big hurry and we were able to start our gardening season on April 29th.


We had a nice big group (with a few new faces) and spent the morning cleaning out perennial beds and raking leaves (which we stockpiled to use later in the season as mulch)

IMG_2094The grass was greening up nicely and the first blooms of spring, our primroses were a welcome sight!


This week, the Town staff were on hand and we spent the whole day cleaning out and refilling the pond.


The fish retreated to their underground cave for the procedure, but started to venture out once there was a bit of water to swim around in.

photo 3They’ve been hiding under the rocks ever since and will be happy for the shade of the water lilies, which should grow quickly in the warm sunshine that has ushered in daffodil season!


We work in the Garden every Wednesday,

Well … not EVERY Wednesday!  Sometimes we get rained out and sometimes we take a day off and do something fun!  You know about “all work and no play”!

So last Wednesday we went on a garden centre outing.  We snooped in all the garden centres between Parry Sound and Bracebridge.


and acquired a “few” plants along the way!


A good time was had by all and some of those plants were planted on Thursday evening in the Garden.


But that is not the only fun we had last week.  On the 14th, four of us enjoyed a day snooping around in the gardens of the Hogg’s Hollow area of Toronto, attending the TBG “Through the Garden Gate” Tour.  We saw some beautiful homes and gardens in an amazing setting on the banks of the Don River.

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Join us!   We do more than just pull weeds every week!

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A Long Time Comin’

It was a long wait, but spring has sprung in Parry Sound.  The Garden looked like this when we decided to get back at it only a month ago.


It didn’t take long for the grass to green up and the cheerful daffodils watched as we raked and cleaned up the beds.


It was a rough winter on the fish … only the small ones survived and the water was quite murky with all the runoff.


So we (Town Staff provided the equipment and most of the manpower) pumped it out, cleaned it, restocked it and it looks great.  The crabapples are in full bloom and the one we planted at the top of the Rock garden beside the Cabin is thriving and blooming too.  Bring on summer!



The last rose of Summer

Many people tell us that some of their fondest memories of the old Tower Hill Garden were of the Rose Garden.  There is no evidence of it, but we have heard that it was a formal sunken garden.  We are not sure we could re-create it,  even if we did have photos (none so far), so in the meantime, we have been planting easy care shrub roses in the rock garden between the Pond and the Cabin.


They are great low maintenance garden choices for homeowners; drought tolerant, pest & disease resistant small shrubs that flower all season long.


There were still a few blooming on our final workday, last Wednesday.  We have had an amazing fall without a really hard frost until this weekend but have decided to hang up our tools for the winter.  We logged over 500 volunteer hours and had many, many positive comments about our efforts.


The ground is too soggy to dig, with all the rain we have had the past few weeks, so this week we dug up the canna lily bulbs, dig some raking and packed up our tools.


As we said our goodbyes and had one last look around, there it was … the last rose of summer … still blooming!


Misty morning in the Garden

The forecast was for rain yesterday morning and about an inch fell during the night, but our Wednesday gardeners were not deterred.


We have been pulling out the spent annuals and cutting back perennials, but amazingly there has not been a frost.  The canna lilies are still quite spectacular, so we won’t pull them out just yet.


The morning was quite warm and the sun even peeked out, so we started to reclaim more overgrown beds in preparation for next spring.


The leaves are starting to fall and the Garden is a very serene, yet colourful place this time of year.



Company’s Coming !

This Saturday, the Museum on Tower Hill will be participating in the Doors Open Parry Sound event from 10am to 4 pm so we thought we would tidy up their entrance garden for them.


We weeded, pulled out spent annuals, pruned shrubs, raked and swept. the amount of debris produced by Mother Nature in one short growing season is amazing.


We will be joining in the fun and will have an exhibit of old photos of the Garden and will also have a fall plant sale.  A few donations have already come in and we’ve started lining them up on the bench. We’re expecting much better weather than we had last year so come as soon as the Doors Open at ten for the best selection.