First Frost

I have always said that the only thing I would change about gardening in the Peace is to tack an extra frost-free month on either end of the season. We usually get an average of 85 frost-free days. Once, when I loaded those numbers into a computer garden planner program, it asked me to recheck my numbers since it would be “highly unlikely to have so few frost-free days”. Talk about insult to injury! I have always wondered what it would be like to have 120 frost-free days. Well, now I know.

I realize frost hits us all at different times. Even neighbours a mile north or south of us get or avoid frosts that we don’t. But as of yesterday, here on the McKinnon homestead we officially made 120 days without a lick of frost. If it wasn’t for concerns over global warming I’d be ecstatic. It’s crazy. The roses are blooming all over again and just yesterday afternoon I came across a gentian dripping in gorgeous deep blue blooms–a sight normally reserved for a brief week or two in early spring. Some days I find myself tapping my toe waiting for the killing frost to sweep in so I can start tossing on the winter mulch, but mostly I am revelling in all the bonus blooms.

We got our first frost last night, but while it knocked the beans to their knees everything else still looks pretty good, so it can’t be called the killing frost. Not yet. Here’s how things are looking in my garden…

Despite the lack of frost the aspens are still turning yellow; the rest of the garden still has lots of colour going on.

Despite the lack of frost the aspens are still turning yellow; the rest of the garden still has lots of colour going on.

A look at those gorgeous lemon leaves against our cobalt blue skies!

A look at those gorgeous lemon leaves against our cobalt blue skies!

Hope for Humanity Rose still blooming strong!

Hope for Humanity Rose still blooming strong!

One of many viburnums crackling with colour

One of many viburnums crackling with colour

And of course the Japanese Blood Grass still showing its spears of red...this one gets a generous hay mulch for winter since it's only supposed to be hardy to zone 5. The mulch got it through last winter and I hoping it will again.

And of course the Japanese Blood Grass still showing its spears of red…this one gets a generous hay mulch for winter since it’s only supposed to be hardy to zone 5. Mulch got it through last winter and I am hoping it will again. In Ontario it is a bit invasive. If you look you can see it did send out a runner…maybe this will be an introduction I will regret.

The kitchen herbs on the deck are still okay...have to remember to bring them in!

The kitchen herbs on the deck are still okay…have to remember to bring them in!

And the kale is turning sweet with frost!

And the kale is turning sweet with frost!

Books for Northern Gardeners

Just wanted to put in a quick plug for Barbara Rayment’s book “The Northern Gardener; perennials that survive and thrive.” It is my go-to book for dreaming up ornamental beds and borders during the winter months. If anyone has ever thought we were limited in what we can grow this book will soon put that notion to bed. And then you can put these plants to bed!

Barbara lives outside of Prince George, BC so she is in a slightly warmer zone than those of us further north in the Peace Country but so far I haven’t come across anything in the book that doesn’t grow here as well. So if you’re looking for reading material for the (whisper) winter months ahead this is a great choice.

http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/1550175785/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=15121&creative=330641&creativeASIN=1550175785&linkCode=as2&tag=wwwshannonm0e-20

2013 North Peace Garden Tour 4 of 8 : )

Lori and John Burdock have a beautiful yard full of everything a gardener could want; trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, a vegetable plot and even a completely restored antique truck!

All that and a gorgeous truck too! I couldn't resist taking a picture.

I am sure the owner of this gorgeous truck would strongly object to it being seen as a garden ornament,  but I couldn’t resist taking a picture : )

This faux fence serves as a backdrop for the perennials in front. I love this idea!

This faux fence serves as a backdrop for the perennials in front. I love this idea!

Now that's a rock! Perfectly positioned by this mature shrub it makes a wonderful exclamation point in the garden.

Now that’s a rock! Perfectly positioned by this mature shrub it makes a wonderful exclamation point in the garden.

Here's Darcy photo bombing a beautiful border. Look at those yellow lilies!

There’s Darcy photo bombing a beautiful border. Look at those yellow lilies!

Alliums look gorgeous when they bloom but I like them best after the seed heads form like this one. I have heard of people spray painting them while they're still in the garden...not sure if I would like that or not, but it is certainly a different idea.

Alliums look gorgeous when they bloom but I like them best after the seed heads form like this. I have heard of people spray painting the seed heads while they’re still in the garden…pastels, bright red, copper, black, etc. I am kind of a fan of the natural so I’m not sure if I would like that or not, but it is certainly a different idea that might be fun to try. Apologies for the seed head being out of focus…

Another beautiful border...

Another beautiful border…

The mark of a true gardener is knowing how to use plants. Goutweed is horribly invasive but it is also terribly beautiful.  Here is provides a living mulch for a thriving spruce tree while mowing takes care of the border keeping it in check. The tree looks like it's floating in a variegated foamy sea!

The mark of a true gardener is knowing how to use plants. Goutweed is horribly invasive but it is also terribly beautiful. Here it provides a living mulch for a thriving spruce tree while the borders are kept in check. The tree looks as if it is floating in a foamy green sea. If you are careful to position goutweed where you can mow around the edges you can keep it from spreading…sort of!

A thriving vegetable garden and a pile of drying lawn clippings waiting to be used as mulch.

A thriving vegetable garden and a pile of lawn clippings waiting to be used as mulch. And a chair for relaxing in when you’re done!

Here a small trellis helps keep squash off the ground.

Here a small trellis helps keep squash off the ground.

Look at all the zucchini!

Look at all the zucchini!

Tomatoes absolutely loaded with blossoms thrive under the frost cloth...excellent use of season extenders!

Tomatoes absolutely loaded with blossoms thrive under this frost cloth…excellent use of season extenders! Love the permanent pathways and the pots of geraniums too.

Hot stuff! Beautiful stove and one of the most unique fire pits I have ever seen...

Hot stuff! Beautiful stove and one of the most unique fire pits I have ever seen…

Ha!

Ha!

2013 North Peace Garden Tour 3 of 8 : )

Next up were the expansive hilltop gardens of Ellen and Glenn Fox. Ellen is one of those beautiful people who are born with a green thumb, a warm personality and is more than willing to share her knowledge. I got so caught up visiting with Ellen and looking at the plants I didn’t take near enough pictures and the ones I did take probably don’t do her garden justice. They capture lots of beauty spots, but not the scope of her huge space.

An old sewing machine makes a seamless transition into a garden bed.

An old sewing machine makes a seamless transition into a garden bed.

Ellen's wraparound deck has more plants on it than most people's entire gardens! Herbs and flowers thrive on the sunny side.

Ellen’s wraparound deck has more plants on it than most people’s entire gardens! Herbs and flowers thrive on the sunny side.

On the shady side baskets brim over with begonias.

On the shady side of the house baskets brim over with begonias.

More displays on deck!

More displays on deck!

Nasturtiums, marigolds and calendulas look fabulous together.

Nasturtiums, marigolds and calendulas look fabulous together.

A huge mock orange fills the space by the stairs while pots of plants dangle overhead.

These red shamrocks are prolific self seeders. Ellen uses this to the garden's advantage even popping them into containers for colorful displays.

These red shamrocks are prolific self seeders. Ellen uses this to the garden’s advantage even popping them into containers for colorful displays.

More lucky red shamrocks!

More lucky red shamrocks!

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When adding colour to your garden think beyond blooms; this yellow grass adds a vibrant splash of colour all season long.

When adding colour to your garden think beyond blooms; colorful grasses and vines add beauty to the garden all season long.

Now THAT’S a garden bed!

Linda Greene of The Greenehouse in Farmington is always a popular vendor on the garden tours; here she is set up in Ellen and Glenn’s yard.

The garden cat checks out some garden art...

The garden cat inspects a clematis seed head…

Ellen has a huge family with lots of gifted grandchildren who are responsible for these paintings in the lower part of the yard.

Ellen has a huge family with lots of gifted grandchildren who are responsible for these paintings in the lower part of the yard.

I'm guessing a horse loving grandchild did this one...

I’m guessing a horse loving grandchild did this one…

And it looks like there might be a budding gardener in the bunch as well!

And it looks like there might be a budding gardener in the bunch as well!