Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

IN OUR GARDENS: ARRANGING CUT FLOWERS

With summer in full swing, chances are you’ve taken note of the sweet sights and smells of the many flowers in bloom right now. Whether it’s annuals, perennials or foraged blooms, we love harvesting flowers, bringing the outdoors in, and creating beautiful arrangements all season long. But how can we make those beautiful arrangements last as long as possible? Today we have grower, designer and flower expert extraordinaire Kelly Tellier from Lily Stone Gardens sharing her best tips for success.

When to Harvest

“The best time of the day to harvest flowers is early in the morning or late in the evening when it is cool outside. Every flower variety has an appropriate ‘harvest stage’. Cutting at the correct harvest stage is key to a longer vase life of your cut flowers. For example, we do a ‘wiggle’ test on zinnias. If you grab the stem between two fingers about six inches down from the bloom and give the stem a little shake — if the stem stays stiff and the bloom doesn’t sway side to side, it’s ready to cut. If the bloom wiggles, or feels a bit limp and not sturdy on the stem, it’s not ready. Another example is poppies. Poppies should be cut when the bud has a slight crack and you can just see some color inside the bud — not when the bloom is wide open. Each individual flower variety has a very specific period of time where it is in its prime for cutting purposes.”

How to Harvest

“Always use sharp snips and try cut at an angle. Place flowers directly into water. If flowers stay out of water for any length of time always re-cut before placing in the water again. Also, it is always very important to use clean snips, and clean vases. All foliage that would fall below the water line of your vase should be removed. Change your water in your vase every two days and give your flowers are fresh snip at the same time.”

Arranging & Displaying

“I love arranging garden flowers in unique vessels. Antique urns or old milk bottles anything that enhances the character of the blooms.”

Composition

“My favorite way to style or display flowers is ‘less is more’. Let the flowers speak for themselves. I love to display flowers against a white wall or white table. It makes all the colors and flower tones pop. Arrange each bloom so it’s visible and has its own space among the other flowers.  Or, get creative with these oh-so-sweet bud vases, reveal bottles and classic pitcher vases available in store and online.  I normally like to pick three to five larger focal blooms per arrangement, as well as some upright flowers (tall) and then some filler flowers. Pick colors that are complementary to one another or use shades of the same color.”

Care

“It is important to ensure your flowers are kept out of intense sunlight and change the water every two days — and at the same time, give your stems a fresh cut. As flowers fade, pull them out of the arrangement to keep the remaining beautiful as long as possible.”

Inspiration

“One of my favorite, easy to grow flowers for August are Cosmos. Cosmos can be direct seeded and grow very easily and will continue to seed themselves year after year if you let the old flowers go to seed. Cosmos look so beautiful just on their own in a vase or pair so beautifully with grasses or fall foliage for a unique non-traditional wild looking fall bouquet. I would encourage everyone to look beyond ‘just the flowers’ in their gardens and yards. Unique shrubs and greens can also really add a unique and romantic feel to arrangements. For example, spirea in the springtime is a wonderful greenery and filler to mix with spring flowers and ninebark is one of my favorite foliages for September bouquets.

Grow Your Own!

“I would highly encourage any gardening lover to grow a small cutting garden for themselves. Designate a small area of your garden that you allow yourself to snip from. Don’t be afraid to experiment with cutting different varieties. It can be extremely therapeutic — and anything home grown is just that much better and that much more special.”   

Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your expertise with us!

Kelly Tellier is the owner and operator of Lily Stone Gardens, a seasonal cut flower farm and year-round floral design shop. You can find catch up with Kelly and her team on their website or on Instagram @lilystonegardens

Friday, June 16th, 2017

INSPIRATION: CREATE YOUR OWN FLOWER CROWN

It’s official. Flower crowns have graduated from another online #trend to classic summer fare — and we’re loving them! Whether simple and elegant or big and bold, flower crowns are a festive way to elevate any wedding, garden party, bridal shower, or summertime brunch.

Flower crowns are also super fun to make, perfect for an afternoon of playing with greenery with a few friends. Read on for our simple guide to creating your own flower crown.

What you’ll need:

  • Floral wire
  • Floral tape
  • Sturdy scissors (or floral scissors)
  • Greenery and flowers of your choice

How To:

  1. Create your base – Shape the floral wire into a circular shape, using the crown of your head as a guide (hint: add 2″ to the diameter of your head, as it’s much easier to tighten the shape afterward than it is to make it bigger). Secure the wire and wrap ends with floral tape.
  2. Add greenery – Next, put your greenery to work. Use short lengths of wire (floral tape works, too) to secure pieces of greenery all the way around the base to hide the wire. Eucalyptus, rosemary sprigs, and other sturdy greenery lend themselves well here.
  3. Embellish with flowers – Remember, the flowers will expire within a day or even shorter in hot weather, so stick with smaller blooms such as baby’s breath, or ‘tough’ blooms such as strawflowers. In terms of method, cut flower stems to about two inches so that they are all the same length and trim off any leaves. Then spiral the stem with floral wire to fasten to the base. Once again, make use of floral tape to tidy up loose ends or to attach more delicate stems.  
  4. Consider adding ribbon or lace – For a more feminine or bohemian look, add little touches of ribbon or lace.

Remember, there is no one way to create a flower crown — let your creativity flow and let your inner flowerchild have fun!

Here’s to a summer of flower and love-filled celebrations!

Words + Photos by Sarah Carson @the.botanical

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

OUR GARDENS: WHY PLANTS ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Around a month ago I sat down with Elaine Stechisen from Shelmerdine Garden Center to talk about planning your herb + flower garden. During our conversation, we veered off track and she began telling me about studies done on the healing properties of plants. And I don’t mean taking a herb supplement (though, that’s great for you, too.) I mean, mindfully placing a little succulent on your nightstand! Elaine told me about one specific study which compared patients recovering from surgery in a room with plants and ones in a room without. The ones that had plants around them during recovery needed less pain medication, had lower heart rates and blood pressures, and less anxiety and fatigue. Consequentially, they were released sooner from the hospital. We stuck to garden talk the rest of the time, but I ended up calling Elaine again to talk more about how and why plants are actually good for your health.

The real name for the study of this is horticultural therapy. It’s a formal practice using plants and horticultural activities to improve one’s physical and mental health.

Here are nine ways that gardening, nature, and plants improve the quality of your life, besides by looking pretty.

 

1. PLAYING IN THE DIRT = PROZAC

There’s good bacteria in soil that is proven to be more effective than Prozac! So if your parents were the type to boot you outside to go play in the mud, they were onto something. (As long as it hasn’t been sterilized; the sterilization process kills the good and bad bacteria.) You absorb it just by working with the soil with your hands and your feet, so ditch your garden gloves and sandals, and let yourself get a little dirty.

2. NATURE FOCUSES YOUR THOUGHTS ON SOMETHING OUTSIDE OF YOURSELF

Not only are you moving your body and enjoying yourself at the same time; your mind is engaged. It gets your mind off your internal issues and focused on the environment around you, which is extremely grounding and therapeutic. A horticultural therapist would recommend gardening to a senior who has lost a life long partner or is battling dementia or depression, for it gets their mind onto something else. Something much more life-giving than watching television.

3. THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF HOUSE PLANTS REMOVE MOST OF THE TOXINS FROM YOUR AIR.

Plants release moisture, increase humidity, and purify the air, all by going through their natural process: photosynthesis. This is especially great for people who have breathing problems or asthma.

According to Elaine, studies have shown that keeping the right quantity of plants in your home, they remove 87% of the volatile compounds in your air! That means toxins like formaldehyde and benzine (surprisingly high amounts of both of these are in all homes) will be filtered away. These studies instruct you keep one eight inch pot or larger for every 129 square feet. If you have plants of all sizes, you can simplify this formula by keeping one plant for every 100 square feet. They say this formula also works if you’re looking to fight fatigue, improve your health, and de-stress.

All plants purify the air, though some are better than others. Spider plants are the best. It actually filters better than an H-VAC. English ivy and snake plants are two others that are extremely effective.

4. TENDING TO YOUR GARDEN GETS YOU MOVING

Like most people, I struggle to add exercise to my life. I know the benefits, but I still find it tedious and time-consuming. So, when Elaine mentioned gardening as a form of exercise, I was elated. Spending an afternoon in your garden keeps you moving and can even be quite strenuous, bending in the heat. Working outside in the sun like that has the same type of benefits of doing yoga in a heated room. The warmth aids your muscles and is great for mobility. Just remember to practice sun safety!

5. NATURE ENGAGES ALL THE SENSES, WHICH PUTS THE MIND AT EASE

Nature does wonders for resting the mind. Getting your exercise in a green area or a park means your mind will get to rest while you’re putting your body to work. Nature engages all of the sense and keeps your brain stimulated. All of this results in an increase in pheromones, giving you a natural uplift.  Forest Bathing, a Japanese practice called shinrin-yoku, recommends just 20 minutes outdoors in nature to receive the benefits.

Making a ritual of moving your body and breathing deeply while outside in the fresh air is one of the most effective ways to care for yourself. It’s great for hormonal balance, clearing your mind, and the well-being of your body. It’s been proven time and time again by horticultural therapists working with clients who have dementia or children with autism. When they bring their clients outside, they are suddenly calmer. They can process and hold the exact same kind of conversation much better than they would indoors. Especially, when they are guided to engage with their surroundings by touching leaves, noticing smells, or paying attention to the breeze. It triggers positive feelings and restores balance.

Elaine practices what she preaches and spends most of her time outdoors. She spends the whole summer out in her garden or yard. If she’s having a melancholy day in the middle of winter, she’ll head to the conservatory or Shelmerdine’s and wander.

6. YOU EAT HEALTHIER

Eating home-grown food is much better for you (and cheaper) than most of the food at the grocery store. You are doing your body a huge favour by filling it and by feeding it food grown right from your backyard. Or, from inside your house! It really is incredible what you can manage to grow inside if you have the time to dedicate to it.

7. CARING FOR YOUR PLANTS CAN REPLACE NEGATIVE HABITS

Habitual candy-eating or Netflix-bingeing aren’t things we necessarily feel good about after. But, the routine of caring for house plants or tending to a garden is a habit that’s good for the body, mind, and soul. There’s always tending that can be done and it’s a ritual that forces you to slow down.

8. CERTAIN PLANTS CAN HELP YOU SLEEP BETTER

There are plants, like lavender, that have soothing scents and are known to lull one to sleep. But, even better than that, are the plants that give off oxygen at night, rather than taking it. Those are the ones you definitely want in your bedroom. Snake plants, aloe vera, succulents, and orchids are a few that are great for this!

9. YOUR SUCCESS IS INCREDIBLY REWARDING

Planting a seed, watching it grow, then harvesting it to eat is SATISFYING. Noticing that the plant on your dining room table is standing a little taller than before makes you feel good about yourself. Or bragging rights earned by throwing a dash of the rosemary you grew into a meal. It doesn’t matter who you are, successfully nurturing a plant is uplifting.

Words by Meghan Zahari from Rogue Wood Supply

Photos by @the.whiitehouse

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

OUR GARDENS: EARLY SPRING PLANTER

Don’t let the early spring showers and sunbeams fool you — those long-awaited frost-free days of summer are still a good few weeks away. But for those of us that can’t wait to fill our planters with something pretty in the meantime, this is the perfect project for beautifying your containers.  For early spring, the key is using plants that are cold-tolerant. Here, we used pansies, which are one of the only plants which are hardy enough to handle varied springtime conditions, along with curly willow and pussywillow branches.

Let’s start planting!

You may already know that the ‘tried and true’ composition for a show-stopping planter design includes a thriller, a filler and a spiller.

  • The thriller being the attention-grabber, and visual anchor for the pot — the curly willow in this case.
  • The filler is a mid-height component that fills out the design — our pussy willows play this role nicely.
  • And, finally, and the spiller effectively spills down and trails over the pot’s edge — that’s where the pansies come in. And while these varieties of pansies won’t truly spill out of the planter, the pop of colour near the bottom provides an element of contrast.

With these three components working together, you have a cohesive design that is interesting to the eye. The result is a fresh and joyful spring planter that will withstand whatever weather spring throws at us — perfect for spring! Learn more tips and tricks by joining us for two FREE seminars this month! Container Gardening for Beginners is happening Thursday, April 27 from 6:30-7:30 pm and Container Gardening for Master Gardeners is Saturday, April 29 from 11:00 am to 12 pm.

Words + photos by Sarah Carson @the.botanical

 

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

INSPIRATION: ELEGANT EASTER TABLE SETTING

Spring is the time of fresh blooms and the slow return of those sweet pink, purple and yellow hues.  It makes sense then, that these are the colours often associated with Easter decor. But since we tend to err on the side of green, we thought we’d play with a little something different this year. Here’s a little dose of inspiration for a fresh and undeniably elegant table runner or centrepiece — perfect for spring.

How’d we do it? First, we used reindeer moss to create a soft, but bold, bed of greenery. From there, we layered different varieties of tillandsias, otherwise known as ‘air plants’ along with naturally green-hued farm eggs.  The beauty of decorating with tillandsias is that they only need light, air and moisture to live.  They don’t require soil, so they can be placed just about anywhere.  These soy candles from Winnipeg’s own Soy Harvest Candle provide the perfect pop of colour to complete this table setting. Notice how they highlight the pink-streaked tillandsias?

You could also experiment with small potted succulents, ferns, twigs or low vases of fresh cut flowers.

Now that you’ve set the table, just add a simple frittata, a batch of mimosas and a few friends, and you have an elegant springtime brunch.

Happy Easter!

Words + photos by Sarah Carson @the.botanical

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

HOW-TO: LOG PLANTER

Blog Cover Shelmerdine

Let’s go into the woods . . .

From ferns, to mosses, to vast forests of tall spruce, it’s clear that all things woodland have been a great source of inspiration this season.  So when we got our hands on these log planters, we dove right into creating a woodland-inspired planter to bring a little bit of the woods into any urban backyard. This project is a great opportunity to work with new plants and get creative. And it’s super simple.

All you need is a log planter, some gravel (these planters do not have drainage), potting soil, and plants of your choice. Simply start by filling the planter with an inch or two of gravel or stones and then you’re ready to get your hands dirty and pot your plants.

Here, we used a small fern, a dwarf Japanese Cedar and an Eastern Hemlock for distinct woodland vibes, but you could use any combination of annuals or small indoor plants.  We finished off our planter with a layer of wood chips, but topping with Spanish moss would also create a unique effect.

 

Shelmerdine Blog

Shelmerdine PLanter with Pots

Happy planting!

Words + photos by Sarah Carson @the.botanical

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

GROW: THE JOY OF SEED STARTING

For gardeners everywhere, we are approaching an undeniably exciting time — spring is near! As for us, we’re a few short weeks away from our annual Spring Open House, so we’re extra excited to see all of you in our greenhouse again. Now is the time to start thinking about all things green, like starting seeds for this summer’s vegetable garden. If you’ve tired starting your own seeds, you’re in for a treat. Not only does it save save you money, it’s a rewarding practice that extends the gardening season and allows you to get to know your plants a little better. And it’s easy. Here are the basics to get your started:

  1. Select your seeds:
    This is half the fun! There are so many varieties out there – from your grandparents favorites to new gourmet vegetables.  New this year, we’re excited to be carrying West Coast Seeds, an amazing organic seed collection from right here in Canada. They offer an assortment of untreated, non-GMO seeds with some truly unique heritage varieties we just can’t wait to try (wasabi radishes, anyone?).
  2. Set the stage:
    While grow lights are becoming more and more popular, you can have a great deal of success with a simple set up on a sunny windowsill. Egg cartons or other upcycled containers work well, but our pick is a handy windowsill starter kit that includes everything you need to start your seeds with confidence.  It’s important to use seed starting soil, which is light enough for seeds to sprout through, and a heating mat which will help to speed up germination time. 
  3. Plan your schedule:
    While it’s tempting to start as soon as possible, planting too early means you run the risk of plants being ready for planting before the ground is. A good rule of thumb is to start seeds about six to eight weeks before you wish to plant them outdoors. To make sure you get it right, consult this germination chart for our Zone 3 climate — or the instructions on your seed package — to ensure you’re planting at the optimal time for each variety.
  4. Plant:
    Simply plant your seeds following the directions on your seed package. Remember to plant a few extra of each variety to account for those seeds that may fail to germinate, and be sure to clearly label each pod.
  5. Take care:
    Make use of a spray bottle for watering in the early days of germination. From there, keep the soil moist and never allow it to dry out. Let them bask in the sunlight and your seedlings will be sprouting before you know it!

Happy Seed Starting! 

Want to learn more? Join us on Saturday, March 11 for our FREE Indoor Growing and Seed Starting Class and save 20% off all seeds and seed starting materials from March 4 – 11.  

Words + Photos by Sarah Carson @the.botanical

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

HOW-TO: BOTANICAL GIFT TOPPERS

Amid the rush to ‘get it all done’ before the holidays, it’s easy to forget to take a moment now and again to stop and truly enjoy the season.  The sight of a carefully decorated tree, the smell of fresh greenery in the house — it’s the little things that make the holidays so magical.  And while that to-do list will not magically disappear, we can all carve out a little time to complete our tasks in a mindful and nourishing way. This year, take a moment to slow down and opt for a little botanical inspiration that will dress up any gift, big or small.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Paper: For the earthy look, go for kraft, simple white or upcycled newspaper.
  • Toppers: The options are endless. Spruce and cedar clippings are easily found at this time of year, or opt for a clipping from a houseplant if you’ll be giving the gift immediately. A sprig of fresh rosemary is a great edible option, and one you can pick up at the grocery store.
  • Little Extras: Twine, butcher string, or jute make great alternatives to store-bought ribbon.

While the final result is elegant, simplicity is the essence of this approach — you can use whatever you have on hand.  The best part? You’ll reap all of the added benefits of working with some plants — the perfect thing to calm a stressful Christmas mind.

Merry Christmas!

Words + Photos by Sarah Carson @the.botanical

Friday, December 9th, 2016

HOW TO: BOTANICAL ICE LANTERNS

Trim the tree, hang the wreath and finish the baking — but then what?  We have just the little project to light up your front steps as guests start to arrive at your front door!  So turn up the Christmas carols while you make these botanical ice lanterns that will bring that little extra sparkle and festivity as we approach the darkest time of year.

ice-lantern-shelmerdine

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

– an ice lantern mold

– water

– foraged finds (try cedar or spruce sprigs, or a clipping or two from an indoor houseplant)

– festive fruits (think cranberries, or sliced oranges or lemons)

– tealights candles (either LED or traditional will do)

HOW TO:

  1. Simply add your choice of botanical elements to the mold and fill with water.  Keep in mind that some of your ‘fillings’ may tend to float in water, which means they’ll end up concentrated at the bottom of your ice candle once frozen. To prevent this, add a few orange slices or cranberries, for example, to the mold and cover with just enough water to freeze in place. Once frozen, you may add yet another layer, or simply finish the lantern by filling with water.
  2. Set outside, or pop in the freezer until frozen solid. To remove the lantern, simply allow the mold to thaw a few minutes, or run under some warm water until it slides out.
  3. Light a candle and carefully place in the center of the mold.

That’s it! The sky’s the limit — the ice mold can be used as a table centrepiece, an ice cooler, even a festive dip chiller for entertaining! Want to change up the color of the ice? Just add a little food coloring to the water. Have fun creating different combinations to light up your walkway and garden this winter.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Words + Photos by Sarah Carson @the.botanical

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

RECIPE BOX: HOT MULLED WINE

‘Tis the season for entertaining! Whether you’re searching for the perfect something to spice up a holiday gathering or find yourself hosting unannounced guests, we present to you a positively stress free solution — serve up a batch of Glögg!  This Glögg – the Swedish translation for hot mulled wine – recipe is about as simple as it gets — meaning you will have a crowd-pleasing festive holiday drink ready in just a few minutes.  

shelmerdine-hot-mulled-wine-glogg

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 bottle red wine

– 1/3 cup honey (we used John Russell creamed honey with saskatoons)

– 1 navel or blood orange, sliced into rounds

– 2-3 piece of of each cloves, star anise, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cardamom, black peppercorns, or 1 package of Crave Mulling Spices

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Simply combine honey, sliced orange, and spices in a large pot and place over medium heat, adding just a small glug of wine to start (water works just as well here) to create a syrup-like consistency. Bring this spice base to a boil, and then turn down to simmer for a minumum of 4-5 minutes.  The longer you let it mull, the better it tastes!
  2. Add the remainder of the wine and turn the heat down to low, allowing the wine to warm gradually without coming to a boil (and burning off alcohol content).
  3. Ladle Glögg into mugs, garnishing with a cinnamon stick or a slice of fresh orange.
  4. Enjoy!

Tip: The pressure is off here. Use whatever combination of spices you have on hand — and feel free to use ground spices in place of whole. Simple wrap the ground spices in a resuable tea bag or some cheesecloth. Don’t have oranges? Substitute for chopped apples or raisins. Also, you may wish to substitute the hot red wine for apple juice or tea to create a sweet, alcohol-free version of this festive drink.

Cheers to the holidays!

Words + Photos by Sarah Carson @the.botanical