Gadbois: A New Year’s List from A to Z

An alphabet of gardening trends from the past decade into the next.

A is for … APPLES – some tart, some sweet can be found at the Harvest Moon Orchard or on Saturday mornings in the fall at the Carp Farmers’ Market. These delicious apples, which include all the well-known varieties and many heritage ones, are mostly dwarf grown espalier-style to maximize yield, using appropriate integrated pest management and non-toxic cultural practices.

B is for … BENEFICIAL INSECTS, like bees, ladybugs and ground beetles, are to be enticed and welcomed into the garden for they ensure and enhance the balance of life. The trend here is to spare the insecticides and plant pollinator attracting flowers, establish bee hibernation boxes, etc.

C is for … CONSERVING water and energy and gardening smart, while accomplishing the necessary planting and maintenance, but making it a relative breeze, a pleasure and an art.

D is for … DECOR. Our winters being so long and arduous, we strive to take advantage of as much outdoor time as possible during the summer months. The ever-growing trend of outdoor living areas with its decks, pergolas, gazebos, fire pits, outdoor kitchens and other garden rooms will continue into the 2020s.

E is for … ECO-FRIENDLY gardening practices. So many of our past gardening activities included some elements which were not at all friendly to the environment. Herbicides, insecticides, lawn amendments, non compostable plastic pots, etc…have been slowly replaced by more eco-friendly choices.

F is for … FOLIAGE. Garden accents used to be focused mainly on flowers. Now, interesting foliage has become a rival focal point. Colour (the golds, burgundies, reds – all year round and not only in the fall – and the variegated) and texture (leaf shape and size, decorative grasses, climbers) can add special interest to our landscape and containers.

G is for … GARDEN TOURS and the opportunities they provide to see what grows in our area and to get new and fresh ideas about what might work for us. Most garden clubs host garden tours in the summer, and arts and crafts tours often include gardens in the summer and fall.

H is for … HEIRLOOM varieties – fruit as mentioned above and vegetables (for me, especially tomatoes) – the saving and sharing of seeds from year to year and the encouragement of cultural diversification in our gardens.

I is for … INVASIVE SPECIES, especially the dreaded Wild Parsnip with its harmful sap, the Phragmites which have taken over our natural wetlands and roadside ditches, and the ubiquitous Buckthorn, among others. Efforts are being made to eradicate these thugs, but they continue to be a constant challenge.

J is for … JOURNAL. Keeping a garden journal or album of pictures from year to year can provide great satisfaction in seeing the progress of our efforts. The journal can be in hard copy or online.

K is for … KIN Vineyards, just outside of Carp, our local winery and organizer of special events, a good community member and a nice stop along the way for a pleasant taste of the wine grown from vines on our local West Carleton terroir.

L is for … LARCH (Larix laricina), a.k.a Tamarack, a native humid terrain-loving tree with soft green needles emerging in the spring and brilliant orange needles in the fall just before the needles fall. (Stands of Larches can be seen on the March Road just around Bear Hill Road.)

M is for … MULCH, that powerhouse of earthen amendment – brown gold. Kitchen scraps, veggie garden tailings, leaves, branches, grass cuttings – all contribute to the mix.  M is also for MONARCH BUTTERFLY, emblem of habitat restoration and renewal, of communities becoming more conscious of natural habitat and interdependencies.

N is for … NATIVE PLANTS, i.e., species of plants indigenous to our area which grow well in our terrain and conditions. They thrive but are not invasive. Native planting is a trend which continues to grow.

O is for … ORGANIC gardening, of course!  Many more vendors are now claiming to be certified organic and their produce can be found in supermarkets and at the various farmers’ markets in our area.

P is for … PERMACULTURE, a garden design technique which is  a multi-faceted, integrated and ecologically harmonious method of designing a landscape. It uses the natural environment to sustain and enhance human life.

Q is for … QUESTIONS about how to tackle gardening challenges and problems. It’s never been easier to find advice about gardening:  from the ubiquitous gardening blogs and columns online to the many accessible one-on-one mentorship opportunities available through membership in local garden clubs, the Master Gardener groups in Ottawa and Lanark County and local nurseries which also provide expert advice.

R is for … RAISED BEDS, easy on the back. They discourage some bugs and bunnies from devouring our vegetable plantings. They can contain some of the more invasive species (like mint), keep weeds at bay, prevent soil compaction and provide good drainage. They are attractive and organized so visitors to the garden are often impressed.

S is for … SHRUBS of any variety, the best of garden friends, always there to soften an edge, frame a view or fill in a hole, provide shelter for wildlife, cheer up a corner, provide privacy, brighten up a vista by adding colour in the spring and fall.

T is for …TULIPS and their bulbs, the harbingers of spring, the symbol of friendship between the Netherlands and Canada, a commemorative symbol and the annual pride of the City of Ottawa. A few years ago, they celebrated Canada’s 150th in blooms of red and white and this year they will help us remember the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Holland in blooms of orange.

U is for … UNSTRUCTURED naturalistic gardens which have become a hot trend. Have your garden blend into its natural environment by encouraging native species, so long as they are not invasive. Lawns are replaced by plants and flowers. Maintenance is minimized, water is saved, plants and insects thrive.

V is for … VEGETABLES and the trend to grow your own. More and more homeowners and apartment dwellers are setting up their own veggie patches, in raised beds, in pots and in containers on their balconies.  Community gardens are a big trend. It is very satisfying to eat fresh vegetables and herbs that you have grown yourself.

W is for … WALLS, living walls, that is.  Their popularity is on the rise. Indoors, vertical wall planting can add visual interest to a room, reduce ambient noise, grow herbs all year round, and help clean the air. (A good example of this is at Alice’s Village Cafe in Carp, in the back sunroom.) Outside, vertical planted walls can provide screening between two garden areas, maximize planting space in a small backyard garden, and offer planting space on a porch or on an apartment or condo balcony.

X is for … XERISCAPING, a practice made common over the past few decades to conserve moisture in the garden in times of drought by replacing moisture demanding plants with natives and cultivars which tolerate dry periods, by conserving rain water from roofs into  barrels and by diverting water from storm runoff into guided water garden beds.

Y is for … YOURSELF. Take the time to smell the roses, as they say. The early morning walks through the garden in the spring to see what has popped up, the afternoon sit in the gazebo with a cool drink and a good book, the time spent on the porch with binoculars in hand to spot a passing hummingbird …these are the quiet pleasures of the garden.

Z is for … ZEN, the meditative power of calm and tranquility for those gardeners who prefer  an ordered and controlled environment, often with patterned beds of gravel or sand, small water features and trimmed vegetation.

Whatever your favourite gardening trend and practice, may 2020 bring you many golden opportunities to indulge and experiment, to create and express yourself through rewarding gardening experiences.

Happy New Year!