Black gold. That is what gardeners call the dark, rich stuff that comes out of the compost bin once it has done its job. Partners who share a garden (and compost bin) have been known to do battle over who lays claim to this rich earth. Composting has been going on for eons in some

A Rose Between Many Thorns

Roses are high maintenance.  I love the perfume and the flower itself but can’t quite see myself having a typical rose garden.  I’ve tried one or two in the past but have never spent the time needed to make them really successful.  They like to be pampered and I’m not one for coddling.  There is

Ladybug – The Ultimate Party Crasher

Soon we’ll be heading into some warm weather but with that brings some unwanted visitors to the garden. Namely aphids. Those little suckers (literally) start to emerge from out of nowhere it seems and one day you’ll notice that they’ve decided to party on your rose bush and have invited the whole aphid neighbourhood to join

How to Kill a Plant

The quickest way to kill a plant…let me count the ways. You spend a few hours, happily wandering around the garden centre, oohing and ahhing over all the pretty plants, jumping back and forth between choosing a broadleaved evergreen Escallonia or a deciduous Spiraea.  Finally, your choice made, you nestle your newly purchased treasure in

Fall & Winter Vegetables

With summer in full swing I am already planning for winter and for next spring at the garden centre, putting final numbers together for Christmas trees, booking my roses and rhodos for next year and guessing as to how many trowels and rakes you’ll buy. And there’s no reason you shouldn’t be planning, too!  While you

Deer, oh Deer

  “What don’t the deer eat?” It’s still the number one question we get asked at the garden centre and we still can’t give you a definite answer. Whether you think deer are beautiful and have every right to eat, too, or you think they’re a nuisance, you probably don’t appreciate spending a lot of

Growing Potatoes in Pots

Grow potatoes in a pot? Sure, why not! If you are cramped for space in the garden or live in a condo with only a balcony that doesn’t mean you have to be without home grown potatoes! Spuds can be grown quite easily in a container as long they get lots of sun and you’re

Spring Lawn Care

It is not necessarily greener on the other side but if it is then it usually means that your neighbour is looking after their lawn and you’re not.  While I’m not all about the golf green lawn, trimmed to within an inch of its life, every blade in perfect position, I must admit I do

Those Big Purple Flowers

“What are those big purple lollipop flowers and do you have any?” is a question we get quite a bit in late spring when people see these flowers blooming in someone else’s garden.  They’re alliums and they are available in the fall as a packaged bulb. While a member of the onion family, alliums are

Fall Cover Crops

Leave a patch of ground bare and Mother Nature will soon fill it with something and, more often than not, with something you don’t want (like what’s in the picture). Take vegetable gardens for example.  As we harvest the last of the beans we rip out the plants, maybe rake the soil out nice and

Shady Shrubs

Sunny days are here again and with that sun comes the “it’s too hot, I need to find some shade to sit in!”   Well, you’re not the only one who likes a shady spot.  Here are some shady shrubs that prefer to beat the heat and stretch their roots in the cool understory of larger trees. While

Spotty Leaves

This is the time of year customers arrive at the garden centre with their little bags of plant problems, one of which is spots on leaves.  Usually spots are caused by fungi with really long names that are difficult to remember, and by bacteria, viruses and even insects.  Sometimes it’s easy to tell what the

Majestic Magnolias

Some of the best things this time of year are the flowering trees.  While ornamental cherries are popular they’re susceptible to problems so I tend to stay clear of them in my yard however I cannot be without majestic magnolias. Not a wall flower by any means, the magnolia certainly demands attention.  There are many

Small Plants for Small Areas

While we may drool over big, blousy English Gardens, expansive lawns for croquet or badminton games and large patios on which to entertain, the reality is a lot of us have small yards, tiny balconies and little pockets of planting areas. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as small areas can be more interesting and

Rhodos and Azalea Care

This sun and warm weather are certainly bringing out the flowers and I’ve noticed a few rhododendrons and azaleas cracking some colour around town.  If you haven’t done so already this is the time to fertilize with a rhodo specific plant food such as GardenPro Rhodo & Azalea.  Just before flowering and just after is

My Love Hate Relationship with Ornamental Grasses

Every late summer, fall and winter I love ornamental grasses in the garden.  They stand tall (or short depending on the type), they bring life and movement, waving in the breeze, and they glisten and sparkle in the sun or frost.   Every spring I hate ornamental grasses in the garden, at least the warm season

Spruce Mites

Has your lovely Fat Albert turned ugly?  Is your Dwarf Alberta Spruce going brown and losing needles?  Is your Colorado Blue looking speckled?  It could be that you have spruce spider mites. Spruce spider mites are cool weather mites and love our climate.  They’re native to North America and usually feast on spruce trees but

It’s Not Quite Spring Yet

Some days the winter wind is a-blowin’ and the ground is frozen.  Other days there’s a thick layer of fog weighing down your spirit.  Or it’s raining.  But on those sunny, mild West Coast winter days you want to get out in the garden and DO something!  Resist.  It’s not quite spring yet. On days

Dormant Oil

January.  The month of wishful thinking for those of us in the garden centre industry.  Christmas is over and now we just want to get on with spring.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature might still have some winter in store for us and that means we can only dream of warmer seasons. Wait a minute, we live

My Roots

This is where I got my love of gardening from…my parents.  They are both in their mid eighties and still gardening strong.  Here is a glimpse into their gardens, Mom’s English garden and Dad’s edibles (the key to a long marriage is having your own space to garden). Warning:  this is not a ‘perfect’ garden

Growing Amaryllis

Amaryllis bulbs are a popular gift this time of year when you don’t know what to get someone or to give as a hostess gift.  They’re big, they’re beautiful (well, they will be when they’re blooming) and they bring a lot of bang for your buck because they can bloom for weeks and weeks, sending

Paperwhites ~ Easy to grow!

If you’re one of those who don’t have a green thumb, one who manages to kill even the hardiest of plants, and one who receives silk plants for gifts instead of a potted azalea then have I got a project for you!  Paperwhites! These bulbs are the easiest things to grow.  They even start growing

Flower Bulbs – Size DOES Matter

Look at that sunshine!  Can you get better bulb planting weather than this?  I think not.  October is the perfect month for planting all kinds of things from trees, perennials, shrubs, garlic and, of course, fall flower bulbs. Fall flower bulbs, also called spring flowering bulbs, consist of daffodils, tulips and crocus to name the

Fabulous Fall Planters

As the roads empty of RVs, replaced by big orange busses filled with children I find myself turning away from the colours of summer.  The planters filled with bright annuals that need constant watering are no longer welcome on my patio.  Removing spent blooms to encourage more isn’t something I’m fastidious about this late in

Fish Observatory

If you’ve stopped by Cultivate this summer you may have noticed that the fish in our pond had an upgrade on their accommodations.   They now have a glass observatory that they can swim up into and have a good look around at their digs…and at you, too! Quite a few customers have taken pictures and

Perennials for Summer Colour

The best perennials for summer colour, in my opinion, have to be Rudbeckias, Echinaceas and Coreopsis.  If you are partial to daisy-like flowers in warm sunset colours and bright yellows then you’ll be pleased to know that we usually have a great selection at Cultivate through the summer. Rudbeckia fulgida, often referred to as Black

Watering Woes

“How often should I be watering my garden/plant/tree/container?”  The answer to this is “I don’t know.”  Now that probably isn’t the answer you want to hear and really I’d rather sound smart and knowledgeable and whip off a great reply but to be honest there are so many variables in these situations that there really

Succulent Succulent Planters

Strawberry pots, those multi-pocketed clay or ceramic containers, don’t have to be used just for planting strawberries.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever planted strawberries in mine!  Instead, over the years, mine has been home mostly to herbs or succulents. Since strawberry pots have shallow cups around the sides of the container they tend

What do those numbers mean?

N-P-K, that mysterious formula.  What does it all mean?  Trust me; you’re not the only one who gets confused by those numbers on fertilizer bottles.  In fact, I’d say you’re in the majority so don’t be shy when you’re looking for the right food for your plant as it’s important to get the proper fertilizer

Growing Citrus

When you think of citrus fruits you think of a warmer climate south of the border, perhaps California and Florida, but why not grow them here?  With a little care you can certainly do that! While we don’t have the long hot summers and really mild winters there is no reason we can’t enjoy gardening

Those Rotten Tomatoes

Your tomatoes are planted and now you just need some warm days to get the ball rolling and the tomatoes growing, right?  Sure, that certainly helps but another thing you need to consider before the hot temperatures set in is to make sure you’re protected against Blossom End Rot. If you’re one of many who

Tigers & Bears in the Garden

I have tigers and bears in my garden but it’s nothing to be alarmed about.  These ones are small and fuzzy, move slow and can be easily squished under a shoe if you’re not looking.  I’m talking about caterpillars and my kids always want to keep them as pets while the knee-jerk reaction in me

Deer Resistant Choices for the Garden

Oh…deer.  Deer here, deer there, deer everywhere.  We moved in on their territory and now we want to kick them out.  Sounds like the makings of a movie but in real life this is a ‘battle’ some gardeners are facing.  Whether you love deer or not, they are here and they will be in your

Thriller, filler, spiller.

‘Tis the season for bedding plants and hanging baskets.  The greenhouse is stuffed full of pretty posies just waiting for you to take them home and pamper them all summer and, in turn, they reward you with bountiful blooms that draw admiring comments from everyone who sees them. But wait.  How do you choose from

Fairies Bring Good Luck

It is said that if you plant a miniature garden for fairies that something magical happens.  Years drop away, stress leaves you and you are transported into the world of make believe.  Nothing brings out the inner child in us more than when we plant a fairy garden. When I was growing up some of

Square Foot Gardening

Food gardens have always been popular but they seem to be even more so lately with concerns over pesticides and chemicals used in commercially produced crops.   There is no better way to control what lands on your family’s dinner plate than to grow it yourself.  Not much room for the traditional veggie garden?  Try square

Fruit Tree Pruning in Spring

It seems that fruit tree pruning can be a little intimidating for some and I admit, when facing a big apple tree that has been let go over the years, the job can be a tad daunting.  Just remember that pruning is basically done for health and esthetics.  Not your health, although no one said

Spring Pruning

I know, you’re just itching to get out in the garden and DO something!  You poke about under the mulch to see if what bulbs are coming up, you inspect the rose bushes to see if there is any life showing and you are just dying to do something, anything that might bring on spring

Starting Begonia Indoors

On these somewhat dismal days of winter gardeners are anxious to get dirt under their fingernails and the scent of soil in their nostrils.  While it’s a little early to be really doing much other than the odd job out in the garden there can be some fun to be had in the dirt indoors

Not so Deer-licious Bulbs

There’s a reoccurring theme at the garden centre in Parksville.  The question most asked, the number one requirement when picking out plants…“What can I plant that the deer don’t like???” As cute as Bambi and his family is, deer are not always a welcome addition to the garden.  While I enjoy watching them as much

Planting Garlic

Pungent, rich, flavourful garlic.  One little clove can turn a sauce from mundane and boring to tasty and delicious.  Not only is it tasty it’s packed full of allicin and diallyl sulphides.  Two big words that I don’t have room here to explain but generally have to do with health benefits. Late September and October

Seeding a New Lawn

The rain!  The rain!  It’s on its way!  I’m not sure whether to jump up and down in glee because the parched garden will finally get a drink or be down in the mouth because I don’t want summer to end and I know that once the rains start they just don’t let up.  Ah

Mason Bees

I am sometimes amazed by the smallest things (I think I just set myself up for a ’small minds’ comment).  How life spins its intricate web around us and most of the time we are unaware.  Nature has a way of taking even the simplest thing and making it a wondrous dance but if we

It’s Bedding Plant Season!

One minute we’re shivering and then BAM, its spring!  Where has the month gone?  All of a sudden its bedding plant time and product is moving out as fast as it’s coming in.  We always joke at the garden centre that we know its spring when there is a line up of trucks waiting at

Lavender. Deer, pest and disease resistant, drought tolerant, fragrant!

Deer resistant, fragrant, long blooming, drought tolerant, likes poor soil, good in containers or in the garden, edible, pretty much disease and pest resistant.  Have I described the perfect plant for you?   It’s nothing exotic or new, in fact it’s been around for a long, long time, dating back to the ancient Greeks and Roman

Paper Mulch, an Alternative to Landscape Fabric

Spring is here and with it comes projects in the garden.  Whether by choice or by the appearance of a list taped to your coffee mug one morning there’s always something that has to be done in the garden.  This time of year is a great time to tackle projects because it’s not too hot

Japanese Maples

When I hear ‘Japanese Maple’ it brings to mind cascading branches covered in wine red or green leaves next to a trickling waterfall.  This is a common setting for Japanese maples but there are so many cultivars now that there is a tree for almost any spot in the garden whether it’s by a water feature or as a


April showers…we all know how that saying ends and it is a very true phrase although sometimes we get snow in April but lets keep quiet about that.  With that rain comes peonies and the reminder that it is important to stake them otherwise their heavy heads, laden with water, will be resting on the

Then and Now. Garden Lore and Musty Books

Gardening is both ever evolving and stuck in time.  It’s full of new technology and old wives tales.  Some practices that were used a hundred years ago still hold true today while new technology tempts us at every turn to make the job easier, lighter or faster.  We’ve planted by the moon, by day length,

Eco Lawn

Get out your lawn mower; spring is here!  At least it is this week, next week may be another story but I feel we’ve turned the corner on Old Man Winter and we’re leaving him in the dust.  If your lawn is looking sparse, you’re over seeding after raking out moss or you’re starting a


Besides bringing showers, April is typically the month that brings customers to the store in search of a solution for getting rid of grubs, mostly in the lawn.  Grubs can be cutworms that chew through the roots and stems of your perennials, leatherjackets which are the larvae of the European Crane Fly (those stupid looking

Chess Pieces or Hedging??

Ahhhh spring.  Robins chirping, bulbs poking out of the ground, cherry trees all abloom and hedging cedars travelling en masse down the streets.  Yes, this is the time of year that garden renovation ideas that have formed throughout the quiet winter months take shape.  Trenches are dug, soil is brought in, sprinkler lines get hooked

Growing Blueberries

Mmmmmm, blueberries.  Sun warmed blueberries plucked right off the bush and popped in the mouth.  Blueberries sprinkled liberally over vanilla ice cream or in the cereal bowl.  Blueberry crisp, hot out of the oven.   Blueberry muffins…I could go on but I think you get the picture and maybe you’re salivating for blueberries now.  That’s good

The Lowly Spud

My life wouldn’t be the same without the humble spud.  I love potatoes.  Roasted, baked, mashed or ‘new’ potatoes done in foil on the bar-be-que with a little butter, fresh herbs, garlic clove, a dash of red wine and a few shallots are to die for. Potatoes are low in fat (it’s what we add to them

The Dirt on Dirt

The industry joke about dirt is that if it’s in a bag and sold in a garden centre it’s called ‘soil’.   Perceived value, I guess.  Who wants to pay money for dirt? Today the ‘dirt’ we sell is actually more than just dirt; it’s rich in organic matter, has peat moss or composted manure mixed

Spring Lawn Care

It is not necessarily greener on the other side but if it is then it usually means that your neighbour is looking after their lawn and you’re not.  While I’m not all about the golf green lawn, trimmed to within an inch of its life, every blade in perfect position I must admit I do

Summer Blooming Bulbs

Is it Spring yet?  Almost.  March 19th is the last day of winter.  Ever notice how the word winter sounds so cold and dark yet one day later its spring and everything is joyous and light?  Funny how that works.  Well, spring is certainly going to arrive the third week of March so get ready

Raspberries, How to Prune and When

“What do I do with my raspberry plants right now?” This is a question we hear at the garden centre a lot so obviously there’s some mystery as to when to cut back raspberry canes, if one should at all, and how to go about it. Raspberries grow from perennial roots that produce stems called

Pruning Hydrangeas

“When and how do I prune hydrangeas?” is one of the questions frequently asked at  Cultivate.  Hydrangeas seem to be one of those mysterious plants where no one is really sure how to go about tackling them.  It’s a shame all plants can’t be treated the same because then the answer would be simple but

Dahlias, Easy to Grow

Dahlias are one of my favourite flowers to cut for a vase in the house.  Partially because there are so many blooms on one plant that you hardly miss them when you cut a few and partially because they last so long in the house.  The other reason is that they are delightful.  Each flower is

Hellebores, Quiet Beauties of Winter

Is it winter or spring?  You just can’t tell by looking out the window lately but if the garden’s progress is any indication I think spring is here and old man winter is on his way out if he hasn’t shut the door behind him already.  While not quite official, spring brings many delights when

Why We Should Lime

Here on the wet West Coast we get rain.  I’m sure you know that already but how does a lot of rain make our gardens different from those in Kamloops,Vernon or in other parts of the country?  Besides helping the plants and grass grow lush and green, lots of rain has a tendency to make

Fall Blooming Crocus

When you think of crocus you picture bright yellow and purple flowers, planned en masse and bringing cheer after a long, dreary winter.  What if I told you that you could get another season of crocus cheer?  Well, you’d better hurry into the garden centre now. Fall blooming crocus, autumn crocus and colchicums usually fly under the

Bullies in the Garden, Invasive Plants You Don’t Want

No one likes to be bullied.  In the schoolyard, at the work place or anywhere else.  Even in the plant world there are bullies.  They’re quiet, they’re stealth and sometimes they’re even beautiful but they are bullies just the same.  I’m talking about invasive plants.  From the popular English Ivy (Hedera helix) to dainty looking

Fall Leaves (don’t throw them away!)

Nothing announces a change in the season more than falling leaves. Who doesn’t have a memory of jumping in a freshly raked pile or kicking up big maple leaves on a trail through the forest, collecting the biggest leaf you can find and pressing it in a book? While fall can bring back childhood memories

Sea Soil (and why it’s so great)

If anyone has ever talked to me at the garden centre about soil, mulch or what to use when planting trees and shrubs then they know about my love affair with Sea Soil.  I am a HUGE fan of Sea Soil, I use it in my garden, I recommend it for just about all plantings,

Ooey-gooey Pear Slug

So, there I am, wandering about my garden, wondering what I’m going to start the fall season off with in the way of an article.  It’s a little early for bulbs, too late for annuals, perennials have had their time in the sun, grass is brown and I just don’t like chrysanthemums much.  I stop

Summer Planting

I had so many things to write about this week but one question keeps popping up at the garden centre that I figured I’d answer it here.  Yes, you CAN plant in the summer!   Sure, there are a couple of caveats to that statement but generally, yes, you can and why not?  The weather is

Rose Pruning in Spring

  In March it can be almost shirtsleeve weather one minute then you turn around and there are a few drops of rain which turns into hail which then settles into snowflakes.  Do you break out the patio furniture or the snow shovel? With the weather so unpredictable it’s hard to know when to do what in

Cool, Wet Weather Brings a Host of Problems

I’m sure the talk over the garden fence these days is about the dismal weather we’ve been having.  While perennials and shrubs love the cool, damp forecast so do Botrytis, Black Spot, Shot Hole, Powdery Mildew and a long list of other garden related diseases that we’re just starting to hear about it at the