Posts Tagged ‘flowers’

Inspiration at Butchart Gardens

Last week we visited Victoria, British Columbia. During our visit we got to spend half a day at the Butchart Gardens. For a garden lover like myself this place is fantastic. For me it was the second visit, I’d been there over 20 years ago. For my wife it was her first visit.

In 1904 the Butcharts developed a quarry and cement factory at Tod Inlet on Vancouver Island. They also built their beautiful home there. The quarry was rich in the limestone essential to making cement. They exported to the rest of Canada and to the US.

As the limestone was exhausted the Butcharts began to transform a barren and stark quarry – a giant hollowed out area – into beautiful gardens. They hauled in tons of soil by horse and cart from a nearby farm.

Between 1906 and 1929 they created a beautiful Japanese Garden. A sunken garden, Italian Garden, a Rose Garden and more followed until the entire quarry was transformed into a chorus of trees, shrubs, and flowers.

On his 21st birthday their grandson, Ian, was given the garden and he spent the rest of his life developing it and opening it to the public. The garden remains in the family having been passed down through the generations.

It took us over two hours to see the entire garden, walking slowly along perfectly maintained paths, across bridges and by water fountains and other fixtures. For me the showcase of the gardens are the immaculate lawns and the extensive beds of flowers and bushes. They plant over a million bedding plants each year. Nearly a million people a year visit from around the world.

I’ve included only one photo here of his amazing garden. To see much more go to their site here.

The Butchart gardens are in inspiration to any gardener. They show the potential. On returning home I dived into improvements in our gardens inspired by what I saw.

Our gardens surrounding our home have been a labor of love for 15 years and will continue to be so. The inspiration gained from viewing the Butchart Gardens only give me more energy to develop our gardens further.

If you ever get the chance to see these gardens in British Columbia I hope you take it. They are a ferry ride from Seattle, Vancouver BC or Port Angeles, Washington. It is well worth the trip.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy


Apple Tree Garden

Apple Tree Garden

Apple Tree Garden

For all the years we have lived here the space below the apple tree in the back yard has been a challenge. It is shaded most of the day and the soil is high in clay. I’ve not wanted to dig too deeply there for fear of injuring the tree’s roots. At times it has been covered in bark dust and at times has been a weed patch.

This year we decided to beautify it. It has also become a memorial garden. Here are buried the remains of the three pet rats that Braeden and Dannica loved so much. And here lie some of Dannica’s ashes. It is a very special place.

The burials are marked by a large cement stepping stone. The entire area is encircled with rounded river rock. I added a generous amount of new soil and compost and we planted a number of flowers.

This tree was a special place for Dannica. As a child she would climb into the tree and sit in the branches. The tree has always provided shade and beauty to our yard. It also provides small delicious apples, some years more and some years less.

The birds love the tree. I do not spray it so it is full of bugs which the birds love. Many of them also like the apples. Blue jays, sparrows, starlings, canaries, even humming birds have spent much time there.

Since we have flowers there now it gets watered often and the tree has been happier this summer than ever before because it is getting so much water. It has greener and healthier foliage than ever before. It is loaded with apples.

Below its branches is the little Apple Tree Memorial garden. It shall never be neglected by us again.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Melissa’s Garden




Clematis & Violets


South Garden






South Garden 2

My wife maintains a beautiful flower garden along the south side of our home. She selected nearly all the plants and maintains it. The photos on this page show the space which is about ten feet wide and about 50 feet long. A sidewalk runs down the center.

Notable among the plantings are a clematis which is doing really well this year and a rose bush that flowers like crazy. There is also a section of lavender that really attract the honey bees each year. She also gardens organically and no pesticides or herbicides are used in this garden.

Her approach is to nurture what grows well and she does not worry about what does not. Since it is a southern exposure it gets lots of sun and is very warm in the summer.

She loves traditional English flower gardens and their influence is seen here though she is not wedded to a single style. She just plants what she fancies and lets it thrive. If it dies she replaces it with something else. Few things die though.

I admire her carefree approach to gardening. I add compost yearly and she rarely feeds anything beyond that.

This is also the graveyard for many past pets who now dwell happily under the soil and under the many flowers and plants.

The Spring Question Springs Eternal

spring_flowersFirst the good news: It is spring!

This time of year the question is always how early to plant what. I tried planting peas in February last year and they did not do well. So this year I will plant them in the next week and hope for better results.

Cole crops come next. The plan is to plant them in the next two weeks – cauliflower and broccoli. No, the threat of frost is not past, in fact we had 30F one night and 32F for two nights last week. However the cold crops usually tolerate a few nights in the low 30s just fine so I will be bold.

On March 11 I planted some seeds in the greenhouse. Some of them have come up, some have not. I wanted to start pole beans early and they are mostly up. The Nasturtium and Marigolds are being more temperamental.

I will be planting hanging planters in the green house soon to get them started – the aim this year is to have many more hanging flower baskets than in recent years.

I have not yet finished the master plan for the vegetable garden for this year. It needs to get done soon and I will report on that in due course.

All the spring bulbs are up in their glorious color and have been for some time. In fact some of the daffodils are dying back already. Tulips are the latest bloomers, some are out and some are getting ready.

The grass needs cutting and the wild onions are still taunting me. A bad cold kept me away from the shovel for a few days – but I am on the mend so they better count their days.

Enjoy spring – it is a wondrous time of year.

The Importance and Plight of Bees

Right now if you go out in the garden where I libeeve you will not see a bee. In fact the only apparent pollinators you will see are the hummingbirds that do not migrate south here in the winter and they seem far more interested in our hummingbird feeders than in a flower.

Not that there are many flowers out now. We have some early crocus just opening. That is about it for this winter. I hope to get some more winter bloomers in here by next year. The other bulbs will follow this year though, before we know it those green shoots now inching up each day will bloom into beautiful tulips, daffodils, grape hyacinth, and narcissus.

This however is the time to plan what will go into the gardens in the spring. In that planning we should remember one of our most important garden creatures – bees.

A bee keeper was speaking on NPR radio recently and she discussed the precarious fate of bees in many places. There is a known pathogens and there appear to be as yet causes bee deaths we do not fully understand. The massive die offs of bees is referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD. Entire colonies of bees will die off in a short time.

She reports that many bee keepers are struggling to survive. There apparently is no government support for bee keeping and if they lose enough bees they can lose their business.

We depend on bees as our primary pollinator of many foods. It is critical that bees be saved both as an important species in nature and for our own food production.

So what can we do? She said there are two primary things we can do:

1. Not use pesticides, especially chemical pesticides and especially neurotoxin based pesticides. These poisons are known to kill and weaken bees.

2. Plant lots of flowers that will bloom throughout the year so that bees have a steady, diverse and bountiful food supply.

I never use pesticides so that one is easy. (I will on rare occasion use an organic or natural pesticide when necessary, but it is very rarely necessary.)

So I will concentrate on #2 – plant lots of flowers. In addition to my efforts with the vegetable garden this year I plan to add many more flowering plants to the front and back yard to help feed the bees. The bonus is that the flowers will also make the yard look nicer and make me feel better. After all there are few things that will make you feel better than gazing upon beautiful flowers, right?

As I plan my garden for this spring and summer I will be planning many flower additions and will write about them here.

How about you? Could you add some flowers to your yard? Could you plant some hanging containers for the season with flowers in them? Leave a comment and tell us what you are planning for flowers this year and if you find you can successfully garden without the use of chemical pesticides.

Happy gardening.