Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Best of 2015

From the post with the most Google +s

We are fast approaching the end of year, so I thought I would bid 2015 goodbye, with a "Best of" that features your favourite posts, based on a number of factors including reader page views.

Drum roll please...

Your Favourite Private Garden is pretty much a tie between two Nova Scotia gardens: 

Donna Ever's woodland garden: The Shady Woodland & the Gate of Lost Marbles.

Your Favourite Problem Solver would go to this post: More Ideas for that Narrow Space between Suburban Homes.

Most Popular Public Garden goes to the Rock Garden in Truro Nova Scotia.

Not far behind it, in second place, was this post: 10+ Favourite Shrubs.

Your Favourite Project was this hydrangea wreath.

Your Favourite Post Featuring my Garden among a number of others: Core Mid-Summer Plants and Pretty Combinations.

The post that received The Most Google +s: A trip to the Countryside.

The Post with the Most Comments was the one in which I wrote about the heartbreak of Rusty's tragic loss. My family and I were really touched by all your kind expressions of sympathy. 

A close second was this post, with our other two Shelties playing in the sprinkler last summer: Two Crazy Dogs in a Garden.

Salvia 'Cathedral Sky Blue'

I have lots of new posts in the works, but would love to hear from you. What topics would you love to see me cover in 2016?

Happy new year! All the best to you for 2016!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Holidays

Happy holidays to you and your family!
All the best for the new year!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Paper Rose Holiday Ornaments

I promise not to stray too far away from my blog's usual focus on gardening, but it's the holidays, and it's fun to do little celebratory projects.

These little rose ornaments are easy to do and they'd make great last minute gifts.

Here's what you need to make your own flower ornaments:

Materials and supplies you need to do this project:

• clear glass Christmas balls
• paper roses
• sprigs of seeded eucalyptus
• scissors
• wire cutters
• low heat glue gun and glue sticks
• ribbon, decorative string or metal ornament hanger

Just a few words about the materials in this project: Glass ornaments can be found in a variety of shapes at craft stores. I bought round balls and glass hearts.

For the flowers I chose roses, but you could use any type of paper flowers.

Paper roses can be found at craft stores, but I have also found them at the Dollar Store for a much cheaper price. It pays to shop around!

Step 1: We are going to begin this project by making rose buds and individual petals.

Moving around the circumference of a paper rose, gently push back on the outer row of petals until the rose and the row of petals become separated. Snip off the wire stem and set aside the rose bud. Altogether you will need 6 or more rose buds.

Don't discard the outer row of rose petals and leaves!

Separate the leaves and rose petals by gently pulling them apart. Cut the two sections into individual rose petals and leaves.

Step 2: Remove the top of your glass ornament.

Take your wire cutters and snip away the stems of 3 or 4 roses as cleanly and neatly as you can.

Fill the ornament with roses and the petals you made in step 1. (Tip: I glued a couple of roses back to back so they'd way always be facing out from inside the ornament.)

Place the top back on the ornament. Now you are ready to decorate the exterior.

Step 3: Put a dab of hot glue on the back of a rose and attach it to the top front of your ornament. Flip the ornament over and attach another flower on the top back.

Step 4: Centre two more roses in between the first two flowers.

Step 5: Tuck two of the rose buds you made earlier in between the roses at the top of the ornament to fill in the gaps. 

Place one last rose bud just below the centre rose to create a bit of a cascade down the front of the ornament. Repeat on the back, adding a bud just below the centre rose. 

Finish with a couple of green leaves at the sides of each bud.

The final step is the most finicky and involves working with small pieces of Seeded Eucalyptus. 

Seeded Eucalyptus is fairly easy to find. I found this bunch at the grocery store, but it is also commonly available at most florists. 

I fastened the stems of my Eucalyptus together with an elastic band and hung them to dry, as I plan to use the Eucalyptus for other projects. For this ornament project however, we are going to use just the seeds and not the foliage. The seeds of the Eucalyptus are so dry I think you should be able to use them right away, without taking the time to dry bunches of Eucalyptus first.

Step 6: Cut a large branch of seeds into small sections that are about 1/4" long (on the lower right hand side of my step 6 picture there is an example of these small stems)

Touch the seed's stem to the end of your glue gun to pick up the tiniest amount of hot glue. 

Tuck the seeds in among the paper roses.

Use some ribbon to create a hanger, or even easier, attach an ornament hook.

These ornaments would make a great stocking stuffer, hostess gift or present for your child's teacher.

Put your ornament in a pretty box and use more flowers instead of a bow. 
(I hot glued my flowers onto my gift box.)

I am sure any recipient would be thrilled with this heartfelt gift.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Book Review & Giveaway: The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh

How does a real life forest become the enchanted world that is at the heart in one of the most beloved children's stories of all time?

The path between the fiction and reality is not always direct. It's complicated and that's what makes the creative process so intriguing. I love the quote that appears in the dedication of the book I am about to review: "To the walkers of the world, who know that the beauty is in the journey."

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the One Hundred Acre Wood begins with a look at the forces that shaped the career of writer A.A. Milne; notably a happy childhood and a close relationship with his father.

If there were any surprises in the early pages of the book, it was the degree of freedom the A.A. Milne and his brother Ken were given as very young children to explore the natural world around them. Children these days so rarely enjoy such unsupervised play outdoors, which is really a rather sad commentary on modern society.

That in his day Milne was such a successful writer was also a bit of a surprise for me too. Most of his other writing seems to be largely forgotten. Odd that a children's book that marked a departure for the well known humorist, is the thing for which he is best remembered.

Taken from The natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh © Copyright 2015 by Kathryn Aalto. All right reserved. Published by Timber Press, Portland, OR. Used by permission of the publisher.

The first section of the book also touches on the life of illustrator E.H. Shepard and the close collaboration between writer and artist that can be credited for Winnie-the-Pooh's enduring appeal.

Next the book takes the reader on a nostalgic journey that explores the real life stories and locations that inspired the One Hundred Acre Wood and the creatures who live there. By way of example; there is the more than two hundred year old black walnut that was the inspiration for Pooh's house, the real Poohsticks Bridge and cluster of trees that formed the basis for the Enchanted Place where Pooh says a final goodbye to Christopher Robin.

The final chapter of the book provides a visitor's guide to the plants, animals and places in the real forest that became the fictional One Hundred Acre Wood. Thirty miles south of London, the Ashdown Forest is a landscape of heath and woodland that sat on the doorstep of Milne's home, Cotchford Farm.

                Taken from The natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh © Copyright 2015 by Kathryn Aalto. All right reserved. Published by Timber Press, Portland, OR. Used by permission of the publisher.

If you love the adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, you'll delight in the book's mix of illustrations by E.H. Shepard, historic pictures and the author's photographs of present day locations in the Ashdown Forest key to the stories.

I don't think you have to be a fan of Winnie-the-Pooh however, to want to read this book. In one of the classic stories, Pooh reasons, "If I plant a honeycomb outside my house, then it will grow up into a beehive."

All you really need to find interest in The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the One Hundred Acre Wood is a love for this kind of magical thinking.

"Sometimes', said Pooh,' The smallest things take up the most room in your heart."
                                                                                                                  A.A. Milne

The Book at a Glance:
Book Authors: Kathryn Aalto
Publisher: Timber Press
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 308 pp.
Images: 178 color photos, 21 color illustrations

Thomas Allen & Sons has given me a review copy of the new book: The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the One Hundred Acre Wood . I am going to give it away to one lucky reader.

Leave a comment if you would like to be included in the book draw. The draw will remain open for the next 7 days.

If you are not a blogger, you can enter to win on the Three Dogs in a Garden Facebook page. You are also welcome to send me a brief email with your entry to the draw.

Please, please make sure there is a way for me to track down your email address should your name be drawn. 

About the author:

Kathryn Aalto is a writer, landscape designer, historian and speaker. Teaching literature, designing gardens and writing about the natural world have been the focus of her most recent work. Kathryn grew up in California, but presently resides with her family in Devon, England. Among the many societies and associations, Kathryn is a member of the Garden Writers Association, the Society of Garden Designers and the Garden History Society. The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the One Hundred Acre Wood is her second book. To learn more, please visit the author's website: kathrynaalto.com

More Information and Links:

CBC Article: Winnie-the-Pooh Saga Turns 100 Years Old: As of August 24th, 2014 one hundred years had passed since Canadian soldier Lt. Henry Colebourn purchased an orphan bear cub whom he named Winnipeg the Bear (Winnie) after his home town. When Colebourn was called to the front, Winnie was given to the London Zoo. Read more about the actual bear that inspired the classic children's story by clicking the link.

Animal mascot's such as bears, dogs and goats were common in the first World War. Visit the Canadian War Museum's webpage the read more about these animal mascots.

Like Lt. Henry Colebourn, my great grandfather was responsible for his battalion's mascot in WW1. William Henry Guppy took Kitchener the bear to the London Zoo for safekeeping when he was called to the front. You can read all about his ride through the London streets in a hansom cab, with a Canadian bear at his side, in this post from my archives.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Jingle Berry Branches

December is here and it's time to think about decorating for the holidays ahead. Today I am sharing a simple, cheerful little project: jingle berry branches.

To make my faux berry branches you need:

• some very fine wire
• red jingle bells
• wire cutters
• some bare branches (from your garden or foraged respectfully)
• blue ribbon for a bow (optional)

Cut short lengths of wire and pass one end of the wire through the bell loop. 
Twist the wire on your bell closed.

Arrange the branches a pitcher or vase of your choice. This will make it easier to 
determine where to place your "berries".

Loop the wire around the branches a couple of times and snip off any excess. Press any sharp ends of the wire inward with your thumb nail, so you don't end up with thorny berry branches.

I couldn't resist adding a few little bluebirds when I was done.

And there you have it! Festive berry branches that jingle.

I also made an evergreen version. 

To make the evergreen arrangement you need:

• assorted evergreen boughs (from your garden, foraged respectfully or purchased from the store)
• red dogwood branches
• red and gold jingle bells
• wire cutters
• very fine wire
• pine cones
• low heat glue gun & glue sticks
• shish kabob skewers
• faux red berry branches
• red ribbon for a bow (optional)

Fill your the pitcher or vase with fresh water and arrange your evergreen boughs. (Tips: Try to strip away any evergreen needles that will be sitting below the surface of the water. This will help the water stay fresher longer. Cedar and pine branches spill nicely, while fur boughs add an upright element to the arrangement.)

Insert the red dogwood branches, which can be cut from the garden or bought from a florist or store.

Add pinecone pics to the arrangement. (These can be pricey to purchase, so I make my own.) 

How to make the pinecone pics:

Create snow by brushing some white latex paint on the tips of your pinecones. 
Set aside and allow to dry.

The wooden sticks are just shish kabob skewers purchased at the Dollar Store.

Put a generous blob of hot glue at the bottom centre of your pinecone. Take a shish kabob skewer and twirl it in the blob of hot glue to coat the end of the stick. Shift the stick into its proper upright position and hold it for a minute until the glue sets.  

Use fine wire to tie the red "berry" bells to the evergreen bows. Use the same wire to tie gold jingle bells to the dogwood branches. (Note: These bells were one size up from the bells I used to create the previous jingle berry arrangement.)

Finally add some faux or real berry branches to the arrangement for that extra bit of holiday cheer.

Keep the water in your pitcher or vase fresh and the arrangement should last for a couple of weeks.

If you have a minute, check out the DIY holiday ornaments on my home page.