A few months ago I planted for the first time Malva Sylvestris Mallow. This lovely perennial is hollyhock-like and blooms on upright plants to a height of approximately 36." I was encountering a small problem. The plant was beginning to look somewhat spindly. It is thriving but the taller stems were leaning and the overall appearance was sporadic blooms on oversized stems. A few weeks ago I clipped all the tall stems, even though they had several blooms and buds. Within a week the plant took on a new shape. It is full and luxurious with even more budding. Obviously the decision to cut back these exceptionally tall stems resulted in a fuller, more colourful, better shaped plant. This exercise has given me the confidence to prune the plant next year and not be apprehensive about the results. Sometimes taking a chance proves very worthwhile and the entire learning experience is so fulfilling.

At times it is necessary to stake or tie certain plants. Use tomato or peony cages to keep certain plants upright. There is also a wonderful product shaped in a semicircle. It is stronger than cages and ideal for positioning perennials. The Hydrangea Annabelle always seems to be a problem. I am determined to design something over the winter to combat this problem. It is a gorgeous shrub but those enormous flower heads want to fall forward and lay on the ground. Stay tuned and I will keep you apprised when the solution is designed. Of course Oscar will be supervising.

Raggedy Ann! How could I resist? She is so cute and can be placed in your gardens or lawns. I chose the cabana. The cost was only $14.00 and the addition that little items such as these add are overwhelming. Just remember every little thing you do to enhance your property improves the overall look. In the beginning stick with the basics lush lawns, healthy plants and the rest will fall into place.

Raggedy Ann Euonymus Emerald Gaiety

A few years ago my electric meter was installed outside the house in a very visible area. To be blunt it was ugly. A simple solution, I grew a lovely variegated vine (Euonymus Emerald Gaiety) up the meter pole. Just a light pruning two times yearly keeps the gauges easy to read and gives lots of texture to that area. The vine grew quickly (approximately three years to cover a 12 pole) and radically transformed the wall with colour, height and balance.

There is a hydrangea tree in my backyard that is three years old. This spring I planted one at the side of the house. Something about the hydrangea on the side caused me some concern. Many of the leaves were yellow. Apparently the plant may need more water and the more established hydrangea was able to tolerate the condition due to its maturity. In the first year do not worry if you see yellowing leaves.

As clematis begins growing, take time to train the vines by threading them through your lattice or trellis. Set aside a few minutes per day for the first week or two and you will be astonished at the finished result. Stunning!

Another hobby of mine is taking pictures of flowers in full bloom. This is a great source of enjoyment during the winter months and assists friends in identifying size, height and colour.

Children enjoy the gardens too. Or do you think it could be the pool???

Nieces and Nephews: Laura, Christopher, Johnny, Kelly, Jennifer, Frankie

My sister Chris lives in a rural area northwest of the city of Toronto. She has wonderful gardens and brought corn stalks to decorate the house for thanksgiving. It's a lovely idea and so attractive for this time of year.

Halloween Chris, John, Johnny and Jennifer

Another tip is to put your Christmas lights up before Halloween. Place orange and black bulbs in the string to make a bright and cheery entrance for the children. This tip is great as your lights are festive for two occasions.

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