Monday, January 30, 2012

The latest news: Our country property is for sale

Our four-square garden after a successful renovation
Our country property is for sale, and if you're curious, that story is over at my new blog. Our plan is to downsize in preparation for my husband's retirement in a year or so.

I also have a three-part post about how we renovated the garden above to make it simpler and easier to maintain.  Here's that story.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How we overwinter non-hardy succulents

I have new post on this topic at the new blog.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

New posts up about Eco-lawn

I have two new posts over at Countrygardenerblog, about Eco-lawn and you can find them here: Eco-lawn - how low maintenance is it?

My new blog now also has a sign-up form to you can get your updates directly from there via email. I hope you'll check it out. I think it's working properly now, but please let me know if you have any problems.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fall color in the garden

My new post about fall color, this time all about terrific trees and shrubs for autumn display.

This blog has moved, please visit countrygardenerblog.

Friday, September 18, 2009

New post: Ornamental grasses in the fall

I have a new post up with lots of pictures of ornamental grasses in the fall. Please go to my new blog to read it.

In working on the blog change-over, I have found that transfering the content from this blog to the new one isn't practical for me, so I will leave this one here. I'll be posting from the new blog from now on. As soon as that blog is incorporated into my website (another techno hurdle for me), I'll have a new subscription box up, so you can sign up for email updates. In the meantime, I'll still let you know about new posts through this blog.

Thanks for your patience with the changeover. I hope you'll enjoy the new blog too.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blog moving - I hope you'll follow

Blog notice: I want to let you know that my blog is moving to a new location. It will be two-step move, first from blogspot to WordPress, which has been done. Please visit the new blog in its new format at Country Gardener Blog. Eventually the content from this blog will migrate to the new blog. Work on that will begin this week.

Step two will be to incorporate my blog into my website, When that is done, there will be subscription box, so you can again get your updates by email.

Until all steps are completed, I'll continue to let you know via your current email subscription when a new blog post goes up, and I'll give you the link. Thanks for your support and patience during this changeover.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Seven things you don't know about me

Garden bloggers Helen and Sarah Battersby of, who visited my garden last month and posted a delightful slide show of my garden, put me up this blogger's meme.

To participate in the "Meme Award" you need to:

* Link back to the person who gave you the award.
* Reveal seven things about yourself.
* Choose seven other blogs to nominate, and post a link to them.
* Let each of your choices know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.
* And finally, let the tagger know, when your post is up.

Here are seven things you don't know about me:

  1. I'm the eldest of six children, which is why I decided – very young (as a preteen!) – that I would be child free. I never changed my mind, but was rescued from full childlessness by marrying John, who has four children. (They are now in their 30s, with eldest just about to turn 40.)

  2. As a child, like many young girls, I disliked physical activity, especially phys-ed classes. A loner, I would constantly sneak away to bury myself in books, and try to avoid chores at home.

  3. I hated gardening. My parents had a farm and huge country garden – both vegetables and ornamental. We children were drafted to work in the garden every summer. As a result I vowed that I would never have a garden like that. So what did my husband and I do? We bought a 10-acre property, and created huge gardens. This means that the physical activity never stops, at least during the growing season. Perhaps this is why I've come to love winter a whole lot.

  4. In my late 20s, I became a fitness instructor at the West End YMCA in Toronto. Because I was chubby and non-athletic as a kid, I was immensely proud of this accomplishment. I ran a Sunday morning class, which ensured that I couldn't get too silly on Saturdays nights. (It was the '80s and I was newly divorced and every inch the urban gal with a license to party.)

  5. My dog, Toby, at his drinking fountain

  6. I am a reformed cat person. As a little girl I befriended the barn cats and felt they were the only creatures that really understood me. In my early 30s, I met a little terrier mixed-breed named Oscar, the first dog I fell in love with. When Oscar's mistress moved to Los Angeles for a year and half, I volunteered to take care of him. After she returned and I had to surrender him, I got my own little dog – Teddy, a pup from Oscar's sister's litter. After Teddy came Toby, and after those two, there will surely be another because I can't imagine life without a dog. What do I require in a dog? Non-hyper personality, soft fur, attractive looks and a one-of-kind breeding (not purebred).

  7. In the late '80s, I lived in a cabin in the woods by myself for a year with Teddy, then just a puppy. It wasn't really a cabin, but a well-equipped winterized cottage (I had a phone, computer and fax machine there, so I could work as a freelance magazine writer). To flesh out the story: While living in an apartment in Toronto, we bought a cottage near Bancroft. We enjoyed it so much that we decided somewhat rashly to move there full time. This turned out to be a bad career move for my husband, and he found a job in Fort Frances (in far-off northern Ontario at the Minnesota border). It was a pulp mill town and I was unhappy there, so John suggested I move back to the cottage. I did and we had a long-distance marriage for a year. This was before email and the Internet. I missed John, but I enjoyed the unique experience of living by myself in the woods, especially in the winter when there were few people around. I could only get to the cottage by snowmobile. For the ride, I would tuck little Teddy into my parka.

  8. I'm a recent Bob Dylan convert. Two years ago, I heard a cut from his then latest album Modern Times which intrigued me because it didn't sound anything like the Dylan of the '60s. So I bought it, and then began to work my way backwards through all the Dylan albums – he has made more than 30 studio albums. Until then, I'd never owned a Dylan record, and was familiar only with the songs that got radio play. (As a kid – I was 10 in 1965 – I liked "Maggie's Farm" for obvious reasons. My parents must have loathed it.) I didn't even skip the albums from the '80s, which the critics savaged, or the ones from his born-again period, which most of his long-time fans loathed. Through my "Dylan project," I've immersed myself in the more than 45 years of his music, and now understand what the fuss is all about. I turn 54 next month, and what better role model can you get for aging than someone like Dylan, who just "keeps on keeping on"? Will I buy his upcoming Christmas albumcalled "Christmas in the Heart"? Yes, of course.
So let's see if I can come up with seven Meme Award nominees:

-My best readers and most faithful commenters, Eve of Sunny Side Up and Lene (aka Salix), of the Willows blog
-The prolific Doug Green of Doug Green's Garden Blog, who publishes a whole stable of gardening websites
-Marjorie Harris, the author of many excellent garden books at
-My new friend Mark Disero of Garden, the website he launched in the spring
-Anna, who gardens in North Carolina in zone 7 of FlowerGardenGirl, who I've met through Twitter
-Helen Yoest, garden coach of Gardening with Confidence, who I have also been privileged to meet through Twitter

Hey, gang: Doesn't this feel a bit like getting one of those chain letters?

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Colette: on the sensuous pleasures of gardening

I recently finished reading Break of Day by Colette (translated by Enid McLeod from the French "La Naissance du Jour").

It has in it the most poetic description of digging the soil to make a garden that I've read. (Never mind that these days no-till is the prefered solution to starting a new garden bed.)

From Break of Day:

To lift and penetrate and tear apart the soil is labour — a pleasure — always accompanied by an exaltation that no unprofitable exercise can ever provide. The sight of upturned soil makes every living creature avid and watchful. The finches followed me, pouncing on the worms with a cry; the cats sniffed the traces of moisture darkening the crumbling clods; my bitch, intoxicated, was tunneling a burrow for herself with all four paws. When you open up the earth, even for a mere cabbage-patch, you always feel like the first man, the master, the husband with no rivals. The earth you open up has no longer any past—only a future. With my back burnt, my nose gleaming and my heart pounding with a hollow sound like a footstep behind a wall, I was so absorbed that for a moment I forgot Vial [an intense young man, perhaps her lover]. Gardening rivets eyes and mind on the earth, and when a shrubby tree has been helped, nourished, supported and cosily settled in its mulch covered with fresh earth, its expression, its happy look fill me with love.

Original silkscreen by Fran├žoise Gilot,
for an edition of Break of Day

Elaine Marks, an Assistant Professor of French at New York University, describes the book so aptly here, that I will quote her rather than try to give my own poor description of its theme:
"I am the daughter of a woman who * * *" is the leitmotif of the opening pages, of Sido, an old woman who, in the first letter that begins the book, refuses an invitation to spend a week with her beloved daughter because her pink cactus, which blooms once every four years, may well be about to blossom. The central themes and moral lesson of "Break the Day" is contained in this first letter. Sido states very simply what the narrator will learn in the course of her all-night vigil: that at a certain age, individual human relationships must cease to be the primary focus of our lives and that they must be replaced by a feeling of solidarity with the natural universe, by an attempt to create a harmony between human and natural rhythms. It is not, as some of Colette's detractors insist, a question of preferring flowers or animals to human beings. It is rather a lucid recognition of limits, particularly physical limits, which brings her to the conclusion that both mother and mistress must eventually abdicate their roles, and that in this abdication there is a compensating joy.
© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Friday, August 21, 2009

Introducing my new photo blog

I sometimes want to post pictures without garden articles, so I've started a separate photo blog for that purpose. You can visit it here.

If you're within easy driving distance of Hamilton, there's a two-day garden photography workshop on Sept. 12-13 at Royal Botantical Gardens led by garden and landscape photographer Ian Adams, author of The Art of Garden Photography. He will also give a talk at RBG on Sept. 11 in the evening. There will be wine and cheese and a book signing as well.

To sign up for the talk (An Evening with Ian Adams) and/or the workshop (enrolment in the workshop is limited to 15), visit RBG education.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener

Thursday, August 20, 2009

One thing leads to another: catbird adventure

One of the chief joys of country gardening is the many birds that summer on our property. I had never really noticed grey catbirds until we disturbed their nest while pruning the lilacs at our side yard entry.

The Palibin lilacs have very dense foliage, so David (my garden helper, who is a great animal lover) had already cut off the branch in question when he noticed the nest and three baby birds.

His quick-thinking solution was to get a fence post into the ground and attach the branch. Mama and Papa bird weren't happy.

The catbird nest on its fence post

Nonetheless, they quickly found their offspring and continued to look after them, even though the dense foliage cover that gives catbirds their feeling of security was gone.

I'm no bird photographer, but I couldn't resist taking advantage of this opportunity to get pictures of both the nestlings and their doting parents.

Bird parents fascinate me because they are so tireless and so protective (at least the ones I know best, the barn swallows, and now the catbirds). Any time anyone walked to the side door, they would swoop in, and we'd hear their characteristic alarm call, which sounds like the loud mewing of a cat. They were not happy when I came out with my camera. They hovered around to make sure I wouldn't get too close to the nest.

All ended well: the little nestlings grew and fledged, and then they and Ma and Pa flew off to find their prefered habitat: dense foliage. Fortunately, we have lots more trees and shrubs on our property.

"I'm keeping an eye on you," this catbird parent seems to say.
"I don't trust you with that long lens."

If you're curious to learn more about catbirds and their habits, Cornell University has great information, and you can play their song and their cat-call too.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener