Indoor Plants for Very Low Light Rooms

low light plant

As the cooler weather approaches, our focus turns indoors.  Indoor gardening is healthy – both for the air as well as for your physical, mental and emotional well being.

But, with our Northern climate, we often struggle with indoor gardens due to the low level of light at this time of year.  Small windows are great for keeping the heat in, but it does present challenges for the indoor gardener.

You can use grow lights, but, if you don’t want to do that, there are certain plants that will grow well even in very low light conditions.

Here are a few choices that work well with a minimum of light:

low light plantMother-in-Law’s tongue / Snake plant – it has stiff, sword shaped leaves often variegated with dark green / light green / gold.

 

 

low light plantCast iron plant looks a little like Mother-in-Law’s Tongue in that it also has sword shaped leaves although these are a bit more floppy and they are a dark green with no variegation. They are completely ‘dummy proof’ as they’re not only tolerant of low light but also dampness, dust and general neglect.

 

 

 

low light plantPeace Lily also has dark green sword shaped leaves, but it has a creamy white ‘flower’. It likes moist soil.

 

 

 

 

low light plantDracaena has spiky long leaves in a mid to light green colour and can be variegated.  It looks like a cross between an ornamental grass, a reed and a small palm. It is easy to grow and should be trimmed to keep it at the size you prefer.

 

 

 

low light plantPhilodendrons come in many varieties  including creeping or vine-like varieties. They may have variegated leaves or areas of other colors on a green background. These can look lovely in a hanging basket as well as in a pot.

 

 

low light plantChinese evergreen looks a bit like the Peace Lily or Arum Lily, but with variegated leaves.

 

 

 

 

low light plantHen and Chicks / Spider Plant  is often a summer hanging basket favourite, but it also does well as an indoor low light plant.

 

 

 

low light plantZZ plant looks a little like a ficus tree except that it’s a pot plant and comes up from the roots in multiple stems with dark green oval leaves that are quite fleshy.

Honey-Sweetened Marshmallows

honey sweetened marshmallows 2

CHEF KAYLA’S HONEY SWEETENED MARSHMALLOWS:

I created a recipe to be a little more health conscious using only 3 ingredients; honey, gelatin, and water.  That’s it friends! I then rolled half in toasted unsweetened coconut and the other half in cocoa powder.  Of course the weather was not cooperating the day that  I created these so I pulled out the good ol’ torch and torched those marshmallows at the kitchen table. Hey! you gotta do what ya gotta do! I hope you enjoy these tasty marshmallows as much as my girls and I!
honey sweetened marshmallows 2

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp gelatin
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla, or flavoring of your choice
  • pinch of salt
  • toasted coconut
  • cocoa powder

Directions

  1. Lightly grease a 9×13 pan and then layer with parchment paper.  Lightly butter the parchment paper. (At this point, since I was making toasted coconut and cocoa marshmallows and I dusted cocoa powder over half the pan and sprinkled the coconut on the other half of the pan).
  2. Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup water  in the bowl of your mixer and let bloom. Set aside.
  3. In a small sauce pot pour the other 1/2 cup water, salt and 1 cup honey.  Cook over medium-low heat until the temperature comes to 240.  Do not stir during this process. Once it has reached the desired temperature take off the heat.
  4. Now very carefully, on low speed, slowly drizzle the honey syrup into the bowl with the gelatin/water mixture and beat. Once the mixture begins to fluff up, slowly increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating for about 10-12 minutes.  When it looks fluffy and cloud-like, add in the vanilla (or any other flavoring you prefer) and pour into the prepared pan.  Let it side for a minimum of 4 hours.
  5. Once it has completely set, I cut into about 1 inch cubes and roll into my desired garnishes.  I did half toasted coconut and half cocoa.  Then eat away and enjoy!

For more delicious recipes from Chef Kayla, click the ‘Life from Scratch’ tab in the menu above.

Braised Moroccan Lamb Shanks

braised moroccan lamb shanks

A FAVOURITE FROM CHEF KAYLA:

This is one of my most loved dishes, Moroccan Lamb Shanks, which I created when I was running Brambles Bistro. It is the perfect combination of spice and aromatics, perfectly warming and comforting. I know that lamb shanks can sometimes scare people off and they are not too common, but they are quite simple to prepare and get deliciously tender, and the flavor is extremely rich and decadent. My taste buds are already getting excited thinking about eating the welcomed leftovers tomorrow night. I hope you enjoy this truly loved dish as much as myself and my loved ones do. Enjoy!

Braised Moroccan Lamb Shanks

Lamb Shank Marinade

  • 6 lamb shanks
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 
1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
Braising Liquid/Sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup good red wine
  • 1 onion, large dice
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8 cardamom pods (the seeds inside)
  • 
3 star anise
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 
2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 1 can canned tomatoes
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 3 sprigs mint
  • 1/2 cup whole cilantro
  • 1 cup whole apricots
Directions for Lamb Shank Marinade
  • Combine olive oil, spices, salt & pepper, mint, and cilantro in a medium sized bowl and mix together.
  • Place lamb shanks in marinade and let sit for a minimum of 8 hours.
  • Once it has sat sear the lamb shanks in a hot pan until all sides are nicely seared.
Directions for Braising Liquid/Sauce
  1. Heat oven to 300.
  2. Heat a large ceramic pot/dutch oven over medium heat and add olive oil.
  3. Saute onions, garlic, & ginger until translucent.
  4. Add the cinnamon stick, star anise, cardamom seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, cumin, and fennel seeds.
  5. Saute for about 10 minutes over low heat.
  6. Add a little water at a time to prevent the spices from burning.
  7. Once you have thoroughly cooked out the spices add the wine and reduce until about 1/4 cup.
  8. Add coconut milk, canned tomatoes, chickpeas, lemon zest & juice, fresh mint, fresh cilantro, and apricots.
  9. Add the seared lamb shanks to the braising liquid/sauce. Place the lid on the top and place in the pre-heated oven until the meat is falling off the bone, approximately 2 hours.
  10. Check and rotate lamb shanks every 45 minutes.
6. Garnish with more freshly chopped mint, cilantro, and lemon zest. You can either serve alongside couscous or fresh naan bread.

braised moroccan lamb shanksFor more delicious recipes from Chef Kayla, click the ‘Life from Scratch’ tab in the menu above.

Indoor Plants To Combat Dry Winter Air

indoor gardening

Have you ever thought about using indoor plants to combat that dry winter air that has your skin cracking and your clothes crackling?

detoxify indoor airIndoor plants are a wonderful way to keep the air inside your home clean and toxin free, especially during those colder months when the windows and doors are closed.  But, did you know that they can also help rehydrate the air that’s being dehydrated by your central heating and gas fireplace? They’re also helpful in maintaining respiratory and skin health.

No one enjoys those cold weather cracked skin issues, or the build up of static electricity that makes your clothes cling and crackle and sparks of static electricity when you touch things.  The answer is becoming an indoor gardener!

Plants grow by absorbing water and nutrients from the soil.  The moisture they absorb hydrates the plant cells.  However, a lot of the moisture is excreted on the leaves and this evaporates into the atmosphere, helping to add much needed humidity into the air in your home. The dryer the air, the more moisture the plant ‘sucks’ from the soil and the more it releases via evaporation.  It’s your own smart humidifier!

Nearly all plants will add some moisture to the air, however plants with broader leaves tend to do a better job.

Rainforest plants are very good at this. The larger the leaves, the larger the area available for evaporation.  Conversely, small leaf or succulent plants are not good humidifiers in an indoor situation.

Be sure that there is good air circulation around your plants as this will help with the evaporation process. Remember to water as is recommended by your garden center. Over watering will only cause your plants to rot and die.

You also don’t need too many plants to achieve a good humidity level. Add too many and your home will become muggy and you’ll create an ideal environment for mold and bacteria.  As with most things, moderation is key.

Some examples of plants that are good humidifies and are easy to grow indoors are:

  • Peace lily
  • Dracaena
  • Areca Palm
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Philodendron
  • Ficus Benjamina
  • Ginger

plants that humidify areca-palmDracaena_humidify dry winter airhumidify dry winter airhumidify dry winter air

 

humidify dry winter airhumidify dry winter air

 

 

Green Living Walls Not Just For Corporations

living wall

Vertical, green, or living walls are becoming more popular as people begin to realize the benefits of incorporating plants in their built environment.

Environmental branding is the new corporate speak for such things as well as other environmentally responsible initiatives such as using renewable energy and cutting down on their carbon footprint.

It’s not just good P.R. These corporations know that incorporating a living wall inside or outside their offices has significant advantages which include lowering employee stress levels, cleaning the air, creating a soothing visual aesthetic and helping to control sound.

Vertical walls are just as effective in an everyday home. 

Yes, they do take a bit more planning and money than a few containers, but the visual, physical, mental and emotional impact is huge!  They’re extremely impressive, and aside from cleaning your indoor air, they make a great talking point with visitors!  They also take up very little room so they’re ideal for spaces where you don’t have much room. They’re also great for masking ‘not so attractive’ areas indoors and outside.

Here are a few of the basics you’ll need to build your own green living wall:

  • wood for a frame.  Free pallets can be dismantled and used quite easily
  • a base barrier layer of very thin hardboard or corrugated plastic, flat abs or other lightweight material that will form the backing against your ‘real’ wall.
  • plastic sheeting, felt, hessian or even small hole chicken wire to form an anchor for the growing medium and the plants
  • landscape fabric
  • staple gun and staples
  • growing medium, usually a potting mix or a coconut coir such as you’d use in hanging baskets
  • plants such as succulents, ferns, bromeliads, coral bells, spider plants, hens and chicks etc. Ask your local garden center for their recommendations for your specific living wall location.

How to assemble your living wall:

  • create the frame to the desired size using the pallet wood.  Alternatively, if your frame is not going to be too big and heavy, use the entire side of a pallet
  • line the frame with the plastic, fabric or whatever material you choose for the backing – this material should also be lined on the inside with the landscape fabric
  • staple these 2 layers securely to the inside of the frame
  • fill the frame half full with the coir / potting mix
  • secure another layer of landscape fabric, hessian or even chicken wire over the planting medium
  • before planting, lift the wall so its standing vertically to check for leaks in the backing. You’ll want to make sure there are no leaks, especially if it’s going to be on an inside wall
  • you may also want to consider adding a plastic gutter along the bottom to catch water that leaks out when watering unless you plan on laying the wall on the ground outside each time you water it.
  • create small slits in the over layer  where you’ll insert your plants
  • insert the plants, making sure to loosen the roots so they’re not all clumped together
  • water the plants well
  • leave your living wall lying flat on the ground for at least a few days to allow the plants to take root and stabilize
  • once your living wall is mounted vertically be sure to water and fertilize as required by the plants

A word of caution before you begin:

  • make sure that the location in which the living wall will hang gets enough light all year
  • have someone on hand to help you mount the wall
  • be sure to test the frame before planting

Want something a little less complex?  Here are a few ideas:

Fall planting versus Spring Planting: Which Is Best?

Fall planting

It’s natural to feel like planting in the Spring. After the long winter, once the first crocus and daffodil pop their heads above the ground, we begin to itch to get out into the garden and create some colour.

Flavors of Fall Hands On Cooking Classes

We don’t always have the same reaction when Fall comes around. Instead of looking forward to Spring flowers and warmer days, we know that Winter is just around the corner. Crisp, cooler, often wetter days are all part and parcel of the season.

FALL PLANTINGBut, what many don’t realize is that Fall is perfect for planting.

In fact for many plants, Fall planting is actually more successful than Spring planting.

 

The reason is quite logical. Plants know that Winter is on its way and they know it’s time to dig down deep. Growth above the ground begins to slow and all their energy goes into developing longer, stronger root systems. When we plant in Spring, most of the plant’s energy goes into growth above the ground: foliage, flowers, fruit, branches and so on. Roots take a back seat during this busy season.

During the Fall, the cooler air temperatures make gardening easier on gardeners and make it easier for plants to survive the shock of being transplanted from their pots into the garden soil which is still warm. This allows roots to grow until the ground freezes. In spring, plants don’t grow until the soil warms up.

Fall tens to produce more good gardening days than spring.

During the Spring rain and unexpected cold snaps, or even snow fall can make working the soil impossible.
Plus, many Garden Centers have great deals during the Fall as they move as much product as possible before the Winter arrives when no one is gardening.

While Fall rain is generally plentiful, it’s still important to deeply water newly planted plants for the first few months until they are established – especially if it doesn’t rain at least an inch per week.

Another significant advantage during the Fall is that common garden pests and disease problems tend to be less prevalant. Plantings also don’t need fertilizer the way they do in Spring. Fertilizer helps produce new, tender growth that can be damaged by winter weather.

A few examples of plants that prefer Fall planting are: grasses, spring-blooming bulbs, cool-season vegetables, perennials, trees, and shrubs.
The window for fall planting ends about six weeks before your area will experience harsher weather such as frost, frozen rain, sleet or snow. Planting time usually ends in September or October.

For more information about what to plant during the Fall and where and how to plant, please feel free to visit with our talented horticulturalists.

5 More Easy Going Perennials

Summer Colour

Unless you’re a fanatical gardener or have a lot of time on your hands, you’ll probably be looking for plants you don’t have to replant and you don’t have to pamper.

Here are 5 really easy going perennials you’ll definitely want to check out because they exactly fit your wish list for easy to plant, easy to grow and easy to look after!

easy going perennialsSwitch Grass – Prairie Winds® Panicum
Native switch grasses are amongst the easiest ornamental grasses to grow. These hardy perennials will grow in any soil whether sand or clay, and in any moisture level, from dry to wet, but they do need full sun. Plant as wherever you need a privacy hedge, or a nice strong background or a Fall landscape focal point.
Cut foliage back in late winter / early spring.

easy going perennialsCatmint ‘Cat’s Meow’ Nepeta
This is a hugely popular perennial! It blooms in late spring with a dense mass of vibrant periwinkle purple flowers. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love catmint. ‘Cat’s Meow’ is a lower maintenance Proven Winner’s selection because it forms a nice, tidy mound without pruning and won’t sprawl all over adjacent plants. It loves full sun and very well-drained, dryish soil.

easy going perennialsLavender Sweet Romance® Lavandula
Sweetly fragrant lavender is one of our favourites. We love the rich violet purple flowers of Sweet Romance which blooms from early summer through fall, with new flowers appearing throughout the growing season. Gorgeous in bouquets, sachets, sweet treats, and lemonade as well as a host of other things!
Sweet Romance is very easy to grow in a sunny, dry spot in sandy or very well-drained soil. Don’t fertilize. Trim back lightly in spring if necessary.

easy going perennialsFalse Indigo – Decadence® Baptisia
Baptisia, commonly known as false indigo is one of the longest-lived perennials and is native to the prairies. the Decadence variety grows to 2 ½-3’ tall and wide. It is very drought tolerant once established and loves full sun and heat. Doesn’t need fertilizing or deadheading. In fact, don’t cut off dead blooms, or its decorative seed pods won’t form. So just plant it, then leave it be and it will be fabulous!

easy going perennialsBaby’s Breath: Festival Star™ Gypsophila
Festival Star is a game changer when it comes to baby’s breath. This improved selection blooms from late spring through to fall without deadheading or going summer dormant, and its short 12-18” height is easy to manage. This plant needs good drainage to grow well, so if you have clay, add mulch and organic material to add drainage. Loves the sun and it can dry out a bit before being watered. Feel free to clip some of its fragrant blooms for your fresh or dried bouquets. New flowers will quickly take their place.

 

5 Summer Colour Choices

Summer Colour

Here are 5 great choices for late summer color and interest. 

Not only are these Proven Winner favourites, they are beautiful showy plants, and best of all, low maintenance, easy going perennials – meaning there’s not a lot of work involved in keeping them looking good.

Summer ColourDaylily – Rainbow Rhythm® Hemerocallis
Daylilies are everywhere in summer and there’s a good reason for that. They’re very low maintenance – just needing a little water plus, they last for years and multiply, filling your flower beds quickly and producing a reliable crop of summer flowers.
The Proven Winner varieties do come in a variety of colours including purple, yellow, red, orange, peach and bicolor – check with us as to what’s in stock at the moment.

Summer ColourFalse Sunflower – ‘Tuscan Sun’ Heliopsis
These easy going flowers add a gorgeous yellow gold to your garden from midsummer into early fall. The look is reminiscent of Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), but they’re less fussy, easier to maintain and will rebloom if you trim it back after the first round of flowers finishes. They prefer a mostly sunny to partly shaded spot in ordinary garden soil. Although it’s fairly drought resistant and loves the heat when established, you will need to water well until it is.

Summer ColourRussian Sage ‘Denim ‘n Lace’ Perovskia
Russian Sage is super easy going, prefers dryer soil and flowers during the hottest summer months. The only maintenance required is to cut back the stems in early spring. Some older varieties may be too large for smaller gardens, but the smaller ‘Denim ‘n Lace’ will be perfect just about anywhere. It grows to 2 ½’ tall and 3’ wide. It forms a dense, upright clump covered in flowers from midsummer.

Summer ColourSedum Rock ‘N Grow®  (Autumn Stonecrop)
Rock ‘N Grow stonecrop is very drought tolerant. It stores water in its succulent leaves and stems as a reserve meaning that you mostly don’t need to water it once it is established. Plant it in full sun and very well-drained soil, and do not add fertilizer or organic matter. Sedum comes in many sizes, shapes and colors. The Rock ‘N Grow collection includes both upright mounded and low spreading types that are hardy in zones 3-9. Expect them all to bloom in late summer and fall, providing a late season pollen source for bees and butterflies. Leave it alone in fall and then cut any remaining foliage down to the ground in early spring.

Summer ColourHosta Shadowland®
Here’s one for the shade garden. It’s the easiest, low maintenance perennial you can get.  Yes, we’re talking about Hostas which disappear underground during the winter only to pop up bright and healthy in the Spring. They quickly fill large spaces with their interesting foliage and thrive during the Spring, Summer and Fall in those difficult shady spots. Hostas grow best in organically rich soils and tolerate clay well. They like moist soil. They are happiest when grown under the canopy of tall trees

Hot August Colour

August Colour

Here are some great plant choices for vibrant colour and texture during those dog days of summer when most flowering plants are looking a little lack lustre in the heat.

Hydrangeas – of course!

hot august colorHydrangea Paniculata ‘Limelight’ is a delightful choice with it’s pearly cones of white flowers with a touch of blush that deepens into a lovely pinky bronze as the season wears on. It’s an easy going and hardy shrub that grows with very little maintenance. Pruning consists of simply clipping off the flowers to grace a vase somewhere in your home.  Talk about a big bang for very little bucks!

 

Miscanthus:

miscanthus ornamental grassIt’s similar to Pampas grass but the flower fronds are smaller and often have a pink cast to them.  This is another easy growing plant and it spreads quickly.  If you have a sunny corner that needs some height and interest, this is the one for you!

Another varient is the Miscanthus Rigoletto

Miscanthus-Rigoletto - August colourThis beautifully graceful grass glows in the late summer sun with its arching blades of creamy white and green stripes. At around 3′ tall, it’s smaller than the larger Miscanthus which can grow anything from 6′ to 8′ tall.

Pennisetum Fountain Grass ‘ Hameln’

Pennisetum Fountain Grass ‘ Hameln’ Pennisetum Fountain Grass ‘ Hameln’ august colorThe perfect fall plant to add to your garden. It forms a fountaining clump of dark foliage that turns a lovely amber in the fall and has pinky-brown, soft foxtail-like flowers that make nice cut flowers as well. It is perfect for the front or middle of the flower border in a container garden. Growing 24” tall and 30” wide.

Helenium ‘Short and Sassy’

Helenium ‘Short and Sassy’August colourPerfect compliment to fountain grass or even in containers. These gorgeous summer flowers produce clusters of yellow blooms edged with shades of orange. This is a very reliable garden plant. In full sun, this plant will grow to be 12-18” tall and 24” wide.

Crocosmia ‘Emily McKenzie’

Crocosmia ‘Emily McKenzie august colour’One of the most dramatic late summer bloomers is the crocosmia. This clump forming, grass-like plant, sports flame orange flowers with a red center and a yellow throat and makes a gorgeous cut flower. In full sun, this plant will grow 30-48” tall and 18” wide.

 

The Sustainable Garden – Biggest Trend This Season

sustainable garden

The biggest trend this season is the Sustainable Garden.

If you’ve not up to speed on sustainability trends, don’t worry.  This one is really easy to follow and it’s pretty easy to implement as well.  In fact, you probably already do to one extent or another.

vertical garden sustainable garden

Here are some of the most common features of a sustainable garden:

  • Firstly and most obviously, no chemical pesticides or herbicides.  Here are some natural alternatives.
  • Plant pollinator friendly plants that attract the bees, butterflies and birds.  Here are some suggestions and here are some more..
  • If you use lighting in your garden, make it solar, or at least LED
  • Upcycle and recycle old garden and home items as garden decor.  Recycle old pots with a new look.  Check out some ideas here and here and here and here.
  • Make your garden edible for humans as well as for birds and insects. Growing veggies and fruit and even edible flowers is a fun way to eat healthy produce without the chemicals and G.M.O. influences found in most store bought produce.
  • Make use of storm debri.  Instead of throwing away the broken branches and other debri from those storms and strong winds, collect them and use them for creating bedding borders and interesting garden pieces.
  • In the same way you can use rocks to add interest to your landscape.  In B.C. there are many places you can collect river rocks for special features in your garden.
  • Green your vertical spaces.  If have boundary walls, trellis or other upright spaces in your landscape, think about creating a vertical garden.  Here are some ideas.

We hope that this has given you some great ideas to begin looking at your garden with new eyes!  Have fun becoming a sustainable gardener – and remember that we are always available for help, advice and supplies!