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Navigating Garden Centres in COVID-19

It may be summer and most flowers may be in bloom, but we’re still in a pandemic.

Garden centres had a late start to their prime season in Ontario due to provincial COVID-19 restrictions. Many gardeners had been itching to get their supplies for the spring and summer when centres across the province opened up on May 8. I’d like to share with you my experiences of gathering plants, pots, soil and seeds. Filled with anxiety, I first made an online order with Bradford Greenhouses. This garden centre is where I have exclusively shopped for my gardening needs since the initial March lockdowns. I have now physically entered the greenhouse twice too.

girl with copper hair and white and black specked shirt wearing a light blue medical grade mask
Masked up and on a mission for plants!
An aside about my lifestyle since March:

During my quarantine, I have been hiding away in my parents basement from the outside world and sticking to my small subdivision for walks and bike rides. I have had high stress and am honestly terrified of everything that enters the house. We’ve probably gone through an overly excessive amount of soap and sanitizer due to my anxiety. I’ve made textile masks for my family, my dad’s co-workers and neighbours. I have been in school full-time and more recently started a remote part-time job as well. Luckily I’ve had my boyfriend, Angad, with me. He is also working from home, and he keeps us company. My family of three now can play board games in teams! My dad has been the primary errand runner for the family; he is an essential worker and is in town already. My mom has been going out when her hip is okay (she’s due for a replacement this month!).

I wanted to compare my three experiences for you. This will show the development of my trust, but also of how the world overall is also operating differently as time goes on.
Check out my video of planting the seeds from my first order. The transcript can be found here.

April 28 – Online Order

My mom and I submitted an order online for seeds and dirt. I’ve used curbside pickup for other businesses, but they had pre-Covid experience with this selling method. It was quite honestly a painful process to get our items from the ordering stage to the pickup time. I must give them credit, they’re dealing with live goods and did not have online ordering prior to April, 2020. There were growing pains. I’ve read many comments on Bradford Greenhouse’s socials, and it appears that they have become more efficient as they have gained more experience (and less people using curbside pickup overall). The site was originally incredibly glitchy – the search functions didn’t work well yet and the order was deleted multiple times before it was submitted.

When my mom and I arrived to collect our order, their signage in the parking lot was off and there was a lot of disorganization. There ended up being 40 cars sporadically parked in a side lot. Nobody seemed to know where exactly to go. It was potentially dangerous with staff scurrying between cars. I will say that their use of a QR code was convenient – once someone came to the driver’s window, they just scanned our emailed copy to locate our order. One staff member was “going hard”- he was running back and forth from the soil to the greenhouse to the customers. Many others were sauntering and chatting, which didn’t seem to help the speed of service. In total it took around 40 minutes to collect our order, even though we had been allocated specific timeslot.

One of the funniest things was that they pushed a huge garden cart over with only a paper bag of seeds inside for us to take and put in the trunk. They had helped other customers load their cars even with small items, but they left the cart for us at the back of the vehicle between other cars. They could have passed it through the window like they did with the receipt. The bag was smaller than a Wendy’s takeout bag!

Despite this discouraging experience, it doesn’t deter me from purchasing from Bradford Greenhouses – it’s still in my top greenhouses list.

June 1 – First Physical Shopping Experience

This was the first time I entered any store since March. It was a big step for me! As you can see above, they had a lot of health and well-being precautions in place. This made me feel more comfortable visiting the greenhouse. My boyfriend came along for the ride, but he stayed in the car. With my mask on, I went in (picture a superhero suiting up for battle). I also refrained from bringing a purse with me; I planned on just using my pockets so I could wash my clothes then shower as soon as I got back home.

At the entrance, they had an employee give me a sanitized cart and another put sanitizer on my hands – off to a good start! People were generally spread out and the carts helped people from getting too close to each other. I realized pretty quickly that couples were there together. Angad probably could have come inside, but at least he had some quiet time away from me for once!

Plants were well-stocked and they had their expected patio designs set up too with outdoor decor. The store was sectioned off more to direct people along. For example, their clothing area (Lilie’s Boutique) was closed and you could only move to the cashiers from the back of the main building. Typically, you can move freely and join a line after looking through the boutique or the tropicals section on the sides.

silver metal cart pushed down a garden centre aisle with purple and red plants
Inside Bradford Greenhouses

I picked up a variety of small purple plants for our patio planters and a large philodendron (a tropical plant). It took me about 30 minutes to shop then about 10 more to check out. They had many tills open, so that helped keep customers moving through. They had nicely branded circles to tell shoppers where to go or where to line up.

green philodendron plant with large curvy edged leaves
My new philodendron

At the tills you’d put your cart in an area near the cashier and then you stayed behind a divider cord. To pay, they would hold a debit/credit machine on a long stick over so you could reach it. The cashiers worked in teams of two. Both of the girls working to check me out were lovely – they even complimented my outfit. My skirt had pockets, so who would blame them?

Overall it was a good experience and I felt comfortable picking out my plants to make my purchase.

potted plants at a garden centre with green mounds and small round pink flowers
Inside Bradford Greenhouses

July 4 – Second In-Store Shopping Experience

I recently went in to pick up some items for my mother’s birthday. She turned 65 on July 4, and Angad and I went last minute to get her some more gift items. She recently repainted the bench on our front porch a light bluish grey colour. We got her some palm printed outdoor cushions that match our avocado-coloured front door. They have zippers and are washable, so they meet her requirements, and they look cute! Angad did a great job of picking them out.

Looking for other plant-related gifts?

mother and daughter wearing summer clothes sitting on blue bench with palm leaf printed photos
My mom, Deb, and I with her new pillows and repainted bench

We also picked up an insect hotel – I think this is Angad’s favourite gift out of everything we gave her. Hopefully it’ll help get bees, butterflies and other insects to come help the ecosystem of our home garden.

Something I noticed during this second trip was the loosening of COVID-19 protocol. At the entrance, there was no one greeting us. There was a small sign of where the “sanitized” carts were, but I totally saw a woman return a cart there though. I avoided that one and hoped for the best. Inside there was a table set up with a spray bottle that said “sanitizer” and there were a few rolls of paper towel. I wasn’t sure if it was safe to spray on hands and arms or if it was intended to clean your own cart. There wasn’t a staff member to ask at the table, but I just put my own sanitizer from my pocket bottle on and kept moving.

green tropical plants including palms and peace lilies
Tropicals in Bradford Greenhouses

There were many couples and small families inside. Less masks were worn – I’d estimate under half the people inside were wearing one. Angad and I wore masks I had made at home. The tills also had one person handling the processing, product sorting, bagging and payment. At the exit there were carts scattered around; a staff member had taken the cart from me to sanitize immediately during my first in-store visit. I wasn’t a fan of the relaxation of safety initiatives, but I made sure we took our own precautions still. Although the case count isn’t reported to be high in the Barrie area, there’s a lot of people coming through from the GTA (a hot spot for COVID-19) on their way to and from cottages, other outdoor spaces like beaches and various summer activities. People from Barrie might not have been tested and be secretly carrying the virus too.

purple plant on silver shopping cart in a garden centre tree aisle
Inside Bradford Greenhouses

Further Plant Needs

I’m pretty set for the season, so I probably won’t need to go back until mid-August. Luckily my houseplants are doing well and most of our outdoor plants at home are perennials (they regrow year after year). My mom also went a couple of times to Bradford Greenhouses and has picked up other supplies at the grocery store too like annuals for the big outdoor gardens. She had similar experiences. I know some other gardening businesses are selling online-only or closing in July once the big push of the season is over, like Belgian Nursery in Breslau.

I’d like to know what your experiences have been like! Comment or #wellgrownhome on social media to share your garden centre trips.

Stay safe and #wearamask!

Indoor Plants that Add a Pop of Colour (Other than Green!)

Bring some life to your home with no shortage of colour! Many plants are green and that’s okay but some vivacious blooms or vibrant foliage can really make a space brighten up with cheer. Here are some options to inspire you in your plant decorating.

Orchid // Orchidaceae

Photo by Negative Space

Stunning blooms with unique colouring and a touch of elegance, these will elevate your space. The blooms don’t last forever but give it some dormant time and you’ll get new flowers.

Polka Dot Plant // Hypoestes phyllostachya

Get the pink, red, white… or all three, they won’t take up much room! This adorable plant is dramatic between waterings, so don’t give up if it looks droopy.

Mosaic Plant // Fittonia albivenis

Photo by Anne Nygård

Closely related to the polka dot plant, this one has little rosy lines on the leaves that make it look like a piece of Ancient Grecian artwork. It stays small, so you don’t have to worry about it taking over your space.

Purple Shamrock // Oxalis triangularis

This vibrant plant has triangular, clover-like purple leaves. It even has small white flowers that can appear multiple times throughout the year. The cutest part is this plant closes its foliage and goes to sleep at night or in dim lighting!

African Violet // Saintpaulia ionantha

Photo by Carolyn V

Super easy to grow and blooming several times per year, this small plant will add some cheer to your home. Find it in indigo, pink and white at many garden centres year-round.

Purple Passion Plant // Gynura aurantiaca

This plant looks like royalty with its velvety foliage of purple over a dark green base. It can grow enough to cascade, making it a nice hanging plant. Personal story, I bought it for a fairy garden… it outgrew the little planter in a month.

Jasmine // Jasminum spp.

If you’re looking for some colour with a beautiful floral fragrance, jasmine is the answer! The pink and white blooms are gentle and delicate.

Croton // Codiaeum variegatum

Photo by Madison Inouye

This one has the warm colours of a sunset and fall leaves. It’s most easily found in August/September but you can find it in shops with tropicals throughout the year. Heads up, it’s not as easy to maintain as other plants.

Lady Valentine // Chinese Evergreen // Aglaonema anyamanee

My favourite on the list… and also called Sparkling Sarah, this plant is mid-size and had pretty pink patterns on its leaves. Be sure to give it lots of diffused sun to keep the colour prominent. The Lady Valentine is easy to care for and makes a statement.

Geranium // Pelargonium spp.

Photo by 김 대정

Several types can be grown as houseplants and they’re easy to find in garden centres, especially in early summer. These easy-to-grow plants require lots of light to keep them blooming. They give off an English-Garden feel with their blooming clusters.

Do you have any more favourites to add? Let us all know!

Tag @wellgrownhome in your photos to show off those bursts of colour and be shared.

Frost in the Forecast? Here’s How to Protect your Plants.

If you live in Ontario like me, you probably have seen a frost warning or two by now. This is the sign that cold temperatures are on their way with potential to harm plants (and break out your cute fall clothing)! I swear these warm sunny days are only a trick. Let’s learn about how to protect our gardens.

What is frost?

Frost is basically a thin layer of ice on a solid surface. It looks super cool on the blades of grass and on leaves, but can harm your delicate plants that may not be ready to face this phenomenon on their own. According to our pal Wikipedia, frost “forms from water vapor in an above freezing atmosphere coming in contact with a solid surface whose temperature is below freezing, resulting in a phase change from water vapor to ice as the water vapor reaches the freezing point.”

Alissa Nabiullina

To help your garden stay safe from frost damage, you first need to know what plants will need protection.

Who do you have at your place?

Tropicals

If you have tropical plants that you’ve brought outside for a warm summer, it’s time to bring them in. Some people (and garden centres) will move their tropicals in and out for the daytime sunlight. I think it’s easier to just make the call and bring them inside for the cold season. My mom’s large jade plant made its way inside a few weeks ago after enjoying the summertime sun on our lower patio.

This is my mom’s Jade plant.

Annuals

By the time fall comes, most annuals have finished their blooming. You can compose what’s left or use your municipal yard waste program to discard the remaining plants. It’s best to take them out now before the ground becomes too solid or your fingers become too cold to deal with the fine plants. Annuals are only intended to last one season. Their seeds may remain in the garden and you might get a lucky few surprise returns the next year, but the roots and foliage will die away. These plants don’t need protection – just get them out and accept the yearly loss.

Yousef Espanioly

Perennials

These are the plants that don’t lose their roots at the end of their growing season. They will reduce in size, lose any flowers and much of their foliage, but will grow back the following year as the weather gets warm enough. These plants may need protection outside. You can protect them in a variety of ways. Depending on their size and type, here’s some suggested ways to create a safe haven from the ice and snow. These are what you’ll want to mulch or mound. Wrapping smaller perennial plants can be helpful too if they will be near sidewalks or roadways using road maintenance supplies like salt.

The neighbourhood squirrel eats seeds by the hostas.

Trees and Shrubs

These are the most hardy of flora and often will keep their branches and leaves/needles. Protecting them from the weight of the snow can be the biggest task. Living in the snowbelt of Ontario, a region that often receives heavy snowfall as a result of lake-effect precipitation, several centimeters often accumulate rapidly when it snows here. More fragile branches, such as the newest or oldest ones, may break in the heavy wind and snow. Wrapping them together can create a nice cozy bundle of protection.

Virginia Johnson

Here is a plant finder from Gardenia that can help you learn about your plants. There are a few apps you can download to help you with identifying unknown plants by taking a photo.


Chi Girls

Things to do:

  • Water remaining plants before nighttime. While the mid-summer sun will evaporate your watering quickly, the autumn weather allows it to last a little longer. If you water at dusk, the water doesn’t have time to go in the air or be absorbed before it freezes.
  • If you cover your plants at night, be sure there’s space between the fabric and the plant for air circulation. This allows for a protective cushion between frost and the plant – it prevents harm. Avoid plastic for long term use and be extra careful with this spacing as most plastics aren’t breathable like other fabrics. Think of tenting – use wood frames or stakes to help cover larger or multiple plants at the same time. Remember that snow acts like a natural blanket in the winter.
  • Do your gardening and be sure to cover any necessary plants before the sun goes down and the temperature drops. Your plants will chill to their core just like you otherwise! Uncover during daylight so they can breathe and soak up the sunny rays.

Trying something different or innovative? Take a picture and tag @wellgrownhome on Instagram. All the best and enjoy the fall harvest!

The Magic of Making a Fairy Garden

Fairy gardens are wonderful miniature gardens that are also creative and cute! They make excellent homes and dwellings for fairies. Here you can learn how to make one and where they may have originated.

Spirits have been a part of many ancient cultural stories. Many scholars have identified a transition from spirits to fairies in European literature since the 12th century. Gervase of Tilbury was one of the first to mention fairies. There has always been a connection between fairies and nature, with legends and tales of them living in woodland areas.

While fairies have an overall positive yet mystical reputation today, they were actually blamed for the misfortunes of people such as deaths from illness or famine. These issues were not yet explainable by science, so something essentially needed to take the blame. By pleasing the fairies with places to live, people could bring their homes good fortune. They’d also plant certain plants that kept the evil spirits away.

Read more about the folklore of fairies and fairy gardens here.

If you’d like to see how I’ve created my most recent fairy garden, since moving to Barrie, then watch this tutorial-style video.

In my fairy garden, I have the following six plants:

Baby Tears

This lush plant will cascade beautifully over the sides of containers. It has a reddish purple stem and bold green leaves. They also apparently pair well with my next plant.

Asparagus Fern

This bright plant adds some height to my garden and livens it up too. It will need a lot of trimming – these plants can grow up to two feet high and six feet long according to The Spruce. Due to their feather-light, lacy foliage, they don’t propagate well but will take over if left unattended.

Pixie Fern

This fern will be very delicate with the sun and will need an extra drink of mist every once in a while. It will expand and hang over the side of the planter as it grows. Ferns are typically easy to grow, but like moist soil. As long as you don’t abandon your fern then you should be good.

Arrowhead Pixie

My arrowhead plant adds volume to my garden. It has larger light-toned leaves that will fill up more space as it grows. Mine also has variegated foliage with white patterns to make it more interesting and pretty! It has a light pink stem and matching leaf veins.

Purple Velvet Plant

A soft and colourful plant, this one might be the coolest plant in the container. It will be sensitive to watering and, therefore, one of the top two plants to watch! The other would be the pixie fern, but they would show warning signs for opposite issues so a balance between them will be key to identify over the next month. I typically like to wait until I see the leaves drooping for all my plants before I water. Root rot is the true enemy. I’ll also be looking for flower buds – which need to be snipped quickly to avoid an apparent ghastly odour.

Silver Sicilian

Also called Tradescantia or the Wandering Jew, this plant will likely need propagation the quickest. A propagated plant can make an easy, affordable and sweet gift! It will add bushy-ness and volume like the arrowhead plant. The Silver Sicilian has deep purple patterned leaves with a silvery glow.

All Together Now

All of these plants like medium levels of water and medium-bright light. I’ve kept my fairy garden by the glass door in my basement. It faces North so there isn’t any direct light that could burn the plants’ leaves and the air is more humid down there. Mischief always seems to happen in basements too… perfect for sassy fairies.

I tried to keep a colour theme of ruby tones and purples in my plants to add a bit more richness and vibrancy to my garden. It adds an extra flair and dimension, preventing my garden from being visually flat.

As these plants grow, I’ll try my best to propagate them to keep my garden growing and alive. Being small and somewhat fragile plants, they can die after only a few years. Changing up the soil to replenish nutrients and using tropical or all-purpose indoor fertilizers can help them stay as strong as can be.

I’ll leave you with an anecdote:

The Peter Pan story, concept, character or however you want to describe it is one of my favourites since childhood. In many Peter Pan plays, they say clap if you believe in fairies as a great audience interaction moment. In Peter Pan (2003), they shout it to the sky to revive tinkerbell after she takes a poison meant to kill Peter Pan. Here’s a clip sharing this iconic scene.

Personally, other than the Disney version from 1953 that I ironically “grew up” with, my favourite Peter Pan film is Hook (1991). After you tend to your plants, take a break and relax with a fairy film tonight!

Check out my list of great themes to inspire you in your own fairy garden creation.

Plants Should be your Next Best Friends

Video posted to YouTube

You can pick your friends, so why not pick a plant! I have personified some house plants. Which one will you choose?

– Sarah Tyler

Green, bright, cute, and even considered grown-up goals: houseplants should be your next best friends. 

Adding a houseplant to your living space can be a great step towards more responsibility. You will need to maintain a relationship with your houseplant and find a plant where you compliment each other’s lifestyles and needs.

Choosing a plant can be like choosing a friend. Your goals must align so you can support each other. 

You need to know how much time you’re able to put towards the relationship. Are you around frequently? Will your plant be sad and miss you? They might want to relax with a cool drink of water – but if you’re only planning to visit them every few weeks they might be better off with a different bestie. 

Georgiana Mirela

Succulents and cacti often want time to themselves. Let them rest by the window and check on them once or maybe twice a month (if they’ve come back from a vacation in the bright sun). 

Lum3n

Ivy are often casual friends. They’re loyal, and if you don’t see them often they’ll still continue the friendship right from when you left off then next time you meet.

Polka dot plants will be your dramatic friend. They’ll be fine for only a few days before they desperately want to catch up with you… and have another drink.

Chinese evergreens are vibrant… quite often the life of the party and will tickle you pink with their pink-toned leaves. They take up space in the room and conversations. They’ll always want a refill on drinks. 

Sometimes a friend can be overbearing; you need to know your limits. Philodendrons want to hang out every weekend but only at your small apartment. They take over and want to be the centre of attention.

Carolyn V.

Then there’s the beautiful African violets… they’ll want to be pampered. Think sips of champagne at the end of the day. They dress up often but only have a small closet of their favourite items. They’re a light packer and won’t bombard your apartment with a huge amount of stuff. 

Snake plants make you want to watch your back. They’ll say one thing, but mean another. They want to meet for coffee but then cancel after you’re already in the cafe. 

Severin Candrian

Finally, one of the easiest friends to have is the air plant. No fuss, no worries and always there to brighten your day. They’re a favourite friend of mine due to their reliability. 

Whatever plants you decide to bring into your life, know that it’ll be nice to not be lonely. Any plant friend can be a great one. Make the first move and just say hello!

Now that you have thought of adding a plant to your network, what do you think about naming your plants? I wrote some of my opinions on plant parenthood in a past post. Showcase your plant friends on Instagram! Don’t forget to tag #wellgrownhome so we can all see.

Find the Flower of your Birth Month

Flowers can convey a message and bring out emotions in almost anyone. They often have symbolism and meaning. They can be used as a communication tool! This makes my PR heart flutter; it combines two of my passions.

Did you know that there is a language of flowers? It’s called floriography! Although it was incredibly popular during the Victorian age in Europe, many meanings carry on through to today.

Here is a list of flowers representing the months of the year. What plant(s) are said to be for your birthday month?

pink birthday cake covered in rosy icing with floral centrepiece in background
Jill Wellington

January – Carnation and Snowdrop

Carnations are typically white, pink, purple, yellow or red. This beautiful flower symbolizes fascination, deep love and happiness. Snowdrops are white and represent hope. They both symbolize admiration and rebirth.

February – Violet and Primrose


Violets are various shades of purple, blue and white and they symbolize faithfulness, purity, young love and modesty. Primrose represents a yearning and the saying “I can’t live without you.”

March – Daffodil

yellow daffodils
David Jakab


Daffodils are yellow and they mean cheerfulness, respect, prosperity, new beginnings and wishes granted. However, they also may represent unrequited love.

April – Daisy and Sweet Pea

Daisies come in a variety of colors. This bright bloom stands for innocence, youth, gentleness, loyal love and purity. Sweet Pea means farewell in a gentle way. They both represent blissful pleasure.

May – Lily of the Valley and Hawthorn

The lily of the valley is white and it stands for fertility, humility and the return of happiness. Hawthorn trees have small white flowers and red berries; they represent hope.

June – Rose and Honeysuckle

Roses bloom in a variety of colors like pink, white, red or yellow. This classic flower means love and devoted affection. Honeysuckle symbolizes happiness, generosity and the saying, “I love you.”

July – Larkspur and Water Lily

This linear whimsical flower blooms in pink, blue, lavender or white. The larkspur stands for an open heart, good luck, positivity and laughter. Water Lilies represents purity of the heart.

August – Gladiolus and Poppy

The gladiolus flower blooms on long spikes in red, pink, white, yellow or purple. This flower symbolizes beauty, strength of character and family. Poppies represent eternal sleep and imagination.

September – Aster and Morning Glory

Aster blooms in a variety of colors and symbolizes daintiness, joy and life. On the contrary, morning glory flowers represent unrequited love and mortality. Both flowers represent affection.

October – Calendula and Cosmos

The calendula flower is light orange and symbolizes passion, excellence, grace and creativity. They are also called marigolds and are actually considered a sacred flower to some! Marigolds also have symbolism around grief and jealousy. Cosmos have small blooms and bright colouring. They represent peace and tranquility.

November  – Chrysanthemum

many light magenta purple chrysanthemum flowers with tiny petals
Nikolett

Chrysanthemum colors range from red, yellow, shades of pink, white and purple. This flower symbolizes has meanings based on colour, but all represent sensitivity, compassion, cheerfulness and rest. Also called mums, they all symbolize a wonderful friend. Red mean “I love you.” White represent truth, and yellow, unfortunately, represent a neglectful love.

December  – Poinsettia and Holly

Poinsettia flowers have large red petals with wide green leaves. This bloom symbolizes celebration, wealth, success and overall good cheer. Holly represents protection, foresight, domestic happiness and defense.

Loof and Timmy

When giving someone a plant for their birthday, you might opt for their favourites… maybe next time you can give them the flower of their birth month! Be careful though – some, such as snowdrops, are poisonous. Research is key to ensure the plant will fit their potential environment too. You can read this post to learn about why you should give others flowers and plants.

What do you think of the plant of your birth month? Are there any flowers you’d prefer instead? Let me know!

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