Spring Gold Cedar… a landscaper’s joke.

As The Passionate Gardener, I want everyone to have a thriving, beautiful garden.  Unfortunately, as I drive around the city, I see many gardens that are not thriving, even though it is obvious that there are people trying very hard.  One problem my assistant and I saw so often that we began to joke about it; is the ‘Spring Gold Cedar’.  (The joke, which may only be funny to gardeners, is that the cedars have died over the winter, and in the spring, display dead, gold coloured foliage.  It is also an homage to the creative names plant breeders give to their new offerings.  Heuchera ‘Root Beer’ is not a joke, but rather a pretty new perennial.)

Why are there so many Spring Gold cedars?  Not to mention, Spring Gold pines, spruce, and junipers?  There are a few reasons that I can tell, and they are all fixable.  The first would be a lack of water.  Cedars, especially, but all evergreens really need to be watered regularly as they establish themselves.  The most important time to water is in the fall.  In Calgary, our weather pattern has changed dramatically over the last decade or so.  Fall stretches on and on, which is lovely for people, but can be very hard on plants.  They lose moisture on warm days, and there is little rain to make up for it.  Many homeowners have their irrigation system shut down in September, so plants accustomed to regular water must now enter winter after two months of unexpected drought.  This can be neutral or even beneficial to plants that go dormant and lose their leaves in the fall, but it can be very detrimental and even fatal to the evergreens.

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New Gardening Class! Design for Homeowners.

Are you struggling to create a garden that suits your family’s needs?  Does everything you plant end up dying?  Do plants in your garden often end up looking like they don’t belong? Have you moved your patio set a thousand times and it still doesn’t look right?

Curves and textured shrubs make a foundation bed beautiful.

The Passionate Gardener is teaching a class just for you!  In two sessions, four hours in total, I will give you the basics you need in order to plan and create a garden that meets your needs.  Whether you are hoping for maximum curb appeal, to grow your own vegetables and fruit, or to have the perfect space for kids to play and guests to enjoy themselves, I can help.

The class will explore the form and function of design, themes of gardens, scale, curves and lines, ‘borrowed views’ and practical advice on where to locate items such as compost piles, vegetable gardens, and dining areas.  Students will be given a chance to work on their own scale drawings, and may bring in photos and measurements of their own gardens for trouble-shooting.

The class will run Thursday January 19, and Thursday January 26, from 7-9 p.m.  The location will be announced later, but will be fairly central.  The class will run as long as we have a minimum of 12 participants, and a maximum of 14.

Cost $50/ person.  Registration will close January 16th, and all fees must be paid by that date.  Fees will be non-refundable after January 16th.  (Fees will be refunded in full in the event that the class does not run.)  * Note: These dates have been changed from the original post.

Please contact Kate at The Passionate Gardener for more information.

When your view is less than ideal, The Passionate Gardener can help.


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The Passionate Gardener’s Top Ten: Great plants you’ve never heard of!

First and foremost, I am a plant person! Although I love creating a beautiful flagstone pathway, or concentrating on rock placement in a dry creek bed, it isn’t nearly as exciting as scoping out new plants. My garden is almost like a catalogue; full of new varieties that struck my fancy in nurseries far and wide. (Years ago, I had a job that required a lot of travel, and so I have purchased plants from Medicine Hat to Grande Prairie, and even brought home a Japanese maple from Vancouver on the plane!
Here are some of my favorite unusual perennials. They are generally easy to grow, but are not commonly seen in Calgary Gardens.

Number 10: Chelone obliqua/ obliqua “Alba”: This is a cool plant that I first discovered in a client’s garden in Mount Royal.  The plant is very stately, with upright stems and perfect dark green leaves.  It slightly resembles a snapdragon.  It prefers moist soil, and I recommend putting it in a sunny and protected area, as it blooms late in the year, and may be affected by frost.  It is a native of the Eastern United States.

Chelone or Turtlehead

Also known as Turtle heads, Chelones are tall, late blooming perennials.

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Perennial Plant Sale- this Sunday!

We will be having a perennial plant sale this weekend in Varsity.  These are locally grown perennials, many have over-wintered outdoors for  one or two years.  There are many rarer cultivars for excellent prices!  Prices range from $5 to $20; cash only please.


locally grown perennial sale from The Passionate Gardener

Perennials growing in The Passionate Gardener's Garden.

Daylilies- several varieties

Hostas- several varieties including “Blue Mouse Ears”

Sedums – upright varieties

Peonies- 2 year old, 1 or 2 gallon pots

Hollyhocks, Monkshood, Pentstemon, Echinacea and much more!

The sale will run from 11 am unitl 2 pm.  We hope to see you there!

The Passionate Gardener will be on hand to answer questions.

The sale will be held in Varsity: Turn west on Varsity Drive from Shaganappi Trail and look for the signs.  Please call 403-990-8240 if you have any questions.



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The top 6 Myths about Gardening in Calgary.

Gardening is relaxing and enjoyable, at least until the neighbourhood gardening guru comes by and explains all the rules you need to follow.  It usually begins with “Don’t plant anything until the May long weekend” and goes on from there.

Here are a few of my favorite gardening “truths”:

  • Nothing will grow on the north side of your yard. I’m not sure where this came about, and although I suppose it is true if your yard is on the north side of a skyscraper, however, in most cases, it is just a myth.  The sun travels from East to West across the sky, so your North facing garden should still receive some light, especially in the summer, where the sun is high in the sky and directly overhead for part of the day.  There will be shade, especially on the north side of the house or against a north facing fence or hedge.  Fortunately, there are many incredibly beautiful, shade loving plants to choose from.  One of my favorites is Ligularia “The Rocket”. Continue Reading

2011 Classes: Perfect Planters

Join us for our “Perfect Planters” class.

This class will run Thursday May 5th at 7 p.m., Saturday May 7th at 2 p.m. and Tuesday May 10th at 7 p.m.  Locations will be announced later, but will be fairly central.  Cost: $20 per person or $30 per couple, payable by Paypal.  Registration in advance is required, please call 403-990-8240.  Refreshments, door prizes and more!

lush beautiful planters, canna lilies, gardening classes in Calgary, gardening services

Beautiful planter with Canna lilies, oxalis, and ornamental grasses.

Perfect Planters will cover:

  • How to choose the perfect planter to add beauty to your home’s exterior.
  • Size matters!  How to balance the size of the container with the size of the plants.  (Avoiding the dreaded teeny little container in front of a large house)
  • Make your plants thrive!  We’ll teach you how to choose the proper soils and amendments, as well as managing water within the container, so that your plants grow and thrive and continue to bloom all season long.
  • Colour Colour Colour! What works together?  How many colours should be used?  How do you use colour to create a bold statement and avoid that ‘messy’ look.
  • How to choose plants to give the maximum amount of colour throughout the season. (Plants that bloom from early spring to late fall.)
  • Amaze all the senses!  Intoxicating scents, silky textures, delicious tastes, and even graceful sounds make your containers delight all the senses.
  • Make your planters do more: Topics such as space saving planters, privacy and wind screen planters, and container food growing will also be explored

Can’t find your green thumb?  We teach classes on a variety of gardening topics.  Feel free to inquire to see if we are teaching a class on a specific topic.  We are also able to teach classes to your group of children and adults.

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Gardening Inspiration

My inspiration comes from many places; the masters of the gardening world, books, nature, floral design, art, and often the site itself.

The masters of the gardening world have earned unlimited budgets and large staffs that allow them to create stunningly beautiful landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see. Many of them can still give inspiration for smaller lots and smaller budgets. One of my favorite designers is Piet Oudolf. He uses large sweeps of colour, and creates the visual of a meadow. Even though he generally gardens in Europe; he uses many plants that thrive in Calgary, such as Nepeta and Echinacea species.


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Love gardening but haven’t got a green thumb?

To all those who love gardening and haven’t got a green thumb, I would like to recommend “The Passionate Gardener”.

Circumstances left me with one of the finest private gardens in Calgary. Wanting to maintain the garden at its best until the property was sold, I hired Kate (The Passionate Gardener). Kate worked for us through the first fall, two winters and one summer. During this time she took full responsibility for maintaining the garden which included preparing it for the winters and start-up in the spring.

Kate’s knowledge, attentiveness and her love for gardening showed in the results of her work. I received many complements from prospective buyers. What impressed me most was Kate’s professional approach to her work. She did what was needed when it was needed thus controlling costs yet leaving me with a beautiful garden.

Thanks Kate
John Thompson

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A grateful note about gardening from Shirley

June 24, 2009

Dear Kate,

Just wanted to say a big thank you for all your wonderful work. I love the plants and their position in the beds. It is so much better.

Hope to have many more years of association with you.

~ Shirley, client, Calgary

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Kate helped us maximize our home’s curb appeal

January 2, 2011

To Whom it May Concern:

Last summer, we made the decision to move and needed to get our house ready to put on the market. We hired Kate Kennedy, the Passionate Gardener, to do some work in the yard to maximize our home’s “curb appeal.” We were delighted with the results. In just a few short days Kate pruned our shrubs, weeded and mulched the beds, and planted some cheery, colourful—and importantly low maintenance!– flowers. She also did two custom planters that flanked the walk to the front door. All of this dramatically improved the curb appeal of our house—so much so that neighbours and our realtor commented on the improvements too. And it was such a relief to us to be able to concentrate on buying, selling and packing for our move without needed to worry about keeping the yard ship-shape as well.

I would highly recommend Kate for any gardening work you may need. We are very glad we hired her to help us with showing off our home and yard in its most positive light. Even in the down real estate market, our home sold quickly (less than 1 month from listing) and for tens of thousands more than any of the “home valuations” done by realtors prior to the yard work being done. I am confident that Kate’s hard work and eye for appealing design assisted us in selling our home, giving us an edge over similar homes in the surrounding neighbourhoods.

~ Risa Kawchuk, client, Calgary

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