Friday, August 29, 2008


As you search on the internet about Hummingbirds you'll find there are a lot of articles on the net that tell you how to attract the birds and how to keep hummingbird feeders with sugar water and so on...

I'm of the firm belief that we should not intervene with Nature's natural patterns and the natural migration routes of these beautiful little creatures... so my method of practice would be to create a natural hummingbird garden full of their favorite plants....

We may not know the right time of year to take out the feeders or to put them in but if it is a garden full of flowering perennials and shrubs, we can leave that guess work up to Nature. If hummingbird feeders are not kept clean, we can actually do more harm than good... even the plastic feeders baking in direct sunlight are found to leech chemicals into the syrup feed!

The photos in this article are from a recent trip to a friend's cottage... I was so fortunate to capture these pictures of the hummingbird feeding on Evening Primrose flowers. Rather than having open grass around the cottage, my friend had decided to plant wildflowers everywhere! The beauty of this is that you can spend time watching the flowers grow, watching the bees flourish and in this case... sit quietly in the garden and wait for one of these beautiful little jewels to buzz by you on his way to hover over a flower while you snap your pictures...

This guy decided to sit in front of my face and check me out first before he went to his flowers... I tend to look at this encounter as if he interviewed me before he would let me take his pictures. When they are in their natural element (sans man-made feeders) they are fearless and in control.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A unique dowtown backyard

In the confining space of some of the areas in downtown Toronto, deck designers can find some unique challenges. The picture below shows such a challenge. This is a continuation of the Deck spans article... showing what the 20 foot beam is holding up!

I was called into this project last year to help dream up a new look for the privacy screen/railings that enclosed this "backyard". The space is approximately 20 x 20 and sits at the second floor level over top a parking area in the back of a townhouse complex. The clients asked me for something that kept the privacy, allowed for air flow and gave them a view to the surrounding tree tops, all the while keeping it stylish and appealing to the eye.

I came up with a combination of the privacy screens for the sides of the deck and the glass windows along the back with etched in window frames on the glass. The glass windows were placed strategically so that when seated on the deck, no one could see you from down below but you had all the pleasure of the green surrounding from the tree branches.

This effect makes the space feel larger and more connected to the landscape even though it is 9 feet off the ground. The deck carpenter for this project was Tony Fredericks of The Woodcrafters (416-420-3999).

The glass panels for the screens were supplied by Verrage Glass and Mirror Inc. (416-631-6500 or 905-738-6565)...they are a great group to work with and will customize any glass shapes, sizes, patterns and specifications for your project!

Deck spans...

Last year I had the pleasure of working on a deck project that involved a face-lift plus a structural repair to the main supporting beam.

The deck is an elevated second-story deck that sits over a 2-car parking area which required a 20 foot clear span of the main beam. The picture above shows some fancy engineering of a laminated beam made up of 2 x 12's and plywood spanning the 20 feet. It will not sag under it's own weight and will hold up nicely when your party of 12 sits happily and safely above!

The deck in the distance shows a 20 foot span sagging under it's own weight...evident in the slightly curved appearance to the bottom of the deck. Imagine what a party of 12 would do to it? When designing the structure of a deck, there are specific building codes to follow with beam and joist spans. Things are very specific in the types and sizes of beams to use according to the distance you wish to span from post to post.

You want to make sure your spans follow those guidelines for safety reasons... saving money or trying to maximize space under a deck by using less posts with the wrong type of beam could result in structural failure. The above picture shows what you get with the proper guidance of a knowledgeable contractor working on your job. The deck carpenter for this project was Tony Fredericks of The Woodcrafters (416-420-3999)

Yikes!!! My Tomatoes!

If any of you out there are avid gardeners and enjoy fresh home grown tomatoes like I do... watch out for these pesky buggers!

This is a picture of the Tomato Horn Worm which later turns into the Five-spotted Hawkmoth. It can make a meal of your tomato plants in a hurry... leaving you nothing to enjoy for the rest of the gardening season. If you find this silent invader in your garden plot try a quick and green solution of hand picking them and disposing of them from the garden area.

I have heard of cornmeal being used... the worms eat the corn meal and are not able to digest, which results in their death. Other hopeful solutions is to let nature deal with them as they make wonderful meals for birds and they can also be attacked by wasps.

In my many years of being around Tomato gardens, I have only seen the worm once... they are hard to see from a distance but easy to recognize (4 inches long) when you find your tomato leaves being eaten.