Garden Route Blog

The Avant-Garden Shop offers the BEST quality bird food in the region

Seedy Business

By Andrew Jobes, for The Avant-Garden Shop

The majority of the contents in most bird seed mixes available at large stores is a blend of “fillers” that are low in nutritional value, such as wheat, red millet, and flax. The seeds in these bulk bags are often poorly cleaned, which leaves them dusty, and oils are then added to reduce the dust. So, although $10 or $20 might seem like a steal for a large bag of seed, it doesn’t fool the birds. They don’t like dust or oil and avoid them. They also sort through the feed you offer to find the most nutritional value and energy possible. The result is a lot of uneaten seed on your ground which is not only expensive to you, but can also harbour harmful bacteria as it rots, potentially harming the very birds you’re trying to help by feeding them!

The topic of bird seed may not seem all that exciting at first, but learning more about it can help you support the species you want to and even exclude those you don’t want “hogging” the offering. Here are a few tips to help you, whether you’re reading labels or asking a sales associate for help.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are high in fat and protein and are used by many species, which makes them a favourite for the birds and therefore the most common in bird seed mixes. Bulk bags of bird feed often contain a lot of “blanks” – husks without kernels or very small ones – which makes them little more than fillers. Here are a few considerations when selecting sunflower seeds:

  • Black oil seeds are high in nutritional value and have thin shells, which makes it easy for smaller birds to access the contents. The shell protects the kernel from the elements, making them suitable for large feeders that don’t get filled as frequently.
  • Striped seeds are also highly nutritious, but their thicker shells are harder for smaller birds to open. You can actually use this to your advantage if you wish to exclude species such as House Sparrows and blackbirds from your feeder.
  • Hulled seeds of either type are nutritious and help birds conserve the energy they would use to hull them during deep cold. They also result in less mess on the ground under the feeder. However, hulled seeds spoil more quickly without the protection of their shell, so it’s best to only put out enough for 1-2 days at a time. It’s also best to avoid tube feeders for hulled seeds, because moisture can collect and cause mold.


  • White millet is highly nutritious and used by several species, especially ground feeders. As with hulled sunflower seeds, millet spoils quickly, especially when spread on the ground, so it’s best to only put out enough for 1-2 days at a time.
  • Golden millet & red millet have poor nutritional value and are often used as filler. They get sorted and dropped by birds seeking seed with more nutritional value and become contaminated with mold and bacteria.


  • Thistle seeds were once used for bird feeders, but thistles can be a highly invasive plant species, so the industry switched to niger (nyjer) seed, a daisy-like flower.
  • Nyjer seeds are loved by the finches, such as American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins and are best placed in a feeder specifically designed for these tiny seeds.

We carry Only High-Quality Bird Feed

We pride ourselves in carrying high-quality bird seed that is non-GMO and bee-friendly, and we’d be happy to help you find what’s best for your feeder setup.

If you’d like to learn more, we have several Garden Gate episodes about seed on our YouTube page (2-3 minutes each):

Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

Do you like Humming birds, Bees and butterflies in the garden?

Do you like Humming birds, Bees and butterflies in the garden?

How about a plant that can take full sun or part shade as well?  Oh my we are so excited to add 6 more varieties of  Monarda/Bee Balm to our Easy care perennial list.

You maybe thinking Bee Balm spreads, is really tall and gets mildew!  Not these newer ones.  They are resistant to mildew and clump.  They are also fragrant and don’t need lots of water.  The other great thing is they are offering many in shorter heights.    Love these new Sugar Buzz series .  Varieties like;  Cherry Pops, Grape Gumball and many more 14” to 24” high.


With them taking part shade to full sun they mix well with  Coral Bells ‘Pink Fizz’ , ‘Catching Fire’ and even Hosta.  If planting in full sun plant them with coneflowers and reblooming daylilies.  Also Siberian Iris ‘Pink Parfait’ and Salvia ‘Bumbleberry’ or ‘Pink Dawn’

They bloom in June to July/August so they’d mix in well.  For a bright and vibrant addition to any garden.  Oh, forgot to mention they’d look great in a container.  Yes, perennials in containers too!  Just remember to plant back in the ground in September so you can reuse them next season.    At Gardens Plus we strive to make gardening a pleasure not a strain.

Dawn Golloher  owner/operator of Gardens Plus


Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

Tips and tricks to attract hummingbirds and orioles to your garden

Tips and tricks to attract hummingbirds and orioles to your garden

purple flowersBy Brenda Ibey, The Avant-Garden Shop

On a recent episode of The Garden Gate (Airing bi-weekly on CHEX and also uploaded to YouTube) I offer a few tips about hummingbirds and some tricks to help you attract them!

A hummingbird flaps its wings up to 70 times per second; its heart rate can reach 1,260 beats per minute.

Hummingbirds can extend their long, skinny tongues twice as far as the bill, which helps them reach nectar deep inside flowers.

Their tongues dart in and out of flowers at 15-20 times per second

When it comes to making up the nectar, do not use honey or sweeteners.  Just plain white sugar. Boil some water and add the sugar at a ratio of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. Let cool then put the sugar mix in your feeder. Extra nectar can be kept in the fridge.  Change the liquid every 3-4 days. More often in hot weather.  If black spots appear on your feeder or in the liquid, that’s mold and it needs to be cleaned well. Use hot water to clean and a drop or two of bleach if the mold is serious. Rinse well with water.

Place your feeders near flowers that they like. Hanging geraniums, honeysuckle, fuchsia, coral bells, bee balm, morning glory. The list goes on. You can also add a red scarf or flag to attract. But once they find your feeders those can be removed. They won’t forget where your feeders are.

The feeder should be hung in part shade and out of the wind. Among the flowers is best.

Hummers are very territorial and will protect a feeder from other hummers. Place 2-3 feeder around your home in different spots out of sight of each other. The male can’t defend all of them at the same time.

Get your feeders out about a week before you expect them to return. There is a better chance they’ll stay if you get it out early enough. First reports received here at the shop were on May 3rd.

Make sure the feeder is easy to clean, that they keep ants out and also wasps. We have ant moats and bee guards plus leak proof feeders that are guaranteed for life.

Oriole are quite similar to hummingbirds. They drink nectar but also like orange halves and grape jelly.  The grape jelly cannot have any artificial sweetener in it. So only the best!

Orioles are attracted to orange just like hummers are attracted to red. Often you’ll see the orioles when the apple trees are blooming.  If they find a good reliable food source they may stay and nest but most often they continue to fly north with the blooming of the apples. Look for their nests in the trees. It like a big long tangle of sticks and moss. They also can disappear when they are nesting so don’t give up. They may shop up just when you take the feeder away!

We have a large selection of hummingbird and oriole feeders to choose from. Pop by the shop for some helpful advice to choose one for your garden.

Visit our YouTube channel to watch this episode.

Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

Ultra Violet – The colour of the year!

Ultra Violet – The colour of the year! 
By Victoria Whitney of Griffin’s Greenhouses


The gardening community was excited when Pantone, a well-known colour expert company, announced that the Colour of the Year for 2018 was Ultra Purple. Last year, to stay “on trend” the colour to integrate in your garden was Greenery – how easy was that? In 2018, adding tones of purple will be intentional. Splashes of lavender, purple and rosy blues will POP amid green leaves and will contrast with variegated leaves.

For annuals (and yes, all good gardens have a combination of colourful annuals and valuable perennials) consider the beautiful blooms of petunias, impatiens and geraniums. Each of these garden basics bloom in many shades, but one of the most popular for all three is violet or purple. In impatiens (and yes, they will be back, in small quantities, in many local garden centres) mixtures with bright violet or even violet on its own will shine in shady gardens. Always be careful though, in deep shade gardens to avoid too many deep, dark colours; rich dark shades are lost in the shadows and it’s best to add in white or lighter shades of the same dark hue to brighten the darkness.

Other annuals to consider in hues of violet:  african daisy (pictured), salvia, dahlias, ageratum, cleome, coleus, fountain grass, ornamental cabbage and kale, alyssum and verbena.

Purple or violet blooms are not as common in perennials; some to note may not bloom purple but feature purple leaves: heuchera (coral bells), lupins, ground phlox, tall garden phlox, coneflowers malva, delphiniums and flowering shrubs such as weigela, ninebark and hydrangeas.

A simple, less permanent way to integrate a specific colour in the garden is to add colourful accents. How about purple outdoor cushions on patio furniture? Or why not paint metal furniture, a trellis or a wire obelisk with a can of Ultra Violet spray paint? Have fun and be “on trend” for 2018!

Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

A new season is in full swing!

Wow!  What happened to spring?  It seems like we’ve gone from a long cold winter into summer with 25C+ temps!  This makes things super busy at all the Garden Route businesses.

The plants at Griffin’s, Johnston’s, Greenhouse on the River, Keene on Gardens and Gardens Plus have just surged into super growth! And Brenda can barely keep up with customers who are popping by for some garden accessories at The Avant-Garden Shop.  She has many beautiful new items available.

Now is the time to drop by to purchase plants. All chance of frost (should be) past. And in the coming weeks, drop by again to have a more relaxed visit to the garden centres to view the display gardens and pick out something special for this seasons garden.

Click the links on the right to take you to each Garden Route business’s page.


Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog
Gardens Plus is celebrating season #21!

Gardens Plus is celebrating season #21!

So many new introductions in the easy care perennial line up this season.


Excited to carry some combinations for Pollinators, Hummingbird Magnets

and always have been growing  pesticide/chemical free.  So all bee friendly too.


Check out the web site for a complete list of offerings along with details and pricing.

You can even pre order for both pick up and shipping.  If you drop in the green houses always

have a great selection pre-potted to offer.

Change of hours:


Due to the amount of light hours in a day…  Gardens are closed on Monday and Tuesdays


All a benefit to you when you come so staff are not preparing orders for pick up and shipping.

Gardens/Green houses open 10-4 Wednesday to Sunday

With the exception of Friday evenings until 7pm from May 11th until July 29th for 2018

They will also have limited shrubs available in May until sold out.


Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

Spring is coming!

Things are gearing up on The Garden Route!

Most of the garden centres on our route are already open or opening soon. Plants are rolling in by the truck load.  And staff and visitors are breathing in the wonderful scents of the warm sunny greenhouses. Paradise!

The Avant-Garden Shop is filled to the brim with lots of new products.

Gardens Plus has revamped their website with lots of new hostas and daylilies…and more…to choose from.

The peonies and delphiniums are still frozen in the ground at Blossom Hill but it won’t be long till things start to sprout!

The Garden Show will bring spring on with a BANG!  Be sure to get your tickets ahead of time to avoid line ups. Available at Griffin’s and The Avant-Garden Shop (cash only)

Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog
Avant-Garden Shop – 15th anniversary party!

Avant-Garden Shop – 15th anniversary party!

Each year The Avant-Garden Shop has a special day to show their appreciation to their customers. It’s called  CUSTOMER APPRECIATION EVENT.  They will have refreshments, door prizes and offer NO TAX on all purchases that day.  This year because it’s their 15th anniversary, it will be extra special. So be sure to drop by Thursday November 23rd from 9:30-8:00pm.  Extended hours!  165 Sherbrooke street in downtown Peterborough.

Check out their most recent awards while you’re there!  They look a bit like mini “Oscars!”

In addition, The Pasta Shop will be having hourly FOOD DEMOS and Electric City Bread Company will be doing something special as well.  See you then!



Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

Garden Show Rest Area – Thank you partners!

Each year the Garden Route members put together a rest area at the Peterborough Garden Show.  Over the years we’ve had some elaborate set ups including a beautiful gazebo put together by former members Bev and Paul Williams from Williams Design Studio.

Thank you to our Garden Route partners for their participation, donation of plants, pussy willows, wheelbarrows etc.

Each year we are very thankful to Brook Taylor from Taylor’s recycled plastic furniture for the use of some of his awesome benches and tables.  These pieces allow a spot for people to rest and enjoy some time to relax during the busy show.  Brooks furniture is solid, super well made and comes in fun colours.

A few years ago Brenda Ibey from The Avant-Garden Shop interviewed him for one of her Garden Gate episodes. These informative segments air Fridays, bi-weekly on The CHEX Daily and then are later posted on the shops YouTube Channel.

Watch this episode.

Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

Hardy annuals and succulents

At this time of year, it’s wonderful to visit a garden centre like Griffin’s Greenhouses.  Their plants look wonderful (and there are still plenty), the pond out back is so relaxing and there is always someone around who can answer your questions or just spend a few minutes chatting. I will chat with them about their involvement with Garden Route and also about some of their beautiful hanging baskets and containers. They’ll have some tips on keeping them good looking through the heat of our summer.

Watch this episode of Garden Gate.

Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog