REALTORS® serving Calgary and area

Rose hips are packed with vitamin C to protect against the 
all-too-common winter cold.
Donna Balzer / For CREB®Now
Rose hips are packed with vitamin C to protect against the all-too-common winter cold. Donna Balzer / For CREB®Now

Dec. 06, 2017 | Donna Balzer

December in the garden

Plant-friendly solutions for icy walkways and homegrown winter refreshments

Slippery When Wet
It's nothing to brag about, but after months of false starts and delays, we finally got our new sidewalk poured this fall. It is so pretty, but it does get slippery when snow melts and water freezes.

So off to the store I went to buy a solution for icy walks. There was just one problem: almost every product for melting ice contains salt, and all the labels warn against use of salt on unsealed or new concrete.

If salt damages concrete, can you imagine what it does to plants? You have probably seen those dead patches of lawn along your walk or driveway in spring. Maybe you noticed shrubs close to the driveway die after a harsh winter. Don't blame the weather – it's probably the salt.

Luckily, there is LavaGrip (, an anti-slip product made from finely crushed lava rock that can be sprinkled on the sidewalk after it is shovelled. Full disclosure: I got a free sample last winter and it was gathering dust in my garage, so I decided to try it. It doesn't chemically melt ice like salt, but it is black, so on sunny days, it heats up more than the ice and sinks in a bit for added traction. With sharp edges, this finely crushed material is like adding sandpaper to your concrete.

In the spring, when everything melts, I'll be able to sweep the LavaGrip onto the lawn or into the planting beds without fear of plant damage. Sand also works to improve grip, but the edges of the grains can round out over time, reducing the gritty, slip-free effect.

Plant cures for what ails you
Trendy, small-batch distilleries are suddenly making the junipers of our foothills and mountains super desirable. Gin is flavoured with juniper berries, the specialized cones of these wild and garden evergreens. And if you want to grow your own berries instead of trekking in the wilderness, the "Buffalo" variety is the one to try here in Calgary. It boasts more berries per shrub than any other variety, and it's hardy. Best of all, if you don't plan to take up gin making, you can use your juniper berries to flavour savoury sauces and soups.

There is another option for winter refreshment growing here in Alberta: rose hips. These red fruits form after roses bloom, so you might have them in your own backyard. The birds like them and they look pretty all winter, but if you want to boost your own vitamin C levels and cold-proof your family, make tea from rose hips wild or tame.

Simply pick the fruit, chop it coarsely and toss it into a teapot. Cover with boiling water and steep until pink. If you pick a pile of hips now, you can dry the extras and store them until you feel a cold coming on. Just crush the dried fruits and pour boiling water over them. Whether using fresh or dry hips, remember to pour the tea through a strainer before serving. Then, toss the strained bits into your compost, where they can help your garden grow next spring.

Tagged: Donna Balzer | Garden | Gardening | Guest Column

Connect With Us