{ Archive for the ‘native plants and wildflowers’ Category }

Garden travel: Brussels’ famous flower carpet

Last summer, while traveling through Europe, I had the chance to visit the Grand Place in Brussels. It was by far one of my favourite places and now, a year later I can’t help but be a little jealous that I missed the over 750,000 colourful begonias that helped transform this historical city centre. Every two years in August, the Grand Place in Brussels is taken over by an enormous carpet of flowers. Started in 1971, by landscape architect E. Stautemans the tradition has continued due to its popularity and well, remarkable beauty.

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This year’s celebration marked the 50th anniversary of Turkish workers migrating to Belgium. Paying homage to Turkish culture, the carpet’s design depicted traditional patterns found in Turkish kilims.
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Move over ‘Annabelle’ and make way for your talented daughter

Three years ago, I found myself sitting beside Rob Naraj at an industry luncheon promoting new plant introductions. Rob and I were in the same year at U of Guelph, although he concentrated on the agricultural business program while I stuck more to ornamental horticulture. Rob is now the wholesale business manager at Sheridan Nurseries in Ontario, so he has a huge responsibility resting on his shoulders, and he does an A-1 job.

After lunch, Dr. Tim Woods (of Bloomerang lilac fame) from Spring Meadow Nursery in Michigan, took the microphone to introduce his phenomenal new smooth hydrangea cultivar (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Abetwo’, Zone 3), being marketed under the retail name “Incrediball.” Having spent more hours than I care to count propping up and staking the floppy, weak-stemmed H. a. ‘Annabelle’, I let slip a sotto voce groan. Rob immediately turned to me and said “No! You’ve gotta get some of these. Trust me!”

Incrediball as its flowers begin to open and expand in early summer

Incrediball as its flowers begin to open and expand in early summer

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While you’re waiting… plant some of these! (Part 2)

In my final look at perennials that bridge the gap between spring and summer, I recommend some superb flowers that are tailor made for carrying your garden through the seasonal transition until the main glut of coreopsis, daylilies, echinacea, hydrangeas, garden phlox and Shasta daisies open their blooms as the mercury soars during the dog days of summer.

cg-blog-Lupin-2014-06-08-15.41 Read the rest of this entry »

While you’re waiting… plant some of these! (Part 1)

In my penultimate look at perennials that bridge the gap between spring and summer, I recommend some superb flowers that are tailor-made for carrying your garden through the seasonal transition until the main glut of coreopsis, daylilies, echinacea, hydrangeas, garden phlox and Shasta daisies open their blooms as the mercury soars during the dog days of summer.

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Four more early summer bridging plants

I’ve been looking back at some of the garden pictures I’ve taken over the past month or so, and in particular at the plants and shrubs that bloom after the spring glut, but before main season summer-flowering species take over during the hottest part of the year. These are useful “bridging plants” that prevent flower beds from looking empty as one season gives way to another.

In fact, they’re so useful for maintaining a steady stream of flowers that I intend to bulk up my stocks for next year, beginning with Mayapples:

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Taking over nicely from springtime hepaticas, trilliums and Jack-in-the-pulpits are our native Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum, Zone 4) which produce fragrant white blooms underneath their leafy green “umbrellas.” I grow them in full shade in moist, humus-rich soil where they spend the summer with various ferns and monkshoods; dryer soils will result in plants going dormant in midsummer. Spreading slowly via underground rhizomes (or stems), any unwanted plants are easy to pull out.

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Visit the Toronto Flower Market this weekend

Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Why not visit the Toronto Flower Market, open Saturday, July 12 from 10am to 3pm!

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Living Mulches: Two Great Groundcovers for Shade

One of my favourite groundcovers for shade is sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum, Zone 3) which spreads slowly but surely via short underground rhizomes. It bears fragrant cymes of star-shaped white flowers for several weeks in early summer, and while its spread may be indefinite, it rarely grows taller than 10 centimetres. Even when not in flower, sweet woodruff remains attractive with its circular whorls of leaves that hug the ground and provide the perfect backdrop for larger plants.

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Transitioning from late spring to early summer

It’s with a certain sadness that I bid adieu to the last daffodils to bloom in my garden. Known botanically as Narcissus poeticus var. recurvus (Zone 4), they bear flowers with small, red-rimmed golden cups (or coronas) that are surrounded by pure white recurved petals (known as perianth segments). Native to Switzerland and commonly called “old pheasant’s eye”, their blossoms are deliciously fragrant, and a perfect example of a genus going out with a bang rather than a whimper.

Apart from Switzerland, one of the best places to see old pheasant’s eye growing wild is in northern England, up to the Scottish Borders where—in a climate not unlike that of their homeland—they have naturalised over hundreds of years, and now cover entire hillsides. All you have to do is follow your nose, as you’re likely to smell their sweet scent before actually clapping eyes on their breathtaking flowers en masse. They’ll naturalise in Canada too (albeit more slowly), providing you let them set seed and allow their leaves to mature.

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May days and native plants

Amid the eye-catching blooms of springtime daffodils, hyacinths and tulips, some of our indigenous spring flowers tend to get overlooked. Many are classified as “spring ephemerals”, in that they grow, flower and set seed in their native forests and woodlands before deciduous trees have leafed out, casting them into deep shade for the rest of the growing season. Perhaps more subtle than Eurasian bulbs, they are certainly no less beautiful.

A good example of this is the great white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), which was adopted as the Floral Emblem of Ontario in 1937, seen here with native Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum, Zone 4) in the background.

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Inspiration: Foraging

Have you ever foraged for edible wild plants? I love the idea of hiking through the woods with a pair of pruners and a basket to carry my finds home with me. Here are a few items to have on hand for a foraging nature walk.

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