{ Archive for the ‘perennials’ Category }

From grass to garden part 3 – after photos!

Based on our rough garden plan, my mom, dad, husband and I got to work on the Saturday of the August long weekend. While the boys worked on the wall, my mom and I worked on shovelling dirt and mulch to the new garden and placing the plants we had on hand.

Here, the wall is partially finished and you can see the big rocks we got from our neighbour that divide the existing garden from the new one.

I had put aside a few that I received at gardening events and the rest we divided out of my collection of perennials.

Here’s what we planted:

1. ‘Starbright’ mock orange: I picked this out at the annual President’s Choice Lawn & Garden preview.

2. This is a lovely ornamental grass that I planted after last year’s PC Lawn & Garden preview. I was able to divide one plant into three.

3. This rhododendron was shaded by a purple sand cherry and a couple of big trees in my neighbour’s front garden, so we rescued it and placed it front and centre. Hopefully it comes back next year because it has very pretty pink blooms.

4. The two shrubs you see pictured were planted in the original garden that was decimated after our sewer pipes were replaced. Luckily the workers dug them into another garden, so they weren’t lost forever–unlike my poor hens and chicks.

5. You can’t see it very well, but I bought this Proven Winners Black Lace Elderberry for about 80% off at an end-of-season Loblaws sale.

6. It’s not in this picture, but we later planted a Crimson Butterflies Gaura from Sheridan Garden Classics– courtesy of a Garden Writers Association luncheon I attended at the Toronto Botanical Garden. It took awhile, but these gorgeous magenta blooms finally appeared in late summer.

7. This is a type of sedum that my mom calls Dragon’s Blood. It is a lovely spreader in her Port Perry garden, so she had lots to spare.

8. This Autumn Joy sedum was transplanted from one of my back gardens.

9. Ellagance Ice lavender from Freeman Herbs: I also received this plant from my GWA luncheon where Freeman Herbs was a guest speaker.

Not shown in the photo are a couple of boxwood we planted at the very end of the yard by the sidewalk, a Silver Mound Artemisia schidtiana, a pink rosebush tucked up against rocks, some scented geranium from my mom’s garden and a couple of chrysanthemums that were tiny little seedlings when we first dug them up that developed into gorgeous, flowering fall blooms.

We celebrated all our hard work with a big family barbecue!

There are definitely still some holes to fill and once some of the smaller plants take root and grow, that will fill things in nicely, too. We are really happy with the results – and it seems the neighbours are, too, after all the compliments we’ve received. What feels so nice is the fact that we designed it ourselves.

Hopefully everything survives the winter!

Latin, shmatin. It’s pretty.

My garden is inherited from a wonderful woman named Margo. When we bought this place she toured me around and identified most of the plants growing here. Some she didn't know, several I've forgotten, as I had too much faith in my used-to-be-good memory and never wrote any of it down. Over the 8 years we've lived here I've stumbled into identifying most of them–none of them are anything really fancy (a clustered bellflower, a couple different sedums, an ornamental hops vine, some lupins). As a self-educated gardener, I feel I have progressed from that naive tourist to a middle-weight who can make a pretty good guess on many things.

 Happy bee on Mystercus planticus "Tall Yellow Stuff" with Echinacea looking on.

Happy bee on Mystercus planticus "Tall Yellow Stuff" with Echinacea looking on.

But escaping my casual attempts to name it is a tall, fluffy golden-flowered perennial, affectionately known as “the tall yellow stuff.” Every once in a while I've flipped through a few guidebooks and gone in circles on horrible plant identification websites. I have seen it growing here and there and have always asked the gardener in question if they knew what it was. Each answered with some variation of “don't know, it's always been there; I call it the tall yellow one.”

When I was in Slocan Valley, Uncle Heinz took us to a neighbor's garden. While touring Susan Appleby's beautiful yard (which really deserves its own post) I spotted the unknown plant again. She had already proved her mettle to me, and so I had high hopes she could solve my mystery. But: “Oh, I dunno, I just call it the tall yellow stuff. Been there for years.”

Dang.

Then, whilst going through old gardening magazines discarded from our local library (I glean them for information and ideas and collect the cuttings in a scrapbook/plan book) I found an article on sunflowers (Heliopsis, Helianthus, and Helenium all) and there it was! A picture of what looked a great deal like my tall yellow stuff!

This photo shows the immature blossoms as well as a full one, and the upper, single, leaves.

This photo shows the immature blossoms as well as a full one, and the upper, single, leaves.

`Flore Pleno` perennial sunflower, said the caption. I scanned the text for more and found a pretty accurate description of my John Doe. But, wouldn't you know it, even the venerable Patrick Lima wasn't completely sure of its identity.

The lower leaves. It splits in three at the left, and then the center part becomes three-lobed.

The lower leaves. It splits in three at the left, and then the center part becomes three-lobed.

My plant's leaves don't quite jive with most of the pictures I've been able to find, but it's hard to see detail and I've yet to find a description that goes into leaf shape and position. So I could be on the completely wrong track, but for the first time I have a little something to go on. Not that I'm overly worried about it. It would be kind of fun to nod sagely at some other gardener's question and grace them with my wisdom, but I'm not going for the championship in botany. I'm just curious. Those unknowns kind of pester me. But even if I never find its true identity, experience has taught me that if I call it “the tall yellow stuff,” most people pretty much know what I'm talking about anyway.

Can you identify my mystery plant? Do you know of a good plant identification website?

‘Tis the season

This is a painful time of year. There are so many plants languishing in greenhouses and parking lots, begging to be rescued from their uncertain fate. (Is it just me or does every big box store with any connection to domesticity now have a garden centre?) And it's not that hard to do the rescuing; everything goes on sale as greenhouse workers face the reality of overwintering or getting rid of all that greenery. One place I stopped last week had trees on sale for 70% off. Under these circumstances, don't you feel like you could nurse anything back to health? Don't you find yourself tempted to buy entire flats of stuff, and one of every bush you've ever thought about growing? Doesn't reason go out the window when you see those price tags and those drooping but still viable leaves? Come on, I know I'm not alone.

 Some of the sweet potato vines I rescued in my Canadian Tire planter (one of my prizes!)

Some of the sweet potato vines I rescued in my Canadian Tire planter (one of my prizes!)

One of the 70% off trees I saw was a weeping birch. I've always wanted one. My grandparent's front yard had one that was perfect for climbing and hiding in. All kinds of warm fuzzy feelings and happy memories surface at the sight of one or the mention of its name. But I made a $75 mistake a couple of autumns back on a weeping birch–got it too late, snapped the leader off in a moment of idiocy, and a late spring frost nipped the buds, well, in the bud. So I was a little more careful this time. I weighed my options carefully. Dozens of plants were jammed together like the proverbial sardines. I noted the mottled leaves, a sign of something not good, though I'm not sure what. The soil was overly damp and turning green. There were some dead twigs.

But it was a weeping birch. At seventy percent off.

The deciding factor ended up being the hour long highway drive home in our van full of kids. Nowhere to put the thing. Safely distanced from temptation now, I'm very glad I was delivered from evil. I will get my weeping birch, hopefully sooner than later, so that my kids can sit under the waterfall of leaves with a book and avoid their chores just like I did. But I'm determined to be patient and find a healthy one, even if I have to pay full price.

And for now, I'm happy with rescuing a bunch of sweet potato vines and coleus. At sixty percent off!

Tell me about your $75 dollar mistake, or your have-to-have-it plant.

Cool things to plant from PC

This past weekend marked the official launch of the President's Choice Insider's Report (Lawn & Garden edition). And as we head into the long weekend, you may want to check it out and make a list of all the great new flowers, trees, bushes, herbs, fruits and veggies that will be stocked at a Loblaw-owned store near you.

I had a bit of a sneak preview a couple of weeks ago at the annual President's Choice Lawn & Garden event. This year's plant preview took place in Beamsville where we had the opportunity to tour the greenhouses at the family-run Linwell Gardens and Freeman Herbs.

At Freeman Herbs: This particular greenhouse was All basil! I'm sure you can imagine how wonderful it smelled!

At Freeman Herbs: This particular greenhouse was All basil! I'm sure you can imagine how wonderful it smelled!

Here are some of the plants and products that I took an interest in for my own garden or that were too cool not to mention:

Sunpatiens
Impatiens no longer have to be confined to those shady areas of your garden. There's a new hybrid in town that does well in full sun.

Tumbler tomatoes
I had a nice chat at Freeman Herbs with Bob Martin from Martin Farms. I met Bob last year at a Stokes Best and President's Choice tasting event. He was excited about their tumbler tomatoes, tomatoes that were bred for hanging baskets–genius! I remember them being quite delicious. It's really neat to see something go from the test garden to the store. Another tomato that made it into this year's product lineup was red candy. It was one of my favourites from last year and I recently took one home after our magazine editor Erin did a veggie presentation. Also worth trying, the Kapelo peppers.

Starburst surprise petunias
I'm not partial to any one colour in the garden, but my favourite colour in everyday life is pink–pale or fuchsia, it doesn't matter. So I fell in love with these gorgeous, two-toned petunias and was lucky enough to take one of the luxuriant hanging baskets home. Last night as I was buying soil, I grabbed a couple more individual plants to go in my front garden along with some pale yellow beauties.

A pink Starburst surprise!

A pink Starburst surprise!

Starbright Mock Orange
We have a second story going up on the bungalow behind us, which has killed our privacy. My fingers are crossed the owners build a fence, but in the meantime, I'm going to build a living fence. Currently we have cedars (not including the ones I planted last year that died) and a mulberry tree (which is pretty, but messy). This mock orange will fill one of the vacant spots beautifully–the Insider's Report says it will grow to be about 10 feet tall–here's hoping!

They don’t look plastic!
Rather than sell their pots in something generic that you'll have to hide in one of your own pretty pots, PC has these fantastic, decorative planters that you can just plunk right in front of your house without shame.

Can you believe this is only $30!

Can you believe this is only $30!

Check out the PC Garden blog, written by City Gardening writer Lorraine Flanigan. It will give you even more ideas on what to plant from President’s Choice.

p.s. Many apologies for the delay between posts! I've been under the weather for the last two weeks. On the mend!

Mums the word

A look back at the 2008 Annual Mum Show

A look back at a few photos from the 2008 Annual Mum Show

The 89th Annual Mum Show recently took place in Hamilton this past week. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to enjoy the artistic splendor. If it was anything like last year, then I really missed out. Not only does the event showcase new varieties and traditional favourites, the creativity involved in designing elaborate displays filled with mums is impressive. Last year’s show included water features, gazing balls, and other artistic installations strategically placed amoung the thousands of potted chrysanthemums.mums3

Aside from the sheer beauty of the Mum Show, another thing I love about the show is the smell. There’s something about the smell of mums that I love. I don’t know if it’s just me, but the smell of mums is irresistible.

mums

Taming my rosebush and treating its spots

After three years of basically avoiding my monster rosebush, I got a pair of Wells Lamont rose gloves for my birthday from my sister. Now I'd already made a few cursory cuts here and there to try them out, but the last couple of days, after reading Stephen Westcott-Gratton's really helpful article from the June issue on renovating roses, I decided to tackle this thorny task wholeheartedly. There were no thorns scraping my wrists or spikes under my fingernails. I could get right in there with my pruners grab the scary-looking canes and chop them up in my yard bag.

One thing I did notice, however, is that a lot of the leaves on my rosebush have these weird orange spots under the leaves. After a quick Google search, it appears I have rust, a fungal disease that can actually overwinter, so I'll have to be careful to get rid of all the offensive leaves and treat with wettable sulphur. One thing I want to look into first is that the treatment I choose is organic…

Waifs and strays

img_2939Most experienced gardeners know it’s best to invest in a well-grown, top-quality plant. Well tended plants have the vigour and stamina needed to make the successful transition from nursery pot to garden. Once in awhile, though, I’m drawn to a less-than-stellar specimen at an end-of-season sale. Something about it telegraphs, “please give me a chance,” and I do.

Take the tree peony shown here, which was little more than a stick when I scooped it up a couple of years ago for $4. The few leaves it had were healthy and green, so I gave it a little talking to, a bit of TLC and planted it in the ground. This year, it’s powered up into a big, beautiful plant and rewarded me with more than a dozen massive, brilliantly hued blooms.

img_2963Ditto this Japanese maple, which I rescued quite late one fall for $20. A few of its branches had been broken off and it was a bit lopsided, but basically it appeared to be healthy and just needed some gentle pruning. I placed it in the back of the garden where its spindly condition wouldn’t be so noticeable.

Plain old Acer palmatum is the most commonly sold and hardiest of the Japanese maples in our Zone 6 Toronto climate, and I figured it had more of a fighting chance of surviving that first winter than some of the fancier, more finicky, cut-leafed marquee types. I was right. This once-scraggy example is now well on its way to becoming a graceful, shapely small tree.

Of course, I would never buy a plant that is clearly diseased or really needs to go to that great garden in the sky, and neither should you. But it’s fun to adopt a promising mutt and see it grow into a champion.

Another thing I love about gardens is the way mystery plants crop up in unexpected places. These may be gifts from the squirrels or the wind.

img_2931img_2967A lone candelabra or Japanese primula (Primula japonica, far left) appeared in the garden this year. I didn’t plant it, but it seems to have made itself right at home. And columbine (Aquilegia spp., left) in various colours seeds itself hither and yon, including in between the patio pavers.

A couple of doors up, the neighbours have a fine show of Allium giganteum, below. I grow various types of alliums as well, but not this one. However, I now have several of these in my front garden, courtesy of the squirrels (and inadvertently, my neighbour. Luckily I live on a very friendly street).

img_29461Take a look around your garden and see what unexpected gifts you might find out there. And keep your eyes open at the nursery for those orphan plants that deserve a good home and a fighting chance.

Have your rose questions answered–live!

Until now my questions about my rosebushes have basically been centred around how to prune them without getting hurt. One of them is an ominous-looking beast and the other is catching up. However, armed with some helpful advice from Anne Marie, a new pair of protective rose gloves from my sister and the latest issue of Canadian Gardening, with its illustrated guide to renovating roses, I feel ready to tame the beast(s).

If you have some questions about your own roses, Canadian Gardening magazine’s editor-at-large, Stephen Westcott-Gratton will be in our forums for an hour tomorrow to address your rose queries live!

Hope to see you there at 1 p.m. EDT!

The plot thickens

img_2889Of all the seasons, my grandmother loved spring the best. I’ve always been an autumn girl myself, but as I grow older I’m growing more partial toward spring as well. It’s a celebration of renewal; nature’s annual affirmation of faith in the future of this planet.

As you can see by this photo of a corner of my back garden taken this morning, everything is growing by leaps and bounds. Later in the season my patch will mostly be in shade, but I’ve learned to embrace this.

So what should you be planting right now? I’ve carefully put in a few more ferns and hostas, but cautious Clara here is keeping a watchful eye on other emerging perennials before I plant more stuff, because it’s oh-so-so easy to be over-hasty and dig up or damage plants that are simply slow to get started.

And personally, I never buy tender annuals until after Victoria Day, which is early this year. This week, Toronto has had some nippy nights with frost warnings, so I’ll likely wait awhile before I go shopping for my favourite tuberous begonias, which are such beautiful plants for shade. Use your judgment and don’t buy too early if it’s cold where you live.

A corner of my front woodland garden.

A corner of my front woodland garden.

But there’s absolutely no need to feel gardening-deprived. Because across much of the country this is the ideal time to put in perennials, shrubs, trees and evergreens; in fact, you really want to shop for those as early as possible for the best selection. One caveat–to optimize sales, perennials in nurseries and garden centres are often forced into full bloom out of their normal cycle. Keep this in mind when shopping. Once established, unless it’s an early spring perennial such as brunnera, it’s unlikely your plant will bloom at this time in your garden. Nor will all your plants bloom at once! It’s best to do a bit of research before you buy so you can plan for a sequence of bloom throughout the season. And once you’re at the nursery, choose perennials that are bushy and compact with strong stems and loads of growing points and buds, as opposed to tall and lanky and in full bloom.

It goes without saying that spring is a very busy time for garden centres. Once there, even super-organized gardeners with itemized lists are likely to be seduced by something fabulous and unexpected, but that’s part of the fun.

Aimg_28661s a master gardener, part of my commitment involves putting in a minimum of 30 volunteer hours a year. And there’s nothing nicer than doing that while being surrounded by top-quality plants. So in the past several weeks I’ve had the pleasure of advising gardeners at Islington Nurseries in the city’s west end, and helping at the Toronto Botanical Garden‘s plant sale, which was held last week. Paul Zammit, the new director of horticulture at the TBG, brought in some dandy plants. Some of the choicest specimens were scooped up by the mad keen plant nerds on Day One, but there was plenty from which to choose on Day Two as well, which is when I put in my shift. One of the biggest bargains there was this magnificent serviceberry clump, which I scooped up for my daughter’s garden. The price? Just $19.99. I should have bought more.

Good Ideas for Small Spaces

Every spring, Loblaw companies generously invites garden journalists from Toronto and southern Ontario to a luncheon and preview of their new President’s Choice plants, garden equipment, accessories and decor (to check where they’re available in your area, go to presidentschoice.ca). There are always some good ideas to take away, not to mention armloads of fabulous plants they give us plant piggies to trial at home.

This year, a couple of things struck me as being great for gardeners with limited space, such as a tiny urban lot or a balcony.

One of these is a President’s Choice clematis that offers two types in one pot. Developed by Britain’s famous Raymond Evison, it’s guaranteed for one year and sells for $24.99; mine combines wine-red Rebecca with periwinkle-blue Cezanne, both hardy to Zone 4. Double the colour punch, but takes up the same space as an ordinary clematis.

Another smart idea is a handsome, square planter of herbs. The one I picked up is ready-planted with sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley and chives–just the thing to pop on the back deck near my kitchen. (Or on your apartment balcony?)

img_2892However, my favourite item, shown here at the side of my house, is this compact, rectangular rain barrel. I bought it yesterday for $74.99 on sale at my local Loblaw store, and will hook it up to my downspout this week. I don’t have enough space for one of those huge round standard-sized rain barrels, but this is just the job, and will help keep rain away from the foundation of my house. The brown colour blends in with the brick of my house, but you could always paint it something else with one of the new paints that adhere to plastic, such as Krylon Fusion.

And of course, there’s nothing better than soft rain water for your plants.

A perfect gardening gift for me–and gift ideas for gardeners

My web producer, Jen Murray, just posted this great article she wrote on gifts to give to the gardener on your list. From the necessary (like secateurs) to pampering presents to the whimsical, you’re sure to find something for the green thumb on your list.

Jen couldn’t have found a more perfect present for me. As per Anne Marie’s recommendation, I asked for a protective glove to deal with my roses in the spring. And Jen found me this pair from West Country Gloves and get this… they’re pink! My fave colour.

Mom, if you’re reading this…

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