{ Archive for the ‘perennials’ Category }

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…

Wear your poppies

In honour of Remembrance Day and the brave soldiers who fought for our freedom, here's a little background of how the red poppy became our way to commemorate this special day.

After John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields was published in 1915, the poppy became a popular symbol for soldiers who died in battle.

McRae was a brigade-surgeon to the First Brigade of the Canadian Forces Artillery in World War I. The day before he wrote his famous poem, one of McCrae’s closest friends was killed in the fighting and buried in a makeshift grave with a simple wooden cross. Wild poppies were already beginning to bloom between the crosses marking the many graves. Unable to help his friend or any of the others who had died, John McCrae gave them a voice through his poem.

The poppy of wartime remembrance is the red corn poppy, Papaver rhoeas. This self-seeding wildflower grows extensively in Europe and flourishes in cultivated, disturbed soil, which is why you see it throughout many a field.

Tips from the pros–part two

As promised, in this post I’ll touch on a few tips for flower arranging and container design given by experts in Canadian Gardening‘s Green Room at the recent Style at Home show.

Elene Nouri and Jennifer Christiani, custom designers at Sheridan Nurseries’ Scarborough store, had some excellent advice on creating winter container arrangements. They securely tape a block of floral foam (such as Oasis) to the top of the soil in a container, which allows them to create a more layered, three-dimensional and fuller arrangement, as they can then insert greens and branches sideways into the foam as well as straight down into the soil. They advise soaking the floral foam in water to which they add a little liquid Sta-Fresh, a preservative, for half an hour before attaching it to the container, as this makes it less brittle and crumbly and easier to work with. After greens are arranged, they spritz their foliage with Sta-Fresh spray to further prevent them from growing yellow and bedraggled-looking. Once temperatures drop, the floral foam will freeze and hold branches securely in place.

Kate Seaver of Kate’s Garden had some great advice for keeping cut roses fresh. When you get your roses home, cut their stems at an angle and put them into lukewarm water with a bit of flower food. An angled (not straight across) cut allows the free circulation of water and nutrients up the stem. Be sure to strip off any foliage that would sit below the water line, as it will start to decay (this holds true for any cut flower). Change the water in the vase every two days, add a bit of flower food and cut the stems a bit each time. Pick off outer rose petals if they look spent.

If your roses’ flower heads suddenly droop, it doesn’t mean they’re dead, it likely means there’s an air bubble in the stem. To cure this, recut stems, lie the roses flat in a sink and add lukewarm water until flowers are covered (if your sink is too small, use the bathtub). Leave roses immersed in water for about 20 minutes, and they should perk right up again.

My toad lily blooms at last

Last summer at a family barbecue, my Uncle Mike was so excited to dig up some of his plants for my garden. He grabbed some empty plastic pots and sent me home with a few perennials. Sadly, a couple of them didn't make it, but this past spring, up bloomed the sweet purple and white faces of my Johnny Jump-Ups.

The other plant I was anxious about was my toad lily. It grew fairly high last summer, but didn't bloom, and I wasn't sure if it would come back. I left the stalk in the ground to mark its place and once spring arrived, a promising little seedling found its way up beside it.

This summer, that little seedling grew so high I had to tie it to a stake so it didn't grow sideways. Until recently, it had yet to bloom. A few weeks ago, these little purple buds started to appear. I was so worried they wouldn't flower–especially after the light flurries we got the other day. But two days later, I headed outside, and there in the warm fall sun were a few dainty spotted blooms. My photo doesn't really do these cute little flowers justice. I can't describe how elated I felt to see them. My uncle passed away this spring, so I feel so happy that these flowers are in my garden to remind me of him and how excited he was to share his plants.

I dedicate this post to my uncle who loved to garden.

My pet monster: My rosebush

I have a little secret. Well it's not really a secret if you step into my backyard because you'll see that my rosebush is like The Hulk. And because of its thick canes and dagger-sharp thorns, it's obvious that I'm rather petrified of it.

Ok, I admit it. I've been a little neglectful. After getting a couple thorns through my garden gloves the first year I was in my house, I have steered clear and focused on other parts of my gardens.

So my question for Anne Marie was whether I can cut back my rosebush this fall without suffering personal injury and without harming the plant.

Here's what she had to say:

The best time is to prune your monster rose is in the spring. This way there's less opportunity for winter damage. When you do prune it, take out the oldest canes, right down to the soil level. This is assuming that there's a good crop of canes to choose from. Only remove one third of the oldest ones this time. Then one third the year after and set up a regular pruning schedule. Removing the older canes will encourage nice healthy, vigorous new canes to form from the base.

With canes that thick, a heavy duty pair of loppers are needed for the four- to five-centimetre diameter canes and you may need a small pruning saw, too. When you get ready to tackle the rose, suit up with a ton of protective clothing. An old jacket, heavy duty leather gloves (preferably ones that go up to your elbow), safety glasses and long pants.

It's very difficult to use pruners with thick leather gloves so try them out first to see if they will work for you. Once you prune a cane from the middle of the plant, use the loppers to grab it and drag it to you for disposal. If you have a choice, prune out the canes from the centre of the rose to allow more light and air circulation to get to the middle.

So alas, I have to let my giant lie dormant for the winter, but I will be sure to tame the beast come spring.

Photo: The blooms pictured above from this past summer on my Hulk junior. It lives right next door.

When should I divide my perennials?

Yesterday was a gorgeous September day and I found myself out in the garden admiring my perennials–my mums have all of a sudden exploded with colour! Some of my plants, however, have gotten quite dense over the summer. A couple of my hostas are so huge a neighbourhood cat was sleeping under one the other day and I didn't even notice until it crawled out and gave me a sleepy “meow.”

What to do with my crowded beds? I haven't really had to divide anything until now (except my irises), so I wasn't sure when the best time of year is to do it.

I consulted Anne as I think I'd probably better get a move on if I'm going to divide anything before the first frost. Here is her advice:

  • The best time to divide most perennials is in early spring. This will give the plant time to get settled before the summer weather challenges arrive.
  • The second best time to divide most perennials is in early fall, when the soil is still warm and plants can get settled before winter arrives. Divide perennials about 6 weeks before the first frost.
  • Some considerations to think about; often the soil is too wet to dig in the spring when it is the ideal time to divide. Some experts also suggest that spring and summer blooming perennials should be divided in the fall, and fall blooming perennials divided in the spring. This means you are dividing non-blooming plants, which will have a better chance of survival.
  • Exceptions to this rule include bearded iris (August only), columbine (fall only), oriental poppy (early summer after flowering), bleeding heart (early summer after flowering) and peony (late summer).
  • Divide plants on a cloudy day. Water them well the day before the move. And water them well after the move.
  • Cover them if necessary to reduce wilting.
  • Take as much soil as you can lift from around the roots and replant immediately.
  • Use a garden fork or garden spade to loosen the soil and dig out the clump. An old, large kitchen knife, sharp garden spade or two garden forks are handy to divide the clump. Save the most vigorous sections of your clump from the outer edges to replant.

This information will find a place in my gardening journal. I also found this article written by Anne on dividing perennials, which I am going to print, along with the information above, for handy reference.

A seed gathering I will go

Last weekend I signed up for a two-hour seminar on collecting and storing seeds at the Evergreen Brickworks Farmer's Market. Our teacher was Maria Kasstan, who was there on behalf of Seeds of Diversity Canada, “a charitable organization working to save Canada's endangered horticultural and agricultural heritage.”

What piqued my interest when I saw the class advertised on the website was the idea that I can harvest seeds from my flowers and share them with friends. I've had neighbours walk by commenting on my garden–and some have even had the nerve to ask if they can pick off a dried bud from this or that plant, which I've happily agreed to. But I never really understood how to go about preserving them until next year.

Maria was a fountain of knowledge as she explained the important process of pollination and some of the plants that can lure bees into the yard. She then went on to describe the importance of preserving heritage seeds–and how to do it. That was another reason I had attended–even though my crop of tomatoes just wasn't meant to be this year, I was hoping I could save some seeds for next year.

I learned what I need to do is take a very ripe tomato and let it rot for three to four days. This helps to eliminate that gel that's around a tomato seed–a germination inhibitor. After that, you can pick out the seeds (I think I'll leave that job for my boyfriend), dry them and store them in the refrigerator or freezer until spring. Be sure to use a jar or paper to store, never plastic!

Armed with our new knowledge–and some little envelopes, our morning ended out in the wildflower garden gathering wildflower seeds to entice pollinators to our yards next spring.

Click here for more tips on storing and preserving your seeds.

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