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.
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:
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.
Craving something sweet, but want to skip the calories? A delicious and healthy smoothie is the perfect alternative. Great for breakfast on-the-go, an afternoon treat or a post workout snack.
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.
It’s strawberry season here in Ontario, which means I’ll be eating my weight in these ruby red fruits. While you may love them for their deliciously sweet flavour, make no mistake, strawberries are among the best foods for you.
Why we love strawberries: They rival citrus fruits for vitamin C content, and are packed with antioxidants, too. Anthocyanins are potent antioxidants that give strawberries their vivid red colour, help reduce inflammation and may also curb the growth of cancer cells. They’re low in calories and high in fibre, folate and potassium.
How to use them: Look for organic berries that are red all the way to the tip, a sign that they’re fully ripe (strawberries don’t ripen after picking). Beware of mould: It spreads quickly from berry to berry. If you’re not using your strawberries immediately, look through the container and pick out any spoiled ones. Plan to eat the berries within a day or two.
Although strawberries taste best when they’re in season, freezing them preserves their freshness to use year-round. To freeze, wash whole berries, remove the leafy portion on top and pat the berries dry. Spread them out on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer to a sealable glass container.
Canadian textile designer Virginia Johnson has launched her first summer garden collection. Inspired by the outdoors, the collection includes a variety of elegant garden planters and decor accessories for both your home and garden.
Pretty planters of various shapes and sizes feature Virginia’s signature prints in an antique rustic finish. Along with yellow poppy (featured above), planters are available in an all over blue floral pattern.
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.
Looking for something fun to do with the gardening enthusiast in your life? How about celebrating Garden Days!
Organized by the Canadian Garden Council, Garden Days is a three-day event in celebration of National Garden Day. From June 13 to 15, green-thumbs of all ages can enjoy a variety of activities hosted by local gardens, garden centres, horticultural organizations and garden-related businesses in their city.
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