Make a garden wish list
Make a detailed plant list, taking into account the type of soil and how much sun the garden gets.
Working from the plan, select plants (with various price points) you’ll need for the day, including quantities of each; groups of odd numbers of one plant, such as three or five, look best. Keep the plant palette simple.
Include planters and hanging baskets filled with annuals on the list—they’re great for adding instant colour and lushness.
If the homeowner is a foodie and the garden is sunny, include a potted herb garden.
Garden tools and accessories
Opt for tools that will last, such as one good trowel instead of a poor-quality tool set.
Basic gardening must-haves include hose, nozzle and reel; shovel or spade (we like versatile transplant spades) and garden fork; rake, trowel, cultivator and weeder. Add a how-to gardening book or a gift subscription to Canadian Gardening.
Work from the ground up
Improving the soil is top priority, especially around newly built homes. When making the list, include soil amendments such as compost, well-rotted manure and mulch. If the situation is really dire, a group could chip in for a truckload of goodies. Just ensure that the source is reputable: it’s vital to get clean, weed-free material.
These tough plants are easy to find and easy to grow
- Herbs: Chives, thyme, sage, basil (annual), summer savory, garlic
- Perennials for shade: Astilbe (Astilbe cvs.), Zone 3; drought-tolerant ferns such as sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina), Zone 3 or leather wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis), Zone 2; thick-leafed, slug-resistant hostas such as ‘Sum and Substance’ (golden leaves) or ‘Krossa Regal’ (blue leaves), Zone 2; Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum), Zone 3
- Perennials for sun: Yarrow (Achillea spp.), Zone 2; Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), Zone 3; Ornamental grasses such as Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, Zone 3 or Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberfeder’, Zone 4; Globe thistle (Echinops ritro), Zone 3; Perennial geraniums such as Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Bevan’s Variety’, Zone 3 or Rozanne (G. ‘Gerwat’), Zone 5; Daylilies (Hemerocallis cvs.), Zone 4; ‘Goldsturm’ black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’), Zone 3
- Shrubs: Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii cvs.), sun or part shade, Zone 4; Euonymus such as ‘Emerald Gaiety’ (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’), sun or shade, Zone 5; Hydrangeas such as Hydrangea paniculata cvs., sun to part shade, Zone 4 or shade-tolerant oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia cvs.), Zone 5; ‘Gold Lace’ juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Gold Lace’), sun, Zone 4; Pavement roses sun, Zone 2; Doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum forma tomentosum), sun or part shade, Zone 5— Anne Marie Van Nest