Category Archives: Bulbs

Spring Flowering Bulbs

By Sharleen Pratt, Master Gardener

Charles Dickens said “Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own”. Who can deny that spring-flowering bulbs are a promise of warmer temperatures and hopeful thoughts? Knowing the bulbs will emerge from the near frozen ground helps us to get through the bitter winter. They should be planted now in order for you to be rewarded with wonderful colour in early spring. They can stay in the ground year after year. There are several varieties of bulbs to choose from. The following are some of the more recognizable ones.

thumbnail_tulipsTulips are to Turkey and Central Asia. In the 1600s, they made their way to the Netherlands. Tulipmania took hold in the 1620s and tulip prices skyrocketed. A single bulb could be worth as much as an average family farm. The market collapsed in 1637, but tulips remain widely grown in the that country. Canadians liberated much of the Netherlands during the final months of the Second World War. More than 7,200 Canadians were lost in that conflict. The Dutch have gifted Canadians with 20,000 bulbs a year since that time and they are used in Ottawa’s now famous Canadian Tulip Festival every May. This year marks the 75th anniversary of liberation and the Dutch royal family will mark the celebration by thanking Canadians this year with a gift of 100,000 tulip bulbs. If you want to join the celebration, you can purchase your own Liberation75 tulips for $15.00 through the Royal Canadian Legion. By purchasing the bulbs, you will also be entitled to win a trip to the Netherlands. To place an order visit the Royal Canadian Legion.

There are hundreds of cultivars of tulips; early, mid and late blooming. They need a sunny location with soil that is well-drained and sheltered from the wind since they can be easily broken. Six weeks are needed for the foliage to die back in order to put energy back into the bulb. A rainy spring is bad for success with tulips. Some of the ‘old fashioned’ tulips are Darwin and Triumph. They are very reliable and come back year after year. Squirrels love tulips, so to deter rodents, mix tulips and daffodils together in order to get the scent of daffodils on the tulips. You can also try hen manure which comes in a pellet form. You could use barberry cuttings or crushed egg shells in and around the hole. Others have had success with plastic snakes. Also, squirrels won’t dig past their peripheral vision, so plant at least 6 – 8” deep. You could also try laying a flat board on top and remove it when the ground is frozen.

DaffodilsDaffodils and narcissus bloom earlier than most tulips. Spring sun is needed and they like soil that is well draining or they will rot. Oxalic acid on the bulb make them unpalatable to rodents. ‘Tete a tete’ is a mini daffodil that is very fragrant and also good for cut flowers. However, never include daffodils with other flowers in a vase as they have a sap that will cause the other flowers to wilt.

IMG_4638Alliums are ornamental onions. Most of the varieties bloom in June. They need free draining soil with 6 to 8 hours of sun. They make lovely dried flowers. It is best to plant alliums amongst other plants as the foliage is not desirable.

Muscari or grape hyacinths are amazing small bulbs known as minor bulbs. Snowdrops are also minor bulbs and are the first to emerge, often pushing up through the snow.

Snow crocus are an early blooming crocus and work well in a lawn as they bloom before you need to cut the grass. Dutch crocus are good for forcing and are bigger than snow crocus and tend to bloom a little later in the spring.

Beware of Scilla or Spanish blue bells! They are a small bulb and multiply prolifically, and although they are very pretty, they now sit on the invasive list. Scilla siberica is on the Highly Invasive category of this list put together by Credit Valley Conservation.

Bulbs can also be planted in pots and put in a cool area over the winter. This way, they can be brought in and forced to bloom early. Who wouldn’t be happy with a large pot of beautiful colour after a long hard winter. More information on forcing spring bulbs can be found in this article by Dugald Cameron in Garden Making Magazine.

Happy Planting!

September in the Garden

By Mary-Jane Pilgrim, Master Gardener

Fall is in the air.  You can see the days getting shorter, and feel that the temperatures are cooling.  The Canada Geese are grouping; ready to make their noisy trip south.  The boats and camping trailers are also heading south.  The monarchs will soon be leaving us for sunnier climates in Mexico.  It’s that time of year where every living thing in our region starts preparing for the colder seasons to come.monarch2015

In the garden, fall is a great time for planting, dividing, weeding, mulching and planning for spring renovations.  The soil is warm, the days are cooler and the rain is usually frequent.  These three items are a big part of what is needed to get new plantings well established before the snow flies.

Fall Planting

Now is the time to plant buy and plant spring-flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, allium, snowdrops and crocus.  Shop early for the best selection.  If you are plagued by squirrels, know that they do not go after daffodils — so fill your basket with these instead of some of the more delicious bulbs like tulips that may just make a tasty snack.

Now is also a great time to plant late season annuals like pansies, kale and cabbage for garden bed interest or for front door planters.  It’s also prime tree and shrub planting time.  Water well until freeze-up.

Fall Dividingrudbeckia

September is a great time to divide some of those perennials that have outgrown their space, or that you’d like to share with others.  Watch for obvious division points for hosta, black-eyed susans, coneflower, iris and daylilies.  Plants will have enough time to establish roots in their new homes if this splitting and replanting is done now.  After splitting, cut back any unnecessary leaves or flower stalks from these to make the transition a little easier for these perennials.

Fall Weeding

Many of us have lost interest in this task by now.  However, if you consider that every weed that remains in your beds is likely to go to seed, and that most weeds carry hundreds of seeds, it’s totally in your best interest to keep those beds as weed-free as possible.  For me, this includes deadheading any self-seeding perennials as well.

Fall Mulching

Add some compost, and a two- to three-inch layer of mulch to beds to get them ready for winter. It’s like putting the comforter on the bed.  You can use garden-centre mulch for this, but I have a neighbour with mature maple trees that provide all of the leaves that I can use.  Leaves are great insulator, and best of all, they’re completely free!

Spring Renovation Planning

Lastly, fall is a great time for you to assess areas of the garden which may need renovation next spring.  I sometimes draw maps of the different plants in my garden beds, and it’s not uncommon to see the words “remove”, “divide” and “move” scrawled across these drawings. You may think that you’ll remember all of this next spring, but I have my bets against you on this one!

Here’s to some great fall preparation to make next spring just a little bit more organized and successful.

Bulbs for All Seasons

In the next few weeks, autumn will arrive and garden centres will fill their shelves with mums, ornamental cabbages and other fall flowers. And spring flowering bulbs will be available too! Spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils are planted in our gardens in the fall and appear the next spring.

There is an upcoming opportunity to learn more about flowering bulbs when Dugald Cameron, former owner of GardenImport, speaks at ‘BULBS FOR ALL SEASONS’ presented by the Peterborough Master Gardeners. Victoria Whitney of Griffins Greenhouses will also speak on spring bulbs. This event happens on Saturday, September 28th at Westdale United Church on Sherbrooke St. It runs from 9 am to 3:30 pm and includes lunch. There will be bulbs for sale as well as a demonstration.

Get your early bird ticket this week by contacting Margaret at 705-876-1771 or mahiggins@sympatico.ca.  [ PMG Bulbs for all Seasons Registration Form .pdf]

bulbs poster final 2019

Beyond the Plentiful — 5 Unusual Perennials

By Mary-Jane Pilgrim, Master Gardener

Last week, my colleague Emma Murphy wrote about her 5 favourite perennials (Day lilies, Blanket Flower, Coneflower/Echinacea, Asters and Rudbeckia/Black-Eyed Susans).  Those are definitely cool plants, and are generally well-behaved and easy to maintain.

In this article, I’d like to introduce you to five unusual plants that I’ve grown to love and will pick up new varieties whenever I see them.

1. Epimedium also known as Barrenwort

Think “light and airy”.  These plants are delicate, light-shade loving plants that make excellent companions to hosta due to their very different but complimentary leaf structure.  Their flowers are tiny but extremely detailed.  They look great all summer.

epimedium collage

2. Eremurus also known as Fox Tail LilyIMG_20140625_160657

Tall and dramatic.  Guaranteed to prompt “Wooooooow! What are those” responses.  These plants grow in full sun, in well-drained soil and will not tolerate anything soggy.  It’s not a plant you’ll likely see blooming in a garden centre but if you watch for it, many places do carry it.  It’s a hardy bulb that does not need to be lifted and will multiply year after year to form a stunning clump.  I have orange and yellow varieties, and am on the lookout for white.

3. Athyrium known as Lady Ferns

Ferns are perfect for the shade garden. Lacy fronds soften the texture of other go-to shade classics like Hosta, Astilbe and Tiarella. Ferns like a light to medium shade setting with loamy soil with lots of leaf mold.   A few of my favourites are Dre’s Dagger, Japanese Painted.  A relative is the Maidenhair fern which is delicate and striking.ferns

4. Sempervivum also known as Hens & ChicksIMG_2187

These plants give and give and give.  They look great all year round.   They come in hundreds of colours.  They’re easy to propagate (pull off a chick and replant).  The only thing that I don’t like about this plant is their flower stalk — which I generally remove and it doesn’t seem to harm the plant at all.  They will fill in tightly together, leaving zero room for weeds.  Mix a bunch of colours together and see what happens!

5. Hellebore also known as Lenten Rose

These are stunning in the early spring, right around Lent which is where their name comes from. Unfortunately, many garden centres don’t stock them or may not stock them in future because they bloom before most people show up at the garden centres looking for plants.  I like them because their leaves are often patterned, but they’re always thick & leathery — and they look great right through the summer.  They’re a definite must for a serious gardener.hellebore

I know I said 5 unusual favourites.  But as a gardener, there’s never a finite number of any kind of plant, right?  I always have “n+1” favourites.

6. Saxifrage also known as RockfoilSaxifraga_paniculata_1_lg

Whenever I come across these at a garden centre, it’s an easy decision.  Into the cart!  They are well-behaved, unique and have interesting patterning in their leaves.  Their flowers are mostly inconspicuous — I grow them for their foliage.  Many spread into mats that are geometrically-intricate.   I have yet to come across one of these that have disappointed me.

My favourite places to get unique perennials?  Garden Plus, Peterborough.  Anna’s Perennials, Omemee. Lost Horizons, Acton. Griffins Greenhouse, Lakefield.   Take some time when you go.  Browse.  Ask questions.  ALWAYS google before you buy because the plant tag won’t tell you everything.  Watch out for the words “aggressive”, “self-seeding”,  and “vigorous”.  Always check the climate zone.  Peterborough is Canadian zone 5b.  Add one zone to anything American or that you expect might be American.  Experiment and enjoy the results.

 

Happy Easter!

By Sharleen Pratt, Master Gardener-In-Training

I hope that you have had a good weekend with family and friends and had a chance to enjoy a little time outdoors. This time of year brings thoughts of spring bulbs, budding trees and the sound of birds which are getting very active. It won’t be long until we see our first hummingbirds in the Peterborough area.easter-3123834_640

A planned outing to some of your favourite garden centres at this time of year can be fun and educational. We are lucky here in Peterborough and the surrounding area to have a number of excellent nurseries that carry quality plants and have knowledgeable staff to help with your questions.

Go to gardenroute.ca for some amazing local businesses that specialize in being growers, maintaining gorgeous display gardens and full service garden boutiques. Members of “The Route” are Anna’s Perennials, Avant-Garden Shop, Blossom Hill Nursery, Gardens Plus, Garden Style Bridgenorth, Greenhouse on the River, Griffin’s Greenhouses, Johnston’s Greenhouses, Keene on Gardens and Williams Design Studio.

PGS-logo-tinyAll of these businesses and more can be found this weekend at the Peterborough Garden Show. It runs from Friday, April 26th to Sunday April 28th. The Peterborough & Area Master Gardeners will be there giving gardening advice and are available to answer all your questions! Come visit us at our booth. We are the ones with the red aprons! This year’s show is in a new venue, Fleming College’s Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre. Lots of free parking and the cost is only $10.00 which gives you access to the show for the whole weekend. There are many wonderful speakers and workshops. All the proceeds go back to the community. Check it out at peterboroughgardenshow.com.  Hope to see everyone at the show!

The Peterborough Garden Show

By Mary-Jane Pilgrim, Master Gardener

It’s coming in 25 days.  It can’t come soon enough.  In our city, “The Garden Show” is a true sign of spring.  It’s an occasion that brings together speakers, workshop leaders, vendors, horticultural society members, master gardeners, exhibitors and many others for one reason:  “For the Love of Gardening”.PGS-logo-small

This year marks the 19th fantastic show: 
April 26 – 28, 2019 (Friday 5-9pm, Saturday 10am-5pm & Sunday 10am-4pm).

And there’s great news ! The show has MOVED – to Fleming College’s brand new Trades and Technology Centre on Brealey Drive with lots of FREE parking and a $10, one-price ticket so you can enjoy the show all weekend.

The Peterborough and Area Master Gardeners will have a booth at the show, and will be happy to answer any gardening questions that you may have. Watch for our red aprons!

The theme “Coming Up Roses” is reflected in several of the amazing speakers along with educational and fun workshops and demos.

This award-winning show was honoured in 2017 with both a “Canada 150 Garden Experience”, and “Garden Event of the Year” by the Canadian Garden Council, so come and see what all the fuss is about.

You will find many of your old favourite vendors along with some new ones.

…and don’t forget the popular “Little Green Thumbs” Children’s Garden that is always teaming with liveliness and action! There are learning activities, face painting, crafts and even a take-home project. Their theme this year is “Miniature Gardens for Elves and Fairies”.

All the show profits go back into our community to fund scholarships for post-secondary students studying in horticulture-related fields,various local projects & Community Gardens.  Since 2002, the show has put over $200,000 back into our community.

Please save the date, visit and and learn why “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” in 2019.

Learn more about the incredible speakers, workshops, bus trips, places to stay and tickets here: peterboroughgardenshow.com.

 

Plants of the Year

By Lee Edwards, Master Gardener

In a few months, gardeners will happily be heading back into the garden.  Along with planting native plants friendly to pollinators, this year, gardeners may also want to include one or all the National Garden Bureau’s plants of 2019; the perennial salvia (Salvia nemorosa), the annual snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), Dahlia bulbs, and or the edible Pumpkin.  There’s also the perennial plant of the year, the betony (Stachys moneri ‘Hummelo’) chosen by the Perennial Plant Association.  Each one of these plants represent different classes of plants that are fairly easy to grow and are also relatively low maintenance.wild-sage-141575_640

Belonging to the mint family, Salvia nemorosa is a striking, hardy, ornamental variety of sage.  A full-sun, compost loving, easy to grow, drought-tolerant plant, it prefers moist, well-drained soil to produce tall, multi-branched, spectacular spikes of blue-violet flowers starting in the summer.  Once the blooms fade and the stems brown, cut back the plants size by two-thirds to encourage more blooms throughout the season.

snapdragon-20809_640Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) are making a comeback with their fragrant, large, tubular, dragon-shaped flowers in a multitude of colors and heights.  Considered an annual in cold temperature countries, these early spring blooming plants can interestingly withstand cold weather and slow down flowering during overly warm temperature.  Great in containers, snapdragons require constant deadheading to encourage more blooms and often need staking.

Beautiful, tuberous, tender perennials, Dahlias thrive in full sun, well-drained, warm, dahlia-3964712_640slightly acidic, and moist soil blooming from mid-summer to late fall.  Outstandingly showy and dramatic, dahlias need to be fed often with organic matter once the plants begin to grow and deadheading is needed to promote blooms.  Flowers can grow from two inches to 15 inches depending on the plant variety.

pumpkins-457716_640Pumpkins are healthy edibles high in fiber and vitamins to name just a few health benefits.  Related to melons, squash, and cucumbers, plant pumpkin seeds indoors to start, then directly in the ground once the soil has thoroughly warmed up.  Pumpkins require constant watering, pollination by bees to fruit and take from three to four months to mature.  Like many other edibles, they must be replanted every year.

Betony (Stachys moneri ‘Hummelo’) is a herbaceous perennial that blooms in late spring to early summer, showing off its bee attracting, upright, purple flower spikes atop mounding, dense, clump-forming, dark green leaves.  Stachys moneri ‘Hummelo’ likes a sunny location with a little afternoon shade and evenly moist soil.  It makes a striking display when mass planted.

Reference:  National Garden Bureau (“Year of The,”  2019). Retrieved February 18, 2019, from https://ngb.org/year-of-2019/.

Have Fun Gardening!

 

Winter Gardening

By Judy Bernard, Master Gardener

My jade plant is getting too large for my pot again! The last time it got too big, I tried potting it up into a larger pot, but it was too unwieldy and so I just cut off a few branches and potted them up in some new potting soil. Three years later, its  already over 50cm tall and wide, but stable in the pot. So, I’m just going to prune it and tidy it up.

And this is where my winter gardening comes in. Those pieces I’ve pruned are going to be potted up for new plants which I can give away or put into a plant sale. Just remember, they are succulents and therefore don’t need a lot of water.judys jade plant

It’s also a good time to clean up those miniature gardens that come from the supermarket or from the florist with several plants in the container. The plants can be removed and repotted individually, giving their roots more room to grow and allowing you to individualize their care.

Other winter gardening includes checking the tender bulbs and tubers that were dug up last fall for disease and rot and removing anything not healthy. They may also need a little moisture added to keep them from drying out but not enough to stimulate growth.

Have fun with your plants.

Here are some web sites for you to consult:
https://www.almanac.com/plant/jade-plants
https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/jade-plant/jade-plant-care.htm

The 12 Plants of Christmas – Part 1

by Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

The snow is on the ground and the cold winds in the air. Canadian gardeners are reflecting on their gardening season (why does it always go by so fast?) and thinking about next year’s garden (has your first seed catalogue arrived yet?).

So in the spirit of the Christmas season, this week’s blog is about the 12 plants of Christmas—some decorative, some food, and some traditions! In Part 1 we’ll look at Christmas plants and one food; you’ll have to wait until next week for more food and other plant traditions.

CHRISTMAS PLANTS

holly-tree-1030595_1920

12. Holly

Decorative green plants like holly, ivy, and mistletoe originate in pre-Christian times and were associated with celebrating the Winter Solstice by warding off evil spirits and celebrating new growth (well the latter only in warmer climate). Many countries (especially the UK and Germany) still decorate their homes with these plants today, often in Christmas arrangements or wreaths. The beautiful berries of the Christmas holly are produced by some of the approximately 400 species of holly (Ilex) that growing wild around the world. Typically, holly trees and shrubs are smooth-barked and have small flowers, fleshy red or black berries, and leathery, shiny leaves.

In pagan times, Holly was thought to be a male plant and Ivy a female plant. An old tradition from the Midlands of England says that whatever one was brought into the house first over winter, tells you whether the man or woman of the house would rule that year! But it was unlucky to bring either into a house before Christmas Eve. For the Christian faith, the prickly leaves symbolize the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified. The berries are the drops of blood that were shed by Jesus because of the thorns.

If you are interested in five fascinating facts about holly, check out this link.

mistletoe

11. Mistletoe

Mistletoe has long been a symbol of love, peace and goodwill. The custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is also pre-Christian and the habit of kissing under the mistletoe continues today in many countries. Mistletoe is the common name for obligate hemi-parasitic plants in several families in the order Santalales. The plants in question grow attached to and within the branches of a tree or shrub. In the past, mistletoe was often considered a pest that kills trees and devalues natural habitats, but has recently been recognized as an ecological keystone species. Studies have shown that rather than being a pest, mistletoe can have a positive effect on biodiversity, providing high quality food and habitat for a broad range of animals in forests and woodlands worldwide.

For a whole host of information on mistletoe myth and legend, plus practical details of how to grow it in your own garden, Jonathan Briggs’ Mistletoe Pages.

cactus

10. Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera xbuckleyi) is popular for its colourful flowers that appear during the Christmas season. It is native to the coastal mountains of south-east Brazil where it is found growing on trees and rocks.

However, if you have picked up a “Christmas cactus” in the past month or so that is now blooming beautifully it probably is a Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncate), which usually blooms about a month before Christmas cacti and has very cool flowers– I have heard them described as “leaping shrimps” or “lobster claws”. You can read more about the varieties, and how to tell them apart (hint it’s all in the leaf segments) here.

poinsettia

9. Poinsettia

Euphorbia pulcherrima is is a shrub native to Mexico where it is known as “Noche Buena”, meaning Christmas Eve. The Aztecs called it cuetlaxochitl (brilliant flower), and made a purple dye from its bracts and a fever medicine from its sap. The plant’s association with Christmas began in Mexico 400 years ago. According to legend a young girl who was too poor to provide a Christmas gift for the birth of Jesus was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them at the church altar. Crimson “blossoms” appeared from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias. The poinsettia plant was named after Joel Robert Poinsett, who was an American ambassador to Mexico around 1829. Poinsett was an amateur botanist and liked the plant so much that he sent several back to his home in South Carolina where he grew them in his greenhouse and introduced them in the US.

Poinsettias are popular Christmas decorations in North America and Europe, and the colours have expanded far beyond the traditional red to all shades of pink, salmon, apricot, yellow, cream, and white. While lovely at Christmas they are tough to keep as a houseplant given our dry indoor conditions. During the 1960s, plant breeders worked hard to make the poinsettia more colourful, compact and floriferous, which is what you see today. More information here.

paperwhites

8. Paperwhites

Tazetta daffodil types – usually the paperwhite narcissus N. ‘Ziva’ – is specially prepared to flower in time for December 25. Cultivars of N. tazetta include ‘Paperwhite’, ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ and ‘Ziva’, which are popularly used for forcing indoors.

If you want to try them out and have flowers all winter, here’s some information about how to do it. More here. (One word of warning: not everyone loves the perfume of paperwhites. One component of the paperwhites’ unmistakable scent is indole, and some people’s noses find this adds a fetid edge that’s really rather unpleasant. So you may want to sniff before you try.)

Paperwhites may grow tall and leggy, flopping over just as they begin to bloom. Tie a ribbon around the stems, about two thirds of the way up. According to a professor at Cornell University if you grow paperwhites in a 4 to 5% solution of alcohol it helps regulate the growth. Given that most liquors are 40% alcohol, this would be 1 part alcohol to 9 parts water. Don’t use beer or wine (just hard liquor – gin/vodka/whiskey/rum/tequila).

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7. Amaryllis

Everyone I know loves the amaryllis, and we closely associate them with the festive season. While the popular name is “amaryllis”, hippeastrum is generally accepted as being the correct name. It usually blooms around Christmas or into January or February in the Northern Hemisphere, then produces long green leaves that allow it to store energy for the following year.

Native to Peru and South Africa, amaryllis comes from the Greek word amarysso, which means “to sparkle.” Bulbs were brought to Europe in the 1700s and have been known to bloom for up to 75 years. Amaryllis flowers range from 4 to 10 inches in size, and can be either single or double in form. While the most popular colours are red and white, flowers may also be pink, salmon, apricot, rose or deep burgundy. Some varieties are bicolour such as purple and green, or picotee (having petals with a different edge colour). Lots of information here.

You can buy bulbs on their own or potted up. Select the largest bulbs available as they will produce more stalks and blooms the first year. Bulbs should be firm and dry with no signs of mold, decay or injury. It is common to see new growth (leaves, buds) emerging from bare or planted bulbs. Want to get your amaryllis to rebloom? Here’s some great advice.

CHRISTMAS FOOD

6. Cranberry

The cranberry (Vaccinium spp.) has been a festive favourite for hundreds of years, ever since Native Americans mashed up the fruit and mixed it with dried deer meat and fat to make pemmican (a concentrated mixture of fat and protein used as a nutritious food). In 1816, Dutch and German settlers in the New World planted the first ever “crane berry” crop (so-called for their blossom’s resemblance to the head and bill of a crane) on Cape Cod, using the fruit as a natural dye for rugs, blankets and clothing.

It was probably inevitable that the cranberry became linked with Christmas. With their bright red colour, they reflect the season perfectly. As early as the 1840s, people were stringing them with popcorn to make festive garlands for the Christmas tree. At the same time, with their winter availability and the fact they were slow to spoil, cranberries represented one of the few fruits that could be served fresh during the holidays. To settlers’ delight, it was discovered very early that the tartness of cranberry sauce helps cut the far and richness of such traditional holiday fare as pork, goose, duck and turkey, making it a perfect complement to festive dishes. Check out lots of lovely ways to use cranberries here.

Hope you enjoyed part 1 of the 12 Plants of Christmas.
Stay tuned until next Monday for our second segment.

Shady Gardens

by Sharleen Pratt, Master Gardener in Training

Now that the colder weather has arrived and the days are shorter, it’s time to dream about next year and possibly plan a new garden. Do you despair at the challenges surrounding a shade garden? We can enjoy the cooling effects of the shade and experience a garden that regales all of the senses. When choosing plants, consider interesting foliage and texture rather than solely depending on flower colour.

If you are planting under mature trees, especially non-native maples you must always remember that those vigorous, feeder roots quickly out-compete new transplants for water and nutrients. Every fall add several layers of shredded leaves as well as compost for additional nutrients. Remember to water often the first year.

There are many wonderful bulbs that would give you that burst of colour in the early spring before the trees get their leaves. The sun coming through the branches in early spring is perfect for encouraging Daffodil (Narcissus hybrids), Grape Hyacinth (Muscari botryoides) and Siberian Squill (Scilla Siberica) to flower before the tree canopy is in full leaf.

Hosta (Plantain Lily) are a must have in a shade garden and provides variations in leaf size, shape and colour. This perennial has hundreds of species and thousands of cultivars and they are tough, reliable plants. Along with the Hosta, you might consider Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis). Their flowers hang down like dangling hearts and are a real source of delight. The dryer soil under a canopy of trees would quicken their disappearance shortly after flowering and would work well under the emerging large leaves of the Hostas. Another old-fashioned perennial is the Heartleaf Bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia) that has large waxy, heart shaped leaves. It also has some fall interest when the leaves take on a reddish winter hue.IMG_4094

Lungwort (Pulmonaria) are also shade tolerant and their delicately patterned foliage draws the eye throughout the summer. There are several species, some of which are variegated which can add texture and colour to the shade garden. Another perennial to consider is the Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’. This plant was named as the Plant of the Year for 2012. It bears panicles of light blue flowers held above silver leaves with green veins and edges. Once established, they can be fairly drought tolerant. An overlooked plant is the Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia). It is a native groundcover and is happy in both full to light shade. It bears tall racemes of delicate white or pale pink flowers for six weeks in early summer. They grow best in moist, humus-rich woodland soil.

To give the shady garden some texture and shape, look at some of the broadleaf evergreen shrubs. The Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia aquifolium) prefers moist, well-drained, acid soil. It produces very fragrant yellow racemes in mid-spring, followed by globose, dark blue fruit. Another broadleaf evergreen for shade is the Rainbow Leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’) a member of the Heath family with white urn-shaped flowers.

Take a close look at your growing conditions and plant accordingly. Put a bench under a tree and once established, the shade garden will be a wonderful oasis to roam and sit with a cup of tea and take in all the many senses surrounding you.

A good article that lists many perennials and groundcovers for a shade garden can be found at Landscape Ontario.