Category Archives: Garden Design

Start a New Habitat

By Marilyn Homewood, Master Gardener

Over the past few years, it has become increasing clearer that loss of biodiversity due to loss of habitat is at a crisis level.  It is also well documented that the planting of native species provides us with an opportunity to help reverse this process by creating or enhancing ecological networks.

Renowned entomologist Douglas Tallamy has been beating this drum for some time.  It is his belief that all of us can provide part of the solution no matter our area of interest and no matter the scale of effort (no need to be a native plant purist!). He believes that small efforts by many people can make a significant contribution. Tallamy provides practical, positive advice for adapting his principles into your situation.  His philosophy is about encouraging folks to participate in regenerating biodiversity in the way they are most comfortable versus prescribing “must do’s” or formulas. He doesn’t let the perfect be the enemy of good. To this end, he is spearheading a grass roots, science-based solution called Homegrown National Park. Participants in both the US and Canada involved in this effort are encouraged to register their properties on the parks map in order to be counted towards the park’s goal of planting 20 million acres.  The website provides extensive resources to gardeners such as blogs and videos as well as a newsletter.  You can also follow the park on Instagram  @homegrownnationalpark.

Tallamy suggests 10 steps that anyone can all do to get started and make a contribution (see the link for more detail). They are as follows:

  1.  Shrink your lawn – All of us could probably do with a little less lawn to cut but no need to go without.  Replace some turf with trees, shrubs or gardens.
  2. Remove invasive species – Invasive species interfere with the ecosystems ability to function and will affect any type of garden. Removing some if not all out will reduce the impact on your plants and reduce the amount of seed that is shed into the environment.
  3. Encourage Keystone Genera – Research has shown that a few genera of plants are the backbone of local ecosystems especially as a food source for insects. Without local keystone plants, food webs will fail. Common keystone plants in the east are oak, willow, birch, elm, goldenrod, aster and sunflower. In my own case, goldenrod and aster is abundant on the farm. I now let it grow along the perimeter of my fields instead of cutting it down.
  4. Be generous with your plantings. Increasing the abundance and diversity of our plantings will assist in realizing the ecological potential of our landscape.
  5. Reduce Nighttime Light Pollution. White porch lights and security lights are a major cause of insect decline. Consider switching lighting with motion sensors or replace white bulbs with yellow (less attractive to bugs).
  6. Network with neighbours and encourage them to get involved.  Be a role model by transforming your property in attractive ways.  Display a sign to show your commitment.
  7. Build a conservation hardscape by using window well covers to prevent toads and frogs from falling into the wells where they starve to death. Mowing your lawn no lower than 3 inches helps to ensure that you mow over the turtles, toads and other small critters.
  8. Create caterpillar pupations sites under trees. Most caterpillars drop from trees to pupate in duff on ground. Replace the lawn under trees with well planted beds full of ground cover to encourage pupation.
  9. Avoid use of chemical fertilizer. Create soils rich in organic matter instead.
  10. Educate, educate and educate. Spread the word.

    “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” -Nelson Mandela

Winter Gardening Activities

By Cheryl Harrison, Master Gardener

Winter in Ontario, Canada, is a time for gardeners to relax, plan, learn and become inspired…..so let’s explore!If you are new to gardening and want to learn more and/or would like to connect with other gardeners then joining one or more local horticultural groups might be of interest. The Ontario Horticultural Association divides Ontario into districts.  District 4  lists horticultural groups for Bobcaygeon, Brighton, Campbellford, Coboconk, Cobourg, Cramahe, Ennismore, Fenelon Falls, Grafton, Lakefield, Lindsay, Minden, Omemee, Norland, Norwood, Peterborough and Port Hope..   For more information check Ontario Horticultural Association / GardenOntario.

For those who have been gardening for awhile, you may wish to become a Master Gardener.  Master Gardeners inform, educate and inspire others to create healthy and vibrant gardens, landscapes and communities.  We promote horticultural practices that are safe, effective, proven and sustainable.  For more information check Master Gardeners of Ontario and Peterborough and Area Master Gardeners.

There are many Horticulture related educational opportunities….some offered on-line and some in-person.  Both the University of Guelph and Dalhousie University offer on-line courses that will fulfill the requirements for a Master Gardener certificate.  The Horticulture and the Master Gardener groups all have an educational component to their meetings and some may be accessible on-line.  The Peterborough and Area Master Gardeners are again offering, on March 4, 2023, the inspirational and in-person “A Day for Gardeners”  after a 2 year hiatus.  Watch the web site, Peterborough and Area Master Gardeners, for registration and more information.

Plan for next summer with catalogues, books and on-line research.  We are fortunate to have many seed companies in Canada.  A list of “Home for the Harvest’s” top 25 may be found here.  Please save room in your garden plans for plant shopping at your local nurseries too.  Local nursery staff are able to provide you with invaluable information on growing in your region.  Your local library is guaranteed to have some gardening books that you could borrow.  On-line research will also provide a wealth of information…..try a search for “Gardening in Ontario”  and you will see what I mean.  A really great source of information is a fellow gardener.  Ask any gardener a gardening question and they will be thrilled to give you some guidance.

And last but not least, please make time in your day for fitness.  You need to keep yourself fit for all of the gardening activity that you have planned for next summer.  Gardening is an excellent way to maintain a good level of fitness, both mentally and physically.  Read more about the benefits of gardening as exercise here .  There are YouTube videos that can get you started.  I particularly liked the video located here.  The presenter demonstrates some exercises and some things that you can do to prevent injury while gardening. You might consider just getting together with a couple of friends to practice yoga, do some strengthening and flexibility exercises or go for a walk.

The world of gardening is immense.  Keep track of your ideas and resources so that when gardening season returns, you will have the information readily available.  I hope that this medley of gardening choices will help you to relax, plan, learn and become inspired during the upcoming Ontario winter!

Exploring Two Special English Gardens (and the Gardeners behind them)

by Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

This week I had the pleasure of doing my first in-person presentation in almost three years to the Peterborough Horticultural Society on some very special south England gardens that my husband and I were able to visit in May 2022.

National Garden Scheme

I also talked about the amazing UK National Garden Scheme (NGS), where gardeners open their private gardens on specific days during the year to raise funds for primarily health charities. Since many people had never heard of the NGS, I thought I’d share with a wider audience with my blog for this month.

Screen capture from NGS website

The NGS gives access to over 3,500 exceptional private gardens in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands, which in turn raise impressive amounts of money for nursing and health charities through admissions, teas and cake. And it’s not just about seeing beautiful gardens – there is a strong focus on physical and mental health benefits of gardens too. They also support other charities doing amazing work in gardens, and provide health and grant bursaries to help community gardening projects. You can read more here.

How I wish we could start something similar here in Canada (or Ontario, or Peterborough)! Imagine all the good that could happen just from sharing our gardens with people. I’ll have to think more about this.

So we managed to see two very special private gardens (that both open for the NGS as well) and get to meet the gardeners behind the garden, which is always my favourite thing to do when I visit to a garden. I want to understand the inspiration, the goals and objectives, and the plans for the future…because we all know our gardens are ever evolving places.

Waterperry Gardens

Waterperry Gardens (east of Oxford in Oxfordshire) has a long legacy and an amazing history as one of the few horticultural schools for women (from 1943 to 1971) – run by two outstanding women – Beatrix Havergal and her partner Avice Sanders.

Photo courtesy of Waterperry Gardens

It’s an 80 acre estate with 8 acres of formal gardens, and is famous for the herbaceous border. This is what it looked like May 2022 when we visited, and how it looks now (fall 2022, photo courtesy of Head Gardener Pat Havers, who I was lucky enough to meet in person in probably the busiest time of the year!) I love this blog written about her in 2017.

You know you’re a hard core gardener when your Mum takes you to work in a wheelbarrow!

Photo courtesy of Pat Havers

Pat grew up in the gardens as her mother worked there, and has been working there herself for the past 20 years -10 years as Head Gardener.

“Living in the village it was every little girl’s dream to have this haven on their doorstep”, says Pat. “I would spend hours running through the beds and asking all the gardeners questions about their work. This soon caught Miss Havergal’s eye and I became the youngest student of hers at just the age of 4. My guess is perhaps she did this to keep me out of trouble.

Her passion for the gardens were evident in everything she said. I found out about her favourite quiet space (down by the River Thame), and the incredible legacy established by Havergal and Sanders, that continues to this day in terms of courses, plant identification tags, and garden design.

This garden is the Formal Garden/Silent Garden, where people are encouraged to turn off the phones and just enjoy the beautiful knot garden, sculptures, and seasonal changes.

St Timothee Garden

Just a bit further east near Maidenhead in Berkshire is St Timothee, a spectacular 2 acre private country garden planted for year-round interest with a variety of different colour-themed borders, each featuring a wide range of hardy perennials, shrubs and ornamental grasses.

The garden artist at work here is Sarah Pajwani, and I love her approach to gardening (similar to my own), and especially her focus on making her gardens appealing all year round, including those winter months. While England obviously doesn’t have the harsh winters we have here, her focus is on maintaining structure and colour in the garden.

photo courtesy of Sarah Pajwani

An overgrown field area when she moved in (2006), Sarah created a design rationale with the help of professional landscapers, but then set about filling her garden with plants of her choice, border by border. She definitely loves her purples and pinks, but also has a few ‘hot’ borders with lovely reds, oranges and yellows.

There are so many lovely aspects to her gardens, including a large pond, wild meadow, potting shed, and formal parterre garden. While we were there in May, her photos of her winter garden are amazing, designed to have year round interest that’s easy to manage.

Sarah’s garden received national recognition in 2021, being recognized by The English Garden magazine as the National Winner for favourite garden. A garden not to be missed if you are in the area!

This excellent garden blog shows the beauty of the St Timothee Garden in wintertime, when it’s one of the first to open for the NGS.

While we did enjoy seeing many of the ‘signature’ ‘must see’ gardens on our English trip – like Sissinghurst, Hidcote, Kiftsgate Court Gardens, and Great Dixter – it was these private gardens – where we had the opportunity to meet the gardeners – that were the highlight of our trip. So if you’re in the UK, be sure to check out the NGS website for what gardens are open while you are there – they have a great interface to help you – either by week or by arrangement.

(Special thanks to the magic of Twitter for connecting me to Ontario gardener Lynette, who connected me to master gardener Nicki in Sussex, who helped me find these very special gardens and gardeners. You will both be on my list of gardens to see next time I’m in your area.)

Reflecting on the Past Season

By Marilyn Homewood, Master Gardener

The frost has made its first appearance marking the end of the summer growing season.  Before plunging headlong into bulb planting, I find it valuable to use this time to take stock of the past season as it serves to help me plan for next year (although I must admit I have already submitted a lengthy list of dahlia tubers for next spring).  I find it helpful to keep a gardening journal throughout the year for reference purposes and it becomes an important part of this process. There are many entries especially in spring when I am propagating, not so much in the summer but I always do a fall summary.  This written record has served me well over the past few years.  I also take this opportunity to look back over the photos I took throughout the season. They sometime remind me of just how much I enjoyed a certain plant.  One plant whose value seems to fade from my memory is sweet peas. Time consuming to grow, somewhat fleeting in our climate, I am always ready to drop them from next year’s list until I look at the photo.  Then I recall just how much I enjoyed their appearance and scent!!

Successes: It can be hard to see all the good things that happen when you are in the midst of seed starting, weeding, transplanting and harvesting.  I tend to dwell on what is not working (don’t all gardeners?) and often pass over the good stuff.  Evaluating the successes allows you to repeat or expand on your wins for next year.  This year I grew lisianthus (prairie gentian) for the first time.  It grew well in our climate and produces a bloom that is both attractive and long lasting.  It has continued to push out buds and I am still cutting it for the vase.  Next year, I will try starting it from seed, grow more of them and also plant some in the landscape for bloom from August to frost.

Challenges: Identify what did not go well and try to ascertain what the problem was and if it can be addressed.  Sometimes things just don’t work in your situation and its worth evaluating if the time, effort and money is worth allocating to this endeavor.  After a couple years of trying, I have decided to give up on ranunculus.  They are labour intensive as they require pre-sprouting in March with planting out in April under hoops and frost cloth.  Growth was great on the plants however each time a plant budded up an unidentified varmint would come in and make off with the flower bud.  So it’s a choice between adding rabbit protection to the already busy growing regime or devoting the resources elsewhere.

Future Opportunities: Always be on the lookout for possibilities for next season.  Whether it is a major project or a plant acquisition, this is a good time to firm up ideas.  I watch a lot of different types of gardening webinars and do a lot of reading and am always jotting down plant ideas that might work for me.  This is a good time to evaluate that list and based on available space, determine what to try for next year.  If it involves propagation, it might mean acting now.  I have decided to expand my planting of perennial poppies and am going to take root cuttings for the first time which will be overwintered in my extension.  With any luck, I will have new plants for next spring.

Try investing in a few hours musing over you garden and you reap the rewards next year.

https://extension.psu.edu/evaluating-the-garden

https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/garden-health-evaluation-part-1

The Golden Glow Has Got To Go

By Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

Last year around this time I wrote a blog about reclaiming a garden bed from the dreaded ditch lily (Hemerocallis fulva), now considered an invasive species by many organizations including Ontario Parks and the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the U. S. National Park Service. If you’ve ever struggled with this plant you know what I mean.

The other plant growing in our large Lakefield garden when we moved in (more than 20 years ago) is what I was told was called an ‘outhouse plant‘. I eventually learned that the Latin name for this plant (also called golden glow or tall coneflower) was Rudbeckia laciniata “Hortensia”.

Rudbeckia laciniata “Hortensia” or Outhouse Plant, circa 2005 in my garden

It’s a cultivar of our native Rudbeckia laciniata, also known as Cut Leaf Coneflower or Green Headed Coneflower, which has a lovely simple daisylike flower (whereas the Hortesia cultivar is a double ‘puffy’ flower).

Our lovely R. laciniata elsewhere in the garden. It will do better (and flop less) if it’s in a garden bed with other tall and native plants.

The outhouse plant was pleasant enough so I let them grow for years in what I call our ‘back 40’, meaning our naturalized garden area at the back of the property, behind the cedar rail fence. Yes they were tall and gangly, and fell over in thunderstorms. Yes they spread, but they gave the prolific Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) and New England Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) a run for their money in August/September. And hey, I had more than enough to deal with in the rest of my more organized garden!

However, as I started to learn more about both native (and invasive) plants over the years I realized that I might have a problem. The outhouse plant isn’t a huge problem per se, as it can be controlled through digging, Chelsea chop etc., but its double shape means that it offers minimal benefit as food for our pollinators. And I wanted plants that not only look beautiful but have an ecological benefit. So I sat in my hammock and pondered.

Sitting in my hammock contemplating the outhouse plant’s fate
(he’s watching on the right)

As a result of winter sowing (first time this past winter – highly recommend!) I have lots of new native plant seedlings, including some of the ones I featured in my May blog – A Few of My Favourite Native Plants – Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum Virginicum), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), and Green Headed Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata). I certainly have lots of the native Rudbeckia, as well as Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), Giant Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea), and Purple Giant Hyssop (Agastache scrophulariifolia).

So the clearing of the outhouse plant began in earnest last week, and by the end of two afternoons I had an area to work with.

The initial chop of material
Then removal of the actual plants and roots

Definitely not light work, but not too difficult either compared to other plants. The area is now clear, and I’ll be putting in Green Headed Coneflower (the native), Boneset, Giant Ironweed, and Purple Giant Hyssop. They can all tolerate a little competition (a good thing for native plants, especially tall ones) and basic soils.

If I have space I might even mix in some shorter plants like native Bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) and Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) in at the front as they can tolerate dry conditions. The area is mostly sunny all day. Unfortunately my beloved Cardinal Flower and Turtlehead are too dry for this location.

We’ll see how this experiment works and check back in with you all on another blog. If it works we’ll expand into another area of outhouse plant that I recently cut down, but haven’t removed yet…a work in progress. There are only so many hours in my (still working part time) day. And I still need to get that Canada Ggoldenrod under control…but that’s another story…

Naked Ladies in my Garden

By Lois Scott, Master Gardener

Although this may sound shocking to some and possibly enticing to others, the Naked Ladies in my garden are a welcome arrival at this time of year.  It is not so much that they are truly naked, they are just minus their leaves.  Naked Ladies, Autumn Crocus and Meadow Saffron are all common names for a bulb-like corm called Colchicum autumnale that produces leaves in the spring and flowers in the fall.  Over the summer the plant appears dormant but by late August or early September it starts pushing up beautiful mauve flowers with 6 showy stamens, all atop white stems.  Colchicum autumnale likes organically rich, well-drained soil and sun to part shade conditions. https://onrockgarden.com/index.php/plant-of-the-month?view=article&id=92:colchicum-autumnale&catid=22

This is a sentimental plant for me as years ago I dug up the corms from my grandparents’ garden.  I remember they were still a mass of blooms at Thanksgiving.  But as much as they mean to me, they can be a garden design challenge.  The leaves that are produced in spring grow a good 25-30 cm and then go through a bit of a collapse as they die off.  At that point you are left with a hole.  The flowers grow to be about 15-20 cm tall and could easily be overwhelmed by larger plants around them.  I have my most favourite site for them at the base of a Witchhazel shrub which is close to a garden bed edge. There are a few rocks surrounding the area where the plants are sited and otherwise, I leave the area bare.  The photo I have included is a previous arrangement but I found the leaves in spring overwhelmed the Heuchera, so the heuchera have been moved out a bit.  The other photo shows the leaves in spring.

Colchicum autumnale in fall

You may find corms for sale in the fall or perhaps you know someone who wants to divide up their clump.  They can easily be divided every few years and speaking for myself, I am happy to share.  The ladies in my garden are trouble free and never disappoint.

Colchicum autumnale in spring

Think Spring!

By Cheryl Harrison, Master Gardener

At this time of year, it is difficult to get excited about spring when we know what must come first … fall then winter!  However, late summer is exactly the time to think about spring bulbs because they must be planted in the fall in order to bloom the following spring.

As with all plants, you need to take into consideration the amount of light needed, soil and moisture requirements.  Most bulbs require full sun to part shade, well drained loam soil and watering when dry.  Note that bulbs may rot when over-watered. 

Some sources suggest adding bone meal to the planting hole.  Bone meal adds phosphorus to the soil which may encourage bulb growth but may also harm some of the other beneficial soil constituents.  It is prudent to test your soil first. 

Plant bulbs with the pointed end up and to a depth of 2-3 times the diameter of the bulb.  You may sprinkle blood meal over the planting site or cover with chicken wire to discourage squirrels and chipmunks from digging them up.

Plant your spring flowering bulbs any time between September to December … as long as you are still able to work the ground. 

Spring flowering bulbs are lovely in a formal garden as well as in more natural settings. For naturalization of spring bulbs, please see Bulbs for Naturalizing.

Now the really fun part, what to choose!  Check at your local nursery to see what they have in stock and/or what they may be ordering in.  Choose large, undamaged bulbs.  It is also likely that your favourite on-line supplier carries spring flowering bulbs.  I would suggest that you do this well before you plan to plant to ensure that you are able to get what you want.

Tulips – We are all familiar with the large colourful, showy tulips.  Their blooms may be cup shaped, fringed, double or ruffled.  This fall, I plan to plant some, new-to me species tulip bulbs.  While species tulips are smaller than the tulips that we are most accustomed to, they are colourful, very hardy and have a more open flower. 

Hyacinth – You can not beat the magnificent fragrance of hyacinth blooms in the spring.  They come in several colours, single or double and are accompanied by strong, strappy leaves.  Hyacinths also produce nectar so provide food for some of our early foraging pollinators.

Narcissus – The spring flowering bulb, in the genus Narcissus, is more commonly called a daffodil.  Bloom colours range from bright yellow to cream to white and combinations of these colours.  Daffodils are cheerful flowers.  I always smile when I see them especially in a natural setting.

Crocus – Crocus “bulbs” are actually corms.  What is the difference??, check here.  These are probably the first of the fall plantings that you will see in the spring. Crocus blooms are tube shaped and come in various colours.  The plant is low growing and does well when naturalized.

The above are some of the more often seen spring flowering bulbs but there are more.  Please see Landscape Ontario  for additional suggestions.

The Joy of Sharing our Gardens

Reflections after a Garden Tour

by Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

It’s been a tough few years for all of us because of COVID-19, but I had time to reflect this weekend on why it’s been hard for me as a gardener. While it’s been wonderful to have our gardens as an oasis and source of comfort during the pandemic, I realized that other than a few close friends, no one had seen all the work (and the results) that my husband Grant and I had achieved over that time.

So it was with great anticipation that we looked forward to our Lakefield garden being featured on a garden tour organized as a fundraiser to celebrate 60 years of the Lakefield Horticultural Society.

While we spent a few very crazy days trying to put the final touches on our garden (my husband decided he would build a beautiful pergola [awesome] a week before the event [not so awesome] so plants had to be moved into pots and then back into the beds just a few days before) — sorry I digress — everything was perfect on the day — the weather was spectacular, we placed the last bits of mulch to cover a few empty patches and we looked forward to welcoming our guests.

The new pergola.

As the first people arrived (I think our first visitor was a man on a bicycle!) I began to realize how much I had missed the joy of sharing our gardens with others. And as the day progressed, it was wonderful to hear other people’s perceptions — for some it was inspiring, for some a bit overwhelming (we have a 3/4 acre property in a small village), for some they loved that we had plants they had never seen before (not your typical garden). Everyone seemed to leave with a smile on their face, which made our day.

Grant created numerous raised beds over the past few years — at my request — and we’ve had great success with them. We also purchased a “COVID present” for ourselves — a long wished-for greenhouse to extend our gardening season, and it’s been put to good use.

We’ve spent time over the past few years planting more native plants as I learn more about the benefits of creating habitat as well as having an aesthetically pleasing garden. Hey, it’s not all about me!! Doug Tallamy’s book is a great start to understanding the benefits we can provide in our humble gardens to the greater ecosystem.

There is definitely a balance — we’re aiming for a 50/50 balance of native/non-native — because I love my daylilies and peonies and don’t want to give them up (they give me pleasure), but I also love the hundreds of pollinators (bees, butterflies, wasps etc.) that flock to my Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum), and Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) because I am choosing to plant native plants.

Boneset (white) and Cardinal Flower (red)

Last winter I grew some native (and non-native) plants using the Winter Sowing technique (because most native plant seed requires winter/cold stratification) and it was a great success (with some lessons learned – but that’s another blog).

Grant set up a Plant Sale area for the garden tour and people were able to buy plants that they saw in the garden (although alas, I did not take any cuttings on my amazing orange Butterfly Weed – a type of milkweed – which really caught everyone’s attention).

The Plant Sale area

Over the day I saw many gardening friends I hadn’t seen in several years, and made all sorts of new friends. It felt like my community was coming together — like we were reconnecting after a long time apart in a beautiful place. And I realized that gardening is both a solitary and a very social activity. We even got featured in the local newspaper.

We raised funds to support our local horticultural society, we got back to feeling ‘a bit normal’, and most importantly we got to reconnect with people over a common passion — the love of gardening.

I hope that all of you will find opportunities to reconnect with people this summer and share your gardens and plants and trade stories about attracting pollinators etc. with others. It’s a feeling like no other. #happygardening

Our lovely rudbeckia and greenhouse in the background.

It’s Iris Time in the Garden!

By Chris Freeburn, Master Gardener

June brings a great show of Bearded Iris into the garden. Iris germanica flower in spring and although the bloom time seems short, the big colourful blooms are breath taking. Iris come in different heights, have big showy flowers in lots of fabulous colours and their elongated fan-like leaves give a different shape in the mixed border. There are 3 parts of the flower – “standards” which are the 3 upright petals, “falls” which are the lower petals usually hanging down and the “beard” which is the fuzzy hairs and is often yellow in colour. There are many varieties available, with colours ranging from shades of blue, purple, pink, peach, orange and combinations of colours where standards are one colour and falls another. Stunning!

Orange Harvest

Iris want a sunny location facing south or west, in well drained soil. They do not want to sit in water and will rot if they are too wet. Iris have rhizomes which produce roots to hold the plant in place and draw up water and nutrients. Rhizomes want their tops to be near the surface of the soil or slightly exposed, especially in heavy soil. A heavily mulched bed will not work for iris unless you leave a large area bare. Fertilize in early spring.

Raspberry Parfait

Dead-head flowers by cutting spent blossom stems right down, which encourages more bloom on rebloomers. Leaf fans should be cut back to 3” to 6” in the fall with sharp scissors.

Plants need to be divided every 3 to 4 years to reduce crowding and encourage blooming. Dividing should be done when plants are dormant in August or September. When dividing, check rhizomes for signs of disease and cut out any soft, wrinkled or marred parts. Let rhizomes dry overnight before replanting to allow cut areas to seal over to protect

Watch for Iris borer which will eat through the rhizomes. If you do get borers, dig up and cut off the damaged rhizomes.

Siberian Iris

Iris are often sold bare root from seed companies and there are several online iris companies in southern Ontario. They tend to ship for fall planting when plants are dormant. You can purchase plants in containers in garden centres in spring or summer.

Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington have a wonderful display garden if you are up for a trip. Check out their website https://www.rbg.ca/gardens

Iris siberica is another showy plant in the early summer garden. Siberian Iris grow 15” to 36” tall with lots of smaller flowers having standards and falls. Their leaves are narrower and almost grass-like. Siberian Iris can be planted into the soil rather than on top although they still have rhizomes. They can take full sun or part sun and do like a moist area. Dividing needs only to be done every 10 years or if the centre dies out.

Siberian Iris: Such amazing detail!

One of the earliest iris is Iris reticulata which is actually a bulb that you would plant in the fall. They are short and usually purple.

In Ontario we have native iris that are classed as wildflowers and known as Flags. They include Iris versicolor which you will find in shades of blue and Iris lacustris which is a smaller wildflower and very rare. These are often used in pond settings as they prefer to be wet. Iris pseudacorus is the non native yellow flag iris which is listed  on the Ontario Invasive list.

Iris are poisonous for cats, dogs and humans if eaten.

For more information check out these websites:
https://www.cdn-iris.ca/growing-bearded-irises/
https://www.chapmaniris.com/
http://ontariowildflowers.com

Year of the Garden 2022

By Cheryl Harrison, Master Gardener

Canadians love to garden!  2022 is the Canadian ornamental sector’s centennial and has been declared by the Canadian Garden Council as the Year of the Garden.  For more information, check Year of the Garden.

Our gardens became even more important to us over the last couple of years while we were sheltering at home due to the covid pandemic.   2022 is a year for us to share our gardening passion and knowledge.  It is the mission of the Peterborough and Area Master Gardeners to inform, educate and inspire the residents of Peterborough and area to create healthy and vibrant gardens, landscapes and communities through the use of safe, effective, proven and sustainable horticultural practices.  Peterborough has even declared itself as a garden-friendly city as part of the Year of the Garden festivities!

So, think how you can “live the garden life” … maybe consider gardening indoors with house plants, or in containers on your balcony or create a new garden in your yard.  You could join your local Horticultural Society to learn more about plants and then perhaps become more involved in the community.  Your next step might be to become a Master Gardener!

The Peterborough and Area Master Gardeners will celebrate the Year of the Garden by partnering with the Peterborough Public Library to renovate the gardens around their Aylmer Street building.  The gardens had originally been planted with invasive plants.  We will remove the invasives and replace them with native plants from Grow Wild, Native Plant Nursery.  The Peterborough Kawartha Association of Realtors (PKAR) are providing some much needed sponsorship funding for the project.  We are planning to involve the younger crowd in some of the planting along with our great group of adult volunteers.  We hope that, with some growing time, the gardens will become a haven with native plants and local pollinators and a beautiful spot for human visitors to rest. 

June 18/2022 has been designated as the Year of the Garden day in Peterborough.  The opening of the newly planted gardens at the Peterborough Public Library will be on that date from 10 until 2 pm.  There will also be a story walk for children, a Master Gardener advice table and more.   Another great event happening that day is the Peterborough Horticultural Society’s garden tour.  Tickets will be on sale soon for the tour.  Follow the Peterborough Master Gardeners and the Peterborough Horticultural Association on social media for more information.