Butterfly Gardening – Monarch Waystation #204

by Mary Jane Parker, Master Gardener

Since 2008, my garden has been a monarch waystation.  In the beginning, when we purchased the property, we had to have a new septic system put in.  Because we are in a floodplain and the ground was saturated with water, we had to go up with the weeping tiles.  This meant that we had a berm at the front of the property and that was the beginning of my butterfly garden.

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Since then I have experimented with all kinds of native plants and wildflowers . The scope and layout of the property was such that formal gardens would have been impossible. Not all plants that I have tried have been successful but some have been my perennial favourites.

Monarda has self-sown over the years as has Phlox paniculata of which I probably have every colour available. Many plants have a personal history. Helianthus maximiliani came from Cathy Forget’s garden in Indian River and Glade Mallow (Napaea dioica) came from Mike and Sue Dolbey’s garden in Young’s Point. Many plants have come from gardens visited on horticultural trips near and far. I always leave room for native milkweed to grow. I have tried cultivated varieties of milkweed and unfortunately, they are not hardy here. The creek at the back of the property has an abundance of Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) growing naturally and I can’t think of anything prettier than when they are in bloom with the different shades of pink dancing in the breeze. I have always left room for Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) which not only attracts monarchs but a variety of interesting bugs. In the spring the Korean Lilac (Syringa meyeri) blooms are always a butterfly magnet.

Being a waystation has been fun. There are over 20,000 registered waystations around the world, most in North America, and although there are guidelines to follow, it does not appear that there are any hard and fast rules. The whole point is simply to provide habitat for monarchs and in doing so, you have a place that also attracts other butterflies, birds, and pollinators. Visit www.monarchwatch.org for more info.

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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.

My Orchid Had a Baby!

by Judy Bernard, Master Gardener

A year ago last summer I bought a new phalaenopsis orchid to go in my renovated kitchen. It had 2 stems of beautiful white flowers with a fuchsia centre. Eventually the flowers dropped off, but the stems remained green and healthy. Knowing there was good potential for the nodes remaining on the stem to start to produce another scape of flowers, I checked it carefully and was rewarded with a node budding out. It had leaves!judy's orchid

Looking up on Google, I learned that one of the ways an orchid will propagate is by producing a baby in its stem. These babies are called Kiekis. I had to wait for several months until the baby grew 3 or 4 roots and they were 8-10cm long before I could remove it and plant it.

Although it may be a sign that the mother orchid plant is under stress, this mother always looked healthy with dark glossy leaves. While it was nurturing its baby, the mother produced another scape on the other stem with a spray of 9 flowers.

Finally the day had come. I also learned that the best way to help the baby along was to plant it with the mother. The mother will regulate the growing medium around their roots and help the baby along. The mother’s pot was too small. So I purchased fresh bark for the orchids and a larger container. Planted them. Watered them.

They seem to be thriving!

Link:  All about Keikis

Spring Bulbs – Beyond Daffodils and Tulips

by Suzanne Seryck, Master Gardener

October and November is a great time to plant spring bulbs – these are the bulbs that will extend the colour in your garden,  often blooming when there is still snow on the ground. These bulbs – the most well-known being daffodils and tulips – bloom from March or April until late spring. They are incredibly low maintenance, you plant them once and then forget about them, with the exception of daffodils which often need dividing every 5 years or so. However the reward outweighs the hardship of dividing them, a clump of 5 can easily multiply to 40 or 50.

Daffodils and tulips are, by far, the most recognized spring bulbs, coming in many different colours, sizes and bloom times. However if you look beyond, you start to notice the many other different spring bulbs available.


I live in Lindsay and like many cities, if you drive around in the spring, you will notice the many blue lawns. These are actually either glory of the snow (Chionodoxa spp.), or siberian squill (Scilla), tiny blue bulbs that naturalize in both your lawn and your flower beds. The difference between the two depends on the direction that the flower head faces, but either are perfect in the lawn. As well as blue they also come in lavender, pink or white.


Snowdrops (Galanthus), which are among the earliest blooming spring bulbs will also naturalize in your lawn or flower beds, however in my garden, they are slower to multiply. They can be either single or double with a small white or snow colored flower.
I plant a lot of grape hyacinth or muscari in my garden, however I find them too large for my lawn and instead plant them in the perennial beds. They are also great under shrubs, trees or hedges. They come in blue, violet, pink and white and multiply easily, quickly spreading to form large clumps. Blue muscari works very well when paired with daffodils and can be planted in the same hole. Bulbs are typically planted at a depth determined by the size of the bulbs, allowing you to layer the muscari on top of the daffodils.

Crocuses whilst beautiful in their many different colours seem to be especially appetizing to squirrels. I planted orange crocuses two years ago and out of the twenty crocuses I planted, I may have seen one actually bloom, I was left with either holes where the bulbs used to be, or they would be nipped off when they were about 1 inch tall. I still plant them, but I make sure to plant a daffodil in the same hole, squirrels do not like the smell of daffodils and tend to stay away.

Other spring bulbs I have planted in my gardens include anemone, oxalis adenophylla, which is a very pretty pink colour, hyacinths, winter aconites, a very cheery shade of buttercup yellow, iris hollandica and of course English bluebells. I have to admit I do have a lot of daffodils and tulips in my garden from my early gardening days, but I am now starting to look beyond and plant the many different spring bulbs now available.hyacinths_EMHint: If you’re looking for ideas for something different check out this GardenMaking magazine article with ideas for 25 unique bulbs for your garden.


The Myth of Fragile Roots Planting Trees and Shrubs

By Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

(This blog entry builds on last week’s excellent post by Sue Flinders-Adams)

“When you transplant, try not to disturb the roots, just take the whole pot-shaped lump of soil/roots and pop it into its new home.” How many people have heard this story when purchasing a new tree or shrub from a nursery?

We take a shrub out of its container and see white fragile-looking roots and instinctively we don’t want to damage them or add to transplant shock. We know that healthy growth in a shrub is dependent on a good root system, so why would we mutilate or injure them?


Are Roots Really That Fragile?

Well, it turns out that those roots are not as fragile as we think. While you should take care with when transplanting seedlings, especially annual flowers and vegetables, woody perennials, shrubs, and trees all benefit from a more vigorous approach, according to Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., Extension Horticulturist and Associate Professor at Washington State University and one of the ‘Garden Professors’ that I admire for their scientifically-based knowledge of horticulture.

Garden Professors on Facebook or Garden Professors Website

When we purchase gallon-sized pots in the nursery, the plants are often pot-bound, the often suffered from circled root systems, which if not corrected become even more problematic once the shrub is in the ground. Eventually they become girdling roots, which will lead to the early death of otherwise healthy trees and shrubs, as you see below.


(photo courtesy of Tim Hamilton)

Think of it this way – roots respond to respond to pruning in much the same way as the crown—it stimulates new growth. If you prune the roots when you transplant, especially those that are excessively long or misshapen, the plant will respond by generating new, flexible roots that help them establish in the landscape. The best way to do this is by root-washing the shrub – taking it out of the pot, putting it in a wheelbarrow or other container, and washing off all the media so that you can see what the root system looks like.


Two Critical Things to Do

  1. Prune the roots in a root-bound shrub or tree to avoid future problems
  2. Remove the media (soil) that shrub or tree came in

The second suggestion relates to the soil that comes with your tree or shrub. I always thought you just put it right in the ground, but evidence suggests that (generally) the container media is a soil-less mix with a large proportion of organic matter and pumice. It is best to remove this media as part of your root inspection, and use it as topdressing after planting, followed by mulch.

If you put the media in with your new plant, the material will inhibit root development outside the planting hole. It will also lose water more rapidly than the surrounding native soil (because of its porous nature), resulting in increased water stress to your new transplant.

Watering is Essential

As with all transplanting, regular and deep watering is needed to keep the new shrubs or trees happy while they establish their new root systems. The fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs so happy planting!

Want To See How It’s Done?

Doug Gifford of Michigan recently posted to the Garden Professors Facebook page about his root washing, root-pruning, and planting of shrubs. You can check out the link here. Credit to Doug for most of the photos on this blog post.


A Special Note

If you plant a shrub or tree already in full leaf they will be more stressed than those that are dormant. Dormant planting is better as all resources go towards root establishment. You may see leaf damage or even death in the short run. But as long as the roots are kept cool and moist throughout the transplanting process, and as long as you keep the area mulched and watered, it should be fine in the long run.

Check out more detail on this issue in this blog post. It talks about the four things that result in landscape planting failures and how changes in the nursery industry have resulted in more problems with roots. Many of these issues also apply to balled and burlapped (B&B) trees – more information here.

This year, Dr. Chalker-Scott extended her experiment to perennials, as talked about in this blog entry  Three months later she revisited the site – here are the results.

For more information on other horticultural myths check out these pages. Even better? Spread the word to others 😊
Horticultural Myths – Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott
Garden Myths (Robert Pavlis’ site – he is based in Guelph, Ontario)

Planting to Encourage Proper Root Growth and Branching

By Sue Flinders-Adams, Master Gardener

Here are a few tips to ensure that the new shrub or tree you just brought home will thrive and grow to its full potential.

1. Before planting, soak the plant in the pot, in a pail of water for a few hours or even overnight to hydrate the roots.

2. Carefully remove plant from the pot. If it doesn’t come out easily gently press on the sides so that the roots will come away from the pot, and tap on the bottom.

3. There are usually roots circling the pot – gently coax these roots away from the root ball to encourage outward growth. If roots are left in the ‘circling’ position, they will continue to grow in this direction, circling the plant and even girdling the trunk of the tree in 10 or 15 years.flinders pic 1

4. The picture shows the roots that have been spread out in the very large hole. Partially cover the roots to hold them in place and water thoroughly with transplant fertilizer, according to the directions. Fill in the hole with the surrounding soil. Top dress with an inch or two of composted manure, and then 3 inches of mulch. Prune off any dead branches.flinders pic 2

5. Branches are often cramped and a little twisted from shipping. Gently pull them away to a better positon and secure with plant supports (pictured). In a couple of weeks you can take the supports away and the branches will continue to grow in that direction.

6. flinders pic 3Three weeks later, the Black Lace Elder is looking very happy. It is October which explains the lack of new growth.

The Plant Lover’s Guide to Salvias (Book Review)

By:  Mary Jane Parker, Master Gardener

If you care deeply about natural gardening and attracting bees, insects and hummingbirds to your garden, then salvias should be one of your go-to plants. They have wonderful flowers and fragrant leaves and for me, they bloom almost all summer.

In this very readable book, The Plant Lover’s Guide to Salvias, John Whittlesey outlines designing with salvia plants in different climate zones. We learn that salvias are generally hot climate plants and many have low water requirements but some of the perennial ones can be treated as annuals in our climate. Some are rated for zones close to ours and will survive here as perennials. I have had Salvia glutinosa growing here for many years and the book rates that one only a US zone 6a. Culinary sage (Salvia officinalis) has overwintered for me also for a number of years.

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The author next goes through and discusses 150 species and exceptional hybrids, their country of origin and specific cultural practices for each and any notable characteristics such as a strong hummingbird attractor.

Finally, he discusses general cultural techniques and then provides a listing of sources for plants and seed. After having read the book and descriptions of different salvia species, I have ended up with a two-page list of interesting species I wish to try.

The Peterborough Horticultural Society has this book available in their lending library or you can purchase from Timber Press.

Forest Bathing

By Suzanne Seryck, Master Gardener

As gardeners we spend a lot of time in our gardens; some might even say a little too much. There is always something to do. This time of the year when we’re not harvesting our vegetables, we are weeding, maybe still deadheading, amending the soil or mulching ready for next year, some more weeding, planting (fall is a great time to plant trees, shrubs, perennials or spring bulbs), over-seeding the lawn and of course, more weeding. What we tend not to do, and I’m speaking very much for myself here, is to slow down or even stop for a few hours to enjoy our gardens, someone else’s garden or maybe just take a walk.

There is a new gardening trend in North America called ‘Forest Bathing’. Forest bathing  or Shinrin-yoku was first developed in Japan in the late 1980’s and means to bathe in the forest atmosphere or to take the forest in through our senses. By being outside in a natural environment, you are letting in the sights, sounds and smells of nature which help calm, rejuvenate and restore. The intention of forest bathing is to slow down, taking the time to unwind and become immersed and connected to the natural environment.away-3024773_640

I know that on many mornings, when I take a cup of tea and venture into my garden early, I am always filled with a sense of peace and wonder, and immediately take a few deep breaths and feel at ease ready to take on the day. So it comes as no surprise to me to learn that over the past several decades scientific studies have discovered numerous health benefits associated with being in both wild and natural areas.  Researchers have found that many trees give off organic compounds that may be beneficial to people. Studies comparing the effects of walking in the city to those of walking in the forest have found that for those walking in forest environments, there was a significant reduction in both blood pressure and stress hormones (http://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/the-science.html). Other health benefits include, improved mood, increased ability to focus, accelerated recovery from surgery or illness, an increase in energy levels, improved sleep and a boosted immune system with an increase in the Natural Killer (NK) cells.

Living in the City of Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough we are lucky enough to have an abundance of trails,  parks and forests, all of which will be at their best in the new few weeks. After writing this article, I will be finding my inner peace in my local conservation area and I hope you will too.

For more information: http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html

New Garden Planning; a Look Ahead

By Cheryl Harrison, Master Gardener

Fall is a great time to get a head start on the new garden that you have been dreaming about for next year.

Deciding the new garden’s location depends on the purpose of the garden.  Will it be a quiet area for relaxing?  Look at the view from outside and also through the windows from inside your home when assessing potential locations.

Consider the growing conditions.  Is the potential location windy, sunny, shady or combination sun/shade?  It may be important to know the location of utility lines and pipes depending on how radical the planned change to the landscape.  Do you have access to water?  New plants usually need supplementary water for their first year.  Also check the area for flooding and provide drainage when necessary.IMG_1164

Think about garden structures……perhaps an arbor, fence or pergola or maybe a bird bath or bench?  For larger structures, you may need a construction permit.  A landscape professional can be a great person to consult at any stage of planning.

Soil condition is vey important to the growth of plants.  Newly built homes often have very little topsoil layered over nutrient poor subsoil.  It may be necessary to dig out some of the subsoil and replace it with good topsoil.  This “digging” step is when to be aware of the location of your utilities.

Create a new garden by edging the chosen area with a sharp shovel or edging tool then placing the material (usually a combination of grass and soil) into the centre of the new garden location.  Smother unwanted growth by covering the area with 4-5 layers of newspaper, or cardboard, and water it down.  Then layer topsoil about 15 cm (6 inches) on top and add additional organic material like composted manure.  Finish the new garden bed with a 7-10 cm (3-4 inch) layer of mulch.  The newspaper/cardboard layer, and the mulch will eventually decompose to become part of the garden’s soil.

Your new garden bed is ready for planting.  Choose plant material by looking at plant catalogues and on web sites.  What a great way to spend a fall or winter afternoon!

Preparing Your Perennial Garden for (gasp!) Winter…

By Mary-Jane Pilgrim, Master Gardener

Winter is fast approaching, and it’s time to prepare your gardens for the long, cold months ahead. By spending a little time this fall preparing, you can insure a healthier start to next year’s  season. Here’s a checklist of fall activities to get them ready for winter before it gets too cold to comfortably work outside.

  1. In all areas, spring-flowering bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, should be planted six weeks before you expect the ground to freeze.
  2. Dig and store tender summer bulbs, such as dahlias and canna lilies, after the first hard killing frost. Store them in wood shavings or crumpled/shredded newspaper in a cool, dry place.
  3. Stake and tie up any young trees or shrubs that may break under the weight of wet snow or ice. Use soft (but strong) ties around the bark of trees, as wire or twine can cut into the bark and cause serious damage. Place wooden tepees over shrubs growing under eaves where snow tends to fall off the roof.
  4. After the first couple of frosts, hosta and daylily leaves will pull up very easily. Doing the removal in the fall means that you don’t have to deal with a slippery mess next spring.
  5. To prune or not to prune perennials to ground level? It’s a good idea to leave some plant material for visual interest through the winter months; ornamental grasses and hydrangeas have attractive seed heads and always look gorgeous in the winter, especially sprinkled with snow. With the exception of hosta and daylily leaves, I choose to leave everything else for spring cleanup.
  6. Protect hybrid roses with rose cones or bark mulch piled over the crown of the plant after a hard freeze.
  7. Remove all weeds from your perennial beds, and add compost to create a good base for next year’s growth. Compost applied in the fall is better than the spring as it has had time to break down and release its nutrients into the soil.
  8. Move containers to a protected location when frost threatens. After a frost, remove soil and plants from containers and store ceramic and clay pots in a garage or basement. Place used potting soil in the compost pile. If the containers have perennials planted in them, consider digging a hole to bury the plant including the pot, or bury in leaves in a protected area. Potted perennials will not usually survive the winter if not buried/covered.
  9. Instead of raking and bagging the leaves to cart off to the landfill, shred leaves with a mower to create amazing leaf mulch which can be spread on the garden as a winter protectant.  The earthworms will love the food, and the leaves will eventually break down, adding nutrients to the soil. If you decide to cover gardens with unmulched leaves, do not apply a thickness of more than about 10 centimetres (four inches). Any deeper will smother bulbs and perennials trying to grow in the spring.
  10. Take pictures of your gardens to assist with your dreaming and planning for the next season after the snow flies!
  11. As you wind down the garden season, make notes on what worked and what didn’t work, to help you plan for a successful garden next year. You are more likely to remember key points now rather than next April or May.
  12. Join a local garden or horticultural society. Many organizations meet over the winter on a monthly basis and provide interesting speakers who can help chase away the winter blues and provide you with great ideas for your upcoming garden season.