How to prune Japanese tree peonies

Tree peony (Garden Making photo)

There seems to be some correlation between pounding rain and peony blooming schedules. My two Japanese tree peonies were smacked down by heavy rain, but I did get to see their beautiful flowers for a fleeting day or so before the devastation. Now it’s time to assess their structure, which is a bit wonky from abusive weather. I suspect they don’t stand up well to the weight of … [Read more...]

Favourite nicotiana species

Nicotiana alata (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

If you’ve ever seen a field of tobacco plants topped with their white flowers, you’ll be reminded of the familiar nicotianas we grow as summer annuals in our gardens. Both are closely related, bearing similar star-shaped flowers and slightly sticky foliage. My ancestors grew hundreds of acres of tobacco, and I suppose that might have influenced my affection for the ornamental … [Read more...]

When to prune spring-flowering shrubs

'Agincourt Beauty' lilac

I had a walk around the block this weekend, and it seems like all the spring-flowering shrubs are in bloom at the same time. The alternating weeks of warm and cool temperatures in southern Ontario have confused the orderly progression of bloom, and they’ve expressed their frustration by just getting on with it. I saw Japanese quince, Japanese kerria, magnolia, honeysuckle vines … [Read more...]

Heat-proof lobelias

Laguna Sky Blue is a new heat-resistant lobelia (Photo from Proven Winners)

Plant breeders are a restless group, revisiting plants they’ve previously improved to see what more can be accomplished. I’m a great fan of annual lobelia (Lobelia erinus), available with intensely blue cascading flowers for hanging baskets or as an upright form that makes a colourful border around a large container. I was entirely satisfied with the plants, although a blast of … [Read more...]

‘Good Morning Pink’ Japanese morning glory

By This photo was taken by Dave Whitinger (at All Things Plants.) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

On a nursery prowl this past weekend, I came across ‘Good Morning Pink’ Japanese morning glory (Ipomoea nil ‘Good Morning Pink’), which has light pink flowers with a white border around the petal edges and a white throat. What caught my eye is the attractively variegated foliage, with prominent splashes of silver on wavy, maple-like medium green leaves. It’s no surprise this … [Read more...]

Building a raised garden bed

plants for cinder blocks

We finished our raised garden bed last week and learned a few things along the way, mainly that making one isn’t that difficult. There are several advantages to a raised garden bed, but the two that convinced me that it was the best option for my new veggie garden are 1) the chance to improve the soil and control its makeup better than an in-ground bed and 2) the soil warms up … [Read more...]

Seeking enthusiastic pollinators

Bee on white flower

The warm, bright days have burst open tree and shrub buds, and brought out flowers on many of the spring bulbs. And with the flowers have come clouds of pollinators — bees of several kinds, small and large wasps, various flies and even some butterflies. A lovely mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) was seen floating through the garden, coming to land on the deck in a patch of … [Read more...]

Making more clematis supports

Clematis-Marie-Boisselot (Photo by Brendan Zwelling)

I’m up to my old tricks, trying to get clematis to weave itself into supports that are less than traditional. Each year I’m faced with the same challenge. Finding myself without enough of the usual lightweight trellis devices, and entirely without fences, I’m letting necessity be the mother of invention. The clematis vines have been jolted awake by the recent warm days, and are … [Read more...]

Monitoring downy mildew on impatiens

New Guinea impatiens (Photo from

For years  every garden centre and corner grocery store has been flaunting flats of bright impatiens seedlings. It would be fair to say impatiens is overplanted, but their vivid colours and generous floral displays are hard to resist. Unfortunately, impatiens is being threatened by a devastating mildew disease that destroys every leaf, flower and bud, regardless of whether it’s … [Read more...]

Roses and Epsom salt

Rose photo by Joanne Young

Roses benefit from applications of Epsom salt. (Photo by Joanne Young)If you’ve seen the gorgeous cover of the summer issue of Garden Making, you’ll know why roses are on my mind. I’ve already been out to purchase Epsom salt from the drugstore (and my supermarket carries it, too); now I’ll head into the garden with a measuring cup to deliver treats to these stunningly beautiful … [Read more...]

Unpredictable hellebore seedlings

Hellebore double purple (Photo by Brendan Zwelling)

Hellebore blossoms are opening in my garden, and early bees are enthralled with the wide flowers and thick central stamens. It’s going to be another exciting season of unpredictable seedlings. Hellebores crossbreed and reproduce with enthusiasm, and there’s perpetual confusion as they take free rein with their own hybridization programs. Trying to identify self-sown hellebores … [Read more...]

New plants in Guelph greenhouse


[responsive_youtube] In this video about new plants, we visit Rodger Tschanz at the University of Guelph to check up on the new trial plants grown for Garden Making for use in the New Plant Walk of Fame at Canada Blooms 2012. Rodger is an expert who helped to select the 15 new plants for 2012 showcased in our feature garden at … [Read more...]

Wasabi coleus

Wasabi coleus

Wasabi holds its bright colour without fading or spotting. Makes a dynamite combination when planted with Sultana coleus. Plants don’t produce flowers. Key facts for growing Wasabi coleus 21 in (54 cm) tall, 26 in (65 cm) wide Shade to full sun Bright chartreuse foliage compliments many flower colours. Try this with deep burgundy petunias, dark purple verbenas … [Read more...]

Casino Light Yellow melampodium

Casino Light Yellow melampodium

The breeder, Takii Seed, says this cultivar is slightly taller and more vigorous than Lemon Delight. Although perfectly suitable for growing in a container, they would also make a good knee-high patch of colour in a garden bed. The plants are full of bright, cheerful daisy-type flowers that thrive in heat and humidity. Key facts about Casino Light Yellow melampodium 22 … [Read more...]

Superbells Cherry Star calibrachoa

Superbells Cherry Star calibrachoa (Photo by Proven Winners)

This calibrachoa is from Proven Winners, the newest colour combination in their Superbells collection. Although known for their vigor and heat tolerance, the plants are susceptible to rot if watered too frequently—wait until the top few inches of soil is dry before watering. Calibrachoas look a bit like miniature petunias, to which they’re related. But unlike most petunias, … [Read more...]

Rockapulco Coral Reef impatiens

Rockapulco Coral Reef impatiens

Key facts about Rockapulco Coral Reef impatiens 13 in (33 cm) tall, 18 in (45 cm) wide Part shade to part sun Double impatiens blooms remind me of mini roses. This new introduction has an exceptionally vibrant colour, and the plants stand up to heat and humidity. —Beckie Fox, Garden Making More info: The Rockapulco Series is from Proven Winners; other colours in … [Read more...]

Sunpatiens Carmine Red

Sunpatiens Carmine Red New Guinea impatiens

Key facts about Sunpatiens Carmine Red 20 in (50 cm) tall, 24 in (60 cm) wide Part sun This dark red New Guinea impatiens has a vigorous growth habit with a noticeable spreading habit, making it an excellent choice for landscape applications. —Rodger Tschanz, University of Guelph More info: The Sunpatiens Series comes in other colours, too: corona, salmon and … [Read more...]

Cool Wave Series pansies

Cool Wave Series pansies (Photo from PanAmerican Seed)

Key facts about Cool Wave Series pansies   8 in (20 cm) tall, 24-30 in (60-76 cm) spread Part to full sun This mix of white, blue blush and yellow pansies has a strong trailing habit—a new trait. It’s also winter hardy, like many new pansies. —Rodger Tschanz, University of Guelph More info: These are perfect in baskets and window boxes—the long stems will … [Read more...]

3D Silver osteospermum

3D Silver Osteospermum

20 in (50 cm) tall, 34 in (86 cm) wide Part to full sun The 3D series of osteospermum has excellent heat tolerance and unique double flowers that are long lasting. —Rodger Tschanz, University of Guelph More info 3D Silver is one in a series of new osteospermums, also called African daisies. The other colours are purple and pink. The flowers on older varieties of … [Read more...]

Magnum Fire New Guinea impatiens

Magnum Fire New Guinea impatiens (Photo from Penn State Variety Trials)

Magnum Fire New Guinea impatiens 8 in (20 cm) tall, 14 in (35 cm) wide Part sun Super-sized flowers in a vivid, striking shade of scarlet—definitely an attention getter in a flower bed or in a container. —Beckie Fox, Garden Making More info: Enormous flowers that sit just above the foliage cover the plants. Bred by Dummen. No. 9 of 15 New Plants for 2012 This … [Read more...]

XXL Veracruz dahlia

XXL Veracruz dahlia

Key facts about XXL Veracruz dahlia 22-60 in (55-60 cm) tall, 35-26 in (64-66 cm) wide Part to full sun The two-tone flowers on this mid-height dahlia would tie in well with white and violet colour schemes. Remove flowers as they fade to keep plants blooming throughout the season.—Beckie Fox, Garden Making More info: Bred by Dummen, the compact plants have large … [Read more...]

Simply Salad Global Gourmet Mix

Simply Salad Global Gourmet Mix

Key facts about Simply Salad Global Gourmet Mix (lettuce, brassicas and Asian herbs) Harvest when 6 in (15 cm) tall Part to full sun Each multi-seed pellet contains five to seven seeds of different salad greens. Harvest when leaves are six inches tall, cutting back to one inch above soil level. The plants will put on new growth and can be harvested again in a few … [Read more...]

Sultana coleus

Sultana coleus

Key facts about Sultana coleus 20-23 in (50-58 cm) tall, (64-72 cm) wide Shade to full sun Sultana doesn’t flower and has a good compact growth habit in sun or shade. —Rodger Tschanz, University of Guelph More info: Similar in vigour to Henna, but with large, scalloped burgundy leaves with a chartreuse netting pattern at the edges. Plants don’t flower. Makes a … [Read more...]

Vertigo purple fountain grass

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Key facts about Vertigo purple fountain grass 45-50 in (115-127 cm) tall, 48-57 in (122-144 cm) wide Part to full sun This didn’t produce flowerheads in the 2011 trials, however, the foliage is a deeper colour than most other purple fountain grasses. —Rodger Tschanz, University of Guelph More info A new addition to Proven Winners’ Graceful Grasses Series, Vertigo … [Read more...]