The start of a new gardening season is different for everyone. For me, it’s when all the containers are placed around the porch and patio, filled with fresh potting soil, and waiting for the trays of bedding plants to be upended and arranged into — what is hoped — a pleasing picture.
Short bearded irises have all the advantages of tall bearded iris (beautiful blooms, often bicoloured and intricate), but none of their minuses (tall, gangly stalks and leaves). I grow about a half dozen cultivars that have gradually increased over the years.
If one of your Big Projects this year is planting a new perennial border, that’s terrific. There are perennials for any site, no matter the soil, the sun or the hardiness zone.
Spireas are generally bulletproof shrubs, easily found at most garden centres. Many of us are familiar with the ubiquitous bridal wreath variety (Spiraea x vanhouttei), blooming in early June. New cultivars of Japanese spirea (S. japonica) are popular, too.
Certainly, a string of warmer days would mean that serious garden cleanup could commence and that warm-weather flowers and edibles could be seeded or transplanted. However, for now, the cool days give me time to strategize.
Visits to public gardens won’t possible for several weeks because of closures due to the pandemic, but some gardens have created special virtual tours to help us keep in touch with these beautiful treasures. We take inspiration from them, discover new plants and techniques, and enjoy the camaraderie of being with like-minded friends who might be with us.
Wide ribbons of rosy-coloured hellebores are weaving through our shady border as the crocus and snowdrops recede. Now that I’ve pruned back most of last year’s spent leaves, their nodding flowers on strong stems can be better appreciated.
While we are all keeping our social distance from one another, the insects in our gardens are not. I find bees clustered around open crocus and hellebore blooms, whooping it up, taunting me with their cozy, friendly gatherings. I’m glad they’re having a good time.
Now is a good time to revisit the concept of Victory Gardens, the vegetable plots planted in Canada during the Second World War to provide fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as demonstrate patriotism and solidarity. We could do with some solidarity.
Thank goodness for spring. Daily walks through our garden reveal new flowers, new buds, new growth. It’s too early to clear away protective mulches and start digging in most parts of Canada, but it’s the perfect time to relish nature’s beauty as it unfolds.
Even experienced gardeners may hesitate before picking up secateurs to prune their hydrangeas. Some types are pruned now, some later, some rarely — which is which?
Snowdrops are rather demure and unassuming flowers — simple white, downward-facing blooms on short stems. No fragrance, no vivid colours, no dramatic foliage. However, they’re always greeted with fanfare when they appear in our gardens in late winter, simply because they’re usually the first flowers we have.
In Beckie Fox’s weekly garden newsletter, she highlights Seedy Saturdays as a fun family outing experience. Also: This is the time of year when certain willows are harvested for branches to be used to weave baskets, fences, hedges, screens or “live” willow structures.
A potted miniature rose with red-and-white striped flowers is in a sunny spot in the house, and the buds are opening slowly, which means we should have a few weeks of colour before moving it to a less conspicuous spot to rest until it’s warm enough to place outdoors. Miniature roses are sturdier than they look, and make wonderful container plants.
Cut branches of forsythia or crabapple in a tall vase says spring is near. It’s not difficult to take a few branches from spring-flowering trees or shrubs, bring them indoors and wait for the buds to unfold.
Over the years, I’ve overwintered rosemary indoors with about a 75 per cent success rate. My track record improved once I learned that this herb doesn’t like to dry out when grown indoors, which seems counter-intuitive given that Salvia rosmarinus is native to dry, rocky areas in the Mediterranean.
The only things that keep my spirits up during the long drag of January and February are the plant and seed catalogues arriving via the post or found online. I fold down corners of print seed catalogues, make lists from online catalogues, and generally sit back and dream. Lists of seeds and bulbs expand, shrink and shift.
If you’re keen to start gardening, but your soil is too cold and damp for digging, consider potting up a spring container instead. Depending on the weather, a few spring containers planted with beautiful, cold-tolerant plants now will give you several weeks of colour.
Although Beckie ordered a dozen dahlia tubers in January — the earlier you order, the better the selection — she’s thinking of choosing a few more. A fresh start for this year affords the chance to grow new-to-her varieties.
Children’s gardening books are usually written by adults, but that’s not the case with Gardening with Emma, written by Emma Biggs, a 13-year-old gardener in Toronto.