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I was uncertain how to title this post when the gardener herself gave me the words: a garden close to the heart.

"A garden had always been a dream since I was a little girl," Joanna tells me on the phone. She grew up in Warsaw, Poland where her family lived in a small apartment. After WWII Warsaw had been left in ruins. The new communist authorities that came to power considered moving the Polish capital to another city. Life under communist rule was not easy either. The socialist food distribution system barely functioned and Poles lived with censorship, rules and restrictions.

For her tenth birthday her parents gave her a book filled with beautiful gardens."It must have cost them a fortune," Joanna speculates. She loved her present and the wide open spaces she saw on its pages. For Joanna, gardens came to represent the possibility of a different sort of life.

Years later Joanna found herself with a choice between immigrating to Canada or Australia. Half a world away from her homeland, Australia seemed too far. In the years since her decision to choose Canada, she's had a chance to visit Australia. "It's a beautiful place," she tells me with the slightest hint of regret in her voice. Who could blame her on a cold day in March when there are snow flurries in the air? Canada offered opportunities and the wide open spaces she had dreamt about as a little girl. Plus she knew people here.

At her lovely home in Mississauga, Joanna has created the garden of her childhood imaginings. 

The space has evolved and changed over the years. "My husband's original idea was to create a mystic garden with a number of rooms," Joanna tells me,"He used his creativity to to incorporate some of his own art installations." 

The idea was to have a garden filled with surprises. Many of the original art pieces were made of wood and rope which weathered over time and eventually disintegrated. Joanna opted not to replace them and instead seized the opportunity to take advantage of the increased light and space. She also deepened and expanded the garden's central feature, a stream and pond with a bridge. 

In her garden Joanna has created spots for birds, chipmunks and all the other natural inhabitants. She's even spotted a coyote. The coyotes seemed to disappear for a few years as the housing subdivision expanded, but they've slowly moved back into the neighbourhood. Joanna will often hear them calling to one another when she walks her dogs. She's not worried about her dogs though. They are rescue dogs from overseas that survived a tough life on the streets.

The decayed stumps of some poplar trees make homes for insects and birds.

A view of backyard from the deck.

In the centre of the yard there is a covered deck with table and chairs.

At the back of the property, Joanna has a vegetable garden. "Tomatoes, beans and lettuce greens do the best," she says, "I will have some heating in my greenhouse as of this spring. There are lettuce seeds planted as of two days ago."

Joanna's own pictures of her vegetable garden.

The vegetable garden is a big job, but Joanna has help from friends. In return, she shares some of the garden's bounty.

Here Joanna has used wide pieces of tree bark to hide the flower pots 
and create a display by the shed.

One of the works of art Joanna's husband created.

A beautiful fern from a shady area of the garden.

A view of the generous wood deck at the back of the house.

The central pond and stream was ment to create a cottage or “Muskoka” feeling in the heart of the city. "I sit on the deck often in the summer feeling not that far from "the lake country” of northern Ontario."

Fish and a number of frogs call the pond home.

Another view of the stream. 

Joanna's own picture of her Bearded Iris.

Gratitude is a very important sentiment for Joanna. She feels a close connection to nature and is grateful for the beauty it provides. 

Years later, Joanna still has the gardening book that her parents gave her back in Poland. I am sure her parents would be proud to see the garden their gift inspired.
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“Urban and suburban aren’t so different anymore," writes author Susan Morrison in her new book The Less is More Garden: Big Ideas for Designing your Small Garden. And it’s so true! Suburban houses are about the same size, but the lots that they sit on seem to be getting more and more modest in size. A "small" urban garden no longer refers to the outdoor spaces offered in townhouses, condos, and apartments. Tiny backyards are the new normal even in the suburbs.

Susan is a landscape designer with a long, successful career, so it's no surprise that the focus of her book is garden design. It is is a practical, “less is more” approach to gardening that links the design of a garden to the lifestyles of the people who will be using and enjoying it.

This book is aimed primarily at young professionals juggling careers, kids and busy lives. The goal is to get the most out of an outdoor space with least amount of effort.

From the book The Less is More Garden: Big Ideas for Designing your Small Yard by Susan Morrison published by Timber Press in 2018. Excerpted with the permission of the publisher.

When it comes to gardens, bigger isn't always better at any rate. A small garden requires fewer plants and less time to design, install and maintain.

Susan's new book aims to help homeowners make the best use of every square foot of space. When she tallies up her less is more approach to design, there are actually a lot of pluses:

• Less space, more enjoyment
• Less effort, more beauty
• Less maintenance, more relaxation
• Less gardening-by-the-numbers, more YOU.

From the book The Less is More Garden: Big Ideas for Designing your Small Yard by Susan Morrison published by Timber Press in 2018. Excerpted with the permission of the publisher.

I found another review that broke the book down into chapters really helpful, so I thought that I’d take a similar approach:

Chapter 1 poses the questions that will help you match the design of your landscape to your lifestyle: What time of the day and in what seasons are you likely to use the garden? Who will be using the garden? Chapter one also guides you through the process of making allowances in the design for children, guests and even the family pet. 

Chapter 2 tackles a variety of possible design approaches.

Chapter 3 helps homeowners use a small space to its best advantage. Growing vertical, creating an illusion of space and the debate of lawn/no lawn are some of the issues covered.

Chapter 4 addresses sensory elements. Topics covered include attracting wildlife to the garden, including scent, adding color and the relaxing sound of water to the garden.

Chapter 5 looks briefly at a variety of different hardscaping options.

Chapter 6 touches on plants that will make a garden attractive and yet keep it low maintenance: plants with four seasons of interest, dwarf shrubs, long-blooming plants and easy perennials.

Chapter 7 helps you add in personal touches that give a garden style.

From the book The Less is More Garden: Big Ideas for Designing your Small Yard by Susan Morrison published by Timber Press in 2018. Excerpted with the permission of the publisher.

This book is represents a modern, realistic approach to gardening where the lifestyle and design intersect to create outdoor spaces that are suited to a family’s needs. In short: gardens that don’t involve a ton of traditional gardening.

I closed the book wondering if this is the way of the future?

My own garden is old-school cottage garden. It’s pretty, but it’s high maintenance. As I set the book down, I began to feel a bit like a dinosaur...but then I paused to reconsider.

The thing I am most passionate about as a gardener is nature and the outdoors, not the labour. Every family deserves a private haven where they can  enjoy being outdoors. If Susan Morrison's less is more approach means that more people are doing just that, then we are actually on the same page. After all, reconnecting with nature is were a passion for gardening is often born.

The Less is More Garden is filled with the wisdom honed from Susan's experience as a designer, lots of practical advice and stylish examples of her less is more approach. There may come a time in the not so distant future when my creaking back and rickety knees see me trading in my high maintenance plot for a garden that is much smaller, but hopefully just as beautiful.

Thanks to Timber Press for providing a copy of The Less is More Garden: Big Ideas for Designing your Small Garden for me to give away. Because this book will go to a winner through the mail, we will have to limit entry to readers in Canada and the USA. 

Please leave a comment below, if you would like to be included in the book draw. The draw will remain open until Saturday, March 31stIf you are not a blogger, you can enter by leaving a comment on the Three Dogs in a Garden Facebook page (there is an additional link to the Facebook page at the bottom of the blog). You are also welcome to enter by sending me an email (jenc_art@hotmail.com).

About the Author:

Susan Morrison is a nationally recognized landscape designer and authority on small-space garden design. She has shared her strategies on the PBS series Growing a Greener World and in publications such as Fine Gardening. Morrison has also served as editor-in-chief of The Designer, a digital magazine produced by the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.
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with photography by Maggie Sale

There was a time when art collections were displayed in grand homes, and were a sign of wealth and privilege, but with the advent of the internet, the popularity of artist run co-ops and studio tours, works of art have never been more accessible or affordable for the average person.

At her home in Guelph, Ontario, Maggie Sale has gathered a collection of artwork that she displays in her large suburban garden.

"Having an English background, combined with artistic family members, and having travelled throughout the UK and other places where there are beautiful gardens, I have always appreciated art in the garden. I guess it was inevitable that I would find my own pieces, but never set to become an art collector!," she says.  

Maggie is an accomplished photographer and world traveler whose adventures have taken her to far off places like Iceland, Morocco, Spain, Istanbul and Jordan. Last fall Maggie and her husband Julian visited Peru. Then in February, they toured parts of Sri Lanka for sixteen days.

If you have a moment, pop over and take a look at the image galleries that chronicle some of Maggie's travels. From her recent trip to Peru, there are stunning views of Machu Picchu, a 15th century Inca citadel situated on a mountain range almost eight thousand feet above sea level.  There are also images of ancient temples and crumbling palaces, elephants and other exotic creatures from her most recent visit to Sri Lanka.

Maggie's collection of artwork began with a purchase for the couple's English summer home.

"The first piece was purchased in England for our 1850's stone and slate cottage which had a small walled garden. At that time we moved from Toronto, where we had a very small townhouse garden, with no art, to a larger home in Guelph. I began to acquire additional artwork for the cottage and pieces for the garden of our new house," says Maggie.

Both Maggie's passion for photography and her travels have been a great sources of inspiration.

"Travelling certainly helps you appreciate other countries, their culture and uniqueness," she says,"Photography takes this a step further, where you are developing your "eye", searching for interesting subject matter and compositions, whether in natural or man-made environments, or in large or small scale."

"I think there is no doubt that both travel and my photography have influenced my own creativity, which in turn has had a spill-over effect into the garden, an important but more recently developed aspect of my life. Colour, form and texture in the garden and the way plants are grouped, are all influenced by developing ones "eye" just as it does in photography." 

While the focus of this post is art in the garden, I would hate to miss the opportunity to draw your attention to the beauty of the garden itself. 

A carpet of groundcovers, which hug the earth, and low-growing, mounded perennials keep the front garden looking every bit as tidy and presentable as a lawn. This is not to say that the garden is flat by any means. Groups of taller perennials create an gently undulating landscape of hills and valleys.

Even without a ton of flowers, there is still lots of color. In the foreground of Maggie's photograph (above) Creeping Thyme and Silvermound, Artemisia schmidtiana add a hint of blue-green. A couple of burgundy colored Heuchera add warm color into the mix. Yellow springs from the Angelina Stonecrop, Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'.

One clever design trick is the flagstone pathway that links the front yard with the boulevard garden. Even though the sidewalk divides the overall garden into these two distinct areas, the path joins them into a unified whole.

This post looks primarily on the front garden, which I haven't featured before, but you can take a tour of the back garden here.

In this photograph, Maggie has captured a tapestry of shade loving perennials. 

1. Ostrich Fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris 2. Fern-leaf Bleeding Heart, Dicentra 3. Hosta 4. Golden Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' 5. Japanese Fern, Athyrium niponicum 6. Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora 7. Miniature Hosta 8. Lamium 9. Hosta

How to choose an Artwork

For most people, artwork represents a bit of an investment. If your spending money, you don't want to get it wrong. Where do you even begin to choose a piece of art? 

Choose artwork that speak to you on a personal level. This makes it impossible to go wrong. 

"As soon as I saw this piece of art, I knew it was the right accent for my rock garden at the front of the house," says Maggie.

"It is visible from the sidewalk and sits on top of a slight berm where it's circular form draws attention. It was made by an artist (unknown to me) in the Ottawa region and was bought from an art gallery in Eden Mills, near Guelph. The slate layers remind me of slate buildings and walls in the UK. The metal has now taken on a lovely rusty patina."

A couple of Tips on Choosing Artwork for the Garden:

• Think about where you want to place a piece of art when your making your choice. A large sculpture makes an excellent garden focal point. By its very nature, the location of a smaller work of art is likely to be somewhat obscured by foliage and flowers. A small sculpture is often a nice surprise that you happen upon as you stroll through the garden. 

• Ignore the rule that says you ought to choose small artwork for a small garden. Depending on the piece, one large sculpture in a small garden can be quite stunning.

• Another rule suggests that artwork you choose should be in keeping with the style of your home. To me this is a little like matching a painting to the color of the sofa. With the right placement, a contemporary piece can look terrific in the garden of a more traditional home and vice versa.

• The impact an artwork will have is somewhat determined by scale. A large sculpture makes a big statement. A small sculpture speaks quietly.

1. Mountain Bluet, Centaurea montana 2. Dwarf Bearded Iris 3. Arabis or Rock cress 4. Heuchera 5. Snow-in-summer, Cerastium tomentosum 6. Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum 7. Dwarf Bearded Iris

This is a photograph of the front of the house a little later in the summer. Daylilies, Echinacea and Russian Sage (not shown) are a few of the perennials that add mid-summer color.

Like any garden ornament, a work of art can be something unexpected you happen upon.

"This was the first Shona sculpture from Zimbabwe that we acquired," says Maggie, "It was bought for our cottage from a local art gallery owner, who was a friend of my mother. It introduced me to a beautiful style of African art that I didn't know before." 

"When we sold our cottage 3 years ago, we brought the sculpture and a couple of other pieces of garden art back to Guelph. This small sculpture, almost hidden until you stand in front of the small rock garden in the backyard, complements the plantings and existing rocks perfectly - a happy coincidence!"

A few Tips for Displaying Artwork in a Garden Setting:

• Less is more. Too much visual clutter diminishes the impact of each piece. Don't ask artwork to compete for the attention of garden visitors.

•Aim for contrast to help a sculpture stand out in the landscape. For example, place light objects against a dark background of foliage and set a dark artwork in front of bright flowers and foliage.

• One of the biggest trends in interior design is an eclectic mix that mixes traditional and contemporary furniture and accessories. There is nothing to say that the same approach won't work in a garden setting. Go ahead and mix different types of artwork (example a traditional figure with a modern sculpture). Just be sure to give each piece enough space to shine.

Artwork need not be big or grand to be meaningful. It can be something as small as a single poppy. 

"The red ceramic poppy was a gift to my husband Julian from my brother in England," explains Maggie.

"The poppy is a remembrance of Julian's uncle who died in the second world war. It was one of the red poppies that were part of an art installation at the Tower of London in 2014 to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war (the poppies numbered over 880,000 - one for every British service person who died in WW1). The poppies were sold afterwards to the public to raise funds for service charities."

Family members have added their own unique genius to Maggie's collection.

"The cedar driftwood was picked up by my in-law's many, many years ago on one of their frequent fishing trips to Georgian Bay," says Maggie.

"Our son Jayce, who creates art out of found objects, used a piece of red metal (resembling a moth), which he found when the house next door to his home in Vancouver was demolished, to make the piece that fits perfectly into the top part of the driftwood."

The ceramic owl that now presides over this planting is another of the pieces Maggie brought back to Canada when she and Julian sold their property in England a few years ago.

"Every year there was a pottery festival at one of the stately homes near our cottage in Cumbria in the north west of England. Simon Griffiths was a artist who had many birds, animals etc. in his stall there. They were so life-like that I knew it would be a wonderful garden ornament for our cottage, so we bought the Tawny Owl. When we sold the cottage, we brought it back to Canada. We found a post in a local wood and erected it in our garden here," Maggie recounts.

This last piece of artwork owes its inspiration from a place far from Canada.

"We lost a large locust tree in a storm a few years ago which resulted in a corner opening up. I decided it was an ideal place to put a larger statement piece of art. The swirling black stone sculpture made by Sylvester Samanyanga, an artist from the Shona tribe of the indigenous people of Zimbabwe, was bought last summer at an outdoor art gallery near Peterborough called ZimArt's Rice Lake GalleryIt makes a nice focal point in the back garden."says Maggie.

To close this post, I asked Maggie to make a few suggestions for someone looking to start a collection of their own:

• Start small and local

• Go on a garden tour to see what other gardeners are doing with plantings and art. 

• Visit local public gardens and art galleries for a broader picture. 

• Take a studio art tour and learn about and visit local artists - you might find the perfect piece right on your doorstep! 

• Expand your search with the internet, if you are travelling.

• Above all, be patient and enjoy your search! It might take some time to find the right piece(s). Art collections grow with time and can't really be achieved in a hurry - but they are worth the wait!

Great advice to be sure!

 Many thanks to Maggie for sharing her art collection and garden
through this lovely series of photographs.

About the Photographer: 
Maggie Sale is originally from England and has lived in Canada for over 40 years with her husband Julian. Most of her photography is done outdoors, and often involves travel, which she loves. Maggie is a life member of the Etobicoke Camera Club, a member of the Grand River Imaging and Photographic Society and the Canadian Association for Photographic Art. Her photographs have been published in magazines and books in Canada, the USA and UK. Maggie is also a member of the Guelph Horticultural Society and is a committee member and photographer for the Guelph Annual Garden Tour. Her website is www.maggiesale.ca
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Pollypetite® Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus sp. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

You'll notice that "dwarf" is a recurring descriptive in this post. Smaller yards mean that gardeners are looking for small-scale shrubs and growers have responded with new dwarf versions of classic favourites.

I'm opening with this dwarf Rose of Sharon. If you dislike this kind of shrub for having a plethora of unwanted seedlings, you'll be glad to hear that the new Pollypetite® is nearly seedless.

Pollypetite® Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus sp. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

And how pretty does its cool pink blooms look paired with this greenish-white hydrangea? (quite possibly a BoBo® hydrangea paniculata– a 2017 introduction)

Pollypetite® Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus sp. has a rounded, wide habit. In summer it's loaded with lavender-pink blooms floating over handsome dark blue-green foliage.

Full sun
Moisture: average
Deer resistant
Blooms on new wood  (prune in early spring)
Height: 36 - 48 Inches
Spread: 48 - 60 Inches
USDA zones: 5-9

The feathery pink plumes of "smoke" are  fine hairs on infertile flowers.

I have wanted a purple smokebush (cotinus) for ages, but they can grow to reach epic proportions. Where on earth could I squeeze a large shrub like this into my already crowded garden?

Their clouds of pink "smoke" in mid-summer are a nice feature, but what I really like is their deep maroon colored foliage.

 Winecraft Black®, Cotinus coggygria. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

Winecraft Black®, Cotinus coggygria  Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

So I'm super excited to see Proven Winners® is now offering a dwarf cultivar. Maybe I can finally fit a smokebush in somewhere!

Winecraft Black®, Cotinus coggygria has round leaves that are a rich purple in the spring. As summer heats up, the leaves turn a deep near-black tone. In the fall, the foliage turns an array of reds and oranges. Soft panicles of bloom appear in spring and become the misty "smoke". Unlike older cultivars, this smokebush has a rounded, dwarf habitWinecraft Black® smokebush is very easy to care for and requires little to nothing in the way of regular maintenance.

Full sun
Soil: average Moisture: average
Deer and rabbit resistant
Blooms on new wood
Height: 48 - 72 Inches
Spread: 48 - 72 Inches
USDA zones: 4-8

On the left is a Pugstar Blue® Butterfly Bush. In the middle is Pugstar White®. On the right is Pugstar Pink®. Photos courtesy of Proven Winners® 

Pugster Periwinkle®. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

I seem to have terrible luck over-wintering Butterfly Bushes. This Pugstar® series offers increased cold hardiness and full sized flowers on a dwarf-sized shrub. Dare I try one?

Pugster® butterfly bushes are the first to offer large, dense blooms on a small frame. They bloom from summer through frost without deadheading. The thick, heavy stems of Pugster® butterfly bushes ensure better hardiness in cold areas.

Full sun
Soil: well-drained Moisture: low
Deer and rabbit resistant
Blooms on new wood
Height: 36-48 Inches
Spread: 24-36 Inches
USDA zones: 5-9

Festivus Gold® Ninebark Physocarpus opulifolius. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

Festivus Gold® Ninebark Physocarpus opulifolius. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

I already have four Ninebark shrubs in my garden. This new cultivar, with its striking yellow foliage, tempts me to consider adding yet another.

Festivus Gold® Ninebark Physocarpus opulifolius has a semi-dwarf habit and yellow-green foliage. Even in full sun, the foliage stays bright and is free from the fungal diseases that plague other varieties. In spring, the entire plant is covered in white flower clusters. Ninebark are native to North America, so they are extra tough and adaptable to various sites and soils. Once established, they are quite drought tolerant, but will benefit from a layer of shredded bark mulch. 

Full sun (6-8 hrs.)
Soil: average Moisture: average
Blooms on old wood (It's best to avoid any kind of regular trimming or pruning of ninebarks. However, dead wood may be removed in spring. Should further pruning be required, do so immediately after flowering is finished.) 
Height: 48 - 60 Inches
Spread: 36 - 48 Inches
USDA zones: 3-7 

 Invincibelle Mini Mauvette® (left picture) and in the centre (right picture). 
Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

Invincibelle Mini Mauvette®. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

I have a pale pink Invincibelle Spirit®, which I absolutely love, so of course this new introduction caught my eye.

Invincibelle Mini Mauvette® hydrangea blooms every single year, even in cold climates. It's the same type of hydrangea as the classic and much-loved 'Annabelle' but instead of plain white blooms, the flowers are a deep pink-mauve. The stems are strong and sturdy, so the flowers don't flop. It blooms in early summer, and continues through to frost. 

Part sun to sun (minimum of 6 hrs. of sun)
Moisture: average (Mulch recommended to help conserve water)
Blooms on  new wood (Prune in early spring. Cut the entire plant by one-third its total height)
Height: 30-36 Inches
Spread: 36 - 48 Inches
USDA zones: 3-9 

There is also a white option. Invincibelle Wee White®Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

A full sized Doublefile Viburnum. Private garden in Toronto.

Up next is yet another dwarf (I warned you it would be a recurring theme!)

A traditional Doublefile Viburnum (seen above) is a glorious thing, but again, it is enormous. The new Wabi-Sabi® Doublefile viburnum Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum (seen below) is a lot smaller.

Wabi-Sabi® Doublefile viburnum Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum
Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

To be honest, I don't think this new cultivar would have quite the same drama as the full-sized Doublefile viburnum, but its modest proportions allows Wabi-Sabi®  to step out of the background and become a shrub you might use at the front of your garden.

Wabi-Sabi® Doublefile viburnum Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum grows low and wide, making it perfect for the front of beds, planting atop walls, or lining walkways. Every branch bears large, pure white lacecap flowers. Like all viburnums, it is somewhat shade tolerant. Plant in well-drained soil and sun to part sun for best results. 

Part sun to sun
Soil: average, well-drained  Moisture: average
Deer and rabbit resistant
Blooms on old wood (Pruning should not be required regularly, but if you wish to prune, do so after flowering. )
Height: 24 - 36 Inches
Spread: 48 - 60 Inches
USDA zones: 5-8

Czechmark® Trilogy (left) and Czechmark® TwoPink (right)
Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

Czechmark Sunny Side Up™ Weigela. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

Czechmark Sunny Side Up™ Weigela. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

The Czechmark® series of shrubs promises heavier blooming than a typical weigela. Czechmark Sunny Side Up™ Weigela caught my attention for its white flowers and its apple-green leaves. And look how pretty it looks in a mass planting (see above)

There are also two pink cultivars; Czechmark® Trilogy and Czechmark® TwoPink (also see above). 
Plant in full sun for the very best floral display, but a little light shade isn't too harmful, particularly in hotter climates.

Soil: average Moisture: average 
Deer and rabbit resistant
Blooms on old wood
Height: 36-54 Inches
Spread: 36-54 Inches
USDA zones: 4-8 

Tandoori Orange® Viburnum dilatatum. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

This is not a sponsored blog post. I have showcased new introductions that appealed to me personally in hopes you might be interested in them too. 

Even though I famously write ridiculously long blogs, there are more new shrubs than even I dare include in a single post. You can check them out by visiting Provenwinners.com.

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Iris mixing with tulips and forget-me-nots in my garden last May.

Bearded iris are a classic cottage garden flower, but I think they are so traditional they often get overshadowed by other perennials. With this post, I hope to remind you just how beautiful they are. 

The earliest bearded iris begin to bloom at the perfect time. Late tulips are flowering and alliums are putting on a show, but many perennials are still in that early stage of green growth. In my garden I find that bearded iris, with their ruffled blooms, are a welcome addition in May.

A Tall Bearded Iris at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, ON.

With satin petals that shimmer in the sunlight, the flower of a Tall Bearded Iris is an exquisite thing to behold. They are perhaps the most iconic iris, but they aren't your only option.

Here's a look at the range of bearded iris available:

MDB: Miniature Dwarf Bearded Iris are the smallest and earliest of the bearded irises to bloom. They grow up to 8 inches tall and have flowers that are three inches or smaller.

SDB: Standard Dwarf Bearded bloom after Miniature Dwarf Iris and usually finish flowering just as the Intermediate Bearded Iris are reaching their peak. SDW reach a height of 8 to 15 inches tall and has blooms that are 2-4 inches in size.

IB: Intermediate Bearded Iris are 16 to 28 inches in height. The flowers are 3.5-5 inches in size and extend up above the foliage for a nice display.

MTB: Miniature Tall Bearded are 16 to 18 inches tall and have flowers that are approximately 6 inches. The flowers are fragrant and are often used as cut flowers.

BB: Border Bearded Iris are 16-27 inches in height and are more resistant to wind damage than Tall Bearded Iris. At 5 inches the flower size is a little smaller than TB.

TB: Tall Bearded Iris are the last of the bearded iris to bloom. They are 27 inches or more in height.

Border Bearded Iris 'Batik' in my garden.

How to Choose: Bigger is Better...right?

Not necessarily. Selecting a bearded iris is a mix of personal preference and what works best in your garden. Statuesque Tall Bearded Iris have the largest blooms, but they are 27 or more inches in height. The big flowers make them top heavy. Wind and rain can send their flowers right to the ground. In an open area, Tall Bearded Iris generally require some form of staking.

The blooms of the shorter types of bearded iris are significantly smaller, but they are less top heavy and yet still manage to be quite showy. Over the years, I have come to prefer Intermediate Bearded Iris, partly because I am lazy, and don't want to have to stake flowers, and also because I find the metal stakes detract from the flowers. 

You, on the other hand, might prefer the larger flowers and think stakes are a small price to pay for the amazing blooms.

By way of example, here's a comparison of two peachy-pink iris:

Tall Bearded Iris 'Beverly Sills' is one of the most popular peachy-pink tall bearded irises. It has a reputation for being a vigorous grower that blooms heavily mid-season. Full sun. Height: 60-90 cm (24-36 inches).USDA zones: 3-9.

Intermediate Bearded Iris 'Pink Kitten' has much smaller pale pink flowers with tangerine beards. Fragrant. Full sun. Height: 45-60 cm (18-24 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

A purple Intermediate Bearded Iris in a master gardener's backyard in Mississauga, ON. A step-back view of the same iris can be seen below.

A yellow Intermediate Bearded Iris in the same master gardener's backyard in Mississauga, ON.

The yellow iris in close-up.

A few other considerations:
Bearded irises flower for 3 or 4 weeks. You can extend the flowering season however, by selecting early and late flowering varieties.
Some bearded irises have a light fragrance. If you are looking to add fragrance to your plantings, you can shop for scent in a range of iris sizes.
Even if your garden is small, there is still a bearded iris for you. The Miniature Dwarf Bearded Iris (see below) in my mother's old garden kickstarted my passion for these tiny iris.

Planting a Bearded Iris:
The best time to plant bearded iris is in July, August and September. To ensure your iris will make it through winter, be sure to plant it at least 4 weeks before the first hard frost. Typically a bearded iris will bloom a year after it is planted.

Iris like full sun (6-8 hours of sunlight). The exception might be a hot climate where iris might benefit from light shade in the afternoon.  The only other requirement is good drainage. If your soil is poorly drained, add organic matter to improve drainage.

Plant your rhizomes at least 12 inches apart. Crowding them can create an impressive display, but  you'll have to dig your iris up and divide them after just a couple of years. Spacing irises properly also encourages good air circulation and helps prevent disease.

If you iris is in a nursery container, remove it from the pot without disturbing the soil. Plant it at the same level or even slightly higher in the ground. Be careful not to cover the rhizome with soil. Water well. Continue to water every few days for about a week. Then water weekly until the iris has rooted.

Planting a bare-root bearded iris is a little more tricky. If the roots are looking a little wrinkled you can rejuvenate them by soaking the rhizome in shallow pan of water for a couple of hours just before you do your planting.
Irises like to have the top of their rhizomes visible to the sun. Dig a planting hole and fashion a hill of soil in the middle. The mound of soil should come up to ground level. Centre the rhizome on top of the mound and spread out the roots down the sides of the hill. Bury the roots taking care not to cover the rhizome. Water well. Continue to water every few days for about a week. Then water weekly until the iris has rooted.

A Tall Bearded Iris with Columbine just in behind it. My garden in May.

Ongoing Care
Established clumps of bearded iris do not need supplemental water. They should be fine with natural rainfall unless there is an extended period of drought.

Generally speaking, bearded iris do well in average garden soil and do not need regular fertilizer. If your soil is really poor, a light application of fertilizer can be added in early spring and again a month or so after bloom. Superphosphate or a well balanced fertilizer (with a NKO ratio of 10-10-10 or 5-10-10) are two good options.
There are a couple of fertilizers that should be avoided. Fertilizer that is high in nitrogen can encourage lush growth that is susceptible to bacterial soft rot. A weed and feed fertilizer should also be avoided.

Do not mulch!
Mulch locks in moisture and can cause the soft rot of your rhizomes.

Avoiding Potential Problems
To avoid problems with disease and pests keep your iris clear of garden debris. Remove any dead foliage and after your iris finishes flowering, snap or cut the flower stalk off at the base. In the late summer/fall prune back the foliage to discourage over-wintering pests.

Bearded iris mixing with Peonies in a private garden in Caledon, ON.

A decline in the number of flowers is a sign that your iris needs to be divided. As a rule, you should divide your irises every 3-4 years in late July or early August.
To divide your irises, dig up the entire clump with a garden fork. Gently pull apart the tangle of rhizomes with your hands. Cut off the larger, healthy-looking young rhizomes with a sharp knife. Throw away the old core "mother" rhizome. It's past it's prime and won't bloom again. At the same time, you should also discard any sections of rhizome that have been adversely damaged by pests. Cut back the leaf fans of your divisions to six or eight inches. This will ease the stress of replanting by allowing the plant to focus on growing new roots. Allow the rhizomes to dry overnight to seal up any cuts before replanting them.

Pests and Problems
Iris Borers
Adult borers are nocturnal moths that lay their eggs on garden debris in last summer or fall. They hatch into one inch sized larvae that that chew into the leaves and then eat their way down to the rhizomes. Borer damage is often seen as notched wounds or slimy, wet-looking areas on the leaves. Once they eat their way down to the base of the plant, they begin to hollow their way through the rhizome. In August they pupate in the soil and hatch into more adult moths.
To deal with this pest, I have learned to keep the rhizomes clear of any debris throughout the growing season. I also try to catch the larvae in the spear-shaped foliage by removing any slimy leaves.

Bacterial Soft Rot
It is hard to imagine anything more putrid smelling than mushy rhizomes infected with this fungal disease. Too much nitrogen in the soil, garden debris around the base of the plants and too much water are all possible causes of this problem.
Dig up the infected plant/s and cut away the rotten parts of the rhizome (throw the infected sections in the garbage–do not compost them). Allow the cut areas to sit in the open air for a day or two.You can also disinfect the wounds with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water.

Bacterial Leaf Spot
Small pale spots on the foliage are a sign of Bacterial Leaf Spot. Sadly there is no cure. Remove any infected plants and wash your tools with a 10% bleach and water solution.

Planting Ideas

I always like to end on a positive note. Pests and disease can be an issue, but these are wonderful perennials.

Here are a few ideas on using iris in the garden and how to combine them with other plants.

 Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton.

Try planting three or five complimentary colors together.

 Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton.

Mix bearded iris with Peonies.

 Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton.

Mix bearded iris with other types of iris (above and below).

Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton.

Private garden in Mississauga, ON.

Let a shrub or tree create the perfect backdrop.

Private garden in Mississauga, ON.

A bearded iris in my garden with Sweet Rocket in the background.

No matter what type of bearded iris you choose, it is bound to be a great addition to your spring garden.

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Missed Grange Hollow Nursery Part 1? Go back and read it here.

It's late summer at Grange Hollow Nursery just south of Owen Sound, Ontario. Nursery owner Katherine Taylor sets the scene for us:

"As autumn approaches, the perennial gardens are shifting to fall colours. Seeds are beginning to ripen - for collection by both the birds (for food) and by us (to grow next season’s stock). The grass garden is reaching its full glory - hundreds of towering spikes topped with feather blooms wavering in the breeze." 

"The vegetable garden is bountiful and we’re struggling to keep up with canning and freezing, while savouring the last of the fresh produce. The final waves of migrating butterflies are passing through and wee first-year frogs have dispersed from their ponds seeking refuge for the winter."

"It’s a different hustle and bustle from the springtime, but not less active. Business is winding down at the greenhouse, but fall cleaning, potting, and planning are ramping up until the first blanketing of snow when we can take a breath and relax."

At the heart of the Grange Hollow is the old brick farmhouse. Adjacent to the house, the is a long vegetable garden and a butterfly garden that we are about to see. In this post we'll also visit the shade garden, with its rustic arbor and pond, that sits in the shadow of the smaller of two barns.

An overhead view of the property.

The layout of the nursery in closeup.

The vegetable garden.

Katherine describes her vegetable and butterfly gardens:

"The vegetable garden was the first garden we built using this farm’s most prolific crop - limestone. We filled it with composted manure from our cattle and chickens (Note: we no longer have livestock)." 

"The butterfly garden and vegetable garden blend together in late summer as the tall perennials mature, obscuring the rock walls built by my husband in the exuberance of youth. The self-seeding Heliopsis, Echinacea and Malva contribute to the profuse wild look."

Malva on the rock wall that Katherine's husband built.

A mix of flowers and vegetables.

"This is an amaranthus variety named "Velvet Curtains." It has darker blooms and leaves, and a more upright habit than Love-lies-bleeding. It is a great filler in cut-flower bouquets, but really we grow it because Mom likes it, " says Katherine's daughter, Sarah, who works alongside her mother at the nursery.

Butterfly weed

Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa  has clusters of orange and gold flowers mid-summer. This is a native North American wildflower and is the principal source of food for the both the adult and juvenile Monarch Butterfly. Butterfly weed likes dry conditions and well-drained, sandy soil. Full sun. Height:60-90 cm (23-35 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm(18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

A Zinnia flower in full glory.

The vegetable garden.

"In the vegetable garden, we grow just about everything: asparagus, rhubarb, lettuce, chard, radishes, kale, beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, cabbage, peppers, beans (bush and runner), sugar-snap peas, cucumbers, cantaloupe, squash of all kinds, garlic (which we sell) and of course lots of heirloom tomatoes," says Katherine.

"We also like to try something different every year, like sweet potatoes, popcorn, edamame or okra - not always with success! This year’s experiment: cucamelons. I like to have flowers among my vegetable plants to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects, and also because it looks pretty! "

Another of the Zinnia flowers.

Sarah Taylor says, "This plant is an artichoke relative named Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus). Its stalks are an edible delicacy if you are inclined (we are not). It is borderline hardy here, but has overwintered for close to 10 years now. Great for pollinators and just generally cool-looking."

Borage, a prolific self-seeder, had taken over the far end of the vegetable garden by late summer. Bees adore this herb. The big swath of sky-blue flowers hummed like a hive (as it happens, borage flowers add a delicious flavour to honey).

Borage has limited culinary uses, but the flowers are edible and taste a little like cucumber. They look beautiful as a flourish in iced tea and can be also make a nice garnish in summer salads. Here's a link to 15 borage recipes.

In late August, the area behind the seed starting greenhouse had a terrific display of pink, purple and white phlox. 

Sarah says, "This Phlox could be "Bright Eyes" or one of its seeded progeny."

Phlox paniculata 'Bright Eyes' has fragrant flowers that are pink with a contrasting magenta eye. This is a mid-sized phlox that likes average to moist conditions and average garden soil. Full sun or part-shade. Height:60-75 cm (23-29 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm(18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

Another late summer perennial:

Variegated Sea Holly, Eryngium planum 'Jade Frost' has grey-green leaves edged in cream and clusters of violet-blue umbels. This perennial likes hot, dry sites and soil that is high in salts. Pick stems just as the flower clusters begin to open and hang them to dry for fall arrangements. Full sun. Height:50-60 cm (20-23inches), Spread: 30-60 cm(12-23 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

Our final stop on this visit will be the shade garden next to the smaller of the two barns.

"This garden bed faces south and used to be hot and dry. It was home to many daylily cultivars. As the trees and shrubs have matured (especially the oak), it has become shady. Over the last few years I have been swapping out sun-lovers for more shade-tolerant plants," says Katherine. 

"The flagstone walk was formerly the path to the barnyard, whose split-rail fence has been re-incarnated as a rustic arbor (a Mother's Day gift from my sons). Generous annual applications of mulch have greatly improved the soil (standard practice for all of our gardens) and reduced time spent weeding. 

1. Japanese Fern, Athyrium niponicum 2. Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa 3. Lungwort, Pulmonaria 4. Hellebore "Golden Sunrise" 5. Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora 6. Hosta probably "Janet" 7. Lamium 'White Nancy' 8. Bugbane, Actaea (formerly Cimicifuga) "Pink Spike"  9. Canadian Ginger, Asarum canadense

A closer view of a few of the plants in the previous image. Hellebore "Golden Sunrise"(top left), Hosta probably "Janet"(top right), Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora (chartreuse fern in the middle) and Canadian Ginger, Asarum canadense (foreground).

"The globe thistle surprised me - it doesn't seem to mind the shade!"says Katherine.

Phlox and Turtlehead flowers.

Turtlehead, Chelone lyonii has pink hooded flowers from August into September. Turtlehead prefers moist soil, but does pretty well with average soil moisture. This is a long-lived perennial that can easily be divided in the spring. Full sun or part-shade. Height:60-90 cm (18-23 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm. USDA Zones: 3-9.
Note: There is also white flowering native Chelone glabra.

"Nestled next to a forty-year-old Alberta spruce, our small pond is home to various amphibians, and neighbouring garter snakes. We plan to add large submerged containers of native wetland plants and resurrect the waterfall in 2018."

"We had some pots of Cyperus "King Tut" and "Prince Tut" left over in the greenhouse, and after endlessly watering, I thought I would try growing them as pond plants (works really well!) and has given me some ideas for next year... Looking lush and prehistoric in the background are ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris)," says Katherine.

And this ends our little tour of Grange Hollow Nursery.

Missed Grange Hollow Nursery Part 1? Go back and read it here.

All our plants are grown using pollinator-friendly practices. We will help you pick the perfect plants for your growing conditions. Try something new from our extensive selection of heirloom tomato and vegetable transplants, herbs, annual flowers, native and exotic perennials. Find inspiration or relaxation in our sprawling, cottage-style display gardens, teeming with bird, insect and animal activity. We welcome you to take a scenic drive to discover our unique gardens and plant nursery in picturesque rural Grey County! 

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One task I am not particularly looking forward to this spring is uprooting and moving a mature False Indigo, Baptisia australis. It's been in the same spot for at least a decade. It's not going to be easy to unearth its deep roots, but sadly it has to be done.

A garden like mine could easily be a full time job, but the reality is that I have an average of just two to four hours a day to spend in it. When I added a new flowerbed to the backyard last summer, I did it knowing that something else would have to be give. There was no way I could manage more garden in the same amount of time.

With a heavy heart, I decided to reduce the size of the front garden in favour of the more private backyard space. So last fall I moved just about everything, but ran out of time before I could tackle the biggest job– the Baptisia you see in the picture above.

Spring is a terrible time to move it (it blooms in spring, so the fall would have been a little better), but it's a task that has to be finished.

Baptisia australis is a magnificent plant that demands very little. Fingers crossed I don't kill it!

Native Baptisia australis was used to produce a blue dye by Native Americans.

Baptisia australis is a native plant that can be found in woods, tickets and along stream banks in an area that stretches from southern Pennsylvania to North Carolina and Tennessee. It has purply-blue flower spikes and bluish-green leaves that make me think of peas or clover (it is a member of the pea family). Spent flowers become long, rounded seedpods that age to become a deep charcoal.

As well as Baptisia australis, there is native Baptisia alba, which has white flowers and Baptisia tinctoria, which has yellow blooms. Baptisia minor is a smaller plant.

How to Grow Baptisia:
False Indigo, Baptisia australis can be grown in average to quite poor, well-drained soil. It can handle a little bit of light shade, but it would be much happier if you planted it in full sun. When it first emerges in the spring the fresh shoots of Baptisia australis are quite upright. The plant opens up slowly through it's blooming phase and becomes more of a vase shape.

This is a large, long-lived perennial. Think small shrub when you try to place it in the garden (Note: there are a few new cultivars that are more compact in size).

Baptisia requires patience. It grows quite slowly and may take a few years to get really established. As it grows it developes deep and extensive roots that make moving it very difficult, so choose a spot carefully and stick with it.

The good news is Baptisia is very undemanding and virtually pest-free. I chop mine to the ground in the fall and that's just about all I do.

The reward is a spring showstopper that will be well worth the wait. As it has done in my garden,
Baptisia australis continues to grow and bloom in the same spot for decades.

Baptisia can be grown from seed, but you're in for a long wait. It may take as long as three years to see even a few flowers. I'd recommend investing in a decent sized nursery plant instead.

Once your Baptisia is established you can propagate new plants from stem cuttings in early spring.  I've tried it and it is fairly easy to do. Each cutting needs one set of leaf buds.

Plant type: Perennial

Height & Spread: Depending on the cultivar: 3-5 ft high x 5-6 ft wide

Flower: A range of colors including indigo-blue, yellow, white, pink, purple, lavender, maroon & bi-colors

Bloom period: Early spring

Leaf color:
 Fresh green to grey-green

Light: Full sun

Growing Conditions: Average to poor well-drained soil

Water requirements: Fairly drought tolerant once established

Companion Plants: Blue Star, Salvia, Gas Plant, Peony, Iris

Divide: This is a long-lived perennial that likes to stay put, but it can be divided every 4-5 years.

Notes: Deer resistant & pretty much pest-free.

USDA Zones: 4-9

Baptisia 'Vanilla Cream'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

Modern Cultivars

If you've haven't heard of Baptisia yet, there's a reason. They mature slowly, so I doubt they are a quick cash crop for growers. 

They're also a bit gangly and awkward in a nursery pot. The flowers on a young potted plant are small and don't exactly scream "buy me!" 

But the popularity this plant is growing and breeders have responded with new and exciting color choices. Here's a quick look at some of the many cultivars now available:

'Purple Smoke' 

'Purple Smoke'  makes a perfect backdrop for this Salvia. The Toronto Botanical Garden in spring.

False Indigo, Baptisia 'Purple Smoke' is a recent introduction from the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Smoky-blue flowers are carried on dark green stems and foliage. Height: 100-135 cm ( 39-53 inches), Spread: 75-90 cm (29-35 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

Cultivars with Similar Colors:

Baptisia 'Lunar Eclipse' (not shown) is initially creamy-lemon and ages into a medium to dark violet producing a pretty two-toned effect.
Baptisia 'Startlight Prairieblues' has lavender flowers.

Baptisia 'Pink Truffles'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

False Indigo, Baptisia Decadence® Deluxe 'Pink Truffles' has soft pink flowers that appear atop a compact clump of deep blue-green foliage. The flowers lighten to lavender with age. This is a smaller sized cultivar. Height: 107-122 cm (42-48 inches), Spread: 152-183 (60-72 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

'Pink Lemonade'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

False Indigo, Baptisia Decadence® Deluxe 'Pink Lemonade' has soft yellow flowers that age to dusty raspberry-purple showing both colors at the same time. Height: 106-121 cm (42-48 inches), Spread: 116-121 cm (46-48 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Cultivars with Similar Colors:

Baptisia 'Solar Flare' has two-toned yellow and rusty-orange flowers.

Baptisia 'Vanilla Cream'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

False Indigo, Baptisia Decadence® Deluxe 'Vanilla Cream' has pastel yellow buds that open into vanilla flowers. The compact foliage emerges bronze in spring and becomes grey-greenThis cultivar was selected for its petite size and unique flowersHeight: 76-90 cm (30-36 inches), Spread: 90-106 cm (36 - 42 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Baptisia 'Dutch Chocolate' . Photo courtesy of Proven Winners®  

False Indigo, Baptisia Decadence® Deluxe 'Dutch Chocolate' has velvety chocolate-purple flowers above a compact, relatively short mound of deep blue-green foliage. This vigorous cultivar is well-suited to smaller urban gardens. Height: 76-90 cm (30-36 inches), Spread: 90-106 cm (36 - 42 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Cultivars with Similar Colors:

Baptisia 'Brownie Points' has two-toned yellow and carmel-brown flowers.
Baptisia 'Cherries Jubilee' has two-toned yellow and maroon flowers.
Baptisia 'Twilight Prairieblues' has smoky purple flowers.

'Sparkling Sapphires'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners®  

False Indigo, Baptisia Decadence® 'Sparkling Sapphires' has deep violet-colored flowers on a compact plant with deep blue-green foliage. Height: 76-90 cm (30-36 inches), Spread: 76-90 cm (30-36 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Cultivars with Similar Colors:

Baptisia 'Blue Towers' has periwinkle-blue flowers.
Baptisia 'Blueberry Sundae' has deep indigo-blue flowers.
Baptisia 'Indigo Spires' has deep reddish-purple flowers.
Baptisia 'Midnight Praireblues' has deep purple flowers.

Baptisia 'Lemon Meringue'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

False Indigo, Baptisia Decadence® Deluxe 'Lemon Meringue' is a vigorous cultivar that has lemon-yellow flowers on a compact, upright mound of blue-green foliage. Height: 76-90 cm (30-36 inches), Spread: 76-90 cm (30-36 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

 Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight' and a Salvia at its feet. Private garden, Fergus Ontario.

Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight'  Private garden, Toronto, Ontario.

Yellow False Indigo, Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight' has blue-green foliage with canary-yellow flowers. Height: 120-135 cm (47-53 inches), Spread: 80-90 cm (31-35 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

Note:You can find more information on the Proven Winners® cultivars at Provenwinners.com

Ideas for Companion Planting:
Plant Baptisia in the company of other spring bloomers including: Gas Plant, Dictamnus albus Blue Star, Amsonia, Bearded Iris, Peony, Catmint, Nepeta and Salvia.

 Yellow and blue Baptisia with pink flowering Phlomis tuberosa 'Amazone' . The Toronto Botanical Garden in spring.

Baptisia and Blue Star, Amsonia in my garden.

Baptisia and pale yellow Bearded Iris. Private garden, Toronto, Ontario.

Yellow Baptisia in the background with Catmint, Salvia and Elderberry, Sambucus racemosa 'Lemony Lace'. Private garden, Toronto, Ontario.

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Not far from the lakeshore in Mississauga, there is a old neighbourhood where the streets are lined with majestic trees. Though Lorne Park is not far from the busy city centre, it still manages to feel quiet, remote and lushly green. 

Properties in this area have become so valuable that many of the neighbourhood's original homes have been torn down and replaced by million dollar mansions. You can spot the new builds in an instant. Their grand scale dominates the private lots. They lack both charm and character. 

Thankfully, a few of the neighbourhood's older homes remain. 

Sweet Rocket

Keith and Mary Ellen's Lorne Park home was built in 1914 by John Birch Canavan, a wealthy fur and woollen trader. At the time that the house was constructed, the area was still largely farmland, but it had already begun to be popular as a summer retreat for wealthy Torontonians, the Muskoka of its times.  

"Like most of the other summer homes in the area, Canavan’s house was built in the bungalow style" says Keith,"It has a steeply pitched roof and a wrap around glass-paned porch on two sides. Originally the house would have been situated on a large lot (now much diminished) with an abundance of trees that would have complemented its cottage demeanour."

"Despite the fact that the house has only changed hands a few times over the past hundred years, it still retains many of its original Edwardian features. In 2002, the City of Mississauga gave the house heritage designation to recognize its unique architectural character." 

While the different home owners managed to maintain the character of the house over the years, it seems that their interests didn’t extend to the surrounding land. 

"When we bought the house in 1992," says Keith,"the gardens consisted of scruffy lawns, untended areas of ground cover (mostly Lily of the Valley) and an overgrown cedar hedge that had seen better days. The house called out for the grace and charm of a traditional, informal cottage garden."

One area that need to be addressed was the damp area near the road.

"The road in front of our house still has the feel of a country lane," says Mary Ellen,"Without a sidewalk, the only thing separating the garden from the road is a shallow drainage ditch. When we bought the house, the area was shabby and neglected. The ditch was full of weeds, the old cedar hedge along the front of the property was leggy and spare, and the lawn was thin and sparse. The only redeeming feature was the line of black locust trees along the ditch and a large stately black walnut tree, a little bit closer to the house."

Spring flowers in the "ditch" garden include Bleeding Heart, spring bulbs and Sweet Rocket (seen in the centre).

Once the area was cleaned up, Mary Ellen was able to begin to plant. 
"After we took out the hedge, we needed to give the front some definition so we settled on day lilies, which provide much needed colour and grow well in the wild in similar conditions. In fact, our first plants were given to us by some of our relatives who live in the country in south-western Ontario." 

"While the shade from the trees doesn’t seem to bother the day lilies, it certainly had an adverse affect on the lawn, so over time I dug out around the trees and started introducing hostas, flowering shrubs, Shasta Daisies and red Monarda. Fortunately, even though the ground is sandy, the trees provide some much needed natural compost so the soil never needs amending. The plants have all self-sowed quite happily, so much so in fact, I have taken out some of the day lilies and replaced them with peonies, irises, tulips, sedum and a few judiciously placed flowering shrubs."  
"The garden can get quite moist, but there is still lots of sun and the soil drains well. Over time the beds have gradually expanded displacing more and more of the lawn which gives it the look that I was after. It does make keeping things under control quite a chore, so now that I am getting older, it’s time to downsize the flowers and put in more shrubs." 

The planting along the front walkway and along the front porch makes extensive use of hosta.

Hostas are the backbone of any garden and they seem to do particularly well in our area," says Mary Ellen, "I now have about two hundred mature hostas– almost all of which came from the few hostas that were here when we bought the house. We bought a few specimens over the years, but the vast majority have come from dividing the plants as they mature. "

"Because the house is raised, the lawn originally came up a small embankment about two metres high to meet the ground floor, which made it very difficult to mow and didn’t look particularly attractive so I decided to put in terraces instead using stone found in the garden to build a dry stack retaining wall." 

Yellow Fumitory, Corydalis lutea has wonderful bright green, ferny foliage. The plant's tiny flowers appear in late spring and blooms for months without any deadheading. Yellow Fumitory likes well-drained soil and cool, part-shade. This perennial is a ready self-seeder, but unwanted seedlings are easy to remove. Height: 20-40 cm (8-16 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

"Someone gave me a piece of yellow corydalis and since it likes to fill in cracks and crevices. It was a natural choice to soften the hard edges of the wall and provide some colour. The fact that it contrasts so nicely with the green of the hostas was just a happy coincidence," says Mary Ellen.  

I know many readers will look at these pristine hosta leaves and wonder what Mary Ellen does to control slug damage.

"I don’t do anything to control the slugs. I just let nature take its course. They are not much of a problem and, for the most part, don’t do very much damage. We have a lot more difficulty with cutworms and grubs," she says.  

Next we'll head into the backyard where there is a picturesque courtyard and pond.

"The shed at the back of the garden was probably built about the same time as the house. It certainly looks like its been around for a hundred years, but it was never really integrated with the rest of the garden,"says Mary Ellen.

"I remember reading in a book written many years ago by Beverley Nichols, the English gardener and writer, that a garden tells you where things should go. The trees and bushes point to where the flowers should be. It’s the same with the paths. If you follow the natural flow that leads you from one garden area to the next, that’s where the walk goes."

"All the paths are built with old bricks and flagstone that I recovered from various parts of the garden. A few years ago, I came out to find that one of my shrubs had sunk about two feet almost overnight. It turned out that, unbeknownst to me, I had planted it where the old well used to be and the soil that had been used as backfill had settled. That was a great source of bricks. The rest came from the retaining wall that was taken out when we rebuilt the old concrete patio at the back of the house."
"I have added more paths and small patios over the years. They provide a much needed balance to the softer elements in the garden and, as an added bonus, they cut down on the amount of lawn I have to mow." 

Some hamburgers, sausages and a few cases of beer lead to the creation of a pond in the back garden. Keith tells the full story:

"About ten years ago, a landscaping company asked us if we would be willing to host their “Build a Pond Day”, an annual event that they held to teach local contractors how to build a garden pond. We had a small pond that we had built in the back yard where the old well had been, but it didn’t really work, so we said “Why not?” 

"A few weeks later, about twenty contractors arrived bright and early with wheelbarrows and shovels in hand. By the end of the day, they had excavated the pond, wrestled several large boulders into place, installed the recirculating lines and built a small waterfall at one end. Considering that it would have taken a landscaper a week or two to complete the job (it’s a substantial pond about eight metres long and two metres wide) it was no small feat. And the cost? A couple of cases of beer and enough barbecued hamburgers and sausages to keep the workers happy."

The only thing that remained to be done was the planting.

"The landscaping company’s generosity however didn’t extend past the pond. They left it up to us to put in the plants and integrate the pond into the rest of the garden, which gave us a whole new area of garden design to explore," says Keith.

1. Bleeding Heart 2. Climbing Rose (white) 3. Peony 4. Bleeding Heart 5. Deutzia 6. Hosta 7. Rudbeckia 8. Bearded Iris 9. Spirea Goldmound 10. Spirea Goldflame

Mary Ellen's List of Plants for Spring Color:
Bleeding Heart, Spring Bulbs, Creeping Phlox, Lamium (groundcover)

Plants for Early Summer Color:
Peony, Climbing Rose, Bearded Iris, Hosta, Spirea, Miss Kim Lilac, Beauty Bush, Japanese Iris

Plants for Late Summer Color:
Phlox, Pink Diamond Hydrangea, Forever Hydrangea, Brown-eyed Susan or Rudbeckia, Annual Flowers

Star of Bethlehem, Ornithogalum umbellatum is a member of the lily family and is a bulb that blooms in late spring. Star of Bethlehem is pretty, but be warned–it can be very aggressive. It should only be planted in an area where its invasive tendencies can be carefully contained.

Deutzia x lemoinei 'Compacta' (on the left above) has an upright habit and white flowers in spring. Plant it in sun to part-shade in average garden soil that is on the moist side. Prune in spring after flowering. Height: 4-6', Spread: the same. USDA Zones: 4-8. 

Bleeding Heart, Dicentra spectabilis, 'Alba' (on the right and in closeup above) has bright green foliage and white flowers. Height: 70-90 cm (27-35 inches), Spread: 70-90 cm (27-35 inches). Light shade to full shade. Average to moist soil. Hardy: Zones 2-9.

"The round metal sphere decorated with entwined vines and leaves provides a lovely counterpoint to the shrubs and flowers in the rest of the garden, but while it looks like a piece of garden sculpture, it actually started out life as a shade for a chandelier that we bought on a whim at a garage sale. When we looked around the house we realized that it really didn’t work as a light fixture, so we threw away the electrics and stuck the shade on a metal tripod. It’s been a feature of the garden ever since,"says  Mary Ellen. 

I think you'll agree that the work Mary Ellen and Keith have done on the landscaping really enhances the style and character of their century home. It may not be the grandest house in the neighbourhood, but it is certainly one of the nicest.
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Roses on Valentine's Day are such a nice romantic gesture, but cut flowers have such a short life in a vase!

One way to extend the life of your roses is to dry them and create a little Valentine's Day keepsake. Here's a simple project that's pretty and easy to do.

What you need to make this project:

• 12 dried sweetheart roses
• 9 x 9" shadowbox (I got mine at Michael's)
• pencil
• cardboard heart to trace (optional-you can always draw a heart, if you prefer. I bought a package of hearts at Michael's that were already on clearance)
• linen card stock (optional- the frame I purchased had a beige linen back that could be used instead)
• scissors
• glue gun and glue sticks

How to dry your Sweetheart Roses:

Hanging roses to dry is really easy to do. 

Gather your roses into a bunch and secure then together with a rubber band. The stems will shrink a little as they dry. The rubber band will adjust nicely to the shrinking size of your rose stems.

Hang your roses to dry almost anywhere as long as it is out of the full sun (sunlight will cause the color to fade). I like to attach my roses to a doorknob. Use a loop of the elastic band to hang them with the roses facing downward.

Depending on humidity levels in your home, a bunch of roses may take a week to a week and a half to dry. Dried correctly, the stems of your roses will be stiff and hard. The roses themselves should be somewhat crisp to the touch.

Once your roses are dry, use a sharp pair of scissors to cut the roses from the stems. Make your cut as close as possible to the base of the flower. A short stem will help the rose sit flat on the linen card stock.

Don't discard the green leaves and stems. They come in handy later.

To help me with placement of my heart on the linen card stock, I traced the outline of the back of my 9" x 9" shadowbox with a pencil. 

Then I placed my heart in the centre and traced its outline as well. 

Optional: If you are making this for yourself or even someone else, you can add names, the occasion and the date to the centre of the heart in your very best script: 

Katherine & Heathcliff, Valentine's Day, February 2018

I was worried about getting my roses evenly spaced, so I put the first rose at the centre top of the heart and the next rose just below it at the bottom of the heart. 

To attach the roses I used a glue gun. A couple of pointers: my shadowbox was an inch and a half deep. To make sure the roses weren't going to be crushed and flattened by the frame's glass, I attached them on a very slight angle (rather than absolutely upright). I also flattened out the small green petals at the base of the flower and pressed the roses down firmly.

You will probably notice there is some variation in the size and shape of your roses. Alternating bigger buds with smaller roses is one way to compensate.

Again to ensure even spacing, I took the ten remaining roses put them all into place and made any little adjustments. When I was happy with the arrangement, I glued them into place.

Next, return to your pile of leaves and stems. Remove as many of the smaller leaves as you think you'll require to fill in the gaps between the roses.

Hot glue the leaves into position.

Cut the linen card stock down to the size of the inside of your frame and insert the finished heart into the shadowbox. 

The shadowbox will keep your dried roses dust free. Hang your finished project out of direct sunlight and the roses should keep their color for a year or so. 

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Bush Clematis 'Stand by Me'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

This is not a sponsored post, so I feel free to say that I have mixed feelings about new plant introductions. For one thing, they can be super pricy. Some introductions go on to become classics, while others never seem to catch on and disappear to make room for yet more plants.

But if, like me, you love plants, new introductions can be very tempting. Generally they offer some  improvement like a longer bloom time or a more compact shape. These shiny new features make new introductions alluringly collectable.

Take the Clematis above. How pretty and dainty it looks! And here it is again, this time in a container planting:

Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

Clematis 'Stand by Me' is a non-vining herbaceous clematis that dies back to the ground at the end of the growing season. It has blue, bell-shaped flowers and will re-bloom throughout the season. Average, well drained soil that is slightly alkaline is best. While its growth is upright, "Stand by Me' does benefit from staking, cages or neighbouring plants for support. Full sun or light shade. Height: 86-96 cm (34-38 inches), Spread: 60-70cm (24-28 inches) USDA zones: 3-7.

In the same container (above) is yet another new perennial that gardeners with part-shade will find interesting. Full-sized Goatsbeard, Aruncus dioicus is a huge plant. 'Chantilly Lace' is more compact and is better suited for small to average-sized suburban gardens.

It's also more drought tolerant than Astilbe.

Goatsbeard, Aruncus 'Chantilly Lace' produces beautiful sprays of lacy, cream-colored flowers. It has a similar look to an Astilbe, but is more drought tolerant. 'Chantilly Lace' grows best in moist, humus-rich soils. In northern climates, it can be grown in full sun provided it has adequate moisture. In southern zones, however, it prefers partial or full shade. Height: 76-80 cm (30-32 inches), Spread: 101-121 cm (40-48 inches) USDA zones: 3-7.

Hosta, Shadowland® 'Waterslide'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

One of my favourite purchases last year was a ruffled hosta, so of course this new hosta caught my eye:

Hosta, Shadowland® 'Waterslide' has ruffled glaucous, blue-green leaves that hold their color all season long. It has lavender flowers in late summer. This perennial grows best in moist, well-drained, organically enriched soil. Full to part-shade. Height: 35-38 cm (14-15 inches), Spread: 76-81 cm (30-32 inches) USDA zones: 3-9.

Hemerocallis 'Orange Smoothie'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

Re-blooming daylilies are always a great asset, so a new peach cultivar would be nice to have. And I really like the ruffled edge on 'Orange Smoothie's' flower petals.

Daylily, Hemerocallis Rainbow Rhythm® 'Orange Smoothie' has orange-mango petals with a light rose band. It has a mounded shape and strong, well-branched, heavily budded scapes. 'Orange Smoothie' blooms in midsummer and again later in the season. This is a tough, adaptable perennial that will grow in almost any soil. Plant it in full sun for optimum flowering performance. Height: 50-60 cm (20-24 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (40-48 inches) USDA zones: 3-9.

Tall Cushion Phlox 'Cloudburst'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

I try to add at least one new Phlox cultivar each year. This new introduction blooms earlier than most and might be a good one to add to my collection.

Tall Cushion Phlox 'Cloudburst' is an early blooming phlox with a broad, mounding, billowy habit. Lavender-purple flowers have bright pink eyes. Its dark green leaves are disease resistant. 'Cloudburst' grows best in consistently moist, well-drained soil and full sun. It thrives with regular fertilization and good air circulation. Height: 45-60 cm (26-28 inches), Spread: 38-42 cm (40-48 inches) USDA zones: 3-9.

'Superstar' and 'Popstar' (right). Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

It would be hard to choose between these two Sedums. I guess it might come down to which shade of pink you prefer:  

Stonecrop Sedum, Rock 'N Grow® 'Superstar' has dark turquoise foliage and forms a dense, compact mound with rosy-pink flowers. It performs best in full sun and poor to average, well-drained soil. 'Superstar' does not require supplemental water or fertilizer. Height: 25-30 (10-12 inches), Spread: 50-60 cm (20-24 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9

Stonecrop Sedum, Rock 'N Grow® 'Popstar' has blue-green foliage and has a dense, compact, mounded habit. The flowers are salmon-pink. It does best in full sun and poor to average, well-drained soil. 'Popstar' does not require supplemental water or fertilizerHeight: 20-30cm (8 - 10 inches), Spread:50-60cm (20 - 24 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9

Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

'Pink Lemonade'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

In the last few years Baptisia has gone from a little-known perennial to one that is quite coveted. The old-fashioned classic with indigo-blue flowers is still one of my favourites, but breeders have managed to produce an amazing array of appealing colors.

My first reaction to this new cultivar (above) was that it would be hard to find a place for the unusual combination of pink and yellow, but then I begun to warm to the mix. I could imagine 'Pink Lemonade' might compliment my white Gas Plant, Dictamnus albus quite nicely.

False Indigo, Baptisia Decadence® Deluxe 'Pink Lemonade' has soft yellow flowers that age to dusty raspberry purple, showing both colors at the same time. Pink Lemonade' grows best in full sun and average to poor, well-drained soil. Moderately drought tolerant once established. This is a long-lived perennial that does not need to be divided and prefers not to be moved. Height: 106-121 cm (42-48 inches), Spread: 116-121 cm (46-48 inches) Keep in mind that this is a large perennial that is almost shrub-like in scale. USDA zones: 4-9.

This ends this little preview of new perennials. I hope you've found something you'd like to add to your spring wish list.

(If you would like more information on any of these perennials, you can visit 
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