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Last weekend we went on a little road trip that took us north of Toronto to Thornbury and Collingwood. In the winter, the Blue Mountains make this area perfect for skiing. In the summer, views of Georgian Bay and quaint restaurants and shops make it a popular tourist destination. While my husband was interested in poking around antique shops, I was wanted to do a little plant shopping. My mission– the perfect pink daylily.

Why drive miles and miles in search of dayliles? In large part it was just an excuse the escape the heat of Toronto and take a little drive in the country, but honestly, there is nothing like seeing a flower in front of you before you make your choice.

You get a much better idea a flower's true size and color than you ever could from a photograph. I have bought a number of pink dayliles from pictures, only to be disappointed with the shade of pink when it eventually blooms (I like cool pinks rather than peachy-pinks).

'Wild and Wonderful', which the catalog describes as "one of the most popular in the garden". Evergreen foliage. Vigorous grower and prolific bloomer.

'Red Suspenders' Dormant and slightly fragrant.

In pictures, I never liked these spidery-type dayliles, but in the field, I was surprised how much I liked them. They're often quite big and showy.

'Spacecoast Citrus Kick' Very vigorous and fast grower. Semi-evergreen foliage.

'White Base'. Very fragrant and evergreen foliage.

Some dayliles have ruffled petals and many have interesting markings. Often there is a contrasting throat color and/or flashes of color on the petals.

 'Only Believe' has 7 inch fragrant flowers. Semi-evergreen foliage.

Most nurseries carry a limited selection of daylilies, so if you're looking for something special, you may have to hunt down a nursery that specializes in growing them. Artemesia Daylilies, just south of Georgian Bay on the outskirts of a tiny town called Kimberly, is a pleasant drive from Toronto.

The barn set into the hillside.

The renovated farmhouse is home to the nursery's owners. 

 Alain watering the garden. This summer has been a hot, dry one here in Ontario.

For partners Alain Johnson and Jocelyn Bertrand growing daylilies was a hobby that grew into a business. They have a online catalogue and also welcome customers to shop in the fields that surround their renovated house and barn.

A closeup of the Trumpet vine on the arbor.

 Daylilies are not the only type of lilies in the garden.

'Lies and Lipstick' Semi-evergreen.

As their name suggests, daylilies open for a single day, but one scape can carry as many as thirty or so buds that will each open for a day. The higher the bud count per scape, the longer the period of bloom.

Of course the bloom of a daylily is key to your decision making, but in reality, your buying the complete package. When the daylily is right in front of you, the size and shape of the plant might alter your impression. For instance, one of the daylilies I admired in the field had broad green foliage and big flowers on short stems, while another had finer leaves and small, trumpet-like flowers on tall, reed-like scapes.

'Lucky Dragon', which is a great name. I'd love to have a lucky dragon in my own garden!

Growing Dayliles–The Basics:
Daylilies couldn't be easier to grow! They need full sun (except in the southern parts of the States where a break from the hot afternoon sun would be appreciated).

Daylilies are happy in average garden soil, but will grow more vigorously when the soil is amended with compost, leaf mould or well-aged manure.

Soil moisture is key to having spectacular blooms and will even encourage re-blooming.

Ideally, plant them in the spring or the fall. The spring will give the plant time to recover and bloom. In the fall, you can add spring bulbs into your planting hole.

Divide them in the spring. Water them well to encourage new growth.


There are three catergories of daylily foliage:

Evergreen – are the least cold tolerant. Hardy evergreens behave like Dormant daylilies in Canada (where there is insufficient snow cover, its a good idea to mulch them).

Semi-evergreen – Retain their foliage in warmer climates. Where winter freeze occurs, the foliage dies back.

Dormant – Regardless of the horticultural zone the plant is grown in, the foliage dies back to the ground in winter. Cultivars with dormant foliage tend to be the most cold hardy.

After flowering daylily foliage can look messy and unattractive. If you cut the plant back by half, new foliage will start to appear.

Plant type: Perennial

Flower: Flowers last a single day. They come in a wide range of colors including orange, cream, red, yellow, peach, pink and maroon.

Bloom period: 
Early – June into July
Midseason – July
Late – July into August


Light: Full sun

Divide: Early spring or fall

Problems: fairly pest and disease resistant. Deer may be an issue.

USDA Zones: 3-10

'Leebea Orange Crush' and 'Art Imperial'

'Good Old Boy' Semi-evergreen.


So what did I end up buying? My original mission to find the perfect pink flower went out the window when I saw this dark beauty! Alain Johnson couldn't have been nicer and gave me a really big plant to take home (without any idea of who I was).

For those of you who might like to do a little daylily shopping of your own, do a quick Google search to find a specialist nursery in your area.

For readers in Ontario, you can visit these daylily nurseries (they also ship within Canada):

Artemesia Daylilies is located at 235731 Grey Rd. 13, just 4kms north of Kimberley. They have hostas as well as an extensive array of dayliles. Visit their website for open times, directions and to see the online catalogue.

Dynamic Daylilies is located at 4500 South Service Rd., Beamsville, Ontario. Visit their website for open times, directions and to see the online catalogue.

Gardens Plus is a nursery and display garden featuring daylilies and hostas, but they also sell Coneflowers, Hellebores, Coral Bells and other perennials. 136 Country Rd 4, Donwood, Ontario (just east of Peterborough). Check their website for details, hours and to see the online catalogue. Here's a link to any older post I did on Gardens Plus.

Nottawasaga Dayliles is located in Creemore, Ontario. Visit their website for details and online catalogue.

We're in the Hayfield Now are holding their annual daylily festival on July 20, 21 & 22nd. I haven't been to their festival for a few years, but really enjoyed it when we went. They have been breeding daylilies for over 25 years and are located on 4704 Pollard Rd., Orono (east of Toronto). Check their website for details, hours and catalogue. Here's a link to a post I did on the Hayfield (it has since changed ownership, but I'm sure it's just as great as ever).
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One of my favourites Hydrangea paniculata 'Little Lime' in with some other flowers 
in a late summer bouquet.

Just when I finally think I have everything planted, I see that hydrangeas are 50% off at a local nursery (Terra Nursery for anyone that happens to be local). What hydrangea lover resist such a deal? So of course I came home with two of the newer dwarf cultivars and am contemplating a run back to the nursery to buy a third one.

I absolutely adore Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens. They flower reliably from mid-July and look terrific right into the fall. Both types of hydrangea bloom on new wood, so there is no worry of flowerbuds dying overwinter (as they always seem to do for me on any type of Hydrangea macrophylla or Mophead hydrangeas). You can prune them as needed in early spring to remove last seasons flowers, any crossed or damaged branches and to adjust their shape/keep them compact.

In case your interested in a little bargain hunting yourself, here are some of the newer varieties of Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens to watch for:

The Dwarfs (starting with the smallest):
Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Wee White'Photo courtesy of Proven Winners 

Smooth Hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Wee White' is the same type of hydrangea as the classic and much-loved 'Annabelle', but in a very petite form. The flower are cream colored and the stems are nice and sturdy.

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: 12 - 30 Inches
Spread: 12 - 30 Inches
USDA zones: 3-9 

Hydrangea paniculata 'Bobo'

Last summer I added a Hydrangea paniculata 'Bobo' on either side of the back door. So far I am super pleased with them.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Bobo' forms a low rounded mound of green foliage and has white flowers that turn pink in the fall.

Part sun to sun (minimum of 6 hrs. of sun)
Moisture: moderate moisture required
Blooms on new wood 
Height: 30-36 Inches
Spread: 36 - 48 Inches
USDA zones: 3-8 

Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Mini Mauvette'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners 

Smooth Hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Mini Mauvette' has deep, pinky-mauve flowers and sturdy stems that keep the large flowers from flopping. 

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 

Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Limetta'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners 

Smooth Hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Limetta' has a dwarf, rounded habit and lime-green flowers. The blooms lighten to a soft greenish-white before becoming jade-green for the rest of the season. 

Minimum of 6 hrs. of sun
Moisture: average 
Blooms on new wood 
Height: 36 - 48 Inches
Spread: 36 - 48 Inches
USDA zones: 3-9 

Hydrangea paniculata 'Little Quick Fire'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners 

I had the full-sized Hydrangea paniculata 'Quick Fire' in the back garden and was so happy with its performance (in particular its drought tolerance), that I bought the dwarf version when it came out a couple of years ago. Like its big brother, 'Little Quick Fire' has done very well.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Little Quick Fire' flowers earlier than most other hydrangea paniculata. The blooms are white and then turn a fiery shade of pink as the fall approaches.

Part sun to sun 
Moisture: average (good drought tolerance once established)
Blooms on  new wood 
Height: 36 - 60 Inches
Spread: 36 - 60 Inches
USDA zones: 3-8 
Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Ruby'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners 

This is one of the hydrangeas I bought on sale. The flowers are a deep reddish-magenta and I thought that it would look nice adjacent to a wine colored Ninebark and a pink 'Invicibelle Spirit'. The tag says full sun, so I am a little worried that it might not get enough sun where I planted it, but we'll see. I can always move it next year if it is unhappy. 

Smooth Hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Ruby' opens to a two-toned combination of bright ruby red and silvery pink. The foliage is quite dark and flower stems are nice and strong. 'Invincibelle Ruby' is adaptable to most well-drained soils.

Full Sun 
Moisture: average
Blooms on new wood 
Height: 36 - 48 Inches
Spread: 24 - 36 Inches
USDA zones: 3-9 

Hydrangea paniculata 'Little lamb'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners 

Hydrangea paniculata 'Little lamb' blooms mid-summer with cream colored flowers that become pink as fall approaches. It is adaptable to a variety of soils, but will be happiest in good, loamy soil. 

Part sun to sun 
Moisture: average (with some drought tolerance once established)
Blooms on new wood 
Height: 48 - 72 Inches
Spread: 48 - 72 Inches
USDA zones: 3-8 

Hydrangea paniculata' Zinfin Doll'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners

Hydrangea paniculata' Zinfin Doll' is a bit like the full-sized Hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky'. The flowers are pure white and then turn bright pink from the bottom up. As the weather cools, the flowers age further into a dark pinkish-red.

Part sun to sun (minimum of 6 hrs. of sun)
Heat Tolerant
Blooms on new wood 
Height: 54 - 72 Inches
Spread: 54 - 72  Inches
USDA zones: 3-8 

How to Choose a Dwarf Variety?

Smooth Hydrangeas, Hydrangea arborescens have broad, dome-shaped flowers and greenish, somewhat flexible stems. They need a minimum of six hours of sun (the exception being hot climates where some afternoon shade is beneficial). Based on my own experience, they really resent dry conditions, so keep that in mind as well. A layer of shredded bark mulch will help these shallow-rooted hydrangeas to conserve moisture, but if you're in area like mine where July and August are always dry, you may have to provide supplemental water.

Hydrangea paniculata have rounded or cone-shaped flowers and brown, woody stems. In colder zones like mine, they prefer full sun, but in warmer garden zones, they would appreciate a bit of afternoon shade. Like Hydrangea arborescens, they like moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. If soil moisture is a worry, 'Little Lamb' and 'Little Quick Fire' are two somewhat drought tolerant options. Hydrangea paniculata' Zinfin Doll' is heat tolerant for those gardeners south of me.

Both the blooms of Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens are unaffected by the soil's pH level.

Generally Hydrangea paniculata require a light annual pruning. Smooth hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) require that you cut the entire plant by one-third its total height early in the spring.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Bombshell'

This is the second hydrangea I bought. Hydrangea paniculata 'Bombshell' has a similar flower shape to 'Bobo' from Proven Winners and also matures into a rose-pink. It's a prolific bloomer that flowers earlier and longer than most other panicle hydrangeas. 

Part sun 
Water regularly to keep soil evenly moist
Blooms on new wood 
Height: 24-36 Inches
Spread: 36- 48 Inches
USDA zones: 4-8 

'Bombshell' seemed to be the perfect replacement for a hydrangea I lost mysteriously last fall after ten years or so in the garden. 

How about you? Are you still doing the odd bit of planting?

Bookmark this post with a Pin.

Many thanks to Proven Winners for some of the photos in this post.
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If you are sitting on our front porch, you can't help but notice the industrious little ants scurrying across the flagstone walkway (Piper, our youngest Sheltie, finds them fascinating and likes to poke at the tiny black ants with his nose). There are actually two ant colonies–one at the far end of the pathway and one a little closer to the porch.

I prefer not to wage war on the creatures with whom I share my garden, but this feeling of good will was challenged a few summers back when one of my favourite phlox began to die mysteriously one stem at a time. A quick investigation revealed it was the ants and their earth-moving ways. I refuse to resort to pesticide, so I began to experiment with plants that might live in harmony with the two well entrenched colonies.

Yarrow in my garden.

That brings me to the main subject of todays post–Yarrow. Yarrow was one of the few plants that seemed to survive the ant's constant excavations (sedum groundcovers are another). The Yarrow actually seems to appreciate the sharp drainage provided by the sand soil the ants bring up to the surface.

Yarrow is a tough, drought tolerant perennial that likes a hot, dry, sunny location. Unlike so many perennials that like rich fertile soil, Yarrow is quite happy in average to poor soil (provided there is good drainage). If your garden soil is too rich, you may actually find that your yarrow flops.

Full sun is essential. Too much shade and Yarrow can become leggy.

Mid-summer Yarrow produces a profusion of round, flat blooms that are composed of of tiny, daisy-like flowers. Colors include yellow, pink, cream, peach, terra cotta, red and maroon.

Yarrow makes a great, long-lasting cut flower. It's also a great everlasting flower that can be hung to dry. Simply cut your flowers (morning is best) and tie them with a bit of twine. Hang them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight until the flowers are dry to the touch.

One final reason to grow Yarrow–bees and butterflies love this flower!

Growing Yarrow from Seed
Plant Yarrow seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date. Sow seeds on the surface of moist potting soil and gentle press down. Place the tray in a warm, sunny location in the house. Your seeds should germinate in two to three weeks.

Myself, I prefer to buy small potted plants in the spring. Yarrow may bloom that first summer, but I find it takes a full season to really get established.

Achillea millefolium 'Cerise Queen' in my garden.

Growing Yarrow
The most important factor in being successful with growing Yarrow is giving it the conditions it requires; full sun, good drainage and average to poor soil. If your soil is heavy, add some organic matter and even some fine pebbles to improve the drainage.

Water well until your yarrow is established. Once it has settled in, you'll find Yarrow is very drought tolerant and may only require supplemental water during times of extreme drought.

Unlike most perennials, Yarrow doesn't require any fertilization.

Yarrow can look rather tired after it flowers. I've found it's best to cut the whole plant back hard. It will look awful for a couple of weeks, but you'll be rewarded with fresh green growth and maybe even a second flush of flowers in late summer/early fall.

Divide Yarrow every three to five years in the early spring or in the fall.

Pests and Diseases
Yarrow is pretty resistant to pests, but aphids can occasionally be an issue. A good blast of water from the hose can dislodge the aphids. If the problem persists, you can use an insecticidal soap.

Powdery mildew and rust can also pose a problem. To eliminate the possibility of mildew, avoid watering the foliage, if possible, and allow for good air flow between plants.

Achillea millefolium 'Strawberry Seduction'

Invasive Tendencies
Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium can be invasive and is considered by many to be an aggressive weed. Underground rhizomes can colonize a flowerbed and will sometimes will even spread to the grass.

Achillea millefolium was introduced to North America in colonial times from Europe and Asia. Since that time it has escaped from gardens to naturalize along roadsides and in fields.

To control Yarrow's wandering ways, pull up any of the wandering underground stems in the spring just after it rains (the ground is softer after a rainfall). To eliminate the plant's spread by seed, deadhead the flowers before they set seed. Yarrow seeds remain viable for years!

Different Yarrows to watch for:

While the species plant Achillea millefolium spreads by underground rhizomes, many of the modern cultivars and hybrids have improved features like stronger stems, larger flowers and a clump-forming habits.  

I have made a note in each of the descriptions below as to which varieties are clump-forming and which types are more likely to wander. 

Achillea 'Moonshine' is a classic Yarrow that has pale yellow flowers and silver-grey, fern-like foliage. This cultivar is non-spreading and makes a nice clump. Full sun. Height: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches), Spread: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

A closer look at the foliage of Achillea 'Moonshine' 

Achillea 'Little Moonshine' is a shorter version of 'Moonshine'. It has the same canary-yellow flowers and silver-grey foliage, but on dwarf plant. This cultivar is also non-spreading and makes a nice clump. Full sun. Height: 30-35 cm (12-14 inches), Spread: 35-40 cm (14-16 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

Achillea millefolium 'Hoffnung' has yellow flowers that fade to cream and green fern-like foliage. This cultivar is inclined to spread, so locate it carefully. Full sun. Height: 50-60 cm (20-23 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

Achillea Anthea is a British hybrid that has yellow flowers tinged with peachy-orange and silver-grey foliage. This cultivar has a non-spreading habit. Full sun. Height: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

Achillea millefolium 'Little Susie' has rose-pink flowers and green fern-like foliage. This cultivar is inclined to spread, so reduce the size of the clump each spring. Full sun Height: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

Achillea millefolium 'Saucy Seduction' has reddish-pink flowers and green fern-like foliage. This cultivar has a spreading habit. Full sun. Height: 50-65 cm (20-25 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Achillea millefolium 'Strawberry Seduction' has orange-red flowers with a yellow centre and green fern-like foliage. The spread of 'Strawberry Seduction' is less aggressive that the species Yarrow. Full sun. Height: 45-50 cm (18-20 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Achillea millefolium 'Colorodo' is a strain that produces flowers in shades of red, pink, white and peach. This variety is inclined to spread, so you ought to site it carefully. Full sun. Height: 45-50 cm (18-20 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Achillea millefolium 'Cerise Queen' has cherry-red flowers and green fern-like foliage. This variety is also inclined to spread, so its growth will need to be curtailed each spring. Full sun. Height: 45-75 cm (18-29 inches), Spread: 60-75 cm (23-29 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

Companion Plants

Yarrow looks great with a whole range of sun-loving perennials that bloom mid-summer. Mix them in with ornamental grasses,Veronica, Sedum, Echinacea, Daylilies, Shasta Daisies, Lychnis and Rudbeckia.

Pink and a red yarrow mixed with other perennials. Private garden Uxbridge, Ontario.

Achillea millefolium 'Strawberry Seduction' and Veronica 'Eveline'

Achillea 'Moonshine' in the middle distance. Private garden Uxbridge, Ontario.

Achillea 'Moonshine'  with Veronica 'Eveline'. Private garden Uxbridge, Ontario.

 Soft pink yarrow mixes nicely with purple, white and orange flowers. 
Private garden Uxbridge, Ontario.

Plant type: Perennial

Height: Depending on variety 12-29 inches (30-75 cm)

Spread: Depending on variety 14-29 inches (60-75 cm)

Flower: A range of colors including pink, cream, red, yellow, peach, terra cotta and maroon

Bloom period: Summer

Leaf: Soft, fern-like foliage

Light: Full sun

Divide: Early spring or fall

Problems: Aphids, powdery mildew, rust and stem rot

USDA Zones: Depending on variety from 2-9
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"The truth is that all gardens are transitory– more like our lives, less like architecture: we build them to give the illusion of permanence. In this way too they resemble our lives."
from Transitory Gardens. Uprooted Lives by Diane Balmori and Margaret Morton

Elderberry, Black Lace Sambucus

In a brief email, Jane Dykstra told me she was embarking on a whole new chapter in her life and wasn't looking back. Her garden, which had been open to the public for almost twenty years, was closing and the sale of their farm property was about to be finalized.

I struggled a little with this news. How could anyone leave behind a garden they had laboured so long to create, I wondered?

Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina'

This is not the only example where the gardener is retiring from a large, high-maintenance, cottage-style garden. I have already shown one such property this spring, and have yet another which I hope to post in the coming weeks. Baby boomers are getting older and it is unclear if there is a generation of younger gardeners to replace them. All this has me wondering if large, cottage-style gardens might become a thing of the past.

In Jane's case, she wants less work and more time to lavish on her twelve garden children. She hasn't given up gardening, she's just planning to do so on a much smaller scale. The garden Jane named "Carpe Diem" will go to a new owner, who may or may not be a gardener with enough time, energy and enthusiasm to maintain the extensive flowerbeds. Chances are a large part of Carpe Diem may be grassed over.

I love the mosaic that makes use of pieces of broken china and decorative tiles.

The cutting garden.

Annual poppies.

Carpe Diem translates as the "the pleasures of the moment without concerns for the future." The phrase "Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero" advises us to "Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future."

How prophetic that choice of name seems given the garden's uncertain future!

Gardens are indeed transitory which always seems to be at odds with our love of permanence and stability. We like to build things that last and create things that out live us. Without a caretaker, a garden will fill with weeds as Mother Nature reassumes command.

Is devoting yourself to making a garden a waste of time then?

Some might think so, but I doubt very much that Jane would agree with them.

Centranthus ruber 'Albus' 

An old tub filled with hosta.

Hidden just behind the stone patio is a little pond.

There are a number of these piles of stones known as "cairns" in Jane's garden. In ancient times, a cairn was a landmark or trail marker. 

Campanula and pink peonies.

Gardening is not a whole lot different from other creative pursuits.

When a writer finishes a novel, he or she sends it to a publisher with fingers crossed and then moves on to write new stories. Same thing with artists. They create a painting and move on to the next challenge. 

That is exactly what I think Jane has done. She's acted on her ideas and given Carpe Diem her heart and soul for almost twenty years. Her work is finished. The garden has given her all it can give and now she's ready to move on.

The rose and iris garden at the front of the house.

Do you see the bird nest? It is tucked discreetly in among the stonecrop sedum.

Rosa glauca has marvellous grey foliage.

Believe it or not, Rosa glauca is a rose you grow for the foliage. (To see the full shrub scroll back two pictures.)

Rosa glauca is a species shrub rose that has glaucous, grey-green foliage. The roses are single five petaled flowers that are slightly fragrant. The tall plum rose canes have few thorns. This rose likes rich, well-drained soil. Full sun. Height: 6-8 ft Spread: 5-7 ft. USDA zones 2-8.

There is a generous deck that runs from the back door around to the side of the house.

The shaded patio at the back of the farmhouse.

A hanging basket–literately!

I am sure you will join me in wishing Jane all the best in her new endeavours. Gardening is a transferable skill, so I am sure her new smaller garden will be terrific in its own right.

For the rest of us, her garden is a good reminder that nothing is forever. So make the most of your time in the garden this summer and enjoy every moment!
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Thanks to everyone who entered their names in the latest draw using Facebook, email and by leaving comments on the blog.

Many thanks also to Thomas Allen & Sons for providing the copy of Niki Jabbour's Veggie Garden Remix to giveaway.

And the winner is...

Congratulations Debra Marie! I will be in touch shortly to get your home address.

Up shortly I have a book on peonies to give away.
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by Catherine Kavassalis

Ferns add wonderful texture to the tapestry of your garden. Weave them in amongst your perennials or give them special places to showcase their grace and elegance. 

In northern temperate regions consider an easy to grow species like: Lady fern Athyrium filix-femina, the evergreen Christmas fern Polystichum acrostichoides, or a stately Wood fern like Drypoteris goldiana (seen below), the pretty Bulblet fern Cystopteris bulbifera, or one of our ‘flowering’ ferns like the Royal fern Osmunda regalis. With dozens and dozens of choices, the possible compositions with your other plants are endless.

While many temperate ferns prefer woodland conditions (e.g. part shade), they are adaptable. The rule of thumb is: more sun, more moisture. Thus something like Sensitive fern, Onoclea sensibilis, is happiest dancing along riverbanks in dappled sun, playing peasant beside the aptly named Royal fern, Osmunda regalis. In drier conditions, they need shade. Onoclea will cope with my fast draining sandy soil only in full shade with some supplemental watering.

Both Sensitive and Royal fern are dimorphic, having fertile fronds that are very different in appearance. They are sometimes called ‘flowering’ ferns. While Onoclea produces beautiful black beads on its fertile fronds, Osmunda sends up architecturally beautiful stems bearing wrinkled golden brown sori. 

Related to Onoclea, the Ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, also produces ‘blooms’ of dimorphic fronds that can provide a wonderful vertical backdrop to a perennial bed. It can enchant a dark corner but also withstand full sun, if moisture is sufficient. 

Ostrich Ferns massed with hosta. Private garden Mississauga, ON.

 Ostrich Ferns form a backdrop for hosta. Private garden Mississauga, ON.

Ferns are one of the perennials that form a backdrop for this pond on the Toronto Islands.

Maidenhair fern with their dark stems.

A closer look at Maidenhair ferns.

Maidenhair Fern in a private garden.

Blue Cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides (left) and a closeup showing the rachis and lime pinnules.

A Northern maidenhair fern surrounded by other shade perennials in Catherine's garden in Oakville, ON. Photo by Catherine Kavassalis

In my very dry garden, the extraordinary Northern maidenhair fern Adiantum pedatum spp. pedatum is the most admired by visitors. Though she would grow best in a moist woodland, a slowly spreading clump has established in my xeriscape that is visually stunning. 

In early spring, she unfurls her deep black rachis (stems) with lime pinnules (leaflets) in front of the purple shoots of blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) and it only gets more sublime as the season progresses. While she was at first in full shade, a neighbor removed a tree. She has continued to thrive in part sun with supplemental water during the hottest parts of summer.

A cascade of Little Bulblet fern, Cystopteris bulbifera in the sun.
   Photo by Catherine Kavassalis

The Little Bulblet fern, Cystopteris bulbifera, has tried to rival the maidenhair by popping up next to a display of daylilies and geraniums. In full afternoon sun, this pretty fern has created a picturesque landscape that draws the eye. 

The more observant will crouch down to find the treasure the Bulblet fern bears. Curled up on the backs of fertile fronds are little gems - adorable baby ferns that can be shared with friends or used to create new drifts in the garden.

Drifts of ferns can be lovely. Roy Diblik, landscape artist and author of the book The Know Maintenance Garden, created a beautiful design using two of my favourite evergreen ferns, Polystichum acrostichoides and Dryopteris marginalis (seen below). He recommends planting these in drifts with sedges: Carex pensylvanica, C. brevior and C. grisea. Geranium maculatum, Mertensia virginica and Caulophyllum thalictroides are suggested as accents along with a few inter-planted bulbs of Narissus ‘February Gold’ and ‘Thalia’ to create a striking low maintenance fernery. Pure genius.

Lady Fern, Athyrium felix-femina' Lady-in-Red'

If you are limited on space, a pretty Lady Fern, Athyrium felix-femina takes up little room but adds effortless beauty. From the native to the many cultivars, like ‘Lady-in-Red’ or ‘Frizelliae’ there are many variants to enjoy. Lady-in-Red with its splendid red rachis can be used as a vivid accent to bring out the reds in neighbouring Red barrenwort, Epimedium × rubrum.

Japanese Painted Ferns

A Japanese Fern mixed in with Heuchera and Hosta. Private garden Oakville ON.

Japanese Painted Fern in a private garden in Mississauga, ON.

Japanese Painted Fern, Athyrium niponicum 'Burgundy Lace' (left) and Coral Bells, 
Heuchera 'Berry Marmalade'.

Or you can go exotic and use an Asian Athyrium niponicum var. pictum cultivar with a matching Heuchera, and a contrasting Hosta for simple perfection in the shade. There are now many other easy care ferns from around the world on the market, like Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora, that will make you weep for more garden space. Begin with a few and soon you will be adding more and more. Ferns are simply fabulous.

Hosta 'Joy Ride' (left) and Japanese Painted Fern, Athyrium niponicum var. pictum 'Silver Falls'

There are now many other easy care ferns from around the world on the market, like Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora, that will make you weep for more garden space. Begin with a few and soon you will be adding more and more. 

Ferns are simply fabulous.

A Selection of Ferns for Moist to Wet Soils

Maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatum
Native Range: North America, Asia 
Height: 30-75 cm (1-2.5 feet)
Spread: 30-45 cm (1-1.5 feet)
Light & Exposure: Part-shade to shade–a woodland fern
Zone: 3-8
An unusual deciduous fern with curved reddish brown to black stems and arching compound fan shaped blades. Stunning. Most lush in humus-rich moist soils, but it adapts to average garden conditions. Best in bright shade. It is also worth finding a spot for its cousin, the dainty semi-evergreen Himalayan Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum venustum. 

Hart’s tongue, Asplenium scolopendrium

Native Range: North America, Asia 
Height: 30-45 cm (1-1.5 feet)
Spread: 30-45 cm (1-1.5 feet)
Light & Exposure: Shade–on moist rock piles
Zone: 5-9
With its erect arching tongue-shaped leaves, this evergreen fern forms lovely clumps in deep shade. American (var. americana) plants are tetraploid and have smaller leaves than their diploid European counterparts. If seeking native species, verify the plant source at your local nursery.

Walking fern, Asplenium rhizophyllum
Native Range: North America
Height: 15-30 cm (6-12 inches)
Spread: 15-25 cm (6-9 inches)
Light & Exposure: Part-shade to shade–a moss rock fern
Zone: 5-8
This fern is characterized by pretty lance shaped leaves that arch over mossy rocks and sprout babies from their tips. An attractive colony can form over mossy rocks. Not for beginners.

Deer fern, Blechnum spicant

Native Range: Northern Hemisphere
Height: 22-45 cm (9-18 inches)
Spread: 30-60 cm (12-24 inches)
Light & Exposure: Part-shade to shade–average to moist coniferous woodlands
Zone: 5-8 
This fern forms neat tufts of  mostly evergreen leathery fronds that are simple pinnate. It spreads with creeping rhizomes. Erect fertile fronds form an attractive vertical spray surrounded by a fountain of sterile. Prefers acidic soils.

Spinulose wood fern, Dryopteris carthusiana

Native Range: Northern temperate regions
Height: 60-90 cm (2-3 feet)
Spread: 60-90 cm (2-3 feet)
Light & Exposure: Part-shade to shade–moist woodlands and conifer plantations
Zone: 3-8 
Easily grown, this is classic clump forming woodland fern. It has bright green lace shaped bi to tripinnate fronds that are a favourite of florists for greenery. 

Male fern, Dryopteris filix‐mas 

Native Range: Northern temperate regions
Height: 60-90 cm (2-3 feet)
Spread: 60-90 cm (2-3 feet)
Light & Exposure: Part-shade to shade–dense forests to open woodlands
Zone: 4-8 
This is an easily grown classic vase shaped deciduous fern. Can grow in average to wet soils. It is a nice filler plant. The narrow statueque 'Barnesii' would be a nice companion beside a woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) or Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginiana). 'Fluctuosa Cristata' (also called 'Parsley') is a ruffled, dwarf cultivar that can go into dry shade or containers. A heritage variety prized by Victorian collectors, 'Grandiceps Wills,' with its bunched tasseled arching fronds, is also worth planting.

This is just a sampling, the choices are vast!

This post was written by Catherine Kavassalis

About Catherine:

Catherine Kavassalis is a passionate gardener and conservationist. A scientist, educator and inspirational speaker, Catherine endeavours to stimulate interest and awe in the living world. She is member of the Halton Master Gardener group, the Past President of Oakville Horticultural Society and a former member of the Board of Directors for the Royal Botanical Gardens. Catherine loves to garden and has had her own eclectic organic garden featured on several tours.

For more on cultural conditions of ferns, visit the authoritative Hardy Fern Foundation hardyferns.org 
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by Catherine Kavassalis

Ferns are extraordinary plants. From deserts to the arctic, ferns grow around the globe, with some 12,000 species in 45 families. They share a truly ancient lineage tracing back more than 400 million years. 

Ferns mixed with Solomon Seal in the display garden at Lost Horizons.

Newly emerging Ostrich ferns, Matteuccia struthiopteris

Dryopteris filis-mas 'Crispa Cristata'

Ferns and other shade lovers in the display garden at Lost Horizons.

Over that expanse of time, great diversity has evolved. From the minuscule pond plants to towering trees, ferns come in a huge range of shapes and sizes. While most ferns are terrestrial, some live on rock cliffs, others on trees and still others underwater. 

Some may live for decades underground, like the Adder’s tongue Ophioglossum reticulatum. That outstanding fern has the highest chromosome count of any known living organism – up to 1,260 chromosomes (compare that to 46 in people). 

With such extraordinary variety, the fascinating lives of ferns are worth getting to know.

The underside of a Japanese Beech Fern, Phegopteris decursive-pinnata.

The underside of a Barnes Narrow Male Fern, Dryopteris filix-mas 'Barnesii'.

The feathery fern that comes to mind when we picture a fern belongs to the plant in its spore-producing phase. This sporophyte is only half the story. 

Unlike most plants, ferns can live two quite distinct lives. A fern in the sporophyte phase can reproduce vegetatively (clones) or it can release spores. Unlike seeds, spores have just one set of chromosomes. 

These haploid spores can still transform into small plants. But these plantlets, called gametophytes, look nothing like their parents. They are small, easily overlooked, and often resemble little green hearts. 

Though a few ferns will stay in this phase indefinitely (like the Weft Fern - Trichomanes intricatum in Ohio), most will grow sex organs that produce ova (eggs) and sperm.  Those flagellated sperm need the right conditions to swim to an egg on a different gametophyte. Only once an egg is fertilized can a new sporophyte develop. It is really quite remarkable.

If I had to choose one fern to grow, it would be a Royal fern (Osmundaceae). Why? Fossils of royal ferns dating back over 200 million years show that these ferns have changed little over time and were underfoot while dinosaurs trotted about the land. 

How cool to grow a Cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) and watch little ruby throated hummingbirds collect the downy wool (indument) to line their nests knowing that Jurassic birds may once have flown above this same fern. Alas, I have trouble growing Cinnamon fern in my dry sandy yard. Like most ferns native to North American woodlands, it prefers moist soil in shade or part shade. 

I am able to grow its beautiful cousin, Royal fern, Osmunda regalis in a manufactured bog (pond liner under ground) with the prehistoric looking Equisetum hymenales. This horsetail fern is easy to grow in any water holding container and makes a very attractive display on decks in full sun or tucked into perennial borders. 

Consider adding aquatic four leaf clover ferns (Marsilea sp.) or one of the lovely aquatics like Salvinia molesta or Azolla filiculoides. BUT KEEP THESE AWAY FROM WATERWAYS, AS THEY ARE HIGHLY INVASIVE!!!

A Selection of Ferns for Average to Dry Soils 
It should be noted that the division of ferns into two lists, one with recommendations for ferns for average to dry soils and another for ferns for moist conditions (in part 2), is somewhat arbitrary. There are many other conditions at play (soil texture and drainage, soil/rock/substrate temperature, slope, air flow, light intensity, etc.), so please bear that in mind.

Maidenhair Spleenwort Fern, Asplenium trichomanes 
Native Range: Six distinct taxa around the globe
Height: 20-30 cm (8-12 inches)
Spread: 20-30 cm (8-12 inches)
Light & Exposure: Part-shade to shade–Xeric 
Zone: 3-9
This dainty evergreen fern has striking black stems and round pinnules. It forms irregular clumps. Great for rock gardens. It is a variable fern with six subspecies; some thrive in acidic soils (ssp. trichomanes) others alkaline (ssp. quadrivalens). Incredibly tough once established.
Lady Fern Athyrium filix-femina (Northeast)
Native Range: North America, Asia 
Height: 30-100 cm (1-3 feet)
Spread: 30-75 cm (1-1.25 feet)
Light & Exposure: Part-shade to shade (tolerates part-sun with watering) 
Zone: 4-8
This is an easy-care classic fern from with finely divided light green fronds growing in attractive clumps. Recommended cultivars include: ‘Encourage,' 'Victoriae,' and ssp. cyclosorum.

Japanese Painted Ferns, Athyrium niponicum 
Native Range: Asia 
Height: 20-45 cm (1-1.5 feet)
Spread: 30-60 cm (1-2 feet)
Light & Exposure: Part-shade to shade (tolerates part-sun with watering) 
Zone: 3-8
Known for its pastel coloured gray-green fronds with reddish midribs, this deciduous fern with arching fronds should grace every shade garden. Recommended cultivars include: ‘Pictum,’ and ‘Pewter Lace,’ ‘Silver Falls.’
Hybrid Lady Fern ‘Branford’ (Hybrid A. filix-femina x A. niponicum)
Height: 30-60 cm (1-2 feet)
Spread: 30-60 cm (1-2 feet)
Light & Exposure: Part-shade to shade (drought tolerant) 
Zone: 4-8 
‘Branford’ was the “best looking” fern in late August after severe drought in the Chicago Botanic Garden trials (2015). It forms verdant mounds with wine colored stems and makes an attractive groundcover. ‘Ghost’ is a slower growing hybrid cultivar with silvery foliage, but it is not as drought tolerant as ‘Branford.’

This post was written by Catherine Kavassalis

About Catherine:

Catherine Kavassalis is a passionate gardener and conservationist. A scientist, educator and inspirational speaker, Catherine endeavours to stimulate interest and awe in the living world. She is member of the Halton Master Gardener group, the Past President of Oakville Horticultural Society and a former member of the Board of Directors for the Royal Botanical Gardens. Catherine loves to garden and has had her own eclectic organic garden featured on several tours.

For more on cultural conditions of ferns, visit the authoritative Hardy Fern Foundation hardyferns.org 

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by Signe Langford

Also known as Saskatoon berry and June berry, these tasty tidbits got the name Serviceberry from settler days; when the trees were in bloom, it meant the traveling church services were coming to town.

I love this shrubby tree so much I could have acres and acres of it; and if I had acres and acres of it, I’d still want more. The flowers are pretty and delicate, and they bloom early, which is nice for the pollinators. The fruit is delicious and prolific; the berries are prized by robins, waxwings, and squirrels, so any I can’t reach get eaten up, while any windfalls go to my hungry hens. And in the fall, the leaves turn pretty yellowy-red-orange.

Photograph by Signe Langford

The berry isn’t strongly flavoured like a raspberry; it’s more subtle, somewhere between cherry and blueberry. The riper it is, the softer, darker, and more flavourful it becomes. When I crunch down on the tiny seeds, my mouth fills with the taste of marzipan, which is a real treat! The berries are perfect for jams, compotes, pancakes, fruit salads; really, anywhere you might include blueberries or cherries. But, more often than not, I simply stand under my trees, picking and eating, and giving the squirrels the stink eye.

In the garden, it’s pretty tolerant, but it does best with lots of sun, and it doesn’t like being thirsty. Treat it like a shrub or tree and prune it into the desired habit. Plant several, about two to three feet apart for a beautiful edible fence.

Photographs by Signe Langford
Serviceberry 101

Amelanchier alnifolia–Alder-leafed Serviceberry, Saskatoon berry
A. canadensis–Shadblow, Shadbush
A. laevis—Allegheny Serviceberry
A. stolonifera–Running Serviceberry
Zones 3–9
Height to 25 ft/7.5 m
Spread to 30 ft/10 m
Sun to part shade
Acidic, fertile, moist, well-draining soil (A. alnifolia tolerates alkaline soil)

Photograph by Signe Langford

Serviceberry Lemon Olive Oil Pancakes
Baking sweet things with olive oil is something that many of us North Americans come to later in life…usually after someone from Italy, Greece, the Middle East, or North Africa smacks us upside the head! Seriously, baking with olive oil is worth a little smack upside the head.

These easy pancakes are lemony and rich and generously studded with serviceberries. If you can’t find Serviceberries or Saskatoons, blueberries will do nicely.

If maple sugar is unavailable, use brown sugar.


1–1 1/3 cups (250–330 mL) flour

¼ cup (60 mL) sugar

3 Tbsp (45 mL) maple sugar

2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder

½ tsp (2 mL) sea salt

1 cup (250 mL) whole milk, buttermilk, or plain kefir

3 Tbsp (45 mL) lemon olive oil, plus more for frying

1 free-run egg

1 cup (250 mL) fresh or frozen serviceberries


Preheat oven to 200F (100C) and leave a baking sheet or oven-proof dish in there to keep pancakes warm, batch by batch.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In a small bowl, beat egg thoroughly then add milk (or buttermilk), oil, and combine thoroughly.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and slowly add the egg-milk mixture. Add the melted butter and vanilla. Stir quickly until ingredients are just mixed and batter is still lumpy in appearance. Add the berries and fold in, just to combine.

Drop by quarter cupfuls on an oiled, medium-hot pancake griddle or non-stick pan; cook until bubbles appear on top and the under-side is golden brown. Turn and brown the other side.

Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Serves 2 – 4

This post was written by Signe Langford

Signe Langford is a restaurant-chef-turned-writer who tells award-winning stories and creates delicious recipes. She is a frequent contributor to the Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Life, Canadian Living and Garden Making magazines. In 2105, Signe published her first book Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden- with 100 Recipes

Raised in the town of Hudson, Quebec Signe grew up surrounded by an ever changing menagerie of critters, both wild and domestic, and her special affection for all feathered creatures has never flagged. At present, she shares a downtown Toronto Victorian with a tiny flock of laying hens. For more stories and recipes please visit www.signelangford.com
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This year Through the Garden Gate will explore 19 gardens in Windfields Estate (west of Leslie Street and North of Lawrence Avenue). The Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG), which is right next door to this neighbourhood, will serve as this year's tour headquarters.

This self-guided tour invites participants to discover the gardens at their own pace following a map and garden guide that contains descriptions of each featured garden. A complimentary shuttle bus service is available for participants to “hop on and hop off” along the route.

Knowledgeable Toronto Master Gardeners will be stationed in each garden to answer questions about the plants and the design features. Each garden highlights interesting plants andgarden design lessons including:

• How to create a certified wildlife habitat
• What plants to use in a shade garden
• Ways to use colour to marry your house and garden
• How to deal with elevation changes or a sloping landscape
• How to create a dog-friendly garden
• What plants to choose plants for all-season bloom

Tour headquarters

The tour headquarters is located at the Toronto Botanical Garden (777 Lawrence Avenue East), at the corner of Lawrence Avenue and Leslie Street. As well as visiting the 19 gardens on the tour, ticket holders can also enjoy a stroll through the beautiful display gardens,  do a little shopping at the Garden Shop and enjoy lunch at the TBG Café.

For a different way of experiencing the gardens, join this guided tour and pedal around the route accompanied by a Master Gardener on wheels. Snacks, picnic lunch and a glass of Biodynamic Bubbly is included. This group bike tour is conducted in partnership with Toronto Bicycle Tours and is suitable for beginner to advanced riders.
$99/person + taxes (Optional bike rental $50 + taxes)

One-Day Pass: Public $45 / TBG Members $40
Two-Day Pass: Public $65 / TBG Members $60
Students $25 (With ID, One-Day Pass Only)
Tax included. Tickets are limited, advance purchase recommended.

For more information or to purchase tickets contact 416-397-1341
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Fleece Flower is a name that may strike terror into the heart of anyone who has had a run-in with Japanese Knotweed. I've struggled with Knotweed myself, and can tell you firsthand that it is a horribly invasive plant that is next to impossible to irradiate. 

Fleece Flower, Persicaria polymorpha and Knotweed look very similar, so the confusion with these two plants is understandable. But unlike Knotweed, Persicaria polymorpha does not spread or self-seed. It's a clump forming perennial that has been well-behaved in my garden for at least a decade.

Fleece Flower in my garden.

Giant Fleece Flower (on the middle right) mixing in with other late season perennials 
at Grange Hollow Nursery.

Though it has the proportions of a large shrub, Fleece Flower is a herbaceous perennial that dies right back to the ground in fall. New growth rockets upward each spring, and by the end of June, it's almost six feet tall. In July it is covered in big white plumes. As they age, the flowers take on an attractive pinkish hue (see picture above). The flowers do have one minor flaw. Their fragrance is acidic and a bit unpleasant (in my humble opinion).

My Persicaria polymorpha is in a somewhat sheltered spot against a fence, but the plant's stems are so sturdy I don't imagine you'd have to stake them even in a more open location. My plant gets morning sun/afternoon shade, but I have seen them planted in full sun.

Fleece Flowers are pretty adaptable to a range of soils. I have never had to water my plant, even during a drought, so I'd say it's pretty adaptable to a range of moisture conditions as well. 

Japanese Beetles seem to the only pests. They haven't been a huge nuisance, but they do like the flowers. 

Plant type: Perennial

Height: 3-6 ft

Spread: 3-5 ft

Flower: White

Bloom period: Summer

Leaf: Green, lance-shaped leaf

Light: Sun to part-shade

Companion Plants: Ornamental grasses, Echinacea, Rudbeckia

Divide: Spring or fall

Problems: Japanese Beetles

USDA Zones: 4-9
 Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon' at the Niagara Botanical Garden 

Fleece Flower, Persicaria microcephala can be a problem plant. The species plant is native to China where it can be found in moist grasslands and forested areas.  It spreads by stolon or runners which are stems that grow at the surface or just below the ground.

Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon' is a sterile cultivar that is clump-forming. The reason to grow this perennial is the interesting lance-shaped foliage with its lipstick red stems. The leaves are purplish-brown with a blue-green chevron in the spring. By summer the leaves are silvery-purple and become greener in the fall (in hotter climates the leaf color change may not be as dramatic).

'Red Dragon' has small white flowers from September to October.  Like Giant Fleece Flower it is tolerant of a number of soil types including clay'Red Dragon' prefers somewhat moist conditions, so water it well especially in its first year. 

I have tried to overwinter this plant without success. In colder climates, like mine, you may need to grow this as an annual or overwinter it in a protected spot.

Plant type: Perennial

Height: 23-35 inches (60-90 cm)

Spread: 23-35 inches (60-90 cm)

Flower: Tiny white flowers

Bloom period: Summer

Leaf: Lance-shaped, green, silver and bronze leaf

Light: Sun to part-shade

Divide: Spring or fall

Problems: No serious problems

USDA Zones: 5-8
Red Dragon Persicaria - YouTube
A really short Youtube video that may give you the best idea 
of the size and shape of 'Red Dragon'
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