Need Help?

Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

See website, design work and favorite flowering plants at

Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

See my work on Pinterest at Garden Guru Montreal


Take a Look at This Rose!

A pleasant surprise popped up in my email this morning. Garden Gate eNotes sent me a gardening tip that brightened up a cold winter day. It’s about the Double “Knock Out” Rose, rosa ”RADtko”. Based on the photo and details, this appears to be a very impressive plant. Here are some facts that make it noteworthy: - It is cold hardy to Zone 5 and is reported to be always in bloom from late spring until frost. Flowers measure  three and a half inches wide. Expect the plant to carry five flowers to a cluster and twenty five clusters per branch. This rose is mildly fragrant, drought tolerant and disease resistant.  Because it is self cleaning, it is regarded as an easy care plant. It grows three feet tall and wide. Flowers are cherry red and its glossy green foliage turns to burgundy in autumn. The plant is usually available at most nurseries. For those who prefer to shop for online, Hortico offers excellent prices on roses and an extensive selection. ”Knock Out” is a registered trademark of its creator, William Radler.


A Garden Makeover All Because of a Hedgehog

The hedgehog that lived in my backyard was much larger than the one shown here. Learn more about hedgehogs by clicking onto the above image.

Our back yard deck sat five and a half feet off the ground atop an enormous rock garden that measured twenty feet wide by sixteen feet deep. A previous owner, who had built it, did things on a grand scale. One day, a giant hedgehog decided that our deck would make a comfortable home and began to burrow into the sides of the rock garden just underneath the flagstones of the deck and up against the foundation of the house. He created a tunnel that ran twenty feet from one end to the other.

Soon, the flagstones began to shift. A few years later, they would sink into the tunnel. Although we had attempted to repair them several times, the hedgehog would undo all of our  work in a season. The deck had become a perpetual safety hazard and need to be replaced.

All of the contractors we approached insisted that the raised rock garden would need to be demolished, to facilitate construction, and of course, to evict the hedgehog. If it were to be done right, there would be  no options to economize. In destroying the deck, the contractor we chose also demolished the supports of the permanent overhead awning.That too would need to be replaced.

For the new deck, we chose a polymer material called Eon that would liberate us from the chore of deck restaining. For the awning, we found a polycarbonate material called Suntuf that offers protection against UV rays. We're hoping that the heat blocking properties of the translucent color we selected, metallic silver, will help reduce energy cost during airconditioning season.

When the project was completed, we mused that, for only $500, the provincial government would have trapped the hedgehog and released him into the wild. We didn’t trust the hedgehog; we were certain he would find us again, no matter where he was released. In the end, we had spent many multiples of that amount on the new deck.

Our next project was the surrounding lawn. A backhoe, used to demolish the old deck, had destroyed the grass. I had budgeted for landscaping but neglected to factor in the cost of carting away damaged sod. Even though there was a lot to haul away, I did not want a dump truck on my property. It was the rainy season and my clay-earth back yard was too boggy to support any heavy equipment without  leaving craters. It occurred to me that I might be able to “recycle", thereby saving  money and whatever was left of my back yard.

Fortunately, my assistant knew a lot about composting. He selected a forty- foot- long empty flower bed that ran along the  fence separating my property from my neighbor’s, and piled the damaged sod, face down, along the length of the fence. At several intervals, he would sprinkle compost starter on the pile, which I found at Veseys. Then water was applied  and  the piling  process continued. When the job was done, the new mound  was covered with fresh top soil left over from the resodding project. Looking at my back yard now, no one would know that I was composting. All that the eye can see is a neat brown flower bed waiting to be planted next spring.

The composting exercise was inspiring and I needed  to learn more about it. By coincidence, a book about composting arrived, by mail, a week later.  My review of that book will be posted here shortly.You can read it now at

P.S. The hedgehog  moved  into my neighbor's back yard.


Web Photos That I LIke

Clive Nichols photographs stately gardens in England and sells them on line. Click on the image to purchase. This photo bears reference number 043524 . Seen here are Achillea "Terra Cotta", Erysinum "Apricot Delight", Hemerocallis "Anzac", Rosa "Frensham", and Monarda "Gardener Scarlet". Notice the blue Salvia on the right. It offers just the right amount of blue to make the orange and yellow colors in this garden pop when seen from the opposite perspective.


Miracle Gro Complete Guide to Perennials: Book Review for


Miracle Gro Complete Guide to Perennials  Scott Aker & Laura Deeter, Meredith 

Amongst some gardeners, the Miracle-Gro company is reputed to have created some of the most eye catching TV commercials and print ads that have ever targeted plant lovers. They are very good at visualizing the successful results of proper feeding and care. However, the detail lavished in the preparation of this basic primer on growing perennials surpasses anything that they’ve done in their marketing department.

This is a popular priced book targeting a mass audience and yet the information between its covers and the quality of its color photographs are worthy of a book twice its cost. Not only is it comprehensive and illustrated in clear detail, but almost everything one needs to know about growing perennials may be absorbed by studying it’s pictures. In an age of instant messenger, a book that can instruct with such immediacy is a significant achievement.

With an economy of words, the editor and writers amply cover basic topics such as garden design, plant selection and planting instructions. Great attention is paid to every detail as the reader is guided, unambiguously and step by step, to becoming a perennial expert.

  The chapter on perennial care is a wonderful bonus because this is an area of expertise that determines the difference between a beautiful garden and a perfunctory collection of plants. Here too, the editor makes it so easy to follow. Another surprise is the inclusion of a ninety two page encyclopedia of perennial plants, enhanced with in depth information and color photos. This alone is worth the price of the book.

The greatest challenge facing any gardener of perennials is how to keep a garden in bloom from spring until autumn. Most perennials have a blooming period of no more than three weeks, and each plant has its particular time to bloom. For that reason, creating continuous blooms throughout the growing season requires strategic planning. Many of us have spent countless hours juggling planting blueprints to ensure that there are no gaps in blooming time. I wish that I could have read this book back then because it contains a brilliant bloom time guide that takes the guesswork out of creating a continuously colorfull garden.

The secondary title of this book is called “Techniques that guarantee a fabulous garden” Believe it!



Web Images I like

Here is an image of a four season garden from issue 26 of Garden Gate Magazine. The sketch includes ornamental grasses, bush clematis , a juniper and other perennials. The plans for this garden are available from the publisher. Click on the image to access their website.