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

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

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Entries in easy-care garden (2)


What Happened to my Blue Dutch Irises?

As someone who loves blue flowers, I cannot find the appropriate words to describe the joy I experience when I see the blue variety of Dutch Irises in bloom. Nor can I begin to express how desolate I felt when I realized that this bulb will bloom for only two seasons here in USDA Zone 4.

Although this flower is just as important to my wife as it is to me - she used it as an accent flower in the pink-yellow-blue centerpieces for our wedding reception, many years ago - we are about to banish it from our flower beds.

The gardener, who strives to create an easy-care garden, has little interest in replanting the same spring flowering bulb each fall, or even every other fall. This hobbyist  prefers to plant a bulb, knowing that the work is an investment that will reap dividends for several years to come. That is why I plant daffodils and narcissus, species tulips, crocus, and several varieties of the Darwin hybrid tulip. All seem to re bloom for many years, just like most perennials do.

If catalogs that sell spring flowering bulbs would inform us honestly that Dutch Irises need to be replaced regularly, perhaps fewer gardeners would consider buying them. I will no longer plant them because I consider them an unwise investment and a waste of precious time and energy.

One of the joys of gardening is the thrill of what will bloom next. Anticipating the experience of seeing a spring flowering bulb in bloom and then realizing that it has withered underground forever, is not what enjoyable gardening is all about.

The other day, I received an email from a client inquiring if I had actually planted the blue Dutch Irises she had asked for, over three years ago. She knows how eager I am to please my clients, and being certain that she did ask for them, was puzzled when they did not bloom this spring. Even I was puzzled, because I remember not only her request but also the time I spent planting them. After reading her message, I went into my garden to look for the ones that bloomed there last year. The spot where they once flowered so beautifully was now bare.

In the future, there will be no more blue Dutch Iris bulbs planted in my garden or that of my clients. If I want to enjoy this flower, I will visit the nearest florist shop where the supply is more reliable. There I will choose a bouquet of the taller variety, just like the ones my wife selected for our wedding centerpieces.


Almost Maintenace Free: Convert a Front Lawn Into a Walk -Through Garden.

The maintenance of a grass lawn has become too great a responsibility for some homeowners. Others no longer consider a lawn a desirable feature for their property. With fresh approaches to landscaping, developing over time, some gardeners have begun to convert their front lawns into walk- through gardens. It is a mistake to assume that these transformations will totally liberate the homeowner from responsibility. Unless one is planting a jungle or a wildflower-and-grass meadow, there is no such thing as a totally maintenance-free front yard.

Leaving a front garden unattended creates a natural messiness that will depreciate the resale value of a home, destroy its curb appeal, and become blight to the neighborhood. Here are some suggestions for creating front, walk-through gardens that require minimal attention.

  • Weigela Fine WineUse low-maintenance ornamental flowering shrubs that add color or flowers. Vary the foliage, colors, textures, and heights of these shrubs to replace the dramatic interest usually supplied by high maintenance perennials. Consider Weigela  Minuet or Fine Wine.


  • Yucca is neat.Select only those perennials that are genuinely easy-care; Hosta, Astilbe, Liatris, Hemerocallis, Yucca, and Siberian Iris are among the easiest and neatest plants to grow. Avoid plants that spread vigorously, require staking or trimming, or that self-seed. For more suggestions, consult the book listed in the right column of this page titled “50 High-Impact, Low-Care Garden Plants".


  • Sunny Knock Out RosePlant self-cleaning roses and hardy shrub Roses that require no winter protection, such as Knock Out Roses, Rose Carefree Wonder or Rose Bonica. There is a very wide range of  hardy shrub roses that are easy-care.


  • Buxus Green MoundInsert low-growing evergreen shrubs into the plan to give the garden year-round color, and architectural volume.  Even when they are untrimmed, these shrubs will remain neat. Some Buxus varieties such as Green Gem or Green Mound will grow into a natural rounded shape of 3 feet in height and width.


  • Avoid the use of groundcover. This naturalistic garden treatment makes front yard  flowerbeds look messy.
  • Spread natural color cedar mulch over the beds to a thickness of three inches to inhibit the growth of weeds and to reduce the need for frequent irrigation.
  •  Keep a USDA approved organic weed killer handy to eliminate unwanted vegetation.
  • Avoid the use of cute, colorful, or humorous garden objects. These tend to make front yards looked unkempt. Instead, choose a bench, birdbath, boulders, or a fountain to add a focal point.
  • Do not plant haphazardly. Pay attention to the placement of tall and short plants. Especially in front yard gardens, tall ones are best in the back or center of a garden. Low plants look best as trim around the outer boundaries. This garden location does not lend itself to spontaneously varying the height of plants. Use contrasting foliage for highlight and dramatic interest.
  • Consider entranceways, walkways, and driveways as integral elements in the overall design. They should not compete with or be overpowered by, the garden. For safety, pathways need to remain clear of plants and the line of vision from the driveway should remain unobstructed.
  •  Respect the architecture of the home. Choose plants that will enhance the appearance of the home rather than become a distraction.