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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 garden design (142)


Blue Perennials

Imagine how dull this perennial flower bed might have appeared without the blue flowers. This image was posted on line by Rsc Hydroseeding & Landscape Construction Co. Click on the image to visit their site.Blue flowers and foliage make an invaluable contribution to the perennial garden.  Blue makes every other color in the garden look better. In my review of the book “The Passionate Gardener”, I quoted the authors when they praised the color blue:-

 “Blue is an amazing color, seemingly effective with every other hue. It’s elegant with white, pale pink and cream. It shimmers with silver and chartreuse leaves. It glows with fiery orange or scarlet and smolders with maroon and blood red.”

 Below is a list of reasonably tame blue plants that work well in a perennial garden. Two that I have omitted, Baptisia and Brunnera, do not make a substantial color contribution. Aconitum, which is beautiful in blue, is also omitted because nurseries warn that it is poisonous to the touch. Myosotis is excluded because its vigorous self seeding habit makes it an invasive weed.

 Agapanthus, Agastache, Allium caeruleum, Aubretia cascade blue, Camassia, Clematis Elsa Spath and others, Catanache caerulea, Caryopteris, Campanula Blue Clips, Campanula porscharskiana, Delphinium, Festuca Glauca, Gentiana makinoi, Hosta Blue Jay, Iris Germanica, Iris Siberica, Iris Pumilla, Lobelia speciosa, Lavandula, Nepata, Perovskia, Penstemon strictus, Phlox subulata blue, Platycodon, Polemonium, Primula denticulate blue, Scabiosa Butterfly Blue, Salvia, Tradescantia zwanenburg blue, Veronica.



The Perennial Gardener's Design Primer: Book Review for  

The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer            Stephanie Cohen & Nancy J. Ondra, Storey Publishing     

If this book had been available when I first started gardening, I would have saved both time and money and might have avoided frustration and disappointments. This publication allows the perennial gardener to skip past the trial and error stages of gardening and move directly into planting and growing pleasurable perennial gardens.

Whether one is a novice attempting a first-ever flower bed or a seasoned gardener re-configuring or enlarging a pre existing one, there is ample advice and encouragement to accomplish ones goals with confidence and satisfaction. The artistry of this book is that it is not necessary to read it from cover to cover in order to learn. Reader may select only those chapters that reflect the existing physical conditions of their gardening space or may chose to read about a specific style of garden they want to create.

One can find advice about a shade or a sun garden, a dry or a soggy location, a small flower bed or a meadow of wildflowers, a perfectly manicured border or a minimal maintenance garden. Whatever the readers’ choice, the authors offer guidance for plant site, bed preparation, flower selection and plant combination. Within each clearly defined type of garden there is a suggested list of very specific plants that have a proven track record for converting perennial gardeners’ dreams into reality.

There is an interesting rhythm to this book. Each author gardens according to her particular tastes and needs and writes about them with conviction. By juxtaposing two different yet respected points of view, the authors have created a primer with a double purpose. It emboldens the reader to embrace one’s own gardening style while at the same time offers more than one reliable path to perennial gardening success.



Are There Any Other Spring Flowering Bulbs to Plant?

Admirers have to be on their hands and knees to get this beautiful view of Chionodoxa, one of many miniature spring flowering bulbs. The flowers of this bulb are smaller in real garden life than they appear here.Except for some Allium bulbs which bloom later than Tulips and Daffodils, and which will soon get a blog of their own, the answer is "no"!  As you may have noticed, I have restricted my blog to Tulips and Daffodils. That is because they are reliable and if planted in drifts of 5 bulbs or more, they make an impressive color display in spring. Masses of color is what I care about when I garden.

That is why I am not impressed with most of the other spring flowering bulbs. In zone 5 where I live, Crocuses [or Croci] may or may not bloom depending on the depth of the snow banks that accumulated over the winter and also because of the frosty night temperatures that sometime occur in early spring. Hyacinths are too short to be noticed. All of the other teeny weenie bulbs are messy when they bloom and are almost impossible to see from far. They look great only in their commercial photos and when seen up close. However, being up close at ground level is not a natural position for humans. I suppose we might better appreciate these little bulbs if we were no taller than rabbits.


Jump Start the Color Display With Tulips

Choosing and planting Tulip bulbs in the fall to bloom in the spring can be a little trickier than selecting Daffodils. Only a few varieties are perennial. Most of the really pretty tulips have a short life. Plant them only if you don't mind lifting and and replaced them after a few years. That’s a lot of work. Perennial varieties of Tulips return year after year and will show no signs of waning if they are fertilized twice during the growing season.

Here is a list of perennial tulips:- Darwin Hybrids in colors of Red, Rose, Orange, yellow and two-tone, Emperor Tulips, some Triumph tulips, Species tulips, Gregeii tulips. There is a grove of red Kaufmania tulips in my garden that have been reblooming reliably for 15 years. For best results, plant tulip bulbs at least 8 inches deep to encourage them to perform as perennials.

Here‘s what to do to ensure that perennial Tulips bloom for many seasons. After the Tulip flower has finished blooming, cut down the stem and head of the tulip. In addition, cut down all of the foliage of that Tulip except for the one large leaf at the base of the plant; allow that leaf to continue to grow until it turns yellow. At that point in time, it may be discarded or can be camouflaged by summer perennials that will  hide it.

Under normal climatic conditions it is possible to protect Tulip bulbs from being eaten by squirrels. Sprinkle chili pepper flakes [capsicum] directly onto the tulip bulb after it has been placed in its hole. Then sprinkle more flakes on top of the earth after the hole has been filled. When squirrels have no problem foraging for traditional nourishment, the chili flakes are a sufficient deterrent. But be forewarned. In some area of North America this does not dissuade the squirrels. You will only know if it works where you live if you try it.

In the previous two blogs that dealt with spring flowering bulbs that are planted in fall, I recommended easy ways to purchase bulbs. That advice applies to Tulips as well.



Jump Start the Color Display with Daffodils and Narcissus

Daffodils and Narcissus are related bulbs that are planted in the fall for spring blooming long before most perennials begin to stir. They are the easiest spring flowering bulbs to grow. They naturalize well, i.e. each bulb returns the following season in a bigger and lusher clump than the year before. They make great cut flowers and squirrels do not disturb the bulbs once they are planted.

Any kind of Daffodil or Narcissus is welcome and there is no one variety in this genre that is ultimately better or more beautiful than another. The assortment from which to choose is extensive. Some are white, some are yellow and many have colored trumpets in wide assortments of color permutations and combinations. Some bloom early, some medium or late and some are taller or shorter than others.

This plant requires only three simple tasks to ensure quality blooms, season after season. At the beginning of the growing season, when the garden has just popped out of dormancy, fertilize the flower bed with whatever nutrition that has been selected for the rest of the plants growing in the garden. In later spring, after the bulbs have finished blooming, cut down only the stems of the dead flowers. Do not touch the leaves. Allow the leaves to continue to grow until they turn yellow. Then, one has the choice of either removing them if they are unsightly or of ignoring them if they will be camouflaged by perennials growing nearby. Eventually, they will disappear on their own.

If Daffodils and Narcissus bring a smile to your face, by all means, plant your own. Determine your requirements now and make your purchases quickly while the assortments are most extensive and inventories are high. Planting can be done anytime up until the earth freezes over.