20 Easy Plants

June 4, 2014

Here is the updated presentation on 20 Easy Plants from last night’s seminar:

RMSi 20 Easy Plants 2014

Happy Gardening!
Aileen

The qualities of Lavender seem endless; it is used for aromatherapy, antibacterial properties, cooking, insect resistance and many other uses. My preferred use is in my garden as one of my favorite focal points. It’s long lasting blooms and tough “I don’t need no water” attitude make it a perfect resident for a full sun, well drained, drought tolerant garden.

The perfect plant for a hot, sunny location

In the spring, it may look a little ragged. Feel free to cut it back a bit, or do as I do, just ignore it and wait for the new growth to cover up any ugly old growth. When it flowers you can cut off a few of the flowers spikes, tie them together and let them dry for an all-natural air freshener.

When out and about in your garden, try rubbing a few of the leaves into your hands for a nice aromatic scent while you weed, read or enjoy some wine. Lavender is reported to help you relax, so with some wine, you will no doubt feel great in your garden.

Even the butterflies love Lavender…

The technical info:

Blooms: From June through to end of summer/early fall

Exposure: Full sunColour: Lavender (yes, I get the irony)

Water: Lavender likes it hot and dry, the conditions it adapted to in its native climate of the Mediterranean and Africa.

Combination ideas: The greyish coloured leaves and light purple flowers go great with white, pink or dark purple colours. Avoid combining with plants with reddish or brown undertones. Try it with Salvia, Blazing star, Little Blue Stem, Catmint, or Shasta Daisies. Another option is to use lavender as a small hedge or border.

Shopping:  A very common plant, easily found in most garden centres. Make sure you get the English Lavender, which is hardy to zone 5.

Portulaca (Moss Rose) Portulaca Grandifolia

Annuals are a popular choice for gardens because they provide colour, all summer long.  There is a cost for all those colourful flowers; when a plant produces a flower, it’s like growing lots of little babies; it takes extra nutrients, water and sunshine to fuel the production of the flowers. The longer they are in bloom, the more resources they need. This means you will likely have to spend more time fertilizing and watering annuals to keep them going through the summer. There a few annuals that are a bit more efficient with their resources, saving you time. My favourite is the Portulaca.

These easy annuals come in a variety of colours.

I grew up with a front garden full of Portulaca’s that my Dad planted for my Mum, they were one of her favorites. I had no idea about plant biology, water conservation or gardening back then, but I loved the playing with their paper-like flowers and seed pods. Perhaps my love of gardening is “rooted” in my days playing with Portulaca’s in the sun?

Portulaca’s are a fleshy, succulent annual that love sunny, dry areas. Their multi-coloured blooms come out in the sunshine and then close up when the sun sets. They are great for containers, sunny rock gardens or hanging baskets.

Using these on your containers means a lot less watering needed.

The technical info:

Blooms: Daytime in the sun. Blooms from after the last spring frost through to the first fall frost.

Exposure: Full sun

Colour: White, Pink, Orange, Yellow, Coral

Water: How you use them will dictate how often you need to water. When planted in your garden, they may go all summer with no water. In a container, I have seen them last two weeks without water. In a hanging basket, they will survive a day or two without water once the soil has gone dry.

Combination ideas: I use these as a filler plant for my water efficient containers. They are also great as a border or in a rock garden to full any spaces between your perennials. They will go with many types of plants, but keep in mind that they often bloom in multiple colours, so adding them to an arrangement with a lot of different colours, may look a little busy. You can find them in single colour cell-packs, allowing you to work with a single colour.

Using Portulaca as a filler in your water efficient containers. (with Sedum “Angelina”, Coral Bells, Blazing Star, Creeping Jenny and Common Thrift)

Shopping: You may have to look a little harder for them at the garden centre as they are not as popular as the other annuals such as petunias or marigolds. They may not look like much in the cell pack, but they will grow and flower quickly once planted. Bradford Greenhouses had a four pack on sale for $0.79 last week!

 

Note: If you spend most of your time in the garden in the evenings, this may not be the plant for you, as you will miss the bright coloured blooms that only come out in the sunshine.

It had to be done. The Weigela branch with all its beautiful pink flowers had to be cut; it was broken. It was a painful thing to have to do, but I became brazen as I pruned out another branch that was shading a part of my window basket, impacting the plants in the basket’s growth.

This is what pruning is really all about – a sometimes painful process where you are cutting away all that growth which represents energy and time, time that you spent patiently waiting for the plant to come to its glory ….then you ruthlessly cut it away. But, done correctly, this effort means better health for the plant as well as its neighbours, amounting to a great garden.

The process is prune, patience, and then pleasure. But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t part with the perfectly laid out branch of pink blooms that I had waited so long for. So I decided to add another step to the process, which I call “prolong their presence”.  As I held this branch, I couldn’t help but think that it still had much to give, as did a few other plants in my garden.

I decided to throw these together into a vase and wow, was I ever rewarded! The new arrangement on my counter was absolutely stunning. I no longer had to peak out the window to enjoy these plants in bloom, I could just wander into my kitchen.

Soon after, I noticed my Euonymus had a growth spurt. It was now shading a good portion of my white columnar cedar. If I left those branches, they would shade my cedar causing a bald spot, so I did some more pruning. Next, I turned to my Saliva (nemorosa) and pruned a few of its flower heads that were nearing their end. Cedar saved, Euonymus shaped, more salvia blooms in the future and another great looking arrangement on my outdoor table.

The byproduct of Sabrina’s pruning…

Make the most of all your pruning. Remember to prune properly and at the right time in order to keep your plants and their companion’s healthy and happy.  We are already coming to a time where some early flowering shrubs and plants need to be pruned now before the season moves along. Here are some general pruning rules (and I do emphasize ‘general’).

1)    Prune right after flowering. Many flowering shrubs that have their blooms on now, and nearing their end will then take the rest of the season to grow more branches etc. On this new growth is where next season’s blooms will flourish. If you prune out these branches too late (i.e. in the fall or early next spring), you will prune the blooms ready for next spring.

2)    Do not prune out more than 1/3 of the total plant in one pruning; this may stress the plant.

3)    At any time, prune out anything that is dead or dying. You do not want the plant expending energy to this ‘injured’ part, nor do you want to leave this wound and invite further problems to the plant.

4)    Make clean cuts, preferable at the joint or intersection of two branches, so you are not left with half a branch oddly sticking out. The branch will usually start dying from the tip down, inviting pest or disease

Pruning need not be painful, do it correctly and at the right time and find pleasure in every stage of your plant’s lives.

Happy Gardening!

(This blog has been contributed by Sabrina who is  Program Manager with RMSi )

Sabrina

My sister recently told me that her lettuce wasn’t doing very well because she hadn’t had time to water it. I told her that shouldn’t matter, and she argued with me, telling me that lettuce needs lots of water. I like to test these “rules” in my own garden, which often makes for some interesting arrangements and results.

On May 5th I bought a mix of lettuce and planted it. I watered it on the day of planting and once after. As you probably recall, we had very little rain in Southern Ontario in the month of May, so my watering was the most the lettuce got.

I was pleasantly surprised how much my lettuce grew in that time.  I had my first salad from my garden this past Monday, and it’s still growing strong, ready for another harvest today. (I know we had a fair amount of rain this past weekend, but I my lettuce was growing very well before that).

My low water lettuce, with one harvest already done.

 

A little about the conditions of my garden; I have a raised garden/retaining wall, which is south facing and has a sandy loam soil mix (thanks to the previous owner). The retaining wall is crumbling, adding to the “well-drained” conditions of the raised garden. I have wood mulch throughout, and lots of it (the other day I was planting some Kale and realized there was over 6 inches of mulch in once area of the garden).

I grow a mix of perennials, annuals and vegetables in my garden, most planted somewhat haphazardly as I use my garden to test and experiment, rather than as a visual masterpiece. Sometimes this works in my favor and a neat little colour combination of plants will reveal itself…

Using lettuce to create foliage interest in your garden.

For the first time ever, my other half actually commented on how great the garden looked, and how beautiful the colours looked (he prefers grass to EVERYTHING).

Dianthus with some chartreuse lettuce for an unexpected colour combo. Both get very little water…

Am I telling you to push your plants into a perpetual state of thirst? Not at all. But stop over-pampering your plants, they are living things and they will adapt to the conditions to survive. They have root systems which will quickly grow or move to find moisture, and at the same time, they will shrink and limit growth if there is too much water. Play with the “rules” of gardening a bit and see what great results you may end up with. Less water will typically amount in better results than too much.

Happy Gardening!

Aileen