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!

I moved into a new house in August and couldn’t stand the front yard. I got to work right away at adding some curb appeal. It wasn’t hard at all! The photo below was 7-8 hours work and $200 (being the end of the season, I got some great deals!)

At the beginning….


The Steps:

  1. Choose your Space – Consider location, snow piles, dog’s peeing, ease of mowing, postman paths and kid routes.
  2. Plan and Design – Iscape and other apps, use other gardens for inspiration, be realistic about the size and maintenance
  3. Utilities Check – Ontario One Call!
  4. Get Rid of the Grass – Dig it out, solarize or sheet mulching. Make sure you get rid of ALL the grass and roots
  5. Amend  the Soil – Compost made from yard waste/ vegetative matter is the best!
  6. Choose your Plants  – Consider hydrozones, choose non-invasive (watching out for “spreads easily” on the plant tag), use some native plants, shrubs are a must have and VERY low maintenance, look for drought tolerant, hardy perennials.
  7. Mulch –  natural products are the best (wood chips, cedar, pine bark), 2-3 inches
  8. Efficient Irrigation – water only when necessary – use your finger to see if the soil is dry down 2-3 inches before adding any water), check the forecast!

Digging the edge…


The Plants I used (although the weren’t planted in the “after” photo below”:

Daffodils – Narcissus

Purple Coneflower – Echinacea Purpea

Sedum Autumn Joy “Purple Emperor”

Dwarf Goatsbeard – Aruncus aethusfolius

Coral Bells – Heuchera “Peach Flambe”

The Shrubs:

Tiger Eye Sumac – Rhus Typhina “Tiger Bailtiger”

Ninebark – Physcocarpus opulifolius “Diablo”

Emerald Cedar – Thuja occidentalis “Smaragd”

Golden Globe Cedar – Thuja occidentalis”Golden Globe”

 Almost done….


What I wanted to Plant if I had more sun….

Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia

Allium – Allium Spp – they are all great but have to be planted in the fall

Butterfly Weed – Asclepias tuberosa

Variegated Iris – Iris Pallida “variegata”

 Time and Water: Precious resources wasted on the pursuit of a green lawn!

How to save money on your new garden?

  • ˜Fall Discounts – up to 50%, but no warranty…
  • ˜Donations from friends– but be CAREFUL!
  • ˜Buy bulk mulch and compost
  • ˜Investment plants; shrubs and perennials – no annuals
  • ˜Less watering needed when planted in the fall – and choosing drought tolerant plants and shrubs means less/no watering next year!
  • ˜Reuse the existing plants until fall sales start (if you are impatient like me…)
Its not that hard, let me know if you have any questions!
Happy Gardening!

Click here for the link: RMSi Prescription Landscaping

Happy Gardening!


Black Walnut trees are native to Ontario. They are great trees for wildlife as they produce an abundance of walnuts in the fall. They can be quite a nuisance when they overhang your driveway, house or shed. We have four large Black Walnut trees along our driveway, all about 20 metres in height. When a big fat walnut falls from those top branches, it can cause a lot of damage. Our cars get dented, windshields get broken and we are often woken up by loud bangs in the middle of the night when a walnut drops onto the shed, house or a car.

Black Walnuts produce "juglans" which limits what you can grow under them.

The walnuts are very messy on the ground and if you are not careful, you can easily twist or sprain an ankle tripping over them. They are an all-u-can-eat buffet for every squirrel within squirrel-running distance. If you have a dog like mine that goes crazy for squirrels, this means a lot of barking in the fall.

There is one last one inconvenience with Black Walnuts in an urban setting; Black Walnuts have a natural herbicide in their roots, leaves and nuts called “Juglans” (their Latin name is Juglans Nigra) which limits what will grow under them. The production of juglans is the tree’s natural defense against competition for resources from other plants . Few plants can grow near walnuts because of the juglans in the soil, so the walnuts, and their offspring, get a better share of the space, water, nutrients, sun etc. It is quite a clever adaptation.  Fear not, there are many plants that are able to withstand the presence of juglans.

Here are some options for under a walnut tree:


  • Canadian Hemlock, Tsuga Canadensis *native
  • Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis *limited to zone 6
  • Southern Catalpa, Catalpa bignonioides
  • Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum


  • Cedar, Thuja species *native
  • Euonymus species
  • Daphne, Daphne mezereum
  • Mock Orange, Philadelphus sp.
  • Most Viburnum species *native
  • Rose of Sharon Hibiscus syriacus


  • Clematis species (some better than others)
  • Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia *native


  • Bee Balm, Monarda didyma *native
  • Bellflower, Campanula latifolia
  • Bloodroot, Sanguinaria Canadensis *native
  • Bugleweed, Ajuga reptans
  • Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)
  • Common Daylily, Hemerocallis species
  • Coral Bells, Heuchera
  • Cranesbill, Geranium sanguineum
  • Goldmoss Stonecrop, Sedum acre
  • Grape Hyacinth, Muscari botryoides
  • Great Solomon’s-Seal, Polygonatum commutatum
  • Hollyhock, Alcea rosea
  • Hosta
  • Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum
  • Jacob’s-Ladder, Polemonium reptans
  • Kentucky bluegrass,  Poa pratensis
  • Lamb’s-Ear, Stachys byzantina
  • Lungwort, Pulmonaria species
  • Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum *native
  • Showy Sedum, Sedum spectabile
  • Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana *native
  • Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica *native
  • Summer Phlox, Phlox paniculata
  • Sundrops, Oenothera fruticosa
  • Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum
  • Trillium White Wake-Robin, Trillium grandiflorum *native
  • Wild Bergamot, Monarda. fistulosa *native
  • Wild Ginger (European, not sure about the native variety)


  • Squash
  • Melon
  • Bean
  • Carrot
  • Corn

For more information and options visit:

Toronto Botanical Gardens: http://www.torontobotanicalgarden.ca/mastergardener/Juglone.shtml

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/info_walnut_toxicity.htm


From my seminar “20 Easy Plants” …

20 Easy Plants

Enjoy, and please let me know if you have any questions info@rmsi.ca or post a comment below.

Feel free to follow this blog for more info on smart, sustainable landscapes that are easily maintained and don’t need a lot of water, if any!


Garden Trends for 2012

January 26, 2012

It’s that time of year where we see what the trends in landscapes will be for the upcoming year.  There are common themes across the country, with a few differences in what the hot colours will be. One things for sure is the move back to sustainable gardening. Its time to put down the hose, connect the rain barrel and look for colour from something other than those water hungry impatiens.

Water soaked gardens are no longer trending... Say goodbye to those water hungry impatiens

From the Ottawa Citizen….


I love the oranges and blues in the garden. Got a wet shady area? Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) is a wonderful native plant, but only if the area has good moisture or you have a rain barrel nearby. Got a sunny, dry area? Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is gorgeous plant, but it won’t grow until mid-June when the soil warms up. It needs well-drained soil that won’t soak its root tuber over the winter.

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias Tuberosa) a wonderful option for a dry sunny garden.

From the Vancouver Sun….This has Amber and Black as trendy colours.


From Canadian Garden Centre and Nursery… This one puts water conservation up front.


From our neighbours to the south…


Start planning your sustainable garden for 2012!


I recently visited a garden planted with plants native to Ontario. The plants were covered in mildew and fungus, so I asked how often they were watering.  The manager told me that they had to water their newly planted native plant garden every day, ALL SUMMER because they were on clay soil and were having a hard time keeping them alive, even after adding lots of compost to the soil.

You should never have to water perennial plants every day in Ontario (unless they are planted in a major heat wave, which is never advised). The plants I saw in the garden were not only water-efficient plants, but they were plants that grow fine in clay; most of them actually prefer clay soils.

I tried to explain this to her, but to no avail. She insisted that the plants would have only survived if watered daily and that even then, they lost of a lot of the plants over the summer.

I see this time and time again, a there is a HUGE misunderstanding about how much water plants need. Watering a plant is not the way to keep them alive.  Plants need air and nutrients from the soil. If the soil is saturated with water, they plants have difficulty accessing the much needed air and nutrients in the soil, so they literally suffocate and then die.

When a plant is overwatered, the symptoms can look like what people assume is “thirsty” plant.  If your plant’s leaves turn yellow or brown, then that is usually a sign of too much water.  When a plant does not have enough water, the obvious symptom is wilt, not yellowing or browning leaves.

When is it time to water?

It is important to note that plants will show some wilting during a hot, dry and sunny day. Plants are not Einstein’s, but they do know enough to protect themselves during stressful periods such as hot, dry weather. They will pull the water from the leaves, into the roots, to prevent water loss through ‘transpiration’ (water loss due to plant “sweating”). They will then return the water to the leaves when the weather conditions improve.

So, if your plant shows some signs of wilt in the mid-afternoon sun on a hot summer day, then that is likely ok. Check back later on in the evening when it’s cooler. If your plant is wilted in the evening, morning or on a cool, overcast day, then this is a sign that they are stressed due to lack of water. This is when it’s time to get the watering can out.

All of this may seem too complicated or time consuming. We all have better things to do than to stand in the garden questioning the level and timing of a wilting leaf. My solution to you… the Finger Test!

How the finger test works (Yes friends, it’s time to get dirty):

Step #1 – Take your longest finger.

All you need is your finger!

Step #2 – Stick it into the ground up to your knuckle.

Step #3 – Do you feel moisture in the soil surrounding your finger?

→Yes – Then there is enough moisture in the soil, skip to step #7

→ No, the soil is dry – Go to step #4

Step #4 – Check the weather forecast, is rain forecasted in the next 24  hours?

→Yes = Skip to step #6

→ No = Go to step #5

→ I don’t trust the weatherman = Go to step #5

Step #5 – Turn your soaker hose on or use a watering can with water from your rain barrel and water the soil (not the plants) until the finger test shows good soil moisture. (Note: If you  don’t already have mulch on your gardens, add some, this will seriously extend the time between watering and leave you more time doing Step #7)

Step #6 – Let Mother Nature water for you and proceed to step #7

Step #7 – Sit back and enjoy a glass of wine in your water efficient garden!

Although we have an abundance of water in Ontario and in Canada, we shouldn’t be wasting it, especially in our gardens, to the detriment of our lovely plants!