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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.

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

Variegated Sweet Iris – Iris pallida ‘Variegata’

This is my favourite perennial (although I say that about a lot of plants). This one is so easy to look after and does not become the clumping mess that some of the bearded irises often grow into. Its leaves are variegated which brings colour to your garden from April right through to snow fall. The sharp contrasting spikes add a great aesthetic value to any garden.

The best part about this iris is the flowers. They are lavender in colour, not such a big deal, but they smell INCREDIBLE! I tell people to plant these close to decks or other sitting areas so when they do bloom, you can pick up the scent while you relax in your garden. What kind of scent does this flower have? I think it is best described as grape candy.  When this one is in bloom, I spend more time than is considered normal with my nose stuck into them while inhaling deeply in a state of scenty bliss.

The technical info:

Exposure: This plant likes full sun (I have some in part shade, it doesn’t do as well, but it survives and flowers)

Water: I can’t recall ever adding water to this iris, expect the day I planted it. If it does need water, the leaves will show a slight droop. With good soil (compost) and mulch, I can’t imagine this would need water except in the case of a severe drought (four or more weeks with no rain or supplemental watering and very hot weather)

Notes: When it’s planted, make sure that the tuber base is not covered in mulch or soil, the tuber needs to get some sunshine.

I haven’t yet to have to divide these, and it’s been over five years since I have planted them.

I pull the dead flowers off after they are done (if I get around to it) and that is the only real maintenance I have ever had to do with this perennial.

Note: I have always looked for the one with the yellow variegations, not the white. I find them more attractive. They can be hard to find, but if you find them, buy them! You will thank me for it.

Combination ideas: Plant this with other plants with dark green foliage with yellow flowers (i.e. Coreopsis). Make sure to place near perennials with rounded leaves to capitalize on the two variations of leaf shape. Plant these in a groups of three at minimum, or in larger groups for larger spaces.

Happy gardening!!!

I thought I’d share some links with you…
A great lesson from Frank Ferragine (aka Frankie Flowers) on overseeding your lawn. Remember to use a mix of grass seed types for diversity and strength against drought and pests. Look for a mix a Kentucky Blue Grass, Fescue and Perennial Rye.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xijxjll7Y0M&feature=share
Frank’s website is now loaded with great resources on everything outdoors!
http://www.frankieflowers.com
Many of you are likely seeing damage from Meadow Voles in your lawns. Frankie talks about how to reduce and prevent the damage.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgM5jA2DVn0&feature=relmfu
A few short videos from our friends at Pathways to Perennials:
http://www.pathwaystoperennials.com/home-and-garden
A story from CBC radio’s “The Current” on how nature effects your brian, in a good way!
http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2011/05/04/urban-by-nature-documentary/
A blog about how important it is for us and for the kids to spend time outdoors in nature:
http://richardlouv.com/blog/
 
ENJOY!
Aileen