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

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….

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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…

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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….

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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!
Aileen

How can you keep your lawn healthy when it’s hot and dry? If you want a green lawn when the weather is hot and dry, it is going be tough, as you are fighting Mother Nature. You see, in northern climates, including Southern Ontario, turf is composed of cool season grasses such as Kentucky Blue Grass, Fescues and Perennial Ryes. Their most active growing periods are in the spring and fall when temperatures are moderate and precipitation events are more frequent. These species have their dormancy period during the hot and dry summer months and over the winter.

Lawns in northern climates naturally go dormant when the weather gets hot.

So, our turf is smart; it knows when the best times of the year are to grow and which ones are not. When it gets hot and dry, the grass begins to go dormant to protect itself from stress, damage and possible death. According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, healthy cool season turf grass can survive up to six weeks without rain during the summer.

If your grass goes into dormancy (turns yellow), and then you decide to water it, you can cause a lot of stress. Consider being woken from a sleep with a bucket of cold water, it would be a bit of shock. However, grass can get up and run after the culprit…

Keeping your grass green and lush during a hot dry summer will take work and a LOT of water. You will have to continue to water your lawn throughout the summer to prevent the grass from ever going into dormancy. It may mean a fabulous looking green lawn, but you are breaking the turf’s natural tendency to go into dormancy. You will also be wasting drinking water, water that has to be pumped, purified and delivered to your tap by your local municipality. That takes a lot of energy, energy that causes carbon emissions, contributing to smog and poor air quality. And then you get your water bill… Although we don’t pay a lot for water in Canada, it still adds up.

Basically you have three options for your lawn;

Option 1: Let it go into dormancy. Stay off it at this time and monitor for chinch bugs, which may take advantage of your sleeping lawn. (see http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/08-019.htm  for details)

The benefits:

  • You won’t have to mow your lawn so often.
  • Less money spent on your water bill.
  • More time to spend doing fun things with your friend and family, instead of worrying about your lawn.
  • You be reducing the demand on municipal water systems and air quality.
  • No more wrestling with the hose.
  • You are helping the environment by doing absolutely nothing.

Option 2: Be that guy and spend your free time, energy and money fighting Mother Nature to keep your lawn from going dormant. You may have the best looking green lawn on the block, but you may end up being the oddball on the block.  Across Canada, almost half of the population no longer waters their lawns, less than 20% water their lawns on a regular basis.

A green lawn that will need a LOT of water!

The benefits:

  • A green lawn that stands out. Neighbours will walk by and comment on how your lawn is one of the few on the block with a green lawn.
  • The time spent watering and mowing your lawn means you will have less time to spend with your in-laws.
  • Who know what fabulous ideas you will come up with while you spend hours mindlessly watering and mowing the lawn?

Option 3: Consider alternatives to turf. Typically you see suggestions to get rid of your lawn and plant a garden. Healthy turf can go six weeks without water. If you are replacing your lawn with a garden, make sure the garden won’t need more water and maintenance than the lawn would have. Consider sedums, succulents, decorative stonework, mulched areas, larger deck and outdoor living areas or more tree and shrubs (with mulch, good soil and the right species, an established shrub bed can last weeks in a dry spell). You could also try a clover lawn, which stays green in the summer and fixes its own nitorgen, eliminating the need for fertlizer!

The benefits:

  • A trendy, easy to care for alternative to the suburban lawn.
  • Better looking landscape in a drought.
  • NO MORE MOWING.
  • More livable space to spend all the extra time you will have with your loved ones.
  • Better curb appeal for your home.

Some ideas:

A lawn alternative idea for a sunny spot. From www.gardensnob.com

Lawn alternative for shade. From www.richlanddesign.com

A little bit of grass in this one… but you get the idea. From http://www.alonsolandscapeservice.com

Here is a link to another blog with some nice ideas for lawn alternatives: http://jocelynsgarden.blogspot.com/2011/08/garden-designers-roundtable-lawn.html (it is from down south, but use the concepts, they still work up north).

It’s your choice folks.

Happy gardening….

Aileen

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.

Here is my presentation “Garden Maintenance Shortcuts”. Not too much text or a lot of explainations, but let me know if you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer! Don’t be a slave to your garden.

Garden Maintenance Shortcuts RMSi 2012

Creeping Phlox

May 23, 2012

Creeping Phlox

This perennial is a classic for any garden, especially rock gardens.  The early spring bloomer comes in many colours including pink, white, purple, red, mauve and even candy striped. It is very easy to care for, if you want to deadhead after it blooms, a simple chop with your garden shears and you are done. Keep in mind that the creeping phlox blooms early, but it’s tidy, mounded shape and thin green leaves make it a good border plant for taller perennials that flower later on in the season.

Creeeping Phlox in shade

I find Phlox very well behaved and will not wander too far from where you plant it or show up in an another area of your garden where you didn’t plant it.

Hot Pink Phlox in shade

The technical info:

Bloom: April to May

Exposure: Full sun to part shade (full shade under deciduous trees)

Water: Because this plant blooms early, has a mounded shape and thin needlelike leaves, this plant needs very little water, if any, once it is planted.

Combination ideas: Its low growing behaviour will frame medium sized plants such as Echinacea, Little Blue Stem, Coral Bells or Hostas. Add it to the base of a few smaller shrubs with purple leaves such as Japanese Barberry for a sharp colour combination of easy, low maintenance plants.

Creeping Phlox with iris

Shopping: This is very common plant that is easily found at garden centres. The only hunting you might have to do is if you are looking for a particular colour.

Happy gardening!!!

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!!!

Hello!

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!

Aileen