Plants of the week from Gardens4u, take five

These are my favourites for this week…

Traditional perennials: hostas

hostas are great at the front of a border or bed and thrive in deep shade through part sun.  Most hostas prefer shade, but those with yellow leaves or fragrant flowers prefer more sun.  They come in many colours and sizes these days from miniature to huge.  If you do plant the large ones, be sure to give them lots of space as they do not look their best when crowded.

Modern perennials:  geraniums, not the red annual type your grandmother planted, but the perennial variety

Perennial geraniums also look great at the front of borders or beds.  They tolerate shade and part sun.  I love them because they are the first to green up in the spring, offer some colour with the blooms, but look great even when not in bloom.  They come in many colors and sizes.  Some of the larger ones can tend to be floppy, so I stick to the smaller ones.

Shrubs: Black Lace Elderberry

The deep wine colour of Black Lace Elderberries look wonderful mixed with all of the shades of green in your gardens.  They die down to the ground each winter in my area, and are often slow to come back in the spring, but can grow to heights of six feet or more. This spring was so late and the winter so cold, I thought my black lace had died.  Thankfully I decided to give it another week, and sure enough, one week later it was one foot tall!  The pale pink flowers are pretty but I consider them a bonus as they don’t last long.  The dark coloured lacy foliage is the reason I love this shrub.  This season it is a great backdrop for my lily trees featured in the third picture.

Vines:  Silver Lace

Although the Silver Lace vine blooms in the fall and so not blooming this week, I am always suggesting it to my clients.  It is quick growing, covering any structure very fast with white lace like flowers, a beautiful sight in September through November.  Unfortunately I lost mine this past winter due to the severe cold weather we experienced.  It is only hardy to zone 5 which is pushing the envelope for my Ottawa garden.

Annuals: Coleus

Coleus are great for filling in blank spots and contributing splashes of colour in shady spots of your gardens.  I never used to like them, but after seeing them tucked in among perennials in a client’s garden, I’ve changed my mind and added some to my own gardens this year.  Coleus come in many combinations and shades of pink, red and green; all make vibrant additions to a garden or container.

Stay tuned for next week’s choices…

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My Favorite Perennial & Annual Plants

As a professional gardener, I often get asked what my favorite plants are.   I have favorites of both the perennial (they come back every year) and annual (plant new ones each year after the danger of frost has passed in the spring) variety, for different conditions in my garden…

For full sun, hot and dry conditions, I am very fond of ornamental grasses; there are many varieties, both annual and perennial, that range from short to very tall in height, all with different seed heads, colors, and leaf shapes:

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ornamental grasses

Most require very little care, simply cut back the perennial ones to a few inches early in the spring, before new growth appears.  If you don’t like the appearance of the brown, dead-looking grass in the off-season, you can cut the plant back in the fall instead, but I like the look of the grass in the winter landscape.  The annual variety dies as soon as frost arrives in the fall/winter, simply pull it out and discard it.

My new favorite perennial this summer is Russian Sage.  It blooms from July to October, with wispy pale purple flower stalks and fine, lacy leaves: gorgeous!

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Russian Sage

Russian Sage is also very easy to care for in your garden, in fact pruning is only necessary if the plant gets out of shape, which it rarely does.  If you do wish to cut it back, do so in spring, but wait until the new growth greens up.  Russian Sage, like the ornamental grasses,  also likes full sun and hot, dry conditions.

In part sun areas of your garden, my favorite perennial plant would be a geranium.  Not the annual red or white geraniums of your grandmother’s day that you put in planters each spring (these are my least favorite annuals) but the hardy perennial variety.  They come in many sizes and colors including blue, pink, purple, white, and magenta; all do well in part sun and part shade, some even tolerate full shade.  This picture shows only a few of the many varieties available:

Hardy-Geranium-Collection
hardy perennial geranium varieties

Another favorite part sun to shade perennial plant is sedge, which looks like a short version of the ornamental grasses mentioned above, but prefers moist soil and tolerate part to full shade.

My favorite annual plant continues to be Allium.  Alliums are bulbs, to be planted in the fall for a spectacular display in the spring and early summer.  They too like hot dry conditions in the garden.  To keep the squirrels from eating them on you, plant daffodil bulbs around the allium bulbs; squirrels hate daffodils!  Alliums come in blue, white, and my all time favorite, purple:

  allium Allium_Mont_Blanc allium-purple-sensation

Although I have not met many plants I do not like, i have decided recently that my least favorite is the purple sand cherry, known for its deep red/purple colored leaves.  It tends to look good for a few years, after which it tends to become leggy and out of control if not pruned hard and often.  I have encountered quite a few in the overgrown, neglected gardens I have restored this season; all were difficult to restore.  An easier alternative to the purple sand cherry would be a ninebark, weigela, barberry or black lace elderberry, pictured below in that order, all available in many varieties, and all with that nice, deep red coloring to contrast with all the green in your garden:

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purple sand cherry

ninebarkweigelaroseglow-barberry-eaglelakenurserisblack lace elderberry

Of course, these are MY favorites, I’m sure you all have your own.  Please feel free to share!