Spring beauties

Wandering through my gardens this past weekend, I found these spring beauties…

Spring is my favourite time of year.  It has arrived a bit late here in Ottawa this year, but has finally arrived. You can see the exciting changes in the gardens daily as the bulbs burst into bloom and the perennials poke through the soil.


Save your banana peels for bulb planting

Yes, you read that right.  Now is the time to save your banana peels for bulb planting.  Over the years I have tried many things to deter squirrels from digging up the bulbs I plant in my GARDENS4U clients’ gardens as well as my own.

Placing a few strips of banana peel over the bulbs (or wrap each bulb in a piece of peel) in the hole you have dug seems to be the best method I have found, especially for single (and expensive!) bulbs like Lily trees …



Another trick is to plant daffodils and tulips in the same hole as that seems to deter squirrels too because they do not like daffodils…

We eat lots of bananas in my home.  I tear the peel from each banana into 6 pieces and store them in a plastic baggie in my freezer.  When I am ready to plant the bulbs, I have lots of banana peels to keep the squirrels away.


Try my banana peel trick and let me know if it works for you.  Now is the perfect time here in zone 4 to 5 for planting bulbs!


Snow day for Gardens4u

Today is a snow day for Gardens4u.  I tried hard to get all of my clients’ gardens ready for winter and bulbs planted this week before the snow hit, but will have to wait for better weather before I get them all done.  Fortunately, the weather forecast for the next two weeks is promising to be warmer and greener:

I have been hesitant to cut back most plants in their gardens (and mine too) because everything has looked so nice up until yesterday.  We have had a beautiful fall season with extended bloom on most perennials and annuals.  This snow will take its toll on these perennials and annuals, so they will be ready to be cut back when I get to them next week.

For those of you wondering if it is too late to plant bulbs, you can plant them until the ground freezes.  Plant them pointy side up, or if you are not sure which side is up, on their sides.  I sprinkle cayenne pepper in the holes with the bulbs and over the soil on top of the holes to deter the squirrels from digging up the bulbs.  Another trick is to plant daffodils in the same hole as the tulips.  Squirrels hate daffodils.  Someone told me to try putting banana peels in the hole with my tulip bulbs to deter squirrels.  I haven’t tried that trick yet, but it may be worth a try.  Don’t forget to water your newly planted bulbs.  If your hose has been disconnected and outside water turned off for the season, get some water from your kitchen sink to sprinkle over the planted bulbs.

The snow is pretty today, but I am glad it is not here to stay.  Yet…


Lily trees

For the past three years I have purchased lily tree bulbs in bulk to sell to my clients.  Whatever bulbs I do not sell and plant in my clients’ gardens, I plant in my own.  Every year there seems to be a new variety available in the lily tree bulbs.  The first season the plant grows to about three feet tall, the second year to about four feet tall and the third year over six feet tall.  Last year’s oldest plant had 16 blooms on it!  Here are a few recent pictures of the lily trees in my gardens…



I’m sure you agree, they are gorgeous!



my favourite to date; 5 beautiful blooms on one plant!

Amaryllis are beautiful anytime, but over the Christmas holidays they make a spectacular and dramatic decoration for your home.  Each year I plant several bulbs in early November so they will be in bloom in time for the holidays.  I sell them through GARDENS4U and give them as gifts, but always plant enough to ensure I have several to enjoy in my own home throughout the dreary winter months.  Follow this link to see  blooms from previous years AMARYLLIS

The amaryllis bulbs grow very quickly; you will see a change almost daily. These next pictures are from a pale pink beauty this past season:

Over the past few years I have learned a few tricks for keeping  amaryllis looking their best:

  • Plant the bulb in soil, leaving the top one third of the bulb exposed.
  • Choose a deep bowl to plant them in and insert a stake of some sort to tie the stalk to.  This will prevent the plant from tipping over when the blossoms in full bloom cause the plant to become top heavy:
  •  Keep notes of what the blossom colors will be (they come in a wide variety) so you can co-ordinate containers, especially if you plan to give them as gifts.
  • Add a few small decorations to enhance your container, especially during the initial  growing phase of the amaryllis before the flowers boom.  I buy my decorations at the dollar store to minimize costs.
  • Water sparingly (weekly) until flowers bloom, then water daily.
  • The brighter and warmer the area you grow them in, the faster they will bloom.  Once in bloom, changing their location to a less sunny, cooler spot will extend their bloom time.

When it is done blooming, if you wish to save your amaryllis bulb for reuse, follow these steps:

  • Once the blooms have all faded, cut off the flower stems just above where it comes out of the bulb.You might notice that the bulb is slightly softer or smaller than when you first planted it. (or received it) That’s because it has used up a lot of the material inside the bulb to make the flowers and stems you’ve just seen. It has to begin the process of restoring that material and fattening the bulb again.
  • To do this, you should treat your amaryllis bulb like a houseplant. If it is in a pot without drainage holes(many of my Christmas planters use inexpensive pots without drainage) transplant it to one with holes. As it grows more leaves, water it whenever the soil looks dry (sparingly) Once a month, add fertilizer to the water to keep the supply of nutrients available. Give it as much bright light as you can during the winter months. In summer, take it outside. Put it in bright or filtered light, but not direct sunlight.
  • By the end of the summer, it will actually feel much plumper and fuller. At end of September let the amaryllis bulb go dormant: Bring it inside, and stop watering it. Once the soil has dried out, the leaves will begin to die. When they have all turned yellow and then brown, the bulb is dormant. You can cut off all the leaves just above the neck and pull the whole bulb and root ball out of the pot. Shake off the soil and trim the roots back to about two inches. The bulb will look just like it was when you first got it.
  • Leave the bulb somewhere cool and dry until the beginning of November (if you want blooms for Christmas), when you can plant it in a pot of fresh soil and start the flowering process all over again. Plant so the top third of the bulb is exposed. It should take about a month after it’s planted for it to bloom. If you’re careful, you can keep this flowering-and-replenishing cycle going for years. The bulb will grow larger each year and gradually start producing second and even third flower stalks

Lily Trees for Your Garden

These spectacular beauties are lily trees.  The last two pictures are from my own garden one year after planting a single bulb next to my front lamp post.

These lily trees look beautiful at the back of garden borders where their foliage lasts all season providing a lush green backdrop for other perennials.  I have had problems with japanese beetles devouring other lilies I have planted previous years, but for some reason the beetles do not bother these lily trees.  Their stems are very sturdy, reaching up to 4 feet the first year and 8 feet in three years.  New stems form from a single bulb, with at least 4 massive, gorgeous flowers the first season, and up to 30 in three years. They come in many solid colors, including white, yellow, purple, pink as well as many combinations of those colors.

I have ordered thirty of these lily tree bulbs that are to be shipped from Holland shortly.  Including shipping charges and taxes, they are $8 per bulb.  Please let me know if you would like one or more for your gardens.  They should be arriving soon, to be planted this fall…

My Garden by Bloom Time…

This gardening season I took my camera outside often to capture my gardens in color; the following pictures are categorized by the bloom time of the plants.  Most are perennials that return each year, a few are annuals that I plant to fill in the bare spots…

Most of the color in my garden in May comes from bulbs:

with a few perennials adding some early color:

The color in May is rounded out by the beautiful, sweet-smelling blossoms on my apple and plum trees:

June brings more color from more perennials:

as well as from shrubs, bushes and an ornamental tree:

The lush greenery in June provides a beautiful backdrop for blooming plants:

Next comes July with more perennials:

my favorite annuals and bulbs:

and lots of roses:

the beauty of roses is that their bloom time extends well into the fall; some of mine are still blooming the end of October!

August brings more color in the form of additional perennials:

Still in bloom in August are all the roses above, as well as the russian, purple and pink sages, tickseed, cleome, clematis and daylilies.

With September comes the addition of silver lace vine,  purple aster, ornamental grasses, and autumn sedum  to all of the above plants that are still in bloom;

It is currently the end of October, and many of the above plants are still going strong, especially the roses, thanks to the beautiful fall weather we have been experiencing here in the Ottawa area.

Fall is the Perfect time to Plant your Garden

This is the best time to plant perennials, shrubs or trees, whether you are adding to an existing garden or planning a new one.   These items should be planted at least six weeks before the ground freezes to allow them to settle in before the cold weather hits.  Bulbs can wait a little longer, as long as they are planted before the ground freezes.  If you have been thinking of adding to your garden or creating a new one, get moving!

Many garden centers have price reductions on most perennials, shrubs, and trees this time of year, some quite drastic.  The plants may not look as lush as they do in the spring/summer, but they will survive and will look great next spring and summer.  If your garden is on a strict budget, this is the best time to plant to ensure you get more bang for your buck!

Be sure to read the labels, choosing plants hardy in your climate zone.  In the Kanata Ontario area, I stick to zone 4 or lower.  My front garden gets full sun with a southern exposure and protection from winter/north winds so I can stretch to a zone 5 in that area of my yard.  Also keep flower color, bloom time, shape, size, and foliage color in mind when making your choices.  Read the labels, and when you get your purchases home, place them in your garden, still in the pots, arranging them so there is a variation in the above characteristics.  For example, you don’t want three plants that bloom in may with pink flowers planted next to each other…

When you are satisfied with the placement, start planting.  Some plants will be root bound after sitting in their pots all summer at the garden center, meaning their roots are tightly wound together, often taking on the shape of the container.  You may even have to break the pot to get the plant out, but banging on the side of the pot with your trowel usually does the trick.  If the roots are very dense/compacted, cut into them with a sharp knife or another tool a few spots around the outside bottom edge.  This will allow the roots to spread out in the hole you are planting them in.  Dig a hole slightly bigger than the root ball, mix a scoop of bone meal or blood meal for root nourishment into the soil at the bottom of the hole, fill the hole with water, then add your plant when the water soaks in.  Water again and keep watered for the next few days.  The cooler/wetter weather this time of year will keep them from drying out and getting scorched from the hot sun.  If desired, you can add a layer of mulch to your garden, but be sure to leave a gap between the mulch and the crown/stem/trunk of your plant to discourage rot.

Bulbs come in many sizes and bloom times.   In the stores they should be labelled with early, mid, late spring or summer bloom time.  Again, choose a variety of color and bloom time.  Plant in groups of five or more, not in a row!  To keep squirrels from digging up your bulbs before you get to enjoy them, plant daffodils over top your tulips etc, in the same hole.  Your hole size will depend on the size of bulb; the larger the bulb, the larger the hole you will need.  Place bulbs pointy side up, tulips first, with a thin layer of soil on top, then the daffodils.

Fall is the best time to plant your gardens. The hardest part of planting your garden in the fall is waiting until spring to reap the rewards!