My new favourite ornamental grasses these days are the blue tinged beauties. Every year there are more and more ornamental grasses available to choose from in the garden nurseries, but my eyes seem to be increasingly drawn to the blue grass varieties. I love the way the soft, steely, blue hue compliments the color of other perennials. While other ornamental grasses are grown for their attractive seed heads, the blue versions are chosen more for their attractive coloring.
These are blue oat grass, one of my favourites…
blue oat grass
blue oat grass
blue oat grass
This is a newer variety, called Blue Lyme Grass…
Most ornamental grasses like full sun, but there are a few that tolerate some shade. Be sure to check the labels before purchasing for sun requirements and hardiness zones.
.As our fall weather was too nice to start garden cleanups and winter preparation, Gardens4u took on another garden project last week. This client lives on the same street as two other clients for whom I have recently reconstructed front gardens. This client wanted a smaller footprint for the new garden with plants that require no maintenance and stay tidy looking all season. I started by removing all of the existing plants, leaving the large rock as the focal point…
I replanted a ring of groundcover (lamium) around the tree to include the tree in the garden. I added heucherain various colors around the perimeter of the garden to define its new edge, including around the outer edges of the rock. Both of these inclusions make it easier for the lawnmower, removing the chore of trimming around the tree and rock. The large and overgrown clump of Solomon’s seal was dug out from around the rock. It was overpowering the rock and looked messy. In its place, I planted three different varieties of ornamental grass. These were strategically placed around the edges of the rock. Two tall ones went at the corners closest to the house and a shorter one at the front, outer edge. This will draw the eye to the rock, making it an integral part of the garden.
New plants included the heuchera, a dwarf shrub rose, a varigated and reblooming weigela, as well as several colorful and long blooming perennials. I reused a few daylilies, some (a very small portion) of the lamium, and none of the aggressive Solomon’s seal. Unused plants have been potted up in my ICU (home inventory of plants) for recycling (use in someone else’s gardens). Grass seed was sprinkled on the bare spots where the garden used to extend to. The grass seed should be well watered after the past few days of rainy weather. If the mild weather holds, the grass may even grow before spring.
The end result was a smaller, tidier garden between the rock and the tree. The client will have to wait until next summer, unfortunately, to fully appreciate the new look…
Unfortunately, this current week looks like our great weather is behind us. That means Gardens4u will be starting that cleanup and winterizing this morning after it warms up a bit. Cleanup is not nearly as much fun as designing a new garden project!
The best part of autumn is the awesome display of color in the trees and gardens. Our weather here in Ottawa has been spectacular, in fact so spectacular that I have put off preparing garden beds for the winter. All of my clients’ gardens are looking great with their late season displays…
…annuals are still going strong, in containers:
and in the gardens:
joe pye weed
late blooming perennials are still glorious:
pink monarda, yellow coneflowers & blue juniper
pink aster & wine ninebark
and ornamental grasses are at their showiest:
japanese blood grass
I hope we have a few more weeks of this awesome weather to enjoy the gardens before the cold weather hits.
Today was a beautiful sunny day here in Ottawa Ontario, a perfect day to start my GARDENS4Useason. Although 6C (43F) is still a bit cool and the ground is still frozen in some spots, I was able to get some things done. Here is a list of garden chores that can be done as soon as the snow is gone:
cut back ornamental grasses to a few inches from the ground
cut off any broken, misshapen or unwanted branches on trees and shrubs. Before the leaves come out on the trees the shape or framework of the branches is easier to see.
cut back any overgrown shrubs that flower in summer. Even if you do not want to reduce the size of the shrub, old wood that no longer flowers can be removed now
cut out old wood that no longer flowers on early spring blooming shrubs back to the ground. You can tell the old wood from the new wood by its color. The old wood is usually duller in color and thicker in diameter
trim, shape or prune evergreen shrubs
cut back group 3 (summer or fall blooming) clematis to 1 foot from ground
rake leaves out of garden
remove winter covers from shrubs and trees
treat lawns with a fertilizer and pre-emergent weed preventer combination
rake lawn hard, but be sure to wait until it is no longer spongy to walk on
While my turkey was cooking this afternoon, I took the opportunity to get outside in the beautiful sunshine we are enjoying this weekend. Most of my yard is bare with just a few patches of snow left. I saw a few buds and stems of perennials basking in the sunshine too…
My pond is still frozen with the plants around it covered in snow…
A quick peek at my gardens turned into a chance to trim back some ornamental grasses that I left over the winter…
These ornamental grasses are best trimmed right now when they start to show some new growth. Another garden chore that can be done very early is the trimming of any dead, crossing or undesirable branches on your trees. It is much easier to do now than when the leaves emerge as you can see the shape of the tree better.
The rest of the plants are best left alone for a while yet…
Most ornamental grasses are currently at their peak in Ontario landscapes. The large variety of sizes, colors and shapes available continues to expand every season. Here are some that I have admired recently…
The first ornamental grass pictured is an annual in my Ontario climate, meaning it is not winter hardy and will die as soon as frost hits it. It must be replaced each spring so I like to use it in a container instead of in the garden.
The other ornamental grasses pictured are perennials, returning each year bigger and better than the previous year. They can be cut back to a few inches from the ground in the late fall if you wish. If you like the look of the fronds blowing in the wind and snow over the winter (the birds love them!) leave the cutting back until the early spring before new growth appears. If the clumps gets too large they can be divided in the spring.
Most are drought tolerant and low maintenance making them increasingly popular in landscapes for busy people. Now is a good time to plant new ones, allowing the roots to get established before the ground freezes. This time of year brings good reductions in prices too as nurseries like to clear out their stock before the winter.
daylily blooms are long lasting with a wide variety of colours available ranging from lemon to golden yellow, peach to pink and purple to red. They are also available in a variety of height to suit all your needs.
Modern perennials: Ornamental grasses
Ornamental grasses are my “go to perennial” for hot dry areas in gardens. With many heights, colors and seed heads to choose from, you can plant several varieties. Just be sure to choose those that are suitable fir your garden’s hardiness zone or they will not survive the winter.
Shrubs: Purple smoke tree
Vines: climbing hydrangea
Hydrangea vines are slow growing, but once established look beautiful on a wall or fence. Just do not let it get into your soffits or eavestroughing as it can cause damage.
Annuals: Cleome or spiderflower
I love Cleomes (AKA spiderflowers) They come in white and several shades of pink. They look great planted in a container or in the garden in a hot dry spot.
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:
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!
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:
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:
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:
Of course, these are MY favorites, I’m sure you all have your own. Please feel free to share!
One of my favorite things about this time of year is that gardening magazines and catalogues start coming in. I love to curl up with a cup of tea to start planning what I am going to do in my garden this spring. I have numerous gardening books I consult, but the catalogues inspire me to be creative. Plants ordered from catalogues will arrive in time for planting in your area. My garden is always changing as I love to try new plants and move others around to achieve different effects. I tend to stick to low maintenance perennials (plants that come up each year) and small shrubs, but do add some annuals (plants you have to replace each year) for instant and continuous color. My children joke that our lawn gets smaller and smaller every year because my gardens keep growing. Purple is still my favorite flower color, followed closely by yellow. I also pay close attention to the foliage (leaves and stems) of plants, choosing ones that continue to look good when the flowers are not in bloom. Last year I purchased more ornamental grasses, they looked great all summer and fall; I am anxious to see if they all survived the winter.