Maintenance Free Garden Favourites

 

This time of year blooms are pretty scarce in my gardens.  As I prepare my clients’ garden beds for the fast approaching winter, I take note (mentally) which perennials are essentially maintenance free.  That feature is in great demand for busy gardeners.

Heucheras are one of these.  They look great all year, even after the first few frosts have turned most other perennial stalks and leaves to mush.  They are absolutely maintenance free in the fall and require next to nothing in the spring.  Remove any crispy leaves and they are good to go.  I particularly love the dark burgundy colored varieties, but there are many others, including rusty orange and chartreuse. More and more I am using them as edging plants in my gardens…

maintenance free

 

Other (almost) maintenance free perennials include the ornamental grasses that are so popular today.  One of the reasons they are so popular is the fact that cutting them back to the ground first thing in the spring before new growth appears is the only maintenance required.  Another reason for their popularity is the growing number of gorgeous varieties available.  Remember though to check tags for their hardiness before purchasing. Here are just a few…

Although sedges look like they belong in the ornamental grass family, they don’t.  They are grass-like in appearance and grow in tufts, especially well in wet marshy areas.  Unlike the ornamental grasses, they don’t do well in the hot dry conditions of full sun spots in your garden.  They do however look great in shadier spots and tolerate part sun conditions.  Remaining green all year, they are maintenance free.  Another bonus is that they are very easy (unlike the ornamental grasses) to divide and move around.  So easy in fact that I have even used them in winter containers with evergreen boughs.

maintenance free

 

Although roses are not completely maintenance free, the newest varieties are pretty close.  Some don’t need any pruning (shrub roses) and others need only minor pruning after the last frost date in spring.  Many of the newest varieties bloom all summer long too.  Shrub roses do not need winter protection and many are hardy to zone 2!  To protect other hardy roses I mound soil around the base/crown of the plant after the ground freezes.  This prevents damage from freeze and thaw cycles through the winter.

 

Take your pick.  Most of these perennials pictured here are relatively maintenance free.  Just what busy garden lovers want.

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Perennials in pots

As an experiment this winter, I am planning to leave some (very) hardy perennials in their big pots on my back deck to see if any survive the winter.  I have planted perennials in containers before but never had much success with leaving them in their pots for the winter.  I have tried rose bushes and ornamental grasses but apparently they are not hardy enough.  The general rule of thumb is they should be at least two zones hardier than your area to survive in pots instead of in the garden.

So, this season I am trying shrub roses, (much hardier than bushes) false spirea, forsythia and lilac bushes, as well as a plum and a maple tree, all of which grow prolifically in my gardens.  With the exception of the plum tree that might be a bust, the others are reliably hardy for this area (zone 2).  The two mature plums trees in my gardens send up shoots all over the yard so I won’t feel so bad if the one in the pot does not survive.  These subjects of my experiment have all been grown from cuttings in my ICU...

Anything else currently in pots that I wish to save must be brought in for the winter.  This year that will include a beautiful non-hardy ornamental grass that was extremely expensive, too much so to replace each year…

perennials

 

I will keep you posted on their survival rate!

Drought tolerant perennials

Drought tolerant perennials are popular these days, especially with those of you in the midst of a heat wave as we are here in Ontario.  Even if you have an irrigation system, these hardy perennials should be a staple in your garden to avoid wasting your money on plants and water.  Just be sure to place the hoses or plants (whichever you install last) strategically.  For example, ornamental grasses (and most other drought tolerant plants) do not appreciate wet feet.  In fact, the quickest way to kill them off is to overwater them.

Here are a few drought tolerant perennials that I rely on for hot summer color:

  • lavender
  • Russian sage
  • ornamental grasses
  • tickseed
  • stonecrop and sedum, available in multiple colors, great for hot borders
  • daisies

 

If you haven’t already, consider adding some to your gardens, just be sure to wait until the heat wave is over to do so!

 

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.

 

Latest garden project by Gardens4u

.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…

"Gardens4u

Gardens4u after the clean out
after the clean out

 

I replanted a ring of groundcover (lamium) around the tree to include the tree in the garden.  I added heuchera in 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…

Gardens4u after pictureGardens4u after picture

 

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!

In bloom this second week of August in my Ottawa zone 4 to 5 gardens

Here are the newest perennial blooms in my own zone 4 to 5 gardens this second week of August;

 

This ornamental grass is my favourite although it is only an annual here in zone 4 or 5.  It makes a beautiful centerpiece for a container or it can be planted right in the garden!

August
annual ornamental grass

 

Still strutting their stuff, these perennials are still looking great:

 

On their way out (unfortunately) are my gorgeous lilies.  They will return bigger and better than ever next year though!  Every client I have planted some of these lily trees for have commented on how spectacular they are, well worth the price.

 

I hope you are enjoying these weekly walks through my gardens…

whole garden

In bloom this third week of July

More pictures from my zone 4 to 5 garden in Ottawa; these perennial flowers are blooming this third week of July…

new bloomers:

 

Many perennials that were blooming last week are still going strong…

 

…while others are showing promise of things to come…

 

The annuals I planted in containers and bare spots in the garden are also still blooming well.  I always choose annuals that offer interesting foliage as well as flowers…

 

This next plant with the large leaves is a mystery to me.  I did not plant it, I believe it has come from the vegetable garden in the backyard next door.  Any ideas?…

third week of July
mystery plant,

 

Gardens4u garden project including before and after pictures

These pictures are of Gardens4u’s most recent garden project:

befores:

 

and afters:

 

All new plants are perennials, meaning they come back every year.  All are pretty much maintenance free too, a common request from my clients these days.   The brown cedar mulch helps keep moisture in and weeds out.

I can’t wait to see what the gardens look like by the end of summer when all of the perennials have settled into their new homes.

Purple passion

I have a passion for purple, especially when choosing flowers.  It is such a vibrant colour with so many shades available.  When my daughter-in-law decided she wanted shades of purple flowers in her bouquets and floral decorations, I was excited as I have lots of in my gardens.  I even planted extra perennials just in case I didn’t have enough…

 

Too bad many of them didn’t bloom in time for the wedding thanks to the wet and cool spring Mother Nature gifted us with this year.  To improvise,  I borrowed blossoms from my clients’ garden to supplement the ones I did have in bloom to make bouquets and flower arrangements.

For the past week (now almost two weeks after the wedding)  my passion for purple has been blooming in profusion in my gardens!

 

Garden centers are open!

Hurray, the garden centers in Ottawa are open for business, a sure sign of spring!  One of my favourite signs of spring actually. These pictures were taken two weeks ago now when I spotted my first open garden center and could not resist stopping in…

 

Perennials can be planted any time now, as soon as the ground is thawed.  Annuals should wait until after the last frost date for your time zone.  Here in Ottawa, that is usually around the long weekend in May. If you plant your annuals earlier than that, cover them when frost is forecast or bring containers in overnight.

Contact me at GARDENS4U with any questions or if I can help you plan your garden.

Happy gardening!