It’s a good thing the flowering shrubs know it’s spring. Mother Nature on the other hand, has forgotten that the weather is supposed to warm up. The sunny yellow blooms of my neighbour’s forsythia are a beautiful sight from my bedroom window…
and my own magnolia is also screaming “spring is here!” with its fragrant blooms…
with the blossoms of plum trees not far behind…
My roses (at least the ones in my front yard that are protected from the north winds) are also showing signs of spring…
Now, if the cold and wet weather would clear up, spring would be awesome!
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…
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.
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.
Fall is not my favourite time of year, in fact it is probably my least favourite season here in Canada. (Almost) everything in my gardens is dying off and there is a distinct chill in the air hinting at the winter weather that is lurking around the corner. There are a (measly) few things however that I do like about the season. On my list of the best things about fall are…
warm, fuzzy sweaters
boots, especially the little, lightweight ones (booties) that go with every outfit
glorious splashes of orange, yellow and red provided by the leaves in the otherwise drab landscape
the roses in the gardens that just don’t want to give it up
“It’s not the temperature” is a common Canadian phrase, followed by either “it’s the windchill” in the winter, or “it’s the humidity” in the summer. We Canadians tend to be very weather obsessed.
In this case, however, I am talking about why I cover the base (crown) of my roses in my gardens…
rose crowns covered to protect from cold temperature
cold temperature treatment
cold temperature treatment for roses
It’s not just the cold, although it is advisable to choose plants hardy to your area, that affects (kills) the roses. It’s the freeze and thaw cycles very common to Ontario weather that do them in. The mounded earth helps prevent the rose crowns from heaving out of the ground in these freeze/thaw cycles. Be sure to use clean soil for this purpose. I purchase plain garden soil in easy to manage bags to avoid introducing mold, mildew, bacteria or insects and their eggs to the roses.
I counted twenty-two rose crowns to cover in my own gardens, with lots more in my GARDENS4U gardens.
For some reason, the fall season is when many gardeners get the itch to prune back plants in their gardens. The guidelines are as follows, at least for our zone 4 to 5 gardens here in Ottawa, Ontario:
if a shrub blooms early (before June) wait until after flowering to prune. Some examples of early bloomers that need that old wood to bloom on are lilacs, forsythia, bridal wreath spireas, sand cherries, weigela, ninebarks, rhododendrons, viburnum, cranberry bushes, flowering dogwoods and magnolias.
if the shrub blooms after June, it can be pruned back in the fall or in the early spring when new growth is visible. Examples include Snowball and PeeGee Hydrangeas, spireas (except for bridal wreath), Butterfly bush, smoke tree, hibiscus (rose of Sharon), and red stemmed dogwoods.
woody shrubs like boxwoods, junipers and cedars can be trimmed back in the fall too, but also throughout the growing season (spring and summer)
some shrubs are best pruned while dormant. (late fall to very early spring, late February to early March) These include barberries, smoke bush, crepe myrtles, spireas (except bridal wreath variety), dogwoods, and cotoneasters.
to rejuvenate shrubs that flower poorly, are overgrown or straggly, cut them back to just above the first bud above the soil while the plant is still dormant. Shrubs that do well with this drastic treatment include spireas, lilacs, ninebarks, forsythias, barberry, weigela, blue mist, forsythia, honeysuckle, and potentilla (cinquefoil). You may sacrifice the flowers the first season after this rejuvenation, but the plant will be healthier.
deciduous (non-evergreen) trees are best pruned when dormant (late winter) as well. It is much easier to see the structure of the tree before the leaves come out. Winter pruning also prevents the formation of bacteria and disease in the cuts. The wounds will heal quickly as new growth starts shortly after pruning.
dead branches can be cut off any time in the season.
after the first frost, remove any leaves from roses and apply mulch to the crowns. This prevents the plants from heaving from the ground during freeze/thaw cycles. You can cut the longs stems of the most tender floribundas, hyrdrid teas and grandifloras back to 20 inches before winter too to prevent them from breaking off under a heavy snowfall. Another tip for tender roses is to apply a collar around the bush and fill it (loosely) with leaves. Wait to prune others back until daffodils start to bloom in the spring to ensure the ground temperature is sufficiently warm. Dead or broken branches can be cut off in the fall or any other time of the season. Suckers can also be removed in the fall, cutting them out as close to the base of the plant as possible.
Perennials can be, but do not have to be, deadheaded (remove dead blossoms) and cut back in the fall. Remove sturdy flower stalks (coneflowers etc) right back to the foliage at the base of the plant. Some gardeners like to leave these stalks on the plants over the winter for birds and their snow-covered beauty. On softer plants simply remove the browned and dead looking, limp or soggy foliage (daylilies, peonies, bleeding hearts etc) and cut back their stems to six or eight inches from the ground. I like to do everything I can in the fall because spring seems to be so short lived these days and I run out of springtime hours in the gardens. Whenever you clean up your gardens, remember to harvest the seeds for future (freebie) plants as I did for my cottage garden.
There is not much new in bloom in my zone 4 to 5 Ottawa gardens this third week of August. A new orange color of coneflower, pink garden phlox and a fresh flush of roses prevail…
The pink and red coneflowers are still quite striking. They were a little beat down by the storm we had just before I took their picture. The yellow pom poms of the false sunflowers are still brightening up the back of a bed…
hot pink coneflowers
pale pink coneflower
This week in my clients’ gardens I took some pictures of some awesome containers of annuals. Annuals are always great this time of year to fill in with their pops of color. The shades of purple in the last ones really caught my eye…
In bloom the end of July here in my Ottawa zone 4 to 5 gardens are more lilies, more roses, more of everything that was in bloom last week.
The lily trees are absolutely spectacular. There must be close to thirty blossoms on the three plants at my front lamp post and more in my back garden. I have also planted some of these lily trees in my clients’gardens.
more lily trees
My favourite rose this end of July is a pale, blush pink:
As I was walking around my backyard, a pair of cardinals were flitting through my plum tree watching me. The red male really stood out against the green of the leaves, he came to within a few feet of me…
I must have at least twenty rose plants in my gardens. I love perennial roses in the form of climbers, bushes, shrubs and miniatures in my gardens and in containers on my deck. Most of them are in bloom right now. Some continue to bloom all summer, while others are repeaters meaning they bloom for a bit now, drop their blossoms, and rebloom again later in the season. My camera does not do justice to their colors that range from the palest of pink to hot pink to deep red, soft buttery yellow to dark lemon yellow, pale mauve or lilac shades of purple to almost wine in color. No captions are necessary.
These storm clouds showed up suddenly today while I was out admiring, deadheading and photographing the roses…
I barely had time to get me and my camera in the house and close all the windows before the big black clouds burst and the rain came pouring down. We did not get hail here, but friends and family just a few minutes north of me and an hour south did.