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Tulip Time – Plant bulbs for a Spring surprise!

2 Nov

It may seem odd to be already thinking about Spring but if you love the vibrant fresh colours that bulb flowers deliver, it’s time to plant now!

Here are some quick tulip-planting tips to get your Spring flower display started.

1. Find a sunny spot
Though most bulbs prefer a sunny location, you can still plant them under trees as the bulbs will bloom before the leaves on the trees are fully out.

2. Plant in clusters  for bold effect
To get maximum impact, don’t plant them in a straight line or dot them here and there in the garden. Instead, arrange bulbs in groupings of 5 to 9 or more.

3. Layer-it-on!
Your Spring display will have greater impact if you layer bulbs according to bloom time and depth requirements (sounds complicated, but all bulb packaging clearly identifies both of these important facts).  For example, the same area of soil can hold crocuses in the top 13 cm (five inches), hyacinths at 16 cm (six inches) deep and daffodils and tulips at about 20 cm (eight inches) down.  The result is a full Spring season of blooms fr0m late April to early June.

4. Avoid creating a buffet for local critters! 

Some bulbs, including tulips and crocus are a favourite food for squirrels. Others, such as daffodils, fritillaria, alliums a are not quite as appealing.  If squirrels are a nuisance, put chicken wire over the bulbs. It can be left in place all winter and bulbs bloom right through it in Spring.  Be sure to clean up after planting because the papery bits left on the ground is a signal to critters that there is likely buried treasure nearby.  Also, your can try a dusting of cayenne pepper or blood meal over freshly planted bulbs but don’t be surprised if this doesn’t slow them down – squirrels are crazy-smart and quickly learn from tricks your neighbour’s may have already tried!

5. Spring Maintenance Tips
Let bulb foliage “die back” naturally for six weeks after before cutting back their leaves, because the leaves store food for the following year’s bloom. But, dying foliage can be unsightly so pair bulbs with perennials as their foliage will camouflage the bulb foliage as it dies back.  For example, the purple foliage of these Plum Pudding Coral Bells makes the orange tulips pop!

Orange Tulips contrasted against Purple Coral Bells

Purple tulips with pansies underneath


5 Tips for Cottage Gardens

8 Sep

Ontario’s northern landscape proudly displays the grandeur of speckled smooth granite boulders, towering stands of swaying pine and birch and soft sweeping carpets of mosses, wildflowers and grasses.  For the avid gardener, you may wonder what “improvements” if any can be made to this gorgeous landscape?

My friend Caroline Coulson seems to have found the answer to this at her evolving Georgian Bay island cottage garden.  Her garden teaches us 5 simple tips to creating the perfect cottage garden.

1.Be Inspired by Nature

Any hardscaping elements such as pathways and retaining walls should be constructed using local materials (if not from the actual site itself).  Notice how her garden beds have been formed in the lowest areas in the granite surface.  Not only does this appear more natural but also ensures maximum water availability as water collects in these “pool-like” indentations.  Also, granite boulders found on the property have been moved to create organically-shaped retaining walls.

2. Pick Non-fussy Eaters!

The soil in cottage country is thin and low in available nutrients.  As a result, if introducing non-native species, ensure that they tolerate well-drained infertile soil.  That doesn’t mean you have to forfeit beauty. For example, add a range of early to late summer blooming day lilies and hardy Black Eyed Susan’s for colour throughout the summer.

3.  Plan for Hot Days & Cool Nights

Soil temperature in cottage country varies greatly throughout the day and puts added stress on plants. The large granite boulders can end up “baking” plant roots.  As result, select plants that are drought-tolerant and can handle hot days and cool nights.  For example, this garden bed contains Black Eyed Susan’s, variegated Sedum and early summer day lilies.

4.  Grow Food for the Soul

Nothing goes better with the great outdoors than eating freshly-picked produce.  Again, select veggies and herbs that prefer warm days and cool nights and consider growing  in containers to help keep soil moisture and temperature more steady. Caroline has had great success this year with her 9 different varieties of tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers!


Tomato plan in pot


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Creating a Butterfly Oasis

15 Aug

How do  you  make butterflies fall in love your with garden?  Quickly simply,  the way to a butterfly’s heart is through its stomach!  Watch the video to learn about my favourite late summer perennials that serve up a sweet nectar buffet for those gorgeous fluttering garden visitors!


Here are some butterfly-attracting plants available at your local nursery.

– New York Ironweed (Veronia noveboracensis)

– Asters

– Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)

– Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

– Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

– Purple coneflower (Echinacea)


Fresh and bright! The perfect summer urn for shade.

18 May

Ok you city dwellers, do you have a deeply shaded urban garden in need of a face lift?!
Consider a modern and fresh palette of electric lime, rich purple and flirty fuchsia. Here is a look at one of my favorite combos.