From top left: Miss Canada lilac, allium, Yellow Bird magnolia, pea shoots, deutzia.
Writing about gardening is making me feel like a bit of a fraud, considering how little of it I’ve done in the past month. The rainy weather – especially on weekends – is mostly to blame, although spring is also a busy time of year.
My garden is half mulched and I’m planning to resume the job ASAP after it stops raining and the ground dries out. That means I’ll be out in the backyard on weeknights this coming week. I don’t mind – gardening is a great way to unwind after work.
Even when I’m kept inside because of the weather, my eye is often on my garden. I’ll stand at the window by the kitchen sink and look out at my backyard beds.
One of the things I notice is colour. There’s no shortage of it in the late June/early July garden. But it takes some planning to consistently have some sort of bloom all season long.
Spring is the easiest time to get lots of hue. There are several early flowering shrubs – my main spring beauty is a lofty Yellow Bird magnolia. Then there are the bunches of bulbs – crocuses, daffodils and tulips. They’re a joy because they flower from early to late spring.
This year, I’ve placed a few smaller pots in my back borders to add longer-lasting colour and fill in some bare spots.
At this point in the season, my pink Miss Canada lilac has just finished blooming. A smaller shrub – deutzia – brightens up a dark corner, thanks to its white bell-shaped flowers. Another favourite bloom right now is another bulb, allium. I have lots of this member of the onion family, which impresses with tall stocks and flowering purple globes.
Pots full of annuals are also a great way to brighten up the garden, especially as the heat of summer takes over (any time now, right?). I tend to decorate with bedding plants around the front door. But this year, I’ve placed a few smaller pots in my back borders to add longer-lasting colour and fill in some bare spots. You don’t even have to go to the trouble to planting the pots. The $15 to $20 baskets at the garden centre will do just nicely.
My beds used to be primarily perennials but that has changed as my garden has become lower maintenance. Yes, I had more colour all season long. But I was always staking tall plants like hollyhocks and goat’s beard to keep them from falling over. I also spent a lot of time dividing up perennials – cone flower is one that comes to mind – as they grew and expanded.
I still have quite a few perennials but I’m more strategic about how I use them. For instance, I tend to have fewer types of plants and repeat them throughout the garden.
I’ve recently been reminded that it’s not just colour that adds interest. There’s also form, texture and shape. More on those another time.
Once upon a time, I fussed over having colour co-ordinated beds. But I got over that a long time ago. I’m now more interested in plants that are low maintenance and well suited to the spot. If I have a little bit of colour from spring until fall, any colour scheme is fine by me.
It can be tricky to get enough autumn bloom. I have a couple of backyard shrubs that do the trick – Tiger Eyes cutleaf sumac and dwarf burning bush. Both are spectacular late in the season, their leaves turning bright yellow and crimson, respectively. Perennial grasses and asters also add colour to my fall beds.
Do you have a favourite garden hue? What about a season when your beds look their best? I’m always interested in hearing how gardeners get the look and feel they want outside.