Drought-Tolerant Landscaping

Drought-Tolerant Landscaping

With the dog days of summer mere weeks away, homeowners want to spend more time outside, but not necessarily more time working in their gardens.

One of the most common requests we receive when working with new landscaping clients is for a low-maintenance design. This usually means, very little work in terms of watering, weeding, dead-heading, and pruning.

While no garden or flowerbed, is maintenance-free, we’ve put together some tips below to help you minimize your gardening workload, so you can maximize relaxation this summer.

Drought Tolerant Honeysuckle Vine (Lonicera)

Honeysuckle (Lonicera)

Stave off drought with these tips

Before we look at plants that tolerate hot, dry conditions well, let’s talk about your soil. Generally, plants enjoy soil that drains well. Soil that doesn’t (typically clay-based soil) can contribute to root rot and may claim otherwise healthy plants. However, soil that drains well can quickly become too dry in hot, windy, and/or dry weather.

The key to maintaining soil moisture is mulch. We recommend a thick layer (three to four inches) of mulch on flowerbeds and around trees. Mulch comes in a variety of types and colours and not only helps soil maintain moisture, but also helps keep weeds to a minimum, and gradually breaks down to help nourish the soil.

Another tip for maintaining a drought-tolerant and sustainable landscape is to collect run-off rainwater in a rain barrel. Strategically placed under a downspout close to your gardens, harvested rainwater can get your plants, shrubs, and trees through the drier spells of summer.

drought tolerant Coral Bells (Heuchera mirachantha)

Coral Bells (Heuchera mirachantha)

Drought-tolerant plants for Southwestern Ontario summers

Generally speaking, the more established a plant or tree is, and the deeper the root system, the better it will tolerate drought. That generally takes care of trees and evergreen shrubs, but you’ll still need to tend to well-established deciduous shrubs and perennials during spells of extreme dryness.

The following are a small sampling of drought-tolerant species.

Perennials

Honeysuckle Vine (Lonicera)
Fragrant and colourful, the honeysuckle can be trained on a trellis or arbour and is a favourite of pollinators and hummingbirds.

drought tolerant Daylily (Hemerrocalis)

Daylily (Hemerrocalis)

Coral Bells (Heuchera mirachantha)

Foliage ranges from purple and red to bright green and plant produces tiny, bell-like flowers. Mounding and provides excellent ground cover in shade gardens.

Daylily (Hemerrocalis)
Available in an extremely wide range of colours with both solid and variegated foliage, the exotic-looking flowers of these super-hardy perennials also attract pollinators.

Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum)
This sturdy grass provides dense mounds of colour (depending on the variety) including yellow, green, red, and purple. Flowers stretch on thin stalks above foliage.

drought tolerant Lenten Rose (Helleborus occidentalis)

Lenten Rose (Helleborus occidentalis)

Lenten Rose (Helleborus occidentalis)
Has sturdy foliage and blooms in early spring, bringing shades of pink, purple, blue, green, and yellow to your garden. Prefers shade or dappled sunlight.


Shrubs

False Cypress (Chamaecyperas psifera)
This evergreen species lends dense structure to gardens. With foliage in a range of colours from gold to emerald green and blue, it’s great for adding both privacy and visual interest.

Drought Tolerant Yew (Taxus)

Yew (Taxus)

Yew (Taxus)
This dense shrub can be planted on its own, but is commonly planted in a row to create a hedge or natural privacy screen. Female specimens develop showy, red berries.

Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)
Beautiful clustered blooms in pale green and white to pale and vibrant pink. Browning flowers/seedheads remain on shrubs well into winter, providing visual interest and (when planted near a food source) a place for winter birds to perch.

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
Blooming in mid-summer, the long clusters of flowers in bold hues attract butterflies and last until first frost, providing colour when most other flowers’ blooming periods have ended.

drought tolerant Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)

Sumac (Rhus typhina)
Ranging in size from compact to large, this shrub’s feathery foliage is bright green during the warmer months, but is better known for its eye-catching fall colours including bright yellow, orange, and red.


Succulents

While not native to our region, succulents are the camels of the plant world, maintaining an internal water supply that sees them through long periods of drought. However, not all succulents can survive Ontario winters, so we do need to be somewhat selective unless we transplant to pots to bring indoors for the winter months.

Drought Tolerant Sedum Autumn Joy (Herbstfreude)

Sedum Autumn Joy (Herbstfreude)

There are a couple winter-hardy selections that add visual interest and are incredibly low-maintenance. The Autumn Sedum, which is a lower growing perennial, blooms in the fall, providing dashes of colour when many other flowering plants are already spent. And Sempervivum (commonly known as “Hens & Chicks”) is hardy in flowerbeds and rocks gardens, but also works well in containers, both outdoors and indoors.

While these tips may provide you with information that helps you determine a general direction in which you’d like to take your landscaping, you might not have the tools, equipment, or time to create the beautiful, low-maintenance outdoor experience you’re hoping for. We invite you to contact us any time for assistance with landscaping design and installation.

Evergreens for Year-Round Beauty and Function

Evergreens for Year-Round Beauty and Function

In Southwestern Ontario’s warmer months, nature abounds with colour, vibrancy, and life. But come late fall, many plant, shrub, and tree species go dormant, sleeping off the current year and preparing for the next.

The exception of course is the evergreen, as showy (if not more so) under a blanket of snow as it is in the warm sunshine. And this category includes more than just the conical, needled variety we cut down and haul inside to decorate every Christmas.

Despite our cold, snowy winters, a wide variety of plants, shrubs, and trees thrive year-round thanks to their ability to store water and nutrients that sustain them through to spring. Here’s a small sampling of examples:

false cypress golden evergreen foliage

Golden foliage of False Cypress

Emerald green foliage of boxwood evergreen shrub

Emerald green foliage of the Boxwood

Beautiful blue needles of the Blue Spruce evergreen tree

Beautiful needles of the Blue Spruce

Deep Purple-Green foliage of holly evergreen bush

Deep purple-green foliage of Holly

Evergreens are not only beautiful, but functional as well. The following are a few benefits of adding evergreens to your landscape.

Low-Maintenance

As mentioned above, species in this category excel at storing water and nutrients. This means that they need little in the form of maintenance, other than getting the root system established after planting and helping them through drought.

A Natural Windbreak

Tall, full evergreens planted in a row perpendicular to prevailing winds provide relief from the wind year-round. They also act as a natural snow fence, sheltering roads, driveways, and exposed walkways from extreme snow drifts and accumulation.

Added Privacy

Because of their year-round fullness, evergreens are often used in groups or in conjunction with hardscape to provide privacy from passing traffic and neighbouring properties. Cedars are probably the most common variety to use for this purpose due to their inherent fullness, height and growth rate.

Enhanced Air Quality

All trees do a great job of filtering the air in the warmer months, replacing carbon dioxide with oxygen. But for obvious reasons, evergreens provide air filtration throughout the year.

Eco-System Support

Evergreens provide everlasting protection and habitat for small wildlife like birds and squirrels. Setting up a feeder or two, close to an evergreen is the ideal way to enjoy these creatures and help them thrive.

Aesthetic Variety

Evergreens come in a wide range of colours, shapes, and sizes and will suit any area and any landscape. Some sprawl horizontally, making excellent ground cover. Others can grow up to 80 feet tall.

Some keep a relatively natural globe shape, while others have the quintessential conical habit. Some, like boxwoods and cedars, can be pruned into virtually any shape you like.

Varieties like the Yew and Holly bear bright red berries, providing a brilliant contrast to their deep green foliage. Speaking of foliage, colours range from gold to emerald green to blue to almost black.

While it’s nice to have beautiful plants, shrubs, and trees to enjoy in the warmer months when we’re spending more time outdoors, evergreens provide year-round appeal that cannot be overstated. If you’d like to update your landscape with these and other softscape selections, but need help with selection and planting, give us a call. We’re happy to help.

Motherlode Juniper provides colour, ground cover, and added visual interest
evergreen trees white spruce, weeping hemlock, globe blue spruce winter landscape a touch of dutch landscaping
Emerald Cedars add privacy and visual interest
Fall Colour – Extending the Enjoyment of Your Gardens

Fall Colour – Extending the Enjoyment of Your Gardens

Most of us would be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t love the colours of fall. Yes, winter will inevitably follow fall, and probably earlier than we’d like. But, in the meantime, we’ve still got warm daytime temperatures, cool evenings, and so much colour to enjoy.

Fall colourful leaves mapleWhile the trees, plants, and shrubs throughout Southwestern Ontario offer up a lot of colour, many homeowners want colour in their own yards, as well. There are some quick fixes for this – displaying pumpkins, potted mums, and faux leaves and floral décor, for example. However, adding perennial colour to your fall garden takes a bit more forethought.

When planning gardens, home gardeners generally work in chronological order, considering what’s going to bloom or otherwise be at its peak in spring and then what will be at its best in summer. For this reason, autumn may tend to take a backseat where plant selection is concerned. To prolong the enjoyment of your gardens though, you may want to make room for a few fall favourites in your yard.

Colourful chrysthanthemums for fall decorPlant retailers and nurseries might be among your best resources for determining what’s at its colourful peak right now. They tend to sell what’s in season, when it’s in season. And the warm, sunny days, cool nights, and more regular precipitation of early fall can be the perfect time to plant, offering ideal conditions for new plants, trees, and shrubs to take root before the first frost.

A few selections that fare well in our region in the fall include:

  • Burning Bush (Euonymus alatas) – normally green deciduous foliage turns vibrant red
  • Wayfaring Tree (Vibunum Lantana)
  • Sugar Maple (Acer Saccharum) – foliage turns orange and red
  • Mountain Ash (Sorbus) – foliage turns orange, red, and yellow
  • Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) – foliage turns bright yellow
  • Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) – flowers in fall, showing purple, blue, pink, and white
  • Chrysanthemum (C. x morifolium) – fall flowers in yellow, orange, purple, red, burgundy, white, and bronze
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Purpurea) – large purple flowers and prominent seed heads
  • Coralbells (Heuchera) – flowers throughout the season, leaves can show purple/bronze
  • Rosemallow (Hibiscus Moscheutos) – large, saucer-like blooms are pink, blue, or purple
  • Sedum Autumn Joy (Sedum spectabile) – flower clusters are generally pink or light purple
  • Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) – bright yellow, flower clusters

Keep in mind though, that your plants and trees need a bit of TLC in order to get established before the first frost. Otherwise your investment of time and money may be for naught. If you’re not getting ample rainfall, you should water new plants thoroughly and consistently to help roots get established before the ground freezes. And ensure you get everything into the ground before the snow flies, as plants will have a much better chance of surviving the winter there than in the thin, plastic pots in which they’re generally sold.

Add fall colour to gardenOnce plants are in the ground, most of the initial growth is going to take place below the soil, which is good. So, don’t be disappointed if you see much going on above ground. Your patience will be rewarded with healthy, showy plants next year. To help things along and protect vulnerable young root systems, add a thick layer (4 inches) of mulch around plants. Mulch will add much needed insulation to keep heat in and cold out.

Although fall is a great time for planting, there are some exceptions. Evergreens need more time to adjust and build up stores of moisture. If not, they may dry out over the winter when the ground is hard and water supply is cut off. Also, some plants and shrubs sustain a bit of damage throughout the winter. A newly planted specimen may not be sufficiently established to handle the first winter, and may not make it through.

And finally, if you’re wanting to press your luck by planting something that is not ideally suited to your hardiness zone (Southwestern Ontario ranges anywhere from Zone 5 to 7), it will have a much better chance of surviving our winters if planted in spring and given a full growing season to acclimate.

Although many homeowners will start putting their gardens to bed for the year, plants are still growing and thriving in the early to mid-fall conditions. Take advantage of this time to change up your gardens, adding splashes of fall colour not just for this year, but for years to come.

Weed Control

Weed Control

Where weeds come from

There are several classifications and definitions of weeds. However, in the very simplest terms, a weed is an unwanted plant in your lawn or garden.

No plant that’s perceived as a weed today has always been a weed. Once upon a time, they lived in a benign location and had no notable negative impact on their surroundings.

The turning point – when a plant becomes a weed – is when it invades a space where it is not desired and/or has an undesirable impact on people, animals, or other vegetation.

So, if they weren’t there to start with, how did those weeds get into your yard? They were carried there – transported by vehicle, animal, or on the wind.

And many seeds don’t need a whole lot of TLC to germinate. As long as they have oxygen and water, and a bit of sunlight, they will grow. So, the big question:

Controlling Weeds | A Touch of Dutch Landscaping & Garden Services

How to control weeds

Let’s face it – weed avoidance is not a thing. However, there are strategies that will help you tame the beast and minimize the negative impact of weeds.

  1. Cut off their food supply
    As mentioned above, weeds need water, oxygen, and sunlight. So water only desired plants and plant closely together. Weeds don’t tend to grow as prolifically under other plants. The less exposed area you have in your gardens, the fewer weeds you will have to pull.
  2. Don’t disturb the soil.
    When adding new plants or removing weeds from your lawn and garden, closely target the soil or weed in question. Weed seeds are generally present throughout your soil, so turning the soil brings new seeds closer to the surface, giving them the opportunity to germinate.
  3. Mulch is your friend.
    Keep exposed soil covered with a thick (about 4 inches) layer of good quality mulch. This deprives weed seeds of sunlight, helping to keep them at bay. Some prefer crushed stone or river rock. These work as well. Just be sure to add a base layer of landscaping fabric over the surface before adding the rock. Keep in mind though that new seeds that are deposited from animals or the wind will germinate, so see the next tip.
  4. Weed early and often.
    The sooner you pluck weeds out, the easier removal will be and the less damage they will do. If you give weeds a chance to take root, they’ll develop stronger, deeper roots systems at one end and seed heads (which will distribute more seeds) at the other. The best time to weed is after a good rain, when the ground is soft and roots will release more easily.

Weeds in your lawn and garden are the bane of any homeowner’s existence. But, armed with the information above, you’ll have a better understanding of where they’re coming from and how to control them.

Ready, set, weed!

Add Winter Interest to Your Gardens

Add Winter Interest to Your Gardens

Most of us here in Southwestern Ontario prefer the warmer months. But when the snow falls it’s nice to still be able to enjoy your outdoor landscape, even from indoors. Visual interest in winter doesn’t have to come just from urns, wreaths, and garland that gets taken down shortly after Christmas. Hardscaping and plants provide cold-weather beauty that lasts the all season long. Below, we explore various landscaping options whose function and good looks extend well past our patio-dwelling days.


EVERGREENS

Conifers are typically top of mind when a landscaper wants to add year-round life to a garden because most keep their foliage throughout the cold months. They come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and shades of green that will compliment any home’s exterior. Some of the more popular conifers in our region are from the pine, spruce, and fir groups. And while they come from a different conifer family, cedars, cypress, and junipers, with their splayed branches, aromatic wood, and interesting bark, are also very popular.

But there’s more to evergreens than just needles and cones. Other conifer families are broad-leafed and/or fruit-bearing. These shrubs tend to have an appearance that more closely resembles a deciduous plant, but they don’t shed their leaves. Beautiful examples of broadleaf evergreens that thrive in the hardiness zones of Southwestern Ontario are Euonymous, Boxwood, and the festive favourite, Holly.

Beyond conifers, there are many trees and plants that brown or lose their leaves every year that can add structure and interest to the outdoors.

Ornamental grasses are a great example of plants that turn brow but maintain their structure through the winter and make a lovely, wispy addition to a winter landscape.

Purple Coneflower, Black-Eyed Susan, Hydrangea, and Autumn Joy Sedum shed their foliage but maintain flower stalks and/or seed heads that look beautiful under a blanket of snow.

Mountain Ash, Canadian Serviceberry, and Winterberry (a popular Holly variety) are great choices for adding pops of colour to your winter landscape. Tip: Holly berries will only form if male and female plants are established together, so be sure to purchase one of each to avoid disappointment.

Many trees offer visual interest with noteworthy texture or colour. Birch trees have a white, papery bark whose beauty is revealed after it sheds its canopy of leaves in the fall.

Stems and twigs can provide bursts of colour ranging from bright green to orange and red. In our region Dogwoods are a common shrub that add vivid colour against the white snow. And a funny-looking tree with a funnier name – Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick – adds twisty, highly textural support for freshly fallen snow.


HARDSCAPING

Don’t discount stone structures and fixed furniture as difference makers where visual interest is concerned. These hardscaping elements can add colour and texture to otherwise flat terrain.


ADDITIONAL BENEFITS

Besides enhancing the beauty of your outdoor space, landscaping and hardscaping can also play more functional roles.

Attracting birds
Trees and shrubs bearing berries or situated close to suet and seed will provide nourishment for birds including Juncos, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Nuthatches, Chickadees, Finches, Woodpeckers, Doves, and Sparrows. Dense, mature evergreens can also offer ideal shelter.

Privacy and windbreak
A properly situated row of evergreens ensures year-round privacy and can also act as a windbreak and natural snow fence, sheltering your yard from cold winds and drifting snow.

Beautiful, day and night
Outdoor lights aren’t just for the holidays. White mini lights can define the shape of a small tree or shrub. Consider lighting natural and hard elements with floodlights or projection lamps for a different but equally beautiful aesthetic at night.

Adding visual interest to outdoor spaces increases the appeal, value, and enjoyment of your home. As long as you’re selecting plants and varieties that are appropriate for your hardiness zone, your landscaping can help beautify your home not just in the warmer months, but throughout the year.