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Plant Combinations

Plant Combinations

When it comes to selecting plants, shrubs and trees for your gardens, there are myriad options you can choose to add visual interest, minimize maintenance, and attract birds, bees, and other pollinators. But the real magic happens when you select plant combinations that complement one another, elevating the overall effect.

plant combinations for shade perennial shady garden hosta fernWhen you drive by a home and find yourself admiring their beautiful landscaping, it’s typically not due to an individual element in their garden, but rather the combination of plants, shrubs, and trees that work nicely together.

Regardless of whether you’re planning a formal or informal style, you can find specimens that will help you achieve the look you’re aiming for. A few things to consider:

Height

Create depth and balance by grouping elements of various heights. Taller plants/trees can be placed at the back (or middle for an island flowerbed) while shorter selections can be added at the front or around the edge.

Shape

Consider the various shapes of foliage, flowers, and overall plants. While consistent shapes throughout a design can be effective, they tend to lend a more formal appearance, so choose shapes accordingly. Also, look for options that tend to naturally hold the desired shapes to minimize the additional task of pruning.

Quantity

Design theory dictates that odd numbers are more visually appealing, so group plants, shrubs, and trees accordingly.

planting combinations shrubs tall short height sizeSeasonality

Some perennials look great in spring, summer, and fall (and even winter). Others have features that really shine for only a limited amount of time during one season, and then are rather unremarkable the rest of the year. For example, Forsythia is full of brilliant yellow blooms in the spring while the Burning Bush foliage is a brilliant red in the fall. Group elements to ensure that at least one plant or tree is always offering some visual interest.

Colour

Play around by planting different shades of the same colour. Go monochromatic by planting elements whose colours are all the same, but size and shape varies. Or select plants, shrubs, and trees whose colours are different from one another but complementary.

Hardiness

If you’re planting combinations that you want to come back year after year, ensure they’re all appropriate for your hardiness zone. Stratford and area’s hardiness zone is generally a 6. If in doubt, ask the nursery where you buy your plants.

Plant Combinations for Sun and Shade

plant combinations prairie echinacea purple coneflower rudbeckia black eyed susanSun

Coneflowers, Ornamental Grasses , Black-Eyed Susan, and Gayfeather (Liatrus) creates a low-maintenance prairie look that is colourful and showy from early summer to late fall.

Shade

Combining Hostas with Ferns and Japanese Forest Grass creates visual interest with a range of leaf sizes, textures, and colours. And Hostas provide the added bonus of white or pale purple blooms in the summer.

These are just two of many types of plant combinations you could try in your gardens. If you’re interested in adding or enhancing visual interest in your gardens but don’t want to do it yourself, contact us to discuss your landscaping goals.

Groundcover for Sun and Shade

Groundcover for Sun and Shade

groundcover to grow in sun and shade landscaping around pondGroundcover for sun and shade are plants that tend to grow low to the ground and spread. These ranging plants do double duty in your flowerbeds. With their showy foliage and/or flowers, they add visual interest. But just as importantly, if not more so, they act much like mulch, helping to suppress weeds, reduce soil erosion, and retain moisture.

What’s more, groundcovers are generally low-maintenance, so you get all the benefits mentioned above, without back-breaking work. Just ensure that you plant groundcover plants according to their light exposure requirements.

groundcover creeping phlox plant in full sunA few of the reasons you might consider planting a groundcover:

  • To cover ground where it’s extremely hot and sunny. Drought conditions can leave grass and/or plants parched. Some of the varieties listed below can better tolerate these conditions, and will look nice doing it.
  • To keep weeds down. Weeds are simply unwanted plants in your lawn and garden. If you find weeds particularly troublesome in an area of your flowerbed or lawn, consider planting groundcover appropriate for that area to keep weeds in check.
  • groundcover creeping juniper plant in full sunTo cover steeply graded areas of grass. If your yard has any sloping areas that are hard to maintain, consider replacing the grass with a ground cover to eliminate the hassle.
  • To cover shady spots where grass is sparse. Too much shade can also lead to patchy grass growth. Plant a shade-loving groundcover instead for lush, even coverage.
  • To reliably cover areas with high foot traffic. If your grass is worn in areas where there is consistent foot traffic, a robust groundcover with a creeping habit should provide better coverage.

groundcover for sun stonecrop sedumGroundcovers to plant in the sun

  • Creeping Thyme
  • Stonecrop Sedum
  • Creeping Juniper
  • Ice plant
  • Catmint
  • Creeping Phlox
  • Black-Eyed Susan

groundcover for shade sweet woodruff fernGroundcovers to plant in the shade

  • Lamium
  • Bugleweed
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • European Ginger
  • Carex/Sedge
  • Japanese Spurge
  • Periwinkle

groundcover for shade periwinkle vincaNote that some groundcovers, due to an aggressive spreading or creeping habit, can be invasive, so it’s important to take a bit of time to choose the right plants based on your goals and available space.

If you would like to incorporate groundcovers into a new or existing landscape design but aren’t up for doing it yourself, we can help you make the right choices for your needs and goals. Contact us any time.

Colourful Landscaping Ideas

Colourful Landscaping Ideas

While having a lush, green landscape can be beautiful, most homeowners want colourful landscaping ideas so they can enjoy at least a pop of colour to liven up their gardens.

And while many look to tropicals and/or annuals for added colour, there’s a wide range of hardy perennials in a full spectrum of hues that you can plant to achieve this in Southwestern Ontario.

Adding colour to your landscaping doesn’t just increase your enjoyment of your outdoor spaces, but it enhances curb appeal and also attracts a wide variety of birds, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators to your gardens.

Some birds are attracted to flowers and garden décor that are the same colour as their plumage, especially when the hunt for a mate is on. For example, orioles are attracted to orange and hummingbirds find reds, pinks, and purples appealing.

It’s interesting to note that white can signal danger to different species of birds, so landscaping that’s resplendent with white flowering plants, shrubs, and trees may see limited avian visitors.

That said, butterflies are attracted to white flowers in addition to plants and flowers in vibrant shades of red, purple, pink, orange, and yellow. They also prefer to feed in full sun.

During the transitional months of April and May, we start to see trees and shrubs fill out and spring-flowering plants and trees exhibit beautiful colour, many with fragrant blooms.

 

Colourful Landscaping Ideas for Spring

Trees and shrubs that will increase the colour quotient in spring include:

  • forsythia spring color landscaping colourful perennials plants flowers trees shrubsForsythia – brilliant yellow blooms
  • Weigela – trumpet-shaped white, pink, fuchsia, or red blooms
  • Dappled Willow – sprays of white and pale pink petals at stem tips
  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Deutzia – showy stems of white blooms and gorgeous fall foliage

 

Some of the plants and flowers that steal the scene in the spring include:

  • Catmint – clusters of purple-blue flowers, much like lavender
  • Hellebores – five-petal, open-faced flowers in a range of striking colours
  • Irises – tall stalks with large, orchid-like flowers in various colours
  • Pasque Flower – mounds of short purple-petaled flowers with large bright yellow centres
  • Spring Bulbs – tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, grape hyacinths

Colourful Landscaping Ideas for Summer

Shrubs and plants whose colour peaks in the summer include:

  • butterfly bush monarch summer color landscaping colourful perennials plants flowers trees shrubsSpirea
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Penstemon
  • Daylilies
  • Upright Phlox
  • Coneflower
  • Campanula
  • Cranesbill Geraniums
  • Hydrangeas

 

Colourful Landscaping Ideas for Fall

While fall is typically viewed as a transitional season, the gateway to winter, there are a wide variety of plants, shrubs, and trees that are at their colourful best in September and October:

  • Rose of sharon fall autumn color landscaping colourful perennials plants flowers trees shrubsBurning Bush
  • Sweet Spire
  • Tiger Eyed Sumac
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Fothergilla
  • Sedum
  • Asters
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • False Sunflower

 

Colourful Landscaping Ideas for Winter

Even winter can’t bleach the colour out of every plant, shrub, and tree. The following provide beautiful contrast against an otherwise colourless landscape:

  • cotoneaster winter color landscaping colourful perennials plants flowers trees shrubsRed Twig Dogwood
  • Yellow Twig Dogwood
  • Euonymus
  • False Cypress
  • Winterberry
  • Holly
  • Cotoneaster
  • Juniper
  • Boxwood

Most importantly, if you want to keep colour in your gardens all year long with perennials, we recommend selecting a few of the above suggestions from each seasonal category. That way, as colour is fading from one season’s showy selections, the next season’s perennials will take centre stage.

We often consult with clients who are interested in low-maintenance options but still want visual interest and colour in their gardens. If you need assistance selecting the right plants, trees, and shrubs for your landscape, contact us.

Add Privacy with Landscaping

Add Privacy with Landscaping

Often, when homeowners want to add privacy to their yards, they think of walls and fences made from stone and/or wood. And sometimes solid structures like these are needed if the goal is to keep people and animals in or out.

However, if you simply want to break up visual sightlines, add privacy with landscaping including plants, shrubs, and trees. And if you’re looking for inspiration, here are some of our favourites that we incorporate into landscaping projects when clients desire increased privacy from neighbours.

Evergreen Options

Add privacy with cedars emerald blackEmerald Cedar

Although, slower growing than other cedars, the Emerald Cedar is a vibrant green, dense, cone-shaped evergreen that grows quite tall (4 metres) and can survive (preferably in full sun) for 30+ years.

Black Cedar

Although cone-shaped like the Emerald variety, the darker-coloured Black Cedar has a wider base, making it an excellent choice for windbreaks and perimeter hedges. They are a faster-growing shrub and can survive for 50+ years topping out at approximately 5 metres in height.

Add privacy with landscaping juniper hedge

Yew (Taxus canadensis)

The Canadian Yew, the most prevalent of yews in Southwestern Ontario, is a vibrant green with dense limbs of soft, flat needles. While it does grow quite wide (up to 7 feet) it maxes out at only 4 feet in height, making it a candidate for low hedges and topiaries. Bright red berries mature in late summer to early fall, providing visual contrast against green foliage.

Spruce

While Black, White, and Red Spruces are indigenous, the Norway and Colorado/Blue varieties also thrive in Southwestern Ontario (hardiness zone 5). Generally speaking, Spruce trees are quite hardy with dense foliage, and reaching heights of 20-25 metres. This option is better planted away from buildings and other structures, with plenty of room between each, if planting in a row/group.

Upright Juniper

Low-maintenance and hardy, upright Juniper varieties like the Wichita blue and Ontario green juniper mature quickly with dense foliage that makes them a great alternative to fences and privacy walls. Junipers can be planted fairly close together as they are narrow, but grow to approximately 15 feet tall.

Deciduous Options

American Hornbeam

This hardwood can reach 15 metres tall and provides ample privacy with its densely packed leaves, which turn a brilliant red in the fall.

Add privacy with a Hornbeam hedge

English Oak

The English Oak can grow to 60 feet tall and just as wide, though many varieties start out in a more cone-shaped habit before spreading out. These trees can live well beyond 100 years. There’s also a narrower variety more suited to tight spaces.

Privet

The fast-growing Privet makes a great privacy hedge with its dense, glossy, oval-shaped leaves. It flowers in the early summer, and yields non-edible fruit after flowering concludes.

Add privacy with Privet hedge floweringNinebark

A popular hedge choice in landscaping, the Common Ninebark’s leaves are a yellowish-green and grow in dense arrangements with seasonal flowers clusters. It is a fast-growing shrub, reaching up to 10 feet high and 8 feet wide.

Add privacy with a ninebark hedgeLarge Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses that thrive in Southwestern Ontario come in a wide range of shapes, colours, and sizes. Feather Reed Grass and Fountain Grass both grow to about 3 feet tall and make good low privacy screens. But if you’re looking for complete privacy, tall varieties like those of the Miscanthus genus are your best bet. They work great in conjunction with fence panels, planted in a standalone cluster, or lining the perimeter of a deck or patio. A word of warning though, Miscanthus can become invasive, if not managed with regular splitting and cutting back to the ground.

Add privacy with Miscanthus ornamental grass

Although these suggestions can help you get started, you might benefit from expert advice and installation, ensuring that the right varieties of trees to add privacy with landscaping are chosen. Contact us any time for assistance with enhancing the privacy of your yard.

Will My Plants Survive the Winter?

Will My Plants Survive the Winter?

Understanding Hardiness Zones

 

This time of year can cause trepidation in novice and non-gardeners. Will that beautiful flowering potted plant make it through the winter? Will that cute ornamental tree that I planted in the back flowerbed see next spring?

Well, there’s a resource that farmers, landscapers and green thumbs know of which outlines what plants will survive in different regions. The Hardiness Zone Map (below) is a colour-coded and alphanumerically-labelled infographic that represents growing zones and their respective average temperatures.

hardiness zones ontario stratford perth county ministry of natural resources

Originally created in the 1960s by Agriculture Canada, today’s hardiness zone maps are updated in Canada by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). And while the current map will serve you well when choosing and protecting your plants, it is subject to change and does have a few limitations.

Not surprisingly, climate change has a direct impact on hardiness zones. The maps below demonstrate a shift from the early 1960s (first map) to about 2010 (second map). This was one of the subtlest shifts in Canada. Western provinces saw a more marked change. Out there, the shift was a two-zone transition, and warmer zones were introduced that hadn’t before been seen in Canada.

 

southwestern ontario plant hardiness zone map 1961-1990
southwestern ontario plant hardiness zone map 1989-2010

Each numbered zone represents 10 degrees of difference in average annual temperature. Zones are further split into A and B, representing the lower and higher five degrees of the zone, respectively. Stratford, Ontario (see location indicator on map) used to be just inside Zone 5A, but is now in Zone 6A.

mandevilla dipladenia tropical flower hardiness zone 9 overwinter in southwestern ontario

Mandevilla (Dipladenia)

So, what does that mean for the Mandevilla (for example) that you bought in the spring and have been enjoying all summer long? A Mandevilla is a tropical plant and is only winter-hardy down to Zone 9. That’s an average annual temperature of roughly 30 degrees warmer than we experience here in Southwestern Ontario. So, if you want it to survive the winter, it has to be brought indoors.

Of course, the alternative is to treat a plant like this as an annual and just let it die off in the fall. However, many plants that aren’t winter-hardy in our zone will come back year after year if you properly acclimate them and have the space to overwinter them indoors. For the most part, they go dormant in the winter – a kind of hibernation – so require minimal attention.

If you’d prefer not to fuss with overwintering, and just want plants that can handle our winters, just do a little bit of reading when you’re selecting plants at the garden centre. Most perennials come with information tags that outline ideal drainage, sun exposure, and approximate dimensions of a fully-grown specimen. In addition, there will most likely be an indication of minimum hardiness zone.

perennial flowers plants garden purple flowers green leaves hardiness zone stratford ontario

Perennial garden with winter-hardy plants

There’s such a wide range of native and non-native plants, shrubs, and trees to choose from, you’re sure to find some that suit your own personal landscaping style.

If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration, check out some of our previous blog posts, like, Choosing native Ontario Plants for Your Garden, Fall Colour – Extending the Enjoyment of Your Gardens, and Drought-Tolerant Landscaping.

And of course, if you’d just prefer to leave your landscaping to the experts, we’re happy to help. Simply contact us to get the ball rolling!

 

Increase Your Home’s Value with Landscaping

Increase Your Home’s Value with Landscaping

With the current circumstances – stay-at-home orders and a crazy local housing market – many homeowners are opting to invest in their homes. Money that would otherwise be spent on travel, entertainment, consumer goods, etc. is directed instead to home improvement.

Done right, this can potentially increase a home’s value. However, the value of your home isn’t just about what you can get for it when you sell, but also the enjoyment you get out of it while you live there. So, let’s discuss a few ways to enhance both your quality of life and the monetary value of your home.

Curb Appeal

improve curb appeal to increase the value of your homeIf you search online for ways to increase a home’s value, one method that almost invariably tops the list is to increase your home’s curb appeal. After all, the front of your home provides the first impression for potential buyers, whether they’re passing by or viewing your home online.

Improving curb appeal doesn’t have to be complicated. The most important thing to do is keep things tidy by weeding, edging, and mulching your flowerbeds, pruning your trees and shrubs when appropriate, and aerating, fertilizing, and dethatching your lawn.

Minimal Maintenance

Low maintenance perennials with mulch and stone walkwayIf you’re looking to upgrade your home’s exterior – front, sides, or back – consider updates that will enhance livability, functionality, and practicality. Not only will this maximize your enjoyment, but when it comes time to sell, potential buyers will be able to see themselves relaxing in, rather than working on, the yard and gardens.

One way to add low-maintenance beauty to your landscape, is to include native varieties among the trees, shrubs and plants you choose. Native Ontario plant species are well-acclimated to our conditions, so require very little extra care over that which Mother Nature provides. Native species also attract native birds and smaller pollinators, which is an added bonus.

Hardscaping

Hardscaping stone patio and surrounding flowerbeds improve outdoor living area and add valueWalkways, patios, and retaining walls are gratifying additions to a home’s exterior. In keeping with the theme of minimal maintenance, though – a focus of almost every one of our customers – we recommend being mindful of the materials you use.

Wood decking has historically been inexpensive but does have a limited life span and also can require quite a bit of maintenance to keep it looking good and hazard-free. Poured smooth, brushed, or stamped concrete can make a great patio or walkway, but durability can be an issue and maintenance is required in the form of cleaning and sealing.

For optimal durability and ease of maintenance, precast or natural stone pavers are ideal. The range of colours, textures, and styles is virtually limitless and a stone patio or walkway can be straight/square or round/curvy, so you can be sure to find the right look to complement your home’s exterior.

And if you like the look of stone, smaller-sized decorative stone like river rock, lava rock, quartz, peastone, granite, and dolomite can be used in lieu of mulch in flowerbeds, in between large pavers in walkways and patios, and in and around water features.

Visual Impact

Visual impact adds value to your home lush gardens around poolPlants, trees, and shrubs can be used to camouflage imperfections, add privacy, and enhance the existing beauty around your home’s exterior and yard. For example, an exposed foundation can make a home appear old and unkempt. But, planting a balanced selection of plants and shrubs appropriate for the location’s sun exposure can add depth and colour, providing a welcome distraction from your foundation’s drab, grey expanse.

Exposure to winds or neighbouring properties can make backyard living less enjoyable than it should be. Planting a row of trees, shrubs, or ornamental grass can add shelter and/or privacy. Consider mixing shrubs or grasses with fence panels for increased visual interest.

Serenity

Water feature bubbling rock serene serenity peaceful atmosphereAdd unique atmosphere to your outdoor living areas, walkways, and/or front entrance with lighting and water. Ponds, streams, waterfalls, fountains, and bubbling rocks add an audio-visual element that has a universally relaxing effect. And including lighting along walkways, trees, water features, pools, and patios enhances outdoor safety and enjoyment after the sun goes down.

There are a multitude of ways to improve your landscaping for added quality of life and value. Starting with a plan can help you get focused and establish a budget. If you’re planning some upgrades this year, but don’t want to go it alone, we’re here to help. Drop us a note to let us know what your goals are and we’ll help you get there.