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Shrubs and Perennials for Shade Gardens

Shrubs and Perennials for Shade Gardens

When springtime rolls around, homeowners start getting flowerbeds and gardens ready for the growing season. This usually means moving plants and shrubs and adding more to the mix. There are so many options for the sunny spots in your yard, but what about those more challenging, shady spots? Fear not. There are plenty of beautiful, hardy, low-maintenance shrubs and perennials for shade gardens.

The following are some of our favourite plants and shrubs for shady gardens and flowerbeds. Not only are these options beautiful, but many are native to Ontario, or at least well-adapted to our climate, so require very little maintenance, once established.

Shade-Loving Shrubs

shady gardens shade-loving yew taxus canadensis evergreen nativeBoxwood
Densely leaved evergreen shrub that can be easily shaped to suit virtually any location or style.

Yew
Low-growing evergreen with soft, needle-like foliage that bears red berry-like seeds.

Serviceberry
Small tree that adapts well to various environments, bears fruit and attracts wildlife.

shrubs and perennials for shade gardens honeysuckle non-invasive flowers that attract hummingbirdsNon-Invasive Honeysuckle
Tolerates both sun and shade, blooms from spring to late summer, and is a favourite of hummingbirds and bumblebees.

Arrowwood Viburnum
Flowering shrub that bears purplish-blue berries and whose foliage turns brilliant colours in the fall.

Oakleaf Hydrangea
Round deciduous shrub produces large clusters of long-lasting white flowers that gradually turn purplish-pink.

shrubs and perennials for shade gardens japanese rose perennial shrub bushJapanese Rose
A deciduous flowering shrub with brilliant yellow flowers that prefers fully or partially shady locations.

Perennials for Shade Gardens

 

Ferns
A wide variety of fern species in various sizes that thrive in Ontario’s climate in part- to full-shade.

shady gardens shade-loving solomon's sealSolomon Seal
Elongated leaves grow on arching stems of white, tubular flowers in the spring, yielding dark, almost black berries.

Lungwort
Low-growing plant with speckled leaves and small, bell-shaped flowers in shades of purple and pink.

Hosta
Available in various shades of flat and variegated green, they produce large blooms on large stalks and can be easily split and transplanted.

shrubs and perennials for shade gardens hellebore helleborus native perennialHellebore
Early blooming, low-growing, mounding perennial with large, star-shaped flowers in shades of white, yellow, pink, and purple.

Brunnera
Large, heart-shaped leaves with tiny, forget-me-not type flowers that bloom in early- to mid-spring.

Hardy Geranium
Sprawling, low-growing green foliage with five-petaled flowers in shades of white, bluem pink, and purple.

shrubs and perennials for shade gardens perennial astilbeAstilbe
Low, mounding plant that produces fuzzy flower plumes in shades of white, red, purple, and pink on tall stalks.

Japanese Forest Grass  
Dense, mounding ornamental grass with bright- and medium-green coloured variegated leaves that grow in waterfall-like arrangement.

With all of these options, shaded lots have no excuse to be dull. For continued visual interest throughout the year, be sure to combine plants of different heights, shapes, colours, and blooming periods.

And as always, if you need assistance with establishing and or maintaining your shade garden(s), contact us.

 

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!

 

Give Annual Flowers A Second Wind

Give Annual Flowers A Second Wind

It’s late summer and for many people, that means it is time to start thinking about fall flowers. With fall just around the corner, many people start thinking about pulling out those annuals and overgrown perennials to get ready for the cooler months.

However, if your flower beds and planters are looking a bit past their prime right now, don’t write them off. Summer’s not over yet. Here are some tips on how to get your late-summer annuals back into shape so you can enjoy their blooms until the frost.

Annuals can start to get leggy this time of year with extreme heat and/or prolonged periods without adequate care. Other annuals maybe just didn’t fare well in this summer’s damp, humid conditions.

Cut annuals back to allow for new growth

Hanging Baskets of Annual Flowers

Mix of annual flowers and foliage in hanging baskets

Some annuals thrive in the dog days of summer, but if some of your blooms are looking more dead than alive, trim them back, removing all dried out stems and foliage, and cutting back the healthier looking parts by about 30-50 percent.

The heat-loving flowers will continue to thrive for the time being, but once the weather starts to cool down, the trimmed down plants will come back to life and provide another round of colour to finish out the season.

Replace flowers that can’t be brought back to life

If there’s no reviving select plants, you might consider replacing them, as annuals are generally being cleared out at nurseries so the pricing will be favourable. If you have a lot of affected flowers in pots and beds, consider only replacing those in high-visibility areas, and simply remove others and add to yard waste.

Replace annual flowers with a fall favourite

Chrysanthemums mums fall flowers perennial annual plants

Mums offer beautiful late-summer colour and will come back every year when planted.

Mums are starting to appear in nurseries across Southwestern Ontario right now. They’re typically positioned as an annual. But Chrysanthemums planted in the ground, given sufficient time to get established, and mulched well before the snow flies will generally tolerate our winters, coming back year after year. And they’re available in a wide range of beautiful colours, making them a fantastic candidate to replace or compliment annual blooms.

Create balance

Annuals are ideally used to provide bursts of colour in planters and flowerbeds throughout the summer. Be sure to balance the lively hues of annuals with dependable, low-maintenance perennials that provide ever-evolving visual interest from spring to fall.

Annual flowers zinnias mixed with shrubs boxwood perennials day lilies

Annual flowers mixed with shrubs and perennials for evolving visual interest.

You’ll still be able to find many perennials at nurseries at this time of year. Opt for native, non-invasive species, which are adapted to our climate. Not only do they typically require less maintenance than their more exotic counterparts, but they also can provide food and habitat for pollinators – birds, bees, and butterflies.

If you’re relying too heavily on annuals to provide colour and visual interest around your home, or if you’re ready for a landscaping makeover, contact us anytime. We’d love to help you create a plan that better suits your lifestyle, needs, and budget.

 

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.