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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.

Drought-Tolerant Perennials

Drought-Tolerant Perennials

When we’re consulting new customers about their goals for new landscaping, “low-maintenance” is typically high on their list of outcomes. One of the key traits that makes a garden low-maintenance is the ability to thrive in dry conditions. And there are plenty of drought-tolerant perennials that fit the bill.

Drier summers like the one we’re experiencing this year can put a lot of stress on plants, trees, and shrubs. This is especially true for plants that are not yet established (newly-planted) and for non-native species and varieties.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to resign yourself to rock gardens with drought-tolerant succulents. There are many beautiful perennials that can weather and even thrive in dry conditions.

Below is a selection of our favourite drought-tolerant plants and flowers suitable for Southwestern Ontario’s hardiness zone (5/6).

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Sunny Locations

drought-tolerant perennials purple coneflowersConeflowers

Also known as Echinacea, Coneflowers provide pops of (most commonly) vibrant purple with a thistle-like centre that attracts pollinators.

Perennial Grasses

Available in a wide variety of sizes and colours, ornamental grasses add a lot of texture and visual interest to a garden. Be sure to select varieties that are hardy in your zones, as some grasses will not survive our winters and so are better suited to annual planters.

drought-tolerant perennials russian sageRussian Sage

This lavender-hued beauty thrives in dry soil and offers a wispy appearance with silvery foliage that is as striking as its flowers.

Daylilies

The ubiquitous Daylily, with all of its available sizes and colours, makes a great, low-maintenance addition to gardens and fence lines.

Sedum

Also referred to as Stonecrop, sedum is a succulent whose light pink, purple, or reddish flower clusters that bloom in late summer and last into the fall. Autumn Joy is a common variety and looks great alongside ethereal grasses.

drought-tolerant perennials liatris blazing starGayfeather

Liatris spicata, commonly known as Gayfeather or Blazing Star, is a spreading, upright perennial with vibrant green foliage and spikes of purple, pink, and/or white flowers.

Yarrow

Super easy to grow, Yarrow has fern-like foliage with clusters of small, white or pale-coloured blooms. Plants can be easily split to avoid it taking over your garden.

Drought Tolerant Plants and Flowers for Shady Locations

drought-tolerant perennials sedge carexCarex/Sedge

Some varieties of Sedge do well in shady locations. The prominent, grass-like foliage is brightly-coloured and/or variegated, making it an excellent companion for flowering perennials.

Barrenwort

Also known as Longspur or Bishop’s Hat, Barrenwort produces gorgeous, orchid-like flowers on long stems and thrives in low-light areas.

drought-tolerant perennials lamiumLamium

Part of the mint family, Lamium spreads nicely to provide an interesting ground cover with mottled or variegated leaves and small, orchid-like flowers.

Bleeding Heart

Emerging in the spring, first with foliage followed by blooms, the Bleeding Heart earns its name from the heart-shaped flowers that grow along long, horizontal stems.

drought-tolerant perennials foam flowerFoamflower

Blooming in the spring, the Foamflower’s bright and sometimes variegated cut-leaf foliage yields to tall sprays of delicate flowers.

Bigroot Geranium

Unlike its upright annual cousin, the perennial Bigroot Geranium remains low and spreads to create a beautiful flowering groundcover that keeps weeds at bay.

So, there are myriad options for gardens in dry conditions. However, if you need assistance with choosing the right combinations for your gardens, contact us.

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!