Go Native: Great Canadian Plants
By Marjorie Harris
Every region has a Serviceberry (Amelanchier) or a variation on this superb native plant. It blooms in spring, has great tasting berries (for example, Saskatchewan’s Saskatoon berry) and, planted by a dogwood, makes a great visual combination. (There are dozens of species of dogwood (Cornus) and in such colour and variety, you could fill a garden with them. Very Canadian.
Here, some other dishy plants to look for relative to each climate zone (I’ve left out zones 0 and 1, the Far North, and 8, the extreme south – ask your local garden centre for tips or go to www.markcullen.com.) My theme is gold and blue, a magnificent combination inside and out of the garden.
Zone 2 Phlox stolinifera ‘Creeping phlox’ makes for a bright and cheerful ground cover.
Zone 3 Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ has chartreuse blooms, goes on for months and can take sun to light shade. It’s a tough plant and handsome with some pruning.
I always fall in love with a new gizmo every season, but the one great and classic tool that never leaves my hands, especially in the very earliest part of the season, is a good weeder. This is a great time of year to rogue (haul) out nasty invasive weeds such as Creeping Charlie and other things not wanted on the voyage to summer.
I favour a spin on the good old Japanese weeder, which is a vicious instrument with a short sharp claw and a relatively long handle (13.5 inches). You can whack away in tight corners or around shrubs, soften up the soil and remove any invader easily. There are many very good variations on it: CobraHead Weeder is one; the Circlehoe is good; so is a cultivator. Each is very effective and feels good in the hand and doesn’t get worn out quickly.
Remove weeds early while the soil is moist so you can actually identify what plants from last year’s garden are coming out of the ground, and save backbreaking work later on. Dandelions will mean digging down with a sharp deeply dished trowel, while any of the above weeders will work for spreading plants. Keep your eye out for wild mustard; it comes up fast, with pretty yellow blooms and spreads like crazy knocking out everything else.
GREEN THUMB GUIDES
Growing Vegetables: Learn Something New (DK) is from the Get Started series of how-to guides that also includes titles such as Baking, Yoga and Wine Appreciation. For the novice gardener who may have an inkling to get back to the land but with enough tips to keep the most seasoned veggie grower interested, the book covers everything from equipment to weeding to, yes, growing veggies.
Garden Rescue: First Aid for Plants and Flowers (DK) by Jo Whittingham is packed with question-and-answer–style advice to diagnose and treat common plant ailments. With this book, you’ll easily become a self-styled plant MD, and your garden may just thank you for it. —Vivian Vassos