Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Preview of the Canadian Cancer Society's Annual Garden Tour: Paula's Garden


For Paula, gardening is a passion deeply rooted in family.

"My parents only really started gardening about 35 years ago with their purchase of a house in Mississauga.  However, it was at their current house purchased 5 years later where they both truly invested (time and funds) into their garden," Paula tells me.

"They started with a designer's plan, but soon abandoned that to shape their garden in their own way.  Over the years the garden has evolved from a limited set of familiar plants from their experiences in the Azores (where our family obsession with hydrangeas comes from) to a garden full of many varieties and colour."

In her mother's case, a love of gardening reaches back through the generations to Paula's great grandparents.

"My mother often reflects on her memories of growing up in her grandparents gardens and we feel that is likely her inspiration. She has a real knack for flower and plant design," says Paula.

Her father and sister have also been a big influence.

 "My father has become a collector with over forty varieties of hydrangeas and an even greater number of hostas. Each year my parents expand or reshape parts of their garden to fit in new ideas or plants. As my sister grew up, she started taking a more active part in recommendations and new ideas."

A flagstone walkway leads to a seating area at the side of the house and then splits to lead visitors in two different directions. One path leads to a back patio and the other to a log cabin style shed.

 Container plantings by the side door.

There is something to be said for having a big expanse of a single plant. Here native Ostrich Fern has been allowed to colonize a large area. The effect of a big swath of fresh chartreuse is dramatic.

Idea to Steal: Don't feel you have to clutter your garden with a million different kinds of plants. Sometimes one is all you need to make a dramatic statement!

Ostrich Fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris is a clump-forming, upright deciduous fern. 'Fiddleheads' emerge at the base of the clump in spring and unfurl into broad green fronds. This fern is easily grown in medium to wet average garden soil. It will colonize an area with favourable conditions over time. Part-shade to full shade.  Height: 90-120 cm (36-48 inches), Spread: 60-90 cm (24-36 inches). USDA Zones: 3-7.

 Ostrich Ferns

The front garden.

The purchase of her own home provided Paula with an opportunity to experiment with garden design and plant choices. The property was not without challenges. When she bought the house, the sloped front garden was a mix of periwinkle, ferns and a few trees. The shaded backyard offered a narrow terrace with a steep and rocky drop to a natural creek.

Paula was unfazed,"I did not think I had much of a hand or interest for gardening and wanted a low maintenance garden.  I relied on my parents a lot in the first few years. My father shared many of his hostas and other plants and helped with all the heavy lifting (for instance, he laid almost all the flagstone)."

"My mother became my design advisor.  My sister started contributing recommendations and gifts of new plant varieties. All of them helped with the work!"

Epimedium lishihchenii 'Fairy Wings'

Idea to Steal: Start a collection of an unusual plant that interests you. 
Barrenwort or Epimedium is a shade plant that offers an amazing range of flower shapes, sizes and colors. The foliage also varies in color, size and shape. 
It's fascinating to see a range different cultivars grouped together as Paula has done in her garden. To get a better idea of the diversity of Epimedium available, check out the listings Epimedium on the Lost Horizons Nursery website.

 Epimedium x warleyense 'Orange Queen'

Barrenwort, Epimedium x warleyense 'Orange Queen' is a non-invasive groundcover for shade. 'Orange Queen has sprays of tiny, creamsicle-colored flowers in mid-spring. Old foliage can be trimmed back to the ground to to show the flowers to best effect in the spring. This is a fairly adaptable shade plant that will flourish in average, sandy or clay soil. It is also drought tolerant once established. Divide in early fall. Height: 20-25 cm (8-10 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches), USDA zones 4-9.

Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum

Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum is a great plant  to naturalize in a woodland setting. In spring, plants with two large leaves produce a single white flower that becomes a yellow fruit. The unripe fruit is slightly poisonous, but is edible when fully ripe. This native plant spreads by creeping rhizomes and will often carpet a forest floor. In mid-summer it goes dormant. Grow this native in average, medium moist, well-drained soil. Part-shade to shade. Height: 30-45 cm. USDA zones: 3-8.

A closer look at the"apple".

Dwarf Western Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum aleuticum 'Imbricatum'


 Brunnera macrophylla 'Dawson's White' (left) has heart-shaped green foliage that is edged with cream. Sprays of pale blue flowers, which closely resemble forget-me-nots, appear in mid-spring. This cultivar is more sun tolerant than the older Brunnera macrophylla 'Variegata'. Part-shade to shade. Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches).  Zones 2-9.

Brunnera macrophylla 'Looking Glass' (right) has cool-toned, silvery-grey leaves that have fine, blue-green veining and leaf edges. Sprays of blue flowers emerge in spring. Average soil is fine and moist conditions are best. Part-shade to shade. Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches). USDA Zones: 3-8.

Dwarf Bearded Iris

When she set to work, Paula was surprised to find she shared her family's passion for gardening.

"Over the years I've discovered that I enjoy gardening more than I thought I did. I began applying more of my own ideas to the overall design.  My sister and mother are still my advisors even when we (occasionally) disagree on plant preferences," she laughs.

"My sister Ozzie and I are very close. She and my niece are a significant part of my life.  (Family is important for us). I think however, my sister is even more interested in gardening than I am.  Ozzie loves researching techniques, plant varieties, nurseries, etc. I wouldn't have the gardening knowledge or variety of plants without her. My dad starts teasing Ozzie that she has started her plant orders in January and jokes that she orders from all over the world."

Mature trees tower over the backyard and cast the garden into shade.

Trilliums love the sandy, free-draining soil.

Large Flowering Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum is a wildflower native to Ontario. They have white flowers with three petals which are held aloft on a stem containing a whorl of three leaves. 
Trilliums are spring ephemerals that require patience. They can take up to 7 years to go from seed to flower. As the flowers fade, they turn from white to a soft pink. Trilliums require moist, well-drained, slightly sandy soil that is rich in organic matter. Full to part-shade. Height: 20-50 cm (7-19 inches) USDA Zones: 4-9.


Even Paula's Dad has benefited from Ozzie's interest in plants.

"He loves the variety she has introduced to his collections. My sister regularly drops off new plants  for me to add to my garden. Especially any that my parents may not be a fan of."

Next week Paula's garden will be one of the eleven gardens on this year's tour in support of the Canadian Cancer Society. Not surprisingly, everyone has pitched in to help get ready.

 English Button Daisy, Bellis perennis

 Double Primula in the front garden.


Lungwort, Pulmonaria saccharata 'Silverado' has green leaves when it emerges in spring that quicly become splashed with silvery-grey. The flowers appear as early as April and are purply-blue and pink. Part-shade to shade. Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches).  USDA Zones 2-9.


"My entire family still regularly pitch in with the labour.  My sister and dad were here most of the day," says Paula.

All the hard work has payed off. "I enjoy sitting or walking through my garden, appreciating the beauty of the plants and feeling a sense of accomplishment when plants are thriving and the garden looks good. A day spent in my garden is something I look forward to -  it’s my stress relief."


The 13th Annual Spring Garden Tour in support of the Canadian Cancer Society will be taking place on Sunday, May 27, 2018  from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  This year’s tour will take place in the Clarkson area of Mississauga where eleven homeowners have graciously agreed to share their lovely gardens with tour participants.  All proceeds will go to the Canadian Cancer Society to help fight cancer.

Tickets will be available for sale online at ccsgardentour.com

Friday, May 18, 2018

Beginner Series: Getting the Most Out of a Garden Centre Visit




For most Canadians, the long weekend in May marks the start of the gardening season in earnest. The danger of overnight frost is unlikely and it is finally safe to plant tender annuals and vegetables.

If the fine spring weather holds this weekend, garden centres will be crowded with eager shoppers looking to buy plants.

Here are a few tips that might help you make sense of the overwhelming choices and make the most of your plant shopping dollars.


The shiny leaves of this shade plant caught my eye, so I took a picture. I went home and looked it up online. Once I figure out a home for it, I may go back and get one.

Try to avoid Impulse Purchases


When it comes to plants, I am the worst one for making impulse purchases! It comes with being a plant geek. I see something new or unusual and just I have to have it. But here's what I've learned the hard way– those spur of the moment purchases end up languishing in their nursery pots while I try to figure out where to put them.

I solved the problem somewhat by creating a nursery bed for strays, but even so, impulse buys often spend a year or more on hold waiting for a final location in the garden. By that time, they are often big and awkward to move. So here's a few strategies I now use to avoid the issue:

• Take a stroll through your garden with pen and paper in hand. Take note of any holes in your planting scheme that need a little something. If you happen to know the perfect plant for these spots, start a list. If you don't know exactly what plant you want, at least tally purchases you require for sun and those you need for shady areas.

• When it comes to annuals, it's fun to wait and see what strikes your fancy at the garden centre. Even so, I'd recommend having a mental tally of the number of plants you need to fill your containers and baskets.

• If something catches your eye, but you have no idea where you'd plant it, take out your phone and snap a picture for future reference.

Summer and late summer flowers top row from left to right: Phlox paniculata, Brown-eyed Susan, (Rudbeckia) and Sedum. Bottom row: Daylily (Hemerocallis), Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) and Coneflower (Echinacea)

Make a point of buying at least a few plants that bloom in mid-to-late summer. 


A picture on a plant tag is helpful, but something in bloom is way more tempting, isn't it? The problem with filling your shopping cart with perennials in bloom is you'll end up with a garden of plants that flower in the spring and early summer. Come mid-July and August you'll be disappointed with the lack of color.

Before you head to the garden centre, draw up with a list of a few options that will give you color in July, August and September (see image above for just a few of the many possible choices).

• Annuals might be short-lived, but they give you color all summer long, so I think of them as a short-termed investment that will pay off.



Avoid the Showy Perennial in Full Bloom


You're looking at a tray of perennials. Some are already in bloom. Others pots have flower buds only. Which is the better purchase?

I say always buy the plant with buds not the flowers. Most likely a perennial in bloom has already used up a good portion of its flowering time. Better to reach for the one with buds and enjoy the flowers for a longer period of time in your garden.

I feel sorry for the unwitting shoppers who buy expensive flowers like the foxglove (above). Foxgloves are biennials that flower in their second year. While that tall, impressive stock of blooms is a show stopper, it is also a sign that the foxglove is near the end of its short life. If you were to pay almost twenty dollars for this large potted plant, it may continue to flower for a few weeks. Then it will set seed, look bedraggled for a number of weeks and eventually die. If you love foxgloves, buy an inexpensive packet of seeds and grow them yourself.


Other plants that you often see in a big size with a hefty price tag are delphiniums and lupins. It's much better and cheaper to buy a smaller plant and wait for it to bloom. Unlike the foxglove, they will continue to reward you with flowers.

Small plants on the left and bigger plants on the right. Which is better?

Smaller verses Bigger Plants 


You're looking at two trays. One has large perennials in big pots for $10.99 and the other has much smaller versions for just $4.99. Which is the better option?

If money is tight, I say go with the smaller, less expensive pot. Get it into the ground as quickly as you can, water well and keep an eye on it for the first summer. It will bulk up soon enough.

• If you can afford it, the larger pot will give you instant impact.  On the other hand, I seem to find that large plants settle in okay, but don't always do as well as one might think the second year. Not sure why that is...

There are always the exceptions. A few long-lived perennials are really slow to grow and establish. Gas Plant, Baptisia and Amsonia are great examples. They take years to reach any size. In these instances, I think it's worth it to buy the bigger plant.

Sometimes there is no smaller option. Peonies, for instance, are always sold in large pots with a proportional price tag. Ornamental grasses are yet another example. They're big plants, so it is hard to find a pot for under $10.


A few perennials are just plain pricy regardless of the pot size. Hosta and heuchera are a perfect example. Only you can decide if they are worth it.


Hemerocallis 'Orange Smoothie' reblooms. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

New Cultivars verses Old Favourites


Gardening, like so many other things, has trendy items. It's expensive to develop and trial new cultivars, so that's usually reflected in the price tag.

When it comes to choosing the latest introduction or the old standby, I think it all comes down to your budget. You'll get more for your money by buying older cultivars. That being said, sometimes the new introduction has advantages to offer– a bigger flower, a longer bloom time or a smaller overall size. These advantages will sometimes make new introductions worth the extra money.

Problematic Goutweed lying in wait.

Beware the Problem Plant


Not every plant that you'll find in a nursery or garden centre is well-behaved. Retailers often sell plants that many consider problematic or invasive. 

For me a problem plant is not just aggressive, it's also a plant that is hard to remove where unwanted. The best thing a gardener can do is to avoid problems with invasive plants in the first place. Here are a few suggestions to help:

 • Pay heed to descriptives. A "groundcover" will spread out more or less aggressively to cover a wide area. If that's not what you are looking for, try to find an alternative that is "clump-forming."

• Take note of the manner a plant spreads and how quickly it does so. "Spreads by creeping rhizomes" means the plant will travel underground. "Prolific self-seeder" may also be an issue, if you dislike removing unwanted seedlings.

• The internet is an amazing resource. Before you plant something that is unfamiliar, look it up online. Type something like: "Is Creeping Jenny invasive?" into the search engine of your choice. If you get a long list of results, I'd think twice about planting Creeping Jenny.

• Make sure a particular plant doesn't have an invasive alert for your region. Some plants are fine in one part of the country, but can be a problem in other regions where growing conditions are very favourable. Again the internet is a great research tool.


Reserve some of your overall budget for the unexciting but necessary stuff.


It is really tempting to blow all your money on plants. I always try to remind myself that I will need some slow-release fertilizer for my containers and hanging baskets. I also try to leave money for some organic fertilizer for my roses and mulch to keep weeds in check.


If your plant shopping this weekend, have fun picking and choosing your plants. Just think how wonderful your garden will look this year!

And the Winner is...


So many people entered my latest giveaway, I have writer's cramp! Thanks to everyone who took the time to leave their names on Facebook, by email, on the blog itself and via Bloglov'n. 

Many thanks also to Renne's Seeds for providing the cookbook for this giveaway.

I had my husband help me draw a name. And the winner is...


Congratulations Danny-Leigh Hill. I had a bit of a laugh when my husband drew out her name, because Danny-Leigh had been thinking positively she included her address in her email entry!

Up very shortly is a review and a chance to win a copy of Niki Jabbour's new book Veggie Garden Remix.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Always Take Time to Stop and Smell the Roses…then eat them

Gathering dinner: dandelion greens, wax beans, and day lily buds will soon hit the pan with a bit of butter, salt, and pepper and be all the better for it! Photograph by Signe Langford


Wax beans, and day lily buds. Photograph by Signe Langford


by Signe Langford


Eating flowers is not as out there as it once was. Back in the 1990s only a handful of avant guard chefs were dotting their massive white plates with pretty posies. Now, it seems, almost everyone is doing it. In fact, you’ve been doing it for some time – eating flowers that is – possibly without even knowing it.

Capers are pickled Mediterranean nasturtium buds; vanilla is the stamen of a climbing yellow orchid native to Mexico; and the costly threads of saffron – another stamen – are plucked by hand from the centre of the deep purple saffron crocus; while the exotic perfume of roses and orange blossoms flavour many dishes in South East Asian, Mediterranean, and North African cuisine.

Some flowers make it to our tables incognito. Hops is a green flower that give beer bitterness and complexity of flavour; artichokes are really big thistles; and okra is a tasty member of the family Malvaceae – or mallow – which includes hollyhock, marshmallow, cotton and about 25 other siblings.

And we’re just getting started. We’ve not even touched on all the wonderful wild blossoms right there, under our noses – literally! – for the taking and potentially, baking.

Daylily. Photograph by Signe Langford

But first, here are a few edible flower dos and don’ts:

• If you haven’t tried eating a raw flower yet, try one then wait a while to see if you’re fine with it or allergic. If you have a pollen allergy, then eating flowers may not be for you.

• Only buy organic flowers from the grocer. Honestly, you’re better off growing your own, or buying from a certified organic grower or someone else you trust.

• This is a biggie: just because the flower is edible, it doesn’t necessarily mean the whole plant is. And vice versa; just because the plant is edible, it doesn’t necessarily mean the flower is. Plants store their chemicals—sometimes toxins—in different parts, so check first.

• Always wash delicately in cold water, and inspect for bugs.

• Never pick flowers from roadsides, along train tracks, or from lands and gardens you are not very familiar with. These plants may have been absorbing toxins and petro-chemicals.

• Don’t buy flowers to eat from the florist, they will most likely have been exposed to chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, perhaps even dyes.


• Again, this comes down to research, but depending on the flower, it may be best to remove pistils and stamens from the bloom, and eat only the petals.

• And never, ever, eat flowers that you do not know for 100 percent certain are edible. Once again, when in doubt, consult an expert.

Linden flowers.  Photograph by Signe Langford

From my own garden, I’ve enjoyed day lily, monarda, lilac, crabapple, eastern redbud, dandelion, linden, pansy, violets, clover, milkweed, rose, nasturtium, squash blossom, borage, marigold…and I’m sure I’m forgetting some pretty little thing.

Clover. Photograph by Signe Langford

Clover. Photograph by Signe Langford

Edible flowers can be added to just about anything. Don’t just think sweets, candies, and desserts, many edible blooms are actually quite peppery–monarda is a blissful blend of sweet and heat!—and make brilliant additions to savoury dishes.

Fresh red clover flowers are meaty, chewy, and taste like raw green beans. Add flowers to salads or as a stunning garnish to any dish, hot or cold, raw or cooked. Work pretty blossoms into foods where they’ll still get to shine; nestled into pancakes in the pan, dropped last minute into crepe batter, pressed into raw cookies before baking or into frosting; or even rolled into fresh pasta sheets.

While researching my second book – all about gardening and cooking with indigenous edible plants, no publisher yet! – I discovered so very much and yes, I ate a lot of weeds and wild flowers.


Here’s my recipe for Milkweed Simple Syrup 

Milkweed is a plant that continues to astound and enchant me. I’ve learned that First Nations people used to boil milkweed flowers in water; they’d let the water boil down until there was nothing but a thick, sweet, syrup left. This they would use as sugar.

And while I don’t didn’t feel compelled to re-enact history, I do think a milkweed-infused sweet syrup would be nice in cocktails so…

Milkweed flower. Photograph by Signe Langford

The makings of Milkweed Simple Syrup. Photograph by Signe Langford

I simply boiled up about 2 cups (500 mL) of water and added an equal amount of sugar. Once the sugar was all dissolved, I allowed it to cool for about 10 minutes while I prepared my jar.

Into a large mason jar I added about 5 of the loveliest milkweed flowers I could find; making sure there were no bugs or spiders lurking, and then poured the warm syrup in.

I put the lid on and allowed it all to steep for about 1 week; then discarding the flowers.

What resulted was a pretty pink, curiously herbaceous, sweet and mucilaginous syrup that works beautifully with gin!

Summer Celebration Salad. Photograph by Donna Griffith.

Summer Celebration Salad with Feta, Watermelon, Berries and Petals with a Blueberry Honey Vinaigrette


For the greens and herbs in this salad pick any combination of exotic or conventional, wild or domesticated: arugula, spinach, dandelion, lamb’s quarters, nasturtium leaves, baby kale, or even experiment with a few tender springtime maple leaves.

Likewise, pick whatever edible petals and berries you have on hand at the moment; in this recipe, I’m listing the flowers that I used to make the one in the photo, but you can get even more exotic, think sweetly scented maple, hawthorn, linden or eastern redbud blossoms or pluck petals from arrowhead, bee balm, chicory, eastern spring beauty, red clover, roses, evening primrose and spiderwort.

And, seriously, use this salad to celebrate summer as well as spring; just change up the combination of ingredients to reflect the season!

1 cup (250 mL) tender new peas, blanched

1 small purple onion, halved, then thinly sliced

1 cup (250 mL) feta, cubed

2 cups (500 mL) watermelon, cubed

½ cup (125 mL) fresh blueberries; or raspberries, serviceberries, mulberries…

5 small radishes, trimmed and very thinly sliced (about 1 cup/250 mL)

½ an English cucumber, very thinly sliced

About 1 cup (250 mL) of mixed leaves, domestic and wild

1 Tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped mint

4 daylily flowers, stamens removed, petals separated

4 nasturtium flowers, whole or petals separated

1 frilly type marigold, green part removed, petals separated (if using single bloom marigolds, use 4)

Blueberry Honey Vinaigrette 


I use Canadian blueberry honey—those busy bees keep North American blueberry bushes in fruit! – Featherstone Winery’s verjus, and Canadian-grown canola oil from Pristine Gourmet; it’s beautiful, deep-yellow, nutty stuff.

3 Tbsp (45 mL) olive or local cold pressed canola oil

1 Tbsp (15 mL) verjus or very good apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp (15 mL) blueberry honey

1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon-style mustard

¼ tsp (1 mL) sea salt

Black pepper to taste

To make the vinaigrette, add the oil, verjus or vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper to a medium bowl and whisk until well blended. Set aside.

To make the salad, blanch the peas. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to the boil over high heat. Add the peas and boil for 1 minute. Drain and transfer peas to a bowl of icy water. Allow to sit in the cold water until the peas are completely cooled, then drain and set aside to dry a bit.
Into a very large bowl add all the salad ingredients, including the cooled and drained peas, add the vinaigrette, and very gently toss; petals bruise easily. Tumble onto a serving platter and garnish with a final drizzle of honey.

Serves 4 as a starter

This post was written by Signe Langford












Signe Langford is a restaurant-chef-turned-writer who tells award-winning stories and creates delicious recipes. She is a frequent contributor to the Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Life, Canadian Living and Garden Making magazines. In 2105, Signe published her first book Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden- with 100 Recipes
Raised in the town of Hudson, Quebec Signe grew up surrounded by an ever changing menagerie of critters, both wild and domestic, and her special affection for all feathered creatures has never flagged. At present, she shares a downtown Toronto Victorian with a tiny flock of laying hens. For more stories and recipes please visit www.signelangford.com

Friday, May 11, 2018

10+ Numbered and Identified Shade Planting Schemes

1. Hosta 'August Moon' 2. 'Hosta 'Pizzazz' 3. Hosta 'Halcon' 4. Birtchwood Parky's Gold 
5. Sweet Woodruff

Knowing what plants to use in your shade garden is a first step, but incorporating them into a planting scheme can be intimidating. What goes where and how should the whole thing look when you're done? 

To help out, I have gathered some shade planting schemes together in one post. Each example is numbered and one or two plants have been highlighted with further information. There are even a couple of numbered container plantings included.

So let's get started.

Private garden in the Toronto Beaches. See more of this garden here.

A Shade Garden in the Toronto Beaches
The Beaches neighbourhood, just 20 minutes east of downtown Toronto, has the casual atmosphere of a lakeside resort town. If your very lucky your home has a view of Lake Ontario, and even if your not, the lakefront is often within walking distance. Yvonne's garden is as charming as the neighbourhood in which it resides.



1. Astilbe 2. Heuchera 3. Aralia cordata 'Sun King' 4. Bowman's Root, Gillenia trifoliata  5. Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum 6. Ligularia

One highlight from this planting scheme:


Bowman's Root, Gillenia trifoliata is a tough, long-lived native plant with reddish stems, narrow leaves and white, star-shaped flowers. Full sun or light shade. Prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil. Good fall color. Height: 60-120 cm (24-47 inches), Spread: 60-75 cm (24-30 inches). Zones: USDA 4-9.


Shady Container Planting
1. Alocasia 'Low Rider' 2. Wandering Jew, Tradescantia albiflora or Zebrina pendula (houseplant)  3. Sweet Potato Vine, Ipomoea batatas 'Blackie' 4. Spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum (houseplant)

The display garden at Gardens Plus

1. Hosta 'Deja Blu' 2. Hosta 'Solar Flare' 3. Hosta 'Moonstruck' 4. Ligularia 'Cafe Noir' 5. Hosta 'Abiqua Drinking Gourd' 6. Berry Bladder Fern 7. Hosta 'Brother Stephan' 8. Lily of the Valley 'Hardwick Hall' (warning Lily of the Valley is invasive)


Jamie's Woodland Garden
Jamie has used native plants to integrate her garden into a natural landscape that includes trees that are part of an old growth forest.


1. Canadian Ginger, Asarum canadense 2. Forest Pansy Redbud, Cercis canadensis 'Forest pansy' 3.Sedge, Carex 4. Sedge, Carex 5. Goat's Beard, Aruncus dioicus 6. Japanese Fern, Athyrium 7. Trillium 8.Astilbe 9. Ostrich Fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris.

One highlight from this planting scheme:


Goat's Beard now comes in small, medium and large.

Goat's Beard, Aruncus dioicus is the largest of the three and has feathery white plumes mid-summer. The plant has green ferny foliage which is quite attractive in its own right.  Part-shade or shade and average to moist soil.  Height: 120-180 cm ( 47-70 inches), Spread: 90-150 cm (35-59 inches.) USDA Zones: 2-9.

Goat's Beard, Aruncus 'Misty lace' is more suited to a smaller garden and is the medium sized plantHeight: 60-75 cm (23-29 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

Dwarf Goat's Beard, Aruncus aethusifolius forms a neat mound of ferny foliage with reddish stems. It has short spikes of white flowers in early mid-summer. Part-shade or shade and average to moist soil. Height: 20-30 cm (8-12 inches), Spread: 20-30 cm (8-12 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.


Part Shade/Full shade urn:
1. Alocasia 'Low Rider' 2. Hosta 'Island Breeze' 3. Caladium spp. 4. Purple Waffle Plant, Hemigraphis alternata 5. Scotch Moss, Sagina subulata 'Aurea' 6. Button Fern, Pellaea rotundifolia 


The Little Blue House on the Corner
When you enter the gate of Candace's house, a pathway leads you to a small pond and waterfall. Here is one of the numbered plantings from the shady area of her garden.


1. Climbing Hydrangea, hydrangea petiolaris 2. Solomon Seal, Polygonatum 3. Japanese Fern, Athyrium niponicum 4. Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum 5. Carex (grass-like perennial)

Two features from this planting scheme:


Hydrangea Petiolaris, also known as Climbing Hydrangea, is slow to grow, but is very useful as a non-invasive climber for shade. Hardy to USDA zone 4.

Solomon's Seal, Polygonatum: Depending on the cultivar this shade lover can range from 60-120 cm (23 -47 inches) and can spread to 60-90 cm (23-35 inches). Dangling white flowers appear in May and can be harmful if eaten. Sandy, average or clay soil that is on the moist side is best for this perennial. Divide in early fall. USDA Zones: 3-9



Grange Hollow Nursery and Display Garden:
Here is a numbered planting from the area just in front of one of the barns at Grange Hollow.


1. Japanese Fern, Athyrium niponicum 2. Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa 3. Lungwort, Pulmonaria 4. Hellebore "Golden Sunrise" 5. Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora 6. Hosta probably "Janet" 7.Lamium 'White Nancy' 8. Bugbane, Actaea (formerly Cimicifuga) "Pink Spike"  9. Canadian Ginger, Asarum canadense


Two standouts from this planting scheme:

Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora When new fronds appear they are coppery-red in color. This fern is evergreen in zones with mild winters. It likes slightly acidic soil and that is consistently moist and rich in organic matter. Height: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 5-9.

Canadian Wild Ginger, Asarum canadense is native to the woodlands of Eastern north America. It bright green, heart-shaped leaves and insignificant brownish flowers that are largely hidden by the foliage. It will colonize an area and tends to be more vigorous than European Wild Ginger (Asarum europaeum), but is not considered to be invasive. Part to full shade. Sandy or clay soil are fine. Average to moist soil suit this plant best. Height: 10-15 cm (4-6 inches), Spread: 15-30 cm (6-12 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.


No need for numbers here! While this looks like a range of colorful plants, they are all Coleus! I wanted to include this planting to demonstrate that part-shade and shade can have happy colors.

Photograph by Maggie Sale. See more of the garden here.

An Art Collector's Garden 
I featured photographer Maggie Sale's backyard garden a couple of years ago. This spring, I was able to share her love of art along with some pictures of the front garden taken by Maggie herself. 

Photograph by Maggie Sale. 

1. Unidentified Fern (an easy-care fern with a similar look–Lady Fern Athyrium filix-femina) 2. Fern-leaf Bleeding Heart, Dicentra 3. Hosta 4. Golden Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' 5. Japanese Fern, Athyrium niponicum 6. Tassel Fern, Polystichum polyblepharum 7. Miniature Hosta 8. Lamium 9. Variegated Hosta

Two features from this planting scheme:


Hostas have come a long way in recent years! The one pictured on the left has long, tapered leaves. You can also find miniature hosta and cultivars with curled leaf edges. 

Japanese Painted Ferns, Athyrium niponicum have gray-green fronds with reddish midribs. They like rich soil that is evenly moist, but they adapt fairly well to average moisture conditions.  Height and spread vary by cultivar, but this is a low, clump forming perennial. USDA zones: 4-9. Recommended cultivars include: ‘Pictum,’ and ‘Pewter Lace,’ ‘Silver Falls.’ 


Marnie's Country Shade Garden
Marnie lives in the countryside not far from the town of Bracebridge, Ontario. That makes her garden zone 4a.

Over the years, Marnie's shade garden evolved to cover a fairly large area. Hostas form the backbone of the plantings, but there are lots of other unique and unusual perennials, many of which Marnie has grown from seed. 


1. Brunnera 'Jack Frost' 2. Cimicifuga 3. Hosta (unknown cultivar) 4. Astilbe 5. Heuchera villosa (specific cultivar unknown ) 6. Heucherella 'Sweet Tea'

Two features from this planting scheme:


Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' has heart-shaped, silver colored leaves that are veined in a bright green. Sprays of blue flowers, which closely resemble forget-me-nots, appear in mid-spring. Average garden soil is fine, but 'Jack Frost' prefers rich soil and moist conditions. Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm ( 12-18 inches). USDA Zones: 2-8.

Actaea simplex 'James Compton' has white flowers tinged with pink and dark, purplish-black foliage. This is a great late summer/fall perennial for part-shade. It requires moist soil rich in organic matter. Part-shade. Height: 90-120 cm (35-47 inches), Spread: 60-75 cm (23-29 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

A Bird Friendly Shade Garden
One of the biggest changes that marks the shift from winter into spring is the emergence of green leaves. Foliage never looks so fresh and vibrant as it does in the spring! In this bird-friendly garden, foliage is the star.


1 The bright green in the top left corner is fresh growth on a Yew2 In the centre is a blue-green Actaea pachypoda 'Misty Blue'. In the lower right hand corner is the ferny foliage of an Astilbe. 4 Dogwood tree 5Japanese Forrest Grass, Hakonechloa 6. Solomon Seal, Polygonatum

A Key Plant from this bird-friendly garden:


Actaea pachypoda 'Misty Blue' has blue-green foliage and white flowers in spring. In summer the flowers become white berries on contrasting red stems. This plant prefers sandy or clay soil with average to moist growing conditions. Height:60-90 cm (23-35 inches) , Spread: 60-90 cm (23-35 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

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