Adventures in gardening: the colour of sunshine
Friday, June 28, 2013, 1:00 PM
Sharing your favourite plants in last week’s column was a lot of fun. There were some great ideas for both sun and shade gardens – in explaining your preferences many of you also shared some nice family memories. When it comes to making choices all gardeners weigh the same considerations – what do I like and what kind of effect am I trying to create, what kind of growing and soil conditions do I have, and how much time and effort do I want to devote to this garden. Colour is a big part of the impact a garden makes. When designing your garden pick the colours you enjoy seeing and incorporate them wherever you can, either on their own or by creating pleasing combinations with other complimentary colours. Keep in mind that darker or deeper colours in shade gardens can appear to blend in, whereas lighter colours will stand out more. Likewise, saturated colours can take on even more vibrancy in sunny gardens. So it’s useful to think about how the prevailing light will play on a plant in the spot you’ve chosen. I find that yellow is a very versatile and pleasing colour in the garden – judging by how much yellow I have, it’s probably my favourite! Why? It’s cheerful and optimistic, it adds ‘pop’ and life to both shady and sunny areas, it’s one of the easiest colours for the eye to see - and it’s the colour of sunshine. What’s not to like? Here are a few of my favourite yellow low maintenance perennials:
Coreopsis Verticillata (Tickseed) ‘Moonbeam’
- bright yellow daisy-shaped flowers on threadlike leaves and stems.
- long blooming, from summer through fall.
- responds well to deadheading.
- forms a pretty, airy dome of starry flowers.
- fairly drought-tolerant, low maintenance
- good border plant, 30-45 cm (12-18”) height.
- different varieties in shades of pink and red.
- one of the first perennials I planted, a personal favourite for an informal ‘cottage garden’ look.
Oenothera Tetragona Fruticosa (Sundrops) ‘Youngii’
- bright yellow poppy-shaped flowers with satiny texture.
- all types of Oenothera were originally native North American wildflowers.
- blooms June to August.
- spreads to form a wide patch, benefits from dividing every other year.
- transplants easily – ie, good source of ‘free’ plants - I planted one of these two years ago and now have three healthy clumps.
- reliable and long-lived, fairly drought-tolerant.
- good border plant, 45-60 cm (18-24”) height.
- various shades of yellow, also white and orange.
Lysimachia (Loosestrife) Punctata ‘Alexander’
- multitude of star-shaped flowers on leafy spikes, as seen in opening photo.
- grows into a bushy, upright clump.
- good plant for tall border or mid-bed position.
- 60-90 cm (2-3’) height.
- long stalks make this a great plant for cutting.
- blooms June to August.
- grows best with plentiful sun but also tolerates shade.
- suitable for a woodland setting.
Summer ‘to do list’
- Summer is the season for deadheading, pruning, staking and general maintenance. But don’t forget it’s also the season for taking time to enjoy the results of your spring labour.
- Deadhead, snip or pinch off dead flower heads. Depending on the perennial this will encourage repeat blooms and new growth, and prevent self-seeding.
- As the weather heats up be particularly careful to water new plantings to help them get established.
- Before you leave on vacation get the weeds and bugs under control, and arrange for a neighbour to water when the weather doesn’t provide the necessary rain.
- Before you leave for a longer vacation consider experimenting with cutting back some of your summer-flowering perennials to delay their flowering until you return. I’ve found this can be a fun little adventure. Keep in mind there’s no one rule of thumb about how much you should cut back, talking with your local nursery can be helpful in figuring out how to treat a particular plant.
- Perennials often need to be divided as they grow, either because they’re getting too big, too crowded or often because it helps them stay healthy and performing at their peak. Dividing also give you new plants to fill in empty spots in your garden. As I like to say – this means ‘free’ plants!
- The key with all pest control is to inspect your plants regularly and treat them immediately. Products containing diatomaceous earth work well for earwig control, use natural slug bait pellets for slugs, and be sure to use an insecticidal soap spray that’s suitable on your Roses. For aphids, try getting ladybugs from your local nursery. This ‘good’ bug consumes about 5000 aphids (‘bad’ bug) in their lifetime.
- Consider adding more sunshine to your garden – ie, more yellow perennials. There are many other low maintenance perennials to choose from, here are a few suggestions: Rudbeckia, Iris, Yarrow, Potentilla and Heliopsis (pictured here).
I look forward to hearing your gardening stories and suggestions and will be incorporating them into future columns. So please be sure to add your comments below, upload your photos to our website, or tweet me an update and photo of your garden at @SuzanneTWN. Join me on TV weekday afternoons and early evenings for the latest weather news and forecast so you’ll know the best time to work and play in your garden.
Summer’s here, the Canada Day long weekend is upon us and the outdoors is always beckoning - what are you waiting for? Happy gardening adventures!
"No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, no culture comparable to that of the garden ... But though an old man, I am but a young gardener."
- Thomas Jefferson