Plants & Trees

Plant Profile: Colocasia ‘Black Coral’

Colocasia Black Coral and the article's author

“What is that? I love it!” is one of the most common phrases I hear when people walk by my front garden. The object of their affection is Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Coral’, or more specifically, the gigantic leaves of this plant. The common name for Colocasia is “Elephant Ears” and that is certainly an excellent…

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Deadhead Cosmos for More Blooms

I grew an orange variety of Cosmos flowers, called ‘Bright Lights’, and I’ve been loving their vibrant blooms! I had only grown the white ones up until a couple years ago. I didn’t know that there was an exciting cosmos world beyond the white and the pale varieties, but then I saw ‘Bright Lights’ and…

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Plant Profile: Monarda

Monarda is also known as Bee Balm, Oswego Tea and Bergamot. Rubbing the leaves releases a scent reminsent of Earl Grey Tea, and until very recently, I believed Monarda was the flavouring for Earl Grey Tea. However, I have since learned “the flavor of Earl Gray tea is often attributed to Monarda, yet, the taste…

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Plant Profile: Night Sky Petunia

Plant profile: Night Sky Petunia

While out shopping for annual plants for my containers this spring I was stopped in my tracks by a petunia unlike any other I’d ever seen. Hanging baskets, placed just above head height, contained purple petunias splotched with white dots, looking very much like stars at night:     Indeed, it turned out that this…

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Plant profile: Winter Aconite

Plant profile: Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

The earliest bulb to bloom in my garden each spring is Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis). It’s bright yellow buds poke up through the soil as the witchhazels are still blooming.   It pops up so early, in fact, that in my garden it usually gets snowed on, and, in some cases, encased in ice.  …

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Long Branch Garden Tour 2019

The Long Branch Garden Tour took place on Saturday, June 22nd. This year’s tour, the third ever, was listed as the largest free garden tour in Canada. There were more than forty gardens open to the public in this west Toronto neighbourhood near the shores of Lake Ontario. I didn’t make it to all of…

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Plant Shopping – August 2019

One of my favourite garden centres is closing in September, after more than 130 years of operation. Plant World is just 2 kilometres (less than a mile) from my home, on a road I have traveled twice daily for most of the last 16 years I’ve lived here. I started shopping there a year or…

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How to Have More Big Begonia Blooms

Begonias have amazing flowers. Vibrant colours and so many petals; each one is a little masterpiece!     But have you noticed that some flowers are a little less showy than others? Some are packed full of petals but others are a lot simpler, with maybe four petals?   This is because begonias have some…

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Plant Profile: Catmint

Plant Profile: Catmint (Nepeta). While often confused with its cousin, catnip, catmint will not have every cat in the neighbourhood visiting your garden.

Catmint is a compact plant with small green leaves and small purple flowers that looks nice as an edging plant. Catmint is often confused with catnip. While they are related, as both are part of the genus Nepeta, one is grown to please humans and the other to please (and attract) cats.   Catnip has…

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How to Prune Barberry (Berberis)

How to Prune a Barberry

Berberis thunbergii, known as Japanese Barberry, has become a very common shrub in my area. Cultivars with dark burgundy leaves (like Berberis thunbergii ‘Royal Burgundy’) were very popular when I was starting my garden, but more cultivars have been introduced over the years, including those with rosey or gold leaves.   I’m not sure that…

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How to Prune Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are a fabulous shrub for the garden. Plant breeders have done some great work over the last decade or so to improve some of the tried and true varieties (e.g. Hydrangea arborescens ‘Abetwo’ Incrediball™ is a much improved form of Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’, with the same large flowers, but on sturdy stems that don’t drop…

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How to Divide and Multiply Primulas

How to divide and multiply spring blooming primula

Primula, commonly called primroses, are among the earliest perennial flowers to bloom in my garden. Their leaves are almost evergreen, although by spring they’re looking pretty tattered and fresh ones appear.   You might think that primulas only come in shockingly bright colours, with simple blooms like the one pictured above, as these are the…

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Dividing Alpine Strawberries

How to multiply your patch of Alpine Strawberries (Fragaria vesca)

Strawberries are a great plant to grow, as there’s nothing quite like a truly ripe (not picked sort of ripe so they ship well) strawberry from your own garden. When most people think of strawberry plants, they think of what I’ll call “regular” strawberries–they grow big berries and send out lots and lots of runners,…

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Plant Profile: Giant Scabiosa

Plant profile: Giant Scabiosa (Cephalaria gigantea)

Cephalaria gigantea, commonly called Giant Scabiosa, is a tall, cheery perennial plant for a sunny spot.   Scabiosas are sometimes called pincushion flowers, as their blooms do truly resemble a pincushion. These flowers are loved by bees and other pollinators. Where Giant Scabiosa differs from its more commonly found cousins, is in its height–it is…

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How to Grow Cat Grass Economically and Easily

How to Grow Cat Grass

We welcomed three new cats into our house over the past few months. I thought I would grow some “cat grass” for them as a treat. If you have cats you’ve likely seen pots of “cat grass” for sale at pet stores. I don’t know why cats like grass, but many of them do, and…

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Plant profile: Baptisia

Plant profile: Baptisia

Baptisia australis is one of those perennial plants that bursts forth from the ground in spring with a lot of energy, unfurling fully developed leaves as it shoots upward:   The leaves start off as medium to light green and mature to be on the more blue/grey side of green. My baptisia plant doesn’t take…

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Top 5 Filler Plants for Sunny Containers

Top 5 Filler Plants for Containers in Full Sun

The basic recipe when selecting plants to combine in a planter is to select at least one from each of the categories of thriller, filler and spiller. I provide guidance on selecting the right thriller, filler and spiller for your particular container and growing conditions in my Container Garden Guide, but in this post I…

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Plant Profile: Globe Thistle

Plant profile: Echinops

Echinops, commonly called Globe Thistle, is a spikey-leaved plant with perfectly round blue or white flowers.   Actually, to be correct, what we think of as a single flower is actually composed of many individual flowers growing tightly together in a ball:     Those flowers are beloved by bees and other pollinators. B-E-L-O-V-E-D. The…

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Plant profile: Petunias

Petunias are a great annual flower for planters, baskets and gardens

I thought about titling this post “In praise of petunias” because what you’re about to read is my strong endorsement of a plant that’s sometimes thought of as so common and old-fashioned that it doesn’t get much positive press in these days of latest and greatest and “cool”. But petunias are solid performers and deserve…

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Planting for Privacy

I’ve had several questions lately along the lines of “What do I plant to block out my neighbours?” “What do I plant to cover a big concrete wall” Or, in our neighbourhood (soon to be home to the second busiest transit hub in Toronto, after Union Station) “What do I plant to cover the rail…

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Cedar Trees Create Privacy and Erase Ugly Views

What can you grow near cedar trees?

One of the few regrets I have about my garden is that I didn’t plant cedars (thuja) along the back fence years earlier. Instead, I let my garden view end with a chain link fence and the rear neighbour’s garage wall of solid cement block, capped by a deteriorating roof. In summer the view was…

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Saving the Seeds of Night Blooming Primrose

How to save seeds from Oenothera flava, Night Blooming Primrose

One of the most popular posts on my blog has been the profile I wrote of Night Blooming Primrose (latin: Oenothera flava). It seems like a lot of people want this crazy plant that blooms before your eyes, but the plants and even seeds seem to be hard to find. Someone asked if I could…

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Plant profile: Heuchera

How to grow Heuchera (aka Coral Bells)

I have a problem with Heuchera (aka Coral Bells). My problem is that plant breeders keep coming out with amazing new varieties in a stunning assortment of colours, and I don’t have enough room to grow them all. Somehow, I seem to forget about my lack of space to grow them when I’m in the…

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Plant profile: Alliums

Alliums and why you need to snip the seedheads off

If you’ve ever wondered at the purple lollipop-like flowers, blooming amongst roses and peonies, you’re not alone. Every time I see someone encountering these flowers for the first time, they’re fascinated at their vibrant colour and perfectly round shape. These plants are alliums, commonly known as ornamental onions. They are part of the onion family,…

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How to Divide a Bleeding Heart

How to divide Bleeding Hearts and other perennial plants

Although you might mistake the title of this post for an 80’s rock ballad, I’m referring to a plant with the common name of “Bleeding Heart”. The flowers do look like little dropping hearts.   The method I’m going to show you of creating multiple plants out of one, works not only for Bleeding Hearts…

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Caring for Potted Hydrangeas

Hydrangea Pink Sensation - how to care for it

Walk into any big box hardware store, grocery store, or florist right now and you’ll likely run smack into a huge display of stunning pink and blue hydrangeas. As winter drags to a close, they’re a very welcome sign of spring. They make a wonderful gift for Easter or just about any spring celebration. I…

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Plant profile: Witchhazel

Witch Hazel is a great early blooming shrub for your garden

Witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) is the very first thing to bloom in my garden. I knew this shrub had a reputation as an early bloomer but I was shocked my first spring to see exactly how early. Here in my Toronto garden I usually see flowers near the end of February. This year was no…

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Plant profile: Tuberous Begonias

How to grow tuberous begonias

Tuberous begonias are super plants for containers and hanging baskets. They have large, luscious blooms in colours ranging from white and pale pink to brilliant yellow, orange and red. And they do well in shade! What’s not to love about them?     Caring for tuberous begonias The most important thing you can do to…

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Plant profile: Night Blooming Primrose

Oneonthera flava

Night blooming primrose (latin: Oenothera flava) is a really fun plant to have in your garden, as the flowers open right before your eyes! Individual flowers open at different rates of speed, taking anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes (and then there’s the odd one that gets stuck and doesn’t open at all.)…

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Monarch butterflies love this fall blooming tree

Monarchs and other pollinators love this tree!

Earlier this year I heard many, many stories of people raising monarch butterflies by hand, in order to help shore up their declining numbers. Well, it looks like everyone in the Toronto area took good care of their caterpillars because this weekend I had more monarchs in my backyard than ever before. They’re difficult to…

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Dividing rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of the earliest foods you can harvest from the garden. Other than a spot to grow with full sun and an annual feeding of compost or manure, it’s not a demanding plant. But it is a big plant–a mature plant can be 1.5 metres (almost 5′) across.   It is good for…

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Easy care hellebores

Hellebores seem to be getting a lot of attention these days–they’re a great looking, easy care plant that blooms in late winter to early spring. Chosen as the Perennial Plant Association’s Perennial Plant of the Year in 2005, more and more bloom colours have become available, due to the diligent work of breeders.   I…

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Dahlias are easy to grow and now is the time plant them!

Dahlias have spectacular blooms but are very easy to grow. You can buy plants already started from the nursery in late spring, but for the best selection I recommend buying the tubers (i.e. the fleshy roots of dahlia plants–they’re like tulip bulbs) now and starting them growing indoors so that they are ready to bloom…

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Plant profile: Columbine

Columbine is a great plant

Columbine (Aquilegia) is a very easy to grow perennial plant. I had my start with these when I bought a plant labelled “Blue Columbine” at a horticultural society plant sale one spring. That was early in my garden’s life, and somehow, over the years, I picked up another one or two, the ones I had…

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Help! My Japanese maple is turning into a regular maple

secateurs pruning japanese maple

Today’s post isn’t something that everyone is going to be able to use right away, but it’s handy information to know and file away in your brain, in case you need it in future. A month or so ago I noticed a branch on my Japanese maple that looked different from all of the other…

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How do I prune my lilacs?

Lilacs in bloom

I have a friend with a beautiful garden, designed and installed by professional landscapers. She loved it, but her one complaint was that her lilacs had bloomed the first year and then never really put on much of a show after that. When I visited her lovely garden my one question, that revealed the problem,…

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What grows in shade?

assortment of shade tolerant plants

“What do I plant in the shady areas of my garden?” is one of questions I’m asked most frequently. All plants need light, water and soil in order to grow, but the amount of each varies from plant to plant. Plants that tolerate less light are often called shade plants, although shade-tolerant plants is probably…

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How do I take care of my lawn?

close up of grass lawn

“Jen, when should I fertilize my lawn?” “Should I just put some topsoil on my lawn now?” “Hey, Jennifer, is this the right time to overseed?” These are the questions often directed at me by friends and colleagues when they find out that I know a bit about gardening. This happens even with friends who…

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