Hardy hibiscus are my show stoppers in my GARDENS4U gardens this August and September. Their unbelievably vibrant blooms, often the size of a dinner plate, will literally make you stop and gawk at their incredible beauty…
I love the hibiscus so much this season that I tried some in containers and fertilized them heavily to keep them blooming all summer…
As with any plants you expect to be perennial (they come back each year) read the labels before you purchase them! These hibiscus are called hardy because they are considered perennials in colder areas than their less hardy cousins. These are hardy to USA zone 4, which are perfect for my Ottawa gardens. Just be careful and patient in the spring, as they are slow to recover from their winter hibernation. Because they die back to the ground in winter here, I put a marker near mine so I don’t inadvertently disturb or throw it out during spring cleanup.
Another important fact to consider is that perennials planted in containers are less hardy (2 zones) than when they are planted in the garden. For example, although these hibiscus are hardy to zone 4 when planted in gardens, they would only be hardy to zone 6 in containers.
That means I will be moving these gorgeous containers inside before the first frost.
There are annual varieties of hibiscus as well, sold in 4-inch pots with other annuals, perfect for fillers in containers.
My new favourite ornamental grasses these days are the blue-tinged beauties. Every year there are more and more ornamental grasses available to choose from in the garden nurseries, but my eyes seem to be increasingly drawn to the bluegrass varieties. I love the way the soft, steely, blue hue compliments the color of other perennials. While other ornamental grasses are grown for their attractive seed heads, the blue versions are chosen more for their attractive coloring.
This is blue oat grass, one of my favourites. Take note though, similar blue fescue varieties popular in the nurseries are smaller, less dramatic, and not as hardy.
This is a newer variety, called Blue Lyme Grass. I have discovered that it can be quite invasive in gardens, but is easy to pull out of spots you don’t want it in. It also makes a nice, dramaticthriller in containers.
Most ornamental grasses like full sun, but there are a few that tolerate some shade. Be sure to check the labels before purchasing for sun requirements and hardiness zones.
A pet peeve of mine is when garden nurseries sell plants not hardy to their area as perennials. One example here in zone 4/5 that I remind many clients about each year is the purple fountain grass. It is one of my favourites for annual containers, but will not survive our winters.
Most ornamental grasses are currently at their peak in Ontario landscapes. The large variety of sizes, colors and shapes available continues to expand every season. Here are some that I have admired recently…
The first ornamental grass pictured (first 2 pics) is an annual in my Ontario climate, meaning it is not winter hardy and will die as soon as frost hits it. It must be replaced each spring so I like to use it in a container instead of in the garden.
The other ornamental grasses pictured are perennials, returning each year bigger and better than the previous year. They can be cut back to a few inches from the ground in the late fall if you wish. If you like the look of the fronds blowing in the wind and snow over the winter (the birds love them!) leave the cutting back until the early spring before new growth appears. If the clumps gets too large they can be divided in the spring.
Most are drought tolerant and low maintenance making them increasingly popular in landscapes for busy people. Now is a good time to plant new ones, allowing the roots to get established before the ground freezes. This time of year brings good reductions in prices too as nurseries like to clear out their stock before the winter.