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 more (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 blue grass 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 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.
Recently I attempted a DIY on 5 bouquets, 5 boutonnieres, three corsages, and one crown/headpiece for my son’s wedding. I have lots of perennial plants in my gardens and lots of clients with even more beautiful flowers, so I thought “piece of cake.” Not so much; it was a much trickier DIY than I thought but well worth the effort.
I researched lots of Pinterest pages, and other DIY sites so I had notes to refer to. The toughest part was that I could not do much (other than research) ahead of time (other than pace my gardens willing the flowers to bloom!) To keep the flowers fresh for as long as possible, I could only pick them the day before the wedding.
Mother Nature threw me a CURVE BALL too; I had planted lots of purple flowering perennials last fall that were supposed to bloom at the beginning of June. Due to the cold and wet spring we experienced here in Ottawa, very few of those flowers were in bloom in time. White peonies with purple roses and clematis were not meant to be for this bride. Fortunately, I was able to use flowers from gardens I tend in my business.
The following are the basic tips to ensure your DIY bouquets turn out well. Some are obvious, some not so much, some lessons I learned along the way…
don’t pick the flowers earlier than the morning before the wedding
have more flowers and foliage than you think you need
as soon as you do pick them, cut the stems longer than they need to be and put the cut stems in cold water immediately
use a clean bucket and clean cutters (this helps the blooms last longer)
recut the stems while they are under running water or in water (this ensures no air bubble get into the stems, preventing premature wilting/rotting
let the flowers sit in cold water for a minimum of 3 hours before arranging.
to assemble, start with the main/center flowers, then add others to fill out the bouquets. Add foliage last
Stand in front of a mirror as you are arranging them to better see how they look
use elastics to hold the flowers together, placing them just below the top of the stem. If your bouquets are large you can use several elastic to hold flowers together in groups
prop up droopy flower heads with wire or tape (I should have done that with the rhododendrons in my bouquets, they were very droopy by the end of the day)
use tinier flowers and blooms for boutonnieres and head piece, (see below) cutting stems short. These short stems do not stay as fresh as long as the longer stems, so plan to make these last
I made each bouquet different, creating as I went along. If you want them all to be identical, you will have to count out your available flowers and have a more detailed plan. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants!
as you finish each bouquet, place it in a separate vase of water so the flowers do not get crushed/crowded
leave a few extra inches of stems at the bottom of each bouquet for final trimming
buy lots of ribbon; you can always return whatever you do not use
wide ribbon wraps faster and easier than thin ribbon, but seems to come off easier. I used narrow ribbon for a base, then did top layer in wider ribbon
make all the bouquets first before starting to wrap with ribbon. This ensures flowers are not out of water too long.
start wrapping ribbon near tops of stems (where elastics are)
if you choose to have dangling ribbons, loop them in at the top before wrapping, keeping them out of the way as you work
hold ribbon with one hand and bouquet with the other, turning the bouquet as you wrap. The first (downward) layer of ribbon does not have to be perfect; you can leave some stem showing between, filling in the blanks on the upward layer. Leave two inches of unwrapped stem at the bottoms so ribbon does not get wet
put each bouquet back into its vase with fresh water to just below ribbon
at last minute ( I could do this as pictures were taken at my home, so cut excess stems off literally 2 minutes before bouquets were needed) cut off excess stems
This headpiece was made as follows;
measure head with a piece of string
use a few (more than one) strands of floral wire to ensure stability, overlapping it by two inches, wrap with floral tape
cut flowers just before you use them (they wilt quickly) making stems 2 inches long
lay out flowers in the pattern you want to place them on the headpiece
place one bloom on headpiece so that stem is on top of and parallel to the wire circle
secure bloom to circle with floral tape, starting just below bloom and wrapping both stem and wire circle until end of stem
overlap next bloom so it sits on top of previous bloom’s stem, working your way around the circle of taped wire
tie strands of ribbon (if desired) to headpiece at center back
when complete, mist the creation with a bit of water and place it in a plastic baggy. Blow air into the baggie and seal it. Keep it in the baggy for as long as possible, the tiny blooms wilt quickly! Store it in a refrigerator or cool room (basement)
I tried something a little different for the DIY boutonnieres. I grew my own calla lilies, starting them in pots in my basement last winter…
The groom’s had three tiny purple pom pom-like flowers, the groomsmen just the calla lily and foliage. For the foliage, I used tiny calla lily leaves and snippets of English ivy vine…
cut stems about 3 inches longer (could be shorter or longer as desired)
arrange flowers and foliage in the pattern you choose
wrap stems with floral wire
add decorative pin for securing to lapels
place each boutonniere in its own plastic baggy, mist lightly with water, blow air into baggy and seal. Store baggys in refrigerator or cool room (I kept them all in my basement)
these too will wilt quickly as the stems and blooms are small. My one son joked he had “salad on his suit” by the end of the night
The DIY corsages did not turn out so well. The short stems would not stay in the pearl wristbands I chose. I tried securing them with floral wire, but they kept falling apart. The intense heat of the day did not help as the flowers wilted quickly too. I would appreciate comments/suggestions on what I could have done differently, just in case I have another wedding soon…
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.
This hibiscus is a favourite late blooming perennial, now available in hardier versions that are suitable for my Kanata Ontario gardens…
Hibiscus are apparently available in many colours, although the ones I have seen recently are in the pink and mauve category.
Previously not hardy enough to overwinter in our Ontario gardens, these new and improved cultivars of hibiscus are a welcome addition to my gardens. Look for some in the garden nursery near you and enjoy their beautiful, late blooms.
If you follow this blog and gardening website, you will know I love succulents of all shapes and sizes. At the top of my list of favourite perennials, they tolerate hot sun and require little to no maintenance. Not only do they tolerate full sun but they also thrive in drought conditions. There are so many varieties to choose from too, with the options increasing each garden season.
I love them so much that I even included one tiny succulent in each of the party favours for guests at my daughter-in-law’s baby shower.
I’ve also decided to try my hand at propagation recently. All I did to encourage propagation was tuck a few leaves from various types of succulents into houseplants around the house. Especially the ones in a sunny location. I also tried placing a few leaves in a small, shallow, clear container into which I added a tiny bit of water. The container sits on a north-facing window sill.
The leaves withered up, but tiny new plants emerged at the base of the leaf in each propagation attempt. Just be sure to keep the soil moist around the leaves inserted in soil as well as a tiny bit (just enough to keep emerging roots wet) of water in the bottom of the container.
Hen and chicks (sempervivum) are especially easy to propagate, simply by removing the ‘chicks’ from their ‘mother’ and inserting them into the soil in a new location right in the garden.
Succulents look great and thrive in my urns that are located in full sun. I had two coco liners filled with soil left from last summer’s hanging baskets. I turned them upside down over my cast iron urns, tucking the fiber into the edge of the urns to make them fit and to prevent soil and water from leaking out. I then cut slits in the fiber and tucked slips of succulents (sedum and stonecrop) into the slits. For the top, I used a large sermpervivum rosette (the hen part of the hen and chicks succulent plant). I am hoping the succulent slips will cascade over the sides of the urns as they grow. I will rotate the urns occasionally as the sedums grow toward the sun, so they will cascade evenly around the perimeter of the urns.
These urns of mine sit in front of my garage with a hot, dry, full sun, southern exposure. Over the years I have not had much luck with any other plants growing there. They all start off well but quickly lose their appeal as they get leggy and dry out. Hopefully, the succulents will do the trick to keep my urns looking great all summer.
Succulents in Garden Beds
Perennial succulents are also an excellent choice for a hot, dry location in your garden. There are many varieties to choose from; sedums and stonecrop are two of my favourites. Choose a variation in color for a spectacular display. Once established succulents require very little water, and in fact, too much water will cause them to rot. In garden beds, succulents can be used in whimsical containers or as beautiful edging plants or groundcover.
Can anyone tell me what this plant is that has appeared in my garden for the past five years or so? It starts off as two tiny leaves early in the spring, quickly growing to about eight feet tall with small orchid-like pink flowers and thick, sturdy, hollow stems:
This mystery plant is quite pretty so I let it fill a few bare spots at the back of my garden. It is very shallow rooted, so easy to pull out of any spots I do not want it. I am assuming it is a perennial as it shows up each year.
I would appreciate it if someone could identify this mystery for me…