Gadbois: Tried and true

OPINION – If you are like me and have very little time to tend to your home garden, you’ll want to find out more about those lovely plants which bloom and rebloom from year to year with not much care involved at all.

Large or small property, gardening takes time. Every season brings its chores and our aim is to minimize the time spent labouring and maximize the time spent enjoying the outdoors during that precious and relatively short period we call summer in these parts.

The neighbouring garden centres look pretty quiet right now, but behind the storefront in the greenhouses, people are setting up tables, spreading out growing cells, filling them up with growing medium and seeding. In a few weeks, the precious green seedlings will change the inner ambience to spring with that warm, moist, earthy smell we are all craving for.

Of course, we can do it ourselves, i.e., sprout seeds, and I have done so on many occasions, but it is a precarious process which requires great attention. The home gardener will want to try it especially if there are children involved, as it provides a great way to teach them how their food is grown. But it also requires constant vigilance – under or overwatering, root rot, damping off, too little or too much sun, sowing too early or too late, etc. – the trials and tribulations of starting seeds always got the best of me. I’ll leave it to the professionals; we are lucky to have a lot of good garden centres in the West Carleton and adjoining areas.

Over the years, I have found the best way to get bedding plants established in my garden quickly is to use a combination of tactics. First of all, I try to remember my garden is a work in progress, this relieves me of the pressure of having everything done to perfection all at once. Unless one has a large disposable income to fund the purchase of lots of new plants, the establishment of a garden can be done in waves.

My best advice is to begin by planting lots of flowering shrubs and perennials. They have been my saving grace. Once established, and this might take from two to three seasons, they make up the backbone of the garden, a backdrop against which I also introduce annuals (those that don’t come back next year) which can be showy and reflect current trends. I also use annuals in all my containers which cover the front and back porches and dot the front garden.

Flowering shrubs provide seasonal interest and colour. In spring, they pop into bloom at various times, are fragrant and attract pollinators. One can actually force their branches a little earlier inside for the pleasure of seeing something green. They also provide architectural interest quickly enveloping the house, paths and garden rooms for structural and/or softening effect. Most local garden centres have a large variety of shrubs which grow well in our plant hardiness zone.

Come to the Carp Memorial Hall for the next West Carleton garden club meeting. Photo by Anne Gadbois
Come to the Carp Memorial Hall March 12 for the next West Carleton garden club meeting. Photo by Anne Gadbois

Tried and true and favourite shrubs in my garden are:  Forsythia, Weigela Spirea, Hydrangea, Ninebark (Physocarpus) and of course Lilacs. My home situated at the edge of the alvar, which is a special environment with limestone base and very shallow soil, except for around the house which has been filled with builders’ earth. It is a challenging location for plants so if these shrubs do well on our property, they will be doing great on yours!

Hardy perennial plants are also easy to establish, spread attractively and provide the pops of colour which liven up any space at different times throughout the summer. They each require their own growing conditions – sun, shade or a combination thereof, various moisture levels, etc.

The best places to find these plants are of course at the garden centres but other places to source larger plant material for less money are community plant sales like those sponsored by the garden clubs (usually end-May), or better yet, donations from a neighbour. A neighbour’s garden can unlock lots of potential for your own plantings. You can find out what grows well locally there and if your neighbour is on top of it, their perennials will need dividing from time to time, usually in the early spring and/or fall – a great opportunity to share. Proven winners on my property are Lupines, Rudbekia, Monarda,Hostas, Lady’s Mantle ( Alchemilla), and Daylillies, just to name a few. More about perennial ground-covers and native plants in an upcoming column.

Interested in finding out more about perennials? The West Carleton Garden Club’s next meeting will be topical as guest speaker for the Tuesday, March 12 meeting is Mary Shearman Reid, Master Gardener and owner of Green Thumb Garden Centre in Nepean. Mary’s topic will be Perennials: Dividing & Maintaining.

The WCGC meeting is being held from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Carp Memorial Hall, 3739 Carp Road, Carp, K0A1L0. Doors open at 7:15 p.m. Parking is available. There will also be a photo contest, refreshments and door prizes. Members always attend free and guests, $5. (More info:

Come on out and meet your gardening neighbours!

Anne Gadbois is a long-time member of the West Carleton Garden Club and its past president. Gadbois, who lives in Corkery Woods. Anne writes on the wonders and challenges of gardening in our large, geographically diverse area.