Time to Wake Up Your Tuberous Begonias

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Non-Stop® Mocha Mix tuberous begonia. Photo: Park Seeds

If you stored begonia tubers (bulbs) indoors last fall, it’s time to think about waking them up. Most gardeners start them indoors around the end of March or in April so that they’re ready to bloom when it’s time to plant them outdoors for the summer.

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Typical tuberous begonia display in a garden center.

This is also the season for buying new begonia tubers. You’ll find them in just about any garden center in the spring, of course, but also on the Internet. Try CalBegonias in the USA, Botanus in Canada and Blackmore and Langdon’s in Britain.

Off On the Right Foot

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Trailing tuberous begonia (‘Chanson Orange & Yellow Bicolor’)

Tuberous begonias (Begonia x tuberosa, B. boliviensis, etc.) come from fairly moderate climates, neither hot nor cold, and don’t much like wildly changing temperatures, especially when they are sprouting. Since almost all non-tropical climates have very variable temperatures in spring, it’s always best to start these tubers indoors where you can better control their conditions. Plus, that gives you the afore-mentioned head start on the season!

Start tuberous begonias indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before you expect to be able to plant them outdoors, that is, when there is no longer any risk of frost. Depending on your local climate, that could be as early as April, but in most areas north of the Mason-Dixon line, gardeners can’t really be sure of warm weather much before mid- to late May or even June, so consider that the date you should use when determining when to start your tubers.

If you simply brought last year’s tubers indoors in their pot and the pot is stored somewhere dark and cool at the moment, just bring it into a warm, moderately lit spot and start watering. Gentle heat, about 70 to 75˚F (21 to 24 ° C), will help wake them up. Water very lightly at first, until you see strong green growth, a sign the tuber has grown new roots.

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Place the tuber with the concave side up. Notice the tiny pink sprouts.

If you stored the tuber loose or if you just bought a new one, fill a 6-inch (15-cm) pot to about half its height with barely moist potting soil and place the tuber in the center, on top of the potting mix. Make sure you place it with the concave side facing upwards. It’s likely you’ll see a few pinkish buds at this time, showing that is indeed the side that needs to face upwards.

Next barely cover covering the tuber with potting mix, then set the pot in a well-lit spot and water lightly. Don’t let any water accumulate in the depression on top of the tuber, at least not yet. That could lead to rot.

Normal indoor temperatures of 70 to 75˚F (21 to 24 ° C) are just fine for waking up a begonia. Water as needed so the soil never dries out completely.

When the plant begins to put out strong growth and healthy leaves, gradually increase the watering rate, as it will dry out more quickly. Remember though that you still want to keep the potting mix barely moist and certainly not soaking wet. It’s also wise to put the plant in a cooler spot at this point, as low as 50 to 60˚F (5 to 10˚C): that will give a denser, more attractive plant.

This is also the time to start giving the pot a quarter turn every time you water, always in the same direction. That will help give you a more symmetrical plant that doesn’t lean towards the sun.

Taking Cuttings: An Option to Consider

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Taking tuberous begonia cuttings is easy: just snap off a stem and root it!

You don’t have to take cuttings from your tuberous begonia. You can just let your plant grow without interfering… but if you want more plants, the time is right when the stems are about 6 inches (15 cm) tall. That’s because each tuber normally produces several stems, yet you really only need one for good bloom. Removing and rooting the extra stems will give you plants that will bloom the first summer and, in the fall, there will already be a tuber at the base of each one that you can store over the winter. So taking cuttings allows you to increase your collection rapidly.

To start a cutting, simply pull on a stem and you’ll find it will readily break off its base, where it sprouts from the tuber. Insert it into a small pot of slightly moist potting soil: no rooting hormone is required. Cover the pot with a transparent plastic dome to help maintain high humidity and place it in a warm, well-lit spot, protected from direct sunlight.

After 2 to 4 weeks, you’ll see new leaves appear, a sign the young plant is well-rooted. So just remove the dome and replant into a 6-inch (15 cm) pot to give it room to grow. That’s all it takes to produce a new plant!

At the same time as the stems are ready to root, that is, when they’re about 6 inches (15 cm) tall, it’s also time to add more soil to the pot. Fill it to about 1/2 to 1 inch (1-2 cm) of the brim, thus covering the lower stem. Burying the stem in this way encourages it to produce roots and gives a stronger plant, less likely to snap in the wind.

Acclimatation

20170321G.jpgAs outdoor temperatures become warmer and nights remain above 50˚F (10˚C), you can start acclimating your begonia to outdoor conditions. Put it outside on a warm day, in the shade at first, then bring the plant back in the evening if the night is going to be cool. Repeat this daily, letting the plant spend the night outdoors when temperatures allow and gradually increasing the light it gets. Tuberous begonias are essentially part shade plants: they like a bit of sunlight each day and shade the rest of the time. Multiflora begonias, like the ‘Non Stop’ series, are more sun tolerant and when properly acclimated, will grow in full sun in cool summer climates.

Outdoors for the Summer

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Begonia boliviensis ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ makes a great hanging plant.

When there is no longer any risk of frost, you can plant your tuberous begonia outdoors in the summer or just place its pot outside. Trailing varieties will of course look best planted in hanging baskets or flower boxes.

During the summer, water and fertilize your begonia just like any garden plant. And in the fall, of course, don’t forget to bring the tuber back indoors after the first frost.

Other Tender Bulbs to Start Early

The tuberous begonia is not the only tender bulb worth starting indoors in spring. The same kind of regime (planting indoors in a pot to give the plant a headstart on the season) can also be applied to other bulbs that you stored indoors over the winter: alocasias cannas, callas, caladiums, dahlias, gladioli, etc. It’s also time to pot up pelargoniums (geraniums) you stored dormant. Here’s an article on getting them too off on a good foot: Time to Wake Up Dormant Plants.

Starting tender bulbs indoors is one of the gardener’s rites of spring. Enjoy!

Spring is Sprung, da Grass is Ris…

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Late March and my garden is still buried deep in snow.

Yes, in the Northern Hemisphere, spring officially arrives today, March 20th: the vernal equinox… but the photo above shows what my garden looks these days. Some 5 feet (1.5 m) of snow with drifts twice as high. All my ornamental grasses are completely buried this year and few of the shrubs are visible. More snow is expected today, although just a smidgen. No, not much in the way of spring is visible outdoors.

Am I discouraged? Not at all! In spite of the snow buildup this year (the second greatest amount I’ve ever seen), there are still signs that spring is on its way.

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Forced hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis). Photo: 4028mdk09, Wikimedia Commons

Indoors, for example, my houseplants are waking up in a big way: new leaves, flower buds and flowers are popping up all over. I’ve pulled a few pots of hyacinths out of cold storage and they’re blooming away, giving off their intense perfume. Seedlings are sprouting in their trays and cuttings are rooting. Even the dormant bulbs of cannas and tuberous begonias are starting to sprout: some sort of internal clock is telling them to wake up even though they’ve been stored in total darkness for months.

…I wonder where dem birdies is?

Ah yes, the birdies. They are the surest sign of spring of all. No, the geese aren’t back yet (they’ll wisely wait until that thick sheet of ice and snow has left the lakes and rivers before they make their move), nor has the American robin shown up this year, although in milder winters he’s an early harbinger of spring.

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The cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is this year’s avian harbinger of spring.

My avian sign of spring this year is that the neighborhood cardinal has started to sing. He was here all winter, but he only signs when he feels it’s spring.  “Wheet, wheet, wheet, wiyou, wiyou, wiyou,” he proclaims. And with his bright red feathers, he really stands out against the snow. His singing means he’s claiming his territory for the season.

Under the Snow

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When the snow finally does melt, the bulbs are already up and ready to flower.

What I can’t see right now it what is happening under the snow, but I know there’s a lot going on down there. All those bulbs I planted last fall, for example, are sprouting sight unseen. When the snow finally does melt, they’ll already be up and ready to bloom. Some of the earliest start to bloom the very day snow finally does melt.

The sap is running in the sugar maple trees (the province where I live, Quebec, is the world capital of maple syrup, producing 75% of the world’s output), but it’s not going to be a banner year. It’s been too cold. The sap rises most abundantly when the days are above freezing and the nights below and this year, the warmest days have hovered a bit below freezing.

When Does the Snow Melt?

When does the snow melt where I live? It is starting to melt in the sunnier spots, at least on the warmest days. But it certainly won’t be all gone until sometime in April, although there have been years when there was still plenty of snow in May, often well into May, once even into June. Even so by July, no matter how long winter lingered, my garden will have caught up to those in warmer climates.

I love winter, I love spring. And I love summer and fall. All the seasons have their charms. And as a laidback gardener, I just let Mother Nature tell me what to do when. And right now she’s saying “take it easy”!20170320A

How to Weed a Cactus

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20170318A.jpgCacti are ever so popular these days, not only as houseplants, but outdoors as well, at least where the hardier ones are concerned. One of their features are their abundant and attractive spines, often colorful and always wickedly prickly. They help protect the plants from harmful animals… but from also helpful gardeners, as when weeds work their way in and among your cactus plants, just how are you supposed to get them out?

Worse, weeds seem to adore cactus. Even among houseplants, where weeds are rarely a problem, some always manage to find cactus plants and set up shop. The annoying common yellow woodsorrel (Oxalis stricta), for example, is found in most indoor cactus collections.

So how do you get to the weeds without stabbing yourself on the spines?

Pliers to the Rescue

Try raiding your toolbox for a pair of long-nose pliers: they’re the ideal weeders for tight spaces. Just work the pointy end in among the spines until you can grasp the weed by its base and slowly pull it free. Most of the time, it will come away roots and all, reducing the chances of it resprouting. And if it does resprout, don’t wait. If you pull out any new growth while it is young, it’s less likely to grow back!

Do wear leather gloves too, though, just in case.

Roses Too

The same tool comes in handy when weeding roses in the garden… but in that case, long-sleeve spine-proof garden gloves are even more important.

One Blueberry Plant, Two Crops!

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‘Perpetua’ ornamental reflowering blueberry. Photo: Chadd Finn

If you want to grow your own blueberries, I have just the variety you’re looking for: ‘Perpetua’ (Vaccinium x ‘Perpetua’), which you might also see sold as BrazzleBerry™ Perpetua® (the old name), Bushel and Berry™ Perpetua® (the new name) or ORUS-61-1. You see, this new blueberry produces two crops each year, one in mid-summer, like other blueberries, then the new growth bursts into bloom a second time, resulting in a second crop just before the plants goes dormant for the winter. And two crops are always better than one!

A Quick History

In 1963, a fall-fruiting blueberry, later named CVAC 45, was found in the growing in the wild in Monmouth, Maine and sent to the USDA-ARS National Clone Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon. Since it was intermediate in size between a highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum) and a lowbush blueberry (V. angustifolia), bore small fruits a like lowbush blueberry, and since both grow wild in the same area, it has long been presumed to be a natural hybrid between the two species: what is known as a half-high blueberry. In culture, it reliably produced two crops each year, one in mid-summer, one from late summer well into fall, without needing any cold treatment for the second crop.

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Chadd Finn, hybridizer of the ‘Perpetua’ blueberry. Photo supplied by Chadd Finn

Hybridizer Chad E. Finn, a research geneticist and small fruit breeder with the Horticultural Research Unit in Corvallis, Oregon, harvested and grew open-pollinated seeds from CVAC 45 in 2000, resulting in a wide range of plants, many with the same second autumn-ripening crop. The best of these plants was released under the name ‘Perpetua’, a plant that combined two heavy crops with outstanding ornamental characteristics and excellent winter hardiness.

The name ‘Perpetua’ comes not only from the plant’s nearly perpetual flowering and fruiting, but also honors Cape Perpetua along Oregon’s Pacific coast

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‘Perpetua’ is attractive as it is productive and delicious! Photo: Chadd Finn

‘Perpetua’ is a moderately vigorous, upright, somewhat vase-shaped shrub about 2 ½ feet (75 cm) tall and 2 feet (60 cm) wide with shiny, dark green, disease-resistant leaves. It bears a first bloom of small white urn-shaped flowers in early spring followed by fruit in June or July, depending on local conditions. Shortly after fruiting, new flowers appear from new growth and it begins bearing fruit a second time starting from August/September well into October, only stopping with hard frost. The foliage remains dark green until fairly late in the fall, finally turning purplish red.

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Attractive flowers are followed by delicious berries. Photo: Chadd Finn.

The new blueberry is self-pollinating (an important detail, as there will be no other blueberries in flower when it blooms for the second time) and easy to grow, hardy to at least zone 4. Like most blueberries, it does need a lengthy period of cold temperatures in winter, so will not be adapted to mild climates (zones 9 and above).

More to Come

‘Perpetua’ may be the first commercially available double-cropping blueberry, but it certainly won’t be the last. Keep your eyes and ears open. More will certainly “crop up” over the years!

Getting the Soil Right

‘Perpertua’ requires no special care beyond what all blueberries need… and all blueberries do require extra attention when it comes to soil.

 

As fall comes to a close, there are both berries and attractively-colored leaves to admire. Photo: Pépinière Abbotsford

As with other ericaceous plants (rhododendrons, azaleas, heathers, etc.), blueberries need moist, loose, well-drained soils that are distinctly acid, with a pH of about 4.2 to 5.2, and most garden soils are simply not acidic enough. It’s almost always necessary to prepare the soil specially for them. Normally this is done by mixing about 50% peat moss into the existing soil if your soil is already somewhat acid. You’ll probably need to add garden sulfur as well if it’s not. In some areas, you may be able to purchase soil specially developed for acid-loving plants and skip all the mixing. And no, blending pine needles or oak leaves into the soil, even if you often hear this advice, is not going to help: neither product is acidic enough to be of much use.

If the soil in your garden is sandy or loamy and drains well (no puddles form after a heavy rain), dig a hole a few inches deeper than the root ball and 3 times wider. When you plant, set the plant 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7 cm) deeper in the hole than it was in its pot to encourage it to produce roots on the buried part of its stem, then fill in with the modified soil described above.

Blueberries grow poorly in heavy clay soils, even when said soils are amended. Planting holes in such sites tend to fill in with water, resulting in root rot and the plant’s eventual death. If you’re dealing with that situation, it’s best forget about digging the plant in and instead to plant it in raised mound of acid soil.

Either purchase an acid planting mix or mix about 50% peat moss into purchased garden soil. Now simply pour an inch or two (2-5 cm) of soil on the ground, remove the plant from its pot and set it on top, then cover its root ball with a mound about 3 to 4 feet wide, again covering the root ball in soil mix 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7 cm) over its original height to encourage stem rooting.

You can also mix a slow-release all-purpose fertilizer into any soil mix at planting time. Avoid so-called “starter” or “transplanter” fertilizers, though: they actually hinder rooting.

20170317E.jpgAnd what about mycorrhizal fungi, commonly sold as a natural growth enhancers for other fruit trees and small fruits? Regular commercial brands are of no use with blueberries, as they only form a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi specific to ericaceous plants and this type is not found in regular blends. There are mycorrhizal products specifically designed for ericaceous plants, such as Rhodovit®, but this type of product is not widely available in North America.

Growing Blueberries

Once you get the soil right, growing blueberries is quite straightforward.

Early spring, when the plants are dormant but the soil is workable, is the best season for planting, although you can plant them in summer or autumn as well.

Blueberries tolerate partial shade, but will bloom and fruit better in fall sun. A spot protected from the wind, especially where snow accumulates, is also preferable.

Space the plants about 3 feet (1 m) apart to give them enough room to grow.

Water well at planting and always keep the soil slightly moist afterwards.

Always cover the soil with about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7 cm) of mulch. Not only will it help keep keep the soil a just a bit moister, which blueberries love, but also its presence will remind you not to hoe. You see, blueberry produce shallow surface roots and don’t tolerate much root disturbance.

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‘Perpetua’ blueberry. Photo: Chadd Finn

Any mulch you have on hand will do. Again, the idea that pine needles or shredded oak leaves would be in any way superior to other mulches is a myth.

Now for the bad news. It you want your blueberry to settle in properly, you shouldn’t let it flower or fruit until the third year. Yes, remove any flowers that appear during the first two years. After that, let the plant bloom… and begin to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Finally, over the years, keep up the soil’s quality and richness by fertilizing annually with an acidifying fertilizer. Every few years, at the end of winter, remove longer branches that have become less productive to leave room for heavier-bearing young branches.

That’s all there is to it!

Where to Find Plants?

With some of the biggest wholesale nurseries, such as Monrovia, Stark Bro’s and Bailey Nurseries, carrying ‘Perpetua’, this plant is definitely widely available… but that doesn’t necessarily mean your local garden center will be carrying it. But there is a way to find it quite easily.

A web page for the new Bushel and Berry line is presently being set up and is already partially functional. However, from now until planting time, a new feature is to be added, one that allows you to enter your zip or postal code (yes, Canadian readers, our system is to be included for once!) and it will show you the nurseries closest to you that carry the plant. That should make ‘Perpetua’ far easier to locate than most new plant introductions.

Readers from outside Canada and the US may have to look a bit harder to find ‘Perpertua’. Let’s hope it shows up where you live sometime soon!


A blueberry that provides two crops for twice as much yummy and beauty in the same amount of space? Why not?

The Mystery of the Shamrock

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20170317AToday, March 17, is St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated wherever in the world the Irish have settled… that is to say just about everywhere. Like many North Americans, I have Irish ancestors… and I’m far from alone. About 10% of Americans and 15% of Canadians are of Irish origin.

That shamrock is the symbol of the Irish people is very well known and it’s also the official emblem of Ireland, but do you know where this tradition comes from?

Saint Patrick Plucked a Clover Leaf…

Saint Patrick during Boston’s traditional Saint-Patrick Day’s parade. Photo: Laura Siegert, Wikimedia Commons

Saint Patrick is an almost mythical historical figure. Although he probably really did exist, there are so many stories and legends about him that historians have had difficulty determining what really happened. Some even suggest there were two Patricks and that their stories have become intertwined!

Here’s a quick sketch of what might have been Saint Patrick’s life.

Born in Roman Britain around 385 AD, he was reportedly abducted by Irish pirates at the age of 16, then lived as a slave in Ireland for 6 years. It was during this period that he became a devout Christian.

Escaping from his captors, he returned to his family, studied and became a priest. In 432, Pope Celestine, learning he spoke Irish, sent him to Ireland to evangelize the hitherto-pagan Irish people, without much success at first. However, during an impromptu sermon at Cashel Rock, he bent over and plucked a leaf with three leaflets, explaining that it represented the Holy Trinity. That he should so readily find the Holy Trinity in a common weed impressed the pagan Irish and they began to convert to Christianity.

Patrick became the first bishop of Ireland and died on March 17, 461 (maybe!), and the trifoliate plant, which the Irish call shamrock (seamróg), became the very symbol of Ireland.

But Which Plant?

One of the potential shamrocks: lesser trefoil (Trifolium dubium). Photo: Kenraiz, Wikimedia Commons

Therein lies the mystery. What leaf did Saint Patrick pick?

The word shamrock can mean any plant with 3 leaflets. Over the years, experts have suggested that the true Irish shamrock could be lesser trefoil (Trifolium dubium), white clover (T. repens), red clover (T. pratense) or alfalfa (Medicago lupulina), all of which are in the Fabaceae family, or even wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), from an entirely different family. All five are common in Ireland and it fact, throughout much of the northern hemisphere.

As for the Irish themselves, a survey conducted in 1988 showed that about 45% consider lesser trefoil (T. dubium) to be the true shamrock while one third prefer white clover (T. trifolium)… and all the others have their share of votes as well. So, no consensus there either.

Your Own Shamrock

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White clover (Trifolium repens). Photo: Ranko, Wikimedia Commons

If you find clover plants with small green leaves on sale around St. Patrick’s Day, a tradition in many countries, the plant sold is inevitably white clover (T. repens), the same clover that grows in so many lawns. It’s easy enough to grow from seed in a florist’s greenhouse, but this cold-climate plant is usually short-lived when grown in a pot and is best planted outdoors if you want to see it thrive.

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False shamrock (Oxalis triangularis)

There is also the false shamrock or purple shamrock (Oxalis triangularis, formerly O. regnellii), True enough, there is nothing truly Irish about this South American plant, but if you want to grow it and claim it as a shamrock, go for it. At least it does makes a good, long-lived houseplant.


It is said that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. So wear the green… and show off your shamrock plant, whatever it is!20170317A

Top 10 North American Gardens Worth Travelling For

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The North American Garden Tourism Conference, held in Toronto from March 13 to 15, 2017, has announced the winners of the 2017 Garden Tourism Awards: the ‘Top 10 North American Gardens Worth Travelling For’. Garden Tourism Awards are presented to gardens that have distinguished themselves in the development and promotion of the garden experience as a tourism attraction.

“In the spirit of highlighting North America’s most dynamic garden experiences and in consultation with a North American jury, we are honored to announce the 2017 recipients of the ‘Top 10 North American Gardens Worth Travelling For’ Garden Tourism Awards,” said Michel Gauthier, Executive Director of the Canadian Garden Council and Chair of the North American Garden Tourism Conference.

2017 Top 10 North American Gardens Worth Travelling For

Here are the winners in alphabetical order. Unless otherwise stated, all gardens are open year-round.

Chicago Botanic Garden

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Chicago Botanic Garden. Source: atramos, Flickr

This large, 385-acre (156-hectare) garden in the Chicago suburbs is mainly built on 9 islands in a small lake and includes 27 demonstration gardens, including a water garden, a coniferous collection, greenhouses, a vegetable garden, and many others. Undoubtedly the most famous of its gardens is the Japanese garden.

Address: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, Illinois. Free admission. Paid parking. For further information: www.chicagobotanic.org

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

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Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Photo: Damahevi, Wikimedia Commons

This walled Chinese garden of 0.3 acres (0.12 hectares), established in 1985 and 1986, is the first classical Chinese garden to be built outside China. A visit will show you a landscape garden dominated by rocks and fountains, bamboos and oriental plants, ponds and Chinese pavilions. It is located in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown. Note that Secret Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Best Hidden Travel Gems, published by National Geographic, considers this garden the best urban garden in the world!

Address: 578 Carrall Street, Vancouver, British Columbia. Paid admission. Information: vancouverchinesegarden.com

Hershey Gardens

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Children’s Garden, Hershey Garden. Photo: MamaGeek, en.wikpedia

This 23-acre (9.3 hectare) botanical garden and arboretum was offered to the town of Hershey (near Harrisburg, capital of the state of Pennsylvania) by the “Chocolate King”, Milton S. Hershey, in honor of his wife, Catherine. The garden is renowned for its vast rose garden including some 7,000 rosebushes of 275 varieties and its butterfly aviary. The Children’s Garden, with its 30 themed gardens where children can play at will, is very popular with families.

Address: 170 Hotel Road, Hershey, Pennsylvania. Paid admission. Information: www.hersheygardens.org

Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca

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Etnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca. Photo: Kaldari, Wikimedia Commons

This garden occupies 5.5 aces (2,3 hectares) behind Oaxaca’s Santo Domingo Church on the site of a former convent and is renowned for its vast collection of cacti and succulents native to the Mexican State of Oaxaca.

Address: Corner of Reforma and Constitution, Oaxaca, Mexico. Paid guided tour only (in Spanish, English or French). Information: jetnobot@prodigy.net.mx

Halifax Public Gardens

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Halifax Public Gardens. Photo: Laura LaRose, Flickr

Established in 1867, the Gardens remain today the best preserved Victorian public park in North America, since they have been essentially maintained as is over their entire 150-year history. There are lawns, ponds, streams, bridges, a music kiosk, numerous flower beds and spectacular trees in the 16-acre (6-hectare) gardens. They are open from April to November.

Address: 5665 Spring Garden Rd, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Free admission. Information: www.halifaxpublicgardens.ca/

Las Pozas

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Las Pozas. Photo: Rod Waddington, Wikimedia Commons

Created by eccentric British poet Edward James between 1949 and 1984, this garden mixes surrealist structures and gigantic sculptures with tropical plantations, all cut into a jungle dotted with waterfalls and rushing streams. Nearly abandoned for many years, the garden is now almost entirely restored.

Address: Camino Paseo Las Pozas, Barrio La Conchita, Xilitla, Mexico City. Paid admission. Information: xilitla.org

Long View House and Gardens

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Long View House and Gardens. Photo: Navin Rajagopalan, Flickr

This historic mansion is surrounded by 8 acres (3 hectares) of gardens. The mansion is unusual in that it offers 4 different facades, each with a garden in a very different style. The most famous garden is undoubtedly the Spanish court, with its ponds and fountains reminiscent of those of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Long View is considered the ultimate work of one of the first female landscape architects, Ellen Biddle Shipman.

Address: 7 Bamboo Road, New Orleans, Louisiana. Paid admission. Information: longuevue.com

Reford Gardens

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Reford Gardens. Photo: laidbackgardener.wordpress.com

This is a 20-acre (8-hectare) English-style garden of, established between 1926 and 1958 by Elsie Reford on the site of her family’s fishing camp. It includes some 3,000 species, including the famous Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis betoniciflora), the garden’s emblem. It is also the site of the annual International Garden Festival, an exhibition of contemporary landscaping. The garden is open from June to October.

Address: 200 Route 132, Price, Quebec. Paid admission. Information: www.refordgardens.com

San Diego Botanic Garden

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San Diego Botanic Garden. Photo: Bovib, Wikimedia Commons

This 37-acre (15-hectare) botanical garden was formerly known as Quail Botanical Gardens. It includes more than 3,000 species and varieties of plants, including the largest collection of bamboo in the United States. There is a succulent garden, a rainforest, a Mediterranean garden and a garden dedicated to Californian native plants. The large conservatory currently under construction is due to open at the end of 2017.

Address: 230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas, California. Paid admission. Information: www.sdbgarden.org

Tucson Botanical Garden

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Tucson Botanical Garden. Photo: laidbackgardener.wordpress.com

This 5.5-acre (2-hectare) botanical garden includes 16 residentially-scaled urban gardens linked by a path. Thus you wander from discovery to discovery as you visit. There is a Zen garden, a prehistoric garden, a butterfly garden, a children’s garden and, above all, a garden of cacti and succulents designed to represent the nearby Sonoran Desert.

Address: 2150 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, Arizona. Paid admission. Information: www.tucsonbotanical.org


I’ve visited most of these gardens and the award is truly well-deserved: they are indeed worth travelling for. I hope you’ll get a chance to visit some of them, if not all of them, sometime soon!

Seeds to sow indoors in Mid-March

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20170315A.jpgThe choice of seeds to sow indoors explodes in mid-March! This really is the time to start so many seeds… but not all of them. Note that several popular plants are still missing from the list: tomatoes, marigolds, cucumbers, etc. Why? It’s still too early, especially for most vegetables! The golden rule of seed starting is that you can be a bit late, as plants tend to catch up when planted outdoors, but you should never, ever start them too early! You want your seedlings to young and full of pep when you plant them out, not old, weak and stretching for the light.

Seeds to Sow in Mid-March*

  1. Amsonia or Bluestar (Amsonia)
  2. Bacopa (Sutera cordata)
  3. Bellflower (Campanula spp.)
  4. Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis)
  5. Bloodleaf (Iresine herbstii and others)
  6. Blue Throatwort (Trachelium caeruleum)
  7. Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)
  8. Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus)
  9. Cup-and-saucer Vine or Cathedral Bells (Cobaea scandens)
  10. Delphinium (Delphinium)
  11. Dichondra (Dichondra repens)
  12. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium, syn. Matricaria parthenium)
  13. Foamflower (Tiarella)
  14. Forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica and others)
  15. Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
  16. Globe Thistle (Echinops)
  17. Heliopsis (Heliopsis)
  18. Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)
  19. Hollyhock (Alcea spp.)
  20. Honesty (Lunaria annua)
  21. Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule)
  22. Iris (Iris spp.)
  23. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
  24. Livingston Daisy (Dorotheanthus bellidiformisMesembryanthemum crystallinum)
  25. New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri)
  26. Nierembergia (Nierembergia hippomanica and others)
  27. Orange Coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida)
  28. Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla)
  29. Pearl Millet (Pennisetum glaucum)
  30. Pepper (Capsicum annuum and others)
  31. Perennial Candytuft (Iberis)
  32. Perennial Cornflower (Centaurea)
  33. Petunia (Petunia x hybrida and others)
  34. Pink Knotweed (Persicaria capitatum, syn. Polygonum capitatum)
  35. Polkadot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachys)
  36. Red-leaf Hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella)
  37. Saxifrage (Saxifraga)
  38. Soapwort (Saponaria)
  39. Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica)
  40. Verbena (most species) (Verbena hybrida)

*Note that this list was developed for gardeners from northern climates, such as Canada, the Northeastern United States and colder parts of Europe, where the date of the average last frost is in late May or early June. For readers who garden in more temperate regions, I suggest you consult a specialist in your area to know what to sow in mid-March.