Flowers and Personality

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What Does Your Garden Say About You?

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Everyone has their favorite colors… and it’s well known that your choice of colors can be indicative of your personality. Gardeners are particularly “easy to read,” since they put the colors that attract them out where everyone can see them… and thus reveal, without necessarily intending to, the secrets of their personality.

What Experts Say

According to specialists on the effect of color on humans, the human brain is programed from birth to associate certain colors with certain emotions. Yellow, for example, stimulates a positive mood and red tends to make the heart beat faster.

On the other hand, the color/emotion association is not necessarily hard-wired: you can easily come to associate a color with any situation, for example, because of a traumatic childhood experience.

In most cases, however, humans all over the world associate each color with the same emotion. It therefore becomes possible to make some fairly accurate assumptions about their personality according to the associations they choose.

Your Personality Type

What do the colors of your garden reveal about your personality? Here are some examples:

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1. Your garden is made up of “warm” colors: bright yellows, bright reds, intense violets. Moreover, you like contrasts: the flowers you choose are often bicolored. Your favorite flowers include gaillardias, bicolored tulips and oriental poppies.

Analysis: You have a type A personality: you want everything… and you want it now. You live intensely, without losing a minute. Your loved ones tell you that you work too hard… but why would you listen to them, since you’re always right?

Forget My Not Myosotis Forget Mein Not Forget Me Not

2. You like multicolored compositions but of soft, fresh shades: pale blue, green, pink, lilac, often separated by white or pastel tints. You occasionally use strong colors—yellow, red, etc.—in your garden… but they are never placed side by side. Your favorite flowers include columbines, meadow-rues and forget-me-nots.

Analysis: You have a type B personality: quiet, peaceful, not at all aggressive. Your garden is a haven of peace and tranquility: you go there to get away from stress… and there’s nothing you like better than to unwind among your flowers. Use circles and curves in your landscaping rather than squares and straight lines: you’ll find the effect even more relaxing!

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3. You love everything that is pink, peach, mauve or cherry. Your garden is a combination of colors that are all quite similar, but with enough soft contrast to highlight each one. Your favorite flowers include roses, daisies and sweet peas.

Analysis: You’re have a romantic personality! Everything that involves love impresses you. Don’t forget to install a little bench in an intimate corner of your garden where you can spend your summer reading novels and poems… about love, of course!

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4. Your garden is jam-packed with blooms! Flowers joyfully intermingle in the most informal way, sometimes creating contrasts, sometimes harmony. You like oranges, reds and yellows with a few touches of white to soften them. Your favorite flowers include cosmos, daffodils and black-eyed susans.

Analysis: You are the epitome of the friendly, sociable personality. You’d go out every night if you could… and even at your work, you tend to end up in situations where human contact is important. You don’t like being alone… and love sharing your passion for gardening with others.

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Photo: Gwen and James Anderson, geographe

5. Purple, purple and yet more purple: your garden is chock-full of it, with just enough white and pink so that the purpleness of your soul can stand out. Your favorite flowers include lupins, aconites and clematis.

Analysis: You have the soul of a creator, of an artist. There’s a good chance you’re working in the arts or on stage… or you dream of doing so!

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6. Red, yellow, blue: your garden is one of bright primary colors. It’s a fairy-tale mix full of contrasts… and the bigger the flower, more you like it. Others sometimes find your garden a bit too gaudy… but you love it! Your favorite flowers include sunflowers, ornamental cabbages and tulips.

Analysis: You are 10 years old or younger… or you have a childlike spirit, because your garden is that of a young mind. A bit naive, full of energy and a touch mischievous, you’re easily impressed by everything surrounds you. You look at life with wonder and satisfaction: every day brings you something completely new.

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Photo: Trevor Cameron, Flickr

7. You have no garden and you don’t particularly like flowers. If you had your choice, you’d live in an apartment with no balcony, surrounded by concrete. If you are forced to garden, you choose dark colors — purples so dark they’re almost black, sometimes with a little orange for contrast. Your favorite flowers include weeds, poison ivy, black tulips and dead branches.

Analysis: You have serious personality problems. Your neighbors find you strange… and you find them too invasive. There is no use my going any further with this description, because you’re not the kind of person who would ever read this article!


The above article was meant to be tongue-in-cheek and not a serious analysis. Enjoy!

Double Flowers: Bad News for Pollinators

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Double roses are beautiful… but most have nothing to offer to pollinators.

Gardeners love double flowers. And why not? With their dense flowers jam-packed with petals, they really do stand out from the crowd. Moreover, double flowers are generally sterile or nearly sterile. Since they aren’t pollinated, they quite often remain open longer than single flowers, another advantage for the home gardener.

For insect pollinators, though—bees, hoverflies, butterflies, etc. —, double flowers are bad news.

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A typical single flower. In double flowers, the pollen-tipped stamens are largely converted into petals, leaving little to no pollen for insects to gather.

Most of the time, the mutation that leads to double flowers converts stamens into petals. But in the wild, the stamen—typically a filament with a yellow anther—has a role to play. It provides pollen… exactly what many pollinators come to look for in a flower. Indeed, many pollinators depend entirely on pollen as a food source. To them, double flowers are a disaster: there is no pollen… or at least, there is less. (Some double flowers still have at least a few functional stamens, but often they are hidden by too many petals and difficult to access.)

When it comes to those creatures that come to flowers to looking for nectar, as is the case with butterflies, long-horned bees and hummingbirds, the situation is little better. The flower’s nectaries (organs that produce nectar) are generally found at the very base of the flower… therefore hidden by all those dense petals. As a result, access to the nectaries is difficult and sometimes impossible. So, double flowers are not a good source of nectar either.

With so many pollinators in dire straits, especially among bees, whose populations are collapsing worldwide, double flowers would appear to be yet another nail in their coffin.

A Waste of Time and Energy

Very often, pollinators continue to visit double flowers even if they can’t feed on them. That’s because the flower continues to signal to them, due to its color or odor, that it’s ready for a bit of pollination, yet when the insect visits and tries pushing the petals aside, it finds nothing to eat. You’d think the bug would be intelligent enough to learn from that experience and move to another plant. Indeed, some pollinators do have that kind of smarts, but others just never seem to learn from their bad experiences. So they go from flower to flower on the same pollenless, nectarless plant, wasting their energy, until they finally find flowers on a nearby plant where pollen and/or nectar are accessible.

Semi-Double Blooms

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There are pollen-covered stamens in the center of this semi-double rose.

Semi-double flowers are intermediate between single flowers and double flowers: only some of the stamens have been converted into petals. Depending on the variety, they may produce as much pollen and nectar as a single flower or less, and their anthers and nectaries may be easy to reach or not readily accessible. Usually, if you can clearly see yellow anthers in the center of a flower, it will be suitable for pollinators.

No Need to Panic

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The average flower bed has plenty single flowers rich in pollen and nectar.

If your flower bed is composed only of double flowers, it really would be a disaster for pollinators, but that’s rarely the case.

The typical flower bed usually contains a wide variety of plants, many with single flowers. In fact, in most gardens, there are many more single flowers than double ones. Also, the concentration of blooms in a flower bed is much greater than it would be in the wild (or in a lawn!). As a result, flower beds are such a popular and reliable source of food for pollinators that many are willing to travel long distances to visit, sometimes even several kilometers.

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The bee orchid (Ophrys scolopax) looks and smells like a female bee. Male bees attempting to mate with it do its bidding, transferring pollen… but get nothing in return, neither sexual satisfaction nor pollen and nectar.

And besides, don’t think that only domesticated flowers attract pollinators without giving them their due. Nature is full of flowers that lure insects with promises of pollen and nectar, but don’t deliver the goods. Many orchids, in particular, are specialists in visual, olfactory and sexual lures: they promise the world and organize things so they ensure their own pollination, but the insect still leaves empty-handed.

In Your Garden

Most home gardeners are rendering a service to threatened pollinators simply by putting in a flower bed, but if you specialize in plants renowned for their double flowers (peonies, roses, carnations, camellias, etc.), it would be nice of you to include a fair share of “simpler” flowers (ones with yellow stamens visible) to the mix to support your friends, the pollinators.20170420A

This Year, Plan a Staycation

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Your staycation needs little more than a comfortable place to relax.

With summer coming up, a lot of people are planning their annual vacation: a trip to the cottage, travel abroad, a train trip… or staying home: a staycation, in other words.

In fact, studies show that more and more people are choosing the latter. Travel is expensive and money is tight. Crossing borders has never been more complicated or more stressful. And you can’t even find a quiet camping spot anymore, but find yourself packed in among throngs of people. So instead, why not just relax and make your home the ideal vacation spot? That’s the idea behind a staycation.

A Staycation Is More Than Lounging

The idea behind the staycation is not to lounge around binge-watching television shows like you might over an ordinary weekend, but to make your property a personal oasis where you can really enjoy yourself. It does require planning, just like any vacation: it’s just that you’ll be investing in your own garden, not in other people’s enterprises… an investment that will pay off later, as it improves your home’s value.

Bite-Sized Landscape Projects

The secret to creating the ideal staycation resort is to gradually turn your yard into a personal paradise. The easiest and cheapest way is to look over your landscape plans and divide them into a series of small, inexpensive projects that you could carry out bit by bit, one each spring, so they’ll be ready to enjoy at vacation time. (No, you don’t want to have to work on your landscaping over your vacation: that would defeat the very purpose of a vacation.) As time goes one, you really will be turning your yard into an oasis!

Here are some quick-and-easy ideas to make your property more relaxing.

Hang Up a Hammock

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You need somewhere to stretch out and relax, be it a hamac or a lawn chair. Photo: IHA

Your yard needs a quiet spot where you can relax and read a book or listen to your favorite music: a partially shaded patio with comfortable outdoor furniture. Make sure there’s room for the family so you can get a conversation going. Put in a deck or terrace or enlarge the one you have. Add a few trees or a beach umbrella or two (lying out in full sun is no longer considered a healthy choice) and you’re on your way.

The Relaxing Sound of Water

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A water feature can be something quite simple.

Why not install a water feature? It can be as small as a bubble fountain in a pot or include a real pond (just watching koi swimming is sooo relaxing!), a small waterfall or a splashing fountain. The very sound of water gurgling is very calming… plus it hides the sound of traffic, so you can feel like you’re off in nature even if you’re just in your own very urban back yard.

Invite Nature In

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Tiger swallowtail. Photo: School Garden Weekly

Sure you can go birdwatching in your own back yard… or butterfly watching, or bee watching. Why not pick up an insect identification guide and get to know the bugs that frequent your yard? They aren’t all harmful, in fact, far from it.

To attract wildlife of all sorts, add a flower garden with plants specifically chosen to attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees, plus a few plants with berries to feed the birds. Many animals need a place to hide, so a few medium-size shrubs will make them happy. And a shallow bird bath or even a puddle of water where they can drink or bathe can be a major draw.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

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You can build your outdoor kitchen slowly, as your budget allows.

All those Fortune 500 estates have their own outdoor kitchen. Don’t you think you deserve one too? Start small and cheap if you have to (a simple hibachi still makes great hamburgers!), but you can slowly build on a home barbecue to make it a true cooking spot, adding a small fridge for your beer and wine, a sink where you can wash veggies, a counter where you prepare food, storage space, etc. A miniature herb garden or a few pots of vegetables, perhaps right on the countertop, can supply fresh greenery.

What about that outdoor dining room? It can be a simple as a small table and a few chairs or much more elaborate, depending on the space available, but you do need a place for the family to dine in their outdoor oasis.

A Place to Wander

OK, most yards are a bit small for hiking, but if you convert some of that lawn into flower beds and wildlife habit and add a sinuous path, you’ll have somewhere you can wander when you feel like stretching a bit.

For Those Cooler Nights

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Nothing says “vacation” more than roasting marshmallows… and you can do it in your own backyard!

If your neighborhood tends towards chilly evenings, add a firepit you can relax around in the evenings. Or a gas- or propane-fueled fire table. There’s nothing more vacationlike than roasting marshmallows or making s’mores… only now you’ll be doing it in your own back yard.

Or add a patio heater: it’s not only stylish, but it can also extend your staycation experience well into autumn.

Get Out and Visit

Of course, a staycation doesn’t mean you have to literally “stay home” for those two or three weeks. Plan visits you can do locally, within say a 30-minute drive: museums, historical sites… and public gardens. There’s bound to be a few nearby. Take a family bicycle trip or go play at the municipal pool or a local beach. You’ll discover there are plenty of activities you can do without having to travel.

Oasis on a Balcony

If your back yard is actually just a balcony, that does cut back on the usable space, but you can still create an attractive and enjoyable personal oasis. Add a few potted plants, two chairs, a small table, a small barbecue and perhaps line it with fabric to give yourself a bit of intimacy and there you go: a spot where you can quietly sip a margarita while reading a good book.


A staycation: it fits your budget, it’s just what the doctor ordered… and you won’t need a plant or pet sitter.20170419A

Small Trees for Small Spaces

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Kelly’s Gold box elder (Acer negundo ‘Kelly’s Gold’) is an example of a tree small enough for an urban lot. Photo: Daderot, Wikimedia Commons

Not every gardener has enough space for a large tree on their property. A full-grown oak, for example, can measure 75 tall and 75 feet wide: that’s enough to cover the average front yard!

And space is only one consideration. There are all sorts of other reasons for preferring a smaller tree: there may be electric wires you want to avoid, a view you’d like to preserve, or maybe a swimming pool where you want full sun. Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for a smaller tree, look no further. The following list will give you a lot of choices.

  1. Acer negundo ‘Flamingo’ (‘Flamingo’ box elder) H: 25 ft (8 m), D: 20 ft (6 m), Z6
  2. Acer negundo ‘Kelly’s Gold’ ( ‘Kelly’s Gold’ box elder) H: 20 ft (6 m), D: 12 ft (4 m), Z4b
  3. Acer palmatum (Japanese maple) H: 4-25 ft (1.2-8 m), D: 4-25 ft (1.2-8 m), Z6
  4. Acer pensylvanicum (snakebark maple) H: 15-22 ft (5-7 m), D: 15 ft (5 m) Z4a
  5. Acer spicatum (mountain maple) H: 20 ft (6 m), D: 12 ft (4 m) Z2
  6. Acer tataricum ginnala (Amur maple) H: 20 ft (6 m), D: 20 ft (6 m), Z2b
  7. Aesculus pavia (red buckeye) H: 10-20 ft (3-6 m), D: 10-20 ft (3-6 m), Z5
  8. Alnus glutinosa ‘Imperialis’ (cut-leaved alder) H: 25 ft (8 m), D: 12 ft (4 m), Z4b
  9. Amelanchier arborea (downy serviceberry) H: 22 ft (7 m), D: 12 ft (4 m), Z4a
  10. Aralia elata (Japanese angelica-tree) H: 20 ft (6 m), D: 20 ft (6 m Z4b
  11. Betula nigra ‘Little King’ (Fox Valley™ river beech) H: 10 ft (3 m), D: 10 ft (3 m), Z4b
  12. Caragana arborescens (Siberian peashrub) H: 12-22 ft (4-7 m), D: 12-20 ft (4-6 m), Z2

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    American hornbeam (Carpinus carolinana). Photo: Daderot, Wikimedia Commons

  13. Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbean) H: 25 ft (8 m), D: 22 ft (7 m), Z3b
  14. Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud) H: 15-20 ft (5-6 m), D: 15-20 ft (5-6 m), Z6
  15. Chionanthus virginicus (white fringetree) H: 12-20 ft (4-6 m), D: 12-20 ft (4-6 m), Z5b
  16. Cornus alternifolia (pagoda dogwood) H: 15-25 ft (5-8 m), D: 15 ft (5 m), Z3b
  17. Cornus alternifolia Golden Shadows™ (Golden Shadows pagoda dogwood) H: 15-25 ft (5-8 m), D: 15 ft (5 m), Z3b
  18. Cornus florida (flowering dogwood) H: 15-30 ft (5-9 m), D: 15-30 ft (5-9 m), Z6
  19. Cornus kousa (kousa dogwood) H: 15-30 ft (5-9 m), D: 15-30 ft (5-9 m), Z6
  20. Cotinus obovatus (American smoketree) H: 15-25 ft (5-8 m), D: 15-25 ft (5-8 m), Z4b
  21. Crataegus spp. (hawthorn) H: 15-30 ft (5-10 m), D: 10-30 ft (3-10 m), Z:variable, 2b-5
  22. Elaeagnus angustifolia (Russian olive) H: 25 ft (8 m), D: 25 ft (8 m), Z2b
  23. Hamamelis virginiana (common witch hazel) H: 15-22 ft (5-7 m), D: 15-22 (5-7 m), Z4
  24. Heptacodium miconoides (seven sons flower) H: 12-15 ft (4-5 m), D: 10 ft (3 m), Z4b
  25. Maackia amurensis (Amur maackia) H: 22-30 ft (7-9 m), D: 20-25 ft (6-8 m), Zone 3b

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    Loebner magnolia (Magnolia loebneri). Photo: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT, Wikimedia Commons

  26. Magnolia x loebneri (Loebner magnolia) H: 25 ft (8 m), D: 15 ft (5 m), Z4b
  27. Malus spp. (crabapple), H: 10-25 ft (3-8 m), D: 8-22 ft (2.5-7 m), Z4
  28. Prunus cerasifera ‘Newport’ (Newport purple leaf plum) H: 15 ft (5 m), D: 15 ft (5 m), Z5
  29. Prunus maackii (Manchurian cherry) H: 22 ft (7 m), D: 15 ft (5 m), Z2b
  30. Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’ (flowering cherry) H: 22 ft (7 m), D: 15 ft (5 m), Z6
  31. Prunus virginiana (chokecherry) H: 15 ft (5 m), D: 12 ft (4 m), Z2b
  32. Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ (‘Chanticleer’ callery pear) H: 25-30 ft (8-10 m), D: 12-15 ft (4-5 m), Z6
  33. Salix discolor (American pussywillow) H: 15 ft (5 m), D: 6-12 ft (2-4 m), Z2a
  34. Sorbus decora (northern mountainash), H: 25 ft (8 m), D: 15 ft (5 m), Z2
  35. Sorbus x intermedia (Swedish whitebeam) H: 20 ft (6 m), D: 12 ft (4 m), Z4
  36. Syringa reticulata (Japanese lilac) H: 25 ft (8 m), D: 25 ft (6 m), Z2a
  37. Syringa reticulata pekinensis ‘Zhang Zhiming’ (‘Beijing Gold’ Peking lilac) H: 25 ft (8 m), D: 8 ft (78 m), Z2a

Shrubs Turned Into Trees

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This dappled willow (Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’) is not only grafted onto an upright trunk, but requires considerable pruning to maintain its rounded form. Photo: Wouter Hagens, Wikimedia Commons

The following “trees” are not really trees. They are instead shrubs either grafted at the top of an upright stem or pruned to resemble a tree. They are usually quite expensive (there’s a lot of work involved in creating them) and often short-lived, plus many of them sucker from the roots or need regular pruning, but this is also the group in which you find some truly miniature trees suitable for even the smallest yard or even for growing in a pot on a deck or balcony.

It’s up to you to decide whether their benefits outweigh their disadvantages!

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Weeping birch (Betula pendula ‘Youngii’). Photo: Mat86, Wikimedia Commons

  1. Betula pendula ‘Youngii’ (weeping birch) H: 22 ft (7 m), D: 30 ft (9 m), Z2b
  2. Caragana arborescens ‘Pendula’ et ‘Walker’s’ (weeping Siberian peashrub), H: 6 ft (2 m), D: 3 ft (1 m), Z2
  3. Catalpa bignonioides ‘Nana’ (umbrella catalpa) H: 15 ft (5 m), D: 15 ft (5 m), Z5b
  4. Cotoneaster apiculatus (cranberry cotoneaster) H: 3 ft (1 m), D: 3 ft (1 m), Z5b
  5. Euonymus alata ‘Compacta’ (dwarf burning bush) H: 6-10 ft (2-3 m), D: 6-10 ft (2-3 m), Z4b
  6. Euonymus fortunei (wintercreeper) H: 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m), D: 2.5-3 ft (0,75-1 m), Z6b
  7. Ginkgo biloba ‘Mariken’ (dwarf ginkgo) H: 6 ft (2 m), D: 2.5-3 ft (0,75-1 m), Z3
  8. Ginkgo biloba ‘Pendula’ (weeping ginkgo) H: 25 ft (8 m), D: 12 ft (4 m), Z3
  9. Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Emerald Kascade’ (‘Emerald Kascade’ weeping honeylocust) H: 15-25 ft (5-8 m), D: 15-25 ft (5-8 m), Z5b
  10. Halimodendron halodendron (salt tree) H: 6-10 ft (2-3 m), D: 3-6 ft (1-2 m), Z3
  11. Hydrangea paniculata (panicle hydrangea) H: 6-8 ft (2-2.5 m), D: 5-8 ft (1.5-2.5 m), one 3
  12. Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ (‘Wiltonii’ weeping juniper) H: 3-6 ft (1-2 m), D:3-4 ft (1-1.20 m), Z2
  13. Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ (‘Blue Star’ singleseed juniper) H: 3 ft (1 m), D: 2.5 ft (0,75 m), Z5b

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    Umbrella catalpa (Catalpa bignonoides ‘Nana’)

  14. Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ (weeping larch) H: 3-10 ft (1 à 3 m), D: 3-ft (1 à 2 m), Z3b
  15. Malus sargentii ‘Tina’ (‘Tina’ Sargent crabapple) H: 3-6 ft (1-2 m), D: 3-6 ft (1-2 m), Z4
  16. Magnolia stellata (star magnolia) H: 5-9 ft (1.5-2.5 m), D: 5-12 ft (2.5-4 m), Z4b
  17. Morus alba ‘Pendula’ (weeping white mulberry) H: 6-12 ft (2-4 m), D: 12-25 ft (4-8 m), Z4
  18. Picea pungens glauca ‘Globosa’ (globe blue spruce) H: 3-6 ft (1-2 m), D: 3 ft (1 m), Z4
  19. Prunus triloba ‘Multiplex’ (flowering almond) H: 3-6 ft (1-2 m), D: 7-10 ft (2-3 m), Z3
  20. Prunus x cistena (purple-leaf sand cherry) H: 5-12 ft (1.5-3.5 m), D: 3-6 ft (1-2 m), Z3
  21. Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’ (weeping willowleaf pear) H: 15-30 ft (5-10 m), D: 15-30 ft (5-10 m), Z4b
  22. Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Monlo’ (Diabolo™ ninebark) H: 3-8 ft (1-2.5 m), D: 4 ft (1.2 m), Z3
  23. Robinia pseudacacia ‘Lace Lady’ (Twisty Baby™ black locust) H: 15 ft (5 m), D: 15 ft (5 m), Z4b
  24. Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Umbraculifera’ (umbrella black locust), H: 22-30 ft (7-10 m), D: 20 ft (6 m), Z4b
  25. Rosa x (hybrid tea tree rose), H: 3 ft (1 m), D: 1.5 ft (0.5 m), Z7 ou 8
  26. Rosa x (hardy shrub tree rose), H: 3-6 ft (1-2 m), D: 3 ft (1 m), Z4

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    Kilmarnock weeping willow (Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’)

  27. Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’ (‘Pendula’) (‘Kilmarnock’ weeping willow) H: 1.2-10 ft (1.2-3 m), D: 3-6 ft (1-2 m), Z4b
  28. Salix integra ‘Hakuro-nishiki’ (dappled willow) H: 5-15 ft (1.5-5 m), D: 5-15 ft (1.5-5 m), Z4b
  29. Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’ (‘Paliban’ Korean lilac) H: 6 ft (2 m), D: 6 ft (2 m), Z3
  30. Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’ (‘Miss Kim’ Manchurian lilac), H: 6 ft (2 m), D: 5 ft (1.5 m), Z3
  31. Ulmus glabra ‘Camperdownii’ (‘Pendula’) (Camperdown elm) H: 10 ft (3 m), D: 10 ft (3 m), Z4b20170418A Daderot, WC

 

The Dahlia That Celebrates Canada’s 150th

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Dahlia Canadian Celebration. Photo: Botanus

Yes, Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2017 and to highlight this special event, there’s a special flower: the Canadian Celebration dahlia (Dahlia Canadian Celebration). It’s actually an older cultivar that has been renamed for the occasion: ‘Fire & Ice’ (also written ‘Fire ‘n ‘Ice’ or ‘Fire and Ice’).

20170417C.jpgThe semi-double 4-inch (10-cm) flowers are red irregularly marked white, a combination that of course represents the colors of the Canadian flag. At the center of each inflorescence there is a mass of yellow stamens, much to the delight of pollinating insects. (Many dahlias are so double they have no pollen, a real bummer for beneficial bugs.)

According to official classifications, Canadian Celebration is a dwarf novelty dahlia, “novelty” being a sort of horticultural dumping ground for dahlias that just don’t fit well into other categories. That’s certainly because the flowers are quite irregular, both in color (the share of red and white varies from petal to petal, even on the same flower) and in the number of petals and the way they are placed. I like to think of this as meaning the flowers are “charmingly eccentric”.

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Dahlia Canadian Celebration: charmingly eccentric! Photo: User:BotBln, Wikimedia Commons

As a dwarf dahlia, it reaches about 26 inches (65 cm) high and 18 inches (45 cm) wide, a size suitable for growing both in the garden and in pots. Some bulb sellers put Canadian Celebration into the “landscape dahlia” category, as it grows pretty much on its own and no staking is required.

It’s an early bloomer, starting from mid- to late July depending on your climate, and continues well into fall, usually October. Under the name ‘Fire & Ice’, it has picked up over the years an excellent reputation as a cut flower: the more you harvest the blooms, the more it produces.

Basic Care

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The tuberous roots of a dahlia.

Tubers are sold in the spring at the same time as other summer bulbs. They are, in fact, actually tuberous roots, looking a bit like pale brown carrots clumped together. Plant them in full sun and in rich, well-drained soil. (Add compost or a slow-release organic fertilizer if your soil is poor). Dig a hole about 6 inches (15 cm) deep and spread the roots out it bit before covering them with 4 inches (10 cm) of soil. Water well.

In cold climates, you may want to start the plant indoors in pots in April or May. This doesn’t hasten bloom, but can give a sturdier, leafier plant that blooms more abundantly.

Summer care is pretty basic: you only have to water and even then, only during periods of drought.

In the fall, when frost has killed back the foliage, dig up the roots, cut back the stems and allow them to dry. Then store the tubers indoors in a cool (if possible) frost-free place.

The following spring, divide the tuberous roots if necessary and replant them. It’s that simple!

Pests

Dahlias are usually quite deer resistant, but if earwigs are numerous in your area, they may nibble heavily on the flowers. Try sprinkling diatomaceous earth among the flower petals to dissuade them.

Where to Find It?

In Canada, you’ll likely find Canadian Celebration dahlia tubers this spring in a local garden center. If not, you can order them from Botanus or West Coast Seeds. In the US, look the name ‘Fire & Ice’ and try Direct Gardening or Dutch Gardens. In Europe, try Suttons. It’s not a rare dahlia and many other suppliers also offer it.

You don’t have to be a Canadian to enjoy Canadian Celebration/‘Fire & Ice’): a beautiful flower is always beautiful, no matter where you live.20170417A

The Delicate Art of Getting Easter Lilies to Bloom… At Easter!

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Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum). Photo: Andrew Dunn, Wikimedia Commons

Easter is one of the year’s most important holidays. Since the beginning of the Christian era, Easter has represented the resurrection of Jesus, but it actually evolved from a much older pagan festival celebrating the return of spring. Even the word Easter comes from Eastre (also Eostre or Ostara), the Germanic goddess of spring.

That explains why Easter is traditionally celebrated with flowers, the symbol par excellence of renewal.

Historically, the three main Easter flowers were the English daisy (Bellis perennis), the narcissus or daffodil (Narcissus spp.) and the pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris, also Anemone pulsatilla) — pasque comes from Old French and means Easter—because they naturally bloom at Easter in Europe, where the tradition of Easter flowers was born.

Today, however, even if narcissus and other spring bulbs are still sold abundantly on this occasion, the most widely available Easter flower is the Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum), a stately plant with beautiful and fragrant white trumpet flowers. As a result stores seem to magically fill with thousands of white lilies in the weeks before Easter. In fact, though, there is nothing truly magical about it, for this concentrated bloom is the end result of long months of careful planning and preparation.

Here’s how nurserymen force Easter lilies for the market.

Planning Months Ahead

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Easter lilies in a garden center. Photo: Paulo Ordoveza, Wikimedia Commons

For nurserymen, Easter is by far the most complex holiday to prepare for. Unlike Christmas, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, three other occasions where flowers are sold in large quantities, the date we celebrate Easter moves around the calendar. It takes place on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. So Easter can take place as early as March 22nd and as late as April 27th.

For nurserymen who have to get their lilies to bloom at just the right date, that’s a major headache! Forcing lilies to bloom is not just a question of potting them up at the right time, but also involves taking into consideration the influence of day length, temperature, bulb size (large bulbs bloom earlier than smaller ones) and even variety, as there are different cultivars of Easter lily, some naturally earlier to bloom than others.

All these factors have to be carefully assessed to determine when a given plant will likely flower and the annual production schedule then has to be modified accordingly. Plus unusually warm, cold or cloudy weather can throw the plants off that schedule, so adjustments still need to be made on a regular basis.

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Easter lily bulbs

Growers order their bulbs in the summer for fall delivery. Almost all the Easter lily bulbs sold in North America are produced in the open in fields in Oregon and California. Those sold in Europe usually come from the Netherlands, Israel, Japan, Korea or China. They arrive in large crates, free of soil to respect agricultural requirements in many areas.

Exactly when the bulbs are planted is not the most important factor, provided they undergo at least 1,000 hours of cold temperatures. However, the grower needs to pot up the bulbs soon after they arrive, as they quickly dry out if left exposed to the air.

After planting, the bulbs are placed in refrigerators at about 40 to 45°F (4 to 7°C). They can be kept in the dark at this stage. That doesn’t mean the bulbs are dormant as you might think, but are actually growing underground, producing roots at first, later a flower stalk. The soil must at least slightly moist throughout this period.

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Easter lily bulbs sprouting in a greenhouse.

About 17 to 18 weeks before Easter, the grower will move the potted bulbs to a sunny but cool greenhouse: not much more than 65°F (18°C) during the day. Growers maintain the desired temperature by turning on a heater when it’s cold outside and opening vents to let the cold outside air in when it’s too hot. And a sealed greenhouse can quickly become overheated on a sunny March or April day.

Regular watering is now necessary, as the plants start to grow in earnest. Cloudy and rainy days can delay flowering, so growers increase the temperature accordingly. A stretch of sunny days, though, can cause the bulbs to bloom too early, so vents and fans are opened to allow more cold air in.

Hot temperatures also affect height of the flower stalk: the hotter it is, the taller the stem. Since consumers prefer relatively compact lilies, it may be necessary to treat the plants with a growth retardant. It reduces the space between the leaves and thus the eventual height of the plant. But not too much, as dwarf plants don’t sell either.

Normally, growers start shipping plants to stores a week or so before Easter, when the flowers are still in the bud stage. They should be pale green, but starting to swell. By the time they reach the store, at least the first flowers are open, much to the delight of the buyer.

A Few Tips

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Some people like to remove the anthers (the yellow, pollen-covered filaments sticking out from the flower), as lily pollen can stain tablecloths or even clothes if you brush up against them. Photo: Katrina Wiese, Wikimedia Commons

To get the most bang for your buck, choose a potted Easter lily pot with a large number of flower buds, but only one or two open flowers. That’s a sign that it’s just beginning its blooming season and therefore that the display will last longer, while a plant in full bloom, although it may initially appear more attractive, might be almost bloomed out.

The huge difference in price seen from one seller to another is mainly based on the number of buds or flowers and how advanced they are. Supermarkets and box stores often pick up inferior plants that just wouldn’t cut the muster in a nursery or florist shop and sell them at bargain basement prices. If you think you’ve found a deal because the price is so low, that may simply be because there are few flowers on the plant or that the flowers are too advanced for the season. Sometimes it’s worth paying more for a better plant that will produce more flowers over a longer period.

Finally, once you get the plant home, to keep it blooming as long as possible, place your lily in bright light, but not in full sunlight, and in a cool place: 68°F (20°C) or less. At night, if you can, move it to a barely heated room. That will lengthen its useful life considerably. Water as necessary: the soil should not be allowed to dry out. There is no need to fertilize.

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Don’t let cats nibble on lily leaves or flowers: all parts of a lily plant are poisonous to them.

Don’t let your cats chew on your Easter lily because its leaves, flowers, stems and bulbs are toxic to felines. Place it out of their reach. Curiously, this lily is not toxic to humans (or to dogs) and in fact, in the Ryukyu Islands of Japan where it grows wild, Easter lily bulbs were once used as a vegetable, much in the way we use potatoes.

After It Blooms

If you want to, you can plant your Easter lily outdoors after bloom, once all danger of frost is over. Just don’t expect much.

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Easter lilies growing in the subtropics. They rarely thrive in temperature climates.

It’s one of the least hardy of all lilies and though it may survive in zones 7 or 8, it really only thrives under subtropical conditions (zones 9 and 10). It may, however, give one last hurrah, even in colder climates, and bloom again at the end of its summer. If so, the plant you bought will die back after planting out (you can cut off the dead stems) and new stems will appear. It’s these new stems that will, with a little luck, bloom.

If you want to try overwintering it outdoors, when you plant the bulb in the garden, plant it deeper than it was in its pot, covering the top with 3 to 5 inches (8 to 12 cm) of soil. Plant it in rich soil (add a compost or slow-release organic fertilizer) and in full sun. A thick winter mulch of 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) of chopped leaves or straw may help it survive in colder areas.

Curiously, if your lily ever does bloom again at some point, it probably won’t be at Easter. Indeed, the normal flowering season of the “Easter lily” in zones colder than 9 is actually at the end of summer or even in the fall. It is only when forced in a greenhouse that it manages to bloom for Easter!

Could you possibly force an Easter lily indoors for a second year of bloom? If you live in a cold greenhouse, go right ahead! But very few gardeners can offer the growing conditions that would require.

Learn to Let Go

Any good laidback gardener from a cooler climate won’t bother with any of the above. Instead, learn to see the Easter lily as what it was grown to be—a one-hit wonder — and simply toss it into the compost when it stops blooming. Then just buy a fresh plant at Easter next year! Save your precious garden space for plants that really will give you good results.20170416A. Andrew Dunn, WCjpg

Seeds to Sow Indoors: Mid-April

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20160415A.jpgMid-April is the heart of the indoor sowing season. There are still many seeds that need only a few weeks head start in order to get a great head start on the season. The list that follows includes many of them:

In case you missed a few “appointments” along the way, here’s where to go to see Seeds to sow: early April, Seeds to sow: mid-March, Seeds to sow: early March, etc. Remember, you can sow seeds a bit late and still get good results… it’s sowing too early that is hard to make up for.

  1. African Daisy (Arctotis hybrida, formerly Venidium)
  2. Annual Chrysanthemum (Glebionis carinatum (formerly Chrysanthemum carinatum) and others)
  3. Annual gypsophila (Gypsophila muralis)
  4. Annual Phlox (Phlox drummondii)
  5. Aster (Aster spp., including SymphtrichonEurybia and others) Astilbe (Astilbe spp.)
  6. Aubrieta (Aubrieta spp.)
  7. Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorum)
  8. Baptisia or False Indigo (Baptisia spp.)
  9. Basket of Gold (Aurinia saxatilis, syn. Alyssum saxatile)
  10. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
  11. Black-eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia alata)
  12. Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)
  13. Bugloss (Anchusa azurea and others)
  14. Campion (Lychnis haageana)
  15. Checkermallow (Sidalcea malviflora and others)
  16. Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)
  17. Chicory or Endive (Cichorum intybus)
  18. China Aster (Callistephus chinensis)
  19. Chinese Forget-Me-Not (Cynoglossum amabile)
  20. Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata, syn. C. elegans)
  21. Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
  22. Compass Plant (Silphium perfoliatumS. laciniatum, etc.)
  23. Coreopsis (Coreopsis grandifloraC. lanceolataC. tinctoria and others)
  24. Corncockle (Agrostemma githago and others)
  25. Cosmidium (Cosmidium burridgeanum)
  26. Creeping Zinnia (Sanivitalia procumbens)
  27. Cupid’s Dart (Catananche caerulea)
  28. Dahlberg Daisy (Thymophylla tenuiloba, syn. Dyssodia tenuiloba)
  29. Dill (Anethum graveolens)
  30. Dwarf Dahlia (Dahlia X)
  31. Dwarf Morning-Glory (Convolvulus tricolor)
  32. Everlasting (Xerochrysum bracteatum, syn. Helichrysum bracteatum)
  33. Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus latifolius)
  34. Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana alataN. sylvestris and others)
  35. Fountain Grass (Pennisetum villosumP. setaceum)
  36. Four-o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa)
  37. Gaillardia (Gaillardia grandiflora and others)
  38. Gazania (Gazania rigens)
  39. German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita, syn. Matricaria chamomilla)
  40. Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa and others)
  41. Godetia (Clarkia amoena, formerly Godetia amoena)
  42. Hare’s Tail (Lagurus ovatus)
  43. Inula (Inula spp.)
  44. Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium caeruleumP. reptans, etc.)
  45. Jewels of Opar (Tanlium paniculatum and others)
  46. Kale (Brassica oleracea acephala)
  47. Kochia (Bassia scoparia, syn. Kochia scoparia)
  48. Larkspur (Consolida ambiguaC. regalis, formerly Delphinium)
  49. Lavatera (Lavatera trimestrisL. thuringiacaL. cachemeriana, etc.)
  50. Liatris (Liatris spicata and others)
  51. Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena and others)
  52. Lupin (Lupinus polyphyllus and others)
  53. Lyreleaf Sage (Salvia lyrata)
  54. Majorum (Origanum majorana, syn. O. hortensis)
  55. Maltese Cross (Lychnis chalcedonica, L. arkwrightii)
  56. Mauve (Malva moschataM. alcea and others)
  57. Melampodium or African Zinnia (Melampodium paludosum)
  58. Mexican Popy (Argemone mexicana and others)
  59. Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)
  60. Mignonette (Reseda odorata)
  61. Mimulus (Mimulus hybridus)
  62. Nemesia (Nemesia strumosa and others)
  63. Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum, syn. P. laciniatumP. paeoniflorum)
  64. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
  65. Osteospermum (Osteospermum spp., syn. Dimorphotheca spp.)
  66. Painted Sage (Salvia viridis, syn. S. horminus)
  67. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
  68. Peanut (Arachis hypogaea)
  69. Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa atropurpurea)
  70. Pink Sunry (Rhodanthe roseum and R. magnlesii, syn. Acroclinium et Helipterum)
  71. Portulaca (Portulaca grandiflora)
  72. Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis)
  73. Rockcress (Arabis caucasica and others)
  74. Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria)
  75. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  76. Sandwort (Arenaria montana)
  77. Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens)
  78. Scotch Thistle (Onopordum acanthium)
  79. Sea Lavander (Limonium platyphyllum (syn. L. latifolium) and others)
  80. Sheep’s Bit (Jasione laevis, syn. J. perennis)
  81. Shoo-fly Plant (Nicandra physaloides)
  82. Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)
  83. Snow on the Mountain (Euphorbia marginata)
  84. Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum)
  85. Stock (Matthiola incana)
  86. Thyme (Thymus serpyllum, T. praecox and others)
  87. Tickseed (Bidens aureaB. ferulifolia and others)
  88. Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum)
  89. Tulip Poppy (Hunnemannia fumariifolia)
  90. Turtlehead (Chelone glabra and others)
  91. Winged Everylasting (Ammobium alataum)
  92. Yellow False Lupin (Thermopsis villosa and others)