Springtime is finally here, and summer is so close we can taste it. If you’re dreaming of backyard dinners, walking barefoot through the grass, or lounging in a hammock beside a gorgeous garden, now is the time to plan your outdoor space—and we’ve got expert tips to help you bring your dream to life.
Beautify your garden beds
It doesn’t matter if you like a neatly mulched garden with rows of flowers or something lush and a little wild—do whatever makes you happy. Perennials are ideal for garden beds as they come back year after year, offering great value and less prep. Gabrielle Polman of Bradford Greenhouses Garden Gallery in Springwater notes that there are plenty of perennial options that grow well in the region including hostas for shady areas and black-eyed Susans for sunnier areas. “Black-eyed Susans are great for attracting butterflies to a garden,” she adds. “This year, people are looking for bright, happy colours.”
Kristopher Orchard of OC Emporium in Orillia says hydrangeas remain popular because they’re large, sophisticated, and stately, but irises are definitely having a moment. “The bearded iris is very popular, and they come in a range of over 90 colours and shades.” Orchard anticipates continued demand for shades of white, blue, apple green, and mauve—monochromatic palettes with pops of colour.
Ornamental grasses and topiaries are less popular these days, but Orchard sees consistent demand for shrubs like boxwood and silver mound. These are great on the edge of a garden where you need a visual perimeter, he says (but forget planters on either side of the driveway—there are better places to create a focal point). “People love texture, and they’re very adamant that they want both spring bloomers and summer bloomers. They want to really enjoy their properties [all year long].” Orchard shares that foxgloves and delphiniums are popular because they can thrive in windy areas and draw in beautiful songbirds.
Accent with annuals
Annuals are flowers that only bloom for one season—think geraniums, petunias, marigolds, and zinnias. “Most annuals are not cold tolerant, so you can’t plant them until after the last frost,” Polman cautions, noting that the Victoria Day long weekend is a good time to get started. “A lot of people put annuals in pots because they’re great in limited space. In the garden, put them anywhere you need a focal spot or some curb appeal.” Annuals tend to be colourful and bloom longer than perennials.
“People also want edible plants, herbs and sprouts, and are planting combinations of vegetables with flowers,” Orchard says. Polman agrees, suggesting that homeowners plant vegetables and annuals together for a space that produces food but still displays as a beautiful floral garden.
Valerie Kristjanson of Connon Nurseries suggests “annuals and perennials both play important roles in garden design. Perennials provide a succession of bloom throughout the season and add structure to the planting, returning season after season. Many perennials can be divided over time, producing more plants, and providing a great way to share a love of plants with others! Popular choices include many of the varieties that attract pollinators to the garden; coneflowers, bee balm, perennial salvia, lavender, yarrow and penstemon. Low maintenance perennials such as ornamental grasses, daylilies, hostas, and sedum round out the favourites.”
Walking through a garden centre, it’s easy to be drawn to what’s aesthetically pleasing—but don’t forget to look into how much care each plant needs. Weeding, watering, and otherwise tending to plants can be incredibly time-consuming, especially in a larger garden.
In addition to flowers, consider adding trees or shrubs to your outdoor space. It may take some time for them to reach full-size, but it’s often worth the wait. Not only do trees and shrubs provide great visual interest with hardly any upkeep, but they may also offer shade and privacy. And if you add a gorgeous flowering tree like an eastern redbud, cherry blossoms, magnolia, or lilac? The results are stunning.
Make any space your own
An outdoor space should be your haven, whether it’s a small patio, a spacious backyard or a few acres surrounding your cottage. Think about how you want to use the space, how much time (and energy!) you have for maintenance, and what you want the aesthetic to be. Then, make a list of extras and determine what fits into your budget.
It’s not uncommon for homeowners to create outdoor living spaces with stylish patio furniture, food preparation areas, or fire pits, but you don’t have to stop there. Consider a relaxing water element, a gazebo or some hardscaping, shade and lighting elements, or even a pizza oven. “More and more, we’re seeing people bring the indoors outdoors,” Polman explains, noting that a wide range of outdoor seating, cooking and decor products are available.
And at the end of the day? Homeowners want an outdoor area that does it all. “People want a low maintenance space they can get a lot out of,” Polman says. “They don’t just want beauty—they want practicality, cost-efficiency, and enjoyment.”
Bradford Greenhouses Garden Gallery, Springwater
OC Emporium, Orillia
Connon Nurseries, Newmarket