Garden Greats – Planting tips to bring the early freshness of spring.

Is anyone else craving for colour (and sunshine, too)? Spring may be a short-lived season, but by this time of year, most of us are longing to liven up our flowerbeds and container gardens.There are some stunning standard plants to choose when you start your spring gardening. Dot Brand, store manager of Terra Greenhouses in Burlington, and Erica Lowartz-Cozzarin, store manager of Sheridan Nurseries in Mississauga, share some tips and their favourite spring plants.

Gold Heart (related to the bleeding heart)
Bloom bonus: the flower stems are strung with delicate pink and white heart-shaped flowers dangling above a mound of lacy bright yellow foliage. It’s best in full to part shade and blooms in late spring. “Since this variety tends to go dormant in the heat of mid-summer, plant it behind a hosta or other perennial that will hide the foliage as it shrinks back,” says Brand.

Giant Solomon Seal
Bloom bonus: a tall, shade tolerant plant that stands tall at the back of a perennial border. Stems produce small but fragrant cream-coloured, bell-shaped blooms in the spring that attract hummingbirds and bees. An added bonus is that its foliage turns bright gold in the fall.

Bloom bonus: its flower consists of outer petals that are white or yellow with an elongated trumpet (corona) that can be the same colour or a contrasting pink, salmon or orange. “Depending on the cultivar of this perennial bulb, it may bloom in early to late spring and May. Although toxic to deer and squirrels, many varieties are fragrant,” Brand states.

Bloom bonus: a biennial often used as a hardy, showy annual. Great in containers or as a mass planting in a garden bed, and pansies come in a multitude of bright colours. “These can be planted directly in the ground, in a hanging basket, or in a container. Being an annual, these are often grown ahead in a greenhouse before a garden centre gets them, allowing them to make an impact right away,” says Lowartz-Cozzarin. Did you know that leaves and flowers are edible? You can use them to garnish cakes and salads.

Pre-made or Custom Designed Containers
Bloom bonus: a must have because after the snow’s gone, they enable you to instantly freshen up the exterior of your home.  “This is the fastest way to make your home look and feel like spring on the outside,” Lowartz-Cozzarin says.

Rule of (Green) Thumb
What’s Brand’s number one rule for the start of spring planting? Prepare the soil. “It’s not glamorous,” she says, “but if you take care of the soil the plants are growing in, the plants will take care of themselves. If preparing a new planting bed, mix in ample amounts of organic matter in the form of compost. Provide a top dressing of compost around already existing plantings including shrubs and woody ornamentals. You can also use a granular fertilizer prior to the summer months that will release its nutrients to the plants over the course of the season.”

For above ground planting, Lowartz-Cozzarin says you can do it anytime. “I love containers because they can make it feel like spring as early as you want it to,” she says.  “If you’re planting in the ground, (do it) as soon as the frost is out of the ground.  Spring is all about preparation and being proactive.”

So don’t delay – now is the time to head to your favourite garden centres to gather all that you need for your spring planting.

Local Links:

Centro Garden, Burlington

Sheridan Nurseries, Mississauga/Oakville

Terra Greenhouses, Burlington

Holland Park, Burlington

Cudmore’s, Oakville

by Becky Dumais

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