Bee napping on flower scaled

Plants For Bumblebees

Courtesy of Lori Weidenhammer

A link to Lori’s Blog.

* Denotes a medicinal plant for bees

BOLD denotes special interest for bumblebee plants (buzz pollinated, longer corollas or special relationships, ie trip pollination)

Native and Near Native Shrubs: Willow (Salix spp.) maybe the most important plant for honeybees and significant for bumblebee queens, Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) is another good one for weavers, Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) also an essential bee plant because it blooms over a period of months, Black Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata) Loads of nectar, berries used for dye, Hairy Manzanita (Arctostaphylos columbiana)

June Gap: Ninebark (Physocarpus spp.) native species is Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus), Spirea spp., native is Spirea douglassi, Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii), Native Roses

Edible/Drinkable Shrubs: Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), Oregon Grape (Berberis spp.), Kinnikinnik (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), Blueberries (Vaccinium spp.),  Evergreen Huckleberry  (Vaccinium ovatum), Wood’s Rose (Rosa Woodsii), Prickly Rose (R. acicularis), Blueberry Vaccinium spp.Potentilla spp.

Sumac (Rhus spp.), Blue Elderberry (Sambucus cerulea), Currants (Ribes spp.) clove currant and red-flowering don’t plant European black currants, Raspberry (Rubus spp.) Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)High Bush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum)Labrador tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum),

Native and Near-Native Trees: Arbutus (Arbutus menziesii), Chokecherry, Crabapple the native is Pacific Crabapple (Malus fusca), Pincherry, Saskatoon, Western Mountain Ash (Sorbus scopulina)

Native Vines: Virgin’s Bower Clematis (Clematis ligustifolium) beware of invasive look-alikes, Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa)

Exotic Trees: Redbuds (Cercis spp.), Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), Linden (Tilia spp.) avoid silver linden (Tilia tomentosa); Stone Fruit Trees: apple, cherry, peach, apricot, pear, quince, and plum

Exotic Shrubs: Spirea spp., Climbing roses, Potentilla spp. important late-blooming shrub

Edible Native Perennials: Native violets, Nodding onion (Allium cernuum) and other native alliums

Early Shade-tolerant Perennials: Bleeding heart (Dicentra spp.) toxic, Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum spp.), Canadian Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and other Aquilegia spp. toxic 

Native and Near Native Perennials: Spring-gold (Lomatium utriculatum) an early-blooming umbel esp. important for short-tongued bees like the Western Bumblebee

Deltoid Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea), Large-leafed Avens (Geum macrifolium) and other Geum spp.

Broad-leafed Shooting Star (Dodecatheon hendersonii)Milk Vetch (Astragalus spp.), Native Silvery Lupin (Lupinus argenteus) and other Lupinus spp., Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia spp.), Broomrape (Orobanche spp.) Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor)Native Larkspurs (Delphium menziesii ) HIGH toxicity warning

Penstemon spp., Canadian Milk Vetch (Astragalus Canadensis and other native spp.), Blue Gentian (Gentiana spp.)Monkey Flower (Mimulus sp.)

Camassia spp., Woodland Strawberry (Fragraria vesca), Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium), Potentilla spp. native species and cultivars are great, Common Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia and other native and exotic spp.),

Plains Prickly Pear (Opuntia polyacantha)Gumweed (Grindelia spp.), Rocky Mountain Bee Plant (Cleome serrulata), Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Erigeron spp., Native Lilies (Erythronium spp.), Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium spp.), Cranesbill Geranium (Geranium spp.)

Near Native Annual: Bienenfreunde aka Lacy Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia) very important bee pasture plant for nectar and pollen—stagger-plant this throughout the growing season. Good for honeybees and bumblebees.

Late-Blooming Native and Near-Native Asteraceae: Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium spp.) Blanket Flower (Gaillardia spp.), Tickseed (Coreopsis spp.), Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritaceae), Asters (Symphyotrichum spp.), Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.), Coneflowers (Ratibida spp.), Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.), Gold Star (Crocidium multicaule)

Medicinal Exotic Perennials: *Turtlehead: (Chelone glabra), *Sage (Salvia spp.) *Meadow Sage (Salvia pratensis), *Oregano, *Thyme, *Dragonhead (Dracocephalum spp.), *Lavender (Lavandula spp.)

Exotic Perennials: Catmint (Nepeta cultivars) N. cataria can be invasive. Very important long-blooming plant for honeybees and bumblebees

California poppies (Eschscholzia californicacan be weedy, Liatris spp.Comfrey (Symphytum spp.), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) comes with an invasive warning, Hollyhocks (and other Malva spp.), Wine Cup (Callirhoe involucrata), Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), Sea Holly (Eryngeum spp.), Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro), Caterpillar Flower (Phacelia bolerandi) works in dappled shade, Masterwort (Astrantia major), Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), Verbena spp.,

Exotic Annuals: Borage (Borago officinalis) NB for nectar, Hairy Vetch (Vicia villosacan be weedy, Moroccan Toadflax (Linaria maroccana) plant instead of invasive toadflax spp., Blue Shrimp Plant (Cerinthe major), Globe Gilia (Gilia capitata), Zinnias (choose the large ones) Calendula (Calendula officinalis) long-blooming and open access,

Edible Exotic AnnualsScarlet Runner Beans, squash (Cucurbitae)

Medicinal Exotic Annuals: *Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), *Tobacco (Nicotiana rustica), 

*Nightshades (Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant, Potato), 

Exotic Tubers: Dahlias (Avoid doubles)

Extra Edibles: Let some of your veggies bloom for bees: radishes, kale, leeks, carrots, parsnips

Extra bee-friendly herbage: cilantro, fennel and dill

Hakenochloa SunFlareb

HarkAway Botanicals introduces: Hakonechloa SunFlareTM

BC nurseryman introduces new plant to International market

HarkawayBrochureMainIn 2017, Lyle Courtice of HarkAway Botanicals, in association with Concept Plants B.V. will release their latest introduction into the horticultural trade. Hakonechloa macra SunFlareTM is the first-ever international new plant introduction being offered in Europe and many countries including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada, the United States, South Korea and China.

Starting in the spring of 2017, SunFlareTM will be available to wholesale growers across Canada the United States and Europe, with production ramping up in 2016 to meet the already growing interest and demand. Gardeners should see plants available at retail shops in the latter part of 2017.

SunFlareTM Japanese forest grass is a beautiful new introduction and represents an important Canadian contribution to temperate gardens everywhere. This stunning form of Hakonechloa macra is a sport selected from the popular cultivar ‘All Gold’ and boasts vibrant chartreuse leaves that with more sun become intense golden yellow, randomly highlighted in deep crimson.

Fall colouring is a combination of chartreuse and gold saturated with tones of burnt orange and burgundy-red. This neat, strong-growing grass has a compact habit and forms an upright mound with graceful cascading foliage. Plants reach 30-45cm (12-18″) in height with a spread of 45-60cm (18-24″) in 3-5 years and can be grown in a wide range of climates with a solid hardiness rating of Zone 5 (-28oC, -20oF). SunFlareTM Hakonechloa grows well on most sites with average to rich, well-drained soil. Suggested settings include woodland, waterside, slope, perennial border, mixed container, mass planting, edging and container specimen. The striking colour combinations are sure to make an impact in any garden setting.


Hakonecloa Aureola

Simple Containers

 by Susan Tice

Colourful containers sprouted up everywhere when we moved to our current home and we suddenly had lots of sun. My long pent up desire for pots overflowing with petunias and other summer beauties could be indulged almost endlessly. A few years later, the novelty wore off a little – it was a lot of work to plant up all those pots every year; time to look at alternatives. Perhaps a single, perfect specimen instead of a riot of colour…

Hydrangea 'Paris'

Hydrangea ‘Paris’

A single specimen plant in a beautiful container has an elegance and grace all its own. For a single plant to shine it should have more than one ornamental feature and look great over more than one season. The size of the plant should be in proportion to the size of the container.   The shape of the plant, whether it be tall and upright, softly weeping or a formal round ball, should complement the shape of the container.

Hydrangea 'Bombshell'

Hydrangea ‘Bombshell’

Among other things, grasses, ferns and hydrangeas are particularly well suited to container growing and look more spectacular with each passing year.   Any of the new easy care, long blooming hydrangeas would look great in a nice pot. Try ’Limelight’, Little Lime’, ‘Bombshell’, ‘Pistachio’ or ‘Adria for example.

Hakonecloa 'Aureola'

Hakonecloa ‘Aureola’

Many grasses show well in containers with Japanese forest grass (Hakonecloa), fountain grass (Pennisetum) and feather reed grass (Calamagrostis) being particular favourites.   Evergreen ferns like sword ferns and Japanese Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum) take time to fill in, but are worth the wait.

Hosta 'Empress Wu'

Hosta ‘Empress Wu’

Consider perennials like Crocosmia or Kniphofia which have spiky foliage all season and showy flowers in mid-summer. I’ve always had hostas in pots and they look stunning when elevated and a small grouping can make quite a statement.

Specimen plants in containers can adorn a porch or patio or define an entry way. When placed around the garden or tucked into a bed, they become instant focal points.   Plus, you can move them around to cover up bare patches. A well-placed container looks like art and can hide all manner of problems!

There will always be petunias in my summer garden, but the pots filled with special plants will be there year after year, like reliable old friends.

Hellebore Tutu 400x

Irresistible Hellebores

By Susan

Hellebore 'Tutu'

Hellebore ‘Tutu’

It’s hard to resist the siren call of hellebores.  Winter blooming, in a wide variety of colour and form, they are long lived and don’t even need dividing. All that and they are both drought tolerant and deer resistant! No wonder we love them.  They are the most collectible of plants.

Helleborus niger aka Christmas Rose and H. orientalis aka Lenten Rose are the species we are most familiar with.  Hellebores seed themselves freely and are notoriously variable.  That variability has long fascinated plant breeders, who had to grow their different coloured plants miles apart from each other in order to have some control over pollination.  Growing hellebores was always a bit like hosting a pot luck dinner, they never knew what they were going to get.

The real challenge though, comes in duplicating hellebores.   It’s only relatively recently, thanks to new techniques like tissue culture, that hellebores have been readily available commercially.  Hellebore varieties are still often sold as ‘seed strains’, meaning that one will be similar to others in the group, but rarely the same.  They have become complex hybrids, known botanically as Helleborus x hybridus.

Separating Seedpods

Seedpods are individually bagged and collected by colour strain.

Hellebores have come a long way from their original murky shades of pink and white, thanks to breeders like Marietta O’Byrne from Oregon’s NorthWest Garden Nursery.  Her ‘Winter Jewels Collection’ features doubles and singles, rich colours and intricate patterns which result from hand pollination and careful selection.  Even their names are irresistible – ‘Berry Swirl’, ‘Onyx Odyssey’, ‘Golden Lotus’,  ‘Apricot Blush’ to name a few; they even sound enticing.  The colour and form of each plant will be similar to others in the strain, but again, rarely identical.
Through successive generations the colours become more stable, and the strains improve.  Hellebores can be expensive, but considering the amount of work that goes into producing them and the fact that they will live for years, they can be considered an excellent investment!

The Same But Different:

Onyx Odssey

Onyx Odyssey

Hellebore 'Berry Swirl'

Hellebore ‘Berry Swirl’


How to Grow Hellebores
We think of hellebores as woodland plants, but in their native Eastern Europe they are found growing in open sunny meadows in alkaline soil.   They are very adaptable though, and will thrive in a lightly shaded acidic woodland.  Although they are drought tolerant, hellebores are at their best in moist, rich, well-drained soils.  At planting time, dig in plenty of leaf mould, garden compost or mushroom manure.   Additional feeding is not usually needed, but an occasional application of a balanced slow release fertilizer won’t hurt.  Mulch occasionally in spring with compost.

It’s a good idea to cut off all the old foliage just as the flowers are starting to emerge.  For one thing, the flowers will show better when the foliage is cut away, but the main reason is to keep the plants healthy.  By spring the old foliage is ratty looking and buggy.  Removing it will allow the new foliage to stay clean.  Put the old foliage in the garbage, not the compost.

Warning: Buying hellebores can be habit forming and can lead to obsession!

If you are interesting in exploring the world of hellebores the Plant Delights website is a great place to start


Soft Shield Fern w

A Fondness for Ferns

By Laurie

Ferns are emotive plants that can conjure up visions of other places and times. Ferns give a garden a sense of permanence, timelessness, of always having been there; which is no wonder, as they have been around for over 300 million years!

Soft Shield Fern

Frosty fiddle heads of Soft Shield Fern

Ferns don’t seduce us with flowers, but instead offer exquisite fiddleheads and gorgeous texture. They are elegantly diverse, the quintessential shade foliage plant that comes in all shapes and sizes. They are classy plants with a long season of interest, starting with their intricate unfurling fronds in spring.

Their refined fountain shapes make a strong architectural statement that can soften formal designs and add polish to spare sites. Airy fronds move in the breeze and contrast well with smooth walls, water features and stone. Ferns have a regular, reliable growth habit and won’t outgrow their assigned space very quickly, which makes them easy to place and partner with other plants. In addition to all of these wonderful attributes, ferns are rarely bothered by pests, diseases and deer!

There is a fern for almost every garden situation. They are easy to grow, adaptable and low maintenance. Although the ideal site for a fern is in dappled shade with consistent moisture in well drained soil, they will also grow in full to part shade, and some will even take sun. There are even ferns for difficult places like dry shade, drier sun, wet boggy areas, and clay slopes.

Ferns like a regular amount of moisture especially in their first year, but many can take some drought once established. They appreciate a compost or leaf mould mulch in spring but don’t require any extra fertilizer. Unlike shrubs, ferns don’t need pruning or deadheading. Cutting back their deciduous and evergreen fronds in spring (March) when the ‘knuckles’ appear is the only work needed.)


Shady ground cover of Deer Fern with Carex ‘Evergold’

Ferns are versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. (See lists of ferns for different uses at the end of this article.) Small charmers can be tucked in containers or crevices or used to edge a shady path. More robust spreading ferns can create a unifying ground cover for naturalizing under trees or along a stream bank. The upright fountain shapes of many larger ferns can be dotted through a border and show best when they rise above smaller mounding shade plants.

Taller ferns are great inter-planted amongst spring bulbs as their spreading fronds cover the dying bulb foliage. Ferns can always be used to fill a difficult shady corner, but they can also add long lasting interest as a specimen at a shady entrance or to frame the sides of steps.

As is often the case, repetition is important. A grouping of three or more ferns repeats their strong, textured pattern and form, which can be a unifying element in a border. Their graceful, finely textured, matte fronds contrasted nicely with larger, simpler, glossy leafed plants.


Textured Fronds of Giant Chain Fern with Ligularia and Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’

Despite all their charms, ferns are underappreciated and underused in our gardens. Perhaps it is too difficult for us in the Pacific Northwest to get beyond the vision of “sword ferns everywhere”.

And, while there is no denying the charms of sword ferns, the world of ferns is so much more. Ferns are simply too captivating to ignore. Find a spot for one (or several!) in your garden and you will never look back.


FERNS – SUN TOLERANT (with some moisture)

Asplenium trichomanes – Maidenhair Spleenwort

Athyrium filix-femina – Lady Fern

Cheilanthes tomentosa – Wooly Lip Fern

Dryopteris affinis and cultivars – Golden Scaled Male Fern

Dryopteris x complexa and D. x complexa ‘Robusta’– Robust Male Fern

Dryopteris erythrosora varieties – Autumn Fern

Dryopteris filix-mas and cultivars – Male Fern

Onoclea sensibilis – Sensitive Fern

Osmunda cinnamonea – Cinnamon Fern

Osmunda regalis – Royal Fern

Polypodium glycyrrhiza – Licorice Fern

Polystichum munitum – Sword Fern



Athyrium filix-femina – Lady Fern

Dryopteris cristata – native

Matteuccia struthiopteris – Ostrich Fern

Onoclea sensibilis – Sensitive Fern

Osmunda cinnamonea – Cinnamon Fern

Osmunda regalis – Royal Fern

Osmunda claytoniana – Interrupted Fern

Adiantum aleuticum – Maidenhair Fern – takes moist, not wet

Dryopteris affinis – Golden Scaled Male – takes moist, not wet

Woodwardia fimbriata – Giant Chain Fern – takes moist, not wet.



Adiantum aleuticum – Maidenhair Fern

Asplenium scolopendrifolium – Harts Tongue Fern

Athyrium filix-femina – Lady Fern

Blechnum splicant – Deer Fern

Crytomium species – Holly Fern

Dryopteris dilatata – Broad Wood Fern

Dryopteris filix-mas – Male Fern

Gymnocarpium dryopteris – Oak Fern

Polypodium glycyrrhiza – Licorice Fern

Polystichum acrostichoides – Christmas Fern (for slopes, erosion control)

Polystichum braunii – Brauns Holly Fern

Polystichum munitum – Sword Fern

Polystichum setiferum – Soft Shield Fern


FERNS DROUGHT TOLERANT (once established)

Athyrium filix-femina – Lady Fern

Dryopteris crassirhizoma – Thick Stemmed Wood Fern

Dryopteris filix-mas – Male Fern

Polypodium glycyrrhiza – Licorice Fern

Polystichum braunii – Brauns Holly Fern

Polystichum munitum – Sword Fern


FERNS FOR GROUND COVER (either low growers or spreaders)

Adiantum venustum – Himalayan Maidenhair Fern

Athyrium filix-femina – Lady Fern

Blechnum spicant – Deer Fern

Gymnocarpium dryopteris – Oak Fern

Matteuccia struthiopteris – Ostrich Fern

Onoclea sensibilis – Sensitive Fern

Osmunda claytoniana – Interrupted Fern

Polypodium glycyrrhiza – Licorice Fern

Polystichum munitum – Sword Fern

Woodwardia areolata – Netted Chain Fern



Athyrium ‘Branford Beauty’

Athyrium ‘Ghost’

Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ varieties – Japanese Painted Ferns

Athyrium otophorum – Eared Lady Fern

Cheilanthes tomentosa – Wooly Lip Fern

Dryopteris erythrosora varieties – Autumn Fern

Dryopteris lepidopoda – Sunset Fern

Dryopteris wallichiana – Wallichs Wood Fern

Onoclea sensibilis – Sensitive Fern

Osmunda regalis ‘Purpurascens’– Purple Stemmed Royal Fern


FERNS FOR SPECIMENS (striking appearance, large to medium size)

Dryopteris crassirhizoma – Thick Stemmed Wood Fern

Dryopteris x complexa ‘Robusta’– Robust Male Fern

Dryopteris wallichiana – Wallichs Wood Fern

Osmunda cinnamonea – Cinnamon Fern

Osmunda regalis – Royal Fern

Polystichum setiferum Divisilobum Group – many striking varieties

Polystichum makinoi – Makinois Holly Fern

Polystichum neolobatum – Asian Saber Fern

Woodwardia fimbriata – Giant Chain Fern

FERNS FOR CONTAINERS (use equal mix of soil,compost and bark mulch)

Adiantum aleuticum – Maidenhair Fern

Asplenium scolopendrifolium – Harts Tongue Fern

Asplenium trichomanes – Maidenhair Spleenwort

Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae’– Tatting Fern

Athyrium ‘Ghost’

Crytomium species

Dryopteris erythrosora varieties – Autumn Fern

Dryopteris lepidopoda – Sunset Fern

Dryopteris filix-mas ‘Cristata Martindale’

Osmunda regalis – Royal Fern

Polystichum setiferum cultivars

Polystichum tsus-simense – Korean Rock Fern

Polystichum polyblepharum – Tassel Fern


(Sources: Olsen, Encyclopedia of Garden Ferns/ Hardy Fern Foundation/internet)

Pteridophyllum racemosum

Specialty Plants

Are you a plant collector? Do you seek out rare and unusual specimens? Plants are like people, there are some rare gems among the crowd, and they are worth the effort to find. We have often been considered a source of unique items, making it worth the drive to North Saanich to find us. We are now stocking a select grouping of plants from a specialty grower on the Lower Mainland, many woodland treasures from Japan in particular. Yes, they are expensive! Quantities are limited.

Photos and plant information provided by: HarkAway Botanicals 
Actaea pachypoda ‘Misty Blue’
Supernal native woodland perennial (Eastern NA) with a mounding habit and lacy blue-green foliage. Tall stems of fluffy white panicles in spring;  striking, pure white berries with contrasting red pedicels in fall.Tolerates most soil types but requires even moisture in light to medium shade.
Height: 60-90cm   Spread:  60-90cm  Zone:  3
Anemonella thalictroides ‘Betty Blake’
An unexpected wonder,  ‘Betty Blake’ has fully double flowers of pale apple green.  Flowering begins in early spring lasting into summer.  A very showy addition to the woodland garden; makes an excellent container specimen.  Prefers a gritty well-drained soil in open to partial shade.
Height: 20cm   Spread:  30cm  Zone:  4
Beesia calthifolia
A beautiful clumping evergreen perennial from China, having glossy heart-shaped leaves with that gasoline sheen; new growth is bronze-red.  Tall spikes of small white flowers through spring and summer.  Slow to establish. Superb, groundcover for shade.
Prefers humus rich soils.
Height: 30cm   Spread:  30+cm  Zone:  6
Calanthe sieboldii
Robust terrestrial orchid with bright green, pleated leaves.  Tall scapes (50cm) of brilliant yellow flowers in spring.  A very exotic addition to the woodland. Flowers are among the largest of the hardy Calanthe. Evergreen during mild winters; easy to grow.
Best in partial sheade in moist, humus-rich soil.
Height: 15-30   Spread:  30-45  Zone:  6
Convallaria majalis ‘Albostriata’
Highly prized by gardeners this coveted perennial has green leaves that are vertically striped with pale gold.  Slow to establish, but worth the wait! Short scapes of fragrant white bells in early spring. Likes average well drained soil in part shade.
Height: 15-20   Spread:  30cm  Zone:
Daphne odora ‘Rebecca’
Found in Devon England this impressive sport of  ‘Aureomarginata’ has long narrow dark green leaves with a broad gold margin; evergreen.  Deep purple buds open to very fragrant pink flowers; early spring. Best grown in partial shade in very well-drained soil.
Height: 1.25-1.5m   Spread:  1.5m  Zone:  7
Leucosceptrum japonicum ‘Gold Angel’
Outstanding herbaceous perennail from Japan with foliage reminiscent of a stunning golden salvia.  Plants have a clumping shrub-like growth habit.  Soft yellow bottlebrush flower spikes late summer into fall.
Full sun (maintain moisture levels) to partial shade in average, moist soil.
Height: 90cm   Spread:  90-120cm  Zone:  4
Pteridophyllum racemosum
Unique perennial endemic to the mountains of Japan. Plants form rosettes of dark green, fern-like leaves which are topped by short (30cm) spikes of pendulous clean white flowers; spring into summer.
Prefers moist, humus rich, well drained soil in cool shade.
Height: 15-30cm   Spread:  30+  Zone:  5
Sciadopitys verticillata
Japanese Umbrella Pine
Compact, slow growing conifer with umbrella-like whorls of soft, narrow, dark green needles.  Plants form a dense conical to pyramidal shape that will become more open with age.  A most eye-catching specimen or container plant.
Full sun to light shade in moist, acidic, well drained soil.
Height: 4-6m   Spread:  2-3m  Zone:  5
Mixed Flowers

For The Love Of Flowers, Start A Cutting Garden

By Faye 

Cut FlowersMost of us want to bring the beauty and fragrance of flowers into our homes, but worry about plundering the garden beds by cutting off blooms. The solution? Plant a cutting garden! It needn’t be large but, if well planned, will reward you with glorious bouquets all season long. A few guidelines and suggestions to help you get started.


Site your cutting bed away from your main garden beds; it can be tucked behind the shed, against the garage, or even in the vegetable garden. It should be in a sunny spot, out of the wind, with good drainage and fertile soil amended with lots of compost, leaves, and slow-release fertilizer. If you haven’t gardened in this spot before, dig down deeply and add the amendments to the root zone.


Plant in rows or blocks, with the taller plants on the northernmost side so as not to shade the shorter plants. Some plants that require staking, like dahlias or delphiniums, are easier to stake when planted in well-spaced rows, and because this isn’t an ornamental bed, utilitarian staking isn’t a problem.


There are only 3 main guidelines for this, and they are simple; grow what you love to have inside the house or give to friends, grow plants that produce attractive foliage or many flowers over a long period, and generally look for plants with long flower stems. Pansies are sweet and they bloom early, but their short stems give them limited use for arrangements.

Both annuals and perennials have a place in a cutting garden. Perennials will bloom over a shorter period, but they are reliable and will be there again next year.  Annuals will keep on flowering until their season ends; keep the flowers cut, or deadhead any fading blooms to frustrate the plant’s need to create a seed, thereby forcing it to bloom again.

There are so many choices for excellent cutting flowers, but these plants get my vote for ease of care and reliable bloom over a long time:

Sweet Peas - Royal FamilyAnnuals:  Often started from seed, so they are inexpensive to experiment with. Try one new thing each year, just for fun!

  1. Sweet peas are easy, early, and we usually have lots of seedlings at the nursery.
  2. Cosmos bloom prolifically over a long season
  3. Calendula make cozy bouquets, and are also lovely in salads as the petals are edible.
  4. Stocks provide an aromatic delight, soft pastel colours, and interesting texture.
  5. Snapdragons can be stunning in arrangements, and often become perennial if they make it through the first winter. Many interesting varieties are now available from seed.
  6. Sunflowers; now many shorter, more colourful varieties to grow from seed.
  7. Dill, while an herb, has beautiful foliage and the flowers are delicate umbels which add an airy texture to floral displays. Best if grown from seed.
  8. Heliotrope has the most delicate scent. Dark purple adds that touch of drama.
  9. Salpiglossis is a seldom seen annual that is truly worth a try; seems to be aphid-resistant, mildew resistant, and the flowers are stunning. Yes, we have seeds.
  10. Asters come in a wide variety of shapes and often display gorgeous jewel tones of rich pink, purple and fuchsia.
  11. Zinnia is probably the most floriferous and rewarding flower for cutting. One friend said “I don’t ever want to be without zinnias” after trying them the first time. We will have seedlings of my very favourite seed mix ‘Granny’s Bouquet’.

Mixed FlowersPerennials

  1. Echinacea is famous as Purple Coneflower but now comes in a wider array of brilliant colours.  Seed pods are also pretty in arrangements, but wait until the end of the season to let too many of the flowers go to seed, or you’ll hamper flower production.
  2. Rudbeckia, or Black-Eyed Susan, are late-blooming in many shades of yellow to bronze to burnished orange.
  3. Physalis aka Chinese Lanterns are unmatched for autumn arrangements and even sprayed with gold for Christmas décor.
  4. Aquilegia, often two-toned; columbines are a favourite in spring and early summer. Can self-seed prolifically.
  5. Alstromeria is a very long-lasting cut flower. Can be invasive, so check variety or plant accordingly.
  6. Delphinium is tall, rich, and handsome.
  7. Aconitum or monkshood can be grown in partial shade, and stunning dark blue is natural for a dramatic floral display in late summer.
  8. Lupines provide height and texture in a wide array of colours.
  9. Foxgloves self-seed so you may have them beyond the cutting garden, but are beautiful with their height and fascinating interior colourations.
  10. Gaillardia are daisy-like gems of gold, orange and bronze.
  11. Dahlias can provide the most amazing flowers; colours that defy belief, and sizes in a range from golf balls to dinner plates. Plant in rows with strong stakes.

Whether or not you have space for a designated cutting garden, try some of these beauties combined with grasses, hosta leaves, and greens from your shrubs and other foliage plants, to give pleasure to yourself or those you love. Flowers make people happy.



Hellebores Are Happy

Helleborus x ‘Honey Hill Joy’ - BEFORE

Helleborus x ‘Honey Hill Joy’ – BEFORE

Helleborus x ‘Honey Hill Joy’ - AFTER CUTTING BACK


Keep your hellebores happy and show their charming faces! These easy-care perennials ask only one thing of you, and that is to cut back their old leathery leaves in very early spring, right about now. New leaves will quickly take their place; put the old ones in the garbage not compost, as they can harbour fungal disease.  See the difference in our before and after photos; abundant flowers will be followed soon by shiny green new leaves. Easy! Cutting back does not apply to the species Argutifolius and Foetidus – they would get cut back after flowering and only if needed.