rock garden

All the Garden Stages

All the Garden Stages

By Chris Hamilton

Stage One: Develop a Long-Term Plan

Designing and planning a landscape for your yard can be a daunting task. So much space to fill, but with what? Choosing from over 600 varieties of shrubs alone could take an entire summer! But don’t despair—the truth is, designing a great yardscape can be done within one day.

Growing the landscape, however, will take years. There are many aspects to consider: maintenance time, budgets, the presence of pets and children... for a yard that will last a lifetime, you need a long-term garden plan. Think of your yard as a changing, dynamic entity that evolves over time, rather than as a static creation that endures for years without change. As you age and the composition of your family changes, so too should your yard change.

Stage Two: Provide a Framework

I’ve done a lot of landscape designs for newlyweds and new homeowners, and whether they were moving into a new home or an older one, they always seemed to have some common desires: low maintenance, lots of colour, not a lot of lawn, no weeding, no pruning... demands that would make a seasoned gardener chuckle. In response to these suggestions I always want to say “Condos are nice...”

But seriously, the first thing to do is provide a framework for the yard. The first step in building that framework is get the big stuff in! A landscaper and his client have to decide on the best spot for the deck, the patio, a fire pit, pathways, large trees, swingsets, evergreens, and shrubs. Not all of these features will go in at the same time, but you should know where and when you will install them. Keep an eye out for powerlines and other potential obstructions. Map out shade patterns in the yard; that will give you an idea of where to put a shaded bench or the sun-loving annuals. One more tip: don’t pinch pennies when choosing building materials. You’re in this for the long haul, and remember that your return on investment for a well-landscaped yard is large—anywhere from 100-200%! Once you’ve decided where all of this stuff goes and when it’s going in, it’s on to the next stage.

Stage Three: Maintain a Great Lawn and Simple Yard

Some of the homes I visit are “owned” by kids. The parents are there too, of course, but the kids run the show! Keep their habits and needs in mind when growing your yard. Most yards aren’t too complicated at this point—a lot of lawn space is essential to provide ample room for horseplay. For the petunias’ sake, don’t plant between the goal posts! Your main jobs during this period will be mowing, fertilizing, watering, weeding, and pest control—routine tasks. Any plants you put in should be able to withstand a little damage from wayward kites, frisbees, etc.

Stage Four: Time to be Ambitious and Experimental

Once the kids are older (and able to do the mowing), there is generally more time for gardening. That’s a good thing, because this is also the stage where the yard requires more work to really look good—this is where true gardening often begins. The pleasure of weeding your prize rose garden, the amazement at the incredible size of your Atlantic Giant pumpkin, the heartbreak of fire blight on your apple tree...the garden is full of drama! Some grass can be removed to make room for perennial borders and beds, and perhaps a small vegetable garden. It might be a good time to add a gazebo or pond, since the kids are on hand to provide a little extra help. This is the best time for planting annuals—you still have lots of energy and there are plenty of hands around to help water and weed. (All joking aside, I’d always recommend encouraging, not forcing, kids to help in the garden—they’ll be far more enthusiastic if gardening is something they do by choice.)

Stage Five: Reduce the Workload

Soon enough, your babies are off to college, and the annuals have never looked better! It sure helps not having the soccer ball crushing the blossoms. As you struggle to pay the university bills, you might find that you have less time for gardening; annuals may become scarce in the yard, to be found only in pots; perennials continue to grow faithfully in established beds. Your children might be married by now, and they may have figured out that perennials can be divided. When they come knocking for your plants, make a deal—if they do some weeding, you’ll hand over your cuttings.

Stage Six: Relax and Enjoy Gardening

Finally, blissful retirement arrives. Nothing to do but putter around all day in the garden. Most of the “senior gardens” I lay out focus on low maintenance. That means fewer annuals, and perhaps a rock garden (or even a parking stall for the r.v.) in place of the vegetable garden. That deck you built back at stage one sure comes in handy now as you sit back, sipping on mint juleps while admiring your simple, but attractive, garden.

Peony Paradise

Peony Paradise

Perennial gardeners have enjoyed a long love affair with peonies. They’re extremely long-lived, lasting two decades or more, they’re tough as nails, standing up to the worst northern winters, they require little fertilizer, and they’re among the showiest perennials around. It’s no wonder that peonies have such a devoted following.

Several different peonies are hitting the market that will attract devoted collectors as well as casual fans of this perennial favourite.

Cactus Flowered Peonies

These unique peonies put on a stunning display, with blooms very similar in shape to the popular cactus flowered dahlias. Many varieties feature twisted, distorted petals that really draw the eye. Smaller in stature than double-flowering peonies, cactus flowered peonies grow to about 80 cm in height. The more compact growth habit and the lightweight, single flowers combine to help these peonies withstand wind damage much better than their larger counterparts.

  • ‘Pink Luau’ features fragrant blooms with spoon-shaped petals of soft pink, with dark raspberry streaks, resembling a single-flowered rose.

  • ‘Pink Firefly’ has rich, light-pink blossoms. The petals have serrated edges that look as if someone made tiny little decorative cutouts with a pair of scissors.

  • ‘Raspberry Rumba’ has a wild, untamed, tousled appearance of peppermint candy, with white petals streaked with pink and raspberry.

Rock Garden Peonies

Rock garden peonies are compact, some varieties less than half the size of other peonies. As the name implies, they look great in rock gardens, but they can also be used in small gardens. The introduction of rock garden peonies is a great new development, the first compact peonies that are actually named varieties rather than species types. Now you can enjoy them in a small garden without sacrificing any of the outstanding vigour and beauty!

  • Fairy Princess’ forms a beautiful, compact, forest-green bush that produces lovely, true-red, cupped blooms on red stems early in the season. The plants are 40-45 cm tall and wide.

  • ‘Thumbellina’ is a fragrant, early-blooming, very floriferous peony, producing many rosy-pink blooms on a plant only 40 cm tall!

How Plants Reach the Market

How Plants Reach the Market

Today’s consumers are pretty demanding. When they shop for trees, they look for hardiness, vigour, pest and disease resistance, drought tolerance and big, long-lasting blooms. What’s more, they want instant gratification, mature trees and shrubs that are ready to put on a great show in the first season. To top it all off, they want these plants to require as little maintenance as possible. Of course, nurserymen and growers are gardeners, too, and they also desire each and every one of these features.

To meet consumer demand, large-scale growers across North America spend millions of dollars and man-hours to develop varieties that today’s gardener will take pride in growing and displaying. But even if you develop the world’s greatest varieties, you still need contacts to bring them to market.

That’s where nursery managers like Shane Neufeld come in. Every year, Shane goes on a fact-finding mission to one or more of North America’s largest commercial growers, searching for high quality plant material and outstanding new varieties. In July of 2002, Shane journeyed to Bailey Nurseries in St. Paul, Minnesota, to take a first-hand look at some of this year’s most exciting new tree and shrub varieties.

‘Blue Trail’ Juniper

While ‘Blue Trail’ isn’t new to the industry, this variety is fresh to our nursery, and we look forward to the first shipment of trees. As you can see, Bailey’s grows many of their trees using a “pot-in-pot” system. Each ‘Blue Trail’ juniper shown here is nestled in its own pot and then dropped into a second pot that’s buried in the ground. This system keeps the root zone cool and prevents the soil from drying out, reducing stress on the plants. They can be overwintered right in the ground. Using this method, the folks at Bailey’s can comfortably grow trees with 9-cm calipers within just five or six years.

In addition to the great vigour obtained thanks to these growing methods, ‘Blue Trail’ junipers feature an outstanding, improved, more intense colour than other junipers, as well as a more compact growing habit.

A Lucky Accident

‘Blue Trail’ is one of those lucky accidents of nature. It originated from a seed of the venerated ‘Rocky Mountain’ variety, but some quirk of genetics gave the new plant that emerged from this seed a very different look and growth habit.‘Blue Trail’ junipers must be propagated via cuttings from the original parent plant to retain the new variety’s outstanding characteristics.

‘Concord’ Barberry

Now that it’s again legal to import barberries into Canada, northern gardeners can finally enjoy a wide range of barberry varieties. ‘Concord’, with its gorgeous, deep burgundy foliage with a blue tinge (much like a Concord grape), is just now going into production at Bailey’s.

‘Obelisk’ Saskatoon/Serviceberry

This amazing columnar Saskatoon is being considered for future production. It’s a very upright Saskatoon, with beautiful foliage and lots of blooms. Old growth is dark, bluish green, while new growth is a brighter emerald green. Fall colour is brilliant red.

‘Teddy’ Cedar

This cedar keeps its juvenile foliage, resulting in a finer, softer, texture and more compact growth than traditional cedars. Excellent for small shrub beds or rock gardens.

‘Endless Summer’ Hydrangea

This is a particularly great hydrangea for northern gardeners. Most Macrophylla, or “big leaf” hydrangeas bloom on old wood—you can grow them in zone 3, for example—but the chances of seeing blooms is slim since the harsh winters kill the branches down to the snowline. (If there is no snow, the branches die back all the way to the ground!) With ‘Endless Summer’ that’s no longer a problem, since this variety produces blooms on new wood, which appears in the summer.

If grown in a container, these hydrangeas can be forced to change colour from pink to
blue with the addition of certain fertilizers. This unique hydrangea should hit the market
in the summer of 2003 or the spring of 2004.

‘Tiger Eye’ Sumac

This staghorn sumac has incredibly intense gold foliage, a colour previously unheard of for sumacs. ‘Tiger Eye’ would be an excellent addition to small shrub beds as an accent plant. They’re especially attractive when mixed with plants of purple or blue foliage. This variety should be available in 2004

Soil Matters

Bailey’s uses soil that closely approximates the soil found in your garden. On the Bailey’s growing ranges these heavier soils retain water longer, resulting in a better quality plant. By growing their plants in heavy soils, Bailey’s is preparing these trees and shrubs for the home garden environment. They’re ready to roll, taking much less time to adjust to your garden than trees and shrubs grown in lighter soils.

Moon Garden

Create a Nighttime Garden for the Senses

A nighttime garden is a magical place filled with unfamiliar murmurs and inviting
fragrances—the perfect place for rest and retreat. At the end of a workday, there
may be little time to spend in the yard before dusk, so it just makes sense to plan
a garden that comes alive in the evening. The best of these gardens play to our
sense of sight, scent and sound. Softly lit shadows, fragrant night air, musical
dark water. With a few thoughtful choices, you too can create a space that
functions as well in the evening as it does in the day—all it takes is a little night

See the Night
Many of the features that turn a garden into a place of nighttime splendour will
also improve its daytime beauty. Luminous whites, silvers and creams reflect the
moonlight and contrast dark foliage, giving your eyes a reprieve from the pinks,
blues and yellows that populate most flowerbeds. Two perfect examples are
‘Incrediball’ hydrangea and ‘Affinis White’ nicotiana. Both have striking blossoms
and architecture that would enhance any garden, but at night, they stand out
from the shadows and create luminous points of interest.

The lemon yellow blossoms of this evening primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa)
open at dusk, making this perennial an ideal choice for a nighttime garden. For
best results, give this plant a home in a sunny rock garden with good drainage.
Height: 15–30 cm; width: 30–50 cm. Sun. 
Incredibly large ball-shaped flowers are the hallmark of this new variety of
hydrangea arborescens. ‘Incrediball’ is a hardy hydrangea bred to have sturdier
stems and larger blooms than the similar-looking and ever-popular ‘Annabelle.’
Spectacular, late-summer blooms emerge lime green, mature to white and then
age to a darker green. Given sufficient moisture, this shrub will tolerate full sun.
Height: 60–100+ cm; width: up to 1 m. Shade to A.M. sun.

Nicotiana is known for its
jasmine-like scent, but it’s this
variety’s white flowers that will
capture your attention in the
moonlight. ‘Affinis White’ blooms
continuously throughout the                                                                                                summer, providing a plethora of
trumpet-shaped flowers with which
to tempt the senses of both
gardeners and hummingbirds.
Height: 90–100 cm; spacing:
25–30 cm. Sun to P.M. sun.

Lighting Made Easy
There are numerous ways to supplement moonlight in the garden. Here are a
few of our favourite options.
• Solar lighting: A few well-placed solar lights will cast a subtle luminescence on
your garden. Because of its recent popularity, solar lighting can be found in
every style from path lights that oscillate a kaleidoscope of colours to
traditional carriage lights and whimsical paper lanterns. All are fantastic
• Electrical lights: String lights are ideal for adding a twinkle to evergreens or the
rooflines of gazebos. Spotlights are ideal for highlighting a central garden
feature, such as a fountain, pond or statue.
• Candlelight: Little else can compete with the flickering glow of candlelight.
However, to keep your garden safe as well as beautiful, you should house
your candles in lanterns or other lidded vessels.

Quick tip
Create a nighttime focal point that’s visible from your window. This way, you can
enjoy your garden even on nights when the weather keeps you in.

Breathe the Fragrance
Our senses come alive at night, so there’s no better time to experience the sweet
fragrance of flowers and the pungent scent of evergreens. Evening scented stock
are traditionally a favourite, but more unusual options, such as brugmansia
(Angel’s trumpet), should not be overlooked. To bring those fragrances indoors,
simply plant aromatic annuals near a frequented doorway or an open window.

The gorgeous fragrance of evening scented stock more than makes up for
this plant’s unassuming nature. Pale mauve flowers fill the night air with a vanilla
and nutmeg scent that can best be described as irresistible. Their airy
and unkempt growth habit is best suited to mass plantings or the middle of
borders where shorter plants can disguise their bases. Height: 35–40 cm;
spacing: 10–15 cm. Sun.
If vanilla-scented mounds of lacy flowers are your thing, then heliotrope is your
plant. Its upright habit makes this annual perfect for framing the edges of borders
or filling out pots and window boxes. Height: 30–35 cm; spacing: 25–35 cm. Sun.

Merely brush past a container of petunias in the evening, and you’ll instantly
know why they belong in a nighttime garden. Few other plants perform as
exceptionally as petunias, but it’s their heady fragrance that makes these
annuals stand out in the evening. ‘Midnight’ (from the Madness series) is a
particularly beautiful shade of purple. An old favourite for good reasons. Height:
25–30 cm; spacing: 15–20 cm. Sun to P.M. sun. 

Take an evening stroll through a
patch of woolly thyme (Thymus
pseudolanuginosus) and be
instantly refreshed by the earthy,
herbal notes it releases. And
don’t worry about the thyme
because it can withstand light
foot traffic. The grey-green
foliage of this perennial is
covered in bright-pink blooms from
late spring to early summer.
Drought tolerant. Mat forming.
Height: 1–2 cm; width: 30–45+ cm.
Sun to P.M. sun. 

For a sense of drama that’ll keep you smiling, add brugmansia to your patio or
garden. This massive annual has impressive trumpet-like flowers that are up to
30 cm long. During the day, the large leaves of this towering plant do a great job
of filtering light. During the night, the fragrance from its sweet-scented flowers fills
the air. Height: 1–2 m. Sun. 

Hear the Night Music
Each fountain, brook or waterfall has a sound and charm unique to itself.
Selecting a fountain that’s music to your ears will often mean finding a
fountainhead that generates the sound you like. Fortunately, there are almost as
many styles as there are gardeners. 
Whispering in the softest breeze, the elegant blades and seed heads of feather
reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora) will create sound and movement in your
nighttime garden. ‘Avalanche’ is a particular favourite on the prairies for the
interest its towering blades add to the wintery landscape. This clump-forming
grass tolerates poor soils but performs best with good moisture. Height:
90–150 cm; width: 30–45 cm. Su
Finding wind chimes you’ll want to listen to on a regular basis can be as
difficult as finding a radio station for your daily commute. However, when you do
find the right fit, you don’t want to be without it. 

Garden Frogs 101
Frog calls have their own magic. With diminishing global frog populations, many conservation groups are encouraging gardeners to create urban frog habitats.
• If you wish to attract frogs to your garden, you’ll need a body of water with
sloping sides. At least part of the water should be shallow; frogs prefer shallow
water for laying eggs.
• Algae is a vital food source for tadpoles, so a frog pond should be partly
shaded (to keep the soil moist) and partly sunny (to increase algae production).
• Frogs do not mix well with fish, so if you have Koi or Gold Fish, you’ll have
difficulty attracting frogs.
• Provide shelter and shaded areas in the form of rocks, shrubs and low-
growing plants.
• Be aware that, although enchanting at a distance, frog calls can become quite loud during breeding season. You may not be popular if your frog habitat is located close to your neighbour's bedroom window.

Did you know?
Frogs are nature’s pest control experts. Frogs eat slugs, cutworms, mosquitoes, earwigs and various beetles.