A white painted wooden deck incorporating large trees creates a cooler backyard.

Growing a cooler backyard

When it comes to growing a cooler backyard, for once I’m not talking about edgy, eco garden design trends. As southwestern Ontario continues its record-breaking heat wave, gardening is now all about the temperature. And since last month (July, 2016) was the hottest month around the world in recorded history, I don’t think we’re alone in…

Smoketree 1

Cotinus coggyria: Smoking in the garden

Slow growing. Too big for a shrub and too small for a tree. Straggly. Did I say really slow growing? Smoketrees can get a lot of heat from picky gardeners. But when the setting sun lights up their panicles in a shimmering nimbus how can you think otherwise than your garden is all the more miraculous…

Compact goldenrod

In defence of goldenrod

I was riding shotgun with my guy last weekend. As we were flying down a dirt road, he nodded towards the ditch on his side.  It was clogged with tall leafy plants topped with gazillions of tiny yellow flowers. They’re the reason for my fits of sneezes, he said. A conversation ensued. He was quite…

Container trials

Revving up (or saving) late summer garden containers

What do 2,200 varieties of plants, all in containers exposed to a merciless Southern Ontario summer, look like? Awesome. The Sawaya Container Trials, one of North America’s largest, threw open their doors (so to speak) in late July for growers, retailers and members of the Garden Writers Association to check out what’s doing best, what…

Mirror in arbour

Keppel Croft: A garden with magic rabbit holes

On the eastern shore of the Bruce Peninsula in Southern Ontario, Bill and Dawn Loney’s very personal garden is equal parts labyrinth, zen oasis and trip down a variety of magic rabbit holes. Thank goodness they open it to the public during the summer. Though untrained in any formal sense, both gardeners have created a…

Maple trees

The new exotic: Canadian arctic tundra plants

Introducing exotic plants into your garden can be tricky although do-able if you’re into high maintenance gardening or you keep them in containers and bring them inside just before the first frost. But that’s just it. Here in Southern Ontario, we often think of exotic plants as being fragile beauties from tropical paradises much farther…

Drain pipe 1

A rule-breaking front yard

Crisscrossing paths lead, well, nowhere in particular. There isn’t a blade of grass. The home’s rain gutter flows into drain pipes that spill into a rock garden/work of art. And trees aren’t necessarily alive to be considered useful and a thing of beauty. This is a front yard that stops you in your tracks. There’s always…

Sarracenia 5

Into the wild(flowers)

Just as the first wave of blooms in my garden has peaked in late spring, our wildflowers farther to the north are just starting to show. I’m amazed at how many truly strange and wonderful plants grow in Southern Ontario and though they’re not everywhere, you don’t have to trek for miles into the wilderness…