TORONTO – Gardening enthusiasts may be anxious to dig in as the weather warms up, but after a tough winter across much of Canada, outdoor green space may be in need of a little extra TLC.
Denis Flanagan said homeowners should be surveying their property for any damage as a result of heavy snow and ice.
“It tends to tear the bark where it joins the trunk and the sooner you can clean off that damaged branch … the less likelihood is that pests and diseases are going to get into that plant,” said Flanagan, public relations manager of Landscape Ontario, co-founder of Canada Blooms, the country’s largest flower and garden festival which concludes Sunday in Toronto.
Landscape Ontario public relations manager Denis Flanagan is seen in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Landscape Ontario
Depending on soil conditions due to the volume of accumulated snow, gardens are going to be a bit wet this spring, Flanagan noted. He advised not to go out in gardens too early since treading on damp soil will compact it — “which is a bad thing.”
As the ground freezes and thaws, Flanagan said the crown, or centre, of perennials tends to get pushed up from beneath the soil. “Then we get some drying winds and it dries it out.”
He recommended checking plants and adding 2.5 to five centimetres (an inch or two) of mulch around them to protect them.
“When we’ve had late, cold rains and gardens flood and that perennial is sitting in cold frozen water, they can actually rot off and get damaged. That is possible.
“You’re not going to know that till early spring until you poke around and see some green shoots coming up.”
Sometimes after a long winter some plants aren’t killed but are delayed — a prime example being the rose of Sharon.
“It looks dead and people panic and dig it up.”
He suggested using a thumbnail to scratch below the bark.
“If it’s green below the bark you know that that is eventually going to come. It might just be a few weeks later than what you normally would see.”
For novices seeking to flex their green thumbs, Flanagan recommends starting with more manageable container gardening.
“You can have it close to the back door. You don’t have to march down to the garden to look after it.
“I always believe your first attempt at a garden should be a successful one so that encourages you to move on the following year — and that’s why I think container gardening is such a good way to start off.”
Raised-bed gardening may be another option.
“Instead of actually digging down into the ground, you’re getting some timber or some stones and building a bed up to 10, 15 inches (25 to 38 centimetres) high, filling it with brand-new soil.
“You’ve got a fresh start and it makes gardening a lot easier.”
For gardeners keen to add some fresh blooms for the warmer months, here are a few of Flanagan’s recommendations.
BrazelBerries: The new forms of blueberries and raspberries are hybrid plants, which tend to be on the more compact side, making them ideal to fit into small spaces.
Haskap: Flanagan said the deciduous shrub bears the fruit of a honeysuckle which can be used for cooking.
L.A. Dreamin’ and Red Diamond: Flanagan said the new varieties of hydrangeas are “absolutely stunning.”
“The colours on these are just magnificent, and the blooms tend to last most of the summer; so those are going to be very, very hot.
Oh So Orange: Flanagan said bold orange colours will be big in blooms this year and foresees this citrus-hued geranium being among them.
© 2015 The Canadian Press
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