Explore possibilities when creating your gardens
Not all gardens need to be strips of flowering plants along the walls of houses or fences.
Urban properties are often simply level rectangular areas with the residence somewhere near the front facing a roadway.
Instead, different types of gardens can be developed where environmental or physical situations exist that are unlike the usual and can provide interesting challenges. This layout usually results in planting flowers in borders along the walls of the house.
Instead, part of the property could be steeply sloping with a stone wall or tall hedge, a shady patch of woodland, a low, shallow damp area or a swale, or a gravelly, scree-like rocky area; all requiring creative approaches to gardening. An extensive patio or deck, like a balcony in a high rise building, offers opportunities to plant in containers.
Many popular flowering plants are naturally adapted to moist soils and these can add beauty to any landscape. Around the edges of our ponds or lakes grow the brilliant red cardinal flowers, pink turtleheads and blue flag iris, all of which could grow in a rain garden, by a brook, a damp swale, or even swampy land. If there is a pond on your property consider growing the hardy and fragrant water lily that can be seen in bodies of water and marshes across Ontario.
Quite different is a scree, which is like the rocky debris found at the bottom of mountain slopes. There is much less soil moisture and this can be found in those areas in Brantford with deep sand soils or patches of gravel left over from construction. Among the flowers that bloom in dry soils are black-eyed Susan, compass plant, pearly everlasting and orange milkweed.
For anyone with an extensive property a patch of meadow or prairie might be an opportunity. The same plants that can grow in the scree would flourish in the meadow. You have only to visit uncultivated or ungrazed areas of land around Brant County to recognize other plants such as purple coneflower, wild bergamot and dame’s-rocket.
I sometimes see stone walls adorned with basket-of-gold alyssum tumbling down their faces. Brick walls could equally well be covered with like plants. Hens and chicks can be tucked into the gaps.
Steep slopes can be a challenge but they lend themselves to creating rock gardens. Ground covers may be the solution but alpine plants fit in well.
An island bed could be developed around a specimen tree, such as a white birch or an old apple. A simple arrangement is to plant a ground cover; there are many to choose from, such as periwinkle and Japanese squill. Small rock gardens lend themselves to specializing in alpines.
Herb gardens can serve a double purpose. They provide herbs and spices for the kitchen and yet look extremely attractive. Some of the common herbs bear beautiful flowers. Anise-hyssop is a tall, spiky plant with mauve flowers. beebalm, dill, coneflower, lavender, lemon balm, chives, sage and thyme can be included.
Under shade trees and small groves or copses all the native forest plants, such as trilliums, bloodroot, Dutchman’s breeches, Soloman’s seal and most of the ferns, do well. If the soil is acidic you can try bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), which has been a candidate for a representative flower for our country.
Along fences and walls one should not forget the many vines, possible often adorned with attractive flowers. A climbing hydrangea covering a brick or rough stone wall is a beautiful addition to any landscape.
On a deck or patio, in a window box and on a balcony there is a really a multitude of plants bearing flowers and fruit available. These are different or special gardens that are within the reach of almost anyone. Try breaking away from the usual flower garden with its standard bedding plants. Note that several of the plants listed here are native which means they are better able to cope with the environment.
The City of Brantford makes rain barrels available for sale at the end of May at the landfill site. The barrels are an easy way of collecting rainwater from your rooftop for your gardening an excellent method of reducing water consumption during the hot days of summer. The reasons for rain barrels was included in a leaflet mailed with the utility bills.
If the soil is acidic, try bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), which has been a candidate for a representative flower for our country. writes columnist Denzil Sawyer.