The Hamilton Spectator
Create your own nostalgia-rich garden WITH MODERN PLANTS
The beauty and fragrances of garden plants can remind us of times past
What evokes your favourite memories in the garden?
Is it the heady aroma of lilacs, snipped from a hedge in your grandmother’s garden and placed in a vase on the kitchen table? Or the blowsy hydrangeas on the cottage table in the summer?
Or maybe the scent of old fashioned roses from your dad’s garden? With the help of National Garden Bureau (www.ngb.org), let’s take a look at plants that stir a nostalgic feeling, but have been selected to be easier to maintain or sized for smaller gardens.
The beauty and fragrances of garden plants can remind us of time spent with some of our favourite people. How can you recreate those treasured memories in your own garden? Whether you garden on an acre or a balcony, you’ll find nostalgic plants — with a modern twist — that add meaning and memories to your garden.
Many of the most nostalgic plants beloved through decades have received makeovers, with breeders updating garden favourites with disease-resistance, stronger stems, better blooms, longer bloom periods, increased heat and cold tolerance, as well as creating compact cultivars for small gardens.
Few shrubs evoke as many sweet memories as roses. Whether grown in a grandparent’s garden, sent annually on Valentine’s Day or included in a bridal bouquet, the nostalgia created by roses encourages gardeners to grow them for sentimental reasons.
Luckily, breeders are now offering selections with greater disease resistance, continuous blooms without deadheading and compact varieties perfect for small gardens — without sacrificing form and fragrance that makes roses so nostalgic.
For example, Eau de Parfum Bubbly (Monrovia) offers a classic rose in a champagne colour with disease resistance and repeat bloom and Reminiscent Coral (Proven Winners) combines the classic beauty and fragrance of old-fashioned roses with modern-day performance. When purchasing modern roses, check the tag for fragrance, disease resistance and re-bloom cycles.
Lilacs hold many happy garden memories. Fortunately, the lilacs of yesteryear with their many diseases are a thing of the past with the new breeding work of today. Many new cultivars boast resistance to powdery mildew. And for small-space gardeners, new compact varieties provide deliciously sweet memories of old-world lilacs but in sizes perfect for containers.
Hydrangeas provide sweet memories of time spent with family and friends in the garden. They can be used in so many ways in your garden, from a focal point to establishing a border and filling the foundation around your house. And they don’t just have to be planted in the landscape anymore either. Many hydrangeas, especially the newer varieties, are more compact and do incredibly well in a decorative pot.
Look for “compact” and “dwarf” in the descriptions of plant varieties. Most compact or dwarf varieties perform beautifully in containers or small garden spaces.
Is there anything prettier or more nostalgic than lavender in a homegrown bouquet? With the romantic fragrance and beauty of these oldworld gems, they’re sure to evoke sweet memories of your grandmother’s garden or kitchen table. Perhaps you spent time making lavender wands as a child, or maybe your favourite relative shared homemade lavender shortbread as an afternoon treat. Whatever your memories, growing lavender in the garden is sure to conjure simpler, sweeter times.
Because lavender thrives in Mediterranean-like conditions, many gardeners find it fussy in their landscapes. Too cold and it isn’t hardy. Too humid and it succumbs to disease.
Fortunately, new varieties conquer many problems often found with lavender. By selecting lavender varieties appropriate to your growing conditions, you can enjoy a long season of beautiful, fragrant memories in your garden. Lavender Sweet Romance (Proven Winners) is destined to become a favourite because of its ability to bloom the first year. It begins to flower in early summer and continues into early fall.
If you love lavender, make sure it has great drainage. Lavender dislikes soggy soil, so add grit or perlite to potting mixes for container growing, and make sure the pot has drainage holes. If you plant it inground, make sure the soil drains well.
The large, charming blooms of garden phlox create a nostalgic feel, both in the garden and in the vase. These old-world perennials look lovely in cottage gardens, but many gardeners find their fussiness frustrating, particularly their notorious tendency to succumb to powdery mildew.
Fortunately, new introductions of tall garden phlox focus on disease resistance, as well as offering options for small-space gardens, with shorter, more compact, wellbranching plants. Opalescence Phlox (Proven Winners) has light pink flowers with dark pink eyes produced over dark green leaves. Opalescence was selected especially for its improved disease resistance over typical Phlox paniculata varieties.
Whether you’ve chosen beautiful blooms or fabulous fragrances for your nostalgic garden, you’ll love the memories your favourite plants evoke, while creating new memories in your garden space.