Perennials, trees and shrubs that you have allowed to set fruit or seed is a tremendous benefit for urban, suburban and rural wildlife. Rose hips, Mountain Ash berries and even crabapples left on the plants provide much needed nutrition for foraging animals and winter birds. Many perennials offer large seeds, typically rich in oils so desperately needed for winter wildlife. Remember to leave your plants as they were in the autumn until spring cleanup, your local wildlife will appreciate it for certain.
There really aren’t many flowering plants that can eclipse the rose. Having been grown for centuries, these floral favourites have graced the gardens of kings and queens. Noble houses had roses fashioned into coats of arms, heraldic paraphernalia and yes even customized perfumes and cosmetics. Since the early days of rose culture there have been a great many additions to this formidable family however, the genetics of the past remain. The Bonica™ shrub rose(s) belong to the category of floribunda roses; simply translated means “abundance of flowers”. In that roses are generally grown for their floral display, a floribunda variety will supply oodles of blossoms reliably. This delicate, profuse bloomer was introduced to the world by the famous rose breeding Meilland family in France in the 80’s. Since then, Bonica™ has won many awards and has a very distinguished position in the Modern Rose Hall of Fame. Bonica™ is still considered today as one of the world’s favourite roses.
With such a pedigree one might think that this plant is difficult to grow or maintain, not the case. One of the most resilient and pest resistant roses ever, Bonica™ will supply a delightful array of delicate double pink flowers from spring until autumn. The term shrub rose indicates that the plants grow in a bush form as opposed to their elegant cousins the Hybrid Tea roses. This spreading habit of up to 1.2 meters (four feet) makes Bonica™ an ideal candidate for mass plantings or placed towards the rear of a garden as she grows about the same height. There is a climbing form that is very popular as well of course requiring appropriate support unlike the shrub form. Delicately scented, this rose will attract butterflies, bees and even hummingbirds to the garden.
The cultural requirements are very easy to attain. As with all roses, sun is preferred, however Bonica™ can tolerate a little shade. Roses growing in lower light conditions will not provide the floral display that those grown in sunny conditions will. The soil should be a rich, organically enhanced soil. I apply an annual application of compost or composted manure to my roses. Many gardeners will add coffee grounds, cold tea and even Epson salts to their roses with hope of enhancing colour and abundance of flowers. In the late autumn, Bonica™ boasts beautiful red hips, or seed pods if you do not dead head or remove spent flowers. Many urban critters and birds will enjoy the late season snack of rose hips. Alternatively, if you prefer to deadhead the bloom count will increase as well as the length of season, the choice is yours.
Snow cover can vary from week to week as well as city to city. In the event that your snow cover is scant so that you can see the crowns of your perennials, it’s time to act. When I find myself in this situation I shovel what snow I can find onto the crowns of my plants. The extra snow acts as an insulator as well a reservoir of water for the early spring. Just ensure that you are not shoveling snow that has been treated with salt or the neighborhood pets’ deposits. In milder regions of the country this extra blanket is generally not required.
Happy New Year, may the season ahead be one of the very best for you. One way that I enjoy these shorter days, almost as a ritual for the first few days off my new year, is to ponder and plan for the spring season. Albeit it may be a bit gloomy looking at the garden through frosted windows, but it really is an excellent time to study the bones of the landscape, as I have referenced previously. The depth of snow in my region of Canada dictates how vivid my imagination must be, perhaps the same for you. Take a good long look, settle back in a comfy chair with your laptop or tablet and start to plan. The online catalogues are delightful and in many cases just a bit sinful, as there are so many choices. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to exercise a little control when it comes to selection… We’ll see about that! In that the perennial selection in my rear garden is not as rich as I would like, I plan to concentrate on one section that gets fair to moderate sunlight. Taking into account that the bordering trees are leafless, and my neighbours had their trees pruned, the light may well be improved this spring. Actually, it’s not a silly as it may sound, many folks don’t realize or rather overlook the fact that deciduous trees have leaves in the summer and their underlying gardens in the early spring are actually sunny rather than the shade of the growing season. This may well be the best location to plant Heuchera, one of my all time favourite perennials. There are literally hundreds of varieties of choose from in a myriad of colours, textures and venation. Relative to their rather spectacular foliage, the Heucheras have much less to offer in the floral department. The flowers are typically tall, thin and loaded with tiny bell-shaped flowers ranging from white through stages of pink to red. I must admit that I usually snip the bloom stalks as soon as I see them emerge allowing any energy to be directed to the mounding habit of the foliage. Given the range of colours, I am planning to mix and match predominantly on what I term, Autumn colours, deep reds and burgundy with vibrant yellow and even one with chartruese foliage variety for spark. A good tip if you are just starting to garden is to plan to install the brighter colours further back in the garden rather than up front, this delivers depth for the viewer. The varieties that made this years list are: Companions that do exceptionally well with Heuchera are their first cousins the Tiarella. These adaptable workhorses of the garden take very similar soil and light conditions and are very resilient if you are a novice gardener. The mounding habit as well as textured foliage and skimpy blossoms places them as a doppelgänger for Heuchera often times. I have grown them in containers with no problem, so if you are a balcony garden or are simply out of room, an excellent choice. Happy planning and remember to make good decisions.
This month is a great time to photograph your landscape/garden. Although typically lacking colour and pizzazz during the winter months, the images will give you a clear picture of what foundation plantings could be enhanced. Which shrubs to prune, what clump to move and locate where and so on. Just because your garden is asleep doesn’t mean that the work of the gardener is over.