Flowers — published on March 16, 2008

Add clematis for curb appeal

The traditional garden patch is certainly not the only place to grow beautiful flowers these days. In fact, with a growing trend towards “curb appeal” as one of a house’s most saleable features, great attention should be given to the selection of plants that surround your house. They can enhance it tremendously.

One of the best vines to grow up a trellis to hide a boring or unsightly wall is the elegant clematis.

In the last few years in the Toronto area, the variety of available species has multiplied many times over, and this spring, you will be able to select amazing flowers, from delicate white to full blush pink to rich purples and blues like the Elsa Spath.

These colourful climbers aren’t hard to grow, and they come out of the ground faithfully each spring with little or no demands. There are some essential steps to take at the beginning to ensure its success, however.

When you plant your clematis, make sure you bury its crown at least two inches (six centimetres) below the surface of the ground. This gets you off to a good start, since it encourages more stems to grow from the original base.

The more stems, the faster the growth and spread, and the less susceptible this beauty is to disease. I always add bone meal to the soil as well.

Then it’s water, water, water, deeply and often, while this plant gets established. Despite its need for moisture, make sure the soil is well drained, since the plant will not thrive if water stands on the surface.

If you have done all of these things, but you find that your clematis has a bit too much foliage and not enough blooms, just sprinkle the surface of the soil at planting time with superphosphate.

In the early spring, prune your clematis judiciously, pinching back any thin stems just above a set of buds.

Most clematis blooms throughout the summer, but the clematis paniculata blooms in autumn. So popular is the clematis, that there is actually an International Clematis Society based in the United States. Their website is www.clematisinternational.com and membership is US $30.

They advise that most clematis enjoy being in the bright sunlight for five to six hours a day. This lovely flower needs support to grow as well. You can train it to crawl up an arbour or trellis, or onto other shrubs, a fence or even a tree.

Flowers — published on March 10, 2008

Flower Planting Basics

First, plan your plantings by deciding on color patterns and locations, such as by walkways or by the patio and  the concentrations — whether they will be spread out or close together.

Once you head to the store, be sure to check out how well the flowers will do in the area of the yard. Planting flowers that need lots of sunlight in a shady area doesn’t make sense because they will not flourish. You will also want to consider planting flowers that need a lot of water in areas of the yard that get lots of rainfall or that are near the sprinkler system.

Before planting flowers, it is absolutely necessary to check for signs of discoloration or disease. Even if the flowers didn’t look discolored when you first picked them up at the garden store, return them or discard them if you feel they may have a plant disease. Planting flowers with diseases will spread them into the soil and throughout the entire garden. This applies to bulbs as well. If the bulbs look to be discolored or weak, do not plant them in the garden.

Planting flowers within seven days of purchasing them in a container or purchasing the bulbs will ensure that they stay moist. It is best to plant within three days of purchasing, but if this is not possible, keep them in a cool location where the roots stay moist but not completely soaked.

First, prepare the soil where you plan on planting. This means using fertilizers, organic pesticides, compost, and top soil mixed into the sand. Remember to always test the pH of the soil either with a home testing kit or with the help of landscaping companies who have experience testing soil to make sure the soil is well balanced between 6.5 to 7 before planting flowers.

Remember that when planting flowers out of a container, it is important to break up the soil around the roots to help spread them into the ground. This simply means removing the root base from the container and massaging it with your hands to break it up slightly before placing it in a hole in the ground.