It’s the dead of winter in Ontario and I’m already dreaming of flowers. As I mentioned before, I rediscovered gardening during my transformative journey. I am by no means a professional horticulturist – just a garden enthusiast. My gardening philosophy is less weeding and less watering which is accomplished using a mix of perennials and annuals that are primarily native or non-invasive. Also, I do almost no cleanup during the Fall and instead wait until the spring. All those dead flowerheads, foliage, and leaves provide shelter and food for wildlife during the winter months and become compost in the new year. To hopefully make these long winter days seem more manageable, I’ve compiled a short list of some of my favourite flowers and why I love them and how I care for them. In no particular order:
I will admit, I was scared of roses for many years. They seemed so fussy and delicate. Ok, they are fussy and delicate but at the same time so resilient and hardy. You can aggressively cut back roses and it will come back even better than before. I got my roses as bareroots and in the first year, I did not deadhead and did very light pruning to allow the roots to grow strong. I was rewarded the next year with beautiful and bountiful blooms. The second year is when I began to deadhead my roses to encourage more flower production and so I was able to get multiple flushes right up until October. I do not prune or deadhead my roses in the Fall and choose to do this in late winter/early spring so that my roses will concentrate on beefing up its food storage and the rose hips serve to feed wildlife. If you notice any diseased leaves or petals, most of the time you can cut and dispose in the trash (never the compost or in the garden as the infection may spread). Note: some varieties of roses can be invasive so it’s good to do some research in your area beforehand.
If you are looking for a repeat bloomer that makes a wonderful cut flower, look no further. I prefer direct sowing rather than starting seedlings inside and this flower has proven to be a winner using that method. They come in so many different colours with queen red lime, peppermint stick, and zinderella being some of my absolute favourites. They are equally loved by butterflies and bees who are constant visitors. I also pinch them when they are young which increases the number of blooms. If you want to cut some to bring inside, the flowers are ready when you are able to wiggle the stem and it remains rigid and does not bend. If you really like your zinnias, you can save the seeds to plant the next year but keep in mind they might not look exactly the same due to cross-pollination.
Daffodils or narcissus (perennial)
As much as I love tulips, daffodils have a major advantage: squirrels hate them. If you’re tired of finding a hole where a tulip bulb existed or a chomped tulip withering on the soil, these are the bulbs for you. I have successfully used bloodmeal and interspersed tulip bulbs within daffodil bulbs to prevent dig ups but once my tulips bloom, all bets are off. But don’t despair, there is a dizzying array of daffodils that you will have to stop yourself from buying them all. I have a handful of varieties with different bloom times so that I can enjoy daffodils throughout spring. They also naturalize over time meaning they will multiply and grow each year. If you choose to cut some daffodils to admire in the house, leave at least 2-4 leaves attached to the bulb to ensure the bulb is getting adequate food to bloom the next year.
Resources regarding invasive and native species:
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