I hope your tender plants have survived during the cold snap we had last week. While it is always important to watch for frost warnings and move in or cover tender plants at night, be sure to monitor wind chill temperatures too. We had very cold, strong northwest winds during the daytime. This can certainly damage tender plants too.
Perennials are one group of plants that are rarely affected by late spring frosts. The exception might be new plants purchased that aren’t acclimated to up and down temperatures. Otherwise, anything sprouting in your garden is naturally able to survive weather changes.
I am particularly fond of spring blooming perennials. Their flowers herald the beginning of a new gardening season. Seeing them is always a sign that we have made it through another northern winter.
Hellebore, trillium, primrose, and Shooting Stars are the first perennials to bloom at my place. I make a point of tucking early and mid-season blooming bulbs in spots throughout the gardens too. Crocus, daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths are all planted in the fall. These hardy bulbs will bloom season after season as long as they are planted in the right spot and fertilized well.
Be sure to leave the foliage of the bulbs intact in the garden until they turn yellow. The leaves are storing energy for the next season after flowers fade. Once the leaves do turn yellow, give a gentle twist, and tug to detach them from the bulb. Then make note of where they are planted so you don’t damage the bulbs when working in the garden.
If you are planting a new perennial garden or adding to an existing one, pay close attention to the blooming period of the plants you choose. The goal is to have an ebb and flow of colour in the garden throughout the season.
Unlike annuals that bloom continuously until fall, perennials will have a particular bloom time. There are a few exceptions in the perennial garden, but for the most part, each plant blooms for several weeks and then is just a foliage plant in the garden.
The tags that are with the plant will give you a wealth of information. They generally indicate the time of bloom, the height the plant will grow to and how far it will spread. All this information is important as you plan your garden.
Also look for information about the light conditions the plant will thrive in and its preferred soil conditions. A peony that blooms in June, likes full sun to light shade and well drained soil, will not be happy in a damp shady spot. On the flip side, a fern that loves a shady spot with moist soil will not grow well in a sunny, sandy garden bed.
Columnist Susan Richards is Garden Centre manager of New North Greenhouses at 719 Airport Rd., in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.