Spring planting season has come and gone, and now the summer gardens are in full bloom. But if you think the time for planting is over, you should think again.
Summer and even fall are the perfect time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials – and often get some amazing deals at the same time.
“We have a landscaping division as well as a garden centre. Our landscaping crews are out planting right up until the snow flies,” says Alex Scott, owner of Scott’s Garden Centre, “and homeowners can do the same.”
The team at Scott’s grows all the annuals and perennials on-site at their nursery in Brechin. Some of the trees and shrubs are grown there too, while others are carefully sourced from nurseries that can provide plants that are suited to this region.
“The big box garden centres bring everything in from Niagara. You’ll see plants there that won’t make it through our winters. Or they just aren’t well cared for in the summer, so by the autumn they’re stressed and unhealthy,” says Alex. “We are very picky about the plants we carry, and we care for everything so it’s ready to plant at any time.”
A healthy, well-chosen shrub, tree or perennial that goes into the ground in November will very quickly go into dormancy and be ready to grow in the spring. “Depending on what you’re planting there may be slightly different care needed in October than if you were planting it in May, but we can give that advice when you’re selecting your plants.”
Not only can the team at Scott’s offer planting and care advice, they can also provide tips on selecting the best varieties for your needs. Even something as seemingly simple as a cedar hedge has an array of options: for shaded sites, Alex often recommends black cedars rather than the more common white cedar. “They do better in shade. And I’ve found that they tend to grow a bit lusher and a bit quicker.”
Selecting your plants
When selecting plants for a landscaping project, it can be tempting to seek variety. But sometimes less really is more.
That’s particularly the case with small to medium-sized properties, says Alex. “It’s easy to go crazy and fill the property with one of these and one of those, all jumbled in together,” he says. “That almost never looks good. You’re much farther ahead to select just a few hard-working plants and repeat some planting patterns.”
By way of example, he points to a cottage on the shores of Lake Simcoe. He and his landscaping team have been working here off and on for ten years, since they first came to plant a cedar hedge.
“Most recently, the owners installed a free-standing garage and asked us to landscape the yard between it and the cottage,” Alex says. It’s not a large space – perhaps 30 feet by 60 – but he wanted to make it look and feel as large as possible.
The solution was to use just eight species of plants and repeat them through the space. “By doing that, you extend the view – your eye perceives it as a much larger space than it actually is,” he explains.
The plants were all carefully chosen to ensure overlapping bloom times. The delicate pink blooms of the spirea will begin to fade just as the hydrangeas (tree and bush form) come into bloom. They will be followed in turn by a massed planting of rudbeckia and wine-red weigelas.
“I like to design my plantings so that the clients have always got something in bloom from spring through to fall,” says Alex, who spent summers as a teenager working for his parents and his uncle, before taking on a co-ownership role in the family-run business.
Not everything is repeated. A flagstone pathway beside the house is brightened and softened by a carpet of mossy thyme, the deep green leaves and tiny purple flowers sprawling over the stones. Patches of lime green Irish moss beside them continue the textural effect and divert your attention from the necessary but unattractive septic tank lids.
On the lake side, a stone planter filled with rhododendrons provides privacy for an outdoor shower. Other planters are filled with annuals, providing pops of colour.
The effect is understated but effective. “We wanted to create a casual, lake house, beachfront vibe that would look great in all four seasons,” says Alex.
If you’re looking to do your own landscaping, the second half of the growing season is a great time to get some deals. “The garden centre is at its busiest in spring. By July and August, we start marking things down, so there are some amazing buys to be had right up until winter,” says Alex.
Fall is also a great time to pick up some houseplants and indoor décor. That, combined with the knowledge that your new perennials and trees will burst into life in spring, should be enough to keep your green spirit thriving right through the winter.
TEXT A. WAGNER-CHAZALON | PHOTOS ANDREW FEARMAN