It was only last month we were stopping to smell the flowers at Canada’s premiere garden and foliage festival, Canada Blooms.
We were among the 200,000 people who attended the 10-day event at Toronto’s Direct Energy Centre, where 21 feature gardens were spread out over five acres and more than 15,000 plants made us momentarily forget we were still in the throes of winter. Here’s a hardy selection of our favourite blooms from the showroom floor:
Lenten Rose (zones 4-9) Perfect for a shade garden and able to grow well in cold zones, the Lenten Rose was named “Plant of the Year” in 2005. This easy-to-care-for plant can tolerate droughts and is a natural rabbit repellant.
Maggie Daley / Chinese Astilbe (zones 5-8) This lavender-pink floral grows in dense and fuzzy clusters, which bloom in summer. This low-maintentance plant does best in partial shade, but can tolerate sun and drought.
White Hydrangea (zones 3-9) This beauty comes in pink, blue and purple varieties, but the white was awash in the Canada Blooms gardens. Easy to cultivate and tolerant of almost any soil, the hydrangea blooms in mid-summer. Be sure to thoroughly water.
Caramel Coral Bells (zones 4-9) Native to North America, this perennial attracts birds, including hummingbirds. Characterized by its caramel/apricot foliage and small pink flowers, it is partial to sun (and lots of water) but does like shade. A great choice for borders, containers or rock gardens.
Triumph Tulip (zones 3-7) These tulips were everywhere at Canada Blooms. While this traditional flower comes in every shade, the red variety was the predominant colour at the show. With sturdy stems and a long vase life, tulips are a classic flower to incorporate into your outdoor space. For the best results, plant the bulbs three inches apart and plant them deep.
Butterfly Gaura (zones 5-10) A native North American wildflower, these bushy little beauties grow in clumps. The pretty perennials prefer full sun or part shade, but will bloom through anything. Very easy to grow, they attract butterflies as their moniker suggests.
Groundcover Rose (zones 5-9) Thriving just about anywhere with no fancy pruning required, the Groundcover Rose is a low growing, cold climate performer. They are an unfussy rose for the garden.
Dwarf Japanese Garden Juniper (zones 4-8) This beautiful, ground-cover evergreen loves full sun and works well over a wall or cascading down a slope. Growing in a dense mat of leaves and often used as a bonsai plant, the Japanese Garden Juniper does best in well-drained soil.
Rose Daphne (zones 4-8) While undeniably beautiful, this shrub is a bit of a fussy one. Preferring full sun, light shade and dry, well-drained soil, it can live up to 20 years in ideal conditions. Beware though; it will die in standing water and doesn’t take to pruning.
Emerald Cedar (zones 2-7) An ideal choice to grow if you want a little privacy, the Emerald Cedar hedge will reach a maximum height of 15 feet, but is easy to prune to your desired size. Its crisp texture, bright colour and tolerance of many climate types make it an easy addition to the yard. The only thing this one requires is full-on sun and regular watering for the first year. It will be drought tolerant thereafter. Very easy to manage.
Grape Hyacinth / Muscari (zones 3-8) These beautiful, bulbous plants flower in blue, grape-like bunches. Easy to care for and thriving in sun or shade, muscari is one of the longest blooming plants of the season. Its only real requirement is well-drained soil. It is perfect for a rock garden.
Alba Bleeding Heart (zones 3-9) This perennial features a sweet, white bleeding heart blossom. It does best in part shade and is intolerant of dry soil during the summer. Fern-like when not in bloom, it requires good soil drainage to really shine.
Bowles Golden Sedge (zones 5-9) This low-maintenance, yellow-and-green beauty is about the hardiest sedge you can get. Do not treat it like ornamental grass, however. It prefers part sun to full shade, does best in medium-to-wet soil and is great for container growing.
Dark Towers / Tall Beard Tongue (zones 3-8) This tough-as-nails Tall Beard Tongue grows in clusters and features beautiful deep pink/purple foliage. Easy to care for and attractive to butterflies, this hybrid was originally developed at the University of Nebraska. It does best in average-to-dry soil.
Aglo Rhododendron (zones 4-8) Last but not least, this bright beauty features clusters of pink flowers that work for container planting. The evergreen shrub needs to be well drained, likes full sun and has a spring bloom. Beware of its shallow roots when you’re digging around it.