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CHRI’s Dianne Van der Putten Encourages Eager Green Thumbs to Start Planning Now

April 1st, 2015 Posted in Advice and Tips
dianne_frontpageAs I write this, the calendar has already announced spring but it’s currently snowing in Ottawa.I know many people are discouraged from a really long cold winter and when I say ‘discouraged’ it’s more like frustrated and fed-up with the snow. Yes it’s April but yet in my mind’s eye, as I look out my window I see everything in colour and summer display. I can picture all the flower beds with each plant, bush and flower that I’ve planted, the work I know will be required once the snow has fully melted and ground has thawed and the damages I will have to deal with. But I can also imagine what I want to do to expand and improve my garden as soon as I can start working outside!

If this sounds like you, then you too are a green thumb gardener!! Congratulations and welcome to the club!

So grab your rubber boots, garden gloves, shovel, rake and, of course, the wheelbarrow, and let’s get started.

We’re going to dream big and in full colour too!

Clean Up: The first step each spring is cleanup. No matter what you did in the fall to prepare for winter there’s always clean up to do come spring. Now’s the time to finish raking leaves, trim back dead growth and really take a good look at what winter damage may have been done to your plants. I worry that some of my plants may not have had enough mulch around the base and therefore not enough protection from the cold. So check on those plants and see where you stand.

Japanese HydrangeaDo you have any plants or bushes that can be transplanted now for better exposure and growth? It’s pretty safe to do so long as they don’t flower in spring. You don’t want to transplant spring-flowering plants at this point – it will be too much of a shock! For me, it’s my Japanese Hydrangea (pictured). It grows every year into this beautiful lush bush but hasn’t produced flowers since its first year. I think it may need more space and fresh soil so I will be transplanting it to a different flower bed which I will be expanding to accommodate it! My husband will be soooo happy!

photoHere’s another tip when you’re cleaning up your garden, this one is handed down from my mother-in-law. (She’s an avid gardener and is Dutch so that explains her expertise.): Always cuts your clematis down to just over one foot in height each spring. Then fill a large watering can adding Miracle Grow and give your clematis a good soaking.

Her advice seems to work…..these are my clematis at the side of our house using this approach (pictured). When you’re planting clematis remember ‘it likes its feet in the shade and head in the sun.’  Placing a rock at its base without smothering the stem helps to keep moisture in the soil during those hot summer days.

 Colour: I always have to be careful as I move around in my flower beds so that I’m not trampling plants under foot as pretty soon they’ll be peeking through the ground. It’s always a joy to see the crocuses opening, daffodils popping up, and the grape hyacinth with their amazing fragrance and, of course, tulips. And who doesn’t like tulips! Can’t wait!

photo (2)photo (4)Grape Hyacinth

Here are a couple of pictures I took of tulips when I was in Holland a few years ago (pictured). I’ve never seen such a splendor of colour covering entire fields. Imagine acres of red, orange, and yellow tulips!!   It completely takes your breath away so be sure to include a splash of colour in your garden this spring!

Picture 111Picture 119

Burlington Retreat HydrangeaI also have Burlington Retreat (a member of the Hydrangea family) and it is so beautiful. It seems to flower forever and I’d like to make it a focal point in my garden.   I have only one bush right now but here’s an idea of what this bush would look like either lining a driveway or overflowing a rail fence (pictured).   Possibly another expansion project this spring…?!

Fertilizer: You’ll want to fertilize and mulch all your plants as early as possible in order to give them a great start this season. A friend of mine suggests that since Perennials have to establish roots, grow and flower in a shorter amount of time, it’s important to fertilize them each week. Do you do this? It’s my ambition this year to give it a try and see what difference it makes. Check back with me and see how I’m doing in that regard.

Dwarf Korean LilacApril is my favorite month to plant trees or shrubs. They enjoy the spring rain and have lots of time to establish their roots prior to the heat of summer and of course, by next winter. A couple of years ago I planted a hedge of Dwarf Korean Lilacs (pictured) along the back of our house and each spring we’re overwhelmed by the fragrance as well as the beauty of this hedge. Sometimes, if I’m fortunate enough, it will bloom twice in a season. How wonderful is that?! After they’ve finished blooming I take the hedge trimmers and shape them which make for a great privacy screen from our neighbours as well as beautify it for the rest of the summer. Give this bush a try because whether it’s just a single bush or a whole hedge, I think you’ll be impressed.

Help: One of my biggest gardening challenges is flower pots and I’m looking for your advice. I check out flower pot displays in garden centres, which are always lush with arrays of flowers, and they seem to keep blooming through spring, summer and fall. How do they do this? My potted flowers only last until mid-July before they start looking pathetic and need to be changed. What would you suggest I plant (or combination of plants) that work best together in planters? You can send me an email with your advice and what works for you. A picture would help too….thanks so much!

I really do love puttering around my garden, whether it’s in the flowers or vegetables. It’s relaxing and truly a great time of fellowship with God. He and I have great chats and times of reflection. So don’t be afraid to pick up your garden tools and give it a try. You don’t have to do it all this year… take baby steps. You may be surprised at what you can accomplish… and there’s no mistake that can’t be undone! And if you see me #OutAbout this spring and summer, please don’t look at my hands! Chances are they’re stained from weeding as I’m forever taking off my gloves. (Tip: Use lemon on the stains as a safe, organic gentle cleaner for your hands.)

We’re in this in-between stage of winter-is-pretty-much-over and the-nicer-weather-has-not-fully-arrived. My best advice to you would be to enjoy the beauty of each season as there’s so much to see all around us, even now. Here are a few pictures from a nature walk I recently took with my son. There’s hardly any colour but it speaks of the promise of new life that’s soon to come! So, from one novice gardener to another… I hope this encourages you as we anticipate spring together!


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