My latest gardening column (slightly modified) in Nouvelles d’Overbrook News, our community newspaper.
This year’s bulb and seed catalogues are pushing the idea of planting lots of red and white flowers to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. I like red and white. I like it in Nordic knitting and I like it in the Canadian flag. Unrelieved red and white in the garden seems rather harsh, however. I have an alternative idea for celebratory plantings this year: plant native plants. Indeed, plant native plants that have the word canadensis (from Canada) in their botanical name. Here are some ideas.
Amelanchier canadensis: The serviceberry is in my opinion the best small tree for Ottawa. In Spring it is covered in a mist of white bloom and by early summer the berries are ripening and the birds are feasting. It can reach a height of 5 m and likes sun to part shade. It can be grown as a specimen with a single trunk or as a multistemmed shrub. Both are gorgeous. This plant is native all across Canada and for centuries the people who live here have been enjoying it. Enjoy a pie made from your very own berries on Canada Day.
Anemone canadensis: The Canada anemone grows in every province and territory of Canada and will thrive in an Ottawa garden. Starry white flowers come in late spring and it likes sun to part shade. It will reach a height of 30 to 60 cm and provide years of pleasure.
Aquilegia canadensis: the native columbine is a smaller version of the garden columbine and it’s another native that will thrive in the sun. Blossoms resembling red and yellow butterflies rise above a basal rosette of leaves in May and June; the plant has a height of 15-90 cm.
Asarum canadense: The wild ginger is not grown for its blooms but rather for its broad and rounded leaves. It makes a lush groundcover in shade and its downy leaves give it a greyish cast, particularly later in the summer. It reaches a height of 10-15 cm and a spread of 15-30 cm. Divide it in the spring after it has established itself for a few years. It grows well but is not invasive.
Cornus canadensis: Make a beautiful carpet in a shady corner of your garden with the bunchberry, the smallest dogwood at 5-15 cm. Leaves in the classic dogwood shape form a rosette that supports simple white flowers in spring and clusters of red berries in the fall. This plant is red and white all on its own. It possesses a quiet cheerfulness which never fails to charm. Bunchberry is sometimes difficult to establish; water well and mulch with shredded leaves in the autumn.
I highly recommend the plant sale at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden in the spring if you are interested in planting more native vegetation in your garden. The sale this year is on Saturday June 3. The garden itself is always worth a visit; various beds are planted with specimens from designated habitats, and birds love the place. So do I.