Winter Chilling

Hardy fall bulbs such as Daffodil, Tulip, Hyacinth, Crocus and Snowdrop are spring flowering plants that must be planted in the fall. They are mostly native to mountainous areas of Europe and the near east ñ Spain, Turkey and Afganistan.  They actually need the dormant rest period of a long, cold winter. The melting snow and ice in early spring provide needed moisture as they start to grow and flower. Plant from September to December, even after the first frost if the ground can still be worked.


Bulbs can also be planted in individual holes. Dig a hole and sprinkle a tablespoon of a high phosphorous (middle number) fertilizer like Holland Bulb Booster in the bottom of the hole.  Place the bulb in the hole with the pointed end up.

Cover the bulb with soil and water thoroughly. A 5 cm layer of mulch on top of the bed will help prevent winter weeds, retain moisture and insulate against severe winter cold and temperature fluctuations.

Preparing A Bed For Fall Planted Bulbs

Prepare the bed. Double digging will help to make a well-drained planting bed.
Condition the soil. Improve soil by adding three inches of peat moss and one inch of composted manure. Then work into depth of 30 cm. Add 1 kg Bonemeal for every 92.9 m 2 (1000 sq.ft.)
Plant the sooner the better. Point bulb upward. Dust with Bulb Fungicide to prevent root disease. Use Bloodmeal to deter squirrels from stealing bulbs for food.
Add 2-5 cm of mulch.

After Flowering

The foliage must be allowed to remain to soak up sunshine and replenish the stored energy in the underground bulb. Only the flowering stems should be removed. In a few weeks, the foliage withers and dies down. This is a natural defense against the too hot summer sun in their original habitat.

Replanting your flower bed with summer annuals gives you the opportunity to use more bone meal which, with its high phosphorous content, is beneficial to both the new planting and the bulbs.

The chart below contains all the information you will need for successful bulb gardens.

Bulbs can bring spring cheer indoors, particularly in the middle of winter after all of the glitter of Christmas is over.

Bulbs can be planted in almost every type of container, providing it has good drainage.  The bulbs will be planted closer together in containers than outdoors. You can combine bulbs with other plants or with other bulbs to prolong flowering enjoyment.

Step by Step


Select a pot that is not too small so that several bulbs can be planted at the same time. Cover the bottom with a layer of pot shard or clay marbles for better drainage.


Partially fill the pot with soil, (you can also use the marbles o stone chips), and pat down lightly. Next, press the bulbs slightly into the soil. They can almost be touching each other. Place tulip bulbs with their flat side toward the wall of the pot, so leaves will grow on the outside and flowers on the inside of the planter.


Put additional soil in the pot so that the tips of the bulbs disappear under the soil. Water the soil liberally to encourage rooting. It would be wise to dust with bulb Dust Fungicide.


Give the planted bulbs the required cooling period.

Use this planting guide for timely blooming

Popular VarietiesPlanting Time
Mth/Day   Mth/Day
# of Weeks of Cold 
(2-9 Degrees C)
Earliest Bloom From
Prepared (pre-cooled)
Not Prepared
09-15 / 12-1511-01 / 12-0110-1211-1312-1501-15
Tulips BlendaFlairProminenceYellow PresentArmaPrincess Irene 10-01 / 12-0110-01 / 12-0110-01 / 12-0110-01 / 12-0110-01 / 12-0110-01 / 12-0114-1513-1414-1515-1715-1715-1701-1512-2501-1502-1502-1502-15
T’te & T’teFebruary GoldStandard Value
10-01 / 12-0110-01 / 12-01
10-01 / 12-01
Special Bulbs
CrocusIris ReticulataMuscari Armeniacum
10-01 / 11-0110-01 / 11-0110-01 / 11-0114-1512-1314-1502-0101-0502-01

Useful Tips

  • If bulbs are cooled for too short a time, the stems of the flowers will be too short; too long a cooling period ensures that stems are too long.
  • The flowers can be held back for up to a week if needed. Simply store the pot in a cold area, but do not freeze!
  • Amaryllis and Paper Whites (Tazetta) require no cooling period. Plant and place in a warm area immediately after purchase.
  • Once potted, water thoroughly and store in a frost-free environment (not above 55 degree C). You may bury outside in a well-drained area of the garden. Cover bulbs with straw for protection.
  • Beware of squirrels and rodents which may use the bulbs for a food source (Use Ropel or Bloodmeal to deter the rodents).
  • If indoors, store for 8 to 13 weeks (depending on bulb type) at about 40 to 45 o C. As the roots are the first to develop, the pots do not need any light. After the cold period, bring pots into light and warmth (68 to 70 o C). Water plants thoroughly and keep moist during blooming. After blooming, plant outdoors in an out-of-the-way area for bulbs to develop in size, which allows for reblooming, or simply discard.

Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association represents the leading garden centres in Ontario. As one of the select garden centres which has achieved “Approved Member” status, we assure our customers receive a high level of service, a good range of quality plants and associated products, together with professional advice and information.

Garden Gallery carries a complete line-up of quality, effective, organic fertilizers and natural solution pesticides for all your lawn and garden needs.

We fertilizers as well as natural solution pesticides for every circumstance.

Talk to our experts about environmentally responsible use of fertilizers and pesticides.

The majority of garden plants are tolerant of wet soil for short periods of time. It is very natural for many areas to be quite wet in the spring as the ground thaws and the snow melts.

However, garden sites that remain wet throughout the year demand the use of moisture-tolerant or even moisture-dependent species.

The following is a selection of plant material that enjoy wet soil:

Shade Trees

Red Maple (Acer rubrum and cultivars)
River Birch  (Betula nigra)
Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
Pin Oak  (Quercus palustris)
Alders  (Alnus species)
Willow  (Salix species)

Evergreen Trees

Weeping False Cypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis)
White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis)


Chokeberry (Aronia species)
Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin)
Button Bush (Cephalanthus)
Pussy Willow (Salix)
Redtwig Dogwood (Cornus sericea, C. stolonifera)
Elder (Sambucus varieties)
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
Witherod (Viburnum cassinoides)


Leather Wood (Dryopteris marginalis)
Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)
Toothed Wood (Dryopteris spinufosa)
Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamonea)
Marsh Fern (Dryopteris thelypteris)
Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis)
Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
Virginian Chain (Woodwardia virginica)

Hardy Perennials

These plants do not demand boggy soil and are hardy in the regular garden. They are all moisture tolerant and provide greater choice for poolside or boggy plantings.

Monkshood (Aconitum)
Sweet Flag (Acorus)
Ajuga (Ajuga)
Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla)
Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
Goat’s Beard (Aruncus sylvestris)
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
Astilbe (Astilbe varieties)
Rodgersia (Astilboides tabularis)
Masterwort  (Astrantia major)
Quamash (Camassia quamash)
Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis)
Turtle Head (Chelone)
Snakeroot (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)
Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Kenilworth Ivy (Cymbalaria muralis)
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)
Foxglove (Digitalis)
Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia)
Yellow Adder’s Tongue (Erythronium americanum)
Mist Flower (Eupatorium)
Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)
Meadow Sweet (Filipendula vulgaris)
Queen-of-the-Prairie (Filipendula rubra (Venusta) Magnifica)
Queen-of-the-Meadow (Filipendula ulmaria)
Helenium (Helenium)
Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger)
Daylily (Hemerocallis)
Liverwort (Hepatica)
Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)
Rose Mallow (Hibiscus palustris (H. Moscheutos))
Hollyhock (Alcea officinalis)
Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Japanese Poppy (Hylomecon japonicum)
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum)
Japanese Iris (Iris kaempferi)
Iris Laevigata (Iris laevigata)
Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus)

Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)
Ligularia (Ligularia stenocephala The Rocket and other varieties)
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia)
Lupine (Lupinus Russell Hybrid)
Maltese Cross (Lychnis chalcedonica)
Maltese Cross (Lychnis chalcedonica)
Gipsywort (Lycopus eurpeaus)
Gooseneck Loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides)
Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia puncata)
Mazus (Mazus reptans)
Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis baileyi (M. Betonicifolia))
Variegated Apple Mint (Mentha suaveolens variegata)
Bee Balm (Monarda varieties)
Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis)
Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris)
Umbrella Plant (Peltiphyllum peltatum (Darmera))
Chinese Lantern (Physalis alkekengi)
May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum)
Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum)
Himalayan Fleeceflower (Polygonum affine ëDarjeeling Redí)
Primrose (Primula)
Self Heal (Prunella grandiflora)
Double Buttercup (Ranunculus acris ëMultiplexí)
Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens)
Ornamental Rhubarb (Rheum palmatum)
Rodgersia (Rodgersia)
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officinalis)
Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea)
Solomon’s Plume (Smilacina)
Golden Wood Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)
Ornamental Comfrey (Symphytum)
Telekia (Telekia speciosa (Buphthalmium))
Meadow Rue (Thalictrum)
Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Tovara (Tovara virginianum)
Spiderwort (Tradescantia varieties)
Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta)
Snowy Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)
Globe Flower (Trollius)
Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora)

The shape and size of this design may not be precisely suitable to your garden.  We hope that it can at least be helpful as a point of departure.

An important point must be made straight away. We are speaking of moist shade.  The many plants that do so well in shade are seeking moist conditions.  If constant moisture is ensured many plants can, in fact, be grown in full sun.The plants in our shade garden design have been chosen for their lovely foliage and varied textures, although with the exception of the ferns, they are all beautifully flowering plants.

Given the relatively short bloom time of most perennials it is always important to look for good foliage and in shade-loving plants this is not hard to find.

There is a type of flowering shade-loving perennial of which you should be aware. The sort that goes dormant in summer and retreat underground to disappear entirely. Some examples of these are Trilliums, Bloodroot and Virginia Bluebells.We have used only one such plant in our design. The old-fashioned Bleeding Heart, Dicentra spectabilis. A lovely May-June flowering plant with locket-like pendulous pink and white flowers. This easy-care, fool-proof perennial eventually dies down in the summer heat. In our design, we used Brunneras’ Forget-Me-Not blue flowers that are stunning with the pink and white Bleeding Hearts. By the time the Bleeding Heart dies down, the Brunnera will have produced its large-sized summer foliage to fill the void.

We must now explain the great difference between Bleeding Heart, Dicentra spectabilis (which incidentally comes in a pure white form) and Dicentra – Luxuriant.  Dicentra eximia and Dicentra formosa and hybrids such as Luxuriant do not die down in summer. They have lovely ferny foliage and, in the case of Luxuriant, are everblooming from June to October.

There is a remarkable number of perennials for shade, many so lovely that shade need not be looked on as a problem situation but rather as a very desirable garden location.

A Hosta – Frances Williams’ or other large hosta

B Ostrich Fern

C Astilbe (red, pink or white – June/July)

D Variegated Hosta

E Astilbe – Sprite (pink – July)

F Cimicifuga racemosa or simplex (white – July/August)

G Bleeding Heart – Dicentra spectabilis (pink – May/June)

H Brunnera as underplanting (blue – May/June)

I Foam Flower -Tiarella (pink/white – April/May)

J Hosta – Halcyon or other blue hosta

K Dicentra – Luxuriant (pink – May to October)

L Japanese Painted Fern

Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association represents the leading garden centres in Ontario. As one of the select garden centres which has achieved “Approved Member” status, we assure our customers receive a high level of service, a good range of quality plants and associated products, together with professional advice and information.

Ground covers are both decorative and problem solvers. Many thrive in shade or where lawns will not grow; others are ideal for preventing soil erosion and weed control.

Perennials for ground covers are not usually the herbaceous types that die down in winter but rather evergreen types, woody sub-shrubs and those with winter persistent foliage.

Photo of Ground Phlox


Arctostaphylos uva ursi
15 cm tall, spacing 30 to 45 cm. Glossy green leaves and pink, bell-shaped flowers in spring, followed by bright red berries. Sandy dry soil in sun or partial shade.


Aegopodium podograria Variegatumí
45 cm tall, spacing 30 cm. Also called Ground Elder. Bright green and white foliage. Sun or shade

Bugle Flower

Ajuga species
Foliage height 10 to 15 cm, flowers to 30 cm, spacing 30 cm. Bronze or purple-leaved, plain green and variegated forms are also available. Blue flower spikes in May to June, but pink to white are also possible. Sun or shade.

Woolly Yarrow

Achillea tomentosa
10 to 15 cm tall, spacing 30 cm. Fine-cut silver foliage and light yellow flowers in June to July.  Dry soil in full sun. The foliage persists in winter.

Lady’s Mantle

Alchemilla mollis and vulgaris
45 cm tall, spacing 60 cm. Lobed or wavy leaves with a fine down. Chartreuse-yellow flowers in May to June. The dwarf form (A. erythropoda) has more silvery leaves. Full sun or partial shade.

Lily of the Valley

Convallaria majallis
15 cm tall, spacing 30 cm. Broad, pointed green leaves and fragrant pure white flowers in May to June. Good under planting for shade or partial shade.

Crown Vetch

Coronilla varia
60 cm tall, spacing 60 cm. Bushy and upright with masses of pink flowers in June. Use on steep banks as erosion or weed control in sun or partial shade.

Snow in Summer

Cerastium tomentosa
15 cm tall, spacing 45 to 60 cm. Silvery foliage covered with white flowers in June. When used in borders, it should be checked by severe cutting back after flowering. Full sun on dry slopes.

Purple Winter creeper

Euonymus fortunei Coloratus
30 cm tall, spacing 60 cm. Dark leaves in summer, turning bright red in fall. Sun or shade.


Epimedium varieties
30 cm tall, spacing 30 cm. Also known as Bishop’s Hat due to its unique flower shape. Fresh green leaves with red and bronze tints. Flowers are red, pink, yellow or white. Sandy soil in sun to partial shade.

Sweet Woodruff

Galium odoratum, Asperula o.
15 to 30 cm, spacing 30 cm. Whorls of bright green, shiny leaves and masses of small, white flowers in June to July. Good under planting for moist shade with slight acidic soil.

Baltic or English Ivy

Hedera helix
5 cm tall, spacing 30 to 40 cm. A fast spreading ground cover. Shiny dark green leaves turning bronze-purple in fall. Shade to partial shade.

Dead Nettle

Lamium varieties
20 cm tall, spacing 30 to 45 cm.  Foliage is reddish tones with silver veining. Hooded pink or pure white flowers. Tolerates full sun or shade as an under planting.

Japanese Spurge

Pachysandra terminalis
20 cm tall, spacing 15 to 30 cm. Fully evergreen. Forms a weed-controlling mat. Greenwhite flowers in April to May. Shade to partial shade.

Ground Phlox

Phlox subulata
10 to 15 cm tall, spacing 45 cm.  Densely tufted, soft needle-like leaves. Pink, blue or white flower covering in May. Remains green in winter.

Fleece Flower

Polygonum and Reynoutria
30 cm tall, spacing 30 to 45 cm.  Darjeeling Red has non-invasive green foliage with dark pink poker flowers in late summer and fall. Sun or partial shade. Dwarf Lace Plant has green and red foliage on woody stems. Pink flowers and showy seedhead in August to September. Can be invasive.

Iris and Scotch Moss

Sagina subulata verna and aurea
5 cm tall, spacing 15 to 30 cm.  Bright green or gold mossy foliage with tiny white flowers in June to July. Keep weed-free for best effects. Best in shade. Tolerates full sun in moist soil.

Dragon’s Blood Stonecrop

Sedum spurium
15 cm tall, spacing 30 cm. Deep red foliage all season. Starry red flowers in July to August. Used on banks in full sun.


Thymus varieties
5 to 10 cm tall, spacing 30 cm. Woolly Thyme ñ dense mat of gray foliage and pink-mauve flowers in June. Thyme is evergreen and comes in gold or silver marked varieties. Sun in well-drained moisture retentive soil.


(Vinca minor) 25 cm tall, spacing 30 cm. Evergreen with blue-purple flowers in May to June and through the summer. Prefers shade, will tolerate sun if kept moist.

The above selections are good examples of ground cover perennials, but it is not an exclusive list. Many other low-growing plants can function as ground covers. Bold gardeners are massing perennial Geraniums, Geums and Heuchera for this purpose.  Both fruiting strawberries and ornamental varieties make excellent ground covers.

Use your creative instincts and be a little daring, and by all means, be different.


Common NameBotanical Name
Glory of the SnowChionodoxa
Winter AconiteEranthis
Christmas RoseHelleborus
Lenten RoseHelleborus
IrisIris danfordiae
IrisIris reticulata
Striped SquillPuschkinia


Common NameBotanical Name
Stone CressAethionema
Bugle FlowerAjuga cvs.
Spring AnemoneAnemone sp.
ColumbineAquilega hybrids
Alpine AsterAster alpinus
MasterwortAstrantia major
BluebellsCampanula poscharskyana
CorydalisCorydalis sp.
Lady’s SlipperCypripedium sp.
PinksDianthus sp. & cvs.
Bleeding HeartsDicentra sp. & cvs.
Shooting StarDodecatheon sp.
Leopard’s BaneDoronicum
BluebellEndymion (Scilla)
BarrenwortEpimedium sp.
Cushion SpurgeEuphorbia
Sweet WoodruffGalium
CranesbillGeranium sp.
AvensGeum sp.
Candy TuftIberis
(Early) IrisIris intermedia
Spring VetchlingLathyrus Vernus
(Early) PeonyPaeonia cvs.
Fernleaf PeonyPaeonia tenufolia
Alpine PoppyPapaver alpinus
Creeping PhloxPhlox stolonifera
Jacob’s LadderPolemonium
Solomon’s SealPolygonatum
Wild PinkSilene caroliniana
Blue-eyed GrassSisyrhinchium
False Solomon’s SealSmilacina
Meadow RueThalictrum
Foam FlowerTiarella
TulipTulip cvs.
SpeedwellVeronica sp.
Barren StrawberryWaldsteinia


Common NameBotanical Name
Ornamental OnionAllium sp.
Butterfly WeedAsclepius
AsterAster x frikartii
AstilbeAstilbe simplicifolia
Milky BellflowerCampanula lactiflora
Black SnakerootCimicifuga
Purple ConeflowerEchinacea
Globe ThistleEchinops
Goat’s RueGalega
Summer HyacinthGaltonia
GentianGentiana sp.
Baby’s BreathGypsophila
HostaHosta cvs.
Japanese IrisIris kaempferi
Red Hot PokerKniphofia tuckii
Perennial Sweet PeaLathyrus
Oriental LilyLilium
Golden FlaxLinum flavum
Purple LoosestrifeLythrum
Plume PoppyMacleaya
Summer PhloxPhlox paniculata
Obedient PlantPhysostegia
Yellow ConeflowerRudbeckia laciniata
Meadow ClarySalvia pratensis
StonecropSedum sp.
Meadow RueThatictrum


Common NameBotanial Name
Pearly EverlastingAnaphalis
Grapeleaf AnemoneAnemone vitifolia
MugwortArtemisis lactiflora
Italian AsterAster amellus
TurtleheadChelone sp.
Golden AsterChrysopsis
ClematisClematis heracleifolia
Mist FlowerEupatorium sp.
Bottle GentianGentiana andrewsii
HeleniumHelenium autumnale
Red Hot PokerKniphofia uvaria
LilyLilium speciosum
Lily TurfLiriope
Blue LobeliaLobelia siphilitica
Fleece FlowerPolygonum
Black-eyed SusanRudbeckia
Stoke’s AsterStokesia


Common NameBotanical Name
Spring AdonisAdonis
Golden GarlicAllium moly
AnemoneAnemone sp. & cvs.
Pasque FlowerAnemone pulsatilla
ColumbineAquilegia canadensis
Rock CressArabis
False Rock CressAubrietia
Basket of GoldAurinia (Alyssum)
Marsh MarigoldCaltha
Black CohoshCaulophyllum
Spring BeautyClaytonia
Dutchman’s BreechesDicentra eximia
Trout LilyErythronium americanum
Dogtooth VioletE. Dens-canis cvs.
Crown ImperialFritillaria cvs.
HepaticaHepatica sp.
HyacinthHyacinth sp.
Dwarf IrisIris pumila
Virginia BluebellMertensia
Grape HyacinthMuscari cvs.
DaffodilNarcissus cvs.
Blue-eyed MaryOmphalodes
Japanese SpurgePachysandra
Creeping PhloxPhlox sp.
Ground PhloxPhlox subulata
PrimrosePrimula sp. & cvs.
LungwortPulmonaria cvs.
TulipTulipa sp. & cvs.
VioletViola sp. & cvs.


Common NameBotanical Name
Rose CampionAgrostamma (Lychnis)
Lady’s MantleAlchemilla
Ornamental OnionAllium sp.
Peruvian LilyAlstromeria
Italian BuglossAnchusa
Golden MargueriteAnthemis
Fan ColumbineAquilegia flabellata
Goat’s BeardAruncus
AstilbeAstilbe hybrids
False IndigoBaptista
BellflowersCampanula sp.
Cupid’s DartCatananche
CornflowerCentaurea sp.
Red Valerian (K)Centranthus
Snow in SummerCerastium
Shasta DaisyChrysanthemum
Golden StarChrysogonum
ClematisClematis integrifolia
CoreopsisCoreopsis sp. & cvs.
Crown VetchCoronilla
Gas PlantDictamnus
MountainAvens Dryas
Queen of the PrairieFilipendula rubra
Queen of the MeadowFilipendula ulmaria
DropwortFilipendula vulgaris
Blanket FlowerGaillardia
Creeping Baby’s BreathGypsophila repens
Sun RoseHelianthemum
Lemon DaylilyHemerocallis flava
Sweet RocketHesperis
Coral BellsHeuchera
Hardy GloxiniaIncarvillea
Dutch IrisIris hybrids
Bearded IrisIris germanica
Siberian IrisIris sibirica
Dead NettleLamium
Asiatic LiliesLilium
Maltese CrossLychnis
Yellow LoosestrifeLysimachia sp.
Welsch PoppyMecanopsis
CambricaBee BalmMonarda
Evening PrimroseOenothera
Oriental PoppyPapaver orientale
PhloxPhlox Carolina, maculata, suffruticosa
CinquefoilPotentilla astrosanginea
PrimrosePrimula beesiana, bullesiana, bulleyana
Salvia, SageSalvia superba
Rock SoapwortSaponaria ocymoides
Stachys, BetonyStachys
Carolina LupineThermopsis
Spike SpeedwellVeronica spiccata


Common NameBotanical Name
Japanese AnemoneAnemone hybrids
Michaelmas DaisyAster
Fall MumsChrysanthemum
BugbaneCimicifuga simplex
Autumn CrocusColchicum
Cardinal FlowerLobelia cardinalis
Gooseneck LoosestrifeLysimachia
Mountain FleecePolygnum
Sedum Ruby GlowSedum
October DaphneSedum sieboldii
Autumn JoySedum spectabile

Full Sun

Creating a rock garden on an existing slope can turn a difficult planting area into a garden asset. Using the rocks to create a series of terraces forming flat planting areas avoids the problem of erosion from rain or nitrogen. The rocks should be well sunk in the ground and should have the finished appearance of a natural outcrop. For this natural look, the rocks should be of only one type and the larger the better. It is a common mistake to use rocks that are too small. Fewer but larger rocks are more impressive.

Raised Planting Areas

Rock gardens are often constructed in conjunction with a garden pool. Using the excavated soil from the pool area as a base for the rock garden is simpler than getting rid of it otherwise. Even if the water garden is not in your plans, the same end can be achieved by creating a sunken garden as an attractive seating area or patio. The pool or seating area should be on the south or sunny side of the rock garden.

Bulbs & Perennials

Because a rock garden is a raised area, plants enjoy good drainage, which is important in winter. The soil will also warm up more quickly in spring to the benefit of many popular rock garden plants that are spring flowering. The earliest flowering plants are the small bulbs such as Snowdrop, Crocus and Winter Aconite. These are ideal rock garden plants and are usually in bloom by mid-March. Ground Phlox in many colours, white-flowered Rock Cress (Arabis) and blue or purple-pink False Rock Cress (Aubretia), follow in April.

Perennial Alyssum (on Aurinia) is the popular Basket of Gold with showers of bright yellow blooms. The well-drained soil of the rock garden is an ideal place for a collection of Thyme varieties, many with coloured foliage and flowering in many shades of pink plus white. Woolly Thyme is a favourite that will form a low carpet over the rocks.

The Sedums or Stonecrops are another family ideally suited to rock gardens. All have interesting foliage in many shades of green, green and gold and wine-red. They all flower with starry blooms in white, yellow, pink and red. They vary greatly in their bloom times, so that with a full collection, one Sedum or another will be in flower from early summer to fall.

Sempervivums or Hens and Chickens are rosette-forming plants that can be inserted into holes in the rocks or into rock crevices.  With the exception of spring bulbs, most of the perennials mentioned so far are not truly herbaceous but are sub-shrubs or have winter persistent stems or foliage. The winter interest is no doubt one reason for their longtime popularity.


Dwarf Evergreens & Shrubs

It is always the garden ideal to have year-round interest. Evergreen plants provide this in many garden situations and many dwarf varieties are perfect for rock gardens. The very low-growing Juniper – Blue Rug forms an evergreen carpet suited to the lowest level of the rock garden. In the middle tier, round or arching shapes are found in the many choices available from dwarf forms of Juniper, Hemlock, Spruce and False Cypress.

Pyramidal forms have great architectural merit, adding solidity and permanence to the design and perhaps reminding us of mountainous regions. Alberta Spruce is a slow growing dwarf that requires no maintenance. Sunkist Cedar is burnished gold and very striking in winter.

Many smaller forms of flowering shrubs can be used in the rock garden. Potentillas are naturally small enough and dwarf forms of Lilac, Weigela, Spirea, Deutzia, etc. are all available.

Balance & Design

The suitability of any plant in the rock garden is dictated by the size of the rocks. It has already been stated that fewer larger rocks are preferable to many small ones. The larger the rock, then the larger the plant may be to achieve a visual balance.  Smaller rocks should be used with smaller plants. The bare rocks and soil should have a pleasing effect even before planting.

It is unlikely to have rocks of pyramidal or roundish shapes (boulders are not recommended) so contrast in design is found in pyramidal and spherical plant forms.

Plants with a cascading habit are well placed coming down over the rocks. Weeping Hemlocks, Weeping Spruce and shrubs like Cutleaf Stephenandra and Cranberry Cotoneaster will follow the contours of the rocks. It is not the only Cotoneaster for rock garden use, but it is one of the best with wine-red foliage in fall and winter persistent bright red fruit.

On the Shady Side

Depending on the placement and construction of your rock garden, which should be in the sunniest location, you may nevertheless have a shaded area. Here, one can use small Ferns, Primrose and other shade-loving plants. Saxifrage is small rosette forming plants with starry flowers not unlike Sedums and appears to be typical rock garden candidates.  But they need moist shaded locations so they are not to burn and wither. The very lowest level of rock garden where moisture might accumulate can also provide a home for atypical plantings ñ Lungwort, Prunella, Hosta and other plants more normally used in woodland settings.

No hard and fast rules can be set for which is or is not a rock garden plant. Look, for example, at Shooting Star (Dodecatheon) a plant of moist woodland shade, which was chosen as the floral emblem of the American Rock Garden Society!

Spring Bulbs

Bulbs can be used in nearly any garden or patio setting, giving you flowers, fragrance and brilliant colour with just a little effort. You will be amazed at what will grow from these little brown bulbs. Bigger is better when choosing tubers, corms or rhizomes. Energy for the initial spurt of Spring growth is stored in the bulb or tuber, so a larger bulb means more stored energy and a stronger, healthier plant.

Planting Bulbs

Plant bulbs at the depth recommended on the label. A general rule is to plant bulbs at a depth three times the greater diameter of the bulb. Dig a hole and sprinkle fertilizer with a high middle number like bonemeal 2-14-0 in the bottom. Place the bulb in the hole with the pointed end up.
Cover the bulb with one inch of soil and water well. Fill in the rest of the hole with soil and water thoroughly. Do not water again until shoots begin to appear. A 5 cm layer of mulch on top of the bed will help prevent weeds and retain moisture. To improve clay-bearing soils, add sand, peat or compost to the top layer.

Watering and Feeding

Keep the soil moist throughout the growing season. Use a recommended flower or bulb fertilizer, as well as bonemeal for continuous blooming.

Winter Care

Throughout the growing season, bulbs and tubers send manufactured food down into underground storage. This becomes stored energy for next yearís growth. In cold winter areas, spring bulbs must be dug up as winter approaches to save them for next year. Otherwise treat them as an annual. Discontinue watering two to three weeks before the first frost to encourage dormancy. Carefully dig up the bulbs after the first killing frost freezes the top growth. Be careful not to damage the bulb. Dry bulbs for a week in a dark, ventilated area. Dust with General Purpose Fungicide and store in an open paper bag or nylon stocking. Cover bulbs with dry peat moss or vermiculite so they do not touch one another. Bulbs are best stored at 10 to 15 oC.

Bulbs, Corms, Rhizomes, and Tubers

Bulbs are underground stems with soft, scaly layers surrounding a central bud. The scales store food and are attached to a basal plate (the bottom of the bulb where the roots come out). The central bud is the future flower.
Corms are swollen underground stems that store food for the plant during dormancy. Unlike bulbs- corms are solid and do not have scales or flesh-like leaves. Since they are solid, the bud, or growing tip, is on the top of the corm, instead of in the centre of the bulb’s scales.
Rhizomes are fast-growing underground stems that grow horizontally. Many plants that we consider invasive grow by rhizomes, though many are manageable.
Tubers are a type of swollen stem with a leathery exterior. Tubers have eyes, or growth nodes, from which the new plants grow. To propagate plants, all you need to do is lift the plant and cut off healthy pieces of tuber, each with about three eyes on it.


Gladiolus Corms

Allow leaves to wither naturally for 6 to 8 weeks after blooming before digging. Remove tops close to the corm. Leave to dry for one day.  Store newly formed corm and cormlets in open boxes of peat in a cool space for winter.

Canna Lily

Dig up rhrizome with some soil after tops are killed outdoors by the frost. Clean the rhizomes and store in barely moist peat moss in a cool location.

Begonia Tubers

Lift plants in late October; allow foliage to die-down, then remove stems. Store tubers in dry peat moss in a cool basement.

Dahlia Tubers

After first killing frosts, dig up tubers.Remove extra soil and broken roots, and stand upside down for one week to dry. Store in a dry,cool area in peat moss.


Dig up to divide and replant in compost-rich soil every three to five years for better blooms.

Calla Lilies

Tubers can be dug when all the leaves have yellowed and dried in September. If in pots,gradually decrease watering as leaves yellow and die. Lay pot on side in a cool place, allowing it to dry fully.


Require four months of good growing conditions to store food in the tuber for next year’s growth. In fall, dry out plants and store ina warm area until spring.


When blooming period is over, continue to fertilize and water to build storage for next year.As foliage yellows, gradually reduce watering.Store dry corms in a cool, dry basement. Dust with bulb fungicide/miticide.


Leave undisturbed as long as blooming is satisfactory. Spent blooms should be removed and flower stem gradually cut back. Keep fertilizing to ensure good bulb formation for next year. Replant if blooming becomes poor.  Remove and plant bulb lets (small bulbs) in rich, well-drained soil. Some species will spread naturally.


Before heavy frost after foliage has died naturally, dig up corms. Store in a dry, cool location until spring.

Acidanthera and Montbretia

In fall, lift plants before heavy frost. Let dry in open air. Store plants in boxes or flats in a dry, cool place until April.

Anemones de Caenand St. Brigids

Before heavy frost, dig up corms. Dry in well-aerated place. Store in dry, cool location.


Superb as cut flowers and effective in the border, gladiolus blooms start to open from the bottom of the spike upwards. A full two weeks of continuous colour can be obtained from one plant alone.  Planting can begin as soon as tree leaves unfold in the garden. Continuous bloom can be achieved from mid-summer until fall by making several plantings at two week intervals up to mid-June, or by planting a choice of cultivars that bloom very early to very late.  Very early 65 to 70 days from planting.

Early – 70 to 75 day
Early Medium – 75 to 80 days
Medium – 80 to 85 days
Late Medium – 85 to 90 days
Late – 90 to 100 days
Very Late- 100 to 105 days

Name & TypeHeight (cm)Planting DepthComments
Amemones (Corm)12.5-205Soak tubers overnight before planting. Old leaf scarsmark the top. Very colourful.
Begonias (Tuber)30-455-7.5Available in many colours. Use in shady spots andhanging baskets. Plant cupped side up.
Caladiums (Tuber)30-605-7.5Beautiful foliage for shady areas. Old stem scars markthe top. Too much nitrogen causes loss of colour,
Calla Lilies60-905-7.5Elegant white flower on 15 cm spike.
Cannas (Rhizome)45-1207.5-10Large and dwarf varieties. Many of these naturalizewell and come back as perennials.
Dahlias (Tuber)30-905-7.5Many different colours and flower types. Handletubers with care. Dig after killing frost and store.
Elephant Ears (Tuber)90-18012.5-15Huge green leaves give a tropical look. Biggerbulbs make bigger plants and leaves.
Gladiolus (Corm)120-1807.5-10Flowering spikes in many colours. May need stakingor wind protection. Dig 6 to 8 weeks after flowering.
Lilies (Bulb)75-13510-12.5Perennial favourites in a broad range of colours.
Ranunculus12.5-17.55-7.5Beautiful assortment of colours. Plant with fingerspointing down.

Start in September for Healthy Fish

Add drops of fish vitamins onto the food, letting it soak in for a few minutes before feeding the fish. Repeat every 10 days to help fish build strength.  Feed fish through October as long as water temperatures remain at 8 o C (46o F).

October / November

Plant maintenance is important for better water quality and a better environment for oxygenating plants. Carefully remove leaves, decayed plant parts and sludge and add it to the compost pile. Prune back reed/tube-like plants to just above the height of the water. These plants co-aid in gas exchange. Use a rake and pond vacuum to thoroughly clean the sludge from the bottom of the pond. Lower all hardy water plants to below the freezing line (about 60 cm). Overwinter tropical water plants indoors and plant bog plants in the garden.

Water maintenance is important for hibernating fish. 30 per cent of the volume of water contained in the pond must be changed. Top up with fresh water and condition the water to neutralize the chlorine.

Preparing the Fish

  • If the pond is 100 cm deep or more, the fish will be able to hibernate outdoors. Add insulating materials around and over the pond to protect the system from harsh winter temperatures. Straw or styrofoam can be used, along with plywood to cover the pond. Remember; do not cover completely as oxygen is still required.
  • If the pond is less than 75 cm deep, fish must be overwintered indoors to ensure a safe environment at 50 to 70 o C. Do not overstock aquarium. Make sure the aquarium is equipped with sufficient oxygen and filtration systems.

Gas Exchange is of ultimate importance and can be done using:

  • floating pond de-icer;
  • insulated air diffuser;
  • water pump

The water pump must bubble near the surface of the pond, and must never bubble on the bottom, as the water temperature on the bottom is not acceptable for hibernation. Noxious gases must be allowed to escape and oxygen to enter the system for fish survival.

*Never hammer holes into the ice as the vibrations frighten the fish and may potentially cause harm.

To protect pond shapes, float a few pieces of firewood on the pond to increase the surface area for when ice forms. To protect the pond’s life and ensure water quality, cover the pond with a pond net and make sure that debris and predators do not enter the pond.

Be ready in the spring to test the water and conduct some spring-

*Never feed the fish until temperature rises to 10 degrees C and above. If fish appear near the surface in the spring, they may need oxygen–act quickly to add oxygen and add water slowly to help de-ice the surface if fish are trapped

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