Thursday, October 25, 2012

Get a Jump Start on Spring!

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
(Purple Crocus) Photograph by Paul Gellatly
The season has pretty much come to an end here in Toronto, The fall mum's are flowering, the leaves on the trees have changed, many already bare... ready to usher in winter.  There are still a few things you can do to prepare your beds for the season ahead, and get a jump start on your 2013 garden... by planting some bulbs now.

Photo by Paul Gellatly
When bulbs begin flowering it signals the start of the gardening season ahead.

Bulbs are an easy way to add a welcome splash of colour after a cold winter.  All bulbs come with planting instructions when purchased; make sure to read the packaging carefully for depth, height, and flowering time.  Extend your spring garden by planting early, mid, and late flowering bulbs.

The selection of bulbs on the market is vast.  There are many types in any colour you can imagine.  It would be impossible to cover all of the bulbs available to you in a blog entry, but here's a few to get you started.
(Daffodil) Photo by Paul Gellatly

I have never been partial to yellow flowers, however an exception has to be made for the daffodil (Narcissus) family.  There are so many great varieties available.  The Narcissus is often used in naturalized settings, as they spread to form beautiful masses of yellow or white blooms.

(Hyacinth) Photo by Paul Gellatly
If its a sweet smell you're after, you can't beat the hyacinth flower for fragrance.  Normally found in shades of white, purple, and pink, you are sure to enjoy these in blooms from the moment they first open.

Grape Hyacinths are a great addition to any garden or spring planter, with low clusters of blue, white, and even pink flowers, they're sure to work with any colour scheme. The foliage of these flowers also grows in the fall, and can provide a glossy grassy green colour to your fall beds.   The grape hyacinth is also frequently used as a naturalizing bulb.
(Grape Hyacinth) Photo by Paul Gellatly

(Allium) Photo by Paul Gellatly
One of my all-time favorite spring bulbs has to be the allium, although the leaves are rarely attractive,  the tall purple, white, or yellow ball is sure to catch your eye.  Ranging in size from 6 inches to 4 feet in height, and bloom size from 1" to 8" or greater, there are many area's of the garden that allium can be utilized.

Another bulb worth considering is the fritillaria. Be careful where you plant the bulb as the plant/bloom has a strong odour likened only to that of a skunk.  Growing up I remember my father had one planted right outside the front door... maybe not the best location...  But bloom on this plant is definitely worth it!  Usually found in orange or yellow, a tall plant and flower, they're great for the middle to back of a flower bed.  When planting the fritillaria, you will notice an indent in the bulb, I would recommend planting this bulb on its side, to avoid water rotting out your bulb

(Galanthus-Snow Drop)
Photo by Paul Gellatly
The Snow-drop is usually the first flower in the garden, often blooming when there is still snow on the ground.  A sure sign that spring has arrived.  The small white and green flowers hang throughout the garden like small lanterns.

Yellow Crocus Photo by Paul Gellatly
The Crocus is one of my favorite bulbs.  Great for the edge of a garden, the cheerful blooms are one that I believe should be in every spring garden. Found normally in shades of white, yellow and purple, this bulb is a great addition to the front of your flower bed.

(Tulip) Photo by Paul Gellatly
Finally the tulip. Tulips have become an integral part of the spring garden, offering more varieties than any other spring bulb.  Ranging in colour from red, yellow, white, purple, orange, black and everything in between, from heights of 2 inches to 3 feet, no spring garden is complete without a few pockets of tulips.

(Tulip) Photo by Paul Gellatly
As a general rule, unless you're dealing with a formal bed, it is always good to plant bulbs in odd numbers.  I don't tend to plant less than 7 bulbs in close proximity if you want to create a strong impact.  Plant early, mid and late season tulips so you can enjoy these beautiful flowers throughout the spring.

A couple of things to consider when planting, is as a rule, the point on the bulb goes up.  Make sure to purchase a box of bone meal, to spread over the surface of the soil and lightly rake over. This will deter squirrels from digging up your bulbs, and will provide nutrients to the plant in the spring.

Head out to your local garden centre and pick up some bulbs, you'll thank me next spring!
(Crocus) Photograph by Angel W.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Happy Hibiscus

Hibiscus Flower Photograph by Kelly Butts
Hibiscus Flower Photo by Paul Gellatly
Hibiscus Flower Photo by Paul Gellatly
One of the more common flowering houseplants has long been the Hibiscus.  Until fairly recently I was only familiar with the common, red, orange, yellow flowering varieties, as they are the most commonly available.

Hibiscus Flower Photo by Paul Gellatly
Doing a bit of searching and research will open your eyes to the truly amazing colours and varieties available.  I currently own six different hibiscus, and if I had a greenhouse I'd likely have many many more.

They come in shades of red, white, yellow, orange, purple, pink, or a mixture of any of those colours.  Also available in double flowers, variegated leaves, any many sizes of plants and blooms.

Hibiscus Flower Photo by Paul Gellatly
With proper care Hibiscus can provide you with beautiful blooms for years to come.  Hibiscus need atleast 2 hours of direct sunlight a day, preferably more.   A South or West facing window is the ideal.  Keeping this tropical plant warm is definitely a key factor in successfully growing hibiscus.  Keep away from winter drafts and cool temperatures.

Hibiscus Flower Photo by Paul Gellatly
Hibiscus need regular watering but the soil should be allowed to dry out between watering.  Never let your Hibiscus stand in water for more than half an hour.

I fertilize my Hibiscus weekly during peak growing season (March to October)  and reduce to every 3 weeks (November to February). Choose a fertilizer low in Phosphorus (middle number)  20-5-20 is ideal.  If the middle number is too high, you will produce beautiful leaves, but few flowers.

Hibiscus Flower Photo by Paul Gellatly
In order to maintain a healthy plant some pruning may be required... I would recommend pruning your hibiscus between Late July and Early October.  I remove any weak branches, and just under 1/3 of the new growth in order to keep the plant bushy and healthy.  Re-potting should be done in the spring and only one size bigger than the pot its currently in.

Its good practice to shower your hibiscus, either in the shower, or with the spray setting on the faucet, in luke warm water.  I do this bi-weekly.  This will keep the plant free of pests, and keep the leaves looking clean and dust free.

If you have a sunny window in your home and want a plant that offers you the "wow" factor...  you really can't beat some of the Hibiscus plants available today.   Ranging in Price anywhere from $5.00 to  $150.00 in sizes from 6 inches to 8 feet.  They are a great plant for beginners and enthusiasts alike.

Hibiscus Flower Photograph by Paul Gellatly

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Edwards Gardens... An Oasis within the City

Entrance Carpet Bed Photo by Paul Gellatly

Petunia Photo by Paul Gellatly
Photo by Paul Gellatly
Its been a few months since I've had the opportunity to sit down and write a blog entry... I was thrilled to see that the blog has now been viewed close to 8100 times! This entry is the 25th entry of 25 Years and Still Growing...

Needless to say the summer was very busy, and finding the time to write didn't go as planned... but with the fall season upon us, I look forward to devoting more time to writing.

The summer has been filled with great experiences, visits to new gardens and of course lots of work!  I have learned a lot this season, and look forward to continuing down the path of horticulture with you.

Cleome photo by Paul Gellatly
Fall is a great time to visit gardens you may not have had the opportunity to get to over the summer.  I know there's a few gardens I need to see before the cold of winter sets in.

There is still lots of beauty in the fall garden, and annuals for the most part are in full splendor...Its also a great time to consider collecting some seeds from your favorite annuals and perennials, to grow again in your garden or containers next year.
Perennial Border Photo by Paul Gellatly
Photo by Paul Gellatly
I had the pleasure of visiting Edwards Gardens, also home to the Toronto Botanical Gardens this past weekend.  A beautiful way to spend a couple of hours meandering through various perennial borders, annual beds, formal carpet beds, beautiful planters, and an impressive large rock garden.

I was quite enamored with the use of tropical plants dispersed throughout the beds creating an illusion of the tropics in various locations throughout the gardens.

Once a private estate, Edwards Gardens became a public gardens in 1956.  Over the past 56 years the garden has grown to include the Toronto Botanical Gardens.
Double Delight Rose Photo by Paul Gellatly
Photo by Paul Gellatly

Plan to spend a few hours, parking is free!

For more information on Edwards Gardens, check out the website for the Toronto Botanical Garden:
Rock Garden Photo by Paul Gellatly

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What have you got to lose?

Kolkwitzia amabilis (Beauty Bush)
Aquilegia vulgaris (Columbine)
Working in a retail environment, as well as for the City of Toronto, I am constantly learning about new plants and being exposed to new concepts and ideas.  The path of horticulture is just that... a path.  With a plethora of new plants available to us, the hobby of horticulture only gets more and more exciting.

I am very lucky to work at a garden centre filled with knowledgeable staff, and inquisitive customers.  One thing that most people need to realize is that plants, (as a rule)  want to survive... if you provide the necessities for them, they will flourish and surprise both old and new gardeners alike.

The long weekend has come and gone, its great to see the trees, shrubs, vines and, flowers all over the city... something new to discover every day.

At this time of year garden centres are full of annuals and perennials ready to be planted.

Annuals are a great way to add beauty to your patio / balcony / terrace, or to fill an empty spot in your garden where a splash of colour is needed.  When creating planters for your outdoor living space, annuals are the best choice, as they offer beauty and blooms from the time you plant them right through till frost.  I also like to use a couple of perennials for unique accent foliage or to add texture to my planters.. Try some Heuchera,  ornamental grasses, or ferns in your planters to bring them to the next level.

Cosmos atrosanguineus  (Chocolate Cosmo)
One annual I was recently introduced to (although not a new variety) is the Cosmos atrosanguineus (Chocolate Cosmo) pictured to the right.  Not only is this flower a striking rich dark colour, it also smells like chocolate!     Although it may be slightly difficult to get your hands on, its well worth it if you happen upon it at a garden centre.  Requiring partial sun, or full sun, this 4-6" plant is sure to win you over.  It is not frost hardy, and does not produce viable seeds, therefor if you do find a plant... you will have to store the tubers in a dry cool place over the you can enjoy this plant again next year.

If you haven't already got your annuals and vegetables planted... get out this weekend and pick up some unusual plants and give them a try... after all... what have you got to lose?

Imperata cylindrica (Japanese Blood Grass)
All photographs on this blog by Paul Gellatly 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Walking down the Path... (Update)

Hen and Chicken Photograph By Angel W.
Over the past 5 months I have truly enjoyed exploring horticulture with you!  This blog has opened up doors that I had never imagined.  I have grown along with you, and look forward to everything this year has to offer.

Hydrangea Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Marjorie Harris, and toured her beautiful garden.  Marjorie has long been my favorite author in horticulture.  It was amazing to be able to sit down and talk candidly about plants and the field of horticulture.   If you haven't checked out her blog and website it truly shouldn't be missed.  (

I have started back to work with the City of Toronto, as a gardener; and also started back at Plantworld in the Perennial department.  Its exciting to see the new plants arrive daily, new varieties, new colours, and new ideas!  

Tiarella Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Japanese Painted Fern Photo by Paul Gellatly
This is truly a year of change for me, settling into my career in horticulture.  This blog has taken off and has now been read in 52 Countries around the world, viewed over 4300 times.  The support I have received from family, friends, and strangers alike has been overwhelming and has truly been motivational.  At the end of the season this year, I will make my big move to the west coast of Canada, and settle in to a different world of plants... truly exciting... I can't wait to continue to blossom in the field of Horticulture.  

Exciting News...This past week a publisher contacted me interested in my first book... They have been following the blog and contacted me to discuss my options for publishing.  

If you aren't already following this blog, click follow on the blog and continue to walk down the path of horticulture with me!  

The countries that this blog has been viewed from are listed below... 
Canada, United States, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Ukraine, Australia, France, Ireland, Italy, Argentina, Mexico, Poland, United Arab Emerates, Kuwait, Puerto Rico, Netherlands, Peru, Brazil, Latvia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Romania, Myanmar (Burma), India, Norway, Bulgaria, Hungary, Estonia, Czech Republic, Turkey, South Korea, Belarus, Jamaica, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Chile, Belgium, Vietnam, Georgia, Singapore, Philippines, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sweden, Finland, Taiwan, Croatia, Greece, New Zealand, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe.  Thank you for checking this blog out... 
Geranium Photograph by Paul Gellatly

Monday, April 16, 2012

Japanese Cherry Blossoms (Sakura)

Photograph by Paul Gellatly

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
A year ago I discovered the Japanese Cherry Blossoms in High Park, Toronto.  I was astounded by the beauty of over 2000 Sakura trees in full bloom;  this year I am equally enamored.

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
The tradition of hanami, or "flower viewing" dates back to the Nara Period (710-794) when the Tang Dynasty in China, influenced the people of Japan with their custom of enjoying flowers.  To this day millions of people enjoy the beauty these short blooming trees have to offer all over the world.

The history of the Sakura trees in High Park dates back to 1959, when the Japanese Ambassador to Canada presented 2000 Japanese Sakura trees to the citizens of Toronto, in recognition and appreciation to the city of Toronto accepting re-located Japanese-Canadians following the second second world war.

Photograph by Kelly Butts
Since that time there have been additional plantings in 1984, 2001, and 2006.  

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
The trees are currently in full bloom, and don't last long... If you have a chance this week or weekend, I  recommend a trip to High Park.  A wonderful way to spend an evening or afternoon among the beauty of the Sakura Trees.

Plan on spending at least an hour or two meandering through the park, In addition to the trees, you'll find nesting swans and other beautiful aquatic birds, a beaver dam, wildflowers, a beautiful rock garden, and much more.  There is definitely something for everyone to enjoy.
Photograph by Kelly Butts

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

James Gardens... A Hidden Gem

All Photographs by Paul Gellatly  "Sanguinaria canadensis" 
Nestled in Etobicoke, (in the west end of Toronto) is a beautiful garden that shouldn't be missed!  It has long been known for its beautiful annual beds, and is a destination for wedding photographs throughout the summer.

This past weekend I decided to take a walk and see what spring in the park had to offer.  Still too early to enjoy the annual plantings, there was no shortage of beauty around... including naturalized flowering bulbs,  wildflowers, perennials, and walking paths throughout the entire park to enjoy.

Beautiful Magnolia Trees, azaleas, spring bulbs, blooming forsythias and more awaited our visit this week.  I managed to take a few pictures to share on the blog.

(Symplocarpus foetidus)
Rustic Bridges, Gazebo's, ponds and creeks make for interesting discoveries around every corner.  One of my favorite wild flowers The Eastern Skunk Cabbage is in bloom all over the park.  Many water iris' are poking through the streams and ponds, which will be a beautiful spectacle of purple and yellow in the weeks to come.

Originally a private estate owned by Fred James, purchased in 1908, this garden was his passion and was developed for over 40 years.  When he passed away, the family sold the property to the City of Toronto with the agreement that it remain a park. With history of over 100 years, there is sure to be something for everyone at James Gardens.

After you're done walking through the gardens, be sure to explore the trail into Lambton Woods, and Scarlett Mills Park along the Humber River.  You will forget for a moment you are in a big city.

James Gardens is a great way to spend an afternoon at any time of year... and don't forget your camera!

Located on Edenbridge Drive, just East of Royal York  Road.

How to get there...
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