When Mom’s Happy, We’re All Happy

Mother’s Day is a BIG deal in the garden industry.  At Horlings, we anticipate the Mother’s Day weekend to be one of our busiest of the year, and we plan ahead to have our products looking their absolute best and to offer our greatest selection of gifts that are certain to express your love and appreciation to your moms.   We understand that the endless ideas can be overwhelming sometimes, so I’ve compiled a little list here of some of the favourites of our staff and customers to help you choose the perfect gift.

store itemsOur Gift Shop is an obvious place to start, it’s full of beautiful treats from pretty luxuries for the mom who never buys herself anything special, to practical and useful things for the mom who appreciates the necessities.  You will find Fairy Garden Accessories, garden accessories of all kinds, pots, houseplants, lanterns, candles, furniture and more and more and more…

Out in the yard, we have one of the largest selection of perennials, trees, and shrubs in the Kawarthas.  The few listed here are only a very small selection of my favourites, but the choices are far and wide!  If you are looking for something to show someone special how important she, Magnolia trees will usually be blooming around Mother’s Day every year, so are forsythias.  So every spring when they bloom, your loved one  will be reminded every year of how much you love them.

For something really special that your mom might not splurge on for herself:  this year, we have some amazing, fragrant, enormous Tree Peonies.  red tree peonyPeonies are an excellent gift any time because they are very easy perennials but they are impressive and showy.  We have a few of the most beloved common varieties like Sarah Bernhardt, and also the hard to find Itoh Peony, Bartzella.  Bartzella peonies can produce abundant blooms – up to 40 in a season – and they’re a unique sunny yellow colour!

Roses.  What should I say about roses?  Some people are under the misconception that roses are difficult to maintain, but that is not always the case.  There are hardy roses like the Rugosa roses that are hardy, fragrant, and remarkably disease resistant.  Roses will bloom on and on throughout the summer, and few other shrubs can claim that is the case.  We have a beautiful selection of hardy roses, climbing, knock-out, hybrid-tea, floribunda and fairy roses in a beautiful range of colours.

Molly's iphone 005Our greenhouses are nearly bursting at the seams with hanging baskets, planters, tropical plants and all the annuals ever needed to fill your mother’s life with lush colour for the entire summer.   We can help you select something unique that will brighten up her outdoor space, attract birds and butterflies, and will delight her every time she sees it, just like you do.

The Grass is Greener Where You Water It

Grass is greener‘The Grass is Greener Where You Water It’ is a sweet philosophy that I’ve seen going around Facebook lately, and of course, it’s true both metaphorically and literally.
I’m no philosopher,  so I’m writing about literal grass in this blog entry.  [The rest is up to you today.]

These days we are all encouraged to make wiser decisions and be mindful of our impact on the environment.  Past practices for achieving the perfect weed-free lawn are no longer accepted or even legal in Ontario, and for good reason.  It is now well known that the use of chemical treatments has a severe, damaging impact on our waterways, natural ecosystems, wildlife and the health of our pets and even ourselves.   Some days, in the face of all the climate change doom-and-gloom we are being bombarded with, it can be hard not to feel helpless.  “But what can I do?” we ask ourselves.  I believe that every improvement we choose to make is a step in a better direction, so start at home with your own lawns and gardens and lead your neighbours by setting a good example.  When it comes to lawn care, there are many options out there for more responsible management of weeds and pests like grubs and other damaging insects in our lawns.

This time of year we often have customers coming in to find solutions to the unattractive patterns that seemed appear in their lawns over the winter.  Usually, these designs of pushed up soil are caused by moles, and usually, the moles are there because you have grubs for them to eat.  So we recommend combating the grubs.  This is a good news/bad news sort of deal though: The good news?  We can do it inexpensively, easily, even without the use of chemicals.  Nematodes are microscopic little warriors that, when applied at the right time of the year, will consume the grubs in their larvae stage, and dramatically reduce their population in your lawn, which will keep moles and skunks and other pests from digging your lawn up for their food.  The bad news is, this will be an ongoing battle that you will be fighting every spring and fall to keep the enemy away.  Give us a call or drop in to talk to one of our knowledgeable staff members for more information on how nematodes can help you maintain a healthy, chemical-free lawn.

People have often resorted to chemical weed treatment in the lawn.  Fighting off weeds can be a daunting and frustrating task, we know.  But resorting to chemicals is not the only answer.  Chemicals can run-off your lawn and into water reservoirs, lakes, streams and delicate ecosystems and are harmful to animals and insects.  We offer many natural weed killing solutions in the store at Horlings.  The internet if full of natural weed killing recipes, but I have found that simply pouring vinegar on them works almost immediately, it’s cheap and effective.  For places like the cracks between pathway stones, where I never plan to want anything to grow, I have found using salt works well to keep weeds (or anything) from growing.

Fertilizer is another culprit that we need to be more wary of.  It’s important to avoid allowing fertilizer (even natural ones like manure or compost) to enter a water system.  Always avoid using fertilizer near pathways or hard surfaces where it can be washed away.  Leave a buffer zone of unmanaged grasses or possibly natural vegetation growing around the shoreline. This can help prevent soil erosion and may retain some of the nutrients that might otherwise enter the lake.  Allow lawn clippings to remain on the grass and decay naturally (it happens much more quickly than you think) to allow the nutrients to be recycled back into your lawn.

Most of us are trying to do our part to reduce our impact on the environment, how well do you thing you are doing?  Just for fun, take take Canadian Gardening’s Eco Garden Quiz  for fun to see if there are areas you can improve.  Our friendly staff is always happy to help with advice, or to hear what our customers are finding works for them.


Come Hellebores or High Water…

The day before we were blessed with these recent snowfalls, I was marvelling at how amazing it is that in spite of all this cold, the Hellebores still emerge triumphantly blooming even as the snow is barely receding around them.   How Canadian of them! These flowers are  elegant and easy going and some cultivars are known to bloom for months.   Hellebore Some newer varieties offer upwardly facing blooms, which are lovely and more visible than the typically nodding varieties like mine.  But I certainly don’t mind peeking  under the foliage  first thing in the spring to find the blooms opening there. Their broad, leathery leaves are evergreen and they form an attractive mound in your shady gardens all year long.  If you have an avid gardener in your life, the Hellebores are wonderful gifts to give (or to treat yourself with) because they are so unique and pretty, yet still hardy and easy to care for.  With so many subtle, sophisticated colours (from white, pale green, pinks and burgundy, peach and even greyish blooms)  these are plants that your gardening friends can always find a perfect place for, and are unlikely to have the same one already (and even if they do, you can never have too many Hellebores).  Too often, people forget about the many gorgeous and dramatic perennials that are available for shade gardens – think out side the hosta box!  The Hellebores are showing off in the shade long before we see any sign of our hostas and ferns, and they continue to hold their own even when their shady garden neighbours are out there with them.   One of my favourite gardening magazine websites, Canadian Gardening makes the  wise suggestion that since Hellebores are such long-lived perennials, it is worthwhile to ensure that the bedding spot you choose for your Hellebore will provide very good, rich soil and be in a place where your plant will be sheltered from drying winter winds.  They don’t like to be moved around, so it’s best to put some consideration into your chosen location, fix up the soil to be lovely and nutritive, and then enjoy first thing in the spring for years to come!  At Horlings Garden Centre, we try to seek out new and exciting cultivars, along with the long-trusted beloved varieties, and are excited to see them arriving in less than two weeks! Be sure to check them out in our ‘Perennials for the Shade’ section.

Many of you will have noticed that your gardens and sometimes your shrubs and trees are sitting with wet feet these days!  Avoid working in your garden when the soil is very saturated.  You can compact the soil and that will do nothing good for the plants trying to survive there.  If you have unusually wet spots in your yard or gardens, the good news is, it is likely that your plants are still mostly dormant, so they are better equipped to survive the water.  Hopefully the water will begin to recede to normal levels soon.  You may notice that your trees or shrubs will be a bit behind schedule, but don’t panic.  If you can’t tell if your tree or shrub has died over the winter, try doing a gentle scratch test:  carefully scratch away a small amount of bark; if you see green underneath, then your plant is still alive.  Good Luck!  If you have any questions, we are here and are pleased to help!

Here We Grow Again!

Okay gardeners!  Let’s get growing again.  I think every week from now until around mid July I say to someone: “this is my favourite time in the garden because…”  This is the time of year we begin to see changes happening so rapidly, every day there is something new happening in the gardens and especially at the garden centres and greenhouses.  It’s pretty hard not to be excited!

So where to start?  If you haven’t already begun, this is a great time for research and planning.  There are introductions to the garden industry every year for you to  learn about and your local garden centre staff will be a wealth of knowledge about what is new for 2016 from varieties of annuals, to newer, more effective, more environmentally responsible tools and tricks of the trade.  Every year our managers seek out new things to bring to our customers. When you are planning your containers unbelievable lucky strike begoniaand hanging baskets it’s a great idea to remember what worked really well for you last year, but also talk to our staff about what might work even better for you this year.   For example, we are  excited about some fantastic begonias that promise to be outstanding performers in your shade or part-shade containers and demand very little from your in terms of watering  and dead-heading.

Whether you start your own seedlings at home or prefer to pick up seedlings from us at the Garden Centre, it’s a good idea to make a plan.  What worked really well for you in your veggie beds or containers last year?  If you had some problems, (which I have come to believe are inevitable) maybe Horlings staff can offer some advice or solutions.  Some peas seedstroubles are unavoidable environmental ones related to weather conditions, but sometimes you simply need to amend your soil or provide more or less sunlight.  It’s a good rule of thumb to plan to rotate your ‘crop’ so that you are not planting your beans, tomatoes, peas etc. always in the same area of the garden because certain plants will deplete the soil of much needed nitrogen and other nutrients, and moving them around will help to avoid that.  For many of us, starting seeds in a greenhouse or sun room  is not possible, but don’t worry, there are plenty of cold weather vegetables that you can sow directly into the garden.  Peas, spinach, kale, Romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, parsley and cabbage are some vegetables that can be sowed directly into your gardens without worrying about frost and warm temperatures.

seedlings2Getting a head start at home, or better yet, teaching a child to grow their own food is a fun family activity that will provide them with skills they will use forever, and  research has shown that when a child helps to grown their own fruit and vegetables, they are  likely to consume more fresh produce.  Read more about the benefits of gardening with kids here.  This week at Horlings, our seeds are sale: Buy 3 Get 1 Free!  We also have all of the seed starting mix, containers, extra fine spray watering cans (perfect for tender seedlings and pretty enough to leave on the kitchen counter), fertilizer and tools that you could need to get started.

Just When You Thought You Were Finished…

Now that summer is finally serious about sticking around, most of us are finished planting our annuals and are thinking about how nice it will be to sit back and enjoy the fruits (quite literally in some cases) and flowers of our labours.  This is such a satisfying time in our gardens with lots blooming, and hopefully, the weeds not being too aggressive yet…

But before you hang up your tools and attempt to finally get the dirt out from under your fingernails, there are still a few things to take care of in the name of regular maintenance.


If your hanging baskets contain plants like petunias, lobelia, calibrachoa (million bells), bacopa, fuchsia or other early blooming plants, you may be noticing that now they are looking a little stringy or scraggly…  It’s time to give them a haircut to revive them and keep them blooming for you.  People are often very nervous about cutting the plants back, but don’t be.  They love it, and so will you!  It’s really fun and so satisfying when they come back fuller and prettier than ever.  When you are cutting back, always cut back to where there are lots of good, healthy leaves.  Don’t leave unsightly sticks where flowers once were, they’ll never look good.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to cut back an inch or two more than you think you should, since most people tend to be too cautious with their trimming.  With trailing plants like petunias and calibrachoa, think of it as giving the plant a mullet, short at the top and longer in the back, to prevent it from becoming flat and open in the middle of the container and keep it’s nice rounded shape.

There are some things you DO NOT need to cut back:  They are grasses; begonias; geraniums; new guinea impatiens; angelonia.  They’re just fine being left alone (yay!).

Next, even though I know you’ve been good and have been fertilizing your annuals regularly, they might benefit from a little extra fuel this time of year.  But remember never to fertilize dry roots, always water your plants well first, and then a few minutes later, give them some desert as a treat.  I like 15-30-15, but 20-20-20 is always a good reliable fertilizer for them.  Some, petunias or fuchsia most likely, may be needing a little extra something too if you’ve noticed that they are looking a little pale in the leaves or yellowish.  This is a common issue and can easily be remedied with a little water soluble iron chelate.  Follow the instructions on your container and you will notice that the leaves will quickly return to their nice dark green.

Finally, be on alert for insect issues.  They’re almost inevitable on certain annuals. Tell tale signs of insect troubles are curling of the leaves; holes in the leaves, or the leaves look lacy and chewed; plants looking in general distress.  Aphids are hard to avoid, but they can be defeated.  We have some environmentally friendly insecticidal soap that does the trick without harming your beneficial insects.

Oh Deer…

Last year I planted a pretty little woodland garden at our cottage, and I was really looking forward to seeing it when we arrived there for the first time this week.  Unfortunately, the deer arrived before me, and there wasn’t much left there for me to see.  I was foolish to think they’d leave my hostas alone.  I really should have known better.  They don’t eat mine at home, but there is usually enough activity around there that the deer don’t bother with us.  The cottage is another story obviously.  Lesson learned, and, I thought to myself, “maybe someone out there can benefit from my mistake, and not learn the hard way like I do.”

hostaempresswu_cjw10_1 pw cap


We choose to live in the country to be close to nature, so we must also consider our wild neighbours and try to live in concert with them.  It’s much, much easier to plan a garden using plants that are known to be undesirable to deer than it is to try to keep the deer away from their favourite treats like hostas, hydrangeas, sea holly, shasta, purple sand cherry, geraniums and petunias…

The list of deer “resistant” plants is actually nice and long, and quite beautiful really.  These ones (listed below) are just some favourites that grow well in our area, however, there are many others, and the Farmer’s Almanac has an extensive list on their website that is worth checking out.  There’s also a great list from Rutgers linked here that shows many plants in a ratings system of the most resistant to deer.

  • Heuchera
  • Achillea (yarrow)
  • Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
  • Lavender
  • Monarda
  • Ferns
  • Coreopsis
  • Hakonechloa (Japanese Forest Grass)
  • Angel’s Trumpet
  • Nicotiana
  • Brunnera
  • Cleome
  • Peony
  • Allium

There are lots of techniques that people employ to try to keep the deer from their favourites, to varying degrees of effectiveness…  Most people will confirm that if a deer is hungry enough they’ll try anything.  But some of these ideas are worth a try to keep your prized hostas from becoming an evening snack.

a.  Try hanging bars of soap (Irish Spring is reputed to be the most offensive smelling to them) in nylon stockings or onion bags around the garden to give it a distinctive ‘human’ smell.

b.  Sprinkle human hair in around the garden, again, to make the human smell present.

c.  Motion activated sprinkler systems that will activate when the deer or other critters enter the garden and scares them away.

d. There are product that you can buy to spray on or around your plants that should make them distasteful to the deer.  Here at Horlings Garden Centre we sell “Bobbex” and “Super Hunter”have heard good things about how well they work.  Bobbex contains a mixture of mint oils, fish oils, dried eggs, capsaicin, garlic oil and meat meal mixture – I’m guessing you can imagine the nasty smell!  It’s making my eyes water just while I type out the ingredients…  I think I know why it works…

In the long run, working with the wildlife instead of against them is probably the least annoying route.  At Horlings we have a great selection of Ontario’s native woodland plants, (currently even on sale 30% off!) that will do a beautiful job of naturalizing your garden without inviting unwanted guests.  Or ask our helpful staff to show you some others that are deer resistant while you are planning your gardens (or replacing items that have been eaten).  Then when you see a beautiful deer in your yard you can enjoy her and wish her well while she wanders through, and then away in search of someone else’s hostas…





Treasure the Fleeting Moments in Your Garden

pink peony Peonies all over town are showing off their explosive, gorgeously fragrant blooms these days.  Like lilacs, mock orange, oriental lilies, rhododendrons, delphiniums and oriental poppies – peonies are one of the plants people often lament that the blooms don’t last long enough.  I say: many of the most cherished and memorable things in life are made so because we look forward to their brief but spectacular time with us – think Christmas, Marilyn Monroe, summer vacation – all gone too soon, but worth every wonderful moment.  Perhaps if peonies were in bloom for a long time, we’d tire of them or or take for granted their fragrance and their beauty (nah, just kidding – who would ever not be impressed by the scent of a peony or a lilac?). There are plenty of shrubs and perennials that reliably bloom for quite a long time, but, there are few that can compete with the ones I mention above for wow factor in the garden.  When customers are having a hard time making decisions about which plants they’d like for their gardens, I usually ask them to consider what kind of gardener they want to be.  Are they looking for something that will look tidy and provide curb-appeal that they won’t have to do too much fussing with?  Are they creating a place to collect, showcase and surround themselves with their favourite plants?  Are they more cottage garden-types or more formal?  Would you rather have 100 shiny pennies or four quarters?  I’m guessing that the people who would take the time to read our gardening blog are the types of gardeners who can appreciate the value of some of the short-but glorious- blooming shrubs and perennials. You can achieve a comfortable balance in your garden with constant and easy shrubs and perennials, some annuals for great colour, and a few of the special plants that excite and delight you.  Don’t dismiss your favourites because they are not going to bloom for a long time.  Instead, allow them to remind you to take the time to slow down sometimes to appreciate their beauty and revel in how amazing it is that just a few weeks ago there was only sticks and snow, and now we have these treasures. oriental poppy

“I Want a Perennial that Blooms All Year..”

If I had a dollar for every Horlings customer who asked me for a perennial that will bloom all year, I’d be comfortably retired from the garden centre industry. Of course we want perennials to bloom all year! Everyone wants that! But we live in Ontario and the reality is that to have a continuous bloom in your perennial beds will take a little planning and possibly some experimenting.  Unlike annuals, there are few perennials that will bloom in your garden from spring until fall.  But there are plenty that bloom all spring, and others that bloom from late spring ’til early summer, and lots that bloom for most of the summer and into the fall… and there are ones that bloom in September until frost…

The first things I ask our customers who are looking for perennials are:

  1. Is it for the sun or shade?
  2. How tall would you like it to be?
  3. When do you you need it to be blooming?
  4. Would you like me to show you a few of my favourites?

I usually suggest that we find some plants that will bloom in spring, then some that will take over the job and bloom for the summer, and some that will bloom into the fall.  I have many favourites for these requirements for sun and for shade and I love to talk, so if you’d like to take a of the yard with me I can happily point them out to you and let you decide which ones you like best.  My personal preferences lean toward plants whose foliage is attractive and interesting even when it’s not in bloom.  But gardening is an art and art is subjective – we all have our favourites and our own sense of what we are trying to create so you should always choose the ones that attract and inspire you, not me.  That said, here are just a few of the long-blooming perennials I really love (there are still many not-so-long blooming perennials that are absolutely worth having, but that’s another blog post) :

For Shade/Part Shade:

  • Spring – bleeding hearts; brunnera, heuchera (coral bells); Solomon’s Seal; myosotis forget-me-nots; aquilegea (columbine); pulmonaria; variagated Jacob’s ladder…
  • Summer – astilbe; cheleone; hostas; lady’s mantle; tradescantia (spiderwort); digitalis (foxglove)
  • Late Summer/Fall – Bugloss; filipendula; rodgersia; anemone; rudebeckia

For Sun:

  • Spring – daffodils, tulips, allium and all spring bulbs; jolly-jump-ups; moss phlox;
  • Summer – lavender; Stella d’oro daylilies; monarda; iberis; veronica; baptisia; cranesbill geranium; sweet William; echinacea; hens and chicks and low groundcover sedums; Russian Sage; delphinium; coreopsis…
  • Late Summer/Fall – upright sedums; rudebeckia; hibiscus; asters; tall garden phlox; helinium…

I could go on and on but this list might be a good start.  So get googling or checking your perennial reference guides, and pick some of your own favourites.  I will be happy to help you find them at Horlings Garden Centre, or help you find suitable and comparable alternatives.


Frost Bite and Sun Burns… What’s next?

After today’s scorching hot weather it feels a little weird to be writing about how to handle the frost damage some of your plants might have suffered last Friday… but here we are.  I guess these extremes in weather are what we have now, and just like us, our gardens are trying to figure out how to handle it all.

By now, you may be noticing frost damage on plants that you might have thought were actually okay.  This is because sometimes it takes a few days for the damage to reveal itself fully.  If your annuals were stricken by the frost, and are looking black or mushy, the damage is  probably obvious and you may need to find replacements for your poor frost-bitten friends.  try trimming off the damage and seeing if there is any good growth still remaining there.  If there is, you may need to pamper the plant a little, with good fertilizer and careful watering.  The good news is that if it’s your perennials or shrubs were damaged, there is still hope.  Many of you might be seeing damage to your hostas, hydrangeas, butterfly bush and sumach and others.  The signs of damage are  usually limp and wilted looking blackened or greyish leaves.  These should be pruned away now to allow the new growth (hopefully) to take the place of the damaged stuff.  The frost should kill your perennials or shrubs and trees, but it may disfigure them and make them less attractive for this season.  Sorry.

And to add insult to injury, the heat we experienced today can be a source of further damage.  Your plants may still be in some distress, and the heat won’t be helping, so ensure they do not also suffer water stress by doing a thorough watering of the plants who need it (hydrangeas, grasses, butterfly bush, and willows all like to have plenty of water).  I always want to stress to people the importance of watering thoroughly and less frequently as opposed to watering a little bit every day.  Plants that are watered very thoroughly, then left to their own devices for a while before watering again will have deeper, stronger root systems, and will therefore be better equipped to handle periods of drought and stress.  If we water our plants just enough to wet the surface, but often, the roots of the plants will remain closer to the surface, where the moisture is.  So make sure that when you water, you do it for long enough to allow the moisture to really go down to where the roots are.  And equally important to remember: avoid watering in the heat of the day.  Watering in the mid-day heat can lead to powdery mildew, and also can deceive you into falsely believing you’ve done enough watering, but since much of the water may have evaporated, the plant is still actually quite dry.  Try instead to do your watering in the morning before the heat of the sun is really prevalent.  This isn’t always possible, we know, but if you can’t avoid it, then you should know that there are some plants who will have more of a problem with mid-day watering than others.  Lilacs, nine-barks, roses, garden phlox and monarda are all susceptible to powdery mildew, so whenever you are watering these guys, try to avoid watering the leaves (so water from below the leaves) and try to provide good air circulation for the plants to help prevent the onset of powdery mildew or black spot.

And for yourselves:  I suppose you need to be ready for everything – so get out the sunscreen, keep your water handy, and don’t put away your toques just yet, you never know what we are going to need tomorrow!



Long Wait for the Long Weekend

Yep, I know we’ve all been waiting for what feels like forever for this long weekend to arrive and mark the arrival of summer (in our minds at least).  I personally can relate to the relief and excitement of having this milestone at our doorsteps finally.  However, I implore you to try to remember that this weekend is a little early this year, and also, winter weather has been clinging on for dear life, and delaying our spring starts a bit.  Although the forecasts for frost look like they are behind us (fingers crossed), the night-time temperatures are still low and the ground temperatures are not very warm as of yet.

How all this doom and gloom relates to you:  You may be required to either be patient, or prepared to do a little precautionary work in the next few weeks to protect your investments.  The annuals that we’ve been selling in great volume here at Horlings are looking wonderful in their greenhouses.  And they are sure to look fabulous in your pots and hanging baskets.  But if you are putting them in the ground or outside already, be patient and be prepared.  If the temperatures at night are low, even without frost, the plants may feel a little stressed.  Although this is unlikely to kill them, they may just slow their growth a little, but they’ll catch up again when things warm up for good.

One of my beloved gardening mentors, Roxie Downer, who I miss dearly every spring especially – she always had the most glorious gardens and made it all seem effortless – she taught me not to plant tender annuals and most vegetables until “the first full moon in June”.  Some customers to the garden centre have heard it’s the first full moon in May.   I won’t say which is correct, but if in doubt I’ll side with Roxie every time.

If planted now, tomatoes and beans and the veggies that are harvested later in the summer will not do much growing until the ground warms up, so be patient.  Patience is the mantra of gardening, really.  Gardening teaches us that even though we do the best we know how to do, mother nature still has the final say, and we must work with her.  So go ahead, get out there like we know you want to.  Enjoy the long weekend and your plants.  But we ask you to still be aware of the weather and be prepared to cover tender plants to protect them from any frosty nights in our future, or bring them inside for the night if necessary.  Happy Long Weekend everyone!