Plant Profile: Floriferous African Blue Basil

African Blue Basil in bloom, with pollinator-friendly flowers.

African Blue Basil in bloom, with pollinator-friendly flowers.

Most basil plants we try to discourage from blooming because we mainly grow it for for the leaves, (pesto!) not the flowers, but African Blue Basil is different. The blue-purple flowers are one of the best parts of this plant, and in my opinion it’s a must in the pollinator garden. The bees absolutely love the flowers.

African Blue is also edible, with a strong basil taste with a stronger hint of the camphor flavour that most basils contain. You can use it for pesto, or any other recipe that needs basil. Of course, like all basils, you can eat the flowers too. And what beautiful flowers these make: blue-purple spikes atop all the stems, sprout upward in all directions.

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Easy Propagating Perennials: Sedum Plants

Large swaths of flowering plants best for design and for use by pollinators.

Large swaths of flowering plants best for design and for use by pollinators.

Want to increase your stock of perennial plants? It’s worth your while to make new plants, to share or to make a bigger splash in the garden. Plus, it’s easy and fun.

Propagation varies in terms of easiness, but sedums, like ‘Autumn Joy’ or its other variants are a good place to start as they are one of the easiest. Sedums are one of my favourite perennials for many reasons. Pollinators go crazy for their flower nectar, and as they are succulent, they are super low maintenance. They are also one of the hardiest perennials, and one of the few that will over-winter in a container.

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Front Garden Plantings: Hosta’s Lush Foliage

hosta planting

Hostas take centre stage in a mixed shady front-yard planting of mostly foliage. ‘June’ at right.

This spring, all the rain we received has made for some spectacularly lush garden foliage, especially on hostas. 2017 has, so far, been the exact opposite of last year, when hostas were in danger of being sunburned and drought-stressed. When mother nature does the irrigation work for us we are lucky indeed. The cooler weather and abundant moisture have provided some gigantic, and lush specimens of hostas this season. And all are looking healthy and happy.

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Early Daffodils For Long Bloom Season

daffodils-croppedLike many bulbs, daffodils come in varieties that bloom early, mid and late season.

Planting some of each variety extends your garden bloom over several weeks, instead of one flush over a week. Our Toronto master gardeners recommend these early daffodils:

Daffodils, also known as Narcissus, have a relatively early blooming period.  Looking at photos of bulbs in bloom at the Toronto Botanical Gardens from previous years, daffodils such as Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’, Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ (which as the name suggests is one of the earliest bloomers), Narcissus minor var. pumilus ‘Rip Van Winkle’, Narcissus ‘Tamar Fire’ and Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ were all in bloom in late April.  In general, large cup and trumpet varieties bloom early to mid-spring, doubles and multi-flowered are mid to late season and small cup varieties are late season bloomers.

 

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Forsythia Means Planting Time 

forsythia in bloom

Even before most trees leaf out, forsythia flowers emerge.

Forsythia means planting time.

When the forsythia is blooming it’s the “all clear” sign: a bright yellow beacon telling us that the soil and daytime temperatures have warmed up enough for us to start planting our gardens. Not everything, mind you, but we can plant a lot:

Plant when Forsythia blooms
  • Hardy perennials, shrubs, trees and roses.
  • Annual sweet peas. Annual pansies, violas.
  • Edibles: peas, spinach and cool vegetable crops.
  • Berry bushes and perennial vegetables like rhubarb and asparagus.
  • Hardy bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths, in a container for a seasonal display.
  • Pre-planted pots of flowering bulbs can be planted right into your garden. They’ll put down roots and come up again next season. It’s a good trick for those who didn’t get a chance to plant bulbs in the fall. (Like me!)
  • Perennial Herbs: sage, thyme, oregano
Wait for May 24th, or later
  • Heat-loving annual vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, eggplant cucumbers and melons.
  • Tender herbs like basil

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