Posts Tagged ‘spring’

Azaleas & Rhododendrons: What’s The Difference?

purple rhodendron

Dandy Man Purple Rhododendron. Flower buds and full bloom. Photos: Proven Winners

These evergreen flowering shrubs get lumped together and you may wonder which is which. Both are members of the same plant Genus: Rhododendron. Plant taxonomists once put Azaleas in their own plant group, but later realized they were wrong about that. Taxonomists tend to do this a lot. So, all azaleas are rhododendrons, but not all rhododendrons are azaleas.
Here are the differences between what we commonly call Azaleas and Rhododendrons:

Bloomathon lavender azalea in bloom. Note the mulch layer to keep roots cool and moist.

Bloomathon lavender azalea in bloom. Note the mulch layer to keep roots cool and moist.


  • Smaller, duller leaves with a rougher texture
  • Mostly deciduous (loses leaves in winter if grown outside)
  • Smaller flowers, with 5 stamens
  • Small shrub, up to 8 feet (although unlikely in Toronto climate!)
  • Often sold as an indoor flowering potted plant.
  • Can be kept in pot year round, but give it a summer outdoors, and let it stay outside in fall in the cooler weather before bringing it back inside for the winter. This will help it set flower buds. Keep in a cool, very bright location. I’ve kept azaleas in pots blooming all winter in a west-facing, cool window. Don’t let it dry out!
  • Flower colours range from the whites and purples to yellow-orange and orange

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Time is Right for Corn Gluten as Natural Weed Control


Many of us who still have lawns want them chemical-free. We also want them to be weed-free, especially without crabgrass, one of the annual lawn spoilers that can take over a patchy lawn. We are right now in an important window of opportunity for using an organic treatment, corn gluten meal as a lawn weed suppressant. Corn gluten meal inhibits the roots of emerging weeds, crabgrass, plantain, and dandelions* by drying them out. Timing is important. To use corn gluten as organic weed control, you need to do it very soon: at forsythia bloom time, which is around the next week or so. This information from is helpful on how to use corn gluten:

The majority of weed seeds — especially the dreaded crabgrass seeds — germinate during a very short window in late winter and early spring depending on the climate. The general rule of thumb is to apply the corn gluten just as the forsythia plants break into bloom in the North.

Pre-emergent is an important part of the equation: it must be done when weed plants are barely there. Getting the corn gluten on too late will actually help weeds with developed leaves and good roots, by fertilizing them. So you need to find that perfect Goldilocks time. Look to the forsythia, and apply liberally.

Remember that if you want to keep your lawn and garden organic, hand pulling is always best and will always be part of lawn maintenance, especially on existing weeds. Whether or not your timing is right, corn gluten meal does provide organic nitrogen, so it will help your grass no matter what.

*Personally, I don’t mind dandelions in the lawn. They offer benefits to pollinators as one of the first blooming flowers.

Snowdrops Start Off A New Garden Season

snowdrops in bloom

Snowdrops are always the first to emerge. Galanthus elwesii. Crocus shoots are showing green tips.

With above zero temps and rain instead of snow, it’s safe to believe it’s spring. Although we had some well-past-their-welcome snowflakes in early April—causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth from gardeners—the growing season is now upon us and can only get better from here on in.

A new garden season always gets the blood pumping in a gardener’s veins. Now, it’s daily checking to see what’s popping up, scanning for green shoots—any green shoots!

Spring bulbs are the first shoots we spy, and snowdrops show their faces first. The large flowered variety, Galanthus elwesii, are the best in my garden: they pack a bigger punch, even in a small group. I’d love to have a huge swath of snowdrops, but in my tough, sandy garden full of competitive Norway maple tree roots, I am lucky to see a few snowdrops here and there. To behold a real flower emerging from the soil, after the winter we’ve had is an exquisite thrill. Plus it’s good exercise to bend low—in the case of snowdrops, very low—in order to see the delicate flowers close up. Consider it your gardener’s spring warm up?



Prepare Your Grill For Grilling Season



Hello sunshine! Isn’t it nice to see a bright blue sky at seven p.m., the snow receding from your lawn, the chill of winter air mingling with the occasional warm breeze…and in just eleven days – it’s hard to believe – it will be spring, the vernal equinox, the day that the sun’s path, moving from the southern hemisphere to the north, crosses the equator. On March 20, the day is the same length as the night, which for many of means only one thing; it’s time to clean up the trusty barbecue and get it ready for the first grilling of the year! Continue »

Spring Really Is Closer Than It Seems

snow and wrapped plant

A Good Thing: Snow cover is a great insulator for garden perennials.

Before we know it, we are going to be complaining about the heat. Is that even possible? I have a faint memory of doing just that in the not so distant past. In the meantime, even though I am not a skier, I’m very happy to see those massive piles of snow, which are doing a great job of insulating the perennials in the garden. The snow doesn’t insulate as in keeping warm, it insulates by keeping plants (and soil) cold, and therefore dormant, so they don’t start growing, only to met with another icy blast.

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