May 29, 2017

In the garden: Summer in bloom

Fill your garden with colour, fragrance and soothing sound

By Steve Whysall

When the weather is nice—and even sometimes when it’s not—our gardens become another room in our homes, one where we eat, play, entertain and relax. And so it’s only natural that we want to make the most of our outdoor spaces. In the next few pages, Westcoast Homes & Design’s garden expert Steve Whysall helps you do just that with top tips and a bouquet of beautiful ideas.

Make your garden glow in the moonlight with flowers like Nicotiana Alata.

In the light of the moon

White flowers add a subtle glow and sweet fragrance to summer gardens

When the sun goes down in summer, the garden falls into a soft twilight where white flowers can stand out as beacons of loveliness. These beautiful white gardens are sometimes called “moon gardens” because they are so serene and restful with a pale, otherworldly, slightly ghostly look.

Of course, you can add subtle night lighting to your garden, and this is a smart idea. There are many options, some of which allow you to control lights with your mobile phone. The idea with this installed lighting is to see the effects of the lights rather than the lights themselves, so you need the fixtures to be carefully hidden. They shoot out beams of soft light to cast shadows and light to the underside of branches and the bark of tree trunks.

But white flowers can also act as living night-lights and some gardeners prefer this option since it is natural and certainly less expensive.

One of the favourite plants to create this elegant look is the scented woodland tobacco plant Nicotiana sylvestris. It can make a dramatic statement, growing six feet (1.8 metres) tall with bunches of long, tube-shaped white flowers that emit a powerful fragrance that seems even more intense once the sun has set. But there is a more compact and equally fragrant species called Nicotiana alata ‘Jasmine’ that grows only four feet (90 to 120 centimetres) tall.

White hydrangeas are also a good choice, especially the ones in the paniculata group such as ‘Sublime,’ ‘Bobo,’ ‘Phantom’ and ‘White Diamonds,’ as well as showstoppers in the Hydrangea arborescens category, such as ‘Incrediball’ and ‘Annabelle.’

Everyone loves the yellow form of angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia), but there is a beautiful white form that not only has bright white trumpet flowers that light up the night garden, but also pumps out a heady perfume.

As we get deeper into summer, the fragrances of flowers invariably get more exotic and intense

Many people also don’t realize that there is a wonderful late-summer flowering hosta called H. plantaginea that produces wonderful fragrant white flowers on sturdy, tall stems. This is another must for the summer garden. Like most white flowers, these blooms look even more interesting when they are touched by moonlight.

When August comes around, every garden will want some super-scented trumpet lilies, but the white Oriental lily ‘Casa Blanca’ can look sensational and perfume the air with its powerful fragrance.

Many gardeners grow the Queen of the Night flower Epiphyllum oxypetalum just for the brief moment in late summer when the large white star-shaped flowers burst into bloom just for one night and emit the most intense scent of all white flowers. This is a plant experts cultivate and treasure and worry over for the whole year just for the one night of pleasure when it bursts into flower. Imagine the patience involved. And in the darkness, its blooms seduce those nearby with a sultry perfume, strong enough to live in the memory long enough to inspire dedication and devotion to the plant for a whole year.

Some gardeners have so fallen in love with the idea of a white-flowered moon garden that they have created entire landscapes using only white flowers—agapanthus, silver weeping willow pear trees, peacock gladiolus, white roses like Mme Alfred Carriere, Iceberg and Margaret Merrill, and many fragrant perennials, such as Cimicifuga ‘Brunette’ and delphinium ‘White Pearl.’

Once you get into the genre of white gardens, you find a world of flowers begging to be included starting in spring with the fragrant evergreen Clematis armandii, Wisteria ‘Alba,’ Choisya ternata and Styrax japonica through to summer with Jasminum officinale and sweet alyssum and the scented sweet tobacco plants.

If you forgot to plant white flowers in spring for your summer nights, you can still pop down to the garden centre and find some growing in containers. It is not difficult to dot them into beds and borders to add some special illumination and fragrance.

The lush, dark Rose Munstead Wood from David Austin makes a beautiful addition to any rose garden.

Stop and smell the roses

The really busy planting season has come and almost gone. March, April and May are really the months to get new plants into the ground. But when June comes around, it is not uncommon for people to suddenly become aware of roses in all their glory. It is, after all, the month when roses start to bloom at their best. And usually it continues into July and August.

If you recognize yourself in this little portrait, then you will probably want to buy and plant some roses. But first, I would like to suggest you take time to stop and smell the roses by visiting some of our best rose gardens.

This is the perfect way to do a little research and find out for yourself which roses look terrific, which ones have the best fragrance, which ones keep on flowering endlessly. Then you can go to the rose shop, although you may simply want to takes notes and wait until next year to do your planting.

In Metro Vancouver, there are three great places to see roses at their best: the magnificent rose garden at the Dogwood Pavilion on Poirier Street, Coquitlam; the rose garden in Stanley Park; and the rose garden at VanDusen Botanical Garden.

At the Dogwood Pavilion, my favourite rose garden in the Lower Mainland, you will see more than 800 varieties in bloom—old garden roses, floribundas, climbers, hybrid teas and shrub roses. It is spectacular.

Not just beautiful, their fragrance is  irresistible
Rose gardens are so heavenly that heaven itself has a hard time competing

You’ll also find a special section devoted entirely to Canadian heritage roses, super hardy ones named after explorer/pioneers such as Henry Hudson, John Cabot and Frontenac, as well as ones named for artists Emily Carr, Bill Reid, Tom Thomson and singer-songwriter Felix Leclerc.

The rose gardens at Stanley Park and VanDusen Botanical Garden are also well worth a visit.

You’ll find some of the best Kordes (German-bred) hybrids in these places, roses noted for their high disease resistance and vigorous performance as well as overall beauty, such as Brothers Grimm, Cinderella, Elegant, Summer Memories, Eskimo and the top-performing Vigorosa series. There are also star Weeks roses here, such as Julia Child and Mountbatten and exceptional floribundas such as Easy Going and Easy Does It.

Austin roses are always popular. They were bred over the last 60 years by David Austin in Warwickshire, England, and are a happy marriage of the beauty and fragrance of old garden roses (ones in existence before 1867) and the vigour and disease resistance of modern roses (hybrids after 1867, the first being La France). Austin roses are now generally referred to as “English roses.”

You’ll find ones suitable for pretty much every use and every type of location—hot, dry areas (Boscobel, Golden Celebration, Olivia Rose), shady positions (Gertrude Jekyll, Graham Thomas, Fighting Temeraire) and humid areas (Lady of Shalott, The Poet’s Wife and Windermere).

Austin has roses for seaside locations, roses for hedges, roses for arches and pergolas. But I suspect you are probably most interested in ones that have great fragrance. These include Abraham Darby, Constance Spry, Comte de Chambord, Evelyn and Golden Celebration. My favourites are Munstead Wood, a gorgeous burgundy colour, and Gertrude Jekyll, a lovely pink, and Graham Thomas, a knockout yellow. But there are dozens of others worth considering.

One of the other best places to see a wide selection of top roses—and a great place to buy them—is Select Roses at 22771 38th Ave., Langley. Owner Brad Jalbert is one of B.C.’s most knowledgeable rose growers and is always more than happy to advise you on the best ones for your garden.

It has been said that if you were to die in a rose garden you would never know you were dead since the transition from earth to heaven would be  imperceptible because rose gardens are so heavenly that heaven itself has a hard time competing.

Like you, I am not in a hurry to test out this theory, but I have to admit, rose gardens are indeed glorious paradises in their own right.

There is no better time to check them out and make a list of all your favourites than right now and through the rest of summer. Above all, take time to stop and put your nose into a rose this summer. What you are smelling is heaven.

Water flows melodiously between pitcher pots or bamboo canes in easy-to-install tabletop water features.

The wonder of water

Let’s imagine you are sitting and relaxing quite happily on your patio, balcony or deck in the summer sunshine when you realize there is something missing. You wish there was something to mask the noise from the street and the constant chatter of the neighbours.

The answer could be this: a water feature that can be instantly and easily installed, one that can sit right next to you on the patio or balcony and wash away the irritating noises with the tranquil, soothing sound of water.

This is not a new idea, but what is new are the products that are available now to give you exactly what you want. Let’s start with the easiest and most affordable kinds.

These are “tabletop” water made of lightweight poly-resins that look exactly like rock.

These are available from GardenWorks and other quality garden centres for $80 to $150.

Some have multiple levels, so the water gently cascades down a series of waterfalls, empties into the tray at the bottom and is immediately recycled. There are various designs from a set of pitcher-pots pouring water seamlessly from one jug to another to a elephant feature where an elephant splashes water over its back.

Installing a ‘gurgler’ is the simple, stylish way to drown out neighbourhood noise

If you are looking for something a little more substantial, you can pick up a basalt column that has had a hole drilled through it. You dig a hole, put a reserve-basin into the hole, put a hose into the basalt column, attach the hose to a little pump, and place the column on a bed of pebbles. Just add water and turn on the pump.

Diane Hough, of Burnaby’s Northwest Landscape and Stone Supply, says more and more people are installing these water features, specifically to cover noise they don’t want to hear. Northwest sells all sizes of basalt columns made for this purpose. They sell from $75 to $300 depending on size. Sets of three are available for $148. Some of them are imported from China where the basalt has a yellow-orange colour. These ones also have a polished “countertop” finish.

Landscapers can install this system in a day. Some can be installed in a few hours.

It is also popular to group these basalt columns together, creating multiple “gurglers” as they are sometimes called. With this arrangement, you need a three-way valve and a slightly larger pump, but the hook-up is very basic.

Northwest also has some standalone water features that contain a crystal ball that revolves as it is pushed by water. An embedded light illuminates the crystal ball, so the feature looks just as attractive at night.

The most expensive standalone water features consist of large, colourful rocks imported from China. These are available in dramatic colours and an expensive marble look, and can cost $4,788 or more.

Others are composed of rocks stacked on top of one another. The water bubbling out of the hole gives the surface of the rock a shiny, silky sheen and the sound can be extremely restful.

With larger installed water features it is very important to get the electrical work done properly. The features need to be connected to a ground-fault socket that will trigger and cut off power if a problem arises. But in most cases, the standalones are just plugged in and are ready to go the moment they are set up.

Whichever you choose, though, never has it been this easy to have a standalone, just-plug-it-in-and-walk-away water feature.

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