Ontario gardeners’ secrets to gardening success

Gardening brings people together. We learn from one another, get ideas from fellow gardeners and just enjoy sharing our own labours of love with those who will appreciate our efforts.

Past award-winning gardeners in Ontario share their tips and advice on gardening. They tell us what has worked for them and what their experience has taught them.

Katherine Ferguson recommends using large plantings and visualizing the results. At the back of her gardens, large dramatic clumps of tall grasses contrast with a chance-sown smoke tree, while the front has low-growing perennials, huge boulders and a few annuals for colour.
“Start with what you can manage,” Noreen Brodie advises, and “don’t get big too quickly.” Brodie knows all about big gardens, she has a 100-acrefarm near Owen Sound. Large gardens can have large workloads but Noreen includes native wildflowers in the ditches and an existing old barn foundation. “I love bulbs,” she says, noting that they provide colour throughout the growing season without a lot of effort.

Noreen Brodie’s rural garden near Owen Sound.

Brenda & Guido Neczkar’s prize-winning garden in the East York area of Toronto.

Brenda Neczkar from East York in Toronto recommends not using too much fertilizer. “I fertilize just before blooming, and not in August.” She gave away her phlox and most of her traditional plants and scoured the garden centers for native plants and grasses but she kept her favourite irises and her blanket rose, which blooms almost continuously as long as it is dead headed. She also created a dramatic stream bed landscape feature with garden fabric, buried boulders, and fine gravel, using coarser gravel on the edges. “It fills with water after each rain and wildlife visit it.”

 

“Fertilize weekly if you want it to grow big,” Betty Stanley says, referring to her traditional annual garden in East York. “I make my own manure tea and use it to water.” Her program works. Her castor beans are 10 feet high and her annuals are a mass of colour throughout the season. Betty also believes in early-bird shopping and getting to the garden when it is cool. But her best advice is: “Love your garden.”

Betty Stanley’s Toronto garden overflows with flowers right into fall.

Dominique Viau and Bob King believe in teaming up with nature. Their priorities were to protect the environment and reduce labour by planting cornflowers, black-eyed Susans and native plants. “Nature does most of the work.”
In Grimsby, Susan Gemmill took Wendy and Bob Chrystian’s one-day course to get it right. They took pictures of her garden and reviewed how to polish the design. Following the advice she received, Susan added upright blue junipers, Alberta spruce, boxwood, yellow cedar mixed with grasses and host as for texture and balance. “I am the queen of moving plants.” Susan tweaks the garden balance regularly.

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