Shopping Green | Your Guide To Garden Centres & Greenhouses in Alberta
Nothing quite says spring in the northeast like a trip to the garden centres or greenhouses in Alberta. Or, if you are a real enthusiast, you plan a whole road trip to hit up as many as you can jam pack into one day. The Lakeland has lots of choices and you can find something unique about each place you visit.
Annuals / Baskets
Annuals are plants which only last one season. The beauty of annuals is the wide variety of types and colours that allow you to change your outdoor theme from year to year. They are great for border planting and filling in the gaps in your perennial beds. They are also perfect for containers and hanging baskets. Many types of annuals such as wave petunias, calibrachoa or lobelia are trailing plants which will cascade down the side of your basket for a very full and eye catching centrepiece.
For containers and pots, select an upright plant in the centre or as a back focal point and surround it with your favourites or try something new. Coleus for interesting colour, geraniums for non-stop flowers and finish off with some fan-flower which is great for draping over the edge of containers. Don’t shy away from using some form of vine like sweet potato. Vines add a lot of character to a container and the different shades of green is a great backdrop for making your flower colours really pop. Remember thriller, filler and spiller!
If you are looking for something new and unusual ideas, may I recommend two places:
Linda’s Market Garden in Smoky Lake. Linda likes to offer some unique options each year in addition to a wide assortment of popular bedding plants.
Owlseye Greenhouse in the County of St. Paul is your one stop shop for hanging baskets. The plant variation and colour schemes are second to none. Monique and Dean are proud to support local charities and many of the baskets are tied with a different coloured ribbon to indicate which charity gets supported when you make a purchase.
Tip: Petunias give you lots of bang for your buck. Check the tag to see if they are cascading or upright and throughout the summer, pinch a few stems here and there to encourage new branches and flowers.
Perennials are plants that grow back each year, flowering over many seasons in their lifetime. They can be beautiful showy flowering plants like peonies and hydrangeas, or they can be the opposite with big showy leaves and small shoots of flowers like a Hosta.
If you are like I was and have the misconception that perennial beds are lots of work, the flowers don’t last and that you are stuck with the same thing year after year, then here are a few maintenance ideas I hope will change your mind:
Deadhead the flowers to prevent them from going to seed and stop “babies” from popping up which require weeding. This also encourages plants to flower longer, giving you more enjoyment.
To keep perennials thick and shorter, pinch or shear off the tips of the plant a couple of times per year. This prevents a plant from taking over, stealing sunlight or choking out other plants and leaves the entire bed looking neat and uniform. Bamboo stakes can be used on tall plants like delphiniums to support and keep them upright. Another method is to save your 2-3 foot trimmings that have the bushy tops and poke them into the ground around your plant and leaning slightly in. As the new growth comes up, it uses the trimmed branches as support and will hide the support branches.
Mulching is a great way to retain moisture and this gardening hack makes life easier by keeping weeds at bay.
The last idea to change up the look of your perennial bed each year is to leave some room for annuals or containers for long lasting bursts of colour.
The types and temperaments of perennials are so numerous that to do them justice would require a book or a horticultural degree. That is why I rely on the expert advice at Moe’s Gardens & Greenhouse near Bonnyville. They are happy to answer questions and provide advice on setting up and maintaining a perennial bed.
Tip: Layer your bulbs to get the best use of space and to have continuous blooms through the spring and summer. The Dutch call it “flower bulb lasagna” and the colour combinations you can achieve are endless.
Trees & Shrubs
Trees and shrubs make the most interesting and versatile additions to anyone’s yard. And I am including fruit trees in this category for two reasons:
Their lovely fragrant flowers in the spring.
The bountiful fruit that you can either use yourself or leave out to attract an abundance of birds.
Trees and shrubs are the key to turning your yard into a four season showcase. They add shade, structural interest and colourful foliage and, with the development of more zone 3 hardy varieties, the options are unlimited. A great starter tree would be the Canada Red Chokecherry. This tree starts out with showy white flowers in the spring and the leaves turn from green to purple as the summer progresses and then to a bright yellow and orange in the fall. It is a beautiful showpiece that is very easy to care for and does not require a lot of maintenance.
Shrubs work well for hedges and borders wherever you want to divide a section of your yard or provide a break or focal point. They also fill those empty spaces between large trees and small annuals. It is exciting that, today, you can find cold hardy cultivars for plants that used to be only for warmer regions and one of those to try is forsythia. This shrub is the first in the spring to burst into bloom with brilliant yellow flowers and it loves full sun.
The best place in the northeast for trees, shrubs and expert advice is E-Tree, The Tree Farm. This family business has been in operation since 1988 with over four acres of display area. Check their website for an online resource guide that is packed with information about the varieties they offer.
Tip: Dwarf conifers are perfect if you have limited space. They are compact, look great year-round and come in all shapes, sizes and colours. They can also be planted in containers to use as fillers and can be moved as your garden or yard evolves.
Pots & Containers
Where to begin? Pots and containers are such a great way to decorate your garden, yard, deck or entrance way. Whether you plant the more popular annuals such as petunias or you go with some of the new and unique plant varieties, containers and pots let you personalize your display. Go ahead and turn them into yard art!
There are three main things to consider when buying containers:
Whichever style you select it needs to have adequate drainage holes. Excess water needs to be removed or your plants will drown. If your soil smells sour, this could be an indication that you have a drainage issue with your container.
Porous containers have advantages and disadvantages. They are made from materials that “breathe” which allows air to circulate around the plant roots. Because this type of container allows moisture to evaporate out the side, the soil is cooler and excess water is drawn out which prevents root rot.
If mobility and changing the look of your garden or yard on a regular basis is important then you will want to consider the weight of your container. Moist soil is very heavy so if you have a heavy container, it makes it harder to move around. If stability is your concern, then a heavier container that does not get blown over in the wind would be your choice.
Regardless of the style, size or material, remember to match your container to your plants. They need room to grow and adequate oxygen for their roots.
Grow bags are relatively new to the marketplace and might be the right option for you. They come in a small variety of colours and have handles which makes it easy to move your plants.
For the largest selection of pots and containers, the place to go is Triple T Greenery near Bonnyville. Judy has been in business since 1992 and has the largest selection of pots and containers including Asian pottery. While there, be sure to check out her stock of water fountains, pond material and water plants.
Tip: Use pots and containers to micro garden or fill them with your favourite herbs for year-round enjoyment.
To plan your greenhouse tour in the Lakeland, check our complete listing here and have a great adventure!
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