A unique plant every gardener should incorporate into their garden is the bleeding heart because it provides a splash of colour to those shady areas of the garden. The bleeding heart is a perennial plant which means it will bloom again every year in the spring. This plant is often recognized for its drooping heart-shaped flowers. There are many different species of bleeding hearts available to gardeners.
Examples of Species
The most familiar species to gardeners is called Common Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis). It will grow into large mounds which can be 47 inches in height and can spread about 18 inches across. Flowers will bloom in the late spring and early summer. The flowers have white inner petals and pink outer petals.
Another species of bleeding heart often seen in gardens is called Fringed Bleeding Heart (Dicentra exima). It is called a ‘fringed’ bleeding heart because it has grey-green fern-like leaves. It will form clumps that are 24 inches in height and can spread about 18 inches. The flowers bloom in the spring and are either white or pink.
The last species that is of particular interest to gardeners is called the Western Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa). This plant’s most distinguishing features include blue-green fern-like leaves, and pink flowers. It is a low-growing plant that can reach a height of 18 inches and can spread across as much as 36 inches. More often than not this plant species is found in gardens on the west coast of Canada because it is found growing wild in the forests.
Growing Conditions and Uses
All species of bleeding hearts require similar growing conditions which include; planting in shade or part shade, and average to moist soil. You can plant bleeding hearts in full sun, but the plant will stop producing flowers midway through the summer when the sun is its most intense. They should be well-watered throughout the summer, but not to the point that you have waterlogged soil (can result in root rot). Placing compost around the plant will ensure it gets the nutrients it requires and will result in the requirement of less fertilizer. Planting in shade or part shade will also ensure that your bleeding heart remains in bloom until the fall. Since most species of bleeding hearts grow naturally in shady woodlands and moist canyons, they are well-suited to shade gardens and woodland gardens. They can also be planted in close proximity to a pond or stream.
Final Thoughts on Bleeding Heart
There are many different varieties of bleeding heart to choose from with different flower and leaf colours. A few examples to choose from include Dicentra spectablis “alba” which has flowers that are entirely white, and Dicentra spectablis “Steward Boothman” which has dark pink flowers and blue-grey leaves. Coral Bells and Hostas are good companion plants with bleeding hearts and help fill in the gaps after the leaves start to turn. Leaf spot and downy mildew can be an occasional issue, but usually this plant species will not encounter problems as long as you provide proper care for it.
It’s pansy time! http://ow.ly/4Bs0z
Everything in life needs protection whether we are protecting our skin from the sun or protecting our cars from rust. What about soil? Soil needs protection from the wind, sun and the rain. Gardeners and horticulturalists solve that problem by creating a protective blanket on the soil surface called mulch. Mulch not only protects the soil surface, it also has the added benefits of retaining moisture and providing a barrier to weeds.
What is mulch made of?
Mulch can be composed of organic (i.e. formerly living) materials such as shredded leaves, hay, straw, grass clippings, and wood chips. Some organic materials such as cocoa bean hulls are aromatic but if you have pets it can be toxic to them (Harris, 2009). Shredded newspaper can be good to use as mulch because only vegetable-based inks are used. Inorganic (i.e. non-living) materials such as plastic sheets, landscape fabric, stones, and rubber mulches can also be used in the garden. The main issue with inorganic mulches is that they do not breakdown like the organic ones and don’t provide nutrients to the soil.
When do you mulch?
Usually mulching can be done during the spring (after the snow has melted and the soil surface has warmed up), summer, and fall. If you choose to apply mulch late in the fall wait until the ground is frozen to prevent the mulch from being used as a shelter to warmth-seeking rodents. Certain vegetables can only be mulched once the soil is warm and moist such as tomatoes and snap beans.
How do you mulch?
Different situations in the garden require you to use different mulching techniques. If you plan on mulching trees and shrubs that are surrounded by lawn, create a donut-shaped ring around each plant extending 3 to 6 feet out. The mulch depth for trees and shrubs should be 2 to 3 inches and should not be piled against the trunk as it will increase the chance of rot. If you decide to mulch a flower bed then the entire bed should be covered with a layer of mulch that is 3 inches in depth (Reaf, 2011). Make sure to spread the mulch evenly across the bed using a small rake to make sure no spots are bare (hands can be used for those tight spaces).
Final thoughts on mulch
There are times when mulching the garden bed should be avoided. Do not apply mulch when the soil is too soggy (waterlogged) because air will not be able to reach the soil and it creates ideal conditions for mould to grow on your plants. Never mulch on extremely dry soil as the mulch will take away the small amount of moisture in the soil resulting in killing off the plants (Harris, 2009). Please check out the references below for further information on mulching.
Author: Adam Mohamed
Harris, M. 2009. Ecological Gardening. “Mulching and Fertilizing: To Feed and Protect” Random House
McGill University. Ecological Agricultural Projects “Mulching” http://eap.mcgill.ca/publications/eap64.htm Accessed on March 24, 2011
Reaf, D. Virginia Tech and Virginia State University. “Mulching for a Healthy Landscape”
http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/426/426-724/426-724.html Accessed on March 24, 2011
Gardens are wonderful places where flowers and vegetables can grow and flourish. Unfortunately gardens also provide a home for unwanted plants also known as weeds. How do you as a gardener determine if a plant is a weed? A few things to take note of are; whether the plant has spread to most places in the flower bed, and if it starts to crowd out the other plants.
Native vs Non-Native?
There are ways of distinguishing whether or not a plant is a weed. Most plants that are native ( i.e they have been growing in a region before European settlement) are not considered to be weeds. Weeds are usually non-native that is they have come to a particular region as a result of an accidental introduction by European pioneers by their ships or by the seeds that may have stuck to the bottom of their shoes when they arrived (Harris, 2009).
Why should you be concerned?
Weeds produce many seeds which is a quality that helps them take over a garden or lawn. Remember that one dandelion in a lawn can become a thousand dandelions within a few days. Some weeds don’t show up in the garden for many years, but once they germinate they can pose a problem for your garden. Weeds not only spread to all areas of the garden, but they also steal nutrients and moisture from more favourable plants. Weeds unlike other plants can adapt to all types of environmental conditions. Some weeds such as the tree of heaven can grow in the cracks of pavement and still be able to thrive. Other weeds such as the giant hogweed can cause harm when handled or even if it brushes against your skin because the sap causes painful blisters when it is on your skin and exposed to the sun (Harris, 2009).
How do you manage weeds?
You have a choice on whether to remove a weed or let it remain in the garden. It is important to identify the plant first before you make a decision. You can refer to gardening books, reputable websites, or ask gardening experts if you are not able to identify it yourself.
Once a weed has been identified you can determine whether control is needed. Should you decide to control the weed or weeds there are a variety of methods available to the gardener.
Physically removing weeds by hand or shovel are acceptable ways of solving the problem as long as you get all or most of the root. Sometimes you can encounter areas of the garden that are too weed-infested and require different methods of control. Soil solarization is an excellent solution for such a situation. The first step of soil solarization requires you to dig up the area, and rake off all of the weeds. Next cover the area with a sheet of dark plastic and secure the sheet to the ground with heavy objects such as bricks or cinder blocks (this will prevent the sheet from being blown away by the wind). Leave the sheet on the affected area for approximately six weeks. The idea is that the plastic in combination with the sun’s heat act together like an oven and cook up any weed seeds and disease-causing organisms in the soil. Please stay tuned for future articles on weeds and check out the references below for further information.
Author: Adam Mohamed
Agriculture and Agri-food Canada. Ontario Weeds: Online Weed Information and Identification Resource. http://www.ontarioweeds.com/ Accessed on April 7, 2011
Harris, M. 2009. Ecological Gardening. Weeds: Friends or Foes? Random House
As our minds lean more towards a simpler less invasive world, and the environment and our health are becoming matters of importance, we as a people are searching for ways to minimize toxins and pesticide into our lives.
With the new laws coming up all the time banning pesticides, it is getting harder and harder to maintain the monoculture we call a lawn.
I for one am not a big fan of large green lawns. Unless you need the space for child’s play and games, why not convert your space to a naturalized garden.
Naturalized gardens offer so many benefits on the level of health, environment, economy, efficiency, and time management.
Health: by minimizing lawn and adding shrubs, trees, and plants you are contributing to the air, allowing for more oxygen to be cleaned, allowing you to breathe fresher air.
Environment: With the mass of development arising every day, we have lost much of our biodiversity that makes the ecological world go around. A naturalized garden can promote life in the form of insects, butterflies, birds and small animals. (Keep in mind, they won’t bug you, they’ll just enjoy your garden)
Economy: Most plants recommended for a Naturalized garden will need little attention once they are established. You will save money by not having to water plants every day. A well planned naturalized garden will do well with the water nature provides. Most plants are also inexpensive, and can often be shared among other Natural garden lovers.
Efficiency: Naturalized gardens, once established, become their own working engine. The insects are turning the soil and adding nutrients every day, the bees birds and butterflies are taking care of the pollination of plants. In time, this leaves little else for you to do except watch and enjoy!
Time management: No more weekly lawn cutting or water schedules. No worrying over water restrictions, or bad patches in the lawn. A naturalized garden flows and grows without much of your help. Mostly, you get to enjoy it!