It's Still Just Dirt

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As we near the end of the summer growing season it’s fun to look back and think about what we really enjoyed in our gardens this year. For some it might be an especially hard-to-grow flower, or a vegetable plant that just keeps producing. For this column I turned to some members of our Horticultural Society to ask what they most enjoyed in their gardens this year.

Let’s start off with some short and sweet quick answers.

Dena Luyt grows marigolds in huge numbers. She plants them from seed and her garden has been absolutely full of yellow flowers all summer long. Dena says she hates to take them out, but for sure she will save the seeds for another year and her sister says to save the seeds for her too.

Marie Smith was the successful bidder on a number of planters at the Horticultural Society’s Garden Auction in May. She says that they have been great bloomers this summer, just loaded with colourful impatiens in one, and beautiful begonias in another.

For Karen Lewkowicz tall grasses have been her favourites including Zebra grass, and Miscanthus Gigantius which stands 12 feet high and six feet wide. “Low maintenance is a real plus with grasses,” Karen says.

Mignonne Trepanier, who tends the Senior Centre garden, says this year we planted annual vinca after some deliberation. “They were more expensive, but have delivered bloom all season.” They tolerate drought and heat and don’t require deadheading. “Their growth habit is pleasing with dark glossy green foliage and white, pink or purple flowers and they always look good” says Mignonne. “I'm sold on vinca.”

Some gardeners enjoy plants that are more exotic. George Stier’s Monkey Puzzle tree has been the highlight of his garden this year. George says he brought the tree home seven or eight years ago on a flight from Victoria where his daughter lives. He had seen them at Butchart Gardens standing 25 feet tall.

“From a distance it looks like a pine tree, but the leaves are really more like scales along the stem,” George says. His tree now measures six feet tall and it spends winters in the garage.

Albert and Carol Acre especially enjoyed their succulent Prickly Pear cactus this summer. Albert says it is the only cactus that will grow and winter over in this area and its beautiful yellow flowers are amazing. The Prickly Pear stands about a foot tall and likes sandy soil and full sun.

Sometimes ideas for plants come from fellow gardeners -- Christine Nagy learned about the Vigerosa Sienna carpet rose from horticultural member, Allyson MacDonald.

“I subsequently purchased a couple of bushes and I love them! The roses start blooming in mid-June and bloom continuously until mid-November. The coral-pink flowers are lovely.” The plant is disease and pest resistant. Christine says she prunes the carpet roses heavily in the spring and lightly throughout the growing season. “I fertilize once a month with Epsom salts and that's it.” Christine says she has other Vigerosa varieties but none are the spectacular performers that the Sienna is.

Sometimes we’re not sure where plants come from. Marian Smith had two surprises in her garden this year. Both came, she assumes, from those “pesky annoying squirrels.” Marian says a beautiful dark red celosia (that she didn’t plant) came up in her garden as well as another gorgeous tall plant that is just now flowering with lovely purple stalks. “Every year I have tulips come up too that the squirrels moved from someone else’s garden,” she says.

A couple of notes from the herb and vegetable growers.

JuleyVan Daalen planted purple basil and variegated hot tri-colour pepper plants in with her annual containers this year. She says the purple basil, as a taller plant, looked amazing with the purple sweet potato vine trailer and other annuals in between. “I’ll have basil all winter too as I have dried it, and the pepper plants have provided hot peppers for salsa.” Julie says she will definitely plant those again next year.

Judi Misener planted garlic for the first time this year after learning how at the Stratford Garlic Festival. “I’m getting ready to plant another bed before our first frost this fall,” Judi says. “I’ll cover it in mulched leaves and watch for it to come up next spring. Garlic likes the cold.”

And lastly, Jan Torrell tells us about her really nice gas plant that has taken about five years to get to be a good size. “The reason it’s called gas plant,” Jan says “is because if you light a match above the bloom when it just opens, the gas released by the plant will ignite.”

Jan says that this year it finally bloomed with a massive amount of pink flowers, “and when it was finished, I watched a Giant Swallowtail butterfly lay eggs all over it. Then last week a caterpillar that looked like bird droppings (for protection) worked its way around the leaves and it has now gone into a chrysalis to keep over the winter.” Jan says she won’t be cutting her gas plant down now until spring.

And how about you? What did you love in your garden in 2013?


The Tillsonburg Horticultural Society’s next General Meeting is set for Tuesday, November 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Senior Centre Auditorium at the Tillsonburg Community Centre. Our guest speaker is Paul Zammit, Director of Horticulture at the Toronto Botanical Gardens, and he will talk about Winter Container Arranging.

For more information about the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society check out our website at


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