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Continuous Colour
by Dan Clost
by Dan Clost


First serious garden earned 25 cents from the Kemptville Horticultural Society when I was 12. Have been poor in horticulture ever since but rich in spirit.

Went to work writing the Good Earth column (over 500 articles published in newspaper, magazine, website and journal.) and learned that what was printed wasn't what I wanted to say and certainly not what Gentle Reader understood me to say. Subsequently have developed a certain clarity and economy of words.

Day job- nursery and production manager for a large nursery/garden centre
Side job- Garden restoration and renovations, design consultations, remedial pruning.
Night job- garden writer and communicator (overnight success in another 20 years)

Dan gardens in Canadian Zone 5b

April 14, 2002

A winter column is a good time to talk about continuous colour. What colours are present outside? Blue skies and white snow or is everything grey? Do you have conifers to relieve the stark black and white of a dormant forest? It can be a bleak time of the year. 
This is pretty much a down time for us as well. We might be propagating a few of our favourite plants from cuttings but otherwise not much gardening is happening. A caution: many plants we purchase are copyrighted and it is illegal to clone new plants. Check the tag when you purchase them.
Let's put this barren time to good use. A piece of paper, some pencil crayons and an uninhibited imagination are all you need to while away those long, dark winter nights. Here are some suggestions for year round continuous colour. 
December, January, February and March can be a tad dreary for our gardenscapes. Try a couple of evergreens. Some dogwoods with their different colour bark, maybe cotoneaster for berries, and vines for texture relief along walls or chain link fences. A caution about trees and shrubs: give them room to grow. The term "foundation planting" doesn't mean plunk them against the side of the house.
Late March and April sees us and the landscape a tad jaded. Except for a few early returning snowbirds, most of us are walking around with grey complexions and humour to match. Crocuses (croci?) are our saving grace. Even the early snowdrops with their pristine white are welcomed as harbingers of the new season. If it is a warm spring, such as we had in 1998, we can expect to see tulip, daffodils and other bulbs producing their foliage. Not a whole lot of colour variation here but it is such a glorious green.
April and May will see the creeping phlox, Phlox subulata, take over the edges of the flower beds- white, pink, yellow and purple are all available. Columbine (Aquilegia) and violas follow them. Columbines are wonderful plants; early, distinctive blooms followed by a pleasing clump of foliage with an interesting lobed leaf. This chappie earns its keep all season long. Bulbs are coming into their own and can continue until mid-June.
June brings us the real blooming season: delphiniums, Shasta daises, gypsophila, peonies, arabeis, armaria, cerastium, pyrethrum, cheirantus, heuchera, foxglove, Gaillardia, bleeding heart, Monarda and hockeysock of others.
July is much the same. We see a continuation of most of the June flowers and add another hockeysock of new blooms: day lilies, yuccas, hosta, hollyhocks, astilbe, campanulas, physalis, sedum and regal lilies.
August gives us medium and tall phloxes, veronicas, helianthus and coreopsis. The early part of the month has platycodon and other lilies such as auratum and rubrum. Mid to end month presents cone flowers, calendulas, asters, and hibiscus. 
In September colours abound in the garden and on the hillsides. Dwarf burning bush (Euonymous alatus) is starting to change, poplar and birch have yellowed, the maples are hinting that their season is over. Mums, astilbe, tritomas, asters, rudbeckia and even zinnias are the mainstays. Calendulas are doing nicely and you may find some tenacious Gaillardia with a few late blooms.
October gives us the final transition of deciduous trees; a few clumps of herbaceous perennials. We can end with the sedum, kale and fall crocuses being blanketed by the russets of fallen leaves.
November is a transition month best left alone. It is usually rainy, the last of the leaves have dropped from the trees, the winds have shifted and the steel grey rain has a coldness in it. (Actually it is a good bulb planting time.)
There are many other plants not mentioned here that will fit into your plan quite nicely. Don't be afraid to experiment. Let your drawings brighten up this season of discontent until that glorious sun of summer returns.

Dan - Diploma in Agriculture, University of Guelph, 1979 and Diploma in Horticulture, University of Guelph, Kemptville Campus, 1999. In between, and a little bit on the other, been a soldier, an orchardist [10 yrs manager of a large commercial orchard] and a social worker [ten years as interpreter, advocate and linguistic analyst focussing on deafness]. Currently employed at a large garden centre/ nursery as the wholesaler. 

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