FAQs

Everything you need to know!

1. Are you Open all year?

Parkway Gardens is open from the first week in January until Christmas Eve day at 2 pm.

We are a growing Greenhouse, so we are constantly starting new crops. Because we will be at the Greenhouse tending to our crops, we would love for you to come and visit us!  On a sunny day in the winter, the Greenhouse can reach 80 degrees. Who needs a tropical holiday?

2. The leaves of my plant are all brown along the edge. What’s wrong with it?

Over 90% of all plant problems revolve around watering - usually not enough, but also over watering. In the greenhouse plants in the spring and summer are watered daily, so that their root ball is wet to the point of run-off. Plants outside need regular watering, often daily if it is sunny and windy. Overwatering most frequently occurs when there is no, or inadequate drainage. Make sure that the pots have drainage holes and that hey are not blocked. It is important that you water so that excess water drains through the soil as it will remove any buildup of salts that occurs naturally over time.

3. Will you diagnose our plant disease/insect pests?

Yes, bring in a sample of the plant in a sealed clear plastic bag and our staff of horticulturists will do their best to identify the problem and provide a solution for you.

4. What’s the difference between an annual and a perennial and a tropical?

An annual lives one year, a perennial lives two or more years, and a tropical is a plant originates from tropical regions. A tropical may be perennial in its country of origin, but never in our region.

5. What do the numbers on fertilizers mean?

The numbers refer to the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. That means that a 20-20-20 fertilizer contains 20% of each of the three macronutrients, and the remaining 40% is an inert filler. Macronutrients are the major required nutrients plants use in large quantities, while micronutrients are elements such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and molybdenum that plants need in small amounts. A good fertilizer will contain   micronutrients as well as the macronutrients.

6. What plants need to be fertilized?

Potting soil used for   containers such as patio pots, or hanging baskets, has few nutrients, so   fertilizing is essential. Plants growing in the ground may have   adequate nutrients from the soil, but will grow bigger and bloom more   with regular feeding.

7. What's better, water soluble, granular or slow release fertilizers?

Each has its place: use water soluble fertilizer for an immediate boost on annuals, perennials   and flowering plants. Slow release is great for container plants, especially hanging baskets that may be more difficult to reach. Granular is ideal for outdoor plantings such as shrubs evergreens and   perennials.

8. How often should I fertilize?

We recommend fertilizing weekly when using water soluble fertilizer for container plants, and every two weeks for plants in the ground.

9. How should I water?

We recommend watering with a Dramm type wand and breaker. The breaker creates a gentle shower of water. We strongly urge gardeners not to use the pistol or nozzle type sprayers, as they create a high pressure spray, resulting in plant abuse. Water in the morning or early afternoon so that plants dry off by nightfall. Droplets of water do NOT create a "lens effect", scorching plants, otherwise we would see vast areas of scorched plants after every daytime rain shower.

10. How should I water my lawn/garden?

If hand watering, water at the base of the plant, not the top. Using soaker hoses is more effective than using overhead sprinklers, as less water is wasted in evaporation. Deep watering every 2 or 3 days creates stronger deeper roots than light daily waterings.

11. How often do I water my plant?

Every plant has unique demands for water. Succulents need very little water, while many flowering plants need daily watering. Know your plants requirements, but be flexible- use the finger test. Water meters don’t work, and the only way to reliably test soil for dryness is to use your finger tip- that's right get dirty and stick it in the soil.

12. What kind of mulch is the best?

We like to use shredded cedar bark, but any type of clean bark mulch or nuggets works well. Do not use leaf litter or grass clippings, as the decomposing organic material robs nitrogen from the soil in the process, and leaf litter may harbour fungal diseases.

13. How should I prepare to plant my trees?

Pick a site that has good drainage and is located far enough away from other trees and power lines that it won’t create problems in years ahead. Dig a hole 1 1/2 times as large as the root bale of the tree, and mix about 1/3 of the original soil with triple mix and peat moss. Add several inches of this mix in the bottom of the hole, so that the crown of the tree is at ground level. Place the root bale in the hole, removing any burlap , or cutting away as much of the pot as possible without disturbing the roots. If drainage is very poor, raise the root bale so that some of the root bale will be above ground level. Back fill with the rest of the soil mix, pressing down with your heel to eliminate any air pockets around the root bale. If the tree is more than 2m tall, or is in a windy location, staking is required. Use sturdy 2X2 stakes, and tie off with a line or cable protected by a length of old garden hose, so that the bark doesn't get damaged.

14. What can I grow under walnuts?
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture has published an excellent list of walnut tolerant plants. Walnut trees produce a toxic substance called juglone that acts like a natural weed killer, and most deep rooted plants wither away in the root zone of a walnut. Shallow rooted plants often can thrive. There is a list at http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/info_walnut_toxicity.htm
15. What can I do to prevent deer/mice/rabbits from eating my plants?
There are 3 ways to deal with wildlife snacking in the garden; remove the pests, remove the plants or use a repellent. While live trapping rabbits or using mouse bait may reduce pest populations, they’ll usually come back. Larger pests such as deer are more difficult to remove. Some animals show strong preference for some plants - rabbits find garden pinks (or dianthus) absolutely delicious, so it may be necessary to simply find an alternative that won’t become dinner. Finally repellents work - to a degree. All involve applying some kind of unpalatable or noxious smelling repellent to the plant or the area around the plant. Virtually all repellents will be washed away after the first rain, so they all require diligent reapplication. Repellents can be of commercial origin such as Skoot or Blood meal - I find Skoot works well. Popular home made repellents include; mothballs, human hair clippings, used cat litter, hot pepper cocktails, to name but a few. Some are perhaps human repellents as well.
16. What is Xeriscaping, and why should I think about it?

Xeriscaping, or dry gardening, is the art of creating beautiful gardens that thrive with little water.   Xeriscaping requires learning which plants are water misers, and practicing conservation techniques. This is vital today since in some urban areas water consumption for lawn and garden use tops 25%, clearly an unsustainable rate.  As our recent hot summers strongly indicate, our climate is becoming both warmer and more severe.   Learning to garden with less water is both less expensive, and less of a stress on municipal and private water supplies.  Creating gardens that thrive under dry conditions is also rewarding when many other gardens fade away in the summer heat.  Another benefit of xeriscaping is that many of the species of plants frequently used require little or no fertilizing, are often native species, and usually have few pest or disease problems.  Finally dry gardens often require less plant maintenance.

17. Why do I have moss growing all over my garden and how do I get rid of it?

Moss usually indicates two things happening in the garden. Moss needs lots of moisture and a low pH, or acidic conditions. Ensuring adequate drainage is the first step, and the pH can be raised with the use of horticultural lime to bring the pH up.   On the other hand, acidifying the soil and keeping it moist are  what one would want to do if you trying to grow moss.

18. My new house has no topsoil . What can I plant?

The foundation of a good garden depends on good soil, which means you must invest in good topsoil. The layer of naturally occurring loam in this area is at least 30 cm deep, and can often reach 1 metre in depth.  There simply is no shortcut if you want healthy lawns, vigorous trees and beautiful gardens.  Soil can be put in deeper banks for flower beds, and depths of 5 cm are considered to be minimum for grass.  Do not lay sod directly on clay - this will lead to grass that gets stressed every summer.  Clay soils are actually very nutrient rich, and will support mature trees and other deep rooted plants, but the layer of humous rich topsoil is vital for the development of young trees and shallow rooted perennials and annuals.

19. Do perennials live forever?

The answer is maybe. Some perennials, once established keep growing and spreading. If you have ever battled bugleweed, (Ajuga) in your lawn, you know that some perennials can be virtually immortal. Some perennials tend to grow well for a number of years, but the centre of the plant gets too dense with old growth, and the whole crown eventually dies out. Coral bells (Heuchera) and fountain grasses (Pennisetum) are two examples that show this behaviour. Sometimes all that is needed to renew the plant is to dig it up every number of years and divide it. Some perennials are actually biennial, meaning that they germinate from seed in the late summer or fall of one year, and flower and die in the second. Lupins, Sweet Williams(Dianthus barbatus), and Gloriosa Daisies(Rudbeckia hirta) are examples of some common biennials. They often appear to be perfectly perennial as they can easily sow themselves out - if they are not deadheaded Finally, one of the maxims of gardening is the right plant for the right place. Any plant may die out if its growing requirements are not met - put a heavily variegated Hosta like "Patriot" in the full sun without moisture and rigor hortis will follow soon after.

20. When can I divide perennials?

Perennials are best divided in the spring before new growth appears.   Moving and dividing in the summer puts a tremendous amount of stress on the plant when temperatures are at their highest, and rainfall is infrequent.  Perennials can also be divided and replanted in the fall when temperatures are cooler, allowing enough time to root in before killing night frosts occur.

21. When can I prune shrubs and trees?

Generally speaking, spring is when most pruning is done, with some exceptions. 
*Evergreens such as pine and spruce should only have the new growth (called candles) trimmed after they elongate, while yews, cedars (thujas) and junipers may be trimmed throughout the growing season. 
*Fruit trees must be trimmed before the sap runs, usually by mid March.
*Pollarded trees, such as catalpa or Paulownia, must be trimmed also before saps runs. 
*Flowering shrubs are generally trimmed after flowering.  In the case of mop head hydrangeas, this means pruning after the flowers are finished in August.  Peegee types can be lightly trimmed early in the spring.
In the case of overgrown flowering shrubs, such as lilacs, it may become necessary to cut back heavily.  This can be done over three years, cutting out 1/3 of the old growth every year, so as not to sacrifice all the flowers in the following year.

22. When do I cut back my perennials?
It is desirable to cut back perennials when they finish blooming, unless the seed heads are  attractive in their own right, or if you wish to keep the seed for your own use, or that of the birds.  Ornamental grasses are considered to be attractive through the winter, and are cut back in early spring.  Rudbeckias and other Coneflowers(Echinaceas) are often kept for their interesting seed heads, which can last through the winter.  Some biennials such as Lupins, Gloriosa Daisies(Rudbeckia hirta), and Sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus) should not be cut back before they can sow themselves out.
23. What can I plant on a wall?

Vines come in two basic flavours: clingers and twiners.  A Boston ivy is a clinger, with little finger like tendrils that will adhere to any surface.  Clingers include English Ivy, Virginia Creeper, Euonymous and  Grapes and  all will cover any wall they are planted against.  Vines such as clematis, Wisteria, and Trumpet Vine depend on some form of support that they can twine their shoots around.  Lattice screens, trellises and fences all can be used to support twiners.

24. What plants are poisonous?

Many plants have a bad reputation, but the real killers are often not well identified.  Many plants have a milky sap, such as poinsettias, that is irritating, but not poisonous.  Some of the most poisonous plants include:  Castor Bean seeds,  Foxglove (Digitalis), Aconite,  Angels Trumpet (Brugmansia),  Oleander, Lupine seeds.  For a detailed list on poisonous plants and their active ingredients go to:
http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/comlist.html or http://www.cbif.gc.ca/pls/pp/ppack.list?p_sci=sci&p_type=all&p_x=px

25. What plants are invasive?

Unfortunately our desire for new plant varieties has also produced a number of unwanted aliens.  Not little green men but little green plants, if you will.  One of the most notorious in Ontario is purple loosestrife (Lythrum) but many other species are also causing concern.  Some of the most visible invaders are readily visible roadside:  Giant reed (phragmites), Ditch lily (Hemerocallis fulva), and Chinese Silver banner grass (Miscanthus).These links have some excellent information:
http://www.usna.usda.gov/Gardens/invasives.html
http://www.rbg.ca/cbcn/en/projects/invasives/i_herb1.html

26. What are some good trees for small lots?

There are quite a few nice trees that grow in a columnar form, that don’t occupy a large amount of space. Linden trees are very popular in Northern Europe, and are becoming a very common sight in our gardens as well. Columnar Red Oak is another good choice, while the Ivory Silk Lilac is a lovely spring flowering tree. Grafted standards of all description never get very large, as the grafted ornamental portion is limited by the graft.

27. What trees or shrubs can I grow in a container?

If growing trees or shrubs in a small container, you should consider them to be annuals, as they will not likely over winter well, unless you provide additional protection to prevent freezing. Evergreens that look nice in a container include boxwood (Buxus), false cypress(Chamaecyparis), Cedar(Thuja), and yews(Taxus).

Large containers, with large soil volumes (greater than 1 cubic metre) are able to grow either trees or shrubs to a large size. Trees in even these containers will still be relatively short lived, but may be attractive for up to several decades.

28. What does hardy mean?

When customers ask us if a plant is hardy, they are asking is it tough?   But when a horticulturist says a plant is hardy, they are saying that it will survive freezing.

29. How do I know whether a plant likes sun or shade?

All plant tags at a minimum have the light requirements printed on the tag.  A yellow sun means full sun, a half black, half yellow sun means part shade, and an all black orb means the plant requires full shade.

30. What is pH, and what does it mean to our plants?

pH is a scale used to described the acidity or basicity of a substance. A pH of 7 is neutral (distilled water), while less than pH is acidic and greater than 7 is basic. The scale is logarithmic, that is each decrease or increase of 1 is in fact a ten fold increase or decrease in strength, just like the Richter scale used for measuring earthquake strength. The significance of pH to gardeners is that most plants like to grow in a particular pH range, that allows them to make best use of nutrients. Many plants such as common annuals and perennials like a pH range of 5.5(slightly acidic) to 7.5.  Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Blueberries(Vaccinium) and Pieris like pH’s in a lower range, 4.0 to 6.0. This can be achieved by using acid fertilizers and amending the soil yearly with peat moss.
In our loam or clay soils we usually need not worry about altering the pH. We may see a high pH, around 7.0 to 8.5, where there is naturally occurring limestone, or limestone gravel beds. Soils that are sandy tend to be somewhat basic, but can shift their pH radically if receiving acidic rainfall. The best way to alter sandy soils pH is to add organic material such as manure and compost. This will lower the pH, and buffer it from wild swings as well.

31. How much shade can sunny plants tolerate?

We consider any location that receives five or six hours of afternoon sun to be a full sunny location.  If the plant receives bright dappled light all day, sunny plants can be planted as well.

32. How much sun can shady plants tolerate?

Most shade plants can take some full sun, but should avoid being located where they receive sun from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the afternoon(e.g. Astilbe, Hosta).  If the plant does get more sun it is important that it has ample moisture in the soil.  Some plants, especially woodland natives, will not tolerate any sun (e.g. Ligularia, Cimicifuga).

33. Why should I mulch?
Mulch is the gardeners best friend.  Mulching prevents weed from germinating, and conserves moisture.  Use clean shredded conifer bark ( cedar, pine or hemlock) in a layer 5 to 10 cm deep, and top up every third year.  Dyed mulches allow you to be creative in how your garden looks.  Never mulch with stone or gravel - weeds easily grow in between the stones, and the stones collect heat.
34. What are clematis groups and what does it mean when I prune my clematis?

Most clematis are hybrids, and thus have a varied genetic ancestry. Each group has a different growth habit, and it is important to know what group your plants belong in.

Group 1 flowers early on last years growth. Prune only after
flowering.

Group 2 flowers on new growth off of last years growth.
Light pruning is needed to promote branching  when large, fat flowering buds appear. Prune above the last pair of fat buds in March or April.

Group 3 flowers entirely on new growth. Prune hard to about 30 cm above ground in early spring before new growth.

35. I've had problems with algae in my pond. How can I get rid of it?

Even the smallest pond is a complete miniature ecosystem.  Cover the surface of the ponds to 75% with floating plants to block most of the light below.  Add oxygenating plants below the surface of the pond to add oxygen into the water.  A small circulating pump or fountain will also bring more air into the pond.  Use snails to clean  up any dead plant material, and some small feeder goldfish to deal with any unwanted insect larvae.

36. Do You over-winter plants?

No, due to the high cost of heating fuel, we can’t afford to heat extra space in our greenhouses.

37. What are native plants, and why should I try to use them in the garden?

Native plants are plants that are originally found in a geographic area, and presumably evolved in the local ecosystem.  They tend to be well adapted to local climatic conditions, and have some degree of resistance to native pests and diseases.  There are now many cultivars of native trees shrubs and perennials available, and most people would agree that it is a good idea to attempt to preserve our natural flora whenever possible.  The flip side of this debate is that many introduced ornamentals have become invasive pests that displace native plants.  Just think of Purple Loosestrife(Lythrum), and Norway Maples(Acer platanoides). In the Southern States, an native Asian vine, kudzu, is destroying thousands of hectares of woodland.

It's a Perfect Time For...

planting with all the rain!