For Colette and Alain Patenaude, both their land and love of gardening is a family affair. When they married in 1984, the couple made their home in the 1880s Russell farmhouse built by Alain's grandfather. At first there were a few flower beds here and there, but each year Colette would read books for ideas and add a new section. “That’s how it became our little paradise,” she said. Additional advice came from other gardeners, books, and many questions asked at the local garden centres.
To create your own garden paradise, it’s essential to think carefully about design. Start with annuals on the edges for a consistent splash of colour throughout the season, then look at height and colours to decide which plantings would complement each other. Pick plants that flower at different times during the season and bushes and trees with varying colours, textures, and shapes. “You want to make sure you have a showpiece all summer to enjoy,” advises Colette.
Depending on the location of the garden, plan for full sun, mid-shade, or even full shade and decide what best to put there. The Patenaude garden offers seating in a small wooded area where they have planted plenty of hostas which do well in treed and shaded areas.
Another practical consideration is how to water your plants. The Patenaudes’ gardens include a lot of hanging baskets, many of which Colette designed and created herself. “You have to be very committed to watering them daily,” she says, “especially in the hot summer weather.” She admits it takes up to an hour and a half each evening after work to water everything. Consider more convenient options, like drip irrigation systems along your flower beds, or choosing flowers like geraniums which tend not to be quite as thirsty.
As the gardens developed, bit by bit, Colette and Alain got more experience about what works. Each year they split the large perennials and in early spring they apply controlled-release plant food. In addition, every two weeks they apply a 15-30-15 water solution. Weeding and maintenance of the flowerbeds is a weekly chore, and the veteran gardeners always advise to stay on top of bed and plant maintenance. Mulch helps to keep the soil moist during the hot summer days. Each year its advisable to amend the soil with cow manure, top soil, and compost. If your garden attracts earthworms then you know the soil is rich.
For the Birds
To attract local wildlife including hummingbirds, cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, woodpeckers, goldfinches, house finches, mourning doves and robins, the key is to include a variety of plants in your design. Many of the Patenaudes’ flowers are favourites of hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, including petunias, columbines, hydrangeas, cornflowers and phlox. Of course, adding feeders in your yard always puts out a warm invitation to more winged visitors.