Choosing a Shrub

burning bushI’ve heard it said if you have big feet you have a good foundation. I know if you have a variety of well-placed shrubs in your yard you have a good foundation.

The trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals in your yard should be considered in that order. The type and number of trees determine the amount of light for planting shrubs, perennials and annuals. Annuals are the icing on the cake, for decoration with their long-season blooms.

Perennials, with their individual assets, provide bloom or leaf colour and texture at certain times during the year.

Shrubs need to be strategically placed according to their needs and growth habits. Shrubs, like perennials, take a bit of a lesson to know how and where they will perform their best. There are many factors to consider when choosing a shrub.

Are you looking for fragrance? Do you need a shrub for the wet shady area or the dry sandy area in full sun? Do you want autumn colour? Is attracting the birds to your oasis important? Which shrubs will attract winter interest? Is the beautiful, burgundy Barberry bush going to survive our 3-4 growing zone? What can you plant in your rock garden? Do you need a ‘wow look at me’ specimen shrub?

I’ll give a brief lesson here beginning with spring fragrance and bloom. Forsythia, with its early display of bright yellow flowers, is a wonderful sight after the long winter. Cherry blossoms, double-flowering plum and white, pink or purple lilacs have the best fragrance. Golden Mockorange and Bridal-wreath spirea contrast well with the dark leaf of purple sandcherry.

Dogwoods, in a variety of leaf and stem colour, along with Bog Rosemary, birch and willow, can tolerate a damp area. For a shady area plant Hydrangea, cranberry, rhododendron, Gold Splash Euonymus, ninebark or yew for some examples.

Bright sunny spots are great for the drought tolerant Broom, with its yellow showy colour all summer. Elder, juniper, mugo pine, barberry, spirea and potentilla tolerate the Medicine Hat sun.

Before the fall comes we can enjoy the colourful leaves of the Magic Carpet Spirea, Golden Elder, and many varieties of ninebark. Check out the Amber Jubilee, Centre Glow, Coppertina, and Diablo Ninebarks!

Have you ever seen a burning bush in autumn? The Amur Maple shrub turns a brilliant red as well. They are both spectacular!

Do you need a hedge to define your property line? Cotoneaster is all right but you can also try Calgary boxwood, red or white edible currants, globe caragana, yew, lilac, roses, or alpine currant, for more excitement.

For a rock garden or specimen shrub you could plant a weeping spruce, weeping white pine, a weeping caragana or a Young’s weeping birch. Weeping shrubs are slow growers so you can count on them to not grow out of your original landscape design. A top grafted Globe Caragana or lilac will also add the wow factor to your yard.

Providing food for the birds with juniper, high bush cranberry, Staghorn sumac, Nanking cherry, elders, Red-Osier Dogwood, White Pine and yew is one way to support the bird population.

It all comes down to planting instructions and having the best possible soil, to give nutrients to the root system of any shrub. Water deeply once a week after transplanting and just before the winter winds and sun take their toll. Come on down to talk shrubs for a firm foundation in your yard.


Bev Crawford is the Perennial House Manager at The Windmill Garden Centre and John’s Butterfly House.


Planting Potatoes!

We have received our seed potatoes and onion sets at the Windmill Garden Centre!

We have a nice selection of specialty potatoes as well, like the Caribe which always goes quickly, so come down soon and pick up your bag today. If you aren’t sure how to plant potatoes but would like to start, here’s a little po-ta-to in-fo!

The first step to planting a high yielding potato patch is making sure you have fertile soil. Potatoes do well in a soil that is slightly acidic, loose, and sandy. There are certain things you must avoid with potatoes such as lime and fertilizers high in nitrogen as this can cause scabs on your potatoes. Use a fertilizer high in potash for nutrients, and add some aluminum sulphate if your soil is not acidic enough, just avoid getting any on your tubers.

To get the potatoes ready for planting, you have to let the eyes sprout, which is called “chitting”. To “chit” a potato simply means you are allowing the potato to grow a sprout. Just stand the potatoes with their eyes up in a tray, and in the company of some natural light. When the shoots are almost an inch long you may plant them outside! This is not necessary but apparently it helps.

Plant the potatoes outside when the soil has started to warm. This would be right away here in Medicine Hat. Be careful when you are planting not to break off the sprouts and make sure the sprouts are facing up. Lightly cover your potatoes with soil. As the sprouts grow taller, more soil should be added to the pile to keep the potatoes safe from the sun. Watering is essential especially in the hot summer months. For pesky bugs add nematodes to your garden. They will attack those pesky wireworms that like your potatoes as much as you do!
By June you should have enough potatoes to make some tasty French fries! Dig up the potatoes as you need them as they keep better in the ground, and most of all… have fun!!

The Herb Garden

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One of the most simple and useful type of gardens one can have, is the herb garden. If have just bought your first packet of basil seeds, or are a herb growing pro, a herb garden can bring you happiness. Gardening in general has already been found to be good for your health whether it is flowers, vegetables, or herbs. Herbs however, can also spice up your life!

There are many different kinds of herbs you can grow. Some are grown for cooking, some for teas, some even for medicinal purposes.

Basil, oregano, and parsley are great examples of cooking herbs. Simply find a spot in a sunny location, plant the desired herb in a pot or in the ground, and trim off what you need! Any recipe that calls for dried herbs can be replaced with fresh ones, and you will notice the difference in the taste.

Mint, chamomile, anise, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and sage are great for teas. There are many other hers you can grow for herbal tea so have some fun trying new mixtures and growing new things. All you need for tea is some hot water, a pot, and of course, herbs!

Another herb I would suggest trying this year is Stevia (Sugar Plant). It is a great substitute for sugar (and it won’t rot your teeth). Stevia is a lot sweeter than sugar and can be substituted in baking, sprinkled on fruit, or just chewed on for the fun of it. Try growing and drying Stevia to add to your her garden this year.

Pour boiling water over tea herbs: Use 1 cup of boiling water to 1 teaspoon dry or 1 tablespoon fresh herbs per cup. If making in a pot, add an extra teaspoon or tablespoon (if using fresh) – this is called “one for the pot”. Cover to prevent aromatic steam from escaping. Let steep for 3-5 minutes. Don’t steep longer because the tea will have a bitter flavour. If you want a stronger flavour, add more herbs.

Good herb combinations:
• Ginger, lemon, honey, cayenne pepper. Good for upper respiratory ailments
• Thyme and sage, with a bit of ginger – great for sore throats.
• Spearmint, lemon balm, hibiscus flowers, lemon peel, rose petals and cinnamon sticks.
To sweeten herbal tea: A natural herb, like Stevia or honey.

It’s beautiful outside, and trees are started to bud. Some people might start to wonder “what do I prune?”
Pruning is an important part of maintaining a healthy and beautiful garden, but it is also very important to do it right. When pruning take care to do it at the right time, and to do it correctly.

Early flowering trees and shrubs should usually be pruned right after flowering (LATE SPRING). If early bloomers are pruned in early spring you will be cutting away the new blooms and have decreased flowering. These lovely plants have already been working on its new blooms since the previous summer, so taking a knife to them would just be rude. Instead prune immediately after flowering for a clean, healthy, and beautiful flowering plant next season.

If you have some late bloomers, you can prune most of these now. Late bloomers develop their bloom on new wood and can be pruned late winter to early spring. Trimming these now would be ok, and may help the look of your plant if it is old and a losing its lustre.

Always, always use nice sharp pruners. Trying to gnaw off a branch or two with a butter knife could just damage the plant! If you are unsure about when and how to prune a specific plant, do your research before you start. There is a bountiful supply of information on the internet and usually people at your local garden centres can give you some information too! Our perennial house ladies are very knowledgeable. 😀

Here’s a helpful how-to prune site.

And here are some pictures of the new growth here in Medicine Hat!

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A Gardener must have patience!

Hello fellow gardeners!

The weather in Medicine hat is wonderful! We have seen some record highs this winter and have avoided the severe -40 temperatures. Good for us! With all this sunshine we might feel like getting our hand dirty with a little planting. However, lets be patient.
The weather is nice, but remember when it snowed last week? It just might happen again! As a zone 3 planting area we should at least wait until April to plant. Our trees and shrubs will come in next month, and our perennial house will be opening then as well. We also have some nice bulbs to start inside at this time like begonias, and cannas and callas.
What else can you do in this great weather? Try not to dig around too much. The ground isn’t too thawed and you might just end up playing in the mud. What you can do is day dream about your garden this summer. What do you want to plant, and where? Do you want to try a raised bed this spring, or do you want to turn that bright corner of your lawn into a bright coloured flower bed? Throw some ideas around, be crafty, come in and look at our new pottery to get some ideas about what direction your garden will take this summer. Or come in and get a house plant if you just can’t fight the need for green!

Check this site out for some tips on what to start doing when April hits!

And Here is a peek at some of our perennials, and a few shots of Medicine Hat, oh and there is Bev our perennial house expert!

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Indoor Plants a Reminder of Spring

Hello all!

Here is a look at some of our beautiful tropical plants we have down at the windmill. We have a HUGE selection of succulents, cacti, and tropicals for your home. Indoor plants not only provide you with beauty in your home, but they also help keep the air clean. Some of the top plants that we have are the Areca palm, Boston fern, dracaena, English ivy, Peace Lily, Rubber plant, and Weeping fig.

Adding two to three houseplants a room is the most effective way to keep the air clean in your home for your family. Give them lots of room between each other for air circulation and try not to put them near a draft or a place where the temperature changes suddenly.

Even if you do not have a green thumb you may be surprised at how good you are at looking after a houseplant. A majority of them like to dry out between watering, and there are even a few that don’t need too much sun.

Here’s some photos, and remember if you can’t figure out what will do best in your home come down and our staff will give you some tips.

Thanks for reading and remember to subscribe to our blog on the side via email.

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Spring may not have fully arrived, but all of our seeds have!

We have started getting ready for spring at the Windmill Garden Centre, and we have all you need to get planting at home. Some seeds you might want to start now are:
-You may also start some vegetables, like peppers or tomatoes; however keep in mind that you will need to transplant them at least once before they go outside.

As for Bulbs we now have Cannas and Begonias for starting indoors. Start them now so you can have a beautiful display in the summer time.

If you need any help come down and see our friendly staff and they will be happy to help you.