All I want for Christmas is… Part 2

Bernadette Vangool. Book gift idea for gardening friends.

By Bernadette Vangool – Saskatchewan Perennial Society

As the person who fields emails for the Saskatchewan Perennial Society, I’m often approached with a variation on the question: “What do I plant on the east side of the house in a six-foot wide flower bed?” I used to think about this and reflect on what is growing at my house in that location and offer some suggestions. But really, the answer is, “Please do your homework.” And if that is not an option, hire a landscape designer to come up with a plan for you.

If you are willing to do the work, start by assessing what is, what you would like, and how will you get to your future dream landscape. Creating the Prairie Xeriscape by Sara Williams is an excellent resource for low water, low maintenance landscaping. There are chapters on design, including beds, hardscape and dry river beds; irrigation; lawns (how much do you really need?); soil; mulch; and the numerous drought tolerant trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and vines that are hardy on the prairies. Remember, the landscape is a living thing. Trees grow up and provide shade, some perennials are short lived and will need to be replaced, others are brutes and need to be kept in check. You will still need to do the work, but with Sara guiding you through the process the results will be very rewarding. Pay special attention to paths and hardscaping as well as the placement of trees. For the rest, plants are very forgiving to work with and small changes in future years are easy to make.

Now that you have your plan in place, review your trees and shrubs selection. First ensure that your selections will actually fit your space. A ‘Dropmore’ linden is not a good choice for a small yard as they can become quite large. You may also want to replace some of your ornamental selections with edible trees or shrubs. These days we hear a lot of talk about food security and sustainability, so perhaps now is the time to incorporate those fruit trees. Sara Williams joined forces with Bob Bors of sour cherry and haskap fame at the University of Saskatchewan to produce Growing Fruit for Northern Gardens. This book is very comprehensive and includes most of the fruit that can be grown in our climate. It is fully illustrated with  beautiful photographs to guide you to the fruit that is right for you and your yard. It also discusses some of the potential problems you may encounter with specific varieties of fruit. Looking back, I often wish that instead of the ornamental crabapple, I would have chosen a variety that would have actual edible fruit for me later in the year. Sour cherry and Nanking cherries are the first to bloom and provide a bountiful harvest of cherries that last me through the winter in the form of jam or cherry cakes. If you include haskaps in your landscape, plant them adjacent to one another to make netting easier to prevent birds from harvesting your crop.

How about including some hardy roses in your landscape? Bob Osbourne has recently revamped his previous rose book, published under the new title of Hardy Roses: The Essential Guide for High Latitudes and Altitudes. With the same basic information, it now includes many, many more of the rose varieties that do well in Canada. The ones listed as zones 2 to 3 should be fully hardy on the prairies. Besides the roses detailed by description, photograph, origin and parentage, a list of hardy cultivars is included at the back of the book, including roses that are readily available through nurseries which may or may not be featured elsewhere in the book.

If you are a Lyndon Penner fan, you may also check out his books: The Prairie Short Season Yard; Garden Design for the Short Season Yard and Native Plants for the Short Season Yard.

This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society (SPS; ). Check out our website ( or Facebook page (