Hope is Growing

by Mark and Ben Cullen

Hope is growing in 2021. What a refreshing theme after a difficult year last year. Canadians are ready to start looking up and so are gardeners.

That is why Communities in Bloom has embraced Hope is Growing as the banner for their 2021 campaign.

What is Communities in Bloom? It is a celebration of urban environmental sustainability across Canada. CiB is a volunteer driven not-for-profit organization that partners with municipalities to enhance residential and public spaces.

Since their humble beginnings in 1995, the goal has been “to enhance the quality of life and the environment through people and plants in order to create community pride”.

We are delighted that our professional trade association Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA) acquired control of Communities in Bloom just over a year ago. This provides an opportunity for new ideas, growth, and vision.

The first endeavour of the “new” Communities in Bloom is the Hope is Growing campaign, which encourages Canadians to plant a garden of hope for 2021, featuring the colour yellow. From coast to coast, the goal is to create front yards, boulevards and playgrounds brimming with yellow flowers, foliage, and vegetables.

As always, friendly competition is at the heart of Communities in Bloom. If your community participates in the broader Communities in Bloom program, planting a bright yellow Hope Garden can enhance your odds for this year’s awards.

How to Design your Hope Garden

Here are our top suggestions for a yellow themed garden this season:

Forsythia (forsythia) one of our favourite flowering shrubs which is enrobed in a coat of yellow flowers in early spring – perfect timing for the heralding of new hope. If you have not already planted forsythia, you can enjoy its colour with cuttings placed in a tall vase. Forsythia cuttings tend to root easily by pushing the bottom third of each cutting into damp ground as soon as the ground has thawed.

Sunflower (helianthus) for sunny days ahead – there could be no more obvious choice for a Hope Garden. Shop now for a wide variety of sunflower varieties from seed catalogues or go online and check out the seeds that are available from a myriad of suppliers. Plant directly from seed in early spring, enjoy throughout late summer and fall as the birds show up to enjoy a feast on big yellow sunflower heads.

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) a native perennial that produces bright yellow flowers from late summer into autumn and attracts pollinators to beat the band.

Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) another great native plant that is a relative to the sunflower. This one is different, though, as it features an abundance of yellow pollinator-attracting flowers and produces an edible tuber that can be cooked like a potato. Note: Jerusalem artichoke can be overly aggressive, almost invasive. Keep it in a confined part of your garden.

Marigolds (Tagetes erecta) a fun annual with edible flowers. All marigolds are technically edible, but in our opinion the best tasting species are French marigold (Tagetes patula). Big Duck Gold marigold is one of our favourite varieties. As a bonus, many vegetable gardeners inter-plant marigolds with their veggie crops to keep insects, especially aphids, at bay.

Speaking of vegetables, one of our favourite yellow vegetables is the Golden Delight summer squash, or simply yellow zucchini. Easy to grow and prolific. One of Mark’s favourite tricks is carving the grandkids’ names in zucchinis while the fruit with a knife when they are young and giving them as gifts from the “zucchini fairy” after they have matured for a few days. Why not carve a hopeful message in your zucchini?

Canadians took up gardening in record numbers last year: we hope to see a yellow-washed repeat in 2021 – after all, Hope is Growing in the garden.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and Member of the Order of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at markcullen.com, @markcullengardening, and on Facebook.