Mother’s Favourite Flowers

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER, 20 Mark and Ben (his son) Cullen are seen in the Star studio for logo photos. The two will be co-writing the weekly Urban Growth column in Homes & Condos. September, 20 2017

by Mark and Ben Cullen

Mother’s Day is the biggest flower giving occasion on the calendar.  We think it makes sense to ask the mothers in our lives what their favourite flower is and try to accommodate them on their special day.    

Not all, we have discovered, prefer cut flowers.  The good news is that this is the perfect time of year to buy many locally grown garden plants as well as fresh cut flowers. 

Here is our run down:

  • Geraniums (pelargonium). Ben’s late grandma and Mark’s Mother-In-law, Jean loved geraniums, as we suspect most mothers do. There are some perennial native varieties, but we are referring to the bright annual type (pelargoniums) available in retailers now. Look for zonal varieties, that are propagated from cuttings rather than seed, for best garden performance. Geraniums require little maintenance other than some deadheading throughout the season. With a bit of work, you can overwinter them indoors. Hanging geraniums are outstanding in a north east or east exposure. The new varieties do not stop blooming all season long. Geraniums look great in a container, too, if Mom lives in a condo.
  • Lilac. Ben’s Mom Mary (Mark’s wife) loves lilac best of all. This is a son’s Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card on Mother’s Day as they are in bloom or bud at the retailers now. Lilacs are generally easy to grow. All they need is a minimum 6 hours of daily sunshine and well-drained soil. For bonus points, offer to plant it in her yard so she can enjoy it for years to come. Our favourite species of lilac are the French Hybrids, for their outstanding fragrance. Our least favourite is the invasive Common lilac which will grow to a massive 7 metres high and wide if you let it. Quickly.
  • Delphiniums. Mark’s late Mom, and Ben’s other grandma, preferred the tall spires of delphiniums. Connie loved them as they were in bloom everywhere on her wedding day, July 12, 1947. The dominant colour of this popular perennial is blue, but you can find red and white ones also. They are best replaced with new stock every three years as they tend to die out over time.

Not to be left out, are daughters and sisters. 

  • Tulips.  Ben’s sister Emma, who lives in the U.K. and is surrounded by flowers most every month of the year, loves tulips best. 

There are still many tulips available as cut flowers this time of year and some retailers offer them in pots, pre-grown.  Once they finish blooming, your sister can plant them into her garden to bloom again next year.  A perennial gift. 

  • Peonies. Ben and his wife Sam are in waiting to find out if Sam will be becoming a mother this week…or next…or the next. Due any day. 

Sam and Ben’s sister Lynn both love peonies.  Another bell ringer for Mother’s Day as the plant you buy now will bloom in two-to-three weeks.  They are fragrant, showy, and they cut well for use indoors.  What is not to love?  The ants that frequent the flower buds are a necessary part of their annual journey as they remove the natural sticky honeydew to allow the bud to open into full bloom.  They require minimum 6 hours sun and about a metre square of space.  Reliable repeat performers in the garden for many years.

  • Anemone.  Ben’s third sister Heather is the only sibling named after a plant and no, her favourite plant is not heather.  She is most fond of anemone.  Pronounced a-nem-on-ee.  They feature brilliant bloom colour in red, blue and white this time of year.  Related to the wild buttercup, we are not entirely surprised by Heather’s pick.  She was the kid who would hold a buttercup flower to our chin to see if we were lying.  Anemones are her flower.  They are available at garden retailers now in full bloom in pots.

Mother’s Day is one of the best-timed of our annual holidays, with abundant blooms that can keep on giving all season for the mothers, sisters, wives and daughters we love.

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, @markcullengardening, and on Facebook.