backyard tulips

Here is the start of a list of favourite plants. I love these plants for how easy they are to take care of, how quickly and reliably they jump out of the ground in chilly climates and how great they make the garden look. Many of these plants are excellent for shade and many of them are edible as well, bringing tiny bits of fresh, delicious, home grown food into our house.

Chives are edible, drought-tolerant, ornamental and hardy. They grow well in sun, shade, containers and everywhere in betweeen, and they’re a welcome sight in early spring as one of the first plants to emerge after a long winter without fresh herbs from the garden. Chive flowers produce dozens of hard, black seeds. Collect them when the flowers dry out, drop them on the soil in small patches, cover lightly with dirt and wait for the winter to pass or water well and tiny shoots will start to emerge after only a few weeks.

I’m amazed at columbines. There are countless varieties of them, and for me, they are among the prettiest of all flowers.They come up early in the spring and bloom for most of the summer, and then create abundant seeds that are easy to harvest and easy to grow. I have several clumps growing in shade gardens and in the sun, and they’re all thriving.

I’ve planted cosmos for the past few years and I love how fast and easily they grow. They grow huge and tall in the sun and the pretty pink flowers last until the frost hits. My grandmother always had cosmos growing in a flower bed stretching along the house and seeing them immediately transports me warm summer days in small town Nova Scotia.

Crabapple trees
I love crab apple trees. Every spring they put on a show with beautiful white blossoms that look and smell heavenly and in years when I’ve had my own crabapple tree (no longer – but we now have a cherry tree so that is just as good!) I’ve cut a few branches for inside. There’s something lovely and peaceful about having a flowering twig resting quietly in a glass vase on the coffee table. The rest of the year, it’s a hardy tree that provides a home for birds and squirrels, adds some shade to the yard and doesn’t take up too much space.

Lettuce, spinach and other salad greens
Lettuce, spinach and other salad greens are probably the most satisfying vegetables to grow in the garden. I planted seeds for butter lettuce, an heirloom red leaf variety, spinach and beet greens, and after about a month of growing time they’re ready to eat. And they all taste so good! I’m especially fond of the earthy, tangy flavour of tiny beet greens mixed into a salad with the lettuce and spinach.

I discovered paperwhites (narcissus papyraceus) about five years ago and I’ve been growing them ever since. It’s a comforting winter ritual: visit a garden shop in December, load up a paper bag with bulbs, and spend a quiet hour potting them up once the holiday chaos subsides. A few days near a bright window is all they need to start stretching green and skyward, and star-shaped white blooms open up a couple of weeks later, bringing brightness to dreary winter days and helping to stamp out the January blues.

When spring came one of the first signs of life was the strawberry plants. We have strawberries in a planter on the deck and a clump growing along the sunny southwest side of our backyard, as well as a couple of small plants in the front yard, which is part-shade. They’re all flourishing with numerous flowers that will hopefully turn into delicious berries.

We had a few hardy violets growing in the open dirt that was our yard when we first bought our house in Calgary several years ago. Transplanting them was my first act of gardening at our new home. Since then, I’ve been collecting the seeds each fall and scattering them. I brought some seeds from our Calgary garden when we moved to Vancouver and planted them in pots on our patio and they thrived all summer.


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