Mother's Day is just around the corner and many of us are still looking for some inspiration. Well, let me make a few suggestions.
There's scientific proof now that flowers and plants not only make people happy but they are also therapeutic. They make our living spaces a lot more enjoyable as well. The type of plant you give, however, should adapt to Mom's lifestyle. If she is away a great deal, small tropicals or hanging baskets certainly are not the answer. I would suggest something like an outdoor garden. Larger patio tubs can go a long while between waterings and you know, the addition of a small tree can make quite a difference to a patio. Containers about the size of a half barrel, such as large 50 cm cedar tubs or terracotta pots, can make an attractive permanent garden. By using lightweight soil mixes, the weight problem can be minimized. If you add casters to the bottom of the pots, they can be easily moved if necessary or if you just want to change the perspective.
The types of trees that can be used as focal points in the containers are really unlimited but some of my favourites are the new Japanese willow 'Hakara Nishiki' with its variegated white and pink foliage, contorted red filberts, robinia 'Twisty Baby' or the many weeping Japanese maples. These trees change with each season and also leave room for colourful annuals, perennials, bulbs and even herbs to make a wonderful showing all year round.
Hanging baskets and colourful patio tubs are a nice gift too but make sure they are large enough that they do not require daily attention. There are so many being mass produced today, try to find something unique and that has a personal touch. The containers need to be a minimum of 16-18 inches across and deep to keep the maintenance down. If you are giving a gift of fuchsias or begonias, make sure they are going to a shady location. Nothing is more disheartening than receiving a gift that you know will have to struggle to survive. Large herb gardens are colourful and a delightful culinary surprise. Why not put together a basic containerized vegetable garden and include the latest compact growing vegetables like 'Tumbler' tomatoes, everbearing strawberries, a host of new colourful leaf lettuce varieties and everbearing 'Rainbow' swiss chard.
Planting a tree for special occasions is not only a nice commemorative gesture but is also a good environmental plan. This is especially true in urban areas. There are many kinds of trees that are well suited to small gardens but I have a few suggestions, such as the newer varieties of Japanese maples, Japanese snowbells, beautiful pink and white dogwoods, tree form magnolias and the many new columnar trees like 'Green Spire' oaks.
Flowering trees that attract birds or butterflies to the yard are wonderful. Buddleias (butterfly bush), especially the new Proven Winners dwarf variety, 'Lo & Behold', really do attract all kinds of beautiful butterflies. The fast-growing new orange flowered vine called Campsis 'Indian Summer' attracts hummingbirds. Flowering crabapples, like the new disease free 'Red Jewel' and the red flowered and yellow fruited 'Prairie Fire' have pleasing fall fruits which attract birds. The Korean or kousa dogwood not only has gorgeous blossoms and great fall colour but also has edible seed pods. There are all kinds of fall berried plants like weeping cotoneasters, espalliered pyracanthas and lingonberries that look great in the landscape by providing winter colour and supplying food for birds as well.
Moms enjoy fragrance and there are all kinds of choices. From the new Proven Winners compact 'Bloomerang' lilac that blooms now and again in fall to the fragrant snowball shrub (Viburnum carcephalum) and from elegant Oriental lilies to old-fashioned English roses, there is much from which to choose.
Perennial plants are always appreciated and peonies, old fashioned hardy orchids (bletilla), ruffled poppies and lavenders are among the most cherished.
Water on the patio is now a huge trend. Containers that hold water are quite magnificent filled with floating water hyacinths, water lilies and a myriad of colourful flowering water plants.
All of these suggestions are gifts that will last and for the most part, grow in beauty each year. You might even plant Mom's gift for her - in the right location of course! Be a little creative this year. It is not only the flowers and plants but also the innovative ways in which they can be used and enjoyed, either inside or out that makes the difference. Add your own special touch and it will mean a great deal more.
Brian Minter is owner of Minter Gardens in Chilliwack.