Sunday, February 19, 2017

2017 Canadian Mail-order Rose Nursery List Updated

Rosa multiflora is used as hardy rootstock in Canada
   Photo by Lorraine Syratt ... All Rights Reserved

While compiling this list, I was surprised by how few actual "mail-order" rose nurseries there are in Canada ... and by how many have gone out of business (Pickering for one, which breaks my rose-lovin' heart). There are still many rose nurseries across the country, but they don't ship. Here's the mail order list thus far. I'm hoping to find more.

Before ordering any roses from Canadian nurseries or even when purchasing them at garden centers in spring, learn what rootstock was used.  See the listing for David Austin Roses to understand why.

Corn Hill Nursery  


Rosa cinnamomea
Corn Hill Nursery specializes in own-root hardy roses ... in their words "acclimated nursery stock."  I like that. Their roses will survive some extremely cold winters.  They don't have a massive catalogue, but they do have a great selection. .They have some lovely old roses such as Maiden Blush and Cardinal de Richelieu. They also have some species roses such as Rosa cinnamomea 'plena'. I found this rose in the wild, myself. (image left). The blooms are as interesting as its history. They have a nice selection of rugosa roses, too -- some you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in Canada.  Prices range from $20 for a two-stemmed (caned) rose to $39 for a 3-year old potted rose. 

David Austin's first introduction, "Constance Spry"
 Photo by Lorraine Syratt ... All Rights Reserved

David Austin Roses

This is not a Canadian nursery, but they do have information on ordering from Canada. Keep in mind, the roses in David Austin Roses catalog are actually grown in and coming from the US, and as US-grown roses, they are grafted onto Dr. Huey rootstock. Dr. Huey is only hardy in plant hardiness zone 7 or at least 6 or higher. That means they will only grow well on the west coast or in southern Ontario regions such as Niagara-on-the-Lake, Toronto or even Belleville and Prince Edward County (that's the county, not the island). Most roses grown in Canada are grafted onto hardy Rosa multiflora or Rosa laxa rootstock. American bred roses will eventually fail or never really flourish as they should when grown in Canadian gardens. And that's ... well, the root of the matter ... why some roses fail for us.

The David Austin site is a terrific source for images and information, but if you're in Canada, it's best to purchase your English roses from a Canadian source who buys bud stock from the US and grafts their own.

"Complicata"  Photo by Lorraine Syratt ... All Rights Reserved

Hortico is located in Waterdown, Ontario. Many of their roses are grown on Rosa multiflora rootstock and the rootstock itself is grown from seed to avoid the spread of disease, particularly rose mosaic virus. This is a common practice among most rosarians in Canada. Hortico still has a good selection of roses, although there list has shrunk considerably.  This year, Hortico has nothing listed in their Species and Natives section which is disappointing
. They used to sell R. multiflora, so I s'pose you could call them if you're interested.   Prices have not changed since last year. Their 2017 catalogue lists them at $17.99. 


Fraser's Thimble Farms

Fraser's Thimble Farms is located in BC (Salt Spring Island) and they do mail-order. They have a small variety of own-root roses, including some species and David Austin roses. Prices range from $10 to $29. I haven't heard of this nursery before, but I like the  small selection of natives and other species roses I haven't seen elsewhere ... prices range from  $10 to $12.

Palantine Roses

Palantine Roses This is a recent discovery. Palantine's rose catalogue (2016-2017) has improved, I think. A quick glance tells me it has more old roses than than Hortico, now and a good selection of modern roses and hybrids. I've read good things about the quality of their roses and looking at their list, they seem to have some lovely gallicas and multifloras I've not seen elsewhere. Prices range from approx. $16 - $20. They are located in Ontario's Niagara Region. 

 Botanus lists only 19 roses for 2017, some David Austins and modern hybrids. Prices ranges from  $25.50 to $48.50. A bit pricey, but they may have the rose you've been looking for and can't find elsewhere. They are located in Langley, BC.  My memory suggests they are grown on Dr. Huey rootstock and originate in  the US. They would not be all that hardy in most parts of the country. 


Coral Dawn Climbing Rose. Canning Perennials
A few more additions, this year, but they are general mail-order plant nurseries and not specifically devoted to roses. You may find what you can't find elsewhere.

Canning Perennials in Paris, Ontario is a mail-order nursery and does have a small collection of roses, including a couple of old favorites such as Coral Dawn, Blaze Improved, as well as the species Rosa rugosa. Prices range from $17.95 to $39.95.

Boughen Nurseries in Saskatchewan has a small, but decent selection of hardy roses priced at $23.95. You'll find some Explorer roses, Harrison's yellow, and Rosa rugosa 'Hansa' to name a few.

Golden Bough Tree Farm is a local favorite of mine. This year, their catalogue lists only one rose, the species Rosa rugosa which is red. I list it, because if you're looking for rose hedging, and don't want to take the time to strike cuttings, Golden Bough's price is $12 or 3 for $30. So it would make an affordable hedge. 

And for seeds .... 

Rosa canina

You can purchase species rose seeds from Richters, such as R. rugosa rubra, R. rubiginosa, Sweet Briar (the Eglantine of the poets) and R. canina, Dog Rose. I had success with their Sweet Briar ... success as in one plant from 12 seeds, but it was likely my own fault. However, that one plant is a delight and grew quickly to 4 ft before I moved it out of the cottage garden. This year I expect to scratch my hands up to strike cuttings as I always wanted a Sweet Briar hedge somewhere.  


It saddens me the number of Canadian mail-order rose nurseries that have gone out of business.  We are losing such a wonderful collection of roses. What fun it used to be to open a Pickering catalogue in front of the fire and tick off all those lovely old roses, rare species', and fantastic ramblers.  I will miss them forever. 

The list above does offer a good selection; I just wish there were more. But as rose gardeners we should be propagating some of the older roses ourselves before we lose them. A little rose rustling is always fun, but I don't suggest taking cuttings like a rogue in the night. Gardeners are always happy to share. I think I'll keep a kit in the car ... just in case.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Garden Inspiration for Your Children

Our little world is changing. People are giving over their front lawns to growing veggies and herbs. Gardeners everywhere are thinking about growing for the future and doing it organically. If a child learns about gardening at a young age, she will have a healthy future that doesn't involve foods grown with genetically modified seed or with pesticides. Teach them a love of gardening and the healthiest methods will take care of themselves in time. The key is to inspire.

The Kid-Gardener's Planting Book for Parents by Chris Eirschele will show you how to nurture this love of gardening in children. It is filled with inspirational ideas that will spark your child's interest and curiosity.

Eirschele's book makes gardening fun (and not just for the kiddies). I've been a gardener most of my life, but I still  learned a few things from this book, so this might also be a good read for beginning gardeners as well.

This planting book talks about everything from handling small garden tools, to making gardens that will interest children such as fairy gardens, gardens filled with bold-shaped and colorful flowers, indoor gardens. It teaches them a respect for nature, its sounds, touch, scent and taste, along with a respect for the pollinating insects so important to our future. It makes growing veggies fun.

Chris Eirschele is a Master Gardener and respected garden writer with a bounty of plant knowledge. For more information, please see her Stay Gardening blog.

The Kid-Gardener's Planting Book for Parents is published by Decoded Science and is available in print and e-book forms, via Amazon and Smashwords.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My Rosa Multiflora Sport

The original Rosa multiflora
Rosa multiflora isn't considered invasive in Canada and it's a strong favorite in my Canadian garden. I love it for its scent, vigor, beauty and ease of propagation which is the very reason it's unappreciated in the United States.

I've been propagating it successfully for a few years now by seed and by cuttings. (Many American rose growers cringed when they read those words.) In April of this year I began transplanting the new plants from the nursery bed to the rose walk and one is in bloom. Not only is it in bloom, it is a beautiful sport. It's most curious because I always believed species roses remained true to the mother plant whichever way they are propagated. But I know now there are many sports of species roses, perhaps a different shade of pink, or a double version etc. I'm very excited to see this sport as it's quite impressive. While all the other R. multifloras have tiny pinkish buds, this one has slightly larger and plumper, creamy yellow buds. While the original has single white flowers in clusters, this one has double white flowers in clusters. And the bloom is much larger ... approximately 1-1/2 across.  All the other features of this rose are as one would expect from R. multiflora.

It has the scent and appearance of an old rose, flowering on the previous or first seasons canes.

R. multiflora Sport
Double R.multiflora sport

Because I always believed propagation of species would result in true plants to the original, I didn't think to mark which was by seed and which was by cutting. I regret that now.

The cutting or seed was taken and potted up in the summer of 2013, then brought inside to grow on during the winter. It went into the nursery bed last spring, where it remained with all the other R. multiflora cuttings and seedlings, and it came through last summer and winter outdoors with flying colors. 

A little background. This rose started out as root stock for either a tea or floribunda in my father's garden many years ago. It reverted to root stock probably due to a bad graft. And although this "sport" appears to be an old rose type, I wonder if some of the tea or floribunda genes transferred (this is why I'm leaning to it being propagated by seed) ... keeping in mind that many of the modern roses we have today have long pedigrees, a past which included the crossing of old roses. Sports are gene mutations and I wonder if there is a sort of transfer or passing along. I would imagine the odds of gene transfer are higher when propagated via seed. Time to pull out my books, I think.

I don't know yet how it will grow. Will it send out long canes (it's starting to) like the other R. multifloras I have? Will the little genetic mutation it presently has remain in the rose, or will it revert to its species type? Will it bloom intermittently throughout the summer? I doubt that part, but you never know. As a sport, it's a new rose. Anything could happen.  I'm going to mark it for propagation and hope for the best. It is just ... that ... lovely.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rustic Inspiration for Your Garden: Twig Projects

Put your garden in a forest using rustic and twiggy arbors, arches, gazebos, fences and gates. The wood used is primarily found, although it helps if you have it on your land or at least free access to it. These images inspire.

Lovely arbor walk 

Beautiful twig arbor, gate and garden seat

Lovely open arbor design

Twiggy Bridge of "Sigh"

Rustic garden gazebo

Garden retreat

Stunning twiggy fence

Rustic deck fence
Fallen branches country fence

Rustic Gothic Chair

Branch Rustic Gate

Forest Gazebo

Friday, January 23, 2015

Armchair Gardening with the Best Garden Writers: Vita Sackville-West, Thalasso Cruso and Eleanor Perenyi

The author's garden in winter. Copyright L. Syratt 2013

When winter is in its full glory, all a gardener can see of her garden is the skeletal shapes of plants poking up through a blanket of snow. Gardening is out of the question. But reading a good book about gardening written by a garden writer is a pleasurable replacement during the long period between December and March.

A good gardening book can inspire garden designs and plant choices to implement after the great thaw. Some of the best books are still in print and easily ordered through bookshops or found online.

Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden

Green Thoughts, A Writer in the Garden, by Eleanor Perenyi, is a book of first-person essays on gardening, based on the author's own experiences. Readers will learn they should put ash from the fire onto the garden bed for a natural source of potassium, which helps plants become more disease-resistant, as well as strengthen the plants' root systems.

Perenyi's essays are very thorough, provocative and easy to read – written with both wit and charm. Since its first printing in 1981, Green Thoughts has become a classic armchair gardening book – to be read and savored.

To Everything There is a Season: The Gardening Year

To Everything There is a Season, the Gardening Year, by Thalassa Cruso, is another book that belongs on every gardener's bookshelf. It is written in first person, and as with Eleanor Perenyi's Green Thoughts, this too, is filled with helpful essays. The essays are organized by month with related information pertaining to gardening at that time of year. December, for example, includes essays about the waste of discarded Christmas trees, and another essay about holly.

Cruso has written her essays with strong sensitivity toward caring for the natural world. It is full of wise philosophies about gardening as well as offering snippets of her personal journey in gardening and her love of gardens and nature. Published in 1972, To Everything there is a Season, is still an important work for those interested in eco-gardening.

Vita Sackville-West's Garden Book

Vita Sackville-West's Garden Book is a small collection of essays put together by her daughter-in-law, Philippa Nicolson in the late 1960s. The essays in the collection were gleaned from Vita Sackville-West's own books of essays published in the 1950s, including, In Your Garden, In Your Garden Again, More for your Garden, and Even More for your Garden. And these essays were gathered from Sackville-West's weekly articles in Britain's Observer magazine, written from 1947 to 1961. Some of the original collections have been reprinted. First editions from the 1950s are rare, collectible and expensive.

Vita Sackville-West, along with her husband, Harold Nicolson were the creators of Sissinghurst, a world famous garden in Kent, England. Vita was a writer first, having had great success with several novels and poetry since the 1920s. It was only when she and her husband moved to Sissinghurst a decade later and began creating the gardens there that Vita started to write about gardening. She had a brilliant creative mind and offered her ideas readily to her readers every week.

Vita Sackville-West's Garden Book brings together some of those most popular essays and gives the reader a good perspective on English garden style. She writes about her famous white garden, protecting plants against frost, about roses andgroundcover plants, about keeping garden notes, and much more, and she does it with humor and charm.

Gardeners are passionate about their gardens. Writers who garden love to write about their own gardens. A little armchair gardening will help you pass the winter without missing the digging, planting, pruning, watering, weeding and mulching. It will come soon enough.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Garden Teaches Patience

Regale Lily
Photo Taken in a year the chipmunks didn't eat the three buds.
Copyright Lorraine Syratt 
I am a very impatient person with some things, a trait inherited from my dear father who is gone from us now. And like my father, I have no qualms about planting a tree, taking a rose cutting, or growing a pine or anything else from seed. In the garden, I usually only have impatience when tools go astray, or I discover a leak in the watering can, or when a chipmunk nips the flower buds off my one and only Regale lily, finds their taste wanting and promptly discards them. Sods! My father would have called them sods as well.

Barring anything that upsets the balance between the garden and garden maker, there is only abundance, grace, peace and patience. As gardeners, we accept the garden's ever-changing and ever-evolving cycles ... its slow growth. We are on a long journey with our gardens. They teach us patience from the time we first take up our spades. 

Each new growing season brings more splendor. The three-foot tall trees planted a decade ago are now 20 feet tall. The climbing roses reach over the balcony railing. The self-seeders have self-seeded in all the right places. The cedar hedges started at 12 inches are now 10 feet tall. The garden we imagined, designed on paper and planted out years earlier slowly awakens and we begin to believe it has always been this way; it becomes what we hoped it would become.

Patience is one of many virtues I aspire to possess, but unlike the great oak, our lives are short. As gardeners, we want to get the best out of all that love and nurturing we do with our gardens. We can only watch things refuse to grow for so long. Sometimes we have to remove plants that have no chance of succeeding; they grow ugly to their core, hither and yonning in every direction. They tease us with one surprising bloom and quickly snatch it away, or their blooms refuse to open and they wilt and wither on their stems. We try to keep them alive, always patient, always hopeful. But when they continue to fail us, they have no place in our gardens. We have to prune them out for the health and well-being of the other plants, as well as the garden's beauty. The garden teaches us patience, but it also teaches us when to let go. And when we do let go, there is only harmony in the garden, as well that peace, abundance and grace.

Image created by

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Figure-Ground Theory in Garden Design

figure ground in planting schemes
The Herbaceous Border at Rockingham Castle,
Northamptonshire, England is designed with
careful attention to distinguishing contrast, subject and ground. 

Image © Copyright Marion Haworth
I love gardens. I love seeing them, designing them, making them and lusting after them. And over the years, I've grown to understand what that magic ingredient is in the gardens that appeal to me most — the gardens that excite and inspire, and make me say "Be still, my heart!" (The garden on the right makes me say that. Lustfully.) The gardens that cause my heart to flutter are those that are well-grounded. They pop and burst in all the right places with clear separations between plants. The plants are entities of their own, but part of the whole composition. And it is a composition. Good garden design is an art form. It's about balance, color, texture, depth and contrast.

Well-grounded gardens are designed using figure-ground theory, whether intentional or not.

Clear contrast between the subject and ground
This image taken at Sissinghurst, Kent shows the positive
 space (subject/figure) against the negative space
 (background/ground).The positive space draws your eye.
Photo image © Copyright Lorraine Syratt

So What is Figure-Ground Theory?

Figure-Ground theory has its roots in psychology Gestalt therapy, but it is also used in architecture, landscape design and art. It is based on visual perception, an important design concept that distinguishes the subject (figure) from its background (ground). The background helps to define the subject, so the subject will be our focus. Our eyes are drawn to it. It's achieved by using contrasting colors, shapes, and reference points. In most instances, the figure or subject is the main ingredient — the element that stands out.

Figure-ground also relates to positive and negative space. Negative space is the space surrounding the subject or positive space. This can get confusing because in design, in this case, garden design, the negative space or background may also be the subject. A good example is seen in the image (top right) of the Rockingham Castle garden. While the flowers are the subject, we can't help but notice their backgrounds — the beautiful evergreen arches and hedges (clearly in the making) that contrast with to the colorful flora. As we walk through the garden, we don't just "see" the flowers; we "see" their backgrounds as well. Nothing is visually missed, and all is relevant to the overall balanced composition. 

Using Figure-Ground Theory in Garden Design

I don't know when the term "grounding" was first coined in garden design, but it was certainly in use over one-hundred years ago. Garden writer and designer, Gertrude Jekyll used it in her 1902 book, Roses.

Rose garden shines with a dark green background
These roses planted en masse at Alexandra Park in East Sussex, England
stand out beautifully because they are surrounded by a neatly-clipped 

dark green hedge at the edge of a forest. 
Image © Copyright Oast House Archive
"The background of dark trees is so important that I venture to dwell upon it with some degree of persistence. Anyone who has seen an Ayrshire rose growing wild into a yew will recognize the value of dark foliage as a ground for the tender blush white of the rose; and so it is with the rose garden as a whole." 

Jekyll, known today as one of the great rosarians, garden writers and designers of her time, did "persist" on advocating dark backgrounds and contrasts in design throughout that book. While this particular book was focused only on roses, her other gardening books and several articles also gave a nod to the concept of grounding with dark green trees, hedges and foliage. "The wisdom of this treatment is well-known in all other kinds of gardening ..." She went on to suggest that " ... even walls should be clothed in dark greenery."

Figure-ground is also about grounding each individual plant or plant mass in your flower bed. This is done by separating them with a neutral plant. Neutral plants have contrasting textures, shapes or colors. 

contrasting planting schemes
The herbaceous border at Kirby House, West Berkshire, England
 — a fine example of a well-grounded garden.
Image © Copyright Stuart Logan

Note the planting scheme in the Kirby House garden (left). It is clear this herbaceous border was created with good visual perception. Whether the designer was intentionally following the rules of figure-ground theory or not, she/he certainly had an understanding of the importance of contrast. 

Each plant or plant mass is clearly separated from the others by using  an assortment of contrasting plants such as Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla mollis), silvery leaf plants such as artemisia or Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum) and plants with sword-shaped leaves — bold shapes and neutral colors that create those separations. To top it off, it's a border in front of a dark green background. Each plant pops with color and interest. Nothing is missed.

Without grounding, the plant subjects have no distinguishing forms. They unite in a blurry jumble of color with no rhyme or reason, no contrasting separation and no restful focus. In a mixed or herbaceous border, you won't see the garden for the flowers. There's nothing wrong with pretty flower jumbles, particularly in wild gardens or wild parts of the garden, but if you want all your hard work to pay off in the more formal parts of your garden, avoid over-jumbling. Add a little contrast. Make each plant count. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Relocating With Your Garden Plants

Plan ahead and pot ahead if you're relocating with your 
garden plants ... Image © Copyright Oast House Archive
We spend years,as gardeners, amassing and nurturing our plant collections to create gardens of abundance and color. We may have thousands of dollars invested in plants. Some of those plants have sentimental value, like a rose grown from a cutting taken from a rose at the family farm, or a tree peony given as a housewarming gift. When it comes time to relocate, we want to take our plants with us.

With a little dialog with the new owners of the garden, owners who aren't "into" gardening, as well as a mention in the contract, it's possible to move all your plants when you relocate. This is rare in a real estate contract, but it can be done. You can move some plants without a mention, and you can certainly divide them, leaving the garden to the new owner.

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