Elaine Sanders

Gardens and Landscapes

Landscape and garden consultant Elaine Sanders offers clear and well-written coaching and design tips to gardeners, homeowners and apartment dwellers alike

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Creating a shade garden has its challenges. Without sunlight, plant choice is limited with popular, floriferous varieties such as roses and lilacs out of the realm of growing options. Ditto for sun-loving edibles such as tomatoes, squash and peppers.

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Of all the fruit and vegetables home gardeners love to grow, tomatoes top the list. Even though plentiful, local tomatoes fill our supermarkets every summer, impassioned tomato growers — driven partly by the superior taste and sheer variety of this popular home-grown fruit — abound in all co…

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If you were not among the devoted gardeners who managed to check everything off their winterizing to-do list before last week’s surprisingly early snowstorm, you are not alone. Just days preceding the snowfall and sudden plummeting temperatures, spring-flowering bulbs were being planted, gar…

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Now that it’s bulb-planting season, you may have noticed — near the lavish display of tulip, crocus and narcissus bulbs — a humbler kind of bulb for sale at the garden centre. It may produce flowers, but this often-overlooked bulb is grown to eat rather than to simply admire in the garden. I…

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When the creamy-white panicles of my ‘Limelight’ hydrangea turn a dusty pink, I know summer is nearing an end. It’s normal to feel a little sad that the carefree days of summer are over, but autumn is a season of new beginnings in gardens. Hints of fall’s arrival are everywhere: in the blush…

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Gardening in the city has its challenges. Not only do urban gardeners have to contend with noise, pollution and shade cast from nearby buildings and overgrown city trees, but available soil is typically too lean to cultivate, that is, if you happen to be lucky enough to have a yard. Add to t…

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One of the things I most enjoy about summer is having access to an assortment of culinary herbs growing in pots outside the kitchen door or a just few garden steps away. On serene summer evenings and lazy Sunday mornings, I meander outside barefoot with snippers, to cut a bouquet of aromatic…

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With all the rain and cool temperatures of late, suburban lawns are green and lush, and that’s a good thing for lawn lovers. A healthy lawn is an attractive complement to the hard edges of a home’s exterior and its surroundings. It also offers a soft surface on which to walk, entertain and p…

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Earth Day, a day to raise awareness of environmental care and protection of our planet, is April 22. And according to the Canadian Climate Change Report released earlier this month claiming Canada’s warming at double the global average, Canadians need to step it up a notch. Regardless of whe…

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If I could invent the perfect flower, it would be attractive and pleasantly-fragrant, with profuse blooms of various shapes, sizes and colours that attract pollinators, and look great not just in the garden, but displayed in a vase all while being easy to care for. The dahlia meets most of t…

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When outdoor temperatures really start dipping and mums and pumpkins make their appearance on doorsteps, it’s time to start preparing plants and the garden for winter. After being nurtured all summer long, expensive, annual flowers will soon be dumped from their pots and extracted from the g…

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Repetition is one of a handful of often cited design principles that, when properly applied while garden planning, makes a landscape more pleasing to look at. Repeating certain elements in the landscape — a plant colour, a shape, a container style, a hardscape material, even a tree — turns w…

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A labour of love though it may be, gardening can sometimes be all work and no play. Late summer, when hydrangeas have taken centre stage in gardens and temperatures are too hot to be labouring, is an opportunity for gardeners to hang up their trowels and participate in less-strenuous garden …

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This month’s 40 °C plus sweltering heat and minimal rainfall has taken a toll on suburban landscapes. Annual flowers planted just last month have yellowed or are stunted; the usually upright foliage of rhododendrons and smooth hydrangeas have retracted into protection mode to prevent excessi…

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The best plants in my summer garden are not the flowers of herbaceous perennials or annuals, but of woody flowering shrubs. It is these plants that I forgot about while I am bent over forehead deep in foliage, deadheading, clipping or digging up others needier of my attention, until I take n…

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It’s that time of year again when homeowners swarm garden centres in search of colourful, annual plants to grow in pots and around their landscape for the summer. And just in time for the arrival of warmer spring temperatures, finally, and hopefully here to stay.

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Downsizing to a condo or apartment is not easy. Along with all the physical work and emotional stress that comes with moving into smaller living quarters, trading in a backyard of greenery for a concrete slab may leave lifelong gardeners feeling apprehensive. The good news is that you don’t …

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Spring has officially begun and although still snow covered, the garden will eventually beck on you to venture outside and start ritual seasonal chores. Here are a few things you’ll need to do once snow melts, but only when lawns are dry enough to walk on.

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Terrariums are all the rage — again. And while I don’t ordinarily gravitate toward the latest trend, I was hooked after creating just one. Now, any clear, glass vessel I see is instinctively assessed for its terrarium-potential, favourable contenders cleaned in a soapy bath until gleaming th…

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If you are a serious gardener, and happen to have a yard, chances are good that you have a compost pile where kitchen scraps and garden waste are routinely disposed of in the hopes of cooking up a batch of compost for the plants you grow. And this fall, once bins are emptied onto vegetable a…

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Plants are typically cherished for the beauty and value they afford to gardens, but what about those plants that seem to go hand in hand with Halloween, only two weeks away? What about plants that are freaks of nature or those possessing bizarre attributes or curiously macabre nomenclature a…

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A good friend of mine recently had an overgrown corkscrew willow tree removed from her side yard because the tree’s shallow root system was compromising her driveway and her home’s foundation. The tree had been planted by the previous homeowner. Knowing very little about trees, my friend nat…

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If you dream of growing your own fresh produce but don’t think you have the means, read on. Nowadays, growing your own food is all the rage, and innovative solutions abound so no one is left out. Foodscaping, a trend boasted at this year’s Montreal Botanical Garden’s Great Gardening Weekend,…

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Weeds are a constant source of frustration for most gardeners, evoking feelings of disdain like no other plant. Toxic chemical herbicides, thankfully now out of fashion, were once the go-to remedy for eradicating any weed deemed undesirable by property owners. So aside from pulling weeds out…

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For many gardeners, starting plants from seed is not an option, preferring the ease and convenience of purchasing ready-to-plant flowers and vegetables from the local garden centre. But starting at least a few plants from seed is worth the effort for several reasons.

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Most people look surprised with the mention of gardening while in the throws of winter. What could one possibly grow, they seem to wonder, besides house plants in mid-February? But I have been growing and harvesting microgreens — the young, edible shoots of vegetables such as peas and brocco…

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There are gardening books that are worth reading and others that end up collecting dust on a bookshelf, despite any initial enthusiasm when the book was purchased. I keep them all — the good ones and even the not so good ones that I never finished reading — perhaps as a reminder of all the n…

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If there is one group of plants that I could not do without, it is conifers. Flowers, with all their pretty colours and exuberance, capture attention like a star actor in a small town. But in landscapes where winters dominate, gardeners need something else to admire when flowers are but a fl…

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When consulting with homeowners about designing their outdoor spaces, privacy is at the top of their list of priorities. After all, what good is a beautifully designed yard if it isn’t relaxing because neighbours can peak in on what you are doing? Or perhaps it is them you don’t want to see …

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Well, it’s almost that time of year again when garden centres become flooded with consumers eager to fill their carts with flowering annuals that beautify residential and commercial landscapes all summer. Every year, breeders introduce a myriad of new flowers to the gardening market, but onl…

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In case you haven’t heard, bees are declining in alarming numbers. That flowers rely on bees should be of special concern to gardeners and naturalists, but all humankind would be concerned knowing that one-third of our most nutritious foods and many medicines and beverages — like the coffee …

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March is the month to start sowing seeds indoors, particularly for warm weather plants that require a head start on our short growing season. In case you are not among the eager gardeners ready to grow their own vegetables, herbs and flowers from scratch, you are likely not alone.

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Last summer, I knocked on a neighbour’s door to remark how much I admired the unusual, pink poppies in her always-tidy front garden. The garden’s owner, a slim, elderly woman, answered the door and invited me in without hesitation, sharing with me not just her poppy seeds but her age: she wa…

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Have you ever wondered what the optimal season for garden cleanup is? Fall enthusiasts are sedulous in their cleanup rituals, cutting back and promptly discarding any signs of browning foliage in their gardens, while other seemingly apathetic gardeners delay this task until springtime. Well,…

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Displaying tasteful, seasonal flower arrangements by an entranceway is a simple and effective way to welcome guests to your home and instantly boosts curb appeal — not to mention what it reflects about the homeowner. Creating the arrangement yourself allows you to experiment with new plant a…

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Creating a shade garden has its challenges. Without sunlight, plant choice is limited with the more floriforous varieties like roses and lilacs out of the realm of growing options. Ditto for sun-loving edibles, such as tomatoes, squash and peppers.