Garden Inspiration

Garden Inspiration

The 2024 Proven Winners Gardeners Idea Book is now available to download or view online.  Click HERE to see a little garden inspiration for Spring 2024!
  • Kristin Ego
Seeds are a great way to get started!

Seeds are a great way to get started!

Seeds are a great way to get started!

So as we get excited about Spring finally arriving – buying and planting seeds is a good ‘spring’ activity that you can do when it is still cold out.

A few considerations...  the frost free date is the ‘official’ date when the risk of a killing frost is less than 50%…  for Ontario we use some old data from the 80’s that might not take into effect the recent climate change issues – but here is a chart that will get you close to the time it is safe to plant out tender flowers and vegetables.


Barrie  May 26
Hamilton  Apr. 29
Kapuskasing  Jun. 12
Kingston  May 2
Kitchener  May 11
London  May 9
Ottawa  May 6
Owen Sound  May 12
Peterborough  May 18
Sudbury  May 17
Thunder Bay  Jun. 1
Timmins  Jun. 8
Toronto  May 9
Windsor  Apr. 25


But we can play with seeds ahead of the frost free dates – both indoors and out in the garden.

Veg and Flower gardens have 2 types of seedling processes – one is for seeds you need to start indoors ahead of putting plants into the garden while the other activity is with seeds you plant directly outdoors into your garden beds.

Plants we start in our greenhouses are the same types of plants you could grow yourself indoors on your windowsill or start under artificial light. Typically we start indoors ahead of the season tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and squashes  – all plants that need warm soil and take a long time to fruit. The annual flowers we start ‘indoors’ include begonias, marigolds, alyssum, petunias and other slow to grow flowers.

A few things to know about starting seeds indoors:

1) Clean is key – you need to use ‘sterile’ seedling mix as bacteria and slimy stuff likes warm, humid environment.  Do not use garden soil – a ‘soil-less’ or seed-starting mix is best.

2) Light is important – you need a bright windowsill, or strong artificial light from grow lamps to keep young tomato plants from getting too stretchy.

3) High moisture when seeds are germinating and seedling are very small is key, Use a clear plastic greenhouse covers or you can use clear saran wrap – also good to know that after seedlings are an inch or so high to ease back on high humidity to toughen up the small plants to get used to drier air of garden.

4) Do not start seedlings too soon!  We all get so excited about spring coming that we plant seeds in dark of winter.  Look at your outdoor planting date – then back up from that date time for seeds to germinate then about 3-4 weeks of growing time for peppers/eggplant/tomato – only 2-3 weeks growing time for cucumbers (they grow really fast).

5) Read the packet – all seeds are a little different – some like to be covered – some like light to germinate. Spend a few minutes reading each seed packet and you will have greater success.

6) Start with easy plants – if you have not done this before consider trying some of the easier plants first to get experience and see if seed staring is for you. Good beginner seed items include any cucumber or squash, peppers, tomatoes, marigolds, sunflowers and zinnias.  Small seeded and slow growing plants like begonias and petunias are perhaps for more experienced gardeners.

But if you start clean, have enough light and moisture and leave just the right amount of time – chances are you will have great success with indoor sowing.

On to outdoor sowing.  The vast majority of veggie crops can be sown directly into the garden. Radish, peas, lettuce, cabbage, beans are the most common.  Add into that mix sweet corn, cucumbers & zucchini (for those who chose not to try these two fast growing plants indoors), carrots, beets – – it is a long list.

In early to mid April – you can plant peas, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and onions.  Warm loving crops like peppers and tomatoes need to wait a few more weeks.


  • Kristin Ego
Viva Magenta - Pantone Colour of the Year 2023

Viva Magenta - Pantone Colour of the Year 2023

What is Viva Magenta?

"Pantones Color of the Year, Viva Magenta 18-1750, vibrates with vim and vigor. It is a shade rooted in nature descending from the red family and expressive of a new signal of strength."

- Leatrice Eiseman, Pantone Color Institute

The Pantone Colour of the Year is Viva Magenta, a great hue for gardeners to incorporate into their plantings for 2023 (and beyond!).

For those of you looking to work this vibrant shade into your pots, planters and landscapes for this coming season, we have picked a few of our favourite plants...


Gladiolus 'Lumiere' is a Dutch Novelty Glad that is great for borders and cut flowers.  'Lumiere' grows to 100 cm (40") and is best in a sunny location.  Glads are not winter hardy so dig them up in the fall and store in a frost-free area.

Calla (Zantedeschia) 'Captain Romance' is a tropical plant that produces lush foliage and long-lasting blooms.  Callas grow best in sun to part sun and can be used in containers or in the garden.  'Captain Romance' grows to 40cm (16").  To save bulbs over winter, dig in fall before frost and store above freezing.




Petunia 'Supertunia Vista Fuchsia' is very vigorous, with a mounding habit that can reach up to 2 feet in height in the landscape and will trail over the edges of baskets and containers up to 3 feet by the end of the season.  It is a fantastic landscape plant and is also great in large containers, where they function as both fillers and spillers in mixed plantings.  In garden beds, they will work either in the front or middle of the bed. 



Dianthus 'Paint the Town Magenta' is a brightly coloured perennial that produces single, vibrant magenta pink flowers atop a low mound of glaucous blue foliage. Use it to edge sunny borders and pathways.  Blooms in spring to summer reach 20 cm (8").

Hibiscus 'Evening Rose' produces huge 8”, puckered hot pink flowers in summer that cover a round, dense habit of near black foliage. A must have statement piece for your garden!  This perennial Hibiscus grows best in part sun to sun with consistent moisture.  It can reach 4 ft in height and 5 ft  spread.



Rosa 'Oso Easy Peasy' has already been decorated with a prestigious Award of Excellence in the No Spray division from the American Rose Society. Its apple-green foliage resists powdery mildew and black spot, and its abundant magenta flowers appear in endless profusion from early summer through frost. The size and scale of this rose and its blooms is perfect for incorporating into flower gardens - about 3 ft height and spread.  Like most roses, it performs best in a sunny location.

Weigela 'Spilled Wine'  shares the fabulous deep purple foliage and bright pink flowers of the classic Wine & Roses® weigela but in a smaller size. This useful plant grows wider than tall, making it the perfect choice for edging beds or walkways and for incorporating under windows in your landscaping. Like all weigela, it is deer resistant and very easy to care for.


 Photos courtesy of Proven Winners, Walters Gardens and VanNoort Bulbs

  • Kristin Ego
2022 PW Gardener's Idea Book

2022 PW Gardener's Idea Book

Need a little inspiration to get planning for the coming gardening season?

Proven Winners has published their 2022 Gardener's Idea book to give you some inspiration for spring...

Download your copy here

  • Kristin Ego
A Very Peri Garden

A Very Peri Garden

As part of a yearly tradition renowned across several design-centric and creative industries, Pantone has announced that Very Peri will be its 2022 Color of the Year. Each year's decision is based on comprehensive trend analysis and a specific theme

"Encompassing the qualities of the blues, yet at the same time possessing a violet-red undertone, PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri displays a spritely, joyous attitude and dynamic presence that encourages courageous creativity and imaginative expression." 

Pantone's Color of the Year selections are intended to be reflections of the current moods, fashions and foremost concepts in the world at the time. In selecting Very Peri, Pantone VP Laurie Pressman says "The Pantone Color of the Year reflects what is taking place in our global culture, expressing what people are looking for that colour can hope to answer.  Creating a new colour for the first time in the history of our Pantone Color of the Year educational colour program reflects the global innovation and transformation taking place."

Looking to add Very Peri plants to your garden this year?  We have rounded up a few suggestions that will incorporate this trendy colour into your landscape...


Clockwise from top left:  Iris siberica 'Ruffled Velvet', Geranium 'Rozanne', Clematis 'Happy Jack Purple', Lavander 'Sweet Romance', Pulmonaria 'Spot On, Nepeta 'Cat's Pajamas', Buddleia 'Lavender Cupcake', Phlox 'Crater Lake', Lilac 'Scentara Double Blue', Perovskia 'Sage Advice'

Photos courtesy of Proven Winners and Walters Gardens.



  • Kristin Ego
Year of the Lilac

Year of the Lilac

Lilacs are among the most carefree spring-flowering, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrubs (or small trees), well-loved for their toughness, reliability, and fragrance.

Overview and History

Clusters of small, four-lobed flowers are borne in conical to narrow pyramidal clusters (panicles) up to eight inches long that stand out from the green heart-shaped leaves.

Carl Linnaeus first described the lilac genus, Syringa, in 1753. The name is derived from the ancient Greek word syrinx, meaning pipe or tube. The stems of the common lilac have a spongy pith that can be removed, leaving hollow tubes that were used to make pan-pipes.

Syringa vulgaris, the common (vulgaris) lilac, originated in southeastern Europe; other species came from Western Asia. The French imported lilacs and developed many new varieties that made their way to North America.

Lilac blooms go far beyond every imaginable shade of lilac/purple from very pale to very dark. Look for lilacs in hues of red, pink, blue, yellow, cream and white—even picotee (white-edged, deep purple ‘Sensation’). The color may change from bud to bloom and as the flowers mature. Individual flowers can be single or double.

Lilacs originated in Eastern Europe and Asia and were brought to America in the 17th century |Year of the Lilac | National Garden Bureau

Lilac Species

There are about 30 different species of lilac. Among the best-known and prized lilacs are:

  • Syringa x chinensis Chinese Lilac – Grows 8 to 12 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 3. Rose-purple flowers. Susceptible to powdery mildew.
  • Syringa x hyacinthiflora – Early Flowering Lilac – Grows 10 to 12 feet high and wide. Hardy to Zone 3. Exquisitely fragrant flowers may be single or double, opening 7 to 10 days before those of the common lilac. Unlike other lilacs, the foliage has multi-season interest, turning shades of gold, red, or purple in fall. Resistant to powdery mildew. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. ‘Pocahontas’ panicles are packed with fragrant, single, rich violet flowers.
  • Syringa josikaea – Hungarian Lilac – Grows 8 to 10 feet tall and 10 to 12 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 5. Late-blooming with deep lilac-purple, slightly fragrant flowers.
  • Syringa laciniata – Cutleaf or Feathered Persian Lilac. Grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide. Heat tolerant—hardy from Zones 4 to 8. Can grow in partial shade. Very unique looking with airy, finely textured foliage—lacy, deeply cut, dark green leaves that turn yellow-green in fall. Loose panicles of fragrant, soft lavender flowers are borne on willowy, arched branchlets.
  • Syringa pubescens patula (Syringa patula) ‘Miss Kim’ – Manchurian or Korean Lilac. Slow-grower reaching 6 to 8 feet tall and wide. Heat tolerant—hardy from Zones 3 to 8. Late flowering, with purple buds that open to very fragrant, lavender-blue blossoms that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Three-season interest with burgundy-tinged leaves in fall.
  • Syringa meyeri – Meyer or Korean Lilac – Grows 5 to 8 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 3. Fragrant, pale lilac to violet-purple flowers bloom in small, dense clusters that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
  • Syringa persica – Persian Lilac – Grows 4 to 8 feet tall and 5 to 10 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 4. Intoxicatingly fragrant, showy, pale violet flowers attract butterflies.
  • Syringa x prestoniae Preston (Canadian) Lilac – Grows 8 to 12 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide. Late-blooming—two weeks or more after common lilacs. Exceptionally hardy—to Zone 2. ‘Miss Canada’ is upright, growing 6 to 12 feet tall and wide; reddish buds open to rosy pink flowers that attract butterflies. ‘Redwine’ grows 8 to 12 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide; magenta flowers with a spicy fragrance that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
  • Syringa reticulata – Japanese Tree Lilac – Grows to 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 3. Creamy white, upright flowers. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. ‘Snowdance’ grows 15 to 20 feet tall and 15 to 18 feet wide, producing a profusion of large clusters of fragrant, tiny, creamy-white blooms in early summer, followed by loose clusters of seed capsules that last into winter. Reddish-brown peeling bark completes the four-season interest.
  • Syringa vulgaris – Common Lilac – Grows 12 to 16 feet tall and 8 to 12 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 3. Lilac-purple flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Shrubs are deer and rabbit-resistant. There are more than 600 cultivars of this species. Standouts include:
    • ‘Ludwig Spaeth’ – 6 to 10 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide, this sweetly perfumed, late bloomer bears dark purple flowers and is used in firescaping (landscape design that reduces house and property vulnerability to wildfire).
    • ‘Président Grévy’– 8 to 14 feet tall and 3 to 7 feet wide with fragrant, showy, light blue flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
    • ‘President Lincoln’ – 8 to 10 feet tall and wide, this heirloom cultivar was introduced in 1916 and is considered one of the bluest lilacs with its fragrant panicles of lavender-blue flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
    • ‘Sensation’- 8 to 15 feet tall and 6 to 12 feet wide with outstanding fragrant, single, white-edged purple (picotee) flowers.

Lilacs can grow for 100+ years, often outliving the homes they were planted around | Year of the Lilac | National Garden BureauNew and Unique Lilac Varieties

Has It All: 

  • Syringa x ‘Josee’ – Not only is it small and a rebloomer, but it also has one of the widest hardiness ranges of any lilac—from Zones 3 to 9! Slowly growing into a 4- to 5-foot mound, highly fragrant, lavender-pink, large flower clusters bloom heavily in spring and continue to blossom sporadically through summer, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.

Heat Tolerant: 

People living in Hardiness Zone eight, especially those who have lived in cooler areas and have treasured having lilacs in their gardens, can now enjoy all the virtues of lilacs thanks to breeders who have worked on heat and humidity tolerance to Zone 8.

  • Blue Skies® quickly grows to 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide, with both cold- and heat-tolerance (Zones 3 to 8), this outstanding shrub with spectacular clusters of lavender-blue flowers can be used in firescaping and firewise gardens.
  • ‘Old Glory’ grows 8 to 11 feet tall and 10 to 12 feet wide with an abundance of fragrant, purple-blue flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds in Zones 5 to 8.
  • Syringa x sinensis ‘Lilac Sunday’ arches to 10 feet tall and wide, blooming profusely from lateral buds all along the stem as well as the typical branch tips with sweetly scented, lavender flowers. Hardy in Zones 3 to 8, it is used in firescaping.
  • Syringa x oblata ‘Betsy Ross’ grows 8 to 10 feet tall and wide. Good hardiness ranges from Zones 2 to 8. Showy panicles up to 14 inches long packed with fragrant, pure white flowers that glow as the light fades at twilight. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Small Lilacs

Many gardeners, especially those in urban spaces, just don’t have the room for the traditional larger lilacs yet want all their beauty and fragrance. Breeders have been hard at work creating compact varieties. There’s no excuse now for not having the joy, fragrance, and beauty that lilacs bring in spring, these beauties will even grow will grow happily in a container on your balcony.

  • Baby Kim® is the smallest lilac, growing only 2 to 3 feet high and 3 feet wide, giving it a nicely rounded shape. Its shiny green leaves beautifully set off the non-fading, purple flowers that attract butterflies. Extended hardiness from Zones 3 to 8.
  • Little Lady™ (Syringa x) is a new compact introduction that matures to 4-5’ tall and wide with dark pink buds that open to lilac-pink flowers. Bred in Canada, Little Lady™ is hardy zone 2 to 7.
  • “New Age Lavender’ and ‘New Age White’ (Syringa vulgaris) are super-compact, growing from 4 to 5 feet tall and wide, and were bred for mildew resistance. Their names perfectly describe the colors of their fragrant flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Hardy to Zone 4.
  • Pearl Potion™ (Syringa meyeri) has an upright shape, growing 4 to 5 feet tall and 5 to 7 feet wide. Fragrant, pure white flowers bloom in late spring perfuming the air like their big cousins. Hardy to Zone 3.
  • Pinktini™ Lilac (Syringa x prestoniae) is new in garden centers in Spring 2022. Upright, compact, and cold hardy to Zone 2, this new pink-blooming variety is great for small spaces and early-season blooms in cold climates. Pinktini™ is more compact and tidier than the classic ‘Miss Canada’ Lilac.
  • SCENTARA® lilacs (Syringa x hyacinthiflora) – This series is ideal for warm climates to Zone 8 and is hardy to the cold of Zone 2. With a dwarf form and some of the best fragrance from their parentage combined with good resistance to powdery mildew, they fit into any garden. Scentara Pura® grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide, bearing deeply scented, pure purple flowers. Scentara® Double Blue grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide and is a showstopper with its large clusters of highly perfumed, lavender-blue, double flowers.
  • Sugar Plum Fairy® (Syringa vulgaris) grows to 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Hardy from Zones 3 to 8, it’s a late bloomer bearing spicy scented clusters of rosy pink flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
  • Tinkerbelle® grows to 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 3, it’s a superb lilac with wine-red buds that open to deep pink flowers with a spicy fragrance that attracts hummingbirds.

Reblooming Lilacs

  • Syringa meyeri ‘Palabin’ Dwarf Korean Lilac is a spreading shrub that grows 4 to 6 feet tall and 5 to 7 feet wide, bearing reddish-purple buds that open to pale purple flowers with a jasmine-like scent. It flowers in spring and then from summer to frost., attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. Cut back early flowers as soon as they fade. Hardy to Zone 3.
  • Bloomerang® Lilacs are outstanding reblooming lilacs with a profusion of stunning, sweetly scented clusters of star-like flowers in spring that seem to cover the plant and then rebloom less profusely from midsummer until the first frost. The fragrant flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators and are both disease and deer-resistant. Hardy to Zone 3. Bloomerang® Dark Purple grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide with dark purple flowers. Bloomerang® Dwarf Pink grows 2 to 3 feet tall and wide with pure pink flowers. Bloomerang® Dwarf Purple grows like Bloomerang® Dwarf Pink, but with purple flowers. Bloomerang® Pink Perfume grows 4 to 5 feet tall and wide with highly fragrant, pink flowers. Bloomerang® Purple grows 4 to 5 feet tall and wide and bears purple flowers.
Purple colored varieties traditionally have the strongest scent | Year of the Lilac | National Garden Bureau

Lilacs in the Garden

Lilacs have myriad uses in the garden. In addition, new sizes, a wider range of growing zones, and reblooming characteristics make them attractive and accessible to gardeners who may not have thought about growing them in the past.

These plants are at home in so many types of themed gardens, including pollinator, butterfly, cutting, fragrance, cottage, deer-resistant, and single-color (white, purple) gardens. In Zone 8 other fire-prone areas, some are used for firescaping and firewise gardens. Lilacs are great in mass plantings in a flowering hedge, border, windbreak, foundation planting, privacy, or screening hedge. Lilacs of any size can be impressive specimen plants. These versatile shrubs are equally comfortable at the edge of a woodland garden or in an urban setting. In containers, small varieties are moveable accent plants. Lilac colors blend so well together, they are beautiful in a grouping or hedge of many different cultivars.

10 Lilac Planting Tips

  1. Most lilacs do well in Hardiness Zones 3 to 7—climates that provide a chill period in winter. 
  2. Lilacs grow best in full sun, so avoid planting them where they will be shaded for more than a few hours.
  3. Lilacs need good drainage and fertile soil. Soil should retain sufficient moisture to nourish the root system yet drain freely when rainfall is abundant.
  4. Test drainage before planting: Dig a hole 8 inches across and 12 inches deep. Fill it with water. If any water remains in the hole after an hour, choose another planting area.
  5. Lilacs love fertile, slightly alkaline soil. If your soil is very acidic, add garden lime in the fall.
  6. Choose a planting space that will allow for future growth. Read the plant label for the height and spread of the mature plant.
  7. Dig the planting hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide.
  8. Set the plant in the hole; it should be at the same soil level as it was in its container.
  9. Fill in around the sides with soil. Press it in firmly.
  10. Water well.

8 Lilac Growing Tips

  1. Water your lilacs regularly for the first couple of years—at least 1 inch of water a week.
  2. Apply granular organic fertilizer early each spring at the base of the plant. Water it in well. Buds are set the previous year, so the fertilizer feeds this year’s leaves and next year’s blooms.
  3. Annual pruning is not necessary, but cutting off spent flower heads within a month after bloom helps the plant set more flowers for next year.
  4. Cut back off root suckers as they appear to keep the common lilac from spreading into a colony.
  5. Rejuvenate an overgrown plant or one that blooms sparsely by cutting one-third of the oldest branches back to 12 to 15 inches from the ground. Do over a three-year period to refresh the plant without sacrificing blooms.
  6. Powdery mildew can be unsightly but generally does not harm the plant. You can make a spray of 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a gallon of water with a couple of drops of Ivory liquid. Spray it on the leaves, but not if the temperature is over 80°. The alkalinity of the solution helps to kill the fungus.
  7. Rake fallen leaves from around the plant in autumn. If you had powdery mildew or any disease, bag them and toss them in the garbage, otherwise add them to your compost pile.
  8. Anytime: Prune out any dead or broken branches from storm or winter damage.

This fact sheet is provided as an educational service of the National Garden Bureau. 


  • Kristin Ego