part of the world has its own growing challenges, but my part
seems to have more than its fair share. I live near Ottawa,
Ontario (American zone 4 / Canadian zone 5a), where we have very
cold, dry winters. The most coveted plants to grow tend
to be the ones that prefer warmer winters, such as rhododendron
and magnolia. Our local gardeners can be roughly split into
two categories — those who like to push our hardiness-zone boundary,
and those who prefer the tough, tenacious plants that grow well
here. While I appreciate the ease of growing a hardy plant such
as spiraea, I lean toward the first category.
||Beautiful rhododendron blooms
An interesting local gardening paradox is that some native
plants are difficult to grow. Many lovely mosses, ferns and
orchids that spring up in our woods require years of work
and dedication to cultivate in our gardens. To help these plants
along, it's important to recreate their natural environments.
The same holds true for nursery stock. Garden centers often
sell plants that are less winter hardy than advised for the
area but they don't always provide information on how to coax
them through tough winters. The best you can usually expect
is a supplier tag with a picture of a sun or a half sun and
possibly the plant's zone, although some suppliers exaggerate
hardiness to sell more stock.
lower a plant's hardiness zone number, the more resilient
it is to climatic variables. What's tricky is that one backyard
may be more temperate than another. For example, one might
have mature trees that provide shelter or a sturdy fence that
cuts the wind. Even the direction your house faces can make
a big difference. So, one gardener might be able to grow plants
that are hardy to zone 6 or 7, while a neighbor struggles
with those hardy to zone 5. Without analyzing the temperature
and exposure of your yard throughout the year, there are some
things you can do to help tender plants thrive.