Low maintenance garden tips from Leanne Cusack


CHELSEA, QUE. – You could call our garden an “all you can eat” pollinator buffet.

There are so many birds, butterflies (yes, monarchs), hummingbirds and bees flying above us, there is almost a need for air traffic control!

This buzz sounds like nature’s gratitude.

While these bees are busy, we gardeners want to be a little lazy.

CTV Ottawa host Leanne Cusack shares her experience in Chelsea, Que. garden, highlighting low-maintenance and affordable tips. (Photo credit: Joël Haslam)

We run a “marathon” to dig, divide, mulch and plant at the start of the season for about four days, long days.

And then it’s over! (We can play on the water or hike until we get back to the gardens for the winter.)

Sure there is a bit of weeding, watering and deadheading but overall the garden takes care of itself.

The secret is in the mulch.

CTV News Ottawa’s Joel Haslam is more than a great storyteller.

I have been calling my beloved companion for eight years: “The king of mulch”.

I also call him the “king of chicken manure”. He’s not crazy about those two nicknames, but he loves the way mulch (ramea or willow bark) maintains moisture in the soil and minimizes the need for weeding, and how manure is like steroids for them. plants.

Mulch and moisture

Mulch and manure are healthy options for the soil, without chemicals or dyes. This way the herbs and vegetables can eventually be planted where the flowers are.

One thing I really like is something I will call “Appreciative Volunteer Relocation”.

Instead of being frustrated by the wonderful wildlife, welcome the “voluntary plantations” of birds and chipmunks.

For years, I planted sunflowers and felt a bit sabotaged by the creatures that I would lovingly feed all winter. I would plant seeds, they would dig them up and eat them. It was like a treasure hunt and I was left empty handed.

I then realized that they were crashing too. Help me, even unintentionally.

So when I see a sunflower growing anywhere, I let it grow strong enough to transplant it and move it to where I would like it to grow to full height.

Working with wildlife is a numbers game. I can’t predict how many seeds planted in beds will take, so I’m starting potted sunflowers as well.

I then move these sunflower plants into large containers,

They add height and drama to the garden.

It has been such an amazing year of growth, so many are 12 foot tall bright and sunny giant sunflowers.

Leanne with volunteer sunflowers

You know that expression “stay in the light”; sunflowers are the teachers.

Young sunflowers follow the sun, hence the French word for tournesol: Tournesol which means “turns with the sun”.

These tall, bright and beautiful flowers add so much to the garden for just pennies of seeds.

Happy sunflower volunteers

These mature sunflowers are then bird feeders and the cycle of collaboration continues.

Another happy plant offering a big hit for around two dollars: the nasturtium! (Two dollars is the cost of a packet of seeds.)

If you are drawn to the cheerful and exotic flowers surrounded by such pretty leaves, I suggest you plant them in containers and flower beds.

I plant them everywhere.

They are beautiful draped over the garden walls. I put nasturtiums in the pots with sunflowers. It’s my way of bringing the south of France to the Gatineau Hills.

These vibrant plants make an excellent ground cover. The vibrant flowers are perfect for garnishing salads or desserts. Yes, they are edible!


Another sunny flower friend is a girl named Susan, some say her eyes are brown, some say they are black. Brown or black-eyed Susans are low-maintenance and are so happy.

Susans with brown eyes

Brown-eyed Susans (Rudebeckia) are also resistant.

When I noticed that the flower had prolifically self-seeded in our slab path, there were two options: A) the whipper-snipper or B) spend ten minutes moving dozens and dozens of small volunteer seedlings. in beds and containers.

I chose option B and I feel rewarded.

Leanne with brown eyed Susan
Removal of voluntary seedlings of black-eyed Susan. (Photo credit: Joël Haslam)

Since we are talking about resilience, I want to tell you about a plant that never stops giving.

It is an annual called Mezoo, or Dorotheanthus. It is a tender perennial in Carolina and more temperate climates.

Mezoo or Dorotheanthus

This year, I met my new best girlfriend Dorotheanthus by chance.

When I went to the Brantim Country Garden Center on Upper Dwyer Hill Road to purchase my annuals, I asked for Swedish Ivy (a long standing vine for containers).


Joanne Smith, the creative genius there, said, “Lee, sorry sold out, but try this Mezoo Vine, I know you will love it. “

She was right. It’s the best and I’ve sold everyone on it.

When I told Jocelyn, the amazing horticulturalist of Masham’s “nursery find”, Les Serres Bourgeon, she said: “You know it’s a succulent, right ?! Just break off a piece and stick it in the ground.

This little conversation means I have Doreanthus everywhere – on the paths, in containers, draped over the rocks. It also has the sweetest reddish pink fringed little flowers. I plan to take a few plants indoors to get through the winter.

Saving tip: a succulent becomes a lot, a lot of plants !!

Mezoo or Dorotheanthus is my favorite addition this year. It’s an annual but I’ll bring a few pieces inside to spend the winter.

If we focus on the “division that becomes multiplication” garden, let us shine a light on the bright and beautiful hosta.

Hostas are the plant version of the perfect friend.

They are reliable, hardy, happy, forgiving, cheerful and versatile.

Everyone loves to share their hostas. I gratefully used some of the hostas I received in containers.

I really like how they look at different heights in containers.

Hostas in pots

My advice, learned quite by chance; if you throw your hostas out of the containers in the forest or at the bottom of your garden in the fall, you can put them back in the container (with soil added) in the spring.

I’ve been putting the same hostas in the same containers near the garage for years now. (They are very heavy, so thank you, Joel.)

Grasses (even a piece of your perennial ornamental grasses) and begonias added to these hostas (split and subdivided) are obstacles.

I feel so lucky to have discovered this trick. Try it out with a little one to see if it works for you.

Tip: I empty the hostas from the containers in the forest in the fall and plant them again in the same containers in the spring. I may be the president of the Hosta Fan Club. )

At the start of this article, I celebrated Susan. It is versatile, this Susan. I don’t just appreciate her in her daisy form, she is also a beauty like a vine. Thunbergia, Black-eyed Susan Climbing Vine is a great climber (as the name suggests). This plant looks beautiful in a container or growing, and sinks over a rock wall. The seed packet costs $ 1.89. I have clumps of this plant everywhere. Susan is a very affordable friend in my backyard for around $ 8.00.


While I share all my “affordable” tips, I am spending on transplants!

Because our growing season is so condensed, I want color early and I want to provide consistent, consistent nourishment for my flying friends.

Birds and bees depend on these flowers and flowering trees.

If I am asked to choose my favorite annuals: I have long adored cleome, zinnias, dragon wing begonias, scaevola, geraniums and verbena. They are so happy and have become my “must-see annuals”.

Enjoy vibrant annuals

These are the main pops of color in our hillside garden.

The bones of this garden are annuals, grasses, evergreens and flowering trees.

Like the seeds that provide a potent pop of color by inexpensive packaging, with the above annuals, a few plants go a long way.

I have zinnias all over the garden. I plant them from seeds in certain areas and containers, and I also plant transplants.

When you invest in zinnias, you are basically guaranteed clumps of cut flowers all summer long. I have already collected around thirty bouquets. I think it’s a good return on your flower dollar.

Zinnia Boquets
I plant transplants and I plant from seed to ensure a full season of color and food for pollinators. The cost of zinnia transplants is recouped through beautiful bouquets of freshly cut flowers. (Photo credit: Joël Haslam)

A favorite flowering perennial friend is Echinacea. Echinacea are long flowering, drought tolerant and reliable. Butterflies and hummingbirds love Echinacea.


Tip: Collect a few seed heads. Let them dry. To easily collect the seeds, place the seed heads in a coffee canister and shake them.

Leave the rest of the plant standing however. The birds will thank you.

They say the best way to approach a garden is to have a plan.

I am not that person. To me a garden is a sensation and trial and error has been my recipe for successful planting and gardening.

You could call it landscape, or “softscape”, art. As a landscaper, I love to paint flowers. In summer, however, I see the ground as the canvas.

Hope these late summer examples help you get your plantation affordable next season.

And while I used to call Joel “The Mulch King,” my buddy, garden guru, Carson Arthur also deserves that title. Carson consistently says that “not all mulches are created equal”.

If you want your garden to be healthy, choose the right mulch to cover the carefully prepared and nourished soil.

Carson also loves chickens and whatever their waste can do for your plants.

Carson is the guy who encouraged this chicken to share his “low maintenance” garden getaway.


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