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Niagara Falls
Friday, July 12, 2024
Growing Together: The bold and the beautiful
Midnight marvel hibiscus. Joanne Young
Cityline Paris hydrangea. Joanne Young

I don’t know of too many places that have more lush-looking gardens than Niagara-on-the-Lake. Everywhere you look you are surrounded by large stunning flowers that just demand your attention.

If your garden is lacking vibrancy at this time of the year and you want to add some bold plants to liven up your landscape, here are some flowering plants that have a strong summer punch.

Acanthus mollis (Bear’s breeches)

This perennial plant is probably more widely known for its large leaves than for its flowers, but both leaves and flowers pack a punch in the garden.

The large thistle-like leaves have long been used by the Greeks since the fifth century BC on temple roof ornaments, on wall friezes, and on the capital of the Corinthian column.

One of the best examples of its use in the Corinthian order is the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens.

Not only do the leaves add a certain lushness to the garden, but it also has tall, architectural spikes of purple and white flowers that will grow anywhere from three to six inches tall.

Bear’s breeches grow best in part shade and enjoy soil rich in organic matter.  They are hardy to zone 5.


Ligularia, commonly known as ragwort or leopard plant, is another perennial that isn’t commonly used but deserves a special spot in your garden.

Like the acanthus, it sports both large, lush leaves and bold flowers mid to late summer.

There are two main species that can be found in the garden centres.

One species is Ligularia dentata. A cultivar of Ligularia dentata that I use frequently is Britt Marie Crawford, which has huge, rounded, dark burgundy leaves. The texture and size of leaves would resemble that of a large hosta.

In late summer, the bright golden-orange daisy-like flowers open up, making a striking contrast to the burgundy leaves. Britt Marie Crawford grows two to three inches tall and three inches wide.

Another species of ligularia commonly found is Ligularia stenocephala with one of the showiest cultivars named “The Rocket.” It does not resemble the previous species at all.

It still has large leaves that are dark green in colour, but instead of daisy-like flowers, it has tall, lemon-yellow spikes of flowers that can get to be five to six inches tall.

All ligularia prefer a part-shaded location a moist to boggy soil.  They can tolerate full sun with supplemental watering.

Perennial hibiscus

Another summer-blooming perennial that will add fullness to your landscape is the perennial hibiscus.

Many of us have a tropical (indoor) hibiscus or know of rose of Sharon, which is also in the hibiscus family, but there is a perennial form that is hardy to zone 5.

Sometimes you will hear it being referred to as the dinner plate Hibiscus as the flowers are about the size of a dinner plate (eight to 10 inches across). There are many varieties of perennial hibiscus in shades of whites, pinks and reds. 

Most cultivars will grow three to four inches high and wide.  There are also some dwarf varieties available as well.

Perennial hibiscus prefers a sunny spot in the garden.  Although they can tolerate a moist to wet area, they also do well in regular soil.

Each flower only lasts for one day, but as the plant matures it can produce at least 80 flower buds.

They all do not open at once, but gradually over three to four weeks, giving it a long bloom time.  


It is impossible at this time to drive through Niagara-on-the-Lake at this time and not notice the beauty of all the different varieties of hydrangeas in people’s gardens.

With all the recent rain, the hydrangeas are having a great season. From the large white snowball flowers of the Annabelle hydrangeas to the pink and blue globe flowers or hydrangea macrophytes to the cone shape clusters of the white PG hydrangeas, they provide such a lushness to the gardens.

There are way too many varieties to go into individual details, but basically, all hydrangeas will tolerate full sun to part shade locations.

Because of their large flowers and leaves, they will require additional water in sunny areas. Some varieties will only grow one-and-a-half inches high and some of the PG varieties can grow as much as seven to eight inches tall.

Now is a great time to visit the garden centres to see the vast array of colours and sizes.

So, if your garden is needing something bold and beautiful, why not consider adding some of these plants to punch up your landscape?

Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca

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