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Need a hand in the garden?

Gardening guru Marjorie Harris was online earlier to take your questions on all things gardening.

Your questions and Mr. Harris's answers will appear at the bottom of this page once the discussion has begun.

Marjorie Harris is considered one of Canada's leading garden writers. She writes a weekly gardening column for The Globe and Mail and is editor-at-large of Gardening Life magazine. Born in Shaunovon, Saskatchewan back in the mists of time, she was educated from Goose Bay Labrador to Vancouver B. C. and graduated from McMaster University.

She is the author of 13 gardening books, her most recent being How to Make a Garden, The 7 Essential Steps for the Canadian Gardener, published by Random House.

Editor's Note: globeandmail.com editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. HTML is not allowed. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.

Dominique: Hello Ms. Harris, I have recently began a foray into gardening and I really enjoy it. It will remain to be seen if the garden likes my beginner attempts.. I have a cottage on a peninsula in the Gatineau are of Quebec. The soil is very sandy. There is south west full sun exposure to a small wooded and shade all day around the cottage. I would appreciate any tips around what kind of plants would enjoy this and also flowering trees. I know it is a broad question, I would appreciate any ideas.

Thank you for your time, Dominique

Marjorie Harris: The first thing you should do is add a lot of humus to this soil: that is organic matter such as compost and manure and ground up leaves. This will help create a good growing medium. Winters are very harsh here so look for plants that are extremely hard (they should be able to grow in Zones 3 and 4). The shady area around the cottage can take hostas, pulmonarias (lumgwort) as well as great native plants such as Jack-in-the-pulpit; Solomon seal and ferns. In the sunny areas try Amelachier spp (serviceberry) for its flowers; Rosa glauca for its colour; and lots of salvias and any of the herbs such a sage.

Brian Lowry from Fredericton Canada writes: Hi -- I have several gardens with various wildflowers, most of which I grew from purchased seed (willow amsonia is a favourite). Every year when I weed, I try to leave a few of the less unattractive seedlings that pop up in the garden, just in case they amount to something (last year or the year before I managed to leave two nice wild lilies, which are flowering this year). My question is this -- is there a better way to seek out local wildflowers than randomly letting them sprout in your garden (without doing anything harmful in the wild, of course), and how can I tell which seedlings to keep?

Marjorie Harris; Check out the nurseries in your area and see if there are any specializing in Native plants. It's a lot easier to grow them from already-started plants just as long as you follow the planting instructions. The alternative is to find seeds native to your area. Check out New Brunswick Botany Club. Many garden clubs have terrific seed exchanges. Or go to www.wildflowerfarm.com and see what seeds they have for your province. You might also check out my book BOTANICA NORTH AMERICA in your library or at a second hand bookstore. It has a wealth of information.

Jodey D from Ottawa Canada writes: The house we have purchased comes with a major garden. Sadly, neither my partner nor I have gardened much before and we have little idea about how to properly look after it. If you had to recommend a book or websites to those new to gardening, particularly those inheriting a large garden, what would they be? Any other thoughtful advice for new gardeners? Thanks and cheers Jodey Derouin Ottawa

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