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October 28, 2017 4:44 am

Getting Into the Gardening Zone

Saturday, April 18, 2015 @ 3:45 AM

The weather and climate decides what and when we can plant. Gardening in our Northern climate can be limited, but the list of hardy plant material continues to increase yearly, through hybridizing and the easy accessibility of being able to get plants/seeds from all over the world. 

There are many Canadian plant breeders that are coming out with new hardy plant material every year, suitable for our Canadian climate. For example all the Morden, and Explorer roses are bred at the Morden Research station in Manitoba. They have been grown successfully in many local landscapes over the past 20-30 years.

It is important for people to read the labels on trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs, and all plant material that is expected to live for more than one season. Each plant will be given a zone number. The zone number is basically telling you how hardy the plant is and where it will be able to grow and survive the winter. Agriculture Canada devised a zone map, dividing Canada into 9 different growing zones. The zones were devised over many years, by an accumulation of gathering information on temperatures, precipitation, humidity, wind, frost free days etc.

Most plant species have more than one variety and some varieties are hardier than others, so this is another thing to check before purchasing plants. For example there are cherry varieties that are not hardy enough to survive in Prince George but that does not mean you can’t grow cherries here. There are cherry varieties available such as Evans, and the Romance Series of cherries from the University of Saskatchewan that are hardy and grow very well in the Prince George area.

Knowing the zone number of any plant and knowing the zone it will be planted in, will help the gardener know whether the plant will survive the winter in their area. Most plants that are rated zone 1 will grow in all zones right up to zone 9. Plant material that is rated zone 9, will only survive in a zone 9 area. Victoria is considered zone 9, Williams Lake 5b and Prince George is zone 3-4b depending on which area you live in. Areas in the bowl and along the river are zone 4b.

When choosing plants for our area, look for plants that are either a zone 3, 2, or 1 for the best survival rates. If you decide to choose a plant rated for zone 4 they could survive with some extra winter protection, such as mulch, or wrapping them with burlap or reemay. There are times when a plant can survive for many winters and then there is one season where there is an early hard frost, or lack of snow cover which can jeopardize its survival. That is part of the risk you take when choosing plant material that is not hardy enough for our area. I would stay away from plants listed zone 5 or higher as these in all likelihood will not survive a Prince George winter. I have found through the years, that some gardeners are looking for new things and enjoy the challenge of trying to grow plant material that may not necessary be hardy for the Prince George area. The floribunda roses are a good example. These are not hardy for our area but gardeners will still purchase them and treat them as an annual. Some years they may survive through the winter if they get a lot of extra protection and the winter is mild, but if they don’t survive, the gardener understands that they were able to enjoy the rose for the season and will need to replace it next season.

At the garden centre we will bring a few plants in, that are not for our zone, but are requested by customers from out of town and these are available for anyone who wants to purchase them.

If you are not sure about a zone or the plant then ask a knowledgeable person who can help you.


Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp Home and Garden Centres in Prince George

  • Highway 16 West at Kimball Road
  • Highway 97 North at Northwood Pulpmill Road


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