Sustainable Gardens: Carson Arthur's Vision

Hey all! Carson Arthur here.

I have a confession to make, when I create garden designs, I have a list of the same plants that I like to work with. Can you relate?

These plants are the ones that customers like, perform well in my area, and are tried and true combinations that visually work together. I know that many other designers and homeowners have their own lists and while they might be slightly different, I see the same plants, trees and shrubs being used over and over again in new installations.

However, in recent years, I have seen a movement away from the big green lawns that have dominated our backyard landscapes. Today’s homeowners are embracing gardens in our outdoor spaces. Whether it’s for beauty or for growing food, there has been a real push towards incorporating more plants into all aspects of outdoor design. This is really important for a couple reasons:

1. Anti-Monocultures

Studies have clearly shown that diverse plant populations are better at surviving disease, insect damage, and environmental problems. Dutch Elm disease is a perfect example of this. Cities all through North America planted these trees in parks, boulevards, and even provided free trees to homeowners to increase the urban tree canopies. Now we are dealing with a fungal disease that spreads rapidly from tree to tree.

Grass and lawns have been linked to a lot of the environmental problems that we face in our neighbourhoods. And herbicides are used to preserve our patterned flower combinations, however, this trend creates what is called a ‘monoculture’. Author and genetics PHD Sam Westreich, has written several articles on this phenomenon and the negative impact these monocultures have on our environment. He highlights that when only one species of plant, like grass for example, is grown in an area, that area quickly becomes depleted of all of the nutrients required by that plant. To continue to keep the plant healthy, we replace those depleted nutrients with alternatives that include chemical fertilizers which have been scientifically linked to the decline of many species of animals in our ecosystem. A downward spiral.

2. Anti-Herbicides

As a radio and TV personality, I receive hundreds of questions each month regarding plant and landscaping troubles and recently I have been getting more questions about herbicides for the lawn and garden due to the spread of unwanted self-seeding flowers. Do you have this problem too?

The majority of these wildflowers spread via seeds and these seeds can travel outside of the boundaries of a meadow itself, disrupting our tidy garden boundaries. Now we have homeowners buying more of the herbicides that are linked to pollinator decline to treat these unwanted, spreading flowers from the meadow. However there is another way…

We are now starting to see the emergence of landscaping shrubs and flowering bushes that not only solve the herbicide issue as they don’t spread, but also aid in protecting and feeding pollinators!

3. Protection for Pollinators

These monocultures of grass and repetitive, reliable plants cause a loss in plant diversity that birds and insects need to survive. Online, there are thousands of examples of today’s gardeners planting flowers to support local bird and insect populations. These are a great step towards reducing our backyard monocultures, but if you really want to help, it’s time to start planting perennials and shrubs that bloom throughout the entire growing season instead of a few weeks in the spring.

I’m a fan of gardeners and designers that create spaces that have perennials and shrubs which bloom in the fall as these are often the last source of food and energy that both hibernating and migratory creatures need to survive. Whether it’s a bumblebee that burrows in the soil of the garden to survive winter or a butterfly that travels 4000 kms to warmer winter climates, a source of food in the fall is critical to their success. Ultimately, the goal is to help feed the insects and creatures that rely on flowers as their primary source of food.

So, let’s start adding more diversity into our plant lists! Thankfully, we are starting to see growers that are focussing on providing amazing new options of plants that are better at handling disease and stress than ever before. We are even seeing companies like Bloomin’ Easy investing in software and technology that makes care and growing instructions simple for customers. They even provide people with care reminders to ensure the success of the plants that they choose.

Here’s a personal favorite from the new line at Bloomin’ Easy!

Firefly® Bush Honeysuckle
Grows in colder zones, including zone 3
Stays a compact 2-3’ in size
Produces bright yellow flowers in late spring, which are a favourite for hummingbirds that have recently migrated north

Looking for fall bloomers? Here’s my recommendation:

Peach Lemonade® Rose

  • Yellow, White, and blush flowers that attract several species of birds, butterflies, and insects
  • Starts blooming in late spring and continues until the plant goes dormant in the fall


Beekeeper™ Bluebeard (also a personal favourite)

  • Bees are known to prefer blue and violet colors. Bluebeard is one of the few ‘true blue’ shrubs that flower in the fall
  • It can handle some shade, making it more adaptable for various locations
  • Flowers late into the fall


Birthday Cake™ Butterfly Bush (also a personal favourite)
Covered in fragrant flowers from summer to fall
Butterfly bush is a favorite of Monarch Butterflies and often their last meal before migrating to their winter homes in Mexico

Partner with Carson to boost pollinators this fall. Easy to care for, beautiful, and vital for pollinators. Get started in your own backyard!