These are the plants I talked about on CBC’s Fresh Air December 23, 201


Don’t just fling plants around a window and think you are doing them or yourselves a favour. I used to collect indoor plants and lug them outside in summer then back in the autumn. My husband used to collect cartoons of indoor plants eating the house. It’s what our place once looked like. Not any more, they should be a real enhancement for necessarily a full on forest of greenery.

I have a friend who is so crazy about her succulent collection she does gardens in a pot, adding different kinds putting them together to make a design. But she has so many that now she and her husband want to downsize, they can’t figure out what to do with the plants. “Get me a greenhouse.” she says

Moderation works with house plants as it does in most other things. Start by checking out the light:

* low light means you can have them in shady places but there has to be reflected light from somewhere. Dead dark won’t cut it.

* houseplants do not want to be in sunlight banging on them directly. They can easily get burned as the days get longer and sun more intense. So they want lots of reflected light. A bright place close to a window but not in a window.

* And never over a heating vent or by a radiator. Dries then out too quickly.

Watering is a major concern. It’s over watering that kills off most indoor plant. And the ones on my list will function in two ways: they will clear the air and will be easy to maintain.

  • Always use tepid water that’s been sitting for about 20 minutes so all the chemicals have evaporated. Water so that it comes out the bottom of the pot.
  • Do the knuckle test:   stick your finger in the pot and if it’s dry at the first knuckle it probably needs watering. Double knuckle would be down two knuckles of course.

Give all indoor plants a spritz with tepid water occasionally. They will get dusty and the stomata which do all the good work you want will get blocked.

Plants can make a huge difference to the air quality of any room. These forgiving plants usually need good light and some will do the job of removing nasty things like the benzene or formaldehyde from furniture and cleaning products. They absorb these particulates, take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen.

But: If you have animals or small children, make sure you are not setting out any plant that’s toxic.

THE CORE PLANTS (ones to keep the air clean and look great)

SPIDER PLANT  The wonderful old fashioned Spider plant would be my top plant for this air cleaning. They have a languid stripey quality, grow in just about any light and you can harvest the babies, stick them in soil and make new plants, these are called Spiderettes. Cats like mucking about with them because they are slightly hallucinogenic

PEACE LILY or SPATHIPHYLLUM has a shell-like delicate white flowers and would make a great focal plant if you are adding more than one. It is also useful as an indicator plant:   though it gets along on very little water, one it starts to droop, water immediately. Then follow through and water all your houseplants. It’s an air cleaner and can take low light but it is toxic. You’d want this one on a shelf and I wouldn’t recommend it if you have cats that climb all over the place

Dracaena especially the ones with a red edge to give a pop of colour but they can get huge, up to 4 metres tall so keep that in mind.

For a shady spot consider a Bamboo or Reed Palm, Chamaedorea   But Bamboo palm which is also a decorative plant will deal with bright sun is also pet friendly so keep that one in mind they need lots of humidity.

Sego Palm is a Cycad and it’s highly toxic but also stunningly gorgeous and good in a shady place. But will also put up with full on su

My Favourite Houseplants:

There are lots of other air purifiers including succulents like the ALOE PLANT. I used to keep one of these for cuts and bruises and one time experimented with using the jelly as a facial. Forgot I had it on and answered the door covered in what looked like green mould. Bit of a shocker for the postman. Aloes come in many shapes and forms including Hoya or Wax plant with the thick waterstoring foliage. It grows in low light or shade

I am crazy for just about all succulents. If you want to give a gift of a plant give a succulent. These are so many different kinds to choose from. They have a slightly exotic look. Their thick luscious leaves hold water for a good long time so little watering required. And they colours range from pale ecru to deep rosey red. The shapes and sizes go from tiny miniature Hens and Chicks or Sempervivums to big lacy ones such as

Burrito’s Tail   a Sedum and a lush hanging plant

Cacti such Schlumbergera the Christmas Cactus should be in bloom at this time of year, if it isn’t you probably have a Thanksgiving cactus (that’s American Thanksgiving).

String of Pearls is a Senecio and looks like beads spilling over the side of a gorgeous pot. You can nip them of and propagate them if you want a wall of them. The wouldn’t take direct light but bright light is good.

Chloe Fraser recommends the following for low light and air purifying.

Chinese Evergreen , Aglaonema Has a lovely bushy look, full leaves full of patterns. Some have Cream and green combination never grows big and thrives in lower light

Snake Plant, Sanseverria has now got lots of novelty cultitvares and there are dwarf varieties they have a chunky form and fan shaped leaves.

ZZ plant, Zamioculcas zamiifolia has shiny glossy lime green leaves with a very sculptural habit and she calls it a desk to flow plant to describe how it grow.

POTHOS again a bump of colour in neon lime green and it’s easy to propogate so you can fill all sort of dark spaces with it.

Have a look at Chloe’s  web site: and be dazzled. You’ll see the range of shapes and colours in houseplants and lots of new interesting varieties. Absolutely great gifts.

A plant is a wonderful gift that should last for long time and if you give one to yourself your are going to feel better than ever.


From Marjorie


12th Oct, 2017

Prep prune plant

In today’s Globe and Mail I have my first piece in months, just as the season is winding down. I hope you find it useful.  I sure loved writing it.

I will now try hard to keep up this blog space with plant and garden information.

This year when I thought I might be retiring, I kept getting lovely people who wanted me to do their gardens, so it’s been great satisfying work.  Here’s what happened:  I’d get a request to come and consult. When we got along like crazy, I would agree to come with a crew and renovate their gardens.  It’s my old crew but they are independent now. So all I have to worry about is the design, the plans and the installation.  It worked a dream.

I’ve had the best most enjoyable year going at my own pace of not more than one garden a week.  And I’m doing long distance consulting as well.  Just contact me if you need help. There’s still time this year and I will probably be raring to go in spring.

For the moment read this:

Perform these tasks to prep your garden for winter and ensure its success next spring

My column in the Globe and Mail today  (Thursday June 15, 2017) is about native plants we should be using in the garden. The illustration is of Amsonia  ‘Blue Ice’ a new cultivar of our native blue star.

I saw a collection of  great plant3s  at John’s Garden in Uxbridge Ontario.

He’s sat 4300 Concession Rd 7



If you would like to have the Applewood Horticultural Society plant list I used in my recent speech in Mississauga, just use contact me and I’ll pass it on to you.

It was a great crowd:  enthusiastic and responsive.  Would love to have sold more books, but that means I still have a few left:   THRIFTY GARDENING FROM THE GROUND UP.

I think it’s one of my best books and I’d be happy to send out for $20 plus postage and will sign it. Of course.

I feel like i’m back at doing all the things I like doing:  reading about plants, messing about with garden designs but not responsible for my lovely crew.  The essay on last week’s Sunday Edition about slowing down drew an astonishing (to me) response.  I’ll finish getting back to everyone this week.




25th Jan, 2017

Speech in Mississauga



SELECTED PLANT LIST by Marjorie Harris

Some of the professionals who work in my garden: 

Monique Dobson 

Derek Welsh of Authentic Tree Care 1.888.366.2273

These are some of my favourite plants and they’ll be included in my talk.

Acer griseum

Acer palmatum Japanese maple ‘Dissectum Atropurpureum’; ‘Tamukeyma’; ‘Sango?kaku’; ‘Scolopendrifolium’ ‘Koto no-Ito’; ‘Evergreen’; ‘Hanna Matoi’; ‘Shaina’

Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’

Albizia ‘Chocolate Drop’

Allium afflatunense ‘Purple Sensation’

Amelanchier canadensis

Amsomia tabernaemontana; A. hubrechtii

Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’

Artemisia absinthium ‘Lambrook Silver’; ‘Huntington’; lactiflora ‘Guizhou’;   x. ‘Powis Castle’

Aster ‘Little Carlow’

Arum italicum

Berberis thunbergii ‘Hermann’s Pillar’ ; ‘Golden Nugget’;

Brunnera macrophylla – ‘Jack Frost’

Buxus microphylla   var. koreana ‘Winter Beauty’; B. m. ‘Variegata’

Calycanthus floridus

Carpinus betula ‘Fastigiata’; ‘Columnaris Nana’

Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ ,

Chiononanthus virginicus

Cimicifuga ‘Hillside Black Beauty’; ‘Black negligee’

Clematis ‘Betty Corning’

Coleus ‘Black Magic’ , ‘Victorian Ruffles’

Cornus sibirica red-twigged dogwood; alba ‘Elegantimssima’

  1. alternafolius ‘Argenta’; C. compressa; C. controversa ‘Variegata’

‘Praire Fire’ and ‘Arctic Fire’; C. ‘Hedgerow Gold’; C. ‘June Snow’; kousa ‘Samaritan’.

Diervilla lonicera

Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’

Eupatorium coelestinum fistulosum   (Wine coloured stems); rugosum ‘Chocolate’.

Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’; ‘Tasmanian Tiger’

Fagus sylvestris ‘Roseo-marginata’; ‘Purple Pendula’.

Ginkgo biloba ‘Ohasuki’

Gymnocladus dioicus   Kentucky Coffee Tree

Hosta   .’Gold Standard’

‘Gold Edger’



‘Frances Williams’


‘Gingko Craig’

‘Fragrant Gold’

Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’

Helleborus atrorubens; H. foetidus; H. ‘Pink Frost’

Hydrangea petiolaris (climbing hydrangea);

? quercifolia (oak leaf hydrangea);

‘Fire and Ice’

Lathyrus vernis

Lespedeza ‘Gibraltar’

Liriodendron tulipifera ‘Fastigiata’

Liquidambar ‘Slender Silhouette’   Sweet Gum

Maackia amurensis

Ostrya virginiana Ironwood

Penstemon ‘Dark Tower’

Persicaria amplexicaule ‘Firetail’, ‘Gold Arrow’

Phlox paniculata ‘David’

Physocarpus opulifolium ‘Diablo’

Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’

Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’.

Rhamnus frangula ‘Fine Line’

Rudbeckia nitida ‘Herbstonne’

Salix candida

Sambucus nigra ‘Aureomarginata’;     nigra variegata; n. purpurea

Sciadopitys verticillata;   ‘Joe Kozy’

Solidago odora;   also look at: ‘Golden Fleece’; ‘Laurin’; ‘Golden Wings’. Not in the show but all recommended.

Stewartia pseudocamillia

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’; plicatum ‘Summer Snowflake; ‘Pragense’plicatum tomentosum ‘Shasta’.


Chasmanthium latifolium    a seeder of great magnitude

Festuca glauca (blue fescue)

Hakenochloa macra ‘Aureola’ ‘All Gold’

Pennisetum alepecuroides ‘Red Head’

Miscanthus sinensis purpurea; s. ‘Sarabande’ ; s. ‘Gracemillimus’ ; s. ‘Sirene’ ; s. ‘Nippon’; s. ‘Zebrinus’; s. ‘Morning Light’.

Molinia caerulea ‘Sky Racer’


Hyacinthoides non scripta   English Bluebells

Muscari latifolium; M. l. ‘Plumosum’

Tulipa batalini ‘Bright Gem’;kaufmanniana ‘Johan Strauss’; ‘Queen of night’; ‘Spring Green’.

Narcissus   ‘Tete-a-tete’ and ‘Thalia’


Scilla sibirica


                                                            – 30 –

21st Jan, 2017

The Sunday Edition Essay

In case you miss it and might like to here it, this is the essay I did for the Sunday Edition January 22, 2017:


Jan 20

How to use time in old age? “I don’t want to kill time. I want to be doing something useful.” @Marjorie_Harris essay


This year I have closed part of my Marjorie Harris Gardens business:  the installation and maintenance part.  I will still carry on being a plant consultant and garden designer, write as much about gardening as is possible. But have a listen to my reasoning about slowing down.



Helleborus 'Pink Frost'

I am giving a talk called THE EVOLUTION OF A GARDENER

on Wednesday January 25, 2017

at  7 p.m.

in The Great Hall Unitarian Congregation

84 South Service Road





3rd Oct, 2016

Drought tolerant plants

In this week’s Globe column I suggested some wonderful plants that did well in a summer of endless sun and little rain.


Here’s my column for this week:

From: Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’: The perfect plant for the urban gardener – The Globe and Mail

I’ve been accused of hating hydrangeas:   not true.  I like some of them a great deal.  I hate it when they are overused in a landscapery design. You know, a grass, fifteen hydrangeas and three squares of heucheras. Voià a modern garden. Sooooo boring.  In the next week, I’ll put up some of the gardens we’ve been doing this year. It has been thrilling. Great clients and wonderful plants.




9th Jul, 2016

Plant of the week

This week it’s a gorgeous evergreen

Go to

I’ll be on CBC’s FRESH AIR  at  6:30 a.m. Sunday.  Talking about, what else, watering, rain, plants and drought.