The small trees shown below are a Golden Sutherland Elder, which is typically a shrub, and pruned as such. With patience, you can prune a small, 
medium, or large shrub into a tree , with heavily barked trunks, adding more visual interest to the garden. Note: this pruning method works well when you WANT something of size in a space not actually accommodating, OR, if you are just a novice gardener who hasn't exactly figured out what the word SPREAD means. Being my problem back then, this whole pruning thing became a necessity: I planted too big everywhere. You can make a tree grow, just sideways, without a wall, or fence in the way, if you just keep pruning branches growing forward, or backward, so to speak! Your neighbor is less likely to pull out a chain saw and massacre your lovely tree, rather than request it be pruned harder on his side.  
The tree you see behind the Elder is a Dwarf Arctic Willow, which is claimed to top out at 6', and stay in check.
Well, it didn't, and it was in that same, tiny little channel between house and fence (and neighbor's sidewalk), so I started pruning it too.  It topped out at 12', and it was beautiful.
Then Fire Blight happened (it can happen overnight), and it literally wiped out both trees in a matter of days.  So, down they came: I didn't plant anything for quite some time, and then I did it again. Too BIG!!!
Now I have an Amur Maple Shrub that is trying very hard to be a tree, a Pagoda Dogwood that is not only healthy, but IS a tree, and a very large smoke bush, currently being kept in check by the west wind.  However, the Amur is going to have to come down, as I want separation and the shape of the Pagoda is perfect. They need air space, and I will have comfort in knowing my new neighbors aren't going be cranky re the new introductions.

What can we do to work with Nature with respect to what appears to be obvious changes in Manitoba weather?  Many of us are wondering what is going on in our gardens; why is that dead, where did that plant go, and when can we safely plant? The new weather is just showing us we don't get to presumeand we, like it, are in a state of flux. That said, if what you plant doesn't grow well, or dies, try something else, or move it somewhere else. Gardening isn't a science, although good gardening practices are. Gardening is good for the soul, teaching us patience, modesty, heartache, joy, failure and success. It's an adventure, and it wouldn't be much fun if nothing changed. 
Before you buy THE perennial of the year, wait a bit and see what lived through last season, give your existing garden a chance. Shiny and new will be around for a while, and less expensive, in 2-3 years! 
This is what Mike Allen has to say regarding the death of the trees (large shrubs) 
"Leaves that stay on the tree are usually frozen on as the  process of abscission
(leaf separation from the twig) has been compromised by the cold. This does not necessarily kill the plant, if healthy and hardy. Fire blight disease is on the rampage all over the Prairies; early control can be difficult unless appropriate steps or treatments are done in the early spring. 
Rarely do gardeners properly fertilize and the product instruction labels on packages are dismal. When done right, fall, and spring fertilizing helps the plant deal with numerous growth issues."  
We may still be technically listed as Zone 2-3b, but we are now able to grow healthy, zone 4b shrubs and perennials. Smoke bushes, seen all over the city, are a primary example of that. On the other hand, some plants that used to grow ,like weeds, (some were weeds) just aren't doing well anymore. Dogwoods are a perfect example of that plant: they are really aphid, and leaf roller (caterpillar) magnets.
Below, is pink. Pink is just not one of my favorite colors, or wasn't, until I discovered that most shade-tolerant plants come in a limited variety of colors, and PINK is one of them. Plan B - like pink. Both these Astilbe are pink, are in far more sun than it is said they prefer, and they're huge, and beautiful, and VERY pink. Pink is wonderful in a shade garden.
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                    Charlotte's Place
Landscape & Interior Decor Consultant
"a work in progress" 
making home your favorite place to be. 
Think about what you need to change, 
the new weather is forcing our hand. 
Phone: 204-227-4324t

Invite birds and beneficial insects into your garden; they will help keep the natural balance and make less work for you. And if  you have dog(s), make room for them too. Gardens can, and should be animal friendly: 
I cringe less often each year.
487 de la Morenie St. Winnipeg

Our grass free, hardscaped yard makes garden access very easy, and in fact, provides walkways throughout a fairly large garden. Not all things were intentionally planted, as was the case of the ginger at the foot of a stump, currently a base for a bird bath. The ginger came from someone else's deep shade garden, but has proven to be quite prolific, even in the sunniest areas. And no, those cracks aren't totally weed free, but they sure make weeds easier to control. All the cracks, in the beginning stages of my crazy paving, were just a math problems, and for a few years, easy to maintain. Then stuff started growing in them; lots and lots of stuff, and now they were a work project.
However, there is a solution for most problems and I found mine
I had tried to grow Irish and Scotch moss (perennials) in the garden and couldn't. One year I just didn't plant them ,and they went to seed in their pots, spitting their seeds, it appears, wherever they saw a growing opportunity. The following spring, all nearby cracks filled up with these perennial mosses. That led to expeditions, any and everywhere, to find wild, Manitoba mosses, to transplant in the garden. To my delight, most took, although not all, but eventually between them, and the perennial moss-like plants, the paving cracks are beautiful, green, and require little maintenance. Nothing is 100% maintenance free; that's a MYTH!
Below (R), the self started moss eventually produced an unknown variety of fern, which must have been imbedded in the spores. I especially love all the "it just happened, all by itself" stuff.

The alpine clematis (above) disguises a chain link fence in the front yard, and despite the hardships many clematis have suffered of late, it has spread +20', along the fence ,over 15 years. People stop their cars to ask what it is, as in full bloom, it's a heart stopper, and as an early bloomer, even if spring is late, it isn't. After a course, a student dropped to see the chain link fence the clematis hid, and standing at it, asked "Where is it?" Rather than look at IT, as unsightly and realistically too expensive, or impractical to replace, consider chain link as ready-made trellis. There truly isn't any magic to growing clematis, other than provision for cool roots, plentiful water, and lots of fertilizer. This one even gets salt from the winter sprays, and doesn't much care. The heavier the flower production, the more fertilizer they require, and this one produces thousands of blooms over two seasons, each year, so it's always hungry. Truly, they are NOT hard to grow. Clematis can thrive for decades, given proper care. There are books on the proper planting method but they're no different than for other plants, if you know HOW to plant correctly. The food and water is very important, but so is root protection. They love hot heads (sun on top) but the tender roots burn if exposed to heat, and direct sun.
Nature layered the earth over millions of years, so let that be, and garden from the ground UP. Whether perennials, vegetables, or both, leave things as they are and 
feed your plants with the food she sheds on them, every autumn, or at the very least, 
fresh and healthy compost from Samborski Garden Centre, Winnipeg.

Regardless of size, and whether urban or rural, a xeriscaped yard lessens the work aspect of your garden, and reduces the cost of watering, when absolutely necessary. You don't lose anything by using up some, or all, of your grassed areas, except the high cost of maintaining it. Both gardens to the left are grass free. Be water smart, and plant what will do best in the soil you have. Amend soil to improve it, and to achieve healthier plants, but NOT to make your hydrangea bloom pink or blue; there are plenty of beautiful hydrangea varieties that will produce  beautiful, fall colour, BUT, if pink or blue flowers are what you must have, buy them as a house plants;  put them out for the summer, and grow them in pots on your patio. They are not hardy, and it's unlikely they will survive a winter indoors. The zone 4, hardy varieties of hydrangea, that promise baby girl pink, and baby boy blue, I promise, the flowers will disappoint you, and cost you money you could have spent on something more sensible. They tend to stop blooming, shortly after their 1st year, and most simply die within 3 years. 

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'Xeriscaping' can mean a range of things, from plant free yards, done in stone and gravel, to lush gardens that simply don't need supplemental water. Choose plants that easily grow in your soil, light, and water conditions, and avoid planting that which will likely perform less optimally. Whether sun or shade, wet or dry, there are plants for every condition. For additional greenery, big or small trees, or shrubs, will add all season interest, help collect snow, and will offer protection to your garden, and all the inhabitants. The less grass you have, the lower the maintenance. Natural chipped tree mulch can be used on the garden, for paths, or, you may want to hardscape your grass-free areas with myriad surfacing materials. I chose random paving, on top of existing mulch. Think outside the box – do you really want your garden to look like everyone else's? For the future of your garden, learn about microclimates and, now to complicate things, understand there are microclimates within  micro-climates,  and it's all to do with HUMIDEX and the NEW WEATHER.
Sun mapping' should begin in early spring. At what time does the sun hit specific areas of your property; where, and for how long? Keep a simple log noting where the sun is in early morning, mid afternoon, and again, during the late afternoon hours, keeping in mind the sun is HOT in spring, before trees leaf out. Tracking the sun shows how the light changes with each season, and how it affects your garden. Spring sun is more intense ,because the sun is low, and there's nothing to deflect it. Add the humidex, plants in a cool, NE, total shade, garden 
burned, to a crisp. Additionally, establish where shade is created by other buildings/your house: Large tree canopies, etc, not necessarily in your own yard, can ultimately affect growing conditions. Note where hot spots are (against foundations, etc.), and don't plant under the eave of your house, or under the canopy of dense foliate; rain doesn't reach there, which means extra watering, and constant care. Now that you are better informed about what plants those areas will accommodate, shop for plants that thrive in those existing conditions. While doing this, consider mulching areas in full sun as these areas, in times of great heat, will dry quickly, even after a rain. Frequently, loosen the top, crusted layer of soil, to allow for better water absorption, which will help existing, and new plants (which require more attention), establish and flourish. In the 1st year of planting, tough love won't work, so hand water new plants, and let the rest learn to get by. This is not to say never water, but once established, your well-chosen plants and shrubs should adjust to their given conditions, and require less fuss.
What is the 'Humidex'?  As long as there is vapor in the air, we get reflected infrared rays. The air that takes on moisture is literally trapping heat. The humidex describes how hot, humid weather feels, combining temperature and humidity into one number, to reflect the ‘perceived’ temperature. These 2 factors are a better measure of how stifling the air feels. How does a garden survive when the air feels like +53c ? This is one of the best reasons why we need to start dealing with, rather than fighting, the existing conditions - there's enough fighting against us, without adding to it ourselves. Be patient; it won't change anything if we throw our tools up in the air, and 'quit' because the weather isn't co-operating. Regardless of too much snow, and the coldest winter ever, or the complete reverse, there will be plenty of amazing moments when your garden will make you forget any disappointments. Almost all plants are considered weeds somewhere. Choose your perennials carefully, and Google that plant before you buy it. Type Zone 4 and its name; you will get multiple answers: It's not a perfect science.
As to weeds, STOP PULLING!  Systematically cut the weed foliage off at the ground with a dollar store steak knife, a 'stirrup' hoe, or any sharp blade, so as not to disturb the aggressive root system. If you deprive the plant of food (photosynthesis), the plant won't survive. Pluck the start-ups of maples, elms, etc., as once the roots are disturbed, they die. If there is too much lawn, or weed, cut with a whipper snipper or clippers, dependant on the size of the area, cover it with layers of newspaper, then apply Samborski's, or your own compost, or soil. Leave it for a month; the lack of light will eliminate the majority of the unwanted plants, and any errant bits remaining, just keep cutting them off at the ground. Over time, you will (almost) defeat the weed, or lawn, and will feel YOU are in control! This can be done with gout weed, the HORRID creeping bell flower, Virginia creeper, crab grass, native anemone, and any other plant that  moved onto your property. I am a HUGE advocate of NATURESCAPING but, through experience (good and bad), I must say there are many native plants that don't belong in an urban setting. When planning to buy, do some reading BEFORE. The nursery business is a multi-billion dollar business for good reason - they will sell you anything - so, you need to know what you're buying.You would shop around if you were buying furniture, or appliances, so why not your plants; they are , after all, an investment.
MYKE - not new, but perhaps new to you - is amazing stuff, and most nurseries carry the 5-year-one-time-replacement MYKE warranty on shrubs and trees. Think of the extra cost as practical, and sensible INSURANCE on your gardens' future. They won't sell you more than you  need. Here is a link which will further explain the what, and why, of MYKE.  Google which Winnipeg/Manitoba nurseries carry its 5 year/1 time replacement warranty. Click here for more information on MYKE: 
​Jensen's Nursery on McGillivray Blvd. also offers a one year warranty on all their perennials (204-488-5042)! Think about it; that's one heck of a deal!

FRESH IN from a hundred year old farmer - what to do with ant hills (and potato bugs). Boil rhubarb leaves in water for 10 minutes, let cool and pour over anthill; the rest is a wonderful dessert. Apparently the Oxalic Acid in the rhubarb, produced in the boiling process, will make a stainless steel pot look like new again. Remember, the leaves are poisonous to us, cats, and dogs, as is the foliage from tomato, and potato plants!