Get ready. Go. Move. Divide. And by the long weekend, you’ll be able to have a plant sale with all the stuff you don’t want any more, or would just like to share. Each region in Canada has a slightly different style given the variation in climate and growing season and what specific plants are available in nurseries. This is the best time to try out new plants, even if they don’t grow in your area. Be brave – gardening is, after all, one long experiment.
A few trends are popping up this year. Gone is the wariness about bees. We need them, and gardeners are attracting them with exciting, fruity, bloom hues. Vegetables are luring younger people to join the gardening culture, and more vegetables will be planted in front gardens than ever before.
Here are some of the finest of the new finery. What follows covers most of Canada along the U.S. border from the West Coast through the central regions.
Ceanothus “Victoria,” commonly called California lilac, is glorious in early summer smothered in tight cobalt-blue flowers. The native plant is great for screening. It grows to about 1.8 metres high by 1.2 metres wide in full sun and is drought-tolerant. (Too much water or too much wind, however, and it will croak.) Zone 8
One to eat
Artichoke, Cynara scolymus, a perennial in warm regions, needs full sun and well-drained rich soil with lots of space. It can grow up to two metres in width. If you want to eat it – and it is great to eat – you need to remember to water regularly. Will grow in any climate if the soil is warm enough.
Cardoon, Cynara cardunculus, is a magnificent plant that stays steely all winter and doesn’t get tatty, even on the west coast. It must be planted in rich soil that gets full sun (a raised bed is recommended since it will help with drainage and keep those gorgeous leaves off the ground). It grows to 240 cm by 90 cm, and you can use the stems when you are cooking Moroccan food. Zone 8
Hebe “Wiri Blush” is a fantastic little shrub with a nice, tight, bun-like form. The glossy leaves would brighten up any area, including a container, and the hot-pink blooms go on from spring to summer. It grows well from part shade to full sun but needs regular watering. It’s another good screen plant that grows up to 1.2 metres tall and the same wide. Zone 8
The peachy-orange Echinacea “Supreme Cantaloupe” has a knob on the top on the flower rather the normal rays. It complements almost every plant and blooms for weeks. Zone 5
Carex siderosticha “Banana Boat” is a broadleaf ever-golden sedge, a grass-like plant with eye-popping colour. It thrives in deep shade – it can spread to 30 cm and still looks fantastic. But the soil must be kept moist. It’s great as an edging plant or to put in difficult shady sections of the garden for its brilliant light. Zone 6
New light for the shade
Hosta “Designer Genes” is a fantastic introduction this year and will bring light into the shade. It has bright, rhubarb-like stalks of brilliant red and golden-yellow leaves. The emerging snubs are a delight, sticking up crimson snouts in late spring. It grows to 45 cm by 30 cm. Great in containers as long as it is kept in the shade so it will hold its golden colour. Zone 5
While the Monkshoods bloom is poisonous, any new one is welcomed because they come out in July and August when all else is looking sorry. Aconitum “Blue Lagoon” Monkshood can grow in light conditions from partial sun to partial shade. It has dazzling blue blooms and this new cultivar is only 30 cm tall. Great for containers. Zone 4
Euphorbia “Ascot Rainbow” is my favourite because it has long-lasting, spectacular blooms with tiny little centres of magenta. This weird combination lasts for weeks. Since it’s a bit iffy even in Toronto, planting it in a raised bed, out of the wind, can help get it though the winter. Most of us across the country will have to view it as an annual. Who cares: variegated green and white foliage over bright red stems and this bonus of blooms. Gorgeous filler for any empty space. Zone 6 and any warmer areas as a perennial.
Green screens with style
Cornus compressa, a gorgeous variation on the dogwood, is one of the best screening plants there is. It’s narrow with deep green crumpled foliage (1.2 metres by 30 cm), but you can whack at it with impunity and keep it to any height you need. Zone 8
Colour good enough to eat
Beta vulgaris, Swiss chard, is a wonderful vegetable and looks good in any perennial border. It fits right in with these other dramatic plants. It’s a cool season plant, so it can be popped into the ground now, planted in full sun. Look for the more exotic colours such as gold, red and black. Can be grown anywhere in the country.