PLANT OF THE WEEK
Acanthus hungaricus (Bear's Breeches)
Why you should plant it
If you need a statuesque plant or a striking specimen, this acanthus is ideal. It has large, pillowy, deeply lobed leaves and pale pink/purple and white racemes – all gorgeous. But you must be patient because it takes a while to get established. It's a good July bloomer.
Where to plant it
This acanthus needs full sun, but I've had it in a bit of shade and it's grown well if slowly. It will grow as much as 80 centimetres high and 60 centimetres wide and forms a very strong clump coming from basal leaves. A species from the Balkans, it can be pretty tough and gets along in fairly thin soil, but add lots of compost anyway and don't let it dry out. Make sure it has space as it will develop powdery mildew if it's crowded.
What it offers
The fairly large clump this Zone 5 plant creates is a guaranteed showstopper. It is, however, a one-off, so don't put in a big group of them. Plant it with something equally interesting, such as a blood-red grass or a small shrub. Once it gets established (give it a year or two), cut the flowers. They look great in a vase and dry out for arrangements very successfully.
Source and cost
Find Acanthus hungaricus at specialty nurseries such as Toronto's Fiesta Gardens (416-537-1244) for around $16.99.
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