Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Plants for 2010, Part 3

Here's another set of new perennials we're growing for spring 2010...

From AB Cultivars in Holland comes this new Astilbe 'Delft Lace' with thick, blue-green foliage covered with a silver overlay, and red stems carrying dark pink buds that open to soft pink flowers. From "unknown parentage", it is often presented as a much-improved version of the older variety 'Peach Blossom'.

Remember that Astilbes, relatively speaking, require more water, especially early in the season when the flowers are forming and opening. Even after flowering, the foliage can quickly turn brown and crispy without some attention. They are not particularly drought-tolerant. Depending on the genetics, that is for example, whether 'Delft Lace' contains any A. chinensis (a somewhat more drought tolerant species) in its parentage, this concern will be more or less the case.

Dicentra 'Burning Hearts' is a fascinating continuation of the breeding work of Akira Shiozaki from Japan (crossing various forms of D. peregrina and D. eximea). This newest Bleedingheart has deep, hot-red flowers over top of silvery-blue, fern-like foliage. Other introductions from Mr. Shizoki are the popular 'Candy Hearts' and 'Ivory Hearts'. All of these varieties are vigorous and long-blooming. Graham Rice presents more information here.

Finally for this post is the new Shasta Daisy, Leucanthemum 'Banana Cream', with lemon-yellow flowers that retain their colour longer than other yellow-flowered varieties, e.g. 'Sonnenschein' (Sunshine). The flowers of 'Banana Cream' open a bright lemon-yellow, turning to a buttery yellow, and then to a creamy-white as they mature. It is a relatively compact variety, growing to 45cm (18") in height, and also makes an excellent cutflower.

One more set to come...

MPD, the coolplantsguy

Thanks to Planthaven, Skagit Gardens, Terra Nova Nurseries and Walters Gardens for use of their photography.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Plants for 2010, Part 2

Here's another set of three new varieties of perennials that we are growing for 2010.

First is Geum Totally Tangerine™ ('Tim's Tangerine') from the UK. It is completely sterile, and so is particularly long-blooming compared to other varieties. While I've generally not been a big fan of this genus in the past, I've warmed up to it in recent years, and expect this plant to be a real winner in the garden. It is hardy to USDA zone 4 and easy to grow in the front or middle of a bed, forming a low mound of foliage but with flowers on stems nearing 75cm (30") in height.

Second is Echinacea 'Firebird' from Terra Nova's breeding program. This variety has brilliant red-orange, shuttlecock-shaped flower petals surrounding a dark cone for a beautiful contrast. It has a well-branched habit and flowers at just under 1m (38") in height.

While there has been much discussion regarding the hardiness and vigour of these new hybrid Coneflowers, my recommendation based on experience is to plant relatively mature plants in the late spring or early summer. Graham Rice covered some of the likely issues in his December 2007 article.

Finally for this post, is Hemerocallis 'Just Plum Happy' from renowned Daylily breeder Darrel Apps. It is a re-blooming variety producing large (11cm, 4.5" wide) flowers with mauve-pink petals and a darker plum-purple eye with matching picotee edge.

Thanks to Planthaven, Skagit Gardens, Terra Nova Nurseries and Walters Gardens for use of their photography.

More to come...

MPD, the coolplantsguy

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Plants for 2010, Part 1

Helping to decide which new varieties of perennials to grow each year at my nursery, is one of the most favourite parts of my job. Certainly, there are many to choose from, as each propagator typically has an assortment of new varieties to promote and sell. With a little research, and in some cases, an evaluation of our in-house trials, we come to a decision. Here is a peak of some of the new plants that we will be growing for spring 2010.

There have been many new varieties of Brunnera macrophylla introduced in recent years, typically variations of silvered and/or variegated foliage. New in the last year or two have been a few gold-leaved forms, one of which is 'Diane's Gold', which is purported to maintain its chartreuse foliage into the summer, whereas other similar forms fade to green after the spring. In any case, it will be beautiful with its purple-blue flowers.

Following on the heels of the popular Bellflowers, Campanula 'Kent Belle' and 'Sarastro' comes this beautiful form called 'Summertime Blues'. It is vigorous and long-blooming, possibly even longer than the others. I'm also expecting the reddish stems to provide some additional, subtle colour and contrast.

The above was derived from crossing C. punctata and C. trachelium, and will likely have some moderate spreading tendencies, despite claims to the contrary. The picture below shows a 14cm (5") pot after several weeks of growing from a 72 plug -- I'm fairly certain those are some creeping stolons! ;) In any case, I've still planted it into my garden, and expect that it will be a great plant in the right spot.
090625 002

Finally, for this post, is the new Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Ruby Glow', which has beautiful red-bronze foliage on the new growth. I have always admired the old form called 'Purpurea', but propagation by seed has resulted in variable plants, some with poorly-coloured foliage. This new variety is propagated only by cuttings.

Thanks to Planthaven, Skagit Gardens, Terra Nova Nurseries and Walters Gardens for use of their photography.

More to come...

MPD, the coolplantsguy

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Allium thunbergii 'Ozawa'

Plants that actually reach their peak in October, at least in this part of the country, are few and far between, making them a real treasure to gardeners and garden visitors alike. One of my favourites is Allium thunbergii 'Ozawa' for its near electric-violet flowers in loose "balls" called umbels.

It is a dwarf variety introduced to North America by George Schenk, and likely named after the original selector. The species is also known as the Japanese Onion, although as far as I know, it is not used for any culinary purposes. It is native to low mountains in Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and extending from Japan into South Korea.

Unfortunately, this plant is relatively rare, although specialty mail-order and/or bulb companies might offer it on occasion.

Here's to dirt under your nails.

MPD, the coolplantsguy

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Two Cool, or Not-so-Cool Plants?

During a recent visit to Lost Horizons nursery and Larry Davidson's garden, just outside of Acton (yes, this place makes it "worth the drive" at least for me) I was taken somewhat aback by a relatively large plant that I could not recall having seen before.

After posting a few pics on the GardenWeb perennials forum, I soon discovered it was somewhat of a weed in the southern U.S., Phytolacca americana, the American Pokeweed.

While parts of the plant are toxic, it continues to be used in both traditional medicinal and modern pharmacological preparations. In addition, the cooked greens are apparently available commercially in the South. Elvis Presley even recorded a song titled "Polk Salad Annie".

Another very similar plant in Larry's garden, appears to be P. acinosa (syn. P. esculenta), an
Asian relative of the American species.

In any case, despite the somewhat negative opinion that persists for these plants, I was certainly very impressed by their size and colourful stems and fruits. Hence, "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder".

Here's to dirt under your nails.

MPD, the coolplantsguy

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The End of Summer

As Labour Day approaches, and so very quickly passes, we suddenly find ourselves facing the end of summer. I find this time of year to be somewhat depressing, even though I do enjoy the Autumn season immensely. There's just something about the shorter evenings, cooler nights, and the so very slow but glorious decline of the garden that causes me to pause with some sadness and reflect on a summer gone by.

In any case, here's another set of shots from the Niagara Parks' Botanical Gardens...

From the main parking lot, as one begins to enter the gardens, they pass a beautiful grass border in front of some giant conifers.

Of course, at this time of year, most of the grasses are at their peak. Here's a couple of their "flowers" or plumes, in some pleasant lighting.

Here's a Helenium in all her glory, named in fact, for Helen of Troy, but the connection between the two is somewhat ambiguous. Its common name of Sneezeweed, on the other hand, comes from the fact that the plant was originally accused of causing late summer allergies. It is however innocent to this charge, but does bloom at the same time as the actual culprit, Ragweed (Ambrosia sp.). In any case, it's an unfortunate name for such a beautiful, late summer plant.

Another late summer "beauty" is Physostegia virginina or Obedient Plant. In good, rich garden soil it has a tendency to run, particularly if the gardener does not have the ability to be ruthless on an annual basis. Its common name comes from the fact that bent stems "obediently" remain in position.

One of a couple less common plants is Gentiana clausa, or the Bottle Gentian. It is native to much of Eastern North America, including parts of Quebec. It is typically known for its flowers that appear to remain closed, but in fact, a small opening at the top is just large enough for a bee to squeeze in and look after business.

Another rarity is Kirengeshoma palmata or Yellow Waxbells, one of a few perennials from the Hydrangea family. Its horned fruit is of some ornamental interest, and is described by Allan Armitage as "Stephen King-like".

In the Rose Garden, they have some beautiful plantings of annuals and "tender perennials"...

...including Ricinus communis, the Castor Bean plant, here with a Begonia around the bottom. It is propagated by seed so there is considerable variability in leaf and stem colour. This particular plant has beautiful red stems.

Another beautiful tender perennial is Cynara cardunculus or Cardoon. For silver and textured foliage, it has to be near the top. Apparently this plant goes back to the fourth century BC. In addition, both the flower buds and the stems (stalks) are eaten. In places like California, Australia and Argentinia, it is considered to be a weed.

Finally, a few shots of a couple of magical combinations of Colchicum autumnale (Autumn Crocus) with Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (Plumbago, Blue Leadwort).

Here's to dirt under your nails... for a few more weeks. Don't forget to plant more bulbs!

Mark, the coolplantsguy

Monday, August 31, 2009

Niagara Parks' Botanical Gardens, August 24, 2009

Here's another set of shots from the Niagara Parks' Botanical Gardens in late August. I had just discovered the macro function on my little digital camera, so there is a slight emphasis on close-ups.

Good ol' Echinacea purpurea with a Bumble Bee doing its duty.

I'm fairly certain this is Hibiscus 'Kopper King' -- an outstanding hybrid by the Fleming brothers of Nebraska.

One of the several dark-leaved Canna that are available these days. I almost find the clash of colours a little garish -- but to each his own.

Another shot of a back-lit Ensete leaf. I have a hard time resisting taking another picture of these plants every time I see them -- they are magnificent.

I believe the correct name of this plant is Canna 'Phasion' but it is also known as Tropicanna™ or 'Durban', 'Inferno' and several others. It's history is almost as colourful as the plant itself.

Of all the forms of Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), this one called 'Prairie Sun' is my favourite by far for its consistent form and height and outstanding colour.

This is another plant that fascinated me early on -- the Turtlehead or Chelone sp., a genus of four species native to much of eastern North America. Although some suggest otherwise, I think the flowers do look like a turtle's head. Our native species here in Ontario, C. glabra, has flowers that are usually a lighter pink (almost white) than the one pictured below, and can be found in sunny, moist locations.

Here's Sedum sieboldii 'Mediovariegatum' again, this time nicely back-lit.

Here's a pleasant pink Japanese Anemone, probably A. hupehensis, a valuable plant for the late summer garden, but yes, it does spread a little in good garden soil.

This Agave americana (Century Plant, American Aloe) caught my eye with the interesting "water mark" down along one side of a leaf. I know of some people using syrup or nectar of this plant as a healthful natural sugar substitute.

I can remember seeing this plant, the Castor Bean (Ricinus communis), for the first time many years ago, and being instantly impressed by its size 2-3m (7-10'), and colourful foliage. I'm not sure why this plant remains so elusive in the retail environment, as I find it irresistible.

Here's an interesting, back-lit shot of the seed-heads of Chasmanthium latifolium, the Northern Sea Oats. While it does seed itself around quite a bit, it is still a useful grass -- it is one that can certainly tantalize most of the senses on a quite summer evening.

This is a cool close-up of a flowers from Ligularia dentata. A biology professor could make good use of this to teach his/her students all the "intricate" parts of a flower! ;)

Finally, good ol' Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln', the popular Fountain Grass in all its glory.

Here's to dirt under your nails -- summer is quickly coming to an end.

MPD, the coolplantsguy

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Persicaria amplexicaulis, the Mountain Fleeceflower

I almost always feel like the proverbial "kid in a candy store" every time I stumble across a nursery that specializes in some genus or type of plant, and see their list (or website) that boasts dozens of varieties that I've never even heard of.

Such was the case the other day, when I discovered the website of Persicaria breeder Chris Ghyselen from Belgium. Over the years I've grown maybe two to three forms at the nursery, but never one in my garden for some reason. I'm not sure why exactly -- it certainly is a beautiful and useful plant.

Here's a variety of P. amplexicaulis (syn. Polygonum amplexicaule), the Mountain Fleece Flower combined with Geranium 'Rozanne' in a planting over at the Niagara Parks' School of Horticulture & Botanical Gardens.

It's possible my hesitation comes from the fact that Persicaria/Polygonum has a bad reputation for a few species that are noxious weeds. Armitage does state that this species requires significant space, and forms dense large clumps that slowly get larger with time.

That being said, they flower from mid-summer until frost, and they look just so European -- Piet Oudolf design plant for sure!

In anycase, I was very impressed with Chris' website -- it lists over 30 cultivars of P. amplexicaulis -- very cool.

Here's to dirt under your nails.

MPD, the coolplantsguy

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Niagara Parks' Botanical Gardens, July

Here's a set from several dates during the month of July.

The following are several pics of the very cool Ensete, commonly called the False Banana, although it is closely related to the true Banana (Musa sp.). While the fruit is not edible, the root is an important food crop in parts of Africa. In any case, it makes a dramatic and very tropical statement in the garden. The Niagara Parks Commission is using more tropicals each year in their gardens, and doing so quite effectively.

Most of the Daylilies were at their peak during the second half of this month. The first is 'Fairy Tale Pink', an older diploid bred by Pierce and registered in 1980. It has however, won several awards, including the Silver Stout Medal (the American Hemerocallis Society's highest honour) in 1990, and remains an outstanding pink-flowered variety.

This was a nice but unidentified red.

Here's Stamile's 1989 introduction, the tetraploid and aptly-named 'Strawberry Candy'. It is also a multiple award-winner, including the Silver Stout Medal in 1998.

This is a close-up of the older (1967 introduction by Fay) of 'Mary Todd', another award-winner, including the Silver Stout Medal in 1978.

This is the classic Liatris spicata 'Kobold', or Dwarf Blazing Star (the "kobold" is a goblin-like creature from German folklore). Unfortunately, most nurseries are propagating this plant by seed these days, the result of which is the usual variability, and therefore some not-so-dwarf plants. I have seen however, some offering a plant called 'Kobold Original', which should grow to only 40cm (16").

This combination caught my eye for the designer's principle of the use of "semi-transparent" plants, in this case, the white flowers of Artemisia lactiflora 'Guizhou', through which one can see the hot flowers of a Helenium.

A close-up of an Echinops (Globe Thistle) flower.

This is a good example of the effectiveness of a mass-planting, in this case, Stachys monieri 'Hummelo' in front of a gold-leaved Cedar.

There's certainly been plenty of attention paid to the genus Echinacea in recent years, in particular regarding all the new hybrids and selections. Below however, is the species E. pallida or Pale Coneflower, native to Ontario and most of the eastern U.S. I like it for its drooping petals, and although it is usually relatively pale in colouration, some darker forms exist as well.

The flowers of Salvia sclarea or Clary Sage, are unique to those used to the typical purple-blues of S. nemerosa, and are also a good plant to learn about the details of the parts of a flower, as it is the larger bracts that surround the actual flower that provide the ornamental value.

For most of the spring and summer, I have a hard time resisting taking yet another picture of Hosta 'Sun Power'. This one has some interesting lighting showing off the texture and colours of the beautiful golden-yellow leaves.

Finally, I'm not a big fan of Astilbe, simply because they require too much water to grow well and look nice here. This year however, with all the rain we've had, they are simply beautiful. This unidentified pink-flowered variety caught my eye with its darker pink stems.

Summer is moving quickly -- enjoy the long weekend, and here's to dirt under your nails.

MPD, the coolplantsguy