Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Diary - Drought tolerant plants

Drought Tolerant Plants:

Summers ain’t what they used to be in Southern Ontario! Heat and humidity would set in in early July and stay until mid-September. Rainy days were nicely scattered throughout the spring and summer seasons and everything seemed so predictable!
Not so lately! I remember that in the summer of 2000 or 2001, it rained June 30th and then not one drop more until late September!! Yikes! Lawns, flowers, trees and shrubs dried up and withered away. It was pathetic to look at. Water bans were imposed, so even the lucky few with underground sprinkler systems, were not allowed to use them. Most summers since then have had real elements of drought as well.
So, gardeners being the resourceful souls that we are, began to research plants that could withstand drought.
Here are some excellent examples of plants that do well in hot, dry conditions:

Perennials:Alchemilla mollis – Lady’s Mantle
Aquilegia species – Columbines

Bergenia crassifolia
Campanula species
Coreopsis species
Echinops ritro – Globe Thistle
Eryngium species – Sea Holly
Gaillardia species – Blanket Flower
Galium odoratum – Sweet Woodruff

Hemerocallis hybrids – Daylilies

Paeonia species – Peonies
Penstemon species

Perovskia atriplicifolia – Russian Sage
Rudbeckia species – Black-eyed Susan
Sedum species
Veronica species – Speedwell
Vinca minor – Periwinkle

Allium species
Chionodoxa species – Glory in the Snow
Galanthus species – Snowdrops
Lilium species – Lilies
Narcissus species – Daffodils
Tulipa species – Tulips

Annuals:Brachycome iberidifolia – Swan River Daisy
Centaura species – Bachelor’s Buttons

Cleome spinosa – Spider Flower
Cosmos species

Petunia species
Targetes species – Marigolds
Verbena species

Roses and Shrubs:
Amelanchier species – Serviceberry
Cotinus coggygria – Smoke Bush
Cotoneaster species
Euonymus species
Kerria japonica
Philadelphus species – Mock Orange
Prunus species
Rosa species - Old garden types – Rosa x alba, Rosa Gallica

Rugosa roses
Explorer roses ‘John Cabot’, John Davis’, William Baffin’
Spirea species
Syringa species – Lilac

Monday, September 29, 2008

Diary - My 10 LEAST Favourite Perennials

My 10 ………………….LEAST FAVOURITE………. Perennials

Mostly I have had these fast, vigorous plants spread - (and spread and spread!) throughout my beautiful flower beds and take over. Gardener – Beware!

Ajuga reptans – Bugleweed, Carpet Bugle – Zone 3 - 6-8” tall
I really like this plant in spring – deep burgundy, ground-hugging leaves and lovely blue spiky flowers. But after that, the faded flowers need to be dead-headed or they look brown and ugly. But the worst is how this plant takes over – it even pops up the lawn next to the flower bed!

Aegopodium podagraria – Zone 1, Ht: 12”
The common names for this plant are Bishop’s weed, Goutweed and Snow on the Mountain. It has pretty green and white variegated leaves and tall lacy flowers BUT put in one small plant and trust me, you’ll never get rid of it.

Achillea Millefolium – Yarrow – Zone , Ht: 12-18”
I’m sure some yarrow have redeeming qualities but I put in a pinky-red type and have proceeded to yank out huge sections of it ever since as it spreads through the bed.

Stachys byzantina – Lamb’s Ears – Zone , Ht: 10”
a. The common Lamb’s Ears provides a lovely, low-growing, soft silvery edge for a bed but look out – the flower is tall, rangy and then floppy and the stuff spreads like mad. Some newer varieties are more controllable.

Cerastium tomentosum – Snow in Summer – Zone 2 – Ht: 8”
Again, lovely in springtime with its lacy, silver foliage topped by dainty, star-shaped white flowers but it spreads quickly.

Convallaria majalis – Lily of the Valley – Zone 1 – Ht: 6”
Everybody’s grandmother will bring you a small pot of this for your new garden, so plant it around a tree so you can smell the gorgeous white bell flowers in spring but won’t have to watch as it quickly takes up half your garden!

Mentha – Mint
The only safe place for this is a pot!

Nepeta – Catmint – Zone 2, Ht: 12”
A relative of mint, it spreads quite a bit, despite being pretty in June with its low-growing purple/blue flowers.

Oenothera fruticosa – Evening Primrose – Zone 3, Ht: 8”
Flowers emerge as red buds then change to sunny yellow drops, but they spread and spread and spread…..

Malva moschata – Mallow – Zone 3
Quite pretty, tall spikes of pink flowers on top of bushy foliage. But they self-seed prolifically. I’m always yanking out the new babies!


Diary - My 10 favourite Conifers

My 10 Favourite ………………….. Conifers

Weeping Norway Spruce (Picea abies ‘Pendula’)
Zone 4 Height: 5’ Spread: 4’

“A distinctive specimen with weeping branches. It will remain prostrate along the ground unless staked, when it becomes weeping”

Dwarf Hinoki False Cypress (Chamaecyparis Obtusa “Nana Gracilis”)
Zone 5 Height: 3’2 Spread: 3.2’

“Dwarf specimen plant with rich green broadly upright, fan shaped sprays”

Moor-dense Juniper (Juniperus Sabina ‘Moor-Dense’)
Zone 3 Height: 12” Spread: 3.9’ Bright Green

A dense mound with graceful bright green foliage. Flat branching. A good substitute to Tamariscifolia. More blight resistant variety

Hoopsi Blue Spruce (Picea pungens ‘Hoopsi’)
Zone 2 Height: 65’ Spread: 20’

One of the best-shaped Blue Spruce, slow growth at first. Foliage a clear blue silvery blue. Outstanding colour – bluest of all species. Dense foliage. Very straight trunks (pronounced Hoop-see-eye)

Nest Spruce (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’)
Zone 3 Height: 30” Spread: 4.9’

“Light green, interesting, low, broad, nest-like plant. Hardy” Tidy, dense, circular, dwarf shrub – often with depression in centre like a giant birds nest

Swiss Stone Pine
Zone 2 Height: 32’ Spread: 8’

“Slow growing and narrowly columnar, the narrowest of upright pines” Keeps its lower branches as it ages. Needs good air circulation. Violet cones. Drought tolerant . Requires loamy well-drained slightly acidic soil.

Mugho Pine (Pinus mugo pumilio)
Zone 1 Height: 3.2’ Spread: 6.5’

“Compact bush of dwarf globular form much used in foundation and rock plantings.” Will grow big and must be pruned
8. Dense Yew (Taxus media ‘densiformis’)
Zone 5 Height: 3.4’ Spread: 6.5’

A broad compact slow growing variety which can be used as a hedge. Great for shade . Takes well to pruning.

Emerald Cedar (Thuja Occidentalis ‘Emerald’)
Zone 4 Height: 13’ Spread: 3.2’

Introduction from Sweden. Also know as ‘Smargard’. This is a bright green dense pyramid.

Rheingold Cedar (Thuja occidentalis ‘Rheingold’)
Zone 3 Height: 3.9’ Spread: 3.2’

“A dwarf broadly globose to conical cedar. New foliage. Golden and bronze. Best in full sun.”

Diary - My 10 Favourite Deciduous Trees

My 10 Favourite………………………….TREES – Deciduous

1. Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana)
Zone: Height: Spread:
A very showy tree when in flower in the spring but one day or two of wind and rain and all the flowers end up on the ground. And that’s about it for this tree – it’s pretty boring the rest of the year. (But on a calm sunny spring day, you can’t beat those huge, pink blooms!)

2. Autumn Delight Crab Apple (Malus ‘Autumn Delight’)
Zone 3 Height: 14’ Spread: 9’
A delightful, disease resistant smaller, pendulous crabapple. Highlights include a white spring flower with pink buds, bronze fall colour with fruit that changes colour from yellow-orange to brilliant scarlet.

3. River Birch (Betula nigra)
Zone 4 Height: 42’ Spread: 32’
Great birch tree that is not susceptible to borer. Has the same beautiful ‘peeling” bark but it’s brown not white. Never needs painting or spraying of insecticides. Appreciates a wet spring but survives in a dry summer and autumn. Fall colour: Yellow.

4. Legacy Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum ‘Legacy’)
Zone 4 Height: 55’ Spread: 39’
A rapid growing maple with a symmetrical oval crown. It’s resistant to summer heat and leaf tatter and has a lovely reddish-orange fall colour.

5. Devil’s Walking Stick/Japanese Angelica Tree (Aralia elata)
Zone 5 Height: 14’ Spread: 11’
Great tree for smaller yards. Has clusters of long-lasting white flowers in August. Does well in dry soil and city conditions.

6. European Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
Zone 4 Height: 50’ Spread: 39’
Most beech trees are excellent and hardy. Many have finely cut foliage. The most interesting are Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea Pendula’ – Weeping Purple Beech, a small pendulous tree with dark purple leaves and Fagus sylvatica ‘Rosea-marginata’ the Tricolour Beech, with pink and white edged leaves.

7. Marshall’s Seedless Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica ‘Marshall’s Seedless’)
Zone 3 Height: 55’ Spread: 45’
Dark glossy green leaves, a bright yellow fall colour, its pyramidal shape and disease resistance make Marshall’s Seedless one of my favourites!

8. Goldenrain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata)
Zone 6 Height: 30’ Spread: 8’
A lovely, smaller tree that grows copious spikes of bright yellow flowers in midsummer. Its green fernlike foliage and yellow fall colour make it an outstanding choice.

9. White Oak (Quercus alba) http://www.treehelp.com/trees/oak/species-oak-types-white.asp
Zone 3 Height: 50’ Spread: 50’
This majestic tree is a strong but slow grower, disease resistant and drought tolerant. Other favourite oaks include: Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea) which is best for fall colour, Pin Oak (Quercus palustris), a lovely pyramidal oak that I’ve had in my backyard for 18 years and English Oak (Quercus rubur), another strong, large tree with glossy leaves and a wide rounded head.

10. Regent Japanese Pagoda Tree (Sophora japonica ‘Regent’) http://shade-trees.tripod.com/families/selections/sophora_japonica.html
Zone 3 Height: 65’ Spread: 49’
This large spreading tree has small leaflets, spectacular creamy white flowers in August and it withstands pollution well.

Honourable Mentions

I love these trees, despite their problems.

Canoe or Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)
Zone 2 Height: 42’ Spread: 32’
I love the white, peeling bark of these graceful trees but constant spring vigilance with CYGON is necessary to keep borer away. My favourite is the clump version.

Maples (Acer saccharinum, rubrum, platenoides)
Zone 3-5 Height: 40-60’ Spread: 40’
What’s more spectacular than blazing scarlet maple leaves in autumn? As beautiful as they look, these trees often cast dense, dense shade, their branches and trunks are susceptible to splitting and shedding as well inviting a host of rot and fungi.

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Zone 6 Height: 25’ Spread: 20-30’
This lovely graceful tree has pea-shaped pink flowers in May and gorgeous dark brown bark but it can’t be part of a flower bed garden. It hates having the soil disturbed around the roots with bulbs and annuals. I found that out the hard way, when I planted it in a section of my flower border to serve as “the focal point” and it died after several short years. It’s also susceptible to canker.

Greenspire Linden (Tilia cordata ‘Greenspire’) http://www.coffeedrome.com/jtree2b.html
Zone 3 Height: 52’ Spread: 39’
Lindens are graceful, hardy, beautiful trees and ‘Greenspire’ is one of the best. Its glossy dark green leaves are small and heartshaped. The fragrant flower is creamy yellow as is its autumn colour. Branches are brittle, though, and older trees produce a lot of twig litter.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Diary - My 10 Favourite Broadleaf Evergreens

My 4 Favourite…………………………Broadleaf Evergreens

Rock Spray Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis)
Zone 6 Height:20” Spread: 36”

“Excellent plant for rock gardens or against walls.” Pink flowers, bright red berries in the fall. (pronounced co-TOHN-ee-AS-ter)

Euonymus (Euonymus fortunei)
Zone 4-5 Height: 4-5’ Spread: 15” – 4’

White/Silver: ‘Emerald Gaiety’ variegated green and silver
Gold: ‘Sunspot Euonymus’ green edged leaf with yellow centre
Dark: ‘Sarcoxie Euonymus’
Euonymus can be a ground cover, small shrub or a vine. Likes sun or shade. Great plant in a border or as a hedge. Leaves stay on in winter

Wilson Ivy (Hedera helix ‘Wilson’)
Zone 5 Height: 10” Spread: 4.9”
Sun or shade. Great ground cover. Most leaves stay over winter

Adam’s Needle (Yucca filamentosa)
Zone 4 Height: 30” Spread: 24”

Sun. An Interesting addition to a border. Tall spikes or creamy white flowers that bloom in July above broad pointed leaves. Tie up over winter to protect from snow damage.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Diary - My 10 favourite Perennials

My 10 favourite…………………………………..PERENNIALS

Astilbe (Astilbe X arendsii) (Garden Astilbe) (Sun to partial shade)
Zone 3 Ht: 24-36” Spr: 18-24”

Feathery flower plumes in many different colours (from pink to white to red). Foliage is lacy. My favourite red is ‘Fanal’ and favourite white is ‘Deutschland’. They love partial to full shade and adore moist, mulched soil. Depending on the type, different astilbes will bloom June – August

Aquilegia (Columbine) (Sun to partial shade)
Zone 2

This is an old fashioned perennial that’s lovely in the spring landscape. The Hybrid strains are the most commonly grown and my favourite is ‘McKana Giants’ (Height: 30-36”). The flowers hang like large winged bells and come in a variety of soft shades. Another columbine that appears in my garden year after year (wherever it chooses!) is Wild Columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis Height: 2-3’) with delicate red bell flowers with yellow centers. It obviously self seeds.

3. Hemerocallis (Daylilies)
Zone 2
18 years ago, my friend’s father brought me a clump of daylilies for my new house. “One-a-Day Lilies” he called them. I smiled, knowing that he had the name confused with One a Day Vitamins, but when I thought about it later – he was right! Each flower only blooms one day, but there are often 12-14 blooms on each stem, making the plant full of flowers for weeks on end. In sun or shade, colours may range from yellow to red to purple to almost black! Hundreds and hundreds of cultivars exist and more appear in nurseries each spring. Their leaves are grassy-looking and fit well into a border. My ultimate favourites are ‘Hyperion’ with large, fragrant yellow blooms; the ‘Chicago’ series and ‘Woodside Ruby’, a dark ruffled, deep red shade. Also, in my opinion ‘Happy Returns’ is better than the famous ‘Stella D’Oro’ for repeat blooms. The only ones I advise against are the common orange ones that grow in ditches. These spread like crazy and can take over a flower bed in no time flat! Trust me, I know!

4. Polygonatum (Solomon’s Seal)
Zone 3
This shade-loving, spring blooming perennial has gently-arching green striped leaves with tiny, delicate bell flowers hanging underneath. It is delicate, elegant – a real harbinger of spring. The bloom period is relatively long, especially if the ground stays moist. The most common is Polygonatum x hybridum (Common Solomon’s Seal) but other fun varieties include Polygonatum commutatum (Giant Solomon’s Seal) which can reach 7’ in very rich soil and Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriforme ‘Variegatum’, a variegated version with creamy white and green striped leaves.

5. Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’
Zone 3 Ht: 30-36” Spr: 12-18” Full Sun
I love my Penstemon ‘Husker Red’! (Perennial of the Year in 1996). Deep burgundy clumps of leaves emerge in spring slowly changing to green with tall stems holding delicate pinky-white bell flowers. ‘Husker Red’ looks great massed together in a drift. (I have about 7-8 plants together in one area). They last for a week or more as cut flowers and people often comment that they look more like silk flowers instead of real!

6. Hosta
Zone 2 (Sun or partial shade or full shade).
Hostas are almost as plentiful in variety as Hemerocallis (Daylilies). There are hundreds of different types ranging from tiny to huge! Ones that have done particularly well in my garden (which ranges from full sun to complete shade) are: ‘Blue Wedgewood’ (Ht: 12”); ‘Night before Christmas’ (Ht: 20-22”); ‘Frances Williams’ (Ht: 24-28”); ‘Golden Tiara’ (12-16”); ‘Great Expectations’ (20-28”); ‘June’ (12-16”); ‘Paul’s Glory’ (22-26”); ‘Sagae’ (30-32”); sieboldiana ‘Elegans’ (24-30”); ‘Sum and Substance’ (30-36”). Hosta love moist soil but watch for slugs near the thin leaf varieties! Slugs and snails think Hosta are delicious as a midnight snack!

7. Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan) Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ (Full sun)
Zone 3 Ht: 24-30” Spr: 18-24”
‘Goldsturm’ is a very familiar, very reliable Rudbeckia cultivar. Lovely bright golden daisy-like flowers with a dark brown ‘eye’. Books and guides often call it a late-blooming flower. I always thought that meant September but in my garden it already opens in late July and is gone by mid-August. Nonetheless it gives any border a “happy” quality and while it’s blooming and attracts very few problems or pests.

8. Iris sibirica (Siberian Iris) (Sun to partial shade)
Zone 2 Ht: 24-40” Spr: 18-24”
A very elegant, stately addition to any border! Siberian Iris love rich moist soil (add manure!). Strong slender upright stems rise above clumps of grassy foliage in late May and early June. My favourites are the dark blue/purple bloomers as well as the light blue/mauve but Siberian Iris are also available in rose, yellow and white.

9. Perovskia (Russian Sage) (Full Sun)
Zone 4 Ht: 3-5’ Spr: 24 – 36”
Perovskia is a large but delicate focal point in a border. Quite tall (4-5’) and half as wide, dainty mauve flowers dot the long upright stems. When rubbed, the flowers and leaves exude a distinct herby fragrance. I’ve never had much luck using beautiful Russian Sage in fresh flower arrangements – the little flowers end up in a pile around the vase in a very short while. But in the garden, it peaks in August and September and turns an interesting grayish-white in late fall and early winter. Don’t trim it lower than 2’ for winter and only to 6-8” in spring or you won’t have much of a show the following summer.

10. Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ (Thread Leaf Coreopsis ) (Full sun)
Zone 4 Ht: 12-18” Spr: 12-18”
I incorporated this beautiful, dainty yellow bloomer into almost every garden I designed! One of my all-time favourites, pale yellow flowers rise over ferny foliage. It was proclaimed the 1992 Plant of the Year. If divided every 3-4 years, it will retain its vigour. I am not as fond of coreopsis rosea (pink flowered coreopsis) probably because their flower fades to white in really hot summers but 2 others I’m starting to really like are: coreopsis rosea ‘Limerock Ruby’, an interesting ruby-red shade (that doesn’t seem to fade) with a yellow eye and coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’, a bushy form similar to ‘Golden Shower.’

Honourable Mentions:

Alchemilla Mollis (Common Lady’s Mantle) (Sun to part-shade)
Zone 2 Ht: 12-18” Spr: 18-24”
I remember first seeing alchemilla mollis on a garden tour in Toronto in the early 90’s. My friend and I asked the garden guide what the flowers would be like when they emerged. She answered “That’s them!” She must have noticed our disappointed faces as we stared at the soft lime green flowers on the large scalloped leaves because she quickly added: “But no one grows them for the flowers! You should see them after a rainfall – the leaves catch drops of water that sparkle like diamonds later in the sunshine!!” Our faces lit right up as we scribbled down “alchemilla mollis’ to add to our nursery lists. Now I can’t imagine my garden without it. It thrives in wet or dry and is not fussy in the least. Not a showpiece in itself, but a must-have as a background for all the other showpieces! (And raindrops really do sparkle on the leaves like diamonds in the sun after a shower!!)

Dictamnus albus (Gas Plant) (Full sun)
Zone 2 Ht: 2-3’ Spr: 2’
Another Toronto Garden Tour discovery! Wonderful strong tall stems hold airy spikes of white or pink (var. purpureus) flowers. I was warned that it takes up to 3 years until the gas plant becomes truly established and puts on a show and that I must be patient (not one of my strong points). But the advice was correct – now every summer the beautiful gas plant rises in a small corner near my arbour and I look at it in sheer delight. It hates to be moved, so find it a permanent home and leave it be.

Heuchera (Coral Bells) (Full sun to partial shade)
Zone 3-4 Ht: 10-30” Spr: 18-24”
I have 2 distinctly different types of coral bells in my garden and I love them both! Heuchera x brizoides hybrids has low clumping, rounded leaves which produce long stick-like stems with tiny coral-coloured bell flowers on the. Lovely additions to a vase combo (they’re so dainty!). If well watered, coral bells last for months in a semi-shaded garden. My other favourite is one of the Americana hybrids called ‘Palace Purple’. It has dark burgundy-brown leaves with sprays of creamy white flowers above. Again, it’s used more for foliage than flowers. Looks great with hosta.

Gaillardia (Blanket Flower) (Full sun)
Zone 2 Ht: 18-24” Spr: 12-18”
3 great blanket flowers add a splash of colour to my garden starting in late June. One type has yellow tips with burgundy centers (‘Goblin’); others are solid yellow (‘Golden Goblin’) and one of mine is a deep wine red (‘Burgundy’). Dead-heading ensures constant summer bloom. Another ‘happy’ plant! Really cute!

Underused Perennials

Eryngium giganteum (Sea Holly) (Full sun)
Zone 3 Ht: 30-36” Spr: 12-18”
My husband was helping me pull thistles from my flower beds but (smart man!) always checked before actually yanking the weeds out. “This one?” he asked. “NO!” I screamed in horror, “that’s my Sea Holly ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’!” “OK, OK, just checking” he mumbled as he moved deeper into the garden-jungle. This is one of the coolest, new flowers to grace my border and I just love it. Tall, with large silvery gray flower bracts that have sharp spiky thorns. It starts out pale, pale mauve and fades to grayish-white. A real eye-catcher and visitors always ask about it. Dies after flowering but self-seeds.

Brunnera macrophylia (Siberian Bugloss) (Partial to full shade)
Zone 4 Ht: 12-18” Spr: 12-18”
The small sky-blue flowers of bugloss are often mistaken for forget-me-nots, but this garden beauty is actually its aristocratic cousin. Brunnera is a spring bloomer with masses of large, heart-shaped leaves. A few years ago ‘Jack Frost’ created quite a stir (and broke a few budgets at $20-40 a plant!) because of a totally new look: it had frosty silver-coloured leaves that had mint-green veins! The blue flowers looked superb against this interesting background.

Cynara cardunculus (Cardoon) (Full Sun)
Zone 7 Ht: 3-6’ Spr: 3’
This year, my city’s boulevards featured Cardoon as its focal point surrounded by fuschia and purple petunias. Grown in my area as an annual, Cardoon features arching, spiky silver leaves that produce tall, globe thistle-type flowers in late summer. This rare eye-catcher could be an excellent design feature in your garden.

Scabiosa caucasica (Pincushion flower) (Full sun)
Zone 4-9 Ht: 20”` Spr: 8”
Years ago I ordered seeds from an American seed company (when there wasn’t such a huge difference between the Canadian and American dollar!). The seeds were expensive even then ($1 a seed!) but I grew a pincushion flower called ‘Fama’ with intense blue/mauve blooms. What a beauty and it’s still going strong 15 years later ( and I’ve moved it twice.) It’s beautiful as part of a vase flower arrangement and everyone always asks about it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Diary - My 10 Favourite Grasses

My 10 Favourite……………………………GRASSES

Helictotrichon sempirvirens (Blue Oat Grass)
Zone 3 Ht: 2-3’ Spr: 24-28”
I incorporated this grass in almost every garden I designed for customers! A beautiful silvery blue grass, graceful and arching with very pretty camel-coloured spikes and plumes appearing in mid-summer. This is bigger and prettier than Festuca and non-invasive, like Lyme grass, all 3 of which are silver blue. This is definitely the best and most useful grass I’ve grown.

Miscanthus sinensis (Japanese Silver Grass)
Zone 5 Ht: 5-8’ Spr: 3-4’
Most Miscanthus are very tall, with graceful arching green and white striped leaves. Most late bloomers (Sept/Oct) and in years of good rainfall, can shoot up 6-8’! I don’t cut Miscanthus (or Helictotrichon) down over the winter but give them both a severe haircut in spring. Books and websites will advise you to divide Miscanthus in spring, but if your plant is more than 2 years old, you will need a chainsaw! No spade can divide this tough cookie!! Miscanthus is most beautiful in September with Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Burning Bush and (annual) flowering kale.

Calamagrostis x acutiflora (Reed Grass)
Zone 3-5 Ht: 3-5’ Spr: 24”
I have both ‘Karl Foerster’ and ‘Overdam’ (the variegated version) in my garden. Both are stately, tall and straight with golden/pinky plumes and spikes, which appear in late summer. Selected as Perennial of the Year in 2001.

Carex buchananii (Leatherleaf Sedge)
Zone 6 Ht: 1-2’ Spr: 12-18”
A funny, everbrown little grass that almost looks dead! It’s great in containers also with dwarf conifers and beside water. Not completely hardy in my area.

Hakonechloa macra (Japanese Golden Grass)
Zone 5 Ht: 12-26” Spr: 24”
What a beauty (but a real mouthful to pronounce in Latin!) Likes partial shade. Leaves are brightly striped in golden-yellow and green. A lovely little spot of gold in a dark green border.

Imperata cylindrical ‘Red Baron’ (Japanese Blood Grass)
Zone 5 Ht: 18-20” Spr: 12-18”
How cool is this! Red grass!! Very unusual – looks great near dark green or silver conifers. It forms a dense clump – green at the bottom and blood red at the top. The label cautions that it hates and will not survive in hot dry soil or heavy wet soil. Well my Japanese Blood grass is in both – wet clay in spring and cement dry in summer) and it comes back year after year. Go figure!

Ophiopogon planiscapres ‘Nigrescens’ (Black Mondo Grass)
Zone 6 Ht: 6-8” Spr: 8-12”
How even more cool is this – black grass!! Well, OK – it’s not really a grass – it’s a perennial. But it has grass-like features and looks absolutely stunning against gold variegated ground cover or silver ground cover.

Pennisetum setacum ‘Rubrum’ (Purple Fountain Grass)
Zone 7 Ht: 3-4’ Spr: 2-3’
Grown in my garden as an annual (I’ve tried mulching it heavily over winter but it dies out every time). Its great red-burgundy leaves and feathery pale pink plumes are welcome in the border and especially in containers.

Spartina pectinata ‘Aureo-marginata’ (Variegated Cord Grass)
Zone 4 Ht: 5-7’ Spr: 3’4’
I love this tough-as-nails green and gold variegated grass at the back of my border or near water. Very dramatic when leaves are worked into a flower arrangement. Very difficult to divide. Drought tolerant.

Festuca glauca (Blue fescue grass)
Zone 3 Ht: 8-12” Spr: 10-12”
Fescue grass is a good little silver accent in the edging of a border. (It’s like a small version of Helictotrichon). Several of mine have dried out and died over the years, so they seem a bit vulnerable, even though they’re listed as Zone 3.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Diary - My 10 Favourite Shrubs

My 10 Favourite………………………………..SHRUBS

I really, really love a lot of different shrubs but since I’m trying to narrow down the choices, here are my top ten plus some honorable mentions.

Crimson Queen Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Crimson Queen’)
Zone 5 Ht: 5’ Spr: 5’
Bright crimson red colour holds well during summer on this mounding shrub with finely cut leaves and graceful, pendulous branches. Dislikes clay soil, unprotected location, strong north winds and direct sunlight. Otherwise not picky at all!!

Serviceberry (Amalanchier Canadensis)
Zone 4 Ht: 20’ Spr: 10’
My all-time favourite!! It can be trained as a tree or a shrub. It has three- season interest: gorgeous snowy white flowers in spring, red-purple fruit for the birds in summer and bright scarlet-red fall colour.

Silveredge Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’)
Zone 2 Ht: 5’ Spr: 4’
A great staple in the flower bed or front yard. This variety has variegated cream and green leaves that turn rosy burgundy in autumn. During winter, its bright red-purple branches stand out well against the snow.

Royal Purple Smoke Tree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’)
Zone 5 Ht: 7-8’ Spr: 7-8’
A great substitute for Purple Leaf Sandcherry (Prunus x cistena) when you want a shot of burgundy on the landscape. All the sandcherries I’ve ever had have been very vulnerable in often complete sections have died out come spring. The Smoke Tree has the same burgundy colour but is much hardier and has the advantage of having long lasting airy flower clusters that look like ‘smoke’ from a distance.

Slender Deutzia (Deutzia gracilis)
Zone 5 Ht: 3’ Spr: 4’
An underused small shrub with masses of flowers in spring on arching, bright green branches. So pretty!

Winged Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus)
Zone: 3 Ht: 8’ Spr: 6.5’
Funny how Magnolia can be on “beloved but Faulty” list with its fast-fading beauty whereas Burning Bush has similar faults and it makes my Favourites list! Oh well – the bush is not much during spring and summer but what a blazing autumn show it puts on even for a few short weeks. It comes in a smaller form as well (Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’).

Goldflame Spirea (Spiraea x bumalda ‘Goldflame’)
Zone 2b Ht: 2.6’ Spr: 3’
A wonderful small shrub that goes from bright golden foliage in spring and summer to copper orange in fall. Other good spireas are ‘Anthony Waterer’ (beautiful mauve pink flower heads in mid-summer) and ‘Alpine Spirea’, a tiny dainty, fine-textured shrub great for grouping, edging or as a ground cover.

Marie’s Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’)
Zone 5 Ht: 8’ Spr: 8’
Try to find space in your garden for one of my all-time favourites Marie’s Doublefile Viburnum. A gorgeous, dark green foliage shrub that holds large creamy white flowers “horizontally” on its branches. Will grow in sun or shade. Another beauty I’ve had in my garden for many years (it even survived a transplant) is Viburnum burkwoodii, with its glossy, semi-evergreen leaves and very fragrant white flowers in early spring. I have it right outside the back patio doors so I can smell it in May!

Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
Zone 5 Ht: 4’ Spr: 4’
Another all-time favourite! A completely different shrub from the regular snowball hydrangeas. It’s huge oak-shaped leaves turn bronzy copper in autumn but not before it produces huge, long conical flower clusters that start out white, then turn pink and finally bronze. Mine grows really well in very dense, dark shade, whereas the guide books often say to grow it in full sun or semi-shade.

Variegated Weigela (Weigela ‘Nana variegata’)
Zone 5 Ht: 4’ Spr: 5’
Lovely light pink flowers grown on the green and cream variegated leaf branches. A real stand-out!

Honourable Mentions

Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris)
Zone 3 Ht: 13’ Spr: 6.5
Who doesn’t love a lilac in the garden? Wonderful fragrant deep mauve flowers in June. Great for cutting and bringing into the house but here’s a practical trick: smash up the ends of the branches with a hammer and then place them into the vase. They last a full week this way, because there’s lots more surface area for the water to get in!

Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia)
Zone 4 Ht: 6.5 Spr: 6.5
Nothing says spring has arrived in Ontario like a forsythia in full golden yellow bloom!

Diane Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’)
Zone 4 Ht: 8’ Spr: 6.5
An excellent specimen with colourful bright red flowers in spring and red, yellow and orange fall colours.

Great but Underused
Here’s list of wonderful shrubs that hardly anyone knows about or uses:

Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)
Zone 4 Ht: 16’ Spr: 13’
Called a tree but really a large shrub. In July, this gorgeous specimen has masses of outstanding white flowers.

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles japonica)
Zone 5 Ht: 4’ Spr: 4’
Terrific small shrub with spicy fragrant fruit, vivid clusters of orange-red flowers and dense bushy growth. But watch those thorns!!

Red Vein Enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus)
Zone 5 Ht: 10’ Spr: 5’
Stunning shrub for shade with pendulous creamy yellow flowers and a brilliant orange-red autumn foliage.

Diary - My 10 Favourite Bulbs

My 10 Favourite………………………….Spring Blooming Bulbs

Daffodil ‘Tahiti’
A double daffodil with an orangey-red centre against a yellow centre on white. Always invites comment and very lovely in a vase. In the perfect garden, I will plant LOTS of daffodils (along with muscari) because they’re toxic and bitter and will deter squirrels.

Daffodil ‘Mount Hood’
White-on-white trumpet style. Very similar to ‘King Alfred’ but pure white. 16-18” tall.

Daffodil ‘King Alfred’
This is the Grandpa of all daffodils and the most beloved. Tall 18” stems produce rich golden blooms.

Muscari armenicus ‘Blue Spike’ or ‘Early Giant’Grape hyacinths are a short, bright blue, fast spreading spring bulb that looks glorious with yellow – tulips, daffodils or forsythia.

Daffodil ‘Thalia’ (Triandrus div 5)
A graceful, late blooming pure white enchantress that produces 3-5 sweetly scented blooms per 14-16” stem. Thin and delicate.

Puschkinia scilloides (Libanotica)
Here’s one you may not know! A wonderful, short, “fluffy” spring bloomer in white with pale blue stripes. 3-6” tall. Extremely hardy and quick spreading. Goes very well with Daffodils and Scilla siberica.

Scilla siberica (Blue Squill)
The lawn of the University of Toronto Law Library seemed to be awash in a sea of deep blue flowers! What were they?? I was fascinated. They turned out to be Scilla siberica . They are extremely hardy and ideal in any garden that doesn’t get too dry. They also come in white and pink.

Tulip ‘Diana’
Pure white blooms on strong white stems 12-14” tall.

Tulip ‘Christmas Marvel’Cherry pink blooms look good enough to eat!! They make a brilliant border display and look lovely with white daffodil ’Mount Hood’.

Tulip ‘Estella Rijnveld’Probably my ultimate favourite tulip! It’s a parrot tulip, very late blooming, feathery and frilly. “Estella Rijnveld’ is a wonderful striped combination of read and white and looks terrific with lilacs and Tulip ‘Queen of the Night’ in a vase.

Honourable Mentions

Here’s a few more daffodils that I’ve grown to love:
‘Suzy’ (Jonquil div. 7) - 18” yellow with orange centres, fragrant
‘Jenny” (Cyclamineus Hybrid Div 6) - 10-12” short and white
‘Ice Follies’ - open yellow and turn creamy white Ht: 16”

‘Hawera’ - nodding yellow heads, very short 6-8”

I won’t be planting too many tulips in my “perfect garden” because they are short lived and squirrels love them too much! But I wonder if I can completely give up:

'Red Riding Hood' - small, bright red, one of the earliest tulips
‘Peach Blossom’ - double early tulip, rosy pink with white, look like small peonies
‘Apricot Beauty’ - single early, peachy pink, wonderful in a vase, fragrant
‘Schoonoord’ - double early, pure white
‘Bastogne’ - Triumph tulip, bright red and show-stopping

‘Queen of the Night’ - single late, such a dark purple that it looks black – people cannot believe it! Looks great in a border or vase
Lily-flowered ‘White Triumphator’ - Spiky white petals, looks great with everything and they bloom a bit later when lots of bulbs are already fading
Viridflora ‘Spring Green’ - starts out green and turns white with green stripes. Very unusual. Just discovered it a few years ago and love it!
Tulipa tarda – tiny, short (2”) – like little wildflowers – yellow pointed with white tips – very long-lived

Allium giganteum ‘Gladiator’ or ‘Lucy Ball’ – Really different – 4’ tall – large globe shaped flowers on sturdy stems. Lilac and purple. Late blooming.

Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow) – very early (April) Electric blue flowers look beautiful in a woodland setting and combine well with tulips and daffodils. Also terrific under forsythia

Iris reticulata and Iris danfordiae – tiny (4-6”) Iris that bloom in early spring. Reticulata are violet blue and Danfordiae are yellow. They have always been my signal that spring has really arrived. They bloom right outside my kitchen window under a linden tree.