By JODI DeLONG
Happy spring! No, really, it is by the calendar, and it is by the garden’s reckoning, too.
Gardeners are starting seeds indoors or making their plans to get out and visit the local nurseries to see what they absolutely have to have this year. Some of them opened for the season on April 1, and others will be opening in the coming weeks.
Several things to remind you all about: I’ll be at Saltscapes Expo at Exhibition Park, April 22-24, doing talks and demonstrations on container gardening with succulents, and on early spring bloomers. I’ll have giveaways at my booth, too, so come say hello. The annual Native Plant Sale is May 7 at Acadia University’s Irving Centre, 9-12 noon, and the annual Rare and Unusual Plant Sale is in Annapolis Royal, May 22, 1-4 pm at the farmers market across from the wharf.
I asked a number of local nursery operators about new or new-to-them plants they’re excited about this spring. This list is by no means exhaustive, (for length purposes, I could only include two or three per nursery) but it’ll whet your appetite for some of what’s available, and maybe tempt you to try something new.
Lloyd Mapplebeck, Hillendale Perennials, Truro
Although it’s not new this year, Lloyd is really enthusiastic about ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ Echinacea, which blooms in a variety of hues and is reliable, tough, and beloved by pollinators. He’s also very enthusiast about tall sedums, which are far more than just ‘Autumn Joy’, the one everyone has. There are dozens of new and newer cultivars available, and these later-blooming succulent plants boast strikingly colourful and handsome foliage as well as masses of pollinator-attracting flowers. Look for ‘Abbeydore’, Postman’s Pride’, and ‘Strawberries and Cream’ among his offerings this year.
Lee Dickie, Briar Patch Farm and Nursery, Berwick
Lee is very excited about the brand new ‘Barista’ series of compact crape myrtle shrubs, bred for more northern climates. They bloom on new growth, later in the season, and have white, red or pink flowers that are attractive to pollinators and resistant to deer. Briar Patch is well known for its extensive and unusual hellebore collection, and this year they have two new series of these early-bloomers: the Wedding Party series of doubles, and the Honeymoon series of single flowered varieties.
Daina Budde, Glad Gardens, Waterville
Well known for her gorgeous container designs, Daina always has a fantastic selection of succulents for sale, and this year she has been busy propagating a number of unusual varieties. For annuals, she’s excited about Scoparia ‘Lemon Mist’ which is noted for having masses of cheery yellow flowers and a fragrance reminiscent of red licorice. I’m personally extremely pleased that she is carrying silver tumbleweed this year, Calocephalus ‘Silver Sand’, an annual native to Australia and very unusual looking—I plan to plant it in a container with black mondo grass and portulaca for an exotic look.
Robert Baldwin, Baldwin Nurseries, Falmouth
Gardeners need later-season bloomers as well as spring show-offs, and Robert has some excellent choices. The yellow waxy-bell (Kirengoshoma) blooms in later summer with softly yellow, nodding flowers. Toad Lily (Tricyrtis) is so named because its dozens of petite, dainty flowers are speckled, reminiscent of a toad’s back. It’s a late and prolific bloomer, with a number of blue, pink, or purple varieties available.
Jill Covill, Bunchberry Nurseries, Upper Clements
Let’s add a couple of trees and shrubs to the mix. Of great interest to those with small yards is Betula ‘Trost’s Dwarf’, a cutleaf, dwarf European birch. Hardier than a Japanese maple but with similar cutleaf foliage, it’s a beautiful thing. For spectacular fall colour, look for Oxydendrum, the sourwood tree, which flowers with sprays of dainty and fragrant white flowers in mid-late summer, and has vibrant orange-red fall foliage.
Cathy Oulton, Bloom Greenhouse and Garden Centre,
Last year, I trialed Bidens ‘Fireburst’, an annual with spectacular orange-red-pinkish flowers and bronze-green foliage. I was excited to find out that Cathy has it this year, as it’s fantastic in container designs. For those who are irked by deer, choosing perennials with deer-resistant characteristics is important — Baptisias fill that role nicely, including a new one called ‘Brownie Points’: these plants are related to lupins but bloom later, have a more shrub-like growth habit, and don’t seem to have the aphid issues that lupins do.
Susan and Ken Mosher, Oceanview Garden Centre
and Landscaping, Chester
Best in mass plantings, Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ has pale blue, star-shaped flowers above deep green leaves. Drought tolerant once established, it’s a relative to the Arkansas bluestar that was perennial of the year several years ago. One can never have too many astilbes (especially since they are deer resistant and beloved by pollinators) and one of the most popular right now is ‘Chocolate Shogun’ which has remarkably chocolate-coloured foliage. (note to self—get this plant before it sells out).
Alice d’Entremont, Ouest-ville Perennials, West Pubnico
In response to a request for hardy and deer resistant shrubs, Alice is promoting Potentillas this year, including the uniquely coloured ‘Mango Tango’, a compact and long-blooming selection. She is also excited to have several of the hybrid Itoh peonies, yellow ‘Bartzella’ and white/lavender bicolour ‘Cora Louise’, both of which boast huge, blight-resistant blooms and are easier to establish than the tree peonies that are one of their parents.
Michael Weir, Scotian Gold Country Garden, Coldbrook
One can never have too many daylilies if you’re an enthusiast, and Michael is excited about ‘Moussaka’, which is rich cream with deep purple contrasts. He’s also very keen on Cornus ‘Arctic Fire’ hardy dogwood, which really shows off its charms from fall to spring, with blood red stems that make for great winter interest. This is the first year in some years that Scotian Gold has the unique and ancient Ginkgo tree, known for its elegant foliage that turns brilliant yellow in autumn.