28 November 2010

More garden all-stars: New to my garden in 2010

Continuing on with our lovefest of plants that have performed well in my garden this year, we'll turn our attention to some of the 'new-to-me' plants that have been delightful in 2010. I'm sure you all know the sensation of discovering a new variety of a particular genus that you've not seen before, or trying something that you've seen elsewhere and couldn't find locally, or just deciding to give something another try. It's one of the best things about garden, the endless sense of discovery.

Epimediums are seriously underutilized around here, although those who know them love them and rave about their virtues. The thing about epimediums, also known as bishops cap and barrenwort, is that they're early bloomers, coming on in late April to mid May. In containers, they will bloom even earlier, so sometimes they've past their bloom period before most people start coming out to garden centres. Many gardeners who don't know what they're looking at will be less than impressed to see 'only' foliage, so that's why epimedium are often left on the benches at nurseries. There's a lovely variety of flower colours as well as leaf size and colouring; these are beautiful groundcovers and highly recommended.

A few years ago, I spotted yellow waxy-bells (kirengoshoma) growing in a garden in Truro, and got very excited. Until that point, I'd only read about these beauties in books, which isn't to say there aren't plenty of them growing here--just that I don't get out to nearly enough gardens. One of the joys of yellow waxy-bells is that they're late blooming, putting in an appearance in late summer or early autumn.

Another underutilized perennial is the beautiful masterwort, Astrantia. Masterwort is a member of the umbellifer family (Apiaceae or Umbelliferae), which makes it related to queen Ann's lace (Daucus), sea-holly (Eryngium), parsnips, dill, and carrots...and goutweed. It's a charming, well behaved perennial, forming nice mounds of handsome foliage and sprays of flowers in pink, greenish-white, or red to burgundy. A contrasting ring of petal like leaves, or bracts, surrounds the tiny florets, and makes them eyecatching and cherished for use in floral arrangements. A friend of mine says she has seedlings all around her garden from her plants, but I haven't been so fortunate with mine.

I've had a white-flowered dittany, or gas plant (Dictamnus) for a few years, but this year found the purple form for sale at a nursery down the Valley from here. The thing about Dictamnus: make sure you plant it where you want it, because it hates being dug up and moved. It's slow to settle in, but well worth the wait to get the spectacular, fragrant blossoms.
Although my previous attempts with a tree peony were not very successful, I decided to try again this year. Gardening colleague and nursery operator Lloyd Mapplebeck told me to tip a clay pot or a bucket over the woody stem of the plant after leaves drop and the ground freezes, to help protect the graft union for several years until the tree peony is well established. I meant to do that today, but came in the house too early. Tomorrow, the pot goes into protect-the-peony mode.

The very well named 'Brilliance' autumn fern is actually brilliant from the beginning of the season, when its new growth unfurls, until now, when it's preparing to go into resting mode. I tried this one last year but didn't have a real healthy plant to begin with, and it didn't return. This one was beautiful when planted and grew moreso over the season.

If you love to have pollinators around your garden, you need to have both the veronicas and their relatives the culvers roots, Veronicastrum. This is 'Red Fox' veronica, the bright pink blooms of which are often covered with bees and other pollinators. Last post we mentioned the new variety 'Purpliscious', but 'Red Fox' is an older, and still very popular, cultivar.

This is a relatively new variety of Echinacea, 'Tangerine Dream', which could become one of my very favourites because it's so definitely, defiantly orange. Very eyecatching in the perennial border, especially since it's near several other strongly-coloured bloomers, including 'Red Admiral' cranesbill and a host of other echinaceas.

Panic grasses don't have the showiest of flowers, but they have very graceful sprays of petite flowerheads along with handsome foliage that may be blue or green in colour, red- or wine-tipped. There are quite a few cultivars available around here, including 'Heavy Metal', 'Shenandoah', 'Rotstrahlbusch', 'Cheyenne Sky', 'Dallas Blues', and 'Thundercloud'. You can't have just one. At least, I can't.

A brief dip into shrubs to round out the day. This is the February daphne, D. mezereum, which was introduced to Nova Scotia with the settlers from Europe. It has highly fragrant flowers (they don't come out quite so early here) which turn into brilliant scarlet berries, but remember to take care with these plants: they are highly poisonous in all their parts.

One of the lepidote rhododendrons, R. russatum, is trying very hard to become my favourite ericaceous plant. As far as I know its flowers have the most blue-tinged colour of any of the hardy rhodos for our area.

Having waxed excitedly happy over 'Sungold' buddleia a number of times, no one will be surprised to find me still praising the beauty of this honey-coloured, fragrant flower. I'm preparing to mulch the base of mine with evergreen boughs and hopefully one of them will come through our winter.

One of the coolest evergreens I know of is the Siberian cypress, Microbiota decussata. In summer, the foliage of this low-growing conifer is a bright green, but as cold weather advances, the foliage turns bronze to purple. It's a tough, obliging evergreen, and one that should be used far more than it has been.

The fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) is related to our common sumac but as you can see it's quite different in appearance. It is a low-growing, spreading shrub, with interesting leaves and brilliant autumn colour. This variety is 'Gro-low', and I like the way it's used in some plantings around Wolfville, underneath taller shrubs and trees like flowering crabs. I haven't noticed any fragrance in my shrub's foliage, but I'm impressed with everything I've seen about this plant, so I hope for many years of pleasure from the one I planted this spring.


  1. So many pretties. I hope to remember some of these for next spring plantings. Don't forget to cover that peony tree. What a beautiful color.

  2. Jodi:
    More wonderful plants! I too agree with the underutilized proclivity towards Epi's. For its sheer propensity to do well in dry shade, one would think it would be on the tip of everyone's tongue, but sadly no. My dilemma is that they tend to get pricier as new 'resistance is futile Teza' cultivars[speaking for myself only]are made available.

    Kirengeshoma is one of my favourites. If you can kind K. koreana grab it. Blooms earlier than K.p and its flowers are distinctly more upright. Combined with Aconitum, it makes for a favourite fall display!

    Great post as always!


  3. I was given this daphne in spring but didn't realize all parts were poisonous. Thank you for that. What a shame. I had trouble placing it as it was, but chose right by the front door to lift my spirits. Well, will reevaluate in spring. As for your other choices...they make me wish for next year)))). One mustn't rush though...us gardeners need a rest....

  4. The hummingbirds love the Epimediums in early spring and they are great for dry shade. Wonderful selection of favorites.

  5. With all going on in your rich life, it's grand that you take time with your lovely photos and keen eye/knowledge to keep us all informed. Thank you, dear jodi. I for one can hardly begin to extol the joys of the autumn fern! I have many both at home and at the lake (in the ground and in pots), that throughout all seasons are awesome ... an amazing gift.

  6. I tried epidmediums for the first time this year and just loved them, they actually grew and bloomed under a pine tree. There are so many flowers on here I'd love to try, but the 'Sungold' is one I will be for sure looking in to. I wish it was time to plant flowers right now, guess we have to wait awhile still...

  7. Do you still have the plant tag for the purple Dictaminus? Sure would like to get its full name.

    I had grown the white variety over 15 years ago but discarded it when I could not enjoy its flowers from a distance. The purple variety appears to have more potential.

    Once again, a truly enjoyable post.

  8. The yellow waxy belles are a pretty flower. And I agree about the Astrantia, it should be in more gardens.

  9. Lots of winners here, and I must say that I am an absolutely huge fan of epimediums! Domino and circe are my two favorites at this time... L

  10. You've got some nice ones there. I understand the "new" buzz, as this year everything has been new to me!

  11. What a lovely collection again. I love the grass with strings of raindrops and the sungold buddleia. They're wonderfully captured!

  12. Some of these beauties, like the epimediums are old friends, but that blue rhody - wowser! Must have.

  13. You have some interesting plants there. Epimediums are real stars in the garden. I like Daphnes too and have four - their fragrance is wonderful. They are neat shrubs which is a big advantage in a small garden and the berries are attractive in winter.

  14. Dear Jodi, What a gem of a collection of beautiful plants you show here. Although it is difficult to pick out a favourite, the Epimediums I have always found to be overlooked and yet are such stalwarts of the garden and can accommodate a wide variety of conditions. I should certainly never wish to be without them.

  15. Hi Jodi, your garden's a delight! So many lovely blooms and so unlike any that we see around here. Wonderful images...I'd surely love to have the veronicas in my garden...for the pollinators! The grass photo with the water drops is stunning!

    Thank you for stopping by my blog. I really appreciate it. Hope you have a great week!

  16. I think you may have just rescued my 'Sungold' buddleia. I planted it in a very foolish spot so it is smack in the way of some new veggie beds I'd like to put in. It's got at least an 8" diameter on the trunk though, so I doubt it will appreciate attempts at moving it. I do really love the blooms though.

  17. Oh, I do love that autumn fern! It's so nice to see exciting new plants in others gardens for inspiration.
    Great choices!

  18. Wonderful post...I always love seeing and reading about new plants...even if they are just "new" to me! I just planted some Astrantias this spring after seeing them over and over again in gardening magazines and realizing I HAD to have some! I'm hoping they do well and give a good show next spring. I agree about the Veronicastrums...I planted 'Fascination' this spring and it did wonderfully, I can't wait to see it grow and fill in. That Sumac is lovely, I've thought about buying it in the past, but can't find a place for it...maybe someday :-)


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