Toronto Star column – published May 18, 2013
Last week I reviewed some of the exciting new offerings by garden retailers this spring in the annual flower and perennial departments. This week I would like to introduce you to some wonderful new roses and flowering shrubs that just might make your day – or your season.
This list of new introductions comes from extensive trials that are reported in detail in ‘Garden Inspirations’ magazine, which is published by Landscape Ontario, the industry trade association. You can view it online at http://www.landscapeontario.com/attach/1363096241.Garden_Inspiration_2013_web.pdf
Let’s get something out of the way: if you have a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight in your garden and do not have any roses, you are missing a real treat. For generations garden roses had a reputation for being demanding in terms of insect and disease control. This is simply not the case with many of the new introductions. Rose breeders have been very successful in recent years at minimizing black spot, powdery mildew, and many of the insects that, in the past, were such a nuisance.
Remember Group of Seven artist Tommy Thompson? He created a wonderful painting by the same name, thus the inspiration for this truly Canadian, winter-hardy rose. Campfire Rose is a vibrant multi-coloured rose – the flower colour is quite variable in early summer, with yellow petals tipped with pink and becoming more pink as the season progresses. For this reason it could fool you: some flowers are nearly all pink and others are nearly all a vibrant yellow, quickly turning to soft pink in a few days. Campfire Rose is a spreading plant, slightly wider than tall. It is noted for its disease resistance and its winter hardiness meaning that it does not require the annual ‘hilling up’ with soil each autumn. I consider that “low maintenance”.
Remember the Peace rose? It was hybridized just before the outbreak of the Second World War, was sequestered in the United States during the war, and brought to market just in time to serve as the official rose of the opening of the United Nations. It is a great story. The Meilland family was responsible for Peace [the rose] and they have gone on to create a host of other famous garden performers in the rose category.
Francis Meilland is a tall hybrid tea rose with a very large bloom, good exhibition form, and strong fragrance. I will add it to my garden this spring and plant it near the kitchen door where I will be tempted to cut it and bring it indoors to display a single stem at a time.
This is the winner of the 2013 All-American Rose Selections which is virtually the ‘Oscars’ of the rose world.
A groundcover rose. Now that is one of the fascinating features of many new roses: they are often bred for specific purposes, including that of crawling along the ground like vinca periwinkle or a spreading juniper. The big difference is that Popcorn Drift adds eye-popping colour. The magazine describes it as having ‘excellent disease resistance and floriferousness’ which is a word that even Wikipedia has not listed as yet. New rose, new language. Give it a try where you want ground-sweeping colour. And floriferousness.
Flowering Shrubs [otherwise known as ‘Woody Plants’]
A word about shrubs: your grandmother’s lilac may have been very sweet and beautiful but we have, frankly, come a long way in this department. Breeders have poured their hearts and souls into their work to produce long bloom times, repeat bloom cycles, greater fragrance and, like roses, much better disease resistance and winter hardiness.
Purple Be Dazzled Lilac.
Take this new lilac introduction, for example. This compact, dwarf variety matures at only a meter tall, so it is perfect for small, sunny gardens. You can put away the pruners and enjoy the soft, sweet fragrance of Purple Be Dazzled. It is one of the new ‘re-bloomers’ which will produce a second season of colour within a few weeks of the traditional late spring flowering season that lilacs are famous for. This is a special 100th anniversary introduction from Sheridan Nurseries for 2013.
Ninebark, Mahogany Magic
For most of us Ninebark is not on our top 5 or even 10 list of favourite flowering plants. However you might change your mind when you meet Mahogany Magic. The growth habit is not like that of the rangy native parents from which it was bred; this new variety produces neat, compact growth and dark crimson-red leaves. Mid-summer flowers are pinkish-white and button-like. A great cut flower and winter hardy landscape shrub, it matures at 3 meters tall and 2 meters wide (10 by 6.5 feet).
Forsythia, Sugar Baby
Just as we bid forsythia flowers goodbye for this year a new variety crops up at your retailer that is truly outstanding. Sugar Baby has more flowers per inch of stem than any other forsythia. It has a compact growth habit, growing to only 45 cm high and 75 cm wide (18 by 30 inches). Prefers full sun and well-drained soil.
Who would go out of their way for a crabapple, you might ask? I would. Especially if it grows well in narrow spaces, has glossy purple foliage that eventually turns dark green with coppery undersides. That would describe Dreamweaver. Plus, it flowers about this time of year with fragrant bright pink blossoms that mature into small purplish fruit that lasts into the fall. Birds will love it.
There are many other new plants on the market, too many for me to mention here.
Over recent years there are whole families of plants that have been revolutionized by plant breeders. For instance, we now look to the lowly hydrangea for excitement. The new varieties just don’t look or behave much like the original ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas. Now we have blue, pink, and longer flowering whites that are winter hardy and more reliable garden performers than they ever were before.
Look for many new hostas that are slug resistant, phlox that are mildew resistant, hollyhocks that are rust resistant, and the list goes on.
I urge you to carve some time out of your busy schedule to visit your local garden retailer. Introduce yourself to the many new plants that are streaming onto the market. Plant breeders and hybridizers are far more sophisticated than ever before and they are bringing on new introductions at a rate that is, frankly, hard to keep up with.
Question of the Week
Q/ Last year I planted a row of 20 Emerald Cedars. Should I fertilize this year?
A/ Apply Smartcote Shrub & Evergreen fertilizer now. It will feed cedars for 6 months. Nitrogen is released only when conditions are ideal for growth.