New for the garden this Spring

Where I pore over catalogues and dream of gardens to come.

I have been searching the seed and growers’ catalogues to find out what’s new and hot this year. There is a lovely petunia called . . . well, it doesn’t matter what it’s called, because the growers will all have their own names for what is essentially the same plant. But watch for this pretty flower with a yellow base merging to a flush of pink and with pink margins on its petals.

What to do with tangerine.

It may not be the star of the show, though. Growers will be offering very intense colours this year, with blacks and dark, dark blues which they are showing contrasted with orange and tangerine. Tangerine has been named colour of the year by the Pantone people.

Now orange or tangerine is one of those colours you either love or despise. In spite of market manipulation, gardeners tend to have their own ideas and many of us are unhappy when we can’t find our favourite varieties because the Colour Council, or some other self-appointed arbiter of our taste, has decreed otherwise.

In spite of this, there is a lot to choose from. The breeders have been doubling everything in sight and, even though cosmos is probably the most perfect single flower in the world, it has now been doubled and re-doubled and I have to admit that the result is pretty alluring.

What else has been doubled? Osteospermum, for heavens sake!  The result is a plant with a fluffy centre replacing the stunning blue centres that were their main claim to fame in the past. Helenium, gaillardia and poppies are on the doubles list. I am sure there is more.

At the Essen Plant show in Germany, I am told they were featuring fluorescently coloured cacti in eye-blinding pinks, yellows and aquas. Succulents of all kinds are very much in vogue. The idea of living walls, both indoors and out, has captured imaginations and they are everywhere, sometimes utilizing a single variety such as ivy or mixing it up with a variety of tropicals or herbs.

But here at home, my garden has its own mind about fashion and somehow it never quite comes off the way it does on the garden fashion pages – but I am content just the same.

(Photos: Osteospermum; Hellenium; Cosmos; Poppy – Peony)


Spring is knocking at the door

It snowed heavily on March 2 and then throughout the following week.

On Thursday, March 8 the blowing snow stopped traffic.









It’s a balmy 14 degrees Celsius today as I pore through the grower’s catalogues and write of what’s new and what’s hot this spring for the next issue of the Gardener magazines. The snow is slipping down city drains and seeping into already unfrozen top soil. What a contrast with just four days ago, when the March wind tore holes in our coats and crept into our bones, causing the snow that had fallen and piled up in pillowy hills all week to drift and sting cheeks and block vision in accident-causing white-outs.

You can see the water melting and dripping from the roof.

And now this double digit, bud-swelling weather! If it freezes hard again, I shudder to think (as my mother used to say) what will become of our poor friends in the garden. The 14-day forecast, though, shows this unusually warm weather continuing.

Perhaps I should go outside to cut some branches of forsythia in case the emerging buds get frozen off. At least that way, I can watch them bloom in a vase of water indoors. Forsythia is chancy here in Manitoba where late frosts can nip the blossoms of many woody plants.

Daylight savings time came to North America last night, at 2 a.m., and startled me to wakefulness at what would normally be five o’clock this morning, even though the clock said six. I rise every Sunday at this hour to prepare for my weekly garden show on CJOB. The lines were largely silent this morning as even the most ardent gardeners ignored the clock and slept until the accustomed hour.

My guest, Carla Hyrcyna, and I had fun just the same. We talked about all the exciting new plants coming on stream this year – well, not new, but exciting in their variations. The growers have been very busy this past few seasons improving on improvements. Now we have double everything, even cosmos, surely the quintessential single flower, a thing of perfection in itself. We have double poppies and double echinacea and double-double cosmos, not to mention double zinnias and double petunias and double impatiens. And now we even have double osteospermum, for heaven’s sake!

To me the beauty of osteospermum was its brilliant, highlighted blue centre. I don’t see the point of doubling that up and making it look like one of those absurd Easter Bonnet type echinaceas (remember when echinaceas were actually called purple coneflower? They are everything but purple now – white, yellow, orange, red, pink, green . . .).

Still, all these variations intrigue me and I will no doubt buy and plant all sorts of these eye-candies this spring. Carla has just come back from Europe, Germany actually, where she saw some exciting things. She was impressed with the use of orange-scarlet blossoms with black florals and with the fluorescent cactus and eye-popping succulents. I’m still trying to get my head around black petunias!

Glenn is home now. They let him out of hospital on Feb. 24 and the first two weeks were pretty rough for him, but he is slowly mending and gathering strength for the battle still to come.

At the office, Ian is filled with spring fever, dying to get into the greenhouse and begin planting seeds. He has visions of hanging baskets filled with edibles such as cucumbers and beans, which he will hang in my garden. We are going to do an access show on Shaw TV this summer – 13 weeks of ideas to fill. I am sure this will be one of them.

March 11, 2012