So many garden choices for spring

[attach]5856[/attach]Oh, those busy plant breeders. They’ve been at it again, tweaking old favourites for better colour, improved disease-resistance, longer bloom periods and heavenly fragrance. With so many new plants beckoning from the shelves of nurseries and garden centres this season, what’s a space-stressed city gardener to do? Be brutal, that’s what.

There was a time when I would coax and cajole a sulky plant, patiently waiting three seasons to see if it would transform into a gorgeous specimen. But with all the tantalizing new plants now on offer, I can’t wait years for these late bloomers to strut their stuff.

So, out they go in favour of some of the newest plants that catch my eye. Here are some of the season’s most intriguing.


I’m always a sucker for coleus (botanically speaking, they’re Solenostemon). Traditionally a shade-loving annual, many of the newer varieties thrive in full sun, too, making these fancy foliage plants very versatile. Last summer at the plant trials at Guelph University, I was smitten by a new one called ‘Wasabi’ with bright citron-green serrated leaves — and it lost no allure when I spotted it again at GardenMaking magazine’s booth at Canada Blooms. It’s simply irresistible and will be a staple of many of my container plantings this season.

It’s hard not to love a plant called ‘Burgundy Bunny’. This miniature fountain grass (Pennistumalopecuroides) would make a charming container planting all by itself. The fluffy flower plumes rise only 30 to 40 centemetres above foliage that turns burgundy in late summer and fall.


Yet to be discovered by many gardeners, hellebores are one of my favourite shade-loving spring perennials. Much breeding work has been done of late, and these tough beauties are due to explode on the market. In fact, there are so many new ones — like doubles and picotees, and speckled, spotted and painted — I can’t list them all here. But watch for the Winter Thriller series (‘Green Gambler’ especially caught my eye) as well as the Cherry Blossom series with their anemone centres.

One of the most surprising of the new plants I tried in my garden last summer were two new red-hot pokers (Kniphofia) from the Popsicle Series sent as samples from grower, Terra Nova Nurseries. For the longest time, I wasn’t sure where to place them in my garden, so they sat in their pots, and that must have made them antsy, because before I knew it they were blooming away right inside their pots. Compact, dwarf varieties, Popsicle red-hot pokers will bloom for as long as they have heat and lots of light. I loved my ‘Mango Popsicle’ and ‘Pineapple Popsicle’ blooms, and now that I’ve rescued them from their pots, I can’t wait to see them growing in the garden this season.


There have been so many terrific new hydrangeas released in the last few years that my eyes tend to glaze over when I see yet another one. But the starry white flowers of Great Star Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Le Vasterival’) got my attention. Blooming from mid-summer to frost (gotta love that long bloom period) this easy-care shrub shines in sun or part shade.

[attach]5857[/attach]Tchotchkes etc.

You might have seen his terra cotta pots in the pages of Martha Stewart Living and lusted after Guy Wolff’s artisanal pots in vain. Now, thanks to Loblaw, these collectibles are now available close to home, and I’m stocking up before they’re sold out.

While volunteering at Canada Blooms, I reconnected with Lianne Krane of the Milton & District Horticultural Society. Her bubbly and infectious enthusiasm about Insect Defend, a vitamin B1 anti-mosquito patch marketed by her hubby, James, seemed like the answer to my own husband’s mosquito magnetism. Developed at the University of Guelph, Insect Defend is absorbed into the skin, making it distasteful to flying insects for up to 36 hours. Hmm, this would be a great way to extend my gardening hours into dusk without those pesky mosquitos getting in the way.

Trying to shoehorn new plants into her garden, Lorraine Flanigan writes from her home in the South Eglinton neighbourhood of Toronto.