Off the beaten track
Venture outside the Perimeter for greenhouse treats
MANY of us have a fairly good idea as to what we are looking for when we head out to our local greenhouse. Once there, though, the dizzying array of plants has us imagining all sorts of possibilities for container arrangements and flower bed plantings.
Gardeners can be very competitive and some of the more uncommon offerings disappear fairly quickly, which only increases our determination to find them. That can lead us to venture out to greenhouses that are off the beaten track in search of a particular plant or simply because it’s fun — we never know what we may find.
I set out on the open road recently to visit several greenhouses with the seats in my car folded down to make room for the many must-have plants I hoped to find — in particular, the new Chinese Dwarf Banana that only grows to 24 to 36 inches.
My first stop was at C & S Country Gardens in Lorette. Owned and operated by Chris Maxemuck and his mother, Sue, this small family operation offers a variety of tried and true perennials and annuals.
I was delighted to find a quantity of Salvia x microphylla ‘Hot Lips’, a lesser-known, lightly fragrant annual that is sometimes confused with Bleeding Heart. It features bi-colour flowers that are white with red lips. Sun-loving, drought-tolerant and attractive to hummingbirds, this semi-woody plant grows to 2½ feet by 2½ feet and makes a colourful, long-lasting statement in flower beds.
My next stop was at the Oakridge Garden Centre in Steinbach, situated on eight acres. Featuring 42,000 square feet of greenhouse space including a garden store and café, it joins a growing list of garden centres that are becoming leisure destinations: Shop for plants, then browse through the gift store followed by a visit to the café for a limited selection of soup, sandwiches and desserts.
Owner Erna Wiebe is featuring a number of new plants this year, including Hydrangea anomala ssp. Petiolaris ‘Climbing Hydrangea,’ a shade-tolerant vine that produces a ‘lace-cap’ flattopped white flower head. The tag says it requires no support! Provide moist well-drained soil with plenty of humus. Rated as a Zone 4, it will require winter protection if it is to survive a harsh Manitoba winter.
Another plant that caught my eye is Echium amoenum ‘Red Feathers.’ Recently introduced from the Caucasus, it has a strong resemblance to liatris but produces feathery, russetred flowers in spring. Deadhead for reblooming in summer and fall. I will try one in my garden this year but wonder if it will be prone to flopping over — it may require staking.
Sometimes being in a greenhouse is akin to visiting an art gallery: a display of Aquilegia ‘Songbird Cardinal’ took my breath away.
On to the Growing Pleasures Greenhouse, which is located in the RM of Springfield, another ‘destination’ greenhouse thanks in part to the picturesque backdrop of Pineridge Hollow.
Like Erna Wiebe at Oakridge, Joanne Jones, owner, also offers container plantings in moss-lined wire baskets. The moss is hand-picked in the wild in either the fall or the spring. Generally it comes off in sheets and is then stored in layers on crates, which afford plenty of air circulation. When ready for use, the moss is first soaked in water. Excess moisture is squeezed out before lining the basket, a plastic liner is inserted, soil added and then a mix of trailers and annuals complete the display.
This year, Joanne has created a limited number of topiary-style sideplanted basket columns made popular by garden designer and author, Pamela Crawford. The giant flower ball begins with a basket that has holes on the sides. The centre of the basket is filled with soil, and flowers are planted on the top and on the sides. A column holds the basket in the garden for a unique topiary effect.
Lower Fort Garry Nurseries, located in Lockport, offers a variety of experiences including a tea room, ice cream, gift shop, greenhouse and outdoor gardens. Owner Elizabeth Swirsky showed me a fascinating six-in-one apple tree called a Combination Apple. Five different hardy varieties are grafted onto a single rootstock, which means another tree is not required as a pollenizer, making it a great choice for a small yard.
Soon I arrived in Stonewall, asking for directions to Jasperson’s Greenhouse. This is a large family-owned operation on 80 acres with a country atmosphere. Owner Bruce Jasperson describes it as a ‘farm experience’ for visitors. Trees and shrubs for sale are lined in rows with huge, majestic oak trees towering over them.
Jasperson’s also offers a farmer’s market that starts in August featuring corn that is grown on five acres as well as carrots, peas, zucchini, cucumbers and pumpkins.
A much smaller garden centre, Kanahda, located on Main Street in Winnipeg, offered many intriguing plant selections including SunPatiens Spreading Salmon Variegated Impatiens described as a completely new type of Impatiens for hot, sunny locations.
I also dropped by Noll’s Greenhouse on Roblin Boulevard where I was introduced to Cramer’s Amazon Celosia, a hard-to-find celosia with burgundygreen leaves that grows to at least 1.5 feet.
Still hunting for the Dwarf Banana, I headed to Jensen’s Nursery on McGillivray. Although they, too, were sold out, I came away with a lovely new Rex Begonia Vine featuring elongated, velvety heart-shaped leaves with silver markings.
Enjoy all of your excursions and be sure to ask if your local garden centre is participating in the closed-loop recycling program. If so, return your containers for recycling!
SunPatiens Spreading Salmon Variegated Impatiens. A dynamic new Impatiens that
promises to thrive in sunny conditions.