An­nual choices

Ir­re­sistible thrillers, fillers and spillers

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - HOMES - COLLEEN ZACHARIAS

THE best ad­vice when shop­ping for an­nu­als goes some­thing like this: De­cide where you would like to grow an­nu­als, whether in sun-filled or shady beds or pa­tio con­tain­ers. Con­sider the colour pal­ette that ap­peals most to you and will com­ple­ment your gar­den space. Take along your list of last sum­mer’s best per­form­ers and this sea­son’s must-haves, and give your­self some pa­ram­e­ters as to how many an­nu­als you have space for and how much you are pre­pared to spend.

I’ve never been one to strictly ad­here to that ad­vice.

It’s eas­ier to forego, in my case, choco­late, or most any­thing for that mat­ter, than it is to walk past an an­nual that teases with its al­lur­ing form, tex­ture, and vi­brant colour. Then, of course, there is the temp­ta­tion of all the tan­ta­liz­ing com­bi­na­tions that one might cre­ate. I’m in.

The hunt for thrillers, fillers, and spillers is at its most thrilling when it in­cludes vis­its to mul­ti­ple gar­den cen­tres. For a look at some of the lat­est in­tro­duc­tions and new­est re­leases, I talked to a group of gar­den cen­tre own­ers in and around Winnipeg.

Harry Schriemer, af­ter a brief re­tire­ment, is back in busi­ness. He and his son Matthew opened the doors ear­lier this week to their brand-new, 600-square-me­tre green­house (cor­ner of St. Anne’s Road and the Perime­ter). Grö Green­house, a sea­sonal op­er­a­tion, is car­ry­ing a var­ied se­lec­tion of an­nu­als. Schriemer says he is con­vinced colour drives most an­nual pur­chases. For sunny con­tain­ers and bas­kets, he rec­om­mends Night Sky petu­nia, an award-win­ning spiller, which has dark vi­o­let petals and a dis­tinc­tive splat­ter of white spots.

An­other trail­ing plant that has caught his eye is the new, com­pact, densely branched Ipo­moea So­larPower Red with at­trac­tive, bur­gundy-auburn colour that holds its colour in the full sun.

For an early bloom­ing op­tion, Schriemer likes new 4D Os­teosper­mum. An ideal filler that stands only 20 cen­time­tres to 30 cm tall, two-toned daisy-like blooms have a frilly cen­tre and stay open 24/7 un­like ear­lier-gen­er­a­tion os­teosper­mum. Af­ter mid-sum­mer, cut back stems for an­other round of blooms in the fall. For sea­son-long colour that won’t quit in heat or high hu­mid­ity, Schriemer sug­gests Hot Pak French Marigold in Fire or Yel­low for a mass plant­ing at the front of a sunny bor­der.

Diane Whit­ley is the owner of Red Val­ley Plant Mar­ket, a fourth-gen­er­a­tion fam­i­ly­owned and op­er­ated gar­den cen­tre cel­e­brat­ing its sec­ond year at its new lo­ca­tion (3091 St. Mary’s Road). For­merly known as Riverside Green­houses, Red Val­ley Plant Mar­ket is small in size but big on se­lec­tion. Whit­ley says Ma­hogany Splen­dor Hi­bis­cus was a pop­u­lar thriller last year for sun con­tain­ers. This year, a smaller ver­sion, Lit­tle Zin, will of­fer the same bur­gundy colour and tex­ture that is sim­i­lar to Ja­panese Maple but at one-third the size (45 cm to 60 cm).

Whit­ley says we need more land­scape an­nu­als and Dragon’s Breath Celosia fits the bill. With a height of 60 cm, Dragon’s Breath sports crim­son red plumes and unique greenred fo­liage. Bred for su­pe­rior per­for­mance in hot and hu­mid con­di­tions, Whit­ley plans to use it in con­tain­ers as well.

For hot, dry lo­ca­tions, Whit­ley rec­om­mends BeeDance Bi­dens, a fast-grow­ing, sun-lov­ing an­nual that blooms con­tin­u­ously un­til frost and re­quires lit­tle main­te­nance.

Look­ing for some drama in a fo­liage plant that is tol­er­ant of both sun and shade? Su­san Jensen, co-owner of Jensen’s Nurs­ery on McGil­livray Blvd, makes an in­trigu­ing sug­ges­tion. Art­ful Heart­fire cal­a­dium is a medi­um­sized up­right plant (45 cm), with ma­roon-red fo­liage that has deep green edg­ing. With trop­i­cal blood in its veins, Art­ful Cal­a­dium thrives in heat and hu­mid­ity. Keep in­doors un­til tem­per­a­tures are re­li­ably above 10 C. Don’t al­low the soil to dry out.

For early sea­son colour, Jensen is car­ry­ing Senetti, a re­bloom­ing per­i­cal­lis hy­brid bred by Sun­tory Flow­ers in Ja­pan. Avail­able in ma­genta and blue bi-colour, Senetti pro­duces masses of large, daisy-like flow­ers on an up­right plant. Senetti matches the cool-sea­son tol­er­ance of pan­sies and thrives in the damp weather usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with spring. To en­cour­age re­bloom, cut the plant back by half in mid-sum­mer and fer­til­ize with an or­ganic wa­ter-sol­u­ble fer­til­izer.

Last year, I didn’t think any­thing could com­pare to Be­go­nia Un­be­liev­able Miss Mon­treal and this year I’m look­ing for­ward to try­ing Un­be­liev­able First Kiss. Jensen, though, has con­vinced me to also try new cas­cad­ing Bel­le­co­nia be­go­nia with loads of dou­ble ruf­fled blooms. Suited to par­tial shade but also tol­er­ant of sun, Bel­le­co­nia has been bred for heat tol­er­ance. Avail­able in rose, hot or­ange and apri­cot blush. To­day Jensen’s is cel­e­brat­ing its 50th an­niver­sary.

Lilies are peren­ni­als, of course, and might not seem to have a place in an ar­ti­cle about an­nu­als. The Lily Looks se­ries de­vel­oped in the Nether­lands, how­ever, has been bred for con­tain­ers. Ge­net­i­cally com­pact Asi­atic va­ri­eties fully hardy to zone 3 are great in pots and trans­plant eas­ily to the front of a sunny bor­der in fall. Both Glen­lea Green­houses south of St. Nor­bert on Hwy. 75 as well as Green Oak Gar­dens in Beause­jour carry sev­eral va­ri­eties from the Tiny se­ries.

Sue MacLeod, co-owner of Glen­lea Green­houses, has al­ready sold out of Tiny Poems which has deep pur­ple-black trum­pet-shaped flow­ers with hot-pink tips. Blooms are large and up-fac­ing. MacLeod also likes Tiny Pad­hye with pur­ple cen­tres and white tips.

Rod­ney Wohlge­muth, co-owner of Green Oak Gar­dens, loves the com­bi­na­tion of Tiny Shadow which has burnt or­ange blooms with dark ma­roon cen­tres to­gether with the twotoned red blooms of Tiny Rocket.

MacLeod also likes the new dwarf pineap­ple lilies (eu­comis). Tiny Piny Ruby, at only 22 cm high, won’t look like much now but later in the sea­son pro­duces adorable spikes that look like minia­ture pineap­ples with deep ruby-red flo­rets. Plant in full sun and pro­tect from heavy rain­fall.

Last year, Ver­tigo pen­nise­tum took many gar­den­ers by sur­prise with its mas­sive height and width, to­tally ob­scur­ing con­tainer un­der­plant­ings. MacLeod has two in­ter­est­ing new or­na­men­tal grasses with a more man­age­able size, Era­grostis Wind Dancer with soft, feath­ery tex­ture, and de­li­cious Pink Cham­pagne Ruby Grass (Meli­nus). Our love af­fair with the ubiq­ui­tous Pur­ple Foun­tain Grass may be far from over but ei­ther one of these will be eye-catch­ing an­nual thrillers in con­tain­ers or beds.

What­ever prom­ise I made to my­self to not buy an­nu­als un­til the end of May was soon for­got­ten last week­end when I spot­ted the new Twist and Twirl coleus at Green Oak Gar­dens. A thriller that will grow to as high as 70 cm, says Wohlge­muth, who grew it last year, Twist and Twirl has at­trac­tive fo­liage with green and pur­ple splashes at the time of pur­chase. An award-win­ner, this sun-lov­ing coleus trans­forms it­self with twists and twirls of bright red and yel­low. Def­i­nitely a musthave plant this sea­son al­though it is fly­ing off the shelves at Green Oak Gar­dens and Jensen’s.

Cory and Ce­lyne Langner are the new own­ers of Pe­tal Place Green­houses (235 River Road) in St. An­drews. Tak­ing over this spring from Cory’s par­ents, who op­er­ated the 929-square-me­tre green­house since 1985, Pe­tal Place is fea­tur­ing a num­ber of new flow­er­ing an­nu­als that are per­fect for con­tain­ers and hang­ing bas­kets. New Sun­sa­tia Blood Or­ange Neme­sia bursts forth like a bowl brim­ming with pop­corn, says Cory Langner. De­vel­oped for high per­for­mance in both cool and hot tem­per­a­tures, he rec­om­mends oc­ca­sion­ally trim­ming this multi-toned fiery or­ange neme­sia to main­tain its good form right up un­til the first fall frost.

Langner is also stock­ing Holy Moly Su­per­bells which com­bines deep rose pink and warm yel­low in blooms that look ex­actly like the pic­ture on the plant tag.

Dahlias add gor­geous colour to con­tain­ers. Langner likes Fire­bird, a semi-cac­tus din­ner­plate dahlia with yel­low 25 cm blooms that have bright red-or­ange tips. Grows to a height of 100 cm.

Langner re­minds cus­tomers to top­dress their con­tain­ers and bas­kets with slow-re­lease fer­til­izer. “If the weather turns cold and plants are be­ing stored in the garage,” he says, “be sure to pro­vide plants with ad­e­quate spac­ing for good air cir­cu­la­tion.”

If you are pur­chas­ing plants this week­end, Langner rec­om­mends pinch­ing off the first flush of blooms to en­cour­age mul­ti­ple branch­ing. The re­ward will be many more blooms.


A Gar­dener’s Evening with St. Vi­tal Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety, May 18, 7:30 p.m., at St. Mary’s Road United Church, 613 St. Mary’s Rd. Plant sale and rain­bow auc­tion. In­cludes flower-ar­rang­ing demo by Jim Fuller of Top Hat Florists. Ad­mis­sion $3. For more de­tails visit

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