SPRING INTO ACTION
WHAT starts in the flower bed doesn’t necessarily always stay in the flower bed. The very nature of sharing space means plants must be compatible to a large degree and show some respect for boundaries as well. There are expectations as to their performance and sometimes even that is not enough to ensure their continued presence in your garden. No longer satisfied with a plant you once loved? Dig it up and plant a different one. Here’s the simple truth: If you are looking for the perfect plant partner to complement your garden on every level, it may not exist. Sometimes it’s a simple case of love-you, love-you-not. For one thing, plants change in appearance as they grow and spread, sometimes bearing little resemblance to the well-behaved plant you initially purchased. Some plants are needier than others or have all kinds of issues. Others may be too passive or too aggressive. Plants have a fairly predictable lifespan, too. But don’t despair when a wellloved plant or even one you thought you loved has left an empty space in your garden. For gardeners, the best season to fall in love again is spring, a time to correct past mistakes and indulge in new experiences.
What are the qualities you are looking for in a plant? Need some advice? In your exuberance to not settle for the ordinary, the experience of other gardeners can ignite your interest in trying something new or serve as a tale of caution. Start out by knowing what you are bringing home with you and beware of smooth talkers. Jane Kesselman, a normally discriminating gardener, recalls stopping into a garden centre that was preparing to close its doors. The owner made a gift to her of a plant he called angelica, suggesting ever so briefly she plant it in a space where it would have a bit of room to spread. That first year in Kesselman’s River Heights garden, the beautifully named plant was delicate and lovely, surprising her with its amazing growth of almost one metre. The second year, it grew to two metres and was extremely attractive to hordes of aphids. Her children called it Jack in the beanstalk. The stalk grew to five cm in diameter, and Kesselman had to take an axe to it to remove it from her garden. A selfseeding biennial, it continued to make its presence known for years afterward. Of course, all plants have their good points. Angelica archangelica’s stems and roots are sometimes used to flavour gin and vermouth. Kesselman recommends verbascum silver mullein. The tall spires of lemony yellow blooms with velvety, silvery-grey leaves have a bold, architectural beauty. Seedlings are easily removed. I’ve had many seasons of discontent with a plant called lamium maculatum. Attracted to a variety called beacon silver with its whorls of two-lipped flowers in pretty pink and silvery leaves with green margins, but best of all its ability to grow in shade, I foolishly purchased several. A prolific species thanks to its ability
At top, Sugar Puff hardy hydrangea promises to be a delicious new addition to the perennial garden. A new introduction by HGTV, Sugar Puff features a compact size, sturdy stems and large white blooms. A paniculata variety, it requires little maintenance. Above, the introduction of Sonic Bloom Pearl reblooming weigela signals a new generation of weigela varieties that promise
blooms over a longer period of time. The yellow-throated blooms of this variety open white, then
turn to a blush pink. Arching stems. Plant in full or part sun.