Times Colonist

Rhodos, native vegetation deliver longterm gratificat­ion

- HELEN CHESNUT Garden Notes

I spend a fair amount of time at my kitchen sink these days, dallying over dishes as I revel in the Cynthia rhododendr­on that fills the view out the window above the sink. Cynthia’s huge clusters of pink flowers are visited constantly by bees, whose droning greets me as soon as I open the garden door onto the patio from the family room, next to the kitchen.

Cynthia was the first cultivated plant added to this partly forested property with its wealth of native vegetation that includes sword ferns and deer ferns, salal, Oregon grape, red huckleberr­y, vanilla leaf, starflower­s and more.

The garden as it is now began with preparing the ground for a small lawn around the patio. With the multitude of rocks dug up from the lawn area, I built a low rock wall around the lawn edges. After preparing planting sites along the edge of the new, slightly elevated area I began searching for likely shrubs. Cynthia was the first, soon to be joined by Vulcan, a rhododendr­on with bright red flowers. Like many plants this year, both are late blooming by a few weeks.

Between the rhododendr­ons is a Hino Crimson Japanese (rockery) azalea, a low, flat-topped, spreading shrub that hides its evergreen foliage with a mass of bloom in midspring.

At the lawn edge where a path leads up a slight slope through the centre of the back garden, I planted a royal fern with a Klondyke deciduous azalea behind it. Klondyke has copper-tinged young foliage and orange-gold flowers with deep red, velvety petal undersides. This one is not scented, but next to it is a “swamp honeysuckl­e” deciduous azalea (Rhododendr­on viscosum ‘Rosata’), which is powerfully fragrant during its early June bloom period.

On the other lawn-path corner a Hebe glaucophyl­la has formed a pleasantly rounded evergreen mass of small, grey-green leaves. Nearby, a hardy fuchsia has grown large, spilling out over the lawn with stems bearing light green leaves and delicate single flowers in pink-tinged white with long stamens, also delicately pink-hued, protruding long beyond the neatly folded flower centre.

I bought this plant from a small, long-expired source as Hellyn’s Choice. It is close to, if not a precise match for, a hardy fuchsia called Hawkshead. My shrub blooms early and long, from mid-spring onward through the summer and most of the autumn.

Still along the lawn edge, towards the side fence and directly opposite the dining room window, a beautiful red-veined enkianthus spreads its neatly horizontal tiers of fresh green foliage. Bonus features of this lovely shrub are drooping clusters of bell-shaped, pink-striped white flowers in spring and brilliant gold leaf colouring in the fall.

These are some of the shrubs that have endured to remain a source of pleasure for a gratifying number of years. The first of them, Cynthia and Vulcan rhododendr­ons, were planted 28 years ago. The others are somewhat younger but not much. As I, like most home gardeners, attempt to maintain a pleasant landscape, I am more than grateful for such ruggedly tenacious ornamental plants. New from Lee Valley. Woodworker­s and gardeners are alike in their common addiction to the catalogues from Lee Valley Tools, source for unique and unusual aids as we pursue our absorbing hobbies. Here are a few new items that have caught my attention. (Lee Valley Tools, Box 6295, Station J, Ottawa, Ontario, K2A 1T4. Phone 1-800-267-8767. www.leevalley.com).

Weed Brush has steel bristles that form a wedge shape for cleaning moss, debris and shallow-rooted weeds from the cracks between bricks and paving stones. It can be attached to a wooden handle or used alone as a hand tool.

Sporkes. Combining the function of a spade and a fork, the long-handled sporke has sharp teeth for penetratin­g soil and a large surface area with one-inch gaps in the blade to help reduce friction when digging. The hand sporke is a blend of a hand hoe and claw cultivator.

Foxgloves are gardening gloves made of washable stretch nylon Lycra for close to bare-handed sensitivit­y. A long cuff protects the wrist and silicone dots on the palm and inside fingers enhance gripping.

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 ??  ?? Helen Chesnut’s Cynthia rhododendr­on has been flowering outside her kitchen window for 28 years.
Helen Chesnut’s Cynthia rhododendr­on has been flowering outside her kitchen window for 28 years.

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