Toronto Star

The best flow­er­ing plants for your gar­den

- Mark Cullen Mark Cullen is an ex­pert gar­dener, Or­der of Canada re­cip­i­ent, au­thor and broad­caster. Get his free monthly news­let­ter at markcullen.com. Look for his new best­seller, The New Cana­dian Gar­den, pub­lished by Dun­durn Press. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @M

What is the per­fect flow­er­ing plant for your gar­den?

If I were to list the at­tributes of the “per­fect” flow­er­ing plants in our gar­dens, the list might look some­thing like this: A. They would be truly peren­nial. Wrought-iron win­ter hardy. B. They would at­tract pol­li­na­tors. C. They would be fra­grant. D. You could cut the flow­ers to bring them in­doors. E. They would flower for a long time, pro­vid­ing the best value of all.

While no plant of this de­scrip­tion ex­ists, some plants come very close! Here is my list of the top eight flow­er­ing plants that come clos­est to a per­fect 5 out of 5 stars.

Veron­ica 4 out of 5 I love veron­ica. I have about 30 of them in my gar­den, mostly blue. Some I have grown for more than 10 years, they are that re­li­able. Honey bees and na­tive bees love it. I can cut them and bring them in­doors. Af­ter they flower in early sum­mer, I cut them back by two-thirds and watch them re­flower in Au­gust. The only thing miss­ing is fra­grance. The 10 pop­u­lar va­ri­eties listed in this year’s Sheri­dan Nurs­eries cat­a­logue range in height from 15 to 70 cen­time­tres.

Pin­cush­ion flower (scabiosa) 31/2 out of 5 The va­ri­ety But­ter­fly Blue was the peren­nial plant of the year in 2000 and but­ter­flies do love it. It blooms for such a long time that it can ac­tu­ally bloom it­self to death. Which is why I rec­om­mend you cut it back af­ter eight weeks of bloom­ing, just to give the poor dear a rest. It’s a win­ner! It grows to a height of 50 cen­time­tres and loves the sun.

Joe Pye weed (eu­pa­to­rium) 4 out of 5 Who thought it was a good idea to call this plant a weed? It’s a re­li­able per­former in the sun and win­ter hardy. But­ter­flies, hum­ming­birds and bees love it. It flow­ers its head off from early Au­gust through Oc­to­ber. I grow the va­ri­ety Lit­tle Joe, which is fra­grant and grows up to 120 cen­time­tres. Cut them and bring them in­doors, though they drop a lot of de­t­ros. Re­lated to the na­tive but­ter­fly weed. Which is a weed.

Hosta 31/2 out of 5 There are more than 7,000 hosta va­ri­eties, so one of them must be per­fect for you, right? Sheri­dan Nurs­eries in Toronto lists more than 70 va­ri­eties. I grow about 30 va­ri­eties in my gar­den. For fra­grance and great fo­liage, try Blue Mouse Ears (grows to 15 cen­time­tres). Min­ute­man also at­tracts hum­mers (grows to 60 cen­time­tres) and Sa­gae is one of the tough­est, best-flow­er­ing hostas on the mar­ket. I rec­om­mend it for plant­ing around the roots of large trees, where it com­petes well. Hosta flow­ers are amaz­ing. They are very win­ter hardy and at­tract pol­li­na­tors.

Co­ral bells (heuchera) 3 out of 5 The mid­sum­mer flow­ers on co­ral bells are amaz­ing: they last for up to six weeks, you can cut them and they at­tract but­ter­flies and hum- ming­birds. My favourite va­ri­eties are Am­ber Waves (a show stopper), Mar­malade (a more ap­pro­pri­ately named plant there has never been) and Palace Pur­ple (very pur­ple and de­serv­ing of roy­alty).

Bee balm (monarda) Al­most 5 out of 5 I had to put this on the list: the orig­i­nal bee balm is a na­tive plant but there are many hy­brids that have been in­tro­duced since the Euro­peans first set foot on Cana­dian soil.

Most va­ri­eties grow to about 70 cen­time­tres, all are very win­ter hardy, bloom for up to six weeks, at­tract but­ter­flies and hum­ming­birds, can be cut to dis­play in­doors and the va­ri­eties Rose and Grand Pa­rade are fra­grant. Sold!

Black-eyed Su­san (rud­beckia) 4 out of 5 Black-eyed Su­san is a boon to low­main­te­nance gar­den­ers, as all you have to do is weed them.

Gold­sturm and hirta va­ri­eties at­tract but­ter­flies, all va­ri­eties last a long time in a vase, bloom for up to12 weeks (three months!) and are win­ter hardy to zone 4 (Mon­treal/Ot­tawa). They do not have a scent. I will for­give Su­san for that be­cause she is a win­ner in my books! Loves the sun and grows 80 cen­time­tres or higher.

Yar­row (achil­lea) 31/2 out of 5 A but­ter­fly mag­net, very win­ter hardy (zone 2/Ed­mon­ton) and the flow­ers are great when cut and brought in­doors.

While it is not fra­grant and it can take over a corner of the gar­den, it blooms for up to 12 weeks and is per­fect for golfers or sailors or any­one who just wants colour in their gar­den and a plant they can ig­nore so they can do some­thing other than gar­den­ing.

 ?? DREAMSTIME ?? When choos­ing the per­fect flow­er­ing plants for a gar­den, con­sider those that are truly peren­nial — wrought-iron win­ter hardy.
DREAMSTIME When choos­ing the per­fect flow­er­ing plants for a gar­den, con­sider those that are truly peren­nial — wrought-iron win­ter hardy.
 ??  ?? Top 8 flow­er­ing plants, clock­wise from top left: Veron­ica, pin­cush­ion flower, Joe Pye weed, hosta, yarrow, black-eyed Su­san, bee balm and coral bells.
Top 8 flow­er­ing plants, clock­wise from top left: Veron­ica, pin­cush­ion flower, Joe Pye weed, hosta, yarrow, black-eyed Su­san, bee balm and coral bells.
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