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Plant of the Month - 2010

Each month The Natural Gardener will be highlighting one of the many unique and unusual plants here at the nursery.

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JANUARY: Anemone nemorosa 'Vestal'

pom-jan10.jpgAnemone 'Vestal' is a truly sweet spring ephemeral that adds light and a touch of class to any garden. The first time I saw it I fell in love with its pure white, double flowers looking all the world like drops of light spotting the ground. Over time this exquisite beauty will form a small carpet of flowers in your garden. Being an ephemeral it will have disappeared by mid summer to hide away until next spring brings forth its lovely blooms. Vestal is easy to grow and is not invasive although you probably wouldn't mind if it was. It will grow in full sun to part shade and will even do fine in deeper shade. It prefers moist, well-drained soil and will benefit from a top dressing of compost or Sea Soil each year although it doesn't like manure. Interestingly, on a cloudy day 'Vestal' hides its head and it is not until the sun shines again that the flowers are once again held aloft. I can't recommend 'Vestal' enough so if you have a shady spot in your garden this is a plant you are going to want.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 4
Light: Full sun to shade
Soil: Moist, well-drained
Height: 6 inches
Spread: 1 foot

FEBRUARY: Corydalis 'Blackberry Wine'

pom-feb10.jpgBlackberry Wine is a wonderful new addition to the Corydalis family and to your shade garden. It has delicate looking ferny blue-green foliage edged in white and starting in April produces masses of fragrant, plum-violet flowers. Throughout the summer and into the fall it will continue to produce flowers although in lesser quantities than in the spring. Unlike most corydalis, Blackberry Wine won't go dormant unless we have an extended hot spell. While it likes growing in a woodland setting it will also do well with some full sun, preferably during the morning. I would plant it amongst your hostas, hellebores and other woodland perennials.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 5
Light: Shade to part sun
Soil: Moist, well-drained
Height: 2 feet
Spread: 2 feet

MARCH: Pulmonaria 'Silver Bouquet'

pom-march10.jpgHaving a mostly shade garden I am always looking for plants that will add a little sparkle to it. With 'Silver Bouquet' I know I've found another one. It is easily the most handsome and prolific lungwort I have seen with larger and more abundant blooms than most others, held just above silver leaves mottled and watermarked with bright green. The flowers start out pink and change to blue as they age giving a wonderful multi-hued effect. It is a perfect choice for the front of the shade border and being low-growing it will spread agreeably over time, increasing its flower show as well as its elegant rosettes of foliage.

Plant this beauty in partial shade and provide it with moist but excellently drained soil. Through the warm months, the roots should remain cool. A heavy mulch, applied in spring and reapplied in summer, is recommended. But even if the plant struggles in hot summers, it can be cut back and will reappear, invigorated, with no harm done.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 4
Light: Part shade to full sun here on the coast
Soil: Moist, very well-drained
Height: 8 inches
Spread: 20 inches

APRIL: Clematis 'Silmakivi'

pom-april10.jpgThis gorgeous clematis is a member of the 'Kivistik' series of hybrids. This series of very hardy, large flowering clematis was developed by Uno Kivistik and his family in Estonia. Silmakivi is a particularly beautiful, compact clematis. Its flowers are one of the closest to being a true blue, they are huge, up to 8 inches across and abundant. It is perfect either in a container or in the garden growing up onto a trellis, fence, lattice or rambling through a rhododendron or other shrub. For pruning it is a category C which means that it blooms on new growth so you can prune it back hard in late fall/early winter. Don't forget to plant it about 4 to 6 inches deeper in the ground than it is in the pot. 'Silmakivi' will truly be a great addition to your vertical garden.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 3
Light: Full sun to part sun
Soil: Moist but well-drained
Height: 8 feet

MAY: Peltoboykinia watanabei

pom-may10.jpgDon't you just love the name of this months Plant of the Month. It rolls off the tongue so nicely. Small but dramatic, Peltoboykinia (sorry there is no common name) is a quite rare woodland plant from Japan that offers fabulous foliage and racemes of greenish-yellow flowers in the summer. It's leaves reach 1 foot across. I love foliage plants and this is a must have in my garden and yours. It is easy to grow without being invasive as long as you provide it with rich, moist soil. After it gets established it is surprisingly drought tolerant.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 5
Light: Shade to part shade. Morning sun is good
Soil: Moist, rich
Height: 15 inches, with flowers 30 inches

JUNE: Physocarpus opulifolius 'Centre Glow'

pom-june10.jpgPhysocarpus 'Centre Glow' or ninebark has new leaves that unfurl a golden yellow and then mature to a rosy red-burgundy. Clusters of white blooms accompany the dramatic foliage in early summer, followed by bright red seedheads that fade to tan. 'Center Glow' is a fast grower and an ideal candidate for mixed borders or foundation plantings. It grows to 8 to 10 feet tall and almost as wide. In winter, the older stems have attractive peeling bark. I find that cutting it back hard at the end of each year enables you to keep it tidy and as a bonus you get more colourful young foliage. Centre Glow grows best and has the best colour in full sun but it will do fine in part shade. This is the perfect plant to provide you with privacy and interesting foliage. Try one - you'll like it.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 3
Light: Full sun
Soil: Moist, well-drained
Height: 10 feet
Spread: 10 feet

JULY: Hibiscus moscheutos 'Luna Pink Swirl'

pom-july10.jpgAs some of you may know I love Hawaii and all plants tropical. Unfortunately, while we can grow a larger variety of plants than anywhere else in Canada, tropical plants are in short supply. To help create that tropical feel though, the Hibiscus moscheutos is one of the best. It has spectacular flowers that are at least 6 inches across that appear in July and bloom right through August. This perennial hibiscus is native to the Carolina forests of the Eastern United States and is hardy to zone 4. It will grow in almost any type of soil although it isn't partial to clay and prefers full sun to part shade. Just a note about transplanting it out of the pot. Hibiscus moscheutos does not like being transplanted so be extra careful when removing it from its pot. After the first frost it will die right back to the ground and is almost the last plant in your garden to emerge in the spring. Luna Pink Swirl is a relatively new cultivar that is more compact than the original making it an ideal candidate for containers and small gardens. So give it a try and add a tropical touch to your garden.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 4
Light: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well-drained
Height: 3 feet
Width: 4 feet

AUGUST: Rodgersia pinnata 'Elegans'

pom-aug10.jpgWith its bold, divided leaves Rodgersia pinnata 'Elegans' forms an exotic-looking clump that adds a unique foliage accent to any moist border. Its large airy plumes of soft-pink to ivory flowers appear in early to mid-summer, and are useful for cutting or even drying. Elegans prefers a moist, dappled shade setting, but will grow in full sun at the waterside. It is useful as a bold, architectural specimen plant. Older clumps seldom need dividing, but this may be done in early spring. Just remember that divisions take a few years to settle back in. The foliage often takes on a bronze caste when first emerging in the spring and again in the fall. It is important to water well during dry weather.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 4
Light: Part shade to full shade. Will grow in full sun if it is at the waters edge.
Soil: Moist
Height: 4 feet
Width: 3 feet

SEPTEMBER: Aster x frikartii 'Monch'

pom-sept10.jpgAsters, just like Belgian Mums & those little pots of peppers, are synonymous with fall. There are a lot of asters out there that I am not particularly fond of because they get all floppy in the rain and they get powdery mildew. Aster 'Monch' however isn't like that. It doesn't get powdery mildew and since it only gets to a height of 2-1/2 feet it is less likely to flop. Monch has lavender-blue flowers with orange centres and they make great cut flowers. It starts blooming in mid to late summer and keeps on blooming until frost. To get a nice bushy plant prune it back by half in late May or early June. In the spring give it a good feed with an organic liquid concentrate fertilizer and in the fall mulch it with compost, mushroom manure or sea soil.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 5
Light: Full sun
Soil: Moist, well-drained
Height: 71 cm (2-1/2 feet)
Width: 40 cm (16 inches)

OCTOBER: Adiantum pedatum 'Miss Sharples'

pom-oct10.jpgI've always felt that our native fern Adiantum pedatum or the Maidenhair Fern is the queen of the ferns. It is elegant, lacy and adds much class to any shade garden. 'Miss Sharples' is one of the nicest of all the cultivars of this lovely fern. In spring the fiddleheads emerge from the ground an attractive copper-pink and then the foliage unravels to a bronzy-chartreuse colour. As the foliage ages it settles into a lovely chartreuse green. Like all Maidenhair ferns 'Miss Sharples' prefers part to full shade and moist but well drained soil. In the fall, after the fronds have turned brown, cut back the foliage and mulch with Sea Soil or compost. 'Miss Sharples' is late to rise and emerges in spring about 3 weeks after the regular Maidenhair fern so make sure you have marked the area where you planted her. You wouldn't want to damage any of her new growth now would you.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 2
Light: Part to full shade
Soil: Moist, but well-drained
Height: 12" to 14"
Spread: 12" to 14"

NOVEMBER: Rhodohypoxis Baurii

pom-nov10.jpgI first saw Rhodohypoxis baurii at an Alpine Garden Show years ago and was immediately enchanted by them. With their short leaves and colourful red and white flowers they looked so enchanting in their pot. The only down side was that I couldn't find any to buy. That has all changed now and The Natural Gardener carries both the white and red flowering forms every year. I have a shallow terracotta pot filled with them and each year around mid May to early June they put on an amazing show filling the pot with their flowers.

Rhodohypoxis is easy to grow as long as you mimic how they grow in their original habitat. They are found wild in the Drakensburg Mountains of South Africa where they get dry winters and wet summers. It is very important to remember this and to mimic that wet dry cycle here. I water them well when they are in flower and growing and then put them under cover for the winter letting them dry out completely. About April just as I see the new growth beginning to emerge I start lightly watering them and then by May I water regularily with my other plants. As I mentioned my rhodohypoxis are growing in a shallow terracotta pot and that is one of the best types of pots to grow them in. Use a good well-drained but moist potting mix and fertilize regularily with a liquid, organic fertilizer. Rhodohypoxis does best where it gets full sun in the morning and light shade in the afternoon. They are quite easy to propagate and after growing them for several years you can divide them, pot them up and share them with your friends.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 8
Light: Morning sun and afternoon shade
Soil: Well-drained, moist
Height: 4 inches
Spread: 4 inches

DECEMBER: Dicentra macrocapnos - Climbing Dicentra

pom-dec10.jpgI first saw this lovely plant clambering up a tall cedar tree in Peter Barnsdale's front garden. With its ferny foliage and yellow flowers I was immediately captivated and when Peter told me it was a climbing Dicentra I knew I had to have one. Although it is hard to find (The Natural Gardener only manages to get 3 or 4 every year) it is not hard to grow. It likes a light shade location, preferably where it gets some morning sun and afternoon shade. Coming from the Nepal region of the Himalayas It is very hardy but doesn't tolerate poorly draining soil. This can be a problem here on the West Coast so make sure it is planted in well drained soil. I have mine growing in a pot and it does very well. I think Peter's did so well because it was planted at the base of the cedar tree which of course takes a lot of moisture out of the ground, perfect for the Climbing Dicentra. It dies back completely in the winter and emerges fairly late in the spring but once it gets going it doesn't waste any time in climbing up and through shrubs, trees and lattice work. By the end of the summer it can reach 20 feet. Starting in April and going into October clusters of yellow, dicentra type flowers appear at intervals along the vine. It is a truly enchanting vine and one I know you will be happy to have growing in your garden.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 6
Light: Partly shaded
Soil: Well drained
Height: 20 feet
Width: 2 feet

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› A Checklist of Things To Do in the November Garden
› Poinsettia Care in the Home
› Fall Clean-up
› Fall Planting of Trees, Shrubs and Perennials
› Planting Perennials
› A Checklist of Things To Do in the December Garden
› January To Do List
› Fall Planting
› Growing Aloe Plants
› Pruning your Clematis
› Hedges
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› Planting and Growing Bulbs
› Pleione Formosana
› Caring for Sarracenia - North American Pitcher Plants
› Caring for the Venus Fly Trap - Dionaea muscipula
› Growing Winter Heather
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