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Plant of the Month - 2012

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: Phlox paniculata 'David's Lavender'

pom-jan12.jpgPhlox is one of those old fashioned garden plants that are always in demand and it's understandable why. They are tough, reliable plants that cover themselves in blooms from mid to late summer. The one problem they can have is powdery mildew. However that problem seemed to be rectified by the cultivar 'David'. It is a white flowering phlox with great disease resistance especially to powdery mildew. What's so exciting about 'David's Lavender' is that it is a sport of Phlox 'David' and has maintained the disease resistance and hardiness. The bonus is that it has large heads of lavender flowers. In addition the bright green foliage and its hardiness make it a beautiful plant in the garden even when it is not in bloom. David's Lavender grows well in full sun to part shade and in moist but well drained soil. Once it is established it is also quite drought tolerant. Keep an eye out here at the nursery for Phlox 'David's Lavender'. It should be arriving around April.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 4
Light: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well-drained
Height: 3 feet (90cm)
Spread: 2 feet (60cm)

FEBRUARY: Erodium chrysanthum

pom-feb12.jpgErodium chrysanthum is a new plant for The Natural Gardener and we are excited to be carrying such a lovely perennial. This native of Greece and close relative of Geraniums is a small, evergreen perennial with lovely, lemon scented, creamy white flowers and ferny, silvery leaves that give it a very soft appearance. It is an excellent plant for the front of the border or edging a path and it is especially nice in the rock garden. I often get asked what plants will grow under the eaves of houses and if you have a south facing location this is the plant for you. It does best in full sun with very well drained soil and south facing eave locations are ideal for it. Erodium flowers best in leaner soils so no additional fertilizing is needed once it is established. The flowers start appearing in late spring and continue right into the fall. It is fully drought tolerant and will require no additional watering once it has become established which is usually after the first year of planting.

This is a wonderful plant to include with your plantings of salvias, dwarf hebes and small euphorbias. I also think it would be the perfect perennial to plant on the Gulf Islands especially because it is deer resistant.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 7
Light: Full Sun
Soil: Very well-drained
Height: 6 inches
Spread: 1-1/2 feet

MARCH: Hamamelis intermedia 'Diane'

pom-mar12.jpgA couple of weeks ago I was walking on the seawall by Granville Island with a friend and we saw a stunning sight. A witch hazel (Hamamelis) in full, glorious bloom. Its yellow flowers were like miniature suns scattered all over its branches. Hamamelis intermedia or Witch Hazels as they are commonly known are an excellent shrub for your garden because they bloom when we most need it: Winter. Witch Hazels are easy to grow, relatively pest free and they are all fragrant although some are more fragrant than others. They thrive in rich-well drained soil, but will tolerate sand and clay if the drainage is good. Provide them with a location that is in full sun to light shade. Watering them regularly during dry weather will ensure good flowering but well established plants are somewhat drought tolerant. Witch Hazels tend to be spreaders so keep that in mind when selecting where best to plant yours.

Most people will recognize the yellow flowering form of Witch Hazel but there are several coppery-red flowering forms. Hamamelis 'Diane' is one of these. While not as fragrant as the yellow flowering forms the colour is exquisite and gives your garden a touch of real beauty when it is most appreciated. Besides the colour of the flowers the other characteristic I like about 'Diane' is that it has a more compact, vase-like form. This makes it a great candidate for the smaller, urban garden. As an added bonus, in the fall the leaves turn a lovely yellowy orange colour. Diane will reach a height of around 10 feet and a spread of 10 feet after 10 years.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 6
Light: Full sun to light shade
Soil: Moist, well-drained
Height: 10 feet
Spread: 10 feet

APRIL: Lewisia 'Little Plum'

pom-april12.jpgLewisia are native to western North America, and one of the most treasured rock garden plants. They form low, fleshy rosettes of tough evergreen leaves, bearing large star-shaped flowers in late spring and early summer. 'Little Plum' features flowers of cotton-candy pink, touched with salmon when they first open. If it is happy it does tend to repeat flower in the autumn. It is best grown in a cool rock garden setting, with excellent drainage. I grow mine in cactus soil in pots and during the winter I put them under an overhang and barely water them. They are excellent in rock walls, gravel screes or alpine troughs. In hot summer climates they do best with partial shade but we don't have to worry about that here on the coast. It is sure death to try and grow Lewisia in average border conditions. They are drought tolerant once established.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 4
Light: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Very well drained
Height: 10-15cm (4-6 inches)
Spread: 15-20cm (6-8 inches)

MAY: Pteridophyllum racemosum

pom-may12.jpgI first saw Pteridophyllum in Lambert & Marjanne's garden at Free Spirit Nursery and was immediately entranced. It wasn't blooming when I saw it and right away I thought that here was a new fern. How wrong I was. Instead here was a simply wonderful woodland plant that I had to have. Unfortunately, at that time there just weren't any available. Now, however, there is a small number of plants available and hopefully that will increase for next year.

This rare woodland plant is endemic only to the mountains of Japan and requires well-drained, humus rich soil in part shade and cool temperatures, perfect for the West Coast. It's evergreen, ferny leaves are topped by short spikes of white flowers from spring into summer. I grow mine in a small pot in part shade. I top dress it with sea soil every spring and it is doing just fine. I know Lisa has several in her garden and they have come through the last two winters no problem. I think the secret is humus rich soil and a cool location. It is a bit expensive right now but with its lovely, textured leaves and pretty white flowers I think it is worth it.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 4
Light: Part to full shade
Soil: Moist, well-drained, humus rich
Height: 8-12 inches (20-30cm)
Spread: 8-12 inches (20-30cm)

JUNE: Diervilla 'Cool Splash'

pom-june12.jpgI am always on the look out for shrubs that will do well in part shade and Diervilla's are one such shrub that you don't hear too much about. Originally from the Eastern United States they are pretty tough shrubs adaptable to a variety of conditions. It works well in mass plantings and as a small hedge. Diervilla 'Cool Splash' is the first variegated bush honeysuckle. It is a real stunner that will stop gardeners in their tracks. Its white-edged, green foliage holds its colour well and is perfect for illuminating partially shaded spots. In June and into early July 'Cool Splash' has panicles of yellow flowers that cover the variegated foliage. It will reach an eventual height of 3 feet and a width of 3 feet. It is an easy shrub to look after and will tolerate a bit of drought if it has to. Prune it to shape in late winter. Give this exciting new shrub a try in your part shade garden.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 4
Light: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well-drained. Drought tolerant once established
Height: 3 feet
Spread: 3 feet

JULY: Clethra alnifolia 'Hummingbird'

pom-july12.jpgClethra 'Hummingbird' is an upright, suckering shrub that bears creamy white, deliciously spicy clove-scented flowers in dense, upright spikes that last four to six weeks in July and August. Hummingbird is a more compact shrub than the species. The flowers which bloom on the current years growth, mature to spikes of dark brown capsules that provide winter interest. Its oval, glossy dark green leaves turn a soft yellow in autumn. Clethra is a favourite of bees. It is a compact, rounded shrub so is ideal for small gardens, growing 3 feet tall and wide at maturity. It would even do well in a container.

It thrives in consistently moist but well-drained soil in full sun to partial or dappled shade but is highly adaptable to other conditions. More floriferous than the species, it will even bloom well in shady locations. In the winter, remove some of the oldest wood from the base; the stronger new growth will replace it in spring.

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

AUGUST: Phygelius rectus 'Lemon Spritzer'

pom-august12.jpgPhygelius is one of those perennials that people always ask about when they see them growing in a garden but not that many people actually grow them. I don't know why because they are easy to grow. They like full sun and will grow in almost any type of soil. They have unusual, tubular flowers that bloom for a long time in the summer and the hummingbirds love them. The flowers come in colours of red, pink and orange. I just picked up a new Phygelius from Harkaway Botanicals called Phygelius Lemon Spritzer. It is the first variegated phygelius. It has lemon yellow leaves splashed with lime and dark green. While it looks beautiful on its own it is outstanding when in bloom. It has tubular, brick red flowers that the hummingbirds love. Lemon Spritzer will reach a height and width of 3 feet at maturity.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 7
Light: Full sun
Soil: Moist, well-drained
Height: 3 feet (90cm)
Spread: 3 feet (90cm)

SEPTEMBER: Caryopteris x clandonensis "Dark Night"

pom-sept12.jpgCaryopteris "Dark Night" is one of those shrubs that is usually cut back each spring to 6 inches and treated more like a perennial. Plants form a bushy, upright mound of bright-green leaves, the fragrant dark-blue flowers forming on new wood in late summer and fall. This shrub is extremely attractive to butterflies so makes an invaluable addition to any garden. Dark Night in particular is outstanding for having especially dark blooms. Grow it in a well-drained location in full sun and it is also excellent in planters or mixed containers. It is heat tolerant and fairly drought tolerant once established. August and September are always a bit limited in what is blooming then so this is a great shrub for bringing some late summer colour into your garden. Try it you'll like it.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 5
Light: Full sun
Soil: Moist, well-drained
Height: 3 feet
Spread: 5 feet

OCTOBER: Hydrangea quercifolia - Oak Leaf Hydrangea

pom-oct12.jpgHydrangeas have become quite popular in the last few years what with all the exciting new cultivars that are now available. Because of this renewed interest Hydrangea quercifolia, a native plant of the Southeastern US, is finally coming into its own as well. I have always liked this hydrangea. I like the large, oak-leaf shaped leaves, the white, conical flowers, the soft cinnamon coloured new stems and the wonderful fall colour. In fact this is a great 4 season plant and I am happy to see more people are recognizing its charms. In the spring the new leaves open a soft green maturing into a darker, richer green. Its white, conical flowers appear in July and August and can remain on the shrub right into winter. Another attractive feature of the flowers is that as they age they will turn a soft pink colour. During the fall the leaves turn a gorgeous, intense red and in the winter the branching structure of the plant is quite attractive. Hydrangea quercifolia is easy to grow, doing best in part-shade to full sun. It will require some additional watering during our dry summers but does not like wet "feet" so should be planted in an area with good drainage.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 6
Light: Part shade to full sun
Soil: Moist, well-drained
Height: 8 feet
Spread: 8 feet

NOVEMBER: Cyclamen hederifolium "Sweetheart Sensation"

pom-nov12.jpgWhile I am not a big fan of the florist Cyclamen you can buy at Safeway I adore the hardy cyclamen family. In the spring you have the lovely Cyclamen coum that blooms in spring and has foliage through the summer and in the fall is Cyclamen hederifolium that sends up gorgeous, little pink or white flowers that are followed by amazing variegated foliage that lasts all through the winter. Cyclamen "Sweetheart Sensation" is a clone that produces cute, pink flowers from September to November followed by hexagonal to octagonal leaves that are silver centred with a dark ring around the edges. One of the things that I love about these little treasures is that the flowers suddenly appear in places that I forgot I planted them in. It is such a pleasure to see them suddenly blooming. I also really appreciate the fact that their foliage will be out all winter giving some winter interest to the pots they are planted in. Since they go dormant from early spring until fall they are perfect for under-planting deciduous trees and shrubs and will also do well in dry shade.

One last characteristic that makes these cyclamen so great to have in the garden is that they naturalize very easily. What that means is that in a couple of years you can have quite a nice patch of them growing in your garden. The cyclamen hederifolium family is apparently the hardiest of all the hardy cyclamen so everyone on the west coast should have at least one or two of these beauties in their gardens.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 5
Light: Part shade
Soil: Moist, well-drained
Height: 4"
Spread: 8"

DECEMBER: Helleborus Winter Jewels™ 'Berry Swirl'

pom-dec12.jpgThe Winter Jewels™ Hellebores have been carefully hand-bred in Oregon from only the best plants collected from around the globe in order to produce a range of new and exciting flower forms and colours. These form a mound of leathery, evergreen foliage bearing upright stems of large, saucer-shaped, double flowers from late winter through spring. The flowers come in a range of colours primarily in the reds and purples with some of the flowers having white centres. Like all hellebores Berry Swirl does best in part shade, preferable with morning sun and afternoon shade. In late winter as you notice the flower buds starting to emerge cut off all the old, tired looking foliage from last year. Not only will it tidy the plants up nicely, you will also be able to see the flowers at their best.

Cultural Requirements
Zone: 5
Light: Part shade
Soil: Moist, well-drained, humus rich
Height: 14 inches (40cm)
Width: 2 feet (60cm)

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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
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