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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

See website, design work and favorite flowering plants at  gardengurumontreal.ca

Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

See my work on Pinterest at Garden Guru Montreal

Entries in flowering perennial (2)

Monday
Jun082015

A Romantic Pink Perennial: Dictamnus Rubra

Once upon a time, when the number of perennials were fewer than now and gardeners focused on aroma as much as they did on beauty, there bloomed an almost white-flowering plant called Dictamnus alba. It was touted more for its citrus aroma at dusk than for its modest appearance.

I tried to include it in my range of late spring perennials but never succeeded. When still in its infancy and not in bloom, it remained camouflaged among the weeds and would be dug up when the beds were cleaned. Never did I feel remorse for this plant butchery. The flower color was weak and invisible from my far window while the aroma would waft only at dusk when I was never outdoors.

Many years passed. Recently, I noticed a new variety that flowered in pink called Dictamnus rubra. It was time to give this plant another chance. To encourage a better survival rate than in the past, I planted it in a less weedy location right outside my bedroom window. From that vantage point, I would monitor its daily existence throughout the summer to remind myself that it was to be nurtured.

Like its predecessor, alba, it did not perform well for the first two seasons as it was and still remains slow to establish. In year two and three, it delivered only one flowering spike in a soft and gentle shade of pink. Now, in its fourth season, it has produced two bold spires. At this rate, the perennial cannot be included in a master plan without frustration. I intend to treat it as a stand-alone specimen.

Recently, I visited web sites of other gardeners to see what the future had in store for my slow developing perennial. In the flowerbeds of colleagues, Dictamnus rubra blooms in lush groves. At the slow rate it expands in my garden, many years will pass before mine is as sensual as theirs. Perhaps that is due to the late cold Montreal springs we experience in USDA Zone 4.

Colloquially, this perennial is called Gas Plant. The sticky substance -  that coats the leaves, provides the citrus aroma and irritates the skin -  is flammable under very hot growing conditions.

At two to three feet in height and width, Dictamnus rubra can be a delightful addition to the late spring flowerbed providing the gardener has the patience to watch it develop impressiveness. It's worth the wait.

Saturday
May302015

Itoh Peonies Are Not Easy to Find

Pictured above is Itoh peony Morning Lilac. It remained modest in growth and appearance during the previous four years and only this season has it merited the attribute “spectacular”. For this impatient gardener, four years was a very long time to wait.

Itohs are sturdy perennials that are impossible to dig up once planted; consequently, they defy multiplication by root splitting. Industrial growers here in Quebec employ tissue culture propagation to create new plants. Then the seedings are sold to growers who nurture them until they are ready for market. The gestation time from initial lab procreation to spectacular flowering takes years. Perhaps that accounts for the extremely high price tag for mature Itohs at both wholesale and retail sellers.

The Itoh family of peonies produces theatrically bold, oversized flower heads that do not require staking even in heavy rain. It feels like a gift from the gods that a plant which blooms in vivid tropical colors should survive so successfully in our cold climate.

Meanwhile, a magnificent garden design project is underway here in Montreal. A private park, where I once created flamboyant flowerbeds that blend English style perennials with bold colored winter- compatible roses, is being expanded.

The owner has allocated a generous budget that permits me to source any plants I deem appropriate. His love of flower gardens inspires me to plant Itoh peonies. Alas, they are not easy to find.

Two of the wholesalers upon whom I rely no longer carry them. A local upscale nursery retailer stocks a meager variety in small sizes that will not bloom for another two years. Growers situated in rural parts of the country sell them ready to bloom  but I must lose a day of designing and planting to source them.

Now that Itohs are just beginning to bloom, I have a strong desire to share the joy of this dramatic perennial with the client for he is as passionate about flowers as I am. Perhaps I will give up the rest that my body sorely needs this weekend to take a long drive out to the countryside where Itohs are available. Such a client deserves the extra service. The body will have to wait.