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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.

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Entries in spring perennial (2)

Monday
Jun152015

Oriental Poppy Princess Victoria Louise

Perennial gardeners' eternal challenge is finding a local nursery that offers a wide variety of Oriental poppies. Few in my area sell Papaver orientalis , even fewer offer a wide selection and almost none sell the plant in a size that blooms same season.

Adding this perennial to the flowerbed is an excruciatingly painful exercise in deferred gratification: - buy it now, watch it wither and hope optimistically to see flowers next year because reawakening is never guaranteed.

Online nurseries have been somewhat helpful in addressing the above issues especially when they offer hard-to-find new introductions. Unfortunately, plugs of Oriental poppies dislike being shipped by mail and their survival rate in my garden after planting is poor.

Another challenge for this gardener is how to integrate the most beautiful and tallest varieties of these poppies – the red ones - into a predominantly pastel-colored English style garden. It’s not an easy design task unless one replaces standards of beauty with bold and theatrical visual drama.

The more appealing design solution is to plant the variety Princess Victoria Louise because it blends well into most pastel-colored gardens.

One of its attributes is the ease with which light and weather variations transform the color of its petals. Cloudy days make them glow in a fluorescent shade of light coral. Cool sunny days bring out  rich peachy tones and brutally hot weather causes the petals to fade into soft delicate shades of pastel almon-pink.

Another quality is the ease with which it moderately propagates itself by self-seeding. Although many favorite perennials do so, it is thrilling to see this happening to Princess Victoria Louise.  Over several years, if left unattended, it will fill the flowerbed with a riot of large, billowing pastel salmon-pink petals that seem to float above the tops of all other perennials in the spring garden. The results can be breathtaking.

The large oval seedpods of Papaver orientalis offer dramatic architectural and textural interest to the garden after petals have dropped. However, those who desire greater control over the appearance of their flowerbeds are urged to deadhead the plant immediately after blooming to avoid self-seeding.

Finally, this perennial prefers sun and dry growing conditions. Transplanting is frustrating due to deep-reaching tap roots. If it must be moved, expect instant trauma and dormancy. The likelyhood that it will endure to bloom the following year is high.

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.