Just a few of my new favourite plants

Wolf River is favourite apple, growing vines can be tricky

  • Nov. 9, 2012 4:00 p.m.

I went scuba diving at Whytecliff Park last Monday with my two oldest daughters.

We haven’t got our dry suit certification yet, so that meant a frigid wet dive, and I spent most of the week prior dreading the thought.

But as Monday rolled around, it turned out to be a picture perfect day – clear skies, calm waters and even pretty good visibility. In fact it was so ideal that I didn’t even seem to mind the cold and I left wishing we had spent a little more time underwater.

Apparently I am just as fickle when it comes to my plant preferences, as my taste in gardens seems to change with every species I encounter –  which, in my case, is quite a few of them.

So I thought I would give you a candid insight on my current favourites.

• Shrub – Drimys lanceolata is a rather obscure climbing evergreen shrub and the reason most people aren’t familiar with it is because it is only Zone 8 hardy and requires a sheltered site. Where it really comes into its own is as a temporary winter planter feature, as the glossy green foliage and bright red stems seem to scream ‘Season’s Greetings’ as you walk by. You can also expect clusters of fragrant white flowers in spring.

• Tree – Okay, I’ll admit that Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) is an old favourite of mine, but the reason it still qualifies as my new favourite tree is because I fall in love with it again every autumn. Surprisingly, it is not the spectacular fall tones (yellow to reddish-orange) or the ease of care and disease resistance that garners my attention – no, it’s something much more primal than that. They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but unless it smells good, he is never going to taste it. Which is how the Katsura Tree captures my heart – it emits the mouth-watering scent of caramel corn as the leaves drop, and I was always a sucker for Cracker Jack when I was a kid.

• Annual or summer flower – When it comes to annuals, I get a bit tired of bigger and better flowers, or new and improved colours. Personally, I am more of a foliage man, and given the choice, I’d take a Coleus over a Geranium any day. So when Proven Winners decided to distribute Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) this past summer, I couldn’t wait to find a spot for the metallic violet-purple foliage. This native of Myanmar (Burma) prefers partial shade and can be overwintered as a houseplant.

• Vine – Clematis are nice in bloom, but rather fleeting. Honeysuckle are often fragrant, but disease prone in our wet springs. And Boston Ivy just looks like a dead twig in winter.

But there is a variegated Climbing Hydrangea called ‘Miranda’ that has white lacecap blooms in late spring, attractive heart-shaped foliage with bright gold margins for the rest of the growing season, and even when the leaves drop, it has beautiful reddish-brown stems.

• Fruit or vegetable – It took just one good apple pie to make Malus ‘Wolf River’ my current favourite fruit, which tells you that my heart must truly lie in my stomach.

Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (hebe_acer@hotmail.com).

• You can now find more than 1,500 of my other favourite plants at www.mikesgardentop5plants.wordpress.com.