The fact that you are reading this is proof positive that you have survived the turmoil of 2011, only to face what may very well be called the ‘year of the apocalypse.’
The new year, 2012, actually presents many end-of-the-world scenarios – including a solar maximum from January through May that might burn us to a crisp – a collision or near-miss with the wayward Planet X (or Nibiru), causing the demise of civilization as we know it, and finally, the end of the Mayan long calendar on Dec. 21, when the present incarnation of the universe is slated for annihilation.
Of course, there is no guarantee that any of these prophesies will come to fruition, but there is one event that we can always count on – another crop of new plant introductions to tantalize us every spring.
This annum is no different than most, yet one can’t help but hope that among these new plants is the next ‘Nelly Moser’ clematis, ‘Queen Elizabeth’ rose or ‘Bloodgood’ red Japanese maple – plants that have stood the test of time and continue to adorn our gardens to this day.
In any case, even if the world does end on Dec. 21, at least you’ll get to enjoy your new acquisitions for a full growing season.
For those of you willing to commit to such a short growing schedule, here are a few shrubs, vines, fruit trees, perennials and summer flowers for you to consider;
• Phlox paniculata ‘Shockwave’ – A reliable perennial with intense gold-margined leaves (fading to cream later in the season) that make it an interesting foliage plant, top that off with fragrant lavender-pink blooms that make lovely cut flowers and you have a real winner. Grows 45 centimetres tall and hardy to Zone 4.
• Clematis ‘Patricia Anne Fretwell’ – An exciting double clematis with unusual red and pink flowers (fully double blooms in May and June/single flowers in September) with deep carmine outer petals and inside petals of pale pink with a prominent rose stripe, contrasted by creamy-white stamens. Grows 2.5 metres tall and hardy to Zone 4.
• Hibiscus syriacus ‘Pink Chiffon’ – Proven Winners continues its successful Chiffon Series with ‘Pink Chiffon’, which features semi-double (anemone form) blooms of pale pink with red veining. This will be a welcome addition to its sister plants, including ‘Blue Chiffon’, ‘White Chiffon’ and ‘Lavender Chiffon’. Grows 3.6 m tall and hardy to Zone 5.
• Ficus carica ‘Ice Crystal’, ‘Jordan’ and ‘Nazareth’ – Edible figs are not only prolific producers, but also very attractive ornamentals (‘Ice Crystal’ will continue the latter tradition with finely-cut foliage that resembles the paper snowflakes we used to make in grade school). ‘Jordan’ features tasty reddish-purple fruit with strawberry coloured flesh, while ‘Nazareth’ bears green-striped figs. Grows to 4.6 m tall and hardy to Zone 7.
• Calibrachoa ‘Double Ruby’, ‘Double Lavender’ & ‘Double Rose’ – Superbells just seem to get better every year with new colours, improved vigour and now fully double forms of rose, lavender and ruby red. These will make fine additions to your patio containers, planter boxes and hanging baskets with their summer-long blooms that trail to 60 cm.
• Iberis ‘Absolutely Amethyst’ – This new cultivar is a real colour breakthrough for perennial Candytuft. The rosy-purple blooms are abundant and smother the evergreen foliage of this standard rock garden plant. Grows to 30 cm high and hardy to Zone 4.
• Rosa ‘Royal Kate’ – We’ve had the ‘Royal William’ hybrid tea rose (deep red) since 1983, but last year’s royal wedding has paved the way for a new introduction. ‘Royal Kate’ is another hybrid tea with fragrant pink blooms and glossy foliage (it will be available as an own-root plant). Grows to 1.3 m high and hardy to Zone 6.
• Heuchera ‘Cajun Fire’ and ‘Pear Crisp’ – Terra Nova Nurseries has added two more worthy plants to their long line of successful heuchera introductions. Look for ‘Pear Crisp’ (finely cut chartreuse foliage) and the ever-changing ‘Cajun Fire’ (red, purplish-black and maroon foliage) at your local garden centre by late spring. Grows to 35 cm high and hardy to Zone 5.
Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (email@example.com).