The Principled Gardener Part 7 – Scale

Part Seven? I’m beginning to feel like I’m writing the script for a “Rocky” movie. Anyway, we’re nearing the end of our months-long discussion on Landscape Design Principles – are ya bored yet?  Well hang in there, there’s only two more to go. Today we look at Scale.

The principle of Scale refers to the size of landscape elements in relation to their surroundings. There are two factors to consider – one is the size of your house, and the other is the size of objects in the larger landscape (existing trees in the community, size of your neighbour’s house etc.).

In the examples to the left, the top image illustrates a house that is visually overwhelmed by the landscaping – the shrubs next to the house are as tall, or taller than the house, with some even obscuring windows. And the shade trees are huge in relation to the house – this scale is too large. The middle example is the exact opposite. The trees and shrubs look like toys in comparison to the house – the scale of this landscape is too small. The bottom example is what we’re after. The landscape elements are well suited to the size of the house, hence this represents appropriate scale.

So what makes for proper scale? Well for one, the shrubs right up against the house shouldn’t be much more than about ¾ the height of the house (walls) and the trees that are out a bit further, not more than about twice the height of the house. It just looks “right”.

But what if you live in an older neighbourhood, like mine, where the houses are small, the lots are huge and so are the existing trees in the community? In this case, the large shade trees may indeed be in scale with the neighbourhood, but any plantings against the house will still need to be in scale with the house, like in the example below right. Note the larger shrubs bridging the scale between the smaller plants and the big trees.

I spend a lot of time exploring various communities while walking our dog, and what I see is yard after yard where scale is consistently ignored, even in the simplest landscapes – either the house is dwarfed by the landscape or the landscape is dwarfed by the house.

I think what happens is one of two things. Many newer communities boast large homes, but at the expense of usable outdoor space – the house takes up most of the lot, leaving very little room for landscaping. Homeowners then opt for groupings of smallish shrubs that take up less space, without considering their size relative to the house.

A large house on a small lot creates a design challenge in terms of good scale. Here, the small plantings in front of this house appear overpowered because they are too small for the house.

The use of a few tall narrow trees can be helpful here – they relate well to the height of the house without taking up too much breadth. With just the addition of a columnar tree or two, a whole composition can be brought into scale.

The two columnar trees flanking the house provide necessary scale to this landscape, relating the large stature of the house to that of the smaller plantings.

The same house, now with mature boulevard trees, illustrates proper scale in the context of the larger landscape, i.e. a neighbourhood.

The other thing that happens is illustrated on the left. In the top example, the diorama represents an older home with plantings typical of the time it was built – Cotoneaster hedge, Potentilla, and little Johnny’s ‘Arbour Day’ tree, a Colorado spruce (Picea pungens). Not particularly inspired I realize, but at least it’s in scale with the house.  Fast forward a few decades and the scenario depicted in the bottom photo has likely ensued. Little Johnny is forty years old now and so is this landscape. I guess nobody took into account way back when, that living things don’t remain static. They grow … and grow and grow. So what was once in scale is no longer.

Gardeners, let’s remember to consider future size – the mature size of the plants we choose – and locate them accordingly.  Let’s not plant Colorado spruce or the even larger white spruce (Picea glauca), in our small urban yards. They are for acreages and parks, and maybe very large residential yards, but too big for any other urban application.

There are smaller evergreens much better suited to our gardens, for example Picea pungens ‘Bakeri’ (Baker’s blue spruce) or Pinus uncinata (mountain pine).

In my own neighbourhood I see tall cedars (likely cv. ‘Brandon’) – planted decades ago to frame the entrance of tiny bungalows – that now tower above them. In fairness to whomever planted them, I suspect the literature at the time may have advised that these Thuja species would top out at about 15 feet. Yeah right – gotta laugh when I hear people exclaim ‘cedars don’t do well in Calgary’.

I find this latter scenario (small house, big lot) to be more of a challenge than the reverse –precisely because there is often existing mature plant material that’s way too big, and homeowners are reluctant to part with it.  I don’t blame them. I have a huge Colorado blue spruce right in the middle of my back yard. Though we have a relatively large property, this mammoth evergreen has been difficult to design around. Every winter my husband and I contemplate removing it and every summer we remember why we, as of yet, haven’t done so – it provides much-needed shade from the late-day prairie sun. If you live on the prairies you’ll no doubt be aware, that our late-day sun can be hotter and more intense than our mid-day sun. So unless we decide to invest in central air conditioning, Mr. Spruce gets to stay.

The right side of this landscape is nicely in scale with the house. On the left side, a very large blue spruce precludes the possibility of correct scale for that area. It’s a lovely tree – healthy and very blue, so I understood why the clients wanted to keep it, but it typifies the design challenges of a mature neighbourhood. Photo: Sue Gaviller

If you’re planning a new landscape, or renovating your old landscape, remember to think about Scale. Then think like Goldilocks – you don’t want too big. Or too small. You want juuust right.

Til next time,
© Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Georgia’s World

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe ~

When Georgia O’Keeffe painted the stunning floral portraits for which she was famous, she did so with the intent of expressing what she felt when looking at a flower, portraying it as she experienced it – layered, luxuriant, larger-than-life. She assigned as much significance to the details as to the whole, often painting less than the whole flower and using the outer edges merely to frame its inner beauty.

I’m a huge fan of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work – for so many reasons. The designer in me is completely enamoured by her attention to detail, creating texture so rich one can almost feel it. The gardener in me………well what gardener doesn’t love to look at big beautiful flower pictures?  And as a horticulturist, I find her sensuous presentation of every ruffle and ridge, petal, sepal and stamen, to be a breathtaking study in flower anatomy. If one looks at these paintings from this botanical vantage point, a whole new appreciation of both painter and subject ensues.

The Birds and the Bees

I think to truly appreciate a flower one must first understand its role. A flower exists, not for the purpose of our enjoyment (much as we gardeners would like to think), but rather for the purpose of reproduction. Their brightly coloured parts aren’t intended to garner the oohs and aahs of our neighbours and friends, but to attract pollinators, like birds, bees and butterflies.

“Let me tell you ‘bout the birds and the bees
  and the flowers and the trees
  and the moon up above
  and the thing called love”.

We all know those infamous Herb Newman lyrics, and what often follows is………the Talk. You know the talk of which I speak – the one your parents or grandparents, or teachers, had with you just as you were approaching puberty. Well here it is again – sort of.

Prepare yourself – I have graphic images.

Cross section of a ‘perfect’ flower, meaning it has both stamens (male) and carpels (female). Not all flowers are perfect – some plants have separate male and female flowers. In some cases, the entire plant is either male or female – these plants are referred to as dioecious.

So it goes something like this: A bee or other pollinator enters the interior of a flower in search of nectar and pollen. In the process of collecting pollen it inadvertently brushes against the stigma, thereby depositing the pollen which contains the sperm. A pollen tube then forms, growing down the style and transporting the sperm to the ovary where the ovules reside. The male sperm joins with the female ovule and voila, fertilization! Fruit and/or seeds then develop from the fertilized egg and these are dispersed by wind, rain, birds, etc., eventually settling into the soil where the seeds germinate. Plant grows, plant produces flowers, bees pollinate………..yadda yadda yadda. Did ya get all that?

Pretty in Pink – this pink hollyhock presents her best ‘come hither’ look, hoping to entice pollinators. The brighter pink veins add to her allure and serve to guide visitors in. Work it girl! Photo: Cathy Gaviller

Of course the bees have no idea that they’re participating in the plant’s sex life – they’re just there for the pollen. But they are vital to this courtship dance. In fact flowers get all dressed up in their most colourful outfits and put on their finest perfume to impress these pollinators – or any pollinator for that matter. Oh those fickle flowers.

Ah yes – success. Now that is one amorous bee! Photo: Cathy Gaviller

Come A Little Bit Closer Now

If we zoom in a little closer to have a really good look at the inner workings of these remarkable reproductive machines, you’ll see that the very heart of a flower is indeed a thing of beauty and something to be celebrated – sketched, painted or photographed. This was Georgia’s gift to the world – she made us really look at a flower.

A close-up of Hemerocallis ‘Strutter’s Ball’ reveals velvety ridges, sumptuous ruffles, delicate veins and arching stamens – worthy of Georgia’s paintbrush don’t you think? Photo: Sue Gaviller

Plants like the above-pictured daylily have large showy flowers which easily attract pollinators. Other plants, lilacs for example, have many tiny florets each with reproductive capacity. These florets are clustered together to form a large inflorescence which not only increases the chances of being noticed by passing pollinators, but vastly increases the opportunities for pollination. Most of us never really notice these tiny floral entities that make up the larger racemes, umbels and panicles, but they are miniature marvels that merit a closer look.

Syringa vulgaris ‘Katherine Havemeyer’ – each tiny floret is picture-perfect in itself. Photo: Sue Gaviller

Inner Space

Zooming in even more we can get a detailed view of the various reproductive parts of a flower. The male parts are the anthers and filaments, collectively called the stamen. Anthers are the pollen producing organs and are often quite pronounced, hence they are usually quite recognizable.

The female parts – stigma, style and ovary, together make up the carpel. Often there are multiple carpels, which are jointly referred to as the pistil. If there is only one carpel, then the terms carpel and pistil can be applied interchangeably. Carpels come in all shapes and sizes. Some have a long tube-shaped style and a bulbous stigma. Others have a bulb-shaped style and fleshy stigma. Sometimes the style appears almost non-existent and the stigma is all that’s visible. While the shape is widely variable, the carpel can usually be recognized by the surface texture of the stigma, which will appear sticky, oily or waxy – this ensures adherence of pollen grains.

Hemerocallis ‘Little Grapette’ – note the pollen-laden anthers, long tubular style and the tiny stigma. Photo: Sue Gaviller

The bulbous stigma of Lilium longiflorum is quite large compared to that of the Hemerocallis in the previous image, but both stigma have the characteristic spongy, waxy surface for trapping pollen. Photo: Pat Gaviller

Lilium columbianum has very pronounced carpel and stamens. Here the pollen on the anthers has all but disappeared but grains of it heavily coat the sticky stigma surface. Photo: Pat Gaviller

Paoenia ‘Morning Lilac’ – a ring of bright yellow anthers atop pink filaments surrounds a group of carpels with pale greenish styles. The furled flaps of paler pink fleshy tissue are the stigma. Photo: Pat Gaviller

Paeonia ‘Tom Eckhart’ has a centre full of butter yellow staminodes – flattened sterile stamens that are the result of extensive hybridization Photo: Sue Gaviller

Rosa nutkana – pale yellow stamens surround a group of pale greenish carpels, of which only the stigma is visible. Photo: Pat Gaviller

Iris ‘Raspberry Blush’ – note the voluptuous centre pieces, called style arms, each of which arches over a male stamen. Photo: Sue Gaviller

Outer Space

The outermost layer of a flower is the calyx, which is made up of all the sepals. Just inside the calyx  is the corolla which consists of all the petals.  Ah yes, the petals – this is why we grow plants that flower right? Generally speaking the petals are the largest, showiest part of the flower (there are exceptions though). Biologically speaking they serve the purpose of surrounding and protecting the flower’s reproductive parts, as well as attracting pollinators with their colourful presentation.

The sepals on the other hand, are usually nondescript, green leaf-like units that surround and enclose the flower in the bud stage, as well as support the petals once they emerge. However, there are a number of plants that have very showy sepals, almost as showy as the petals – Lilium, Hemerocallis, Iris and Narcissus to name a few.

The petals of Rosa ‘Winnipeg Parks’ are bright and very flashy, whereas the pale gray-green sepals have very little ornamental value. Photo: Sue Gaviller

Daylily sepals, like this Hemerocallis ‘Chicago Antique Tapestry’, are the same colour and texture as the petals, albeit a little smaller. Photo: Sue Gaviller

The sepals of plants in the Iris genus are the downward-curving parts, called ‘falls’, and are every bit as beautiful as the upright petals or ‘standards’. Photo: Sue Gaviller

Some Irises have fuzzy caterpillar-like tufts along the midline of the sepals – these are known as ‘beards’. The Iris beard may serve to collect and protect pollen (note its proximity to the stigmatic lip directly above the beard) or it may simply provide a place for pollinators to alight and grasp onto. Photo: Pat Gaviller

Narcissus sp. has 3 petals, 3 almost identical sepals and an additional trumpet-shaped structure known as the corona. Photo: Pat Gaviller

This Bud’s for You

A flower begins as a bud – an unremarkable green protuberance that bears no resemblance to the flower it will eventually become.

Like all of the intersectional hybrids, Paeonia ‘Morning Lilac’ has unique pointy buds. Photo: Sue Gaviller

I find flower buds to be as rewarding as the blooms, more so maybe. A bud is the promise of a flower and we experience it with all the anticipation of a bride-to-be. I doubt if I’m the only gardener who has spent countless hours peering into the depth of daylily foliage, gently separating the grassy blades looking for emerging bloomscapes. Or palpating Iris fans, feeling for the swellings of blooms-to-be. Or closely examining lilac buds to determine which will be leaves and which will be gorgeous fragrant blossoms.

I count the buds to see how many blooms I’ll be blessed with this year. I observe them daily, gauging their progress, watching them swell and elongate, slowly taking on a hint of colour. I daresay by the time my flowering plants actually bloom, I’ve spent so much time anticipating it that the experience is almost anticlimactic. Almost.

Left: Hemerocallis ‘Mary Reed’ – flower bud almost ready to open.
Right – Hemerocallis ‘Starling’ has luscious plump flower buds, as do most tetraploid daylilies.
Photos: Sue Gaviller

Today is Georgia O’Keeffe’s 125th birthday and it is in her honour I write this post.

I invite you to see every flower through new eyes and with deeper appreciation. Take a step into Georgia’s world.

© Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Top Twenty of Twenty Twelve

Bet you can’t say that ten times really fast. Top twenty of twenty twelve, twop twenty of twenty telve, top tenty……….oh never mind.

Okay so what’s this all about?

If you’ve visited this blog before, you may have had occasion to visit my Weekly Plant Picks page. Each weekend during gardening season, I profiled a tree, shrub or perennial that had impressed me that week – usually several traits about a particular plant earned its place on the page. After 20 entries though, it has become a tad cumbersome, and since the season is officially over in our part of the world, I’m disassembling the page until spring.

If you’re new to this blog, or just never got around to viewing the Plant Pick page, or would like to be able to reference this information in the future – this post’s for you.  And be sure to check out the updates at the end of the post.

So without further ado here is, in chronological order ………

Sue’s Top 20 of 2012

June 3rd – Syringa hyacinthiflora ‘Pocahontas’

Syringa hyacinthiflora ‘Pocahontas’ – still alive and now blooming after a winter spent in a 2 gallon pot.

So how does this pathetic looking specimen merit my first Weekly Plant Pick? Well there’s more to this gal than meets the eye. I bought it on sale late August 2011, put it on my patio and thought little about it til that October when I noticed the leaves were dry and crunchy – oh yeah maybe I should plant that thing (if it’s even alive) or at least give it some water. I gave it a drink and again ignored it (it’s the end of the season, I’m tired and I just don’t feel like digging in the dirt anymore). Fast forward – April of this year and time to get rid of this dead thing in a pot on my patio. Except it’s not dead – the branches are still supple and the buds are fat and fleshy. In fact not a single branch tip had suffered winterkill – wow this thing is hardy! Now she’s planted (more like popped in the ground and ignored again) and despite her very small stature, she’s now blooming. Not the big robust blooms of her future self, but blooms nonetheless. From these baby blooms emanates a heavenly scent.

Pocahontas will grow 2 -3 metres tall and wide, and like all of the hyacinthiflora hybrids, will flower a little earlier than most lilacs. These hybrids are one of the most fragrant of all the lilacs and have the same lush dark green heart-shaped leaf as the common lilac.

So what do I see in this small specimen? Not what is, but what will be – I expect she won’t disappoint.


June 10th – Malus baccata ‘Rosthern’ (Rosthern Columnar Crab)

Top Left – Malus baccata ‘Rosthern’ flowers. Photo: Pat Gaviller
Bottom Left – Vase shaped when young and maturing to oval form Photo: Cathy Gaviller
Top Right – a robin perches in the bronze coloured branches. Photo: Cathy Gaviller
Bottom Right – small ornamental fruit. Photo: Pat Gaviller

A profusion of white flowers in early spring, good fall colour, beautiful bronze bark and pretty reddish gold ornamental fruit (loved by birds), make this a lovely four season tree – a true specimen. In addition, its upright growth habit makes it a more appropriate choice for small yards than the wide-spreading selections typical of the genus.

As the name suggests this cultivar of the Siberian crab was developed in Rosthern Saskatchewan in the early 1970’s. It is often confused with the much earlier American introduction ‘Columnaris’ which is highly susceptible to fire blight – Rosthern on the other hand, has excellent resistance.

I use these trees often in designs – for their year-long interest, compact form and their cold and chinook hardiness. They never fail to impress!

June 17th – Syringa vulgaris  ‘Ludwig Spaeth’

Syringa vulgaris ‘Ludwig Spaeth’. Photos: Sue Gaviller

This older cultivar has lots going for it. The colour is stunning, with dark red-violet buds opening to slightly lighter florets. The growth habit is fairly tidy and the blossoms are large and luscious. As well, Ludwig Spaeth is a very early bloomer, beginning about the same time as the early flowering crabs and continuing to offer colourful blooms for longer than most other S. vulgaris cultivars.

Like all of the species, the leaves are rich dark green providing season long contrast to lighter coloured foliage in the garden.

My only criticism is that the scent is a little too subtle for me – while it has the classic lilac fragrance, one must be up very close to experience it.

All in all, a lovely shrub for the spacious border.

June 24th – Dianthus ‘Neon Star’

Dianthus ‘Neon Star’. Photos: Sue Gaviller

Intense magenta blooms cover the rich blue foliage on this neatly mounding perennial. In our climate, Dianthus ‘Neon Star’ begins blooming early to mid June and continues for most of the summer.

It grows 6”- 8” high and will spread into a tidy clump 12”- 18” wide. When finished blooming, the lovely steel-blue foliage still offers colour in the late summer garden.

What else could one possibly ask of a perennial?

July 1st – Paeonia ‘Morning Lilac’

Paeonia ‘Morning Lilac’. Photos: Sue Gaviller

This lovely peony belongs to a group called Itoh Peonies or Intersectionals. They are a cross between the tree peony which is a woody plant and the more common herbaceous peony. This cross has given us the best of both – the huge papery blooms of the tree peony, in a smaller more compact plant. In fact they are more compact than their herbaceous parent.

Morning Lilac earned a place in the top 5 plants evaluated in the 2011 Perennial Trials at the Calgary Zoo. I put a couple of these in a client’s yard last year – not only did they make it through the winter, they doubled in size and are covered in big beautiful blooms. I’ve never seen either of the parent species perform so well in their first year. A colleague of mine who lives west of city, planted 5 of them on her very exposed piece of windswept land and she reports they too are covered in the characteristic pointy buds, which will soon be gorgeous blooms.

These plants are a little pricey but they are worth every penny and continue to come down in price. There are numerous cultivars in a wide range of colours – why not give one try? You’ll be glad you did.

July 8th – Rosa ‘Winnipeg Parks’

Rosa ‘Winnipeg Parks’. Photo: Sue Gaviller

This is one you’ll either love or hate. When the blooms first open they are a super-saturated, almost fluorescent, cherry red. After a day or two they calm down a bit to a lovely hot pink. When I planted a trio of these last year my first thought was ‘What have I done? This is just garish’. However, it wasn’t long before I decided I actually liked them – they were bright to be sure, but they worked well with the soft purples of the various neighbouring Campanula species, and there was plenty of green around to quiet their rather loud presentation.

If you can get past the intensity of the flower colour, Winnipeg Parks has lots to offer – the blooms are full and velvety with just a hint of fragrance. The leaves are a beautiful bronze-tipped green and the growth habit is very compact – about 2 ½ feet tall and wide. It looks like a classic tea rose but is really a hardy shrub rose, one of the Parkland series developed in Morden Manitoba – very hardy and disease resistant. Try it – you might like it!

July 15thScabiosa caucasica ‘Ultra Violet’

Scabiosa caucasica ‘Ultra Violet’. Photo: Sue Gaviller

The pincushion flower is a reliable, long blooming perennial – this particular cultivar has proven to be extremely hardy in my garden, with some of the leaves even remaining evergreen through the last 3 winters. The flowers are intense dark purple (the darkest I’ve seen in a pincushion flower), with lighter centres.

The foliage too, is deeper green than other Scabiosa cultivars. ‘Ultra Violet’ is tidy and well-behaved in full or part sun, grows 12 to 18 inches tall/wide, and will bloom from early summer through to fall. One of my favourite perennials – too bad the squirrels agree.

July 22nd – Campanula portenschlagiana

Campanula portenschlagiana. Photo: Marg Gaviller

These little beauties must be the florists’ best kept secret. I see them in decorative pots around Easter and Mother’s Day at grocery store florists or the indoor section of nurseries, but I’ve never seen them in a greenhouse perennial department, at least not here.

What many gardeners may not know is that the Dalmatian Bellflower is a hardy perennial in our climate. It forms spreading mounds (12-24 inches) of deep mauve bells and will bloom continually from early to late summer.

I was thrilled when I first found Campanula portenschlagiana in a little ceramic Easter egg at my local grocery. I’d actually discovered it years before in a plant encyclopedia but had given up ever finding it here – nobody I asked about it had ever heard of the Dalmatian Bellflower. Obviously now they have, and so have you!


July 29th – Heucherella ‘Berry Fizz’

Heucherella ‘Berry Fizz’. Photo: Pat Gaviller

Heucherella is an intergeneric hybrid between Heuchera and Tiarella. ‘Berry Fizz’ has shiny dark purple-bronze foliage heavily splashed with pink. The sprays of tiny orchid-pink flowers are a lovely contrast to the large maple shaped leaves.

It’s equally happy in sun or shade, though will appreciate a little extra moisture in full sun. In full shade it holds its colour remarkably well, better than most in fact.

Heucherella ‘Berry Fizz’ will grow 10 -12 inches tall (a little taller when in bloom), 14 -16 inches wide and is especially striking in containers.


August 5th – Echinacea ‘Tangerine Dream’

Echinacea ‘Tangerine Dream’. Photo: Pat Gaviller

I’ll be honest – this plant shouldn’t really be featured on this page……….yet. It’s debatably hardy here, but I’m hoping its ‘less than stellar’ overwintering of the last two years has more to do with the weird winters we’ve had than its hardiness. I am just so smitten with this coneflower – the colour is as the name promises; a bright tangerine orange.

I’m not so easily won over though, that a pretty colour is enough – this Echinacea has much more to offer than just its stunning colour. Each individual bloom lasts and lasts and lasts – at least 3 weeks, maybe more, and there are lots of them, on thick sturdy 30” stems. The foliage is dark green and the flowers have a distinct honey scent.

I bought a couple of Echinacea ‘Tangerine Dream’ two years ago – only one of them survived, but it is growing, albeit slowly. This coneflower will grow a fair bit in the first season it’s planted so I’m actually willing to use it as an annual if that’s the best I can do. However, I’ve heard it said that the key to getting these babies to survive our winters is to prevent them from flowering in their first year – quite a conundrum eh?

August 19thViburnum dentatum ‘J.N. Select’ (Red Feather Arrowwood)

Viburnum dentatum ‘J.N. Select’.
Photos: Sue Gaviller

I chose this plant after seeing how well it held up to golf ball size hail last weekend. We’d also had a vicious hail storm several weeks before – smaller hailstones, but hard driving hail for at least 30 minutes. Again this Viburnum didn’t suffer a single shredded leaf – remarkable. But that’s not all……..

The shiny serrate leaves are red in the spring, turning to mid green with distinctive red edges and aging to bright green – the new growth continues to be red throughout the growing season giving a two toned effect. The pretty white flowers, typical of the genus, appear in early summer and are followed by blue-black berries in the fall. Red fall foliage rounds out this 3-season shrub – the berries hold on into the early winter, extending the ornamental value to almost 4 seasons.

Hardy to zone three, this shrub should reach 8 to 10 feet tall and wide (according to Johnson’s Nurseries who bred this selection). It is currently under review with the Alberta Government Woody Evaluation Trials at test sites across the province, so mature height and spread in our climate has not yet been assessed. In my own garden…….well I guess we’ll see over the next few years. For now, I’m happy with its bushy upright growth habit and lovely shiny green/red foliage.

August 26th – Heuchera ‘Berry Smoothie’

Top – spring foliage. Photo courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries.
Bottom – midsummer foliage. Photo: Pat Gaviller

Large luscious leaves emerge bright berry pink in the spring, darkening somewhat in the heat of the summer, but otherwise maintaining good colour throughout the season. Soft pink flowers add an airy dimension to their summer appeal.

This Heuchera has both H. americana and H. villosa parentage, giving it the best of both – the cold hardiness of the former and heat tolerance of the latter. In addition Berry Smoothie’s H. villosa heritage is responsible for its large, slightly fuzzy leaves and stems, and its fast growth habit.

Mine have survived two winters, countless rabbit attacks and several nasty hail storms – still look pretty good considering. Berry Smoothie is a great garden addition, providing colour from early spring through late fall.

 September 2ndPhysocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’.
Photos: Sue Gaviller

Ninebarks have received a bad name of late – ‘scraggly and buggy’ I hear from fellow gardeners. The problem is, if they’re not situated in full sun (and I mean full sun all day long), they will in fact become leggy and infested with aphids. But plant Summer Wine in full sun and it will shine – literally. Rich, wine-coloured glossy foliage lasts well into late fall long after many other shrubs have lost their leaves. Pretty pale pink flowers are followed by rust coloured seed capsules. The branches of older growth are gray and peeling, but new growth is dark purplish red providing winter interest as well.

In its first year this ninebark will complain in full sun if not kept watered, which leads gardeners (and suppliers) to believe that they in fact like a bit of shade. However in subsequent years Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ will be very drought tolerant and thrive in hot dry conditions – just what a prairie landscape needs. So give a ninebark another chance – if you give it what it needs, Summer Wine won’t let you down.

September 9th – Cornus alba ‘Cream Cracker’

Top – early fall colour. Photo: Sue Gaviller
Bottom – Photo: Pat Gaviller

Cream Cracker dogwood is a ‘sport’ of the mottled dogwood, Cornus alba ‘Gouchaultii’. A sport refers to a spontaneous bud mutation resulting in a shoot that differs morphologically from the rest of the plant. When these shoots present a desirable characteristic, they are often then cultivated to create new cultivars. Indeed many new plant cultivars arise from this phenomenon.

Cornus alba ‘Cream Cracker’ has a dwarf habit and green/gold variegation on new growth, fading to green and butter cream on older growth. In early fall the cream coloured margins turn peach/pink. Purple stems round out this cultivar’s 4-season appeal.

The only drawback is availability – when first introduced they were readily available here and I used them in many clients’ designs, but in the last couple of years I’ve had trouble sourcing them. My suppliers tell me it’s because they are unreliably hardy in our climate. This hasn’t been my experience, and they’ve been deemed a recommended plant for our area in the Alberta Government Woody Evaluation Trials. Granted they can take a few years to really establish themselves, suffering significant winter dieback in the first couple of years, but I’ve discovered that once they get established they are proving to be quite robust.

Let’s hope the nurseries here can be convinced that Cream Cracker dogwood is worth another try.

September 16th – Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’

Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’. Photo: Sue Gaviller

It’s 3PM and I just realize I haven’t eaten anything since this morning’s granola. Feeling a little peckish and not wanting to ‘spoil my dinner’, I opt for toast and tomatoes. My husband grows awesome heritage tomatoes, several of which he harvested earlier in the day. As my knife slices through the meaty, juicy flesh of a perfectly ripe Black Krim, I decide I want a few fresh basil leaves. Hubby grows numerous types of basil – I choose Cinnamon for its large flat leaves, perfect for layering atop sliced tomatoes.

I bite into my late summer lunch and…………..WOW! Flavour explosion!

If you’ve never grown this flavourful basil, I highly recommend it. I find it somewhat like Thai basil (which we also grow and is my favourite), but with less licorice notes. Cinnamon basil has earned a place on this page because it is also very beautiful – a tall bushy basil with dark purple stems and pale mauve flowers with showy purple bracts. Grown in pots it has sufficient ornamental value to adorn my patio, emitting a spicy aroma that supposedly wards off mosquitoes.

For more information on Cinnamon basil check out this post by Ramona Werst on the Herb Companion’s IN THE HERB GARDEN.

September 23rd – Hemerocallis ‘Hot Embers’

Hemerocallis ‘Hot Embers’. I took this photo a few days ago after a much needed watering. Today this daylily is still blooming and has several more buds waiting to open. Photo: Sue Gaviller

The garden is tired, dry and leaf-littered. Little by little, garden foliage is losing vigour as perennials prepare for winter dormancy. Why then, is a summer perennial gracing this page? Well……..because it’s still blooming. That’s right it’s September 23rd and this daylily still has buds and blooms.

Hemerocallis ‘Hot Embers’ belongs to a select group of daylilies called Trophytaker® Daylilies. In order for a daylily to receive this designation it must meet numerous criteria: Beauty, Hardiness, Fast Clumping, Extended Bloom (minimum 42 days), Superior Foliage and Pest/Disease Resistance.

Extended bloom indeed! ‘Hot Embers’ daylily has been blooming in my back garden since July 25th!

September 30th – Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’

Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’ fall foliage.
Photo: Sue Gaviller

A lilac? Really? At this time of year? I know, I know, I promised no more lilacs, but this lilac is different – I’ve chosen this particular lilac because it has striking fall colour. The foliage turns a beautiful dark purple/red – a stunning contrast to the red, orange and yellow foliage that many other plants exhibit in the fall.

Miss Kim lilac offers other awesome attributes as well – dwarf compact habit, good drought tolerance and winter hardiness. Of course, during lilac season she also has pretty, very fragrant blooms, but that’s not why she’s here today – it’s all about the fall foliage colour. Gorgeous!

October 7th – Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’

Top – early summer inflorescence.
Bottom – late summer/fall inflorescence.
Photos: Sue Gaviller

It’s at this time of year that the reed grasses come into their full glory – stately upright masses of feathery gold. When the grassy inflorescence first emerges in early to mid summer, it is soft green with a touch of pink. With age it becomes more tan coloured, and finally a rich gold which is particularly showy against the very blue autumn sky.

Karl Foerster is a fool-proof perennial – very hardy here in our zone 3 climate and drought tolerant too. In fact once established they actually prefer lean, dry soil. I made the mistake of giving supplemental water in their second year – they’d been really thirsty in the first year I planted them, so I assumed they were water-loving.

As well, they seemed to fall over all the time (so I gave them more water thinking this was why they were so floppy). When I mentioned to a colleague that I thought reed grasses had a sloppy growth habit, she suggested maybe they were getting too much water – they never got watered after that, even though they’re in a very dry spot. Now they stand up straight and tall.

In the late summer and fall these beauties can be seen from blocks away, especially large stands of them. They bring real elegance to the late summer border and continue to provide interest well into the winter. Matures to about 3 feet wide and 4 to 5 feet tall. A real showpiece!

October 14 – Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’

Top – Flowers and fruit. Photos courtesy of Wikipedia
Bottom – Fall colour. Photo: Sue Gaviller

Viburnum trilobum is at its best in the fall. The species itself presents tawny red fall colour, but Bailey Compact, a cultivar of the American highbush cranberry, turns bright fuchsia red – very showy. Its dense foliage and dwarf upright growth habit make it an appealing addition to the urban landscape. The large trilobate leaves also bring some coarser texture to our gardens, contrasting nicely with finer textured shrubs. Pretty white flowers in the spring and red berries in late summer/fall ensure this shrub has something beautiful to offer all season.

October 21

Today will be my last Plant Pick til next spring. It’s getting harder to find plant material worthy of this page as there’s just so much less of it around. So for my closing pick of 2012 I present…..

Malus ‘Rosy Glo’

This small weeping standard is an outstanding specimen tree – very hardy and offers beautiful four-season interest: Bright pink spring blossoms, bluish purple foliage, plum-red bark, striking weeping form, stunning fall foliage and pretty ornamental apples. Need I say more?

Left – spring blossoms. Right – October colour with dusting of early snow. Photos: Sue Gaviller

Left – brillant orange November colour. Right – pretty ornamental fruit. Photos: Sue Gaviller


Looking back on this year’s plant picks, I felt it necessary to add a few updates.

Dianthus ‘Neon Star’continued blooming well into September, as did Scabiosa caucasica ‘Ultra Violet’. They were stopped short when we had early snow that stuck around for longer than is usual for this time of year. When it did melt after a week or so, Campanula portenschlagiana still had a few blooms on it and remarkably Hemerocallis ‘Hot Embers’ was still trying to bloom – I didn’t let it of course, so as not to compromise its ability to get through what could be a very long cold winter (if you read between the lines there you might detect a perceptible whine).

Paeonia ‘Morning Lilac’ has been put through another test for toughness – remember that colleague of mine who put 5 of them in her large exposed acreage garden? Well, she watered them in for the winter – gave them a nice long deep drink, and then realized the hose had been attached to the hot water faucet. Don’t laugh. I remember when my youngest was a toddler, he asked for a drink of water – I turned on the tap, filled his cup and gave it to him. When he shrieked and dumped it all down the front of his onesie, I realized the water had still been hot from when I’d just previously run it. OMG! I was beside myself with guilt, but he was a tough little guy and luckily the water hadn’t been hot enough to scald him. Lesson learned.

Anyways, last I heard the peonies actually survived the hot water treatment – I’ll be sure to check back with her next spring to see how they fared.

Viburnum dentatum ‘J.N. Select’ continued to do well, except they really didn’t appreciate the dry windy weather we had late in the season. Supplemental watering was required during this time, but my hope is this was only because it was their first year. Perhaps they’ll prove to be more tolerant of dry windy conditions once they’re firmly established.

Heuchera ‘Berry Smoothie’ and Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ are continuing to hold their deep rich foliage colour – at least they were until the snow started falling again.

Well that’s about it – nothing else new to report. It was a good year all in all. Not without its disappointments mind you, like golf ball size hail, and of course winter has come way too early. For the most part though I’m pretty happy with the garden’s performance. How about you?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon,
© Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.