Part Two Of What Did Well And What Did Not In Our Garden This Year
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

October 26, 2014

Above, our Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) bore four spectacular flowers while on our outdoor patio after a successful winter indoors; a large-flowered Clematis is woven among a Japanese red-leaf maple; this pink Clematis alpine now thrives on the east wall of our house; Clematis cirrosa ‘Freckles’ is a very nice small flowering one that is only getting a start with us; meanwhile Clematis Kiri te Kanawa is now fairly well established and bloomed twice this past season; two of our lilies were also stars of the garden this summer, including the vary tall L. ‘Robina’; and the very prolific L. ‘Golden Stargazer’.




Three weeks ago I started on a long column basically on the topic of what did well, and a few things that did not do well in our Parksville garden here this year. Then in the general news came word about a lot of negative press on the newer form of artificial turf that includes the crumbled rubber chips in order to make it softer to play on etc.

That topic ended up taking two weeks (including the first one which was very long!) courtesy of all of the detailed semi-technical information supplied by NBC News.

So now I’m back among the plants, so to speak. I am going to start this week with one plant which is about to be brought indoors for the winter. It is the Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) we acquired about three years ago from some friends in Parksville. Last year, by the time we moved it outside in mid-May, it had seven spikes of flower stalks on it. This year it had only four, but nevertheless they all came out well and lasted for some weeks. I am not certain why fewer flowers this year, but for next year we shall apply a bit more liquid fertilizer throughout the winter and see if I can encourage at least another seven flower stalks!

I might add that we have just recently moved it under a bit of glass cover on our outdoor patio in order to keep the rain off it. That simple trick will make it much easier to move it indoors when the time comes next month. It is a two-man job!

We had great success with several of our various Clematis vines this year. For example, we have a blue large-flowered one that we have encouraged to grow up through one of our purple-leaved Japanese maples in front of our east-side deck. This was an idea I got from the Clematis King, Ray Evison when I was touring through his extensive nursery on the Island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands of the U.K.

Then we have a pink alpine type planted on the east side of the house which never bloomed before last year. The reason? It just did not get enough sun. Having had Arborist Wade Stewart prune all three of the offending Douglas-firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) down the east side of our property a year ago in the spring, we realized the great improvement there would be in the amount of sunshine all the plants on that side of the house would receive. That was proven late that summer, and even more dramatically this summer. Perhaps the best indicator was the performance this spring of the pink-flowering Clematis alpina as you’ll see from the photo here.

Yet another Clematis that is doing well here, in this case at our front deck near our front door. It is Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ which also grows near our side deck near the Japanese maple with the large flowering cultivar grows. This is a new one to us and this year it flowered somewhat meagerly but we like it so will be giving it some extra attention next year to see if we can get more flowers.

Finally, a double Clematis which is named after a New Zealand opera singer, Kiri te Kanawa. It is a double blue that generally blooms twice each season, but the flowers later in the season are often not as double as those in the early spring. Here it is generally in full spring bloom around our July 1st holiday.

Let me deal with lilies for a few lines! Generally it was a good year for all our lilies, both in the number of blooms per stalk, as well as size of bloom. Outstanding again this year was Lilium ‘Robina’ which easily exceeded two metres in height this year with almost uncountable numbers of flowers. The other outstanding performer this year was Lilium ‘Golden Stargazer’. Since I missed getting a good photo of it when it was in full bloom, I’ve included last year’s photo to give you some idea of its floriferousness!

Many other of our lilies have appeared on these pages over the years and you can be assured they did very well this year as well.

Whilst I was writing about our Clematis alpine which came into its own with the increased light available to it, I should also have written a few lines about a shrub that grows relatively near it, Deutzia x rosea. This is another plant which had been located in its position for probably five years but we never saw more than a tiny single flower on it. Now, with the better light it flowers extremely well and has reached a height of almost a metre—double what it used to achieve.

Just to conclude this item on a little different note, I absolutely have to tell you about two plants which did not do well for us this year, and it is not the first year for either of them in the garden. The first is one for which I was holding out great hope because it took me several years to get one—they always seemed to sell out in the spring before I could get one. It is ‘Blue Bird’ Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus ‘Blue Bird’) These are generally hardy shrubs that come into bloom not before mid-summer. I had at least two over the years in my Toronto gardens including one which had variegated foliage. All of those were shrub types, but I wanted a blue-flowering one on a standard so it achieved some nice height in an area of the garden that was narrow but needed something reasonably tall. So three years ago in late spring I found some at Buckerfield’s here in Parksville.

The first year it hardly had any flowers on it but I “excused it” because I know how difficult they can be to get going. It is one of the plants I used to get more questions about on my Toronto phone-in shows than any other. My response always was just to treat it well with fertilizer and water well, and it would eventually come out into leaf, and flower. And, I would often have folks call me back the next year and say “how right you were because we did what you suggested and it is doing well now! Thanks!”

Well, now it is me with the problem! It didn’t flower well last year, but come mid-summer this year it seemed to have a reasonable number of buds on it. The problem was they seemed to open up to full flowers almost individually, and last very few days. I’ve put in a photo of about the best it got! I shall keep you informed next year, which could be its last year here!

The second problem here this year, and for the last two years is our variegated blue potato vine. You may recall me writing about the first one we had, which was not variegated, but put on a great display of flowers each summer. Then we had that tough winter when a number of ‘tender’ deciduous shrubs and herbaceous perennials suffered (particularly including Escallonia, which I managed to bring back using my liquid fertilizer concept, and my highly valued Sophora ‘Sun King’ which I was not successful in saving). I likewise was not successful in saving the blue potato vine.

And so a couple of years later I found the variegated one at Arrowsmith Nurseries but while it is growing (a bit) it is nothing like its predecessor was. Not sure what is going to happen to this one!

Well, that is my summary of the good and bad in our garden here this year. Enjoy the photos!


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