Continuing The Walk-Around Tour Of Our Garden Here In Parksville
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

April 5, 2015

Above, two shots of our blue Rhodo (R. augustinii ‘Jean’s Favourite’) including a closer-in shot; the pix of the ‘Cranberry Gem’ Grevillea is of one branch that is somewhat advanced over most of the others as far as flowers go; and the double red Primula Bellerina ‘Amethyst Ice’. Below, the cream-coloured Primula Bellarina ‘Buttermilk’; Barrenwort (Epimedium perralderianum in full flower, and if you look closely you can just see the heart-shaped green leaves (with darker markings) beginning to appear; one of my favourite plants is a tiny buttercup (Ranunculus ficaria ‘Brazen Hussy’) with its brilliant yellow flowers show-ing above the small foliage which is almost totally black in colour; and finally our False holly (Osmanthus delavayi), this one growing in mostly sun. Author photos..



Carrying on from where I left off last week, here are some additional plants now flowering, generally all considerably earlier than they would normally after our extremely mild winter.

I’ll start this week with a plant I showed last week alongside our yellow Rhododendron—the lovely blue Rhodo (R. augustinii ‘Jean’s Favourite’). This week, the yellow one is almost finished with a majority of the petals on the ground, but the ‘Jean’s Favourite’ blue one is now at its best. It is almost two metres (6’) tall. Enjoy it.

In another section of the garden down near the street-side fence, is our evergreen Grevillea ‘Cranberry Gem’, an Australian native plant of which there are likely around 300 varying species. They range from dwarf crevice-loving plants to reasonably tall trees. Most are not hardy in climates such as even ours here, but ‘Cranberry Gem’ is perfectly hardy with us. Two years ago I tried a young plant of Grevillea victoriae which has much larger oval (also evergreen) leaves but at this time I am not sure that it made it through last winter. It too is supposed to be a hardy one but that may not be the case for the one I tried!

‘Cranberry Gem’ usually starts to put out some early flowers in early February (this year it was late January) and blooms for several months. With the shot here you’ll see that the plant is looking pretty nice now in early April.

Not too far from the Grevillea is what we call our compost area and for the last several years I’ve been planting a small collection of Primula. It is large and variable genus of interesting plants that generally prefer some shade, and that is exactly what our compost area is. Some of the very early flowing primroses we have planted in the area are just that—early flowering. A year ago we added in a number of new cultivars from the Belarina series. The two I have shown in the photos are P. Bellarina ‘Amethyst Ice’ and P. Bellarina ‘Buttermilk’. These are all double-flowering types and are quite floriferous.

There is no other genus of plants quite as forthcoming with highly variable bunches of flowers than the Primula. While most nurseries and garden centres carry the most common species (P. polyantha for e.g.) it is fun when visiting “new” garden centres to look for ones you do not have in your collection.

The next perennial this week was already in bloom when I wrote my item last week, but I had to leave one off the list, and I opted to leave of Barrenwort (Epimedium perralderianum) for this week.

Barrenwort are superb shade-garden plants, excellent for edging or groundcover, and deserving much wider use in our gardens. This selection forms a bushy mound of dark green leaves, bearing sprays of delicate bright-yellow flowers in mid to late spring. Although these take a few years to reach a mature size, plants are long-lived and very sturdy. Old leaves should be pruned to the ground in late winter to show the flowers to best effect. Plants are drought tolerant once established and may be divided in early spring or late summer. This is a semi-evergreen, with good bronze winter foliage colour.

Not far from the Barrenwort, also on the edge of our large pond you will right now as well find a tiny buttercup-like flower. It is Celandine buttercup (Ranunculus perralderianum)—a buttercup native to Europe. Plants bloom in early to late spring, forming a gorgeous mound of purple-black foliage, contrasting beautifully with the small yellow buttercup flowers. Clumps spread steadily to form a good-sized patch in time. Since this goes completely dormant in summer, plan on combining with something that will fill in the gap (such as a Hosta). It tolerates summer heat and humidity. Clumps may be easily divided in the late summer or fall when they are dormant.

Finally for this week, I must mention our False holly or Osmanthus delavayi, which is a broadleaf evergreen with foliage somewhat resembling the deciduous privet. These too are all in full bloom, both in shaded and sunny locations.

The false holly is very easy to grow in full sun to deep shade, although it will flower less in more shade. It prefers well-drained soil, but will tolerate sand and clay. It is drought tolerant once established, but would appreciate occasional watering during dry weather, especially if on a sandy site. It can grow openly while it is young, particularly if it is in shade—light pruning can help keep this shrub dense in its youth.


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