New plants for your 2017 garden
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

May 27, 2017

Above, Cosmic Evolution Coreopsis (Tickseed); a shot of Coreopsis tinctoria ‘Tiger Stripes’in our Parksville garden several years ago; and Coreopsis Big Bang ‘Lightening Bug’. Below, Caryopteris ‘Sunshine Blue II’; and Honey Bunch Blue Honeysuckle. Author photo and courtesy Park Seed Company.




More news about new cultivars and varieties this week. I’ll start with one of my favourite perennials—Coreopsis. (Common name Tickseed.)

Oh, how the humble Tickseed has triumphed! Cosmic Evolution is simply incredible, such a vast improvement over the simple wildflower of years past. This very heavy-blooming, large-flowered, utterly beautiful bicolored perennial is worthy of your finest garden spot!

Cosmic Evolution is one of the Big Bang™ series of Coreopsis bred by Darrell Probst for new colour patterns, heavier blooms, and longer flowering. It is undoubtedly the most dramatic of all, with creamy-white blooms that sport heavy violet-red streaks and stripes, most noticeably in cooler weather. Like the other Big Bangs™, Cosmic Evolution is unbelievably showy and high performing, flowering steadily over two seasons in unheard-of colors for the Coreopsis family. The future is here!

These flowers will simply knock your socks off. Two- to three-inch creamy white blooms arrive in early summer, producing so profusely you'll have long-lasting cut-flower bouquets all season. During the cooler months, shades of violet-red radiate outward onto the petals from the gold button centre. In the hottest part of summer, the blooms will look nearly solid creamy white.

The flowers continue through early fall, on vigorous little plants that stand up to heat, humidity, drought, poor soil -- and are even left alone by nibbling deer! And the best part--The flowers never need deadheading! No more shearing the Coreopsis back after those first blooms! What will we do with our time?!

So easy to grow that it should grace every blazing driveway planting and inhospitable strip of soil in the sunny garden, Cosmic Evolution is an absolute must-have this season. You will fall in love with the colours and the sheer volume of blooms, even before the plant begins showing you what a garden powerhouse it is! Reaching 45–60 cm (18-24 in.) high and wide, it's a good size for the front of the border as well as larger containers. Plant it freely! Highly recommended.

I have almost always had Coreopsis growing in my flower gardens and when I did not, I missed them. Most recently a friend grew C. tinctoria ‘Tiger Stripes’ and a few years ago I grew C. Big Bang ‘Red Shift’ and we enjoyed them all.

Also new this year is C. Big Bang ‘Lightning Bug’. Nothing lights up your garden in the summer like 'Lightning Bug'! Featuring rich red flowers with bold gold tips, this favorite of bees and butterflies with have your garden buzzing!

Beginning in June, 'Lightning Bug' dazzles with its showy flowers, a terrific blend of red eyes with the golden tips, which actually extend about halfway down each petal. Similar to 'Firefly' in form, size and mounded, compact habit, though different in colors, it is shorter and denser with smaller flowers than Probst varieties.

Great in mixed beds, borders and in containers, or as an accent or mass planting, 'Lightning Bug' flowers grow to about 30 cm (1 ft.) off the ground, covering the lush green foliage. It blooms quickly until September, providing dynamic flowers throughout the season's hottest months. An easy-to-care-for hybrid, 'Lightning Bug' grows well in average, well-drained soil in full sun.

Two final new plants for this week. The first is the hardiest Caryopteris (or Bluebeard) yet!

Sunshine Blue II is a new, improved variety of the classic Sunshine Blue, but it's much more tolerant of cold climates. If you've had trouble with bluebeard surviving winter in your area in the past, now's your chance to enjoy the vivid gold foliage and blue blooms of this late blooming favorite. An excellent plant for attracting pollinators! Available at better garden centers in 2017.

The second is actually a fruit. Join the Haskap (Blue Honeysuckle or Lonicera caerulea) revolution! This delicious and highly nutritious blue berry, the fruit of a Honeysuckle species, boasts more antioxidants, potassium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C than oranges, blueberries, pomegranates, and other comparable fruits. And with varieties like Honey Bunch™, you'll find Haskap berries so easy to grow!

We tend to think of honeysuckles as summer-flowering vines in this country, but Honey Bunch™ is a Japanese species that sets masses of oblong, deep blue berries as well. Oh, the trumpet-shaped yellow flowers are present too, but they appear in early spring, and are replaced in no time by berries that ripen in summertime. And when we say, "berries," we mean HUNDREDS upon hundreds of delectable sweet-tart treats!

Honey Bunch™ is part of the Yezberry® series of dwarf mounding shrubs. Just 90-150 cm (3 to 5 ft.) tall and wide, it is compact enough for the middle of the border, as a deciduous hedge, or even part of the foundation planting. Be sure to plant it near at least one other fruiting Honey-suckle for best pollination. It fruits later than the Russian varieties, making it a good succession planting as well as a better choice for northern climates.

Deer tend to leave this Honeysuckle alone, but bees and butterflies are drawn to it. Give it well-drained soil, good food and water the first season or two, and watch it take off!


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