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This week it is four new woody plants including a dwarf Hydrangea
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

December 10, 2017

Above, The Courageous ornamental crabapple has a strange botanical name but is just the plant for those who object to raking or sweeping up all the tiny apples that these plants normally produce; and the new Virtual Violet Lilac. Below, A not well known plant Diervilla splendens ‘El Madrigal’ or Firefly Nightglow; and the newest and smallest Hydrangea in the World!
All photos by the introducers or suppliers.




My list of new shrubs and trees (woody plants) is short compared to the herbaceous perennials discussed over the past several weeks. I’ll start with an ornamental crabapple tree—Malus ‘DurLawrence’ Courageous. The tree has a round upright growth habit. It responds well to spring fertilizer prior to new spring growth. Little pruning is necessary.

This new, cold-hardy introduction from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, has a lot going for it. Pink flowers in spring produce almost no fruit or seed. The upright, uniform candelabra shape needs no pruning and fits into any garden.

This pretty blooming crabapple is covered with masses of lovely soft pink blossoms in early spring, and bronzy red leaves through the summer, that turn orange into the fall. Unlike many crabapples, this disease resistant variety is considered 'seedless' or fruitless as it rarely produces ornamental fruit. It is an excellent small landscape tree with broad, upright habit that grows to roughly 6 metres (20 feet) tall by 3 metres (10 feet) wide in sun and in most soil conditions.

The Courageous crabapple is hardy likely to Canadian zone 2 (certainly to zone 3 because it does fine in cities such as Calgary). It is also considered highly resistant to Fire-blight disease which is a very important consideration particularly on the Prairies.

The growers say it will obtain a maximum height of three to six metres (10 to 29 ft.) , with spread of 1.5 to 3 metres (5 – 10 ft.).

My next plant is a shrub—a lilac called Virtual Violet. With shiny violet new leaves, deep purple stems, raspberry-purple buds and fragrant violet flowers, Virtual Violet™ is aptly named. Leaf petioles remain violet well into the summer. The habit is upright instead of rounded and compact. The dense habit makes it a great choice for a hedge in smaller spaces as well as a welcome addition to foundation plantings. It is remarkably mildew free. This is a controlled cross between the old cultivar Charles Joly and two outstanding National Arboretum varieties. Bred by Don Selinger, formerly of Bailey Nurseries.

Virtual Violet is a dense, upright; 1.8 – 2.4 m) 6 to 8 feet tall by 1.5 – 2.1 m (5 to 7 feet) wide. It has a unique resistance to diseases and insects, particularly powdery mildew which often bothers other lilac cultivars badly.

There is more than one botanical genus which has the common name Honeysuckle. For example, the botanical name of the Bush Honeysuckle is Diervilla splendens. The new plant this week is D. s. 'El Madrigal' or Firefly Nightglow Bush Honeysuckle.

This year Diervilla splendens ‘El Madrigal’ debuts both in Europe and in North America. In Europe it was submitted to the new plant competition of the Dutch trade fair for hardy nursery stock Plantarium 2017 (August 23-26).

In the US Van Belle Nursery entered ‘El Madrigal’ into the New Varieties Showcase of the Farwest Show 2017 (August 23-25) in Portland, Oregon. Diervilla splendens ‘El Madrigal’ is selected by Thiemo Haltermann, owner of Spilkers Baumschulen, Barmstedt (Germany). In Europe, the trade name Diva will be used. In the US and presumably in Canada ‘El Madrigal’ will be brought onto the market as Firefly Nightglow Diervilla by Blooming Easy.

Van Belle Nursery emphasises that the bright yellow flower clusters in spring and summer contrast with dark red foliage that holds colour from the first flush to frost. “The foliage begins dark red and stays that way through summer, becoming a more intense red during the fall. This Diervilla is suitable for mixed beds, borders and container gardening. It requires full sun and average soil. It has an upright and mounding habit, and is more compact than other cultivars, reaching only 60 – 90 cm (24–36 inches) tall and wide.”

Foliage begins dark red in spring, lasts all season, and intensifies in autumn. Bright clusters of yellow blooms provide a striking contrast against the unique foliage color. Plant, water, relax! May prune to 15 cm (six inches) in early spring.

My final new plant for this week is an Annabelle Hydrangea—H. arborescens ‘NCHAS’ Invincibelle Wee White. Invincibelle Wee White® hydrangea is positively ground-breaking: it's the first dwarf 'Annabelle' type hydrangea in the world! This cute little landscape plant ensures that any landscape can enjoy the reliability, low-maintenance, and season-long beauty of hydrangeas. It reaches just 1-2.5 (.3-.7 m) tall and naturally grows as a tidy, rounded mound. Each pure-white flower is held up on a strong, supportive stem for a display that looks more like a bouquet of flowers than a landscape plant. Blooming begins in early summer and continues through frost, with new flowers appearing the whole time. Versatile and floriferous, it just might be the solution to your landscape problems. Winner of the 2018 Direct Gardening Association Green Thumb award; available in better garden centers in spring 2018.

Next week I’ll have a further four new woody plants including a close relative of the foregoing Wee White mentioned above, but it will be in a mauve/purple flower colour. Plus, a new Exochorda or Pearl Bush.


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