Reading back twenty plus years
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

March 18, 2018

Above, two shots of Bidens ferulifolia; one a close-up of the flowers, and one of a typical larger plant. Below, two shots of Australian Fan Flower (Scaevola), one the newer white and the other the original blue; and cardoon (Cynara cardunculus). Author photos.




Over the years that I’ve been writing these weekly articles (blogs), I seldom look back to see the ‘older ones’, but I did just that this week. The oldest one that is still on-line harks back to January 1998, over 20 years ago! I thought it would be fun this week to reprint the same item, but slightly updated, so herewith.

A New Year usually brings with it some sort of look back, as well as thoughts of what may be ahead. For indoor and outdoor gardeners, 1997 was I suppose somewhat of an average year-with likely as many successes as failures for most who practice the world's most popular of pas-times!

My choice of the most significant trend in gardening would have to be not the great growth of interest in water gardening, container gardening, or perennials generally, about which we often read and hear. Rather, it is the huge explosion of new varieties and cultivars of plants, as well as of new hardware and equipment. This no doubt comes about due to the great growth of the hobby itself. The rush by growers and suppliers to get new items onto the market often means a sacrifice in the basic testing and research that is needed.

Here's an example. Beginning early this year, I wrote and broadcasted extensively about a "new" (to us) annual called Bidens. It is a vigorous grower that hangs beautifully from baskets and raised containers. It has yellow flowers slightly smaller that Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' and is in bloom from early spring until a heavy frost. In fact, I saw it growing and blooming well last year in mid November in the Channel Islands in the English Channel.

When I first mentioned it to Brian Minter at (then) Minter Gardens in British Columbia (one of Canada's top experts on annuals), he warned if growers were not careful choosing the source of their seed they could well wind up with plants that have extremely long internodes; i.e. get extremely leggy. And folks, that seemed to be exactly what happened with most of the Bidens sold in southern Ontario--at least those that I planted and observed elsewhere.

Hopefully in 1998, growers will have an improved strain of this great annual for us. And incidentally, I originally saw Bidens growing inter-planted with red and pink balcon (cascade) geraniums. It looked great--but that was because they were not too leggy.

This example serves to illustrate that we should not assume that everything new that's introduced is going to be great--even if we've seen it growing and doing well elsewhere.

Something that did do well for most people in Canada in the last couple of years is Bacopa 'Snowflake'. This is a low-growing annual with tiny white or (light mauve) flowers all season. It too does well in hanging containers. In talking with Larry Hodgson last week (he gardens and writes/broadcasts from Québec City), he told me it had not done too well there. He ascribed that to the high degree of moisture that they had. Well, there may be a solution. Brian Minter tells me there is a new cultivar of this favourite coming from Australia. It is called 'Snowstorm' and said to be more tolerant.

Something else that I noted doing extremely well at The Niagara Parks Commission Botanical Garden and School of Horticulture (my alma mater) this summer was cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)--a gray-green thistle-like herb. This is a large-foliage plant with bluish-green, heavily textured leaves. It makes an excellent tall accent point (grows to 1.8 m or 6') in full sun, if you have a lot of space to be filled.

For this year, keep an eye out for new (improved?) varieties of Scaevola (Australian fan flower)--that wonderfully successful blue annual that has only been with us about five years. Due to its versatility, it is seen everywhere: beds, borders, baskets, boxes, and in sun and part shade. [And now, 20 years later, it also comes with pink or white flowers in addition to the original blue.]

You should also be on the lookout for a new yellow impatiens, a sun-tolerant coleus (not available from seed), a hardier form of English daisies (Bellis perennis), and a new, short and compact Linaria. You might also be interested in a new ornamental sweet potato--'Blackie'.

There will be ever so many more new items, and I'll likely write about many of them here over the next weeks.

Good growing in 1998!

And in 2018!


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