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Five of Dan's Favourites
by Dan Clost
by Dan Clost


First serious garden earned 25 cents from the Kemptville Horticultural Society when I was 12. Have been poor in horticulture ever since but rich in spirit.

Went to work writing the Good Earth column (over 500 articles published in newspaper, magazine, website and journal.) and learned that what was printed wasn't what I wanted to say and certainly not what Gentle Reader understood me to say. Subsequently have developed a certain clarity and economy of words.

Day job- nursery and production manager for a large nursery/garden centre
Side job- Garden restoration and renovations, design consultations, remedial pruning.
Night job- garden writer and communicator (overnight success in another 20 years)

Dan gardens in Canadian Zone 5b

May 16, 2004

Working in a large nursery I am fortunate in the sense that I see a lot of the new plant introductions. That said, working in a large nursery, I never get to work in my own garden. Quite often, people drive by our house scoping out the "expert's" gardens. They leave disappointed. Our home estate is desperately unappealing. My gardening is achieved vicariously on other peoples Edens.

We're in zone 5a/5b but our customers garden in Zones 3b to 7a, which means we carry a broad range of stock as do the other large centres in this area.

We don't coddle the plants. We over-winter many of them either in an unheated hoop house or heeled into a bark bed. What this means is that our nursery stock experiences conditions very similar to the ones you have in your homes.

If we couple together that broad range of stock with real winter conditions, we have first hand experience with the hardiness of many plants. A lot of plants are much hardier than we would think. In Ottawa there is a two hundred year plus London Plane Tree growing quite happily in 2 zones lower than it should. In spite of what the books say, remember that plants don't read them.

One startling example in the nursery is provided by the rhododendrons. We all know they are shade-loving plants and perform very well there. Well, we keep them out in the full sun all season long- with lots of water- and they thrive. We don't recommend you do that at home unless you have lots and lots of water that you are willing to apply daily but it shows how much you can stretch the envelope.

So there's a bit of advice for you. You can extend the boundaries of a plant's limits if you are willing to counterbalance with some microclimate modification or increased management.

The plants that we will be looking at today are readily available at most nurseries and garden centres in the area. Perhaps not all of the specific cultivars but certainly the species Here’s a thumbnail sketch of five of my favourites.

Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet'

  • Zone 5, ,sun/shade, height 1,5m spread 2m- lustrous; deep green spring foliage lightens up umber landscapes.
  • long panicles of delicately fragrant early summer flowers add to its appeal.
  • fall colours of scarlet and crimson are absolutely fabulous.

Cotoneaster dammeri 'Coral Beauty'

  • Zone 6, sun/part shade, height 1m spread 2m
  • Dainty lustrous evergreen leaves precede reddish purple foliage in the fall.
  • a valuable element in the design and is most effective on banks. Let it spill out over retaining walls.

Enkianthus campanula . Red Vein

  • Zone 5, sun/ part sun, height 3m, spread 1,5m, acid soil
  • red coloured stems contrast early bright green leaves
  • fall colours range from a vibrant yellow to a fiery red.
  • dainty flowers bring into play the creamy yellow/light orange part of the palette. -upright habit is the perfect foil for rhododendrons.

Picea omerika, Serbian Spruce

  • Zone 5, sun, height 21m, spread 4.5m,broad range of pH and soils
  • graced with the classical drooping branches of the genus.
  • green outside needles gives way to a blush of blue and white mid rib whenever the wind lifts its "skirts".
  • compact form makes it an ideal tree for today's smaller lots.

Viburnum Lentago, Nannyberry, Sheepberry

  • Zone 2, sun/shade, height 6m, spread 2m
  • one of our native wonders.
  • available as a shrub or an ornamental standard.
  • elliptical form is latticed by a structure of opposite leaves
  • autumn colours of deep red rival the sumac for beauty.
  • lovely spring flowers are followed by berries that change from white to red to purple- black.
  • watch the swoopers (bluecjays, robins, cardinals) glide in for a snack.



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