Sweet Potatoes, Shade Cloth & John McIntyre

Growing sweet potatoes; obtaining shade cloth; when did Jack McIntyre pass away; and two more new non-hardy plants.
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

February 14, 2010


Above: the ‘Canadian Centennial’ rose was a controversial topic for many in the nursery business in the mid 60s; and its advocate, Jack McIntyre (left) is shown with then Centennial Commissioner John Fisher (right) admiring an original oil painting of the rose by E. Heidersdorf. The painting was presented to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II in July 1967. Below, shots of Brugmansia-relative Iochroma australis and I. coccinea.

Early in the New Year (January 3), Julie Olson wrote with the following question: “My name is Julie Olson and I was looking around the internet to try and find some sweet potato slips to buy. I have never grown them but thought I would like to try. It was quite surprising to find that you are so close to where I live, Gabriola Island. I do hope you are still growing them yourself and can supply me with some plants when the time is right. I look forward to hearing from you. Spring is coming.”

Although I may do so some year soon, to date I have never grown sweet potatoes. However, I do keep in touch with the man who is likely the leading breeder and grower of a number of varying cultivars here in Canada. He is Ken Allan of New Brunswick and he even has a small booklet with all the instructions you’ll need.

Here are excerpts from two different introductory pages of the book: “The eccentric sweet potato demands that it be treated differently than any other garden vegetable. But if you are willing to be accommodating, sweet potatoes are not difficult to grow. After harvest, if you do right by them, they maintain superb quality in storage for eight months to a year. And despite their tropical origin, sweet potatoes can be grown just about anywhere that one can ripen tomatoes. Some vegetables taste the same whether you buy them, or grow your own. There are many vegetables, however, that are clearly superior when grown in the home garden. The reasons for this tend to be specific to the vegetable: tomato varieties which are best for flavour are not grown commercially; cantaloupes have to be vine ripened for melting fruity flavour; harvest timing is critical for peas; minimum time from the garden to the table is very important for corn and new potatoes; and sweet potatoes are mistreated by the retail system.”

The best way to order plant material and a book is to contact him now by e-mail: . Good Luck Julie!

Then at the end of last month, Ron Hill-St.Hilaire wrote to Donna Dawson with this relatively easy question: “Can you please, if possible help me in my search for a shade screen material? I am looking for a supplier or garden centre who sells shade screen cloth/material that I can use for hot sunny days over our greenhouse. Do you know of any suppliers in BC? I live near Abbotsford.”

When Donna responded she suggested the Minter Country Gardens (that’s the commercial garden centre in Chilliwack, not the superb show garden in Rosedale, a little further east). And, that is a good suggestion. In fact, you should find various types (giving various degrees of shade) in the larger garden centres such as the Garden Works and Art Knapp chains. My other suggestion would be the garden supply companies such as Lee Valley ( ) who have a retail store on S.E. Marine Drive in Vancouver, or Rittenhouse in St. Catharines ( .

Finally this week for questions, Louise Diduch of Millet Alberta, posed this: “I was just reading your article and wonder if Mr. McIntyre is still with us, he must be really getting up there. I remember him from when I was a child and he would dress up as Santa every Christmas and go around to the neighborhood children and he always had some coins for us on our birthday’s etc. We moved away from Quebec in 1967 but our family always thinks of him fondly. I tried the email you have in your article (March 11, 2001) but it came back so I am assuming that is not good news.”

Well Louise, I had the same problem, suddenly about five years ago all e-mail I sent to him started coming back. Back in early March 2001, I had a call from Jack McIntyre and that was what made me decide to write an entire column about him. You can still find that column today on this site at: .

If you haven’t read that column previously, I would urge you to check it out now since I also explain the origin of the then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s habit of wearing a red rose as a boutonnière, and the fact that Jack McIntyre was apparently responsible for the habit.

Over the last several weeks (January 17 and 31) I have reported on several newer plants being offered by the Dominion Seed House, and again this week they have a release out naming and showing a couple of newer items. Two of them are Iochroma australis and Iochroma coccinea. Both of these are closely related to Brugmansia so they are likewise poisonous so not recommended if there are children in the house!

Iochroma australis is a rare Brugmansia relative with miniature blue Angel's Trumpet flowers. This bush becomes smothered with 6 cm. (2¼”) blooms from spring through summer, creating a huge ball of blue. In full bloom, it is truly spectacular. Iochroma australis grows well indoors in a pot in winter, will stay evergreen and can flower any time of year! The plant prefers moderate temperatures, partial sunny conditions and some afternoon shade. Pruning isn't necessary, although you can prune it if it gets leggy.

The other one is similar, Iochroma coccinea, but has tubular orange/red flowers and it to may be grown indoors and out during the warm seasons.

Both are sold in 3½” pots and are $12 each or three for $32.40. There is presently a ten percent discount being offered, but this is for a limited time only. You will find them listed on the Dominion Seed House Website ( ).

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row