Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thank you for your patronage in 2010

To all our valued customers, we'd like to offer our sincere thanks for your patronage this year. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone, and we'll look forward to seeing you in 2011.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

For the love of hellebores

(photo of 'Golden Sunrise' )

A few years ago, the hellebore or Christmas/Lenten rose was not common in Nova Scotian gardens. They were something for the collector, because they were expensive and hard to find locally.

Photo of 'Onyx Odyssey' courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.But plant breeders have been busy developing gorgeous new hybrids over the past 5-6 years and the plants are much easier for nurseries to source. We brought a selection of hellebores in this past spring and were very pleased at the response, so we're happy to say we have a great many new varieties coming in for spring 2011.

photo of 'Jade Tiger' courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries.
While we can't reveal all the hellebore varieties that we'll have next spring, we're showing a a number of hybrid photos just to demonstrate the huge range of colours and forms available from breeders in North America and beyond.

Photo of 'Ivory Prince'
Hellebores are relatively easy to grow provided you give them what they want. They're quite shade tolerant, but aren't what you'd call shade lovers like ferns or some hostas. They certainly appreciate winter sunlight, so you may wish to plant them under deciduous shrubs where they'll get protection from hot summer sun, but have plenty of light from fall to spring.

Pristine white hellebore, species unknown.
Hellebores want a well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter. Once established, they can be quite drought-tolerant, but they appreciate a consistent amount of moisture without becoming water-logged. Too much winter wet will kill them more often than not.
Photo of 'Goldfinch'
In Nova Scotia, hellebore buds can begin to emerge in late winter or early spring, and can sometimes be destroyed by snowfalls, sudden cold snaps, or harsh winds. It's a good idea to put a protective mulch of evergreen boughs or other loose type mulch over your hellebore crowns once the ground has frozen hard, usually around Christmas. Beginning in mid-March, check carefully under the mulch to see if there are buds emerging, but don't remove the mulch until weather has stabilized in April. Even then, it's a good idea to leave the mulch nearby in case we're forecast to get a hard frost or a sudden snowstorm. It certainly can happen!

Photo of 'Ivory Prince'
Hellebores are technically evergreen, but the old foliage can get very ratty looking after one of our winters. Trim the old foliage from your plants in the spring as the flower buds and stems begin to emerge from the ground. This will allow the flowers to be displayed more easily as well as reduce the risk of disease such as black spot.

A green hellebore.
Because so many varieties of hellebores have drooping, downward-facing blooms, you may wish to plant them in a raised bed so that their intricate and lovely flowers are displayed. Did you know that the brightly coloured structures we think of as petals are actually modified leaves, called sepals? They hold their colour for many weeks after the inner structures of true flower parts have disappeared following fertilization.

Photo of 'Amber Gem' courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries.
Among the more popular and striking varieties of hellebores now available are the doubles, many of which can be compared to lotus flowers in appearance. The doubles are often more expensive than single-formed flowers, but all are beautiful and irresistible.

'Kingston Cardinal'
Usually hellebores aren't troubled by too many pests or diseases. Aphids can sometimes be a problem, and are thought to be the transmitters of diseases such as black spot and black death. Normally aphids can be controlled with a strong stream of water from a hose (you may have to do this every few days to disrupt populations) or with insecticidal soap. We haven't heard of any reports of disease around here, but will be writing about hellebores again in the spring, so we'll let you know if we find any more information.

'Apricot Winter Jewel Blush.' Photo courtesy Fraser's Thimble Farm.
Two more things to be aware of with hellebores: they are deer and rabbit resistant, which is always nice when you're dealing with the challenges of these animals in your garden.

'White Elegance.' Photo courtesy Fraser's Thimble Farm.
More importantly, all parts of the hellebore are highly toxic to humans, pets, and livestock, so it's best to handle them with gloves when dividing, transplanting or pruning them, and keep them out of spots where pets or children might get at them.

Stay tuned for future posts about growing hellebores, and for hints about the varieties we'll be carrying in the spring.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nothing false about falsecypresses

To continue with the evergreen love, we turn now to one of the most diverse and excellent genera in the ornamental plant world: the Chamaecyparis, also known as falsecypress. Sure, the genus name is a bit tricky to say, but these are excellent garden and landscaping shrubs.

Some become tall, stately, graceful trees, like the weeping Nootka in this photo...

Some have truly fascinating capsule like cones, which take two years to develop.

For those with small spaces, there are the excellent dwarf varieties, like this sculptured golden Hinoki.

And as with other evergreens, there are falsecypresses with a great variety of autumn and winter colour. 'Heatherbun' is a fascinating variety, with bronze to plum winter foliage.

Threadleaf chamaecyparis make a striking display at the front of a border or as specimen shrubs. Make sure to match your plant's mature growth to the proper site, as you don't want it overgrowing its area. There are compact forms that don't grow more than 3 feet tall, and others with a much larger mature height.

For something choice and handsome, look for the golden fernleaf falsecypress, C. obtusa 'Tetragona Aurea'. Its brilliant yellow summer growth deepens to a more bronzed gold in winter.

The odd little charmer Golden Sawara Pincushion grows in a mound about three feet tall and wide. It's a good choice for an alpine garden or dwarf conifer collection.

Some more dwarf chamaecyparis in pots, waiting for their new owners to come and find them. They resemble the graceful sculpture of potted bonsai.

As we start to put things away for the winter months, there is more and more fall colour showing up in the conifers and broadleaf evergreens at Baldwin's Nurseries. We're working most days, weather permitting, so do stop in and have a look around, and let our fall colour display inspire your garden plans for next spring. Thanks as always for visiting!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall & Winter Colour: Evergreens, Part 1

It's very gratifying to see more and more people getting excited over evergreens, both broadleaf and coniferous. Here at Baldwin Nurseries, we've long been fans of all sizes, shapes, species and colours of evergreens as the ideal plants for mixed borders, formal name it, there's an evergreen or 9 for the site.

There's more to evergreens than ever-green, too. Plant breeders have been very busy developing new varieties and cultivars, and many of the colourful evergreens have amazing fall/winter colours, making them ideal 4-season plants.

A photo taken in late winter or early spring from plantings at the front of the nursery property, when the snow had gone but nothing had begun to leaf out or green up yet. As you can see, there is a variety of colour from evergreens, subshrubs like heaths and heathers, shrubs like chamaecyparis, and taller trees including spruce, pine, and thuja.

From weeping standards to upright forms, from tiny dwarfs to towering trees, there's an evergreen for every site. This is a young columnar Scots Pine, which will have a very pillar-like, upright shape as it grows.

One of the most beloved of decorative evergreens is the Colorado blue spruce. This is new growth and older growth on 'Hoopsii', blue spruce, which to us displays the bluest of colour, but we carry other fine cultivars as well.

Juxtapose that blue spruce foliage with the glowing gold-bronze winter colour of 'Sunkist' thuja, and you have a brilliant display even on the bleakest of winter days. In addition, 'Sunkist' provides food and habitat for a variety of songbirds.

The swallows that visit here from spring to late summer like to promote the evergreens too, even if they are a bit camera-shy sometimes.

Junipers are a popular evergreen for sites that are 'high and dry', with lots of sun and moist soil with good drainage. There are many, many different species and cultivars, and it can get a bit dizzying trying to make a choice. Tall or creeping, standard or dwarf--please don't hesitate to ask us for suggestions and help when choosing a juniper.

Juniper 'Dream Joy' is a wide-spreader with creamy yellow new growth, contrasting nicely with the more mature blue-green needles.

J. ''Gold Star', also known as Bakaurea, is resistant to root rot and has a nice spreading but compact growth habit.
We like J. horizontalis 'Wiltonii', more commonly known as the blue rug juniper, better than 'Blue Star', which is prone to limb breakage from snowfall buildup. This form is also available as a standard.

One of the most underutilized evergreens we know of is the Microbiota. There's only one species in this genus, (Microbiota decussata) and it was unknown outside of the former Soviet Union until about forty years ago. We call it by the common name of microbiota, but you may call it Siberian cypress. What we like about it is its gorgeous plum-copper winter colour, and its tough-as-nails constitition. It's an excellent groundcover or edging species.

For something equally unique and unusual, we carry Thujopsis, a native of Japan with again, only one species in the genus. Think of this as a thuja (what many call cedar) on steroids: it has the similar scaly foliage, only larger, a glossy, brilliant green colour, copper-red tips in winter, and splendidly unusual, petite cones.

Don't just take our word on the variety of colourful evergreens--our friend Jill at Bunchberry Nurseries also carries a wide variety of evergreens, and has many planted out in her display gardens. You can also see excellent evergreens at the NSAC Rock Garden in Truro.

Next time, we'll talk about one of the most varied and wonderful of evergreens, the Chamaecyparis, or falsecypress family.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The beauty of Fallscaping: Berries and Foliage

While some people look at autumn with fear and loathing--because of our Atlantic winters on the horizon--we love the riot of colour found at this time of year. We at Baldwin Nurseries are wholehearted fans of the colours of autumn, when foliage erupts into blazing shades, when berries and seeds glow against leaf and twig. Let's show you some of the magical colours found in ornamental plants, both native and introduced. We'll start off with the flush of burgundy in this 'Popcorn' viburnum.

Not everyone can grow smoke bushes (Cotinus) successfully in Nova Scotia. In some areas, the temperature just gets too cold, and the winds are too brutal, to have these shrubs come through year after year. But many people CAN and do enjoy having a smoke bush in their plantings. Autumn really shows off the best of this shrub's attributes.
Our native oaks provide a gorgeous burst of colour, usually later in the season. They often will hold onto their leaves for a long time, right into winter, a process known as marcescence. Usually, younger trees and shrubs are more apt to do this than more mature specimens. Oaks, beeches, and hornbeams quite often exhibit marcescent behaviour.

The common shrub northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) has handsome leaves that turn marvelous shades of wine and burgundy...

...while the female plants display their waxy blue-grey berries, which are used to make bayberry candles by people, and enjoyed by various songbirds as a source of winter food.

Our native maples such as the sugar and red maple put on a spectacular show in autumn, turning our hillsides and streetsides glowing with carmine, fuchsia, scarlet, gold, bronze and crimson shades.

The native shrub Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) is an underutilized shrub in home landscapes. This is a great pity, because it's an easy care, hardworking shrub, with fernlike foliage that has a pleasing scent, and excellent fall colour.

Some of the hydrangeas, including the lacecap 'Blue Billows' and 'Preziosa', have excellent fall colour to their leaves and stems.

A nice selection of evergreens and hardwood shrubs and trees, glowing with a rainbow of shades. Not a flower in sight, but this is an attractive planting, isn't it?

One of the best native small trees or large shrubs, the amelanchier (various common names include shadbush, serviceberry, saskatoon, chuckly pear...) is an excellent choice for any garden. Early to bloom and leaf out, excellent fruits, and then this iridescent foliage colour in autumn. What's not to love?

Another tree that holds its foliage even after the colour has faded is the beech. Both the native and introduced species exhibit marcescense.

The native highbush cranberry is not a cranberry but a viburnum (Viburnum trilobum), a small tree or good-sized shrub with brilliant crimson berries. Songbirds eat these berries by late autumn. The foliage turns a handsome burgundy.

We carry a number of different cultivars of barberry at Baldwins, many of which have gorgeous fall colour. This is a common green form, which looks like foliar fireworks, and which is covered in bright crimson berries that show up beautifully after the leaves have fallen.

One of our hardy dogwoods, (Cornus sericea) with snowwhite berries against burgundy foliage.

All sumacs display excellent fall colour, although the most popular are the cutleaf sumac (shown here) and the new cultivar 'Tiger Eyes', which is even more brilliant. The berries of female sumacs are a good source of nutrients for songbirds.

Next time, we'll talk more about fall colour, with more of a focus on evergreens.