Sunday, May 29, 2011

We're on Facebook! Also, raptures of Rhododendrons

With the arrival of some warmth and sunlight, things are really popping around Baldwin's nurseries. The herb planters (some of which include three or four different types of basil) are loving the heat. We really like the purple basils for their deep colour and rich flavour.

So the big news around here, besides the return of spring and a house-building, is that Baldwin's Nurseries is now on Facebook. We have an open 'fan page' which we hope you'll 'like' and add to your favourites, and Robert also has his personal page up and running, for those who are personal friends. Of course, Robert is busy in the nursery and usually only has time in the evening or early morning to do Facebook stuff, so his handy garden gnome will continue to help with that as well as with this blog.
We are huge fans of handsome and exciting foliage on our shrubs and trees. Even if a plant doesn't or isn't in bloom, if it has lovely foliage it makes its own statement, adding its own colour, texture, form to a  garden or landscape. One of our favourites is the dawn redwood, Metasequoia, and this year we're thrilled to have a number of the 'Gold Rush' (also known as 'Ogon') gold-foliaged form for sale. The dawn redwood is a deciduous conifer, growing a fresh flush of new needles each spring, which change colour and drop in the autumn at the same time as the tamarack. As noted in Jodi DeLong's new book, the dawn redwood is a fast-growing tree that has a tough trunk resistant to damage from lawnmowers and trimmers. In case any of you have ever had such things happen in your yards.
The 'Tricolour' beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Roseo-marginata', also seen as 'Tricolor' and 'Purpurea Tricolor') is a favourite for those wanting something really special in their gardens. New foliage can be deep red and green, softening to pink, white and green as the leaves grow. We have some smaller trees this year if you're wanting to try a less expensive option, and this tree won't grow huge (usual maximum no more than 40 feet high, 30 feet wide, with a rounded pyramid shape).
We are very fond of viburnums, and usually have a number of species and cultivars available, including the lovely 'Popcorn' (V. plicatum 'Popcorn'. Others in our inventory include several fragrant species and cultivars, 'Onondaga' with its red new foliage and flowers, and 'Mariesii' the elegant doublefile viburnum.
The brilliant scarlet, red, or pink flowers of Chaenomeles, or Japanese quince, attract hummingbirds and other pollinators, providing an eyecatching display of colour in May.
Just as it's been quite a season for magnolia blooms, we're finding the rhododendrons to be spectacular this spring. 'Ken Janeck' has rich pink buds that open to a softer shade of pink, and lovely indumented foliage. (look on the underside of the leaves and you'll see a soft, fuzzy 'wool' like coating; this is the indumentum. Not all rhododendrons have this feature, but we think it's a real selling point.)
We have a wide variety of rhododendrons and azaleas, too many to show or list here, but there's a rhododendron or two or six for everyone's garden and budget.
We love the rhododendrons with the showy contrasting markings on their flowers, which we fondly refer to as 'bee landing strips'. Bees and other pollinators adore rhodos and their relatives.

For the garden who wants something stunning and lovely, we recommend the native Labrador Tea, Ledum groenlandicum (sometimes seen as Rhododendron groenlandicum). In 2007, on a plant hunting expedition with our mentor, the late Captain Steele, in Labrador, we collected seed of Labrador tea on a high, windswept cliff overlooking the Strait between Newfoundland and Labrador. These plants are now  a good size and have wonderful starry flowers and a rusty indumentum on the underside of the leaves.

Yellow rhododendrons are a delightful addition to the colour scheme, and we have several, including 'Capistrano', a fairly large plant, and the dainty 'Wren', a smaller variety. We find rhododendrons and azaleas are like potato chips--we can't have just one, and you can't either!