Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mining for gold...foliage!

One of the things we like to remind clients about when they visit is to look at plants with colourful foliage. Of course, green is a colour, and we love green, but we are also fond of other foliage tints in shrubs, trees, and perennials. This time, we're looking at the beauty of gold foliage.
Of course, for the vegetable or indoor plant grower, yellow foliage has always signified something amiss with a plant. But ornamental plant breeders have been working on variegated and all-gold foliage for many years, and so those of us who see gold don't think sickly--we think rich in colour and contrast. Gold or chartreuse foliage really lights up a shady site, and works especially brilliantly when contrasted with a dark foliage, lie with the rows of barberries in the top photo.
We especially are impressed by the huge variety of gold chamaecyparis, or falsecypress, that breeders come out with. Perhaps one of the most common is the golden threadleaf (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera Aurea'. But one of our favourites, though it requires a little winter protection, is  C. Tetragona Aurea, the golden fernleaf cypress. It's hard to do this shrub justice in a photo, but it's a dandy.
We also really like the sculpted look of C. 'Crippsii' (Cripps Golden Hinoki cypress).  Another lacy cypress with an open look, this plant will eventually reach 25 feet if it's happy. Give it a little protection from harsh winter winds, and it should light up your winterscape as well as delight you all summer.
'Cream Ball' false cypress is one of the dwarf varieties, and needs a good place to showcase its dainty beauty. It can take a decade to reach a foot in height and width, and thrives in full sun and well drained but compost-rich soil. We know of some alpine fanciers who put their dwarf conifers in amongst their alpines to great effect.
The spireas are sometimes looked down as being common plants, but we are very fond of those with colourful foliage. This is 'Gold Mound', a popular choice for mass plantings such as hedges.
And this is 'Gold Flame'. With these brilliant leaf colours, one doesn't even really need a plant to flower!
The golden privet is an interesting shrub, partially evergreen: we find that ours hold their leaves pretty much all winter, developing a purplish tint to the leaf edges. White flowers will sometimes develop into blue-black berries. There is also a gold-and-green leafed variety, but we haven't grown it here.
Taxus, the yew, is a curious plant, which some love and others hate. It should be noted that while the fleshy part of a yew berry is edible, the seeds, branches and needles are not, and are especially toxic to horses and their relatives. We like the variegated and golden yews, perfect for a shady site such as a foundation planting where the house will throw shadows much of the time.
One of the best year-round shrubs for all season interest is the ninebark, Physocarpus. The shrub has arching branches that are covered in clusters of white blossoms in mid-late June. Pollinators love ninebarks, while birds will eat the berries--which aren't palatable for humans. In winter, the bark peels in strips of cinnamon coloured texture. What's not to love about a four-season plant that is also highly adaptable to most growing conditions?
Although thujas, also called cedars, can be a challege because the deer think they're delectable, we do carry a few cultivars. Our favourite would have to be 'Sunkist' (here showing its autumn colour) because songbirds find this plant a great choice for nesting or seeking food (the seed-filled cones). Summer colour is more yellow than this, and very attractive indeed.
Of course, not only shrubs and trees can boast golden foliage. One of our favourite grasses, Japanese Forest Grass, sporting its 'All Gold' form.
We kept a small specimen of the Gold Rush dawn redwood (Metasequioia) to plant in our display garden. This is one of the more choice trees or shrubs we carry; not only is the golden foliage delightful, the needles will turn colour and drop off in autumn, just like the Tamarack or larch (Larix species).

That's all for this time, but we hope we've tempted your appetite to go searching for gold for your garden. The friendly staff at Baldwin's can show you many other options for brightening your garden with golden foliage.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Plantings for Pollinators

We've been very busy during the month of June, for which we thank all our loyal customers, new and returning. Add that to the fact that Robert is having a new house built, and there hasn't been a whole lot of time for blog writing, although he's keeping up his Facebook pages pretty well.

One of the things we like to specialize in here at Baldwin's is plants that attract pollinators, especially bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.
Buddleia, or butterfly bush, isn't hardy for everyone in Nova Scotia, but many people can get it to overwinter. It grows so quickly from a small plant that there are some who simply treat it as an annual, although we're hearing reports of many buddleias overwintering this past winter. Here's a nice 'Black Knight' blossom being adored by hummingbird moths.
One of the most important plants you can have if you want to attract Monarch butterflies is milkweed, Asclepias species. This isn't a Monarch on the flower of rosy milkweed but a Spangled Fritillary, which also quite enjoys the plant as a source of nectar.
Among the things that you need in establishing a butterfly garden is a sheltered spot where the butterflies can land, feed, lay eggs, and then, later on, create their chrysalis where they will turn from caterpillars into butterflies.
This post is a little shorter than we had intended because Blogger decided to be cranky about uploading photos, so we will probably edit and add more information when it regains its senses. But we'd like to put in a plug for Preston Lilacs as fantastic plants for butterflies and other pollinators. The Prestons were bred by Isabella Preston, the first woman to work as a horticulturist at a Canadian agriculture research station. These lilacs are later blooming than the French hybrids, and have smaller individual florets but a long bloom period and fantastic fragrance. Check out these and other great plants for pollinators at Baldwin's nursery, and perhaps get a free rosy milkweed plant to take home with you!