Fothergilla gardenii

Fothergilla gardenii    Family: Hamamelidaceae
(foth-er-GIL-lah  gar-DEE-knee-eye)
Common name: dwarf fothergilla, coastal fothergilla
Zone: 5 – 8
Height: 3 – 4 ft (0.9 – 1.2 m)   Spread: 2 – 4 ft (0.6 – 1.2 m)
Aspect: full sun; part shade; full shade
Soil: humus-rich; moist; well-drained 
Water: regular     

Description: A compact, upright, deciduous, multi-stemmed shrub which slowly grows into a 4 ft mounded form. Showy, white-green, apetalous (petal-less), aromatic flowers on dense bottlebrush-like spikes appear in April before the leaves form. Thick, oblong to ovate, green leaves have a serrated edge from mid point to leaf apex and are covered in fine hairs. No serious disease or insect problems.

Special Notes: Native to the moist coastal plain bogs and savannahs of southeastern United States from North Carolina to Alabama. Preference is for a sunny location in acidic, moist, humus-rich soil and regular watering but will also tolerate drier, more alkaline soil in a shadier location, possibly at the expense of fewer flowers. Leaves emerge light green and progress through grey-green to dark green to blue-green in colour. Fall leaf colour is a vibrant chorus of green, yellow, orange, red, burgundy, violet and pink. The sunnier the location, the more colourful the autumn colours.

In our Zone 7a garden:
We find this lovely shrub to be relatively easy care and extremely colourful in the autumn. It is next to a path so every few years the expanding suckers must be removed to keep the shrub from overpowering the path. There have been no insect or disease problems in our garden.


Posted on April 6, 2023

Kerria japonica ‘Pleniflora’

Kerria japonica ‘Pleniflora’        Family: Rosaceae
(KERR-ree-ah  ja-PON-ih-ka)

Common name: Japanese kerria; Japanese yellow rose
Zone: 4 – 9
Height: 5 – 8 ft (1.5 – 2.4 m)   Spread: 4 – 6 ft (1.2 – 1.8 m)
Aspect: partial shade; full shade
Soil: average; humus-rich; well-draning
Water: moderate

Description: Deciduous shrub with multiple bright green, upright and arching stems adorned with small, narrow, double-toothed ovate-lanceolate bright green leaves arranged alternately along the branches. Pompoms of double, golden yellow flowers appear in early spring, lasting for 2 to 3 weeks.

Special Notes: 
Native to Japan and China, this plant cultivar was introduced to Great Britain in 1805 by Scottish plant collector, William Kerr. Tolerant of all soil types except clay and those with poor drainage. Valued for its reliability in producing masses of blossoms in shady conditions. It is also tolerant of sunnier locations when provided with adequate moisture but the flowers will fade quickly in direct sun.

Deer and rabbit resistant. No pest and disease problems with the exception of possibility of kerria twig and leaf blight, a fungal disease caused by Blumeriella kerriae. This causes leaf spots and stem lesions which, if severe enough, may result in defoliation. Control spread by severely pruning out diseased stems, raking up leaves and disposing them. Do not wet leaves or stems of infected plants; water using soaker hoses.

In our Zone 7a garden:
We have two clumps of this plant in our garden; one gets a little more sun than the other, resulting a slightly less floral show in spring. We have found this species to be a fairly fast spreader so dividing every 3 or 4 years is advised unless you have allowed the plant adequate room in the bed. Alternately, you can remove some of the suckering growth annually in late winter.

Other than controlling this plant’s growth habit, we have experienced no other problems, disease or pest.


Posted on February 20, 2023


Francoa sonchifolia

Francoa sonchifolia          Family: Francoaceae
(fran-KO-ah  son-chi-FOL-lee-ah)

Common name: bridal wreath; Chilean bridal wreath; wedding flower
Zone: 7 – 9
Height: 20 – 40 in (50 – 100 cm)   Spread: 12 – 18 in (30 – 45 cm)
Aspect: full sun; partial shade
Soil: average; humus-rich; well-draining
Water: regular   

Description: An evergreen perennial with fuzzy, lance-shaped, sinuate*, lobed, dark green basal leaves that form a low rosette. Racemes of 4-petalled, soft-pink, orchid-like flowers each marked with a rose blotch, are borne on erect, 2 – 3 ft (60 – 90 cm) tall, dark green stems. Flowers appear from late June through summer. 


Special Notes: Native to Chile, this plant performs best in a sunny or partially shady bed with humus-rich soil and good drainage. Boggy conditions can cause crown rot which will effectively kill the plant. Flowers are valued for use in floral arrangements and wedding bouquets. Drought tolerant once established. Good deer and rabbit resistance. Pest- and disease-resistant.


In our Zone 7a garden: This plant has spent many years in a tree-root choked bed in heavy shade in my front garden. There is not much nutrient in that bed other than what is supplied through an annual top-dressing. The floral display has been less than prolific, largely due to few sun hours, but I have been very impressed with its resilience, low care needs and its pest and disease resistance over the 15 or more years this plant has been competing with tree roots. Have had no issues with any pests or diseases on this plant.


Posted on February 22, 2023


Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Woodside Gold’

Aquilegia vulgaris 'Woodside Gold' flower

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Woodside Gold’    Family: Ranunculaceae
(a-kwi-LEE-jah  vul-GAR-is)
syn. Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Woodside Golden’; Aquilegia vulgaris Woodside Strain
Common name: columbine; granny’s bonnet; European crowfoot
Zone: 3 – 8 
Height: 2 – 3 ft (60 – 90 cm)   Spread: 1 – 1.5 ft (30 – 45 cm)
Aspect: sun; partial shade
Soil: average; humus-rich
Water: moderate  

Description: An herbaceous, small clump-forming perennial with thin, branching stems adorned with golden scalloped leaves. Somewhat upward-facing, short-spurred, soft pink flowers appear in early April through into late May or early June. Attracts bees and hummingbirds.

Special Notes: 
Native to Europe, Aquilegia vulgaris has been grown in gardens for centuries. Over the years, the plant has escaped its garden boundaries and become naturalized, both in its native region and in North America.

Given optimum growing conditions and regular water, the plant will develop a lovely clump. It readily self-seeds which ensures this purported short-lived perennial will enjoy many years in the garden. Easy care.

Drought tolerant once established. Attracts bees and hummingbirds. Deer and rabbit resistant, however slugs and aphids may be a problem. Leaves are susceptible to leaf miner.

In our Zone 7a garden:
I have a clump of ‘Woodside Gold’ in my island bed where it is mostly in shade and competes with big tree roots. The leaves hold their gold colour quite well, only slightly darkening to a green-gold colour as the season progresses. Being in the shade, the flowers on mine are a lovely soft pink colour.

John has a clump in his back garden where it gets a fair amount of sun throughout the day. The leaves on this clump turn a green-gold colour quicker than those in my garden and the flowers are more of a dusky-rose colour. We both cut the leaves down to the ground as they get ratty-looking later in the season.


Posted on February 13, 2023

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’              Family: Amaryllidaceae
syn. Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’; Allium aflatunense ‘Purple Sensation’
Common name: ornamental onion
Zone: 4 – 10 
Height: 28 – 32 in (70 – 80 cm)   Spread: 4 – 8 in (10 – 20 cm)
Aspect: sun; partial shade
Soil: average; humus-rich; well-draining
Water: moderate

Description: A bulbous perennial with short basal leaves that die down by flowering time. Flower head consists of over 100 small, star-shaped purple-red blooms that form a globular starburst atop a sturdy green stem.

Special Notes: This allium looks great in a grouping of 7 – 9, or more. Recommend planting a low-lying perennial in front of the alliums to hide the less-than-stellar allium leaves. Flowers attract bees in good numbers. Deer and rabbit resistant. Can fall prey to the same diseases that afflict onions and garlic.

Caution: All parts are poisonous to humans in some degree.


Posted on February 12, 2023


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