It's always exciting to visit nurseries where great plants are grown so it was a special treat to be invited to the 50th Celebration of Van Belle Nursery, the home of Bloomin' Easy plants in Abbotsford, British Columbia recently. I first visited as a consultant in 2014 when I taught a container design workshop to their team and it was exciting both to see many of those folks again and also look at all the changes including a new display garden. As you can imagine I made a beeline for that as soon as I could to see what was new, was in trial, and how some of my old favorites had held up, especially those which are deer-resistant.
Ready for my scoop? Here's what caught my eye.
I've been a fan of the Diervilla genus (bush honeysuckle) for some time thanks to their fun foliage colors and tubular yellow flowers which attract hummingbirds and bees. They are deer-resistant and thrive in ordinary soil. Sadly, some varieties can become borderline thuggish, especially in damp soil, readily spreading by suckers to create a dense thicket. So far Firefly seems to be much better behaved and remains as a compact mound approximately 3' tall and wide. Maybe that is because it is a variety of D.sessilifolia rather than one of the other species or a hybrid? Time will tell.
Spring foliage color is a bright yellow with warm tips but even in mid-September my cell phone snap shows how the new growth continues to shine and these even have a second flush of blooms. Definitely one for your wish list – and I for one am ready to replace the native species I have with this equally pollinator-friendly but less aggressive option.
Electric Love weigela
If you're a regular reader of my blog then you know I'm a fan of weigela for their easy-care, reliable deer-resistance, and availability in a wide range of foliage colors and sizes. Compact varieties with dark foliage are especially useful in design and Electric Love reliably holds that chocolate color into September as you see here, unlike some older varieties which tend to green out by mid-summer. What makes Electric Love that little bit different is that the flowers open a distinct crimson-red before maturing to a deep, rich pink. That has worked well for those clients who insist on "no pastel pink"! Hummingbirds enjoy the flowers as much as my clients do.
Pineapple Poprocks spirea
I've grown Poprocks petite spirea for several years and am a huge fan of its dainty size, the well proportioned pink flower clusters and the clean green foliage. Pineapple Poprocks is its teenage sister with vivid chartreuse leaves and slightly taller at 2-3 feet. It's going to be perfect if you like a neat and tidy appearance – without any work. Photographed in September there are just a few repeat blooms as you'd expect since spring is the main bloom time (I find Poprocks petite reliably reblooms for most of the summer) but that foliage color will wake up your garden even without flowers.
I struggle to grow bluebeard due to my winter-wet soils – but this display made me want to try again. I've been a fan of Lil Miss Sunshine for years, a variety that has screaming yellow foliage, but not every garden calls for such a bold color. Beekeeper foliage is a perfect grey-green that doesn't scorch or bleach in full sun, is smothered with blue flowers from summer through fall and holds a fabulous shape as you see here. It is hardy down to zone 5 so if I can just find a spot with ideal soil….
Thunderbolt box honeysuckle
I received a sample of this evergreen foliage shrub at least eight years ago so it has had plenty of time to settle into my garden and show it's true self for better or worse. I planted it where it receives bright shade for a few hours during the late morning but full shade after that. My Thunderbolt receives no supplemental water, is planted near towering conifers and is directly in the path of the deer. In other words I really tested it! It's a keeper and then some. Unlike Lemon Beauty which can defoliate in a hard winter, or Baggesen's Gold which quickly becomes straggly and needs pruning, Thunderbolt has never been trimmed and has not spread by layering beyond 4-5 feet in width (My Lemon Beauty, in contrast layers with abandon and now covers a significant area).
Here's another reason why I like it. Even in significant shade the new growth in September is a luscious light green. In spring – or in more sun the entire shrub is bright green – almost chartreuse as you can see by the following photo and also the lead image (which was kindly provided by Bloomin' Easy).
Be sure to check out the other photos on the website for inspiration on how you might use this understated shrub.
Now here's some real insider scoop for you. You've come to know and trust the Bloomin' Easy name for easy-care shrubs – well look for their new line of perennials coming soon! I got to chat to some of the plant breeders and I'm giddy with excitement about one, super cold hardy, deer-resistant perennial in a color that hasn't been available before…… stay tuned!
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