Garden centre preview of new plants

pixie grape
The new Pixie grape is a Pinot Meunier variety. Meunier translates to “miller.” This grape got the name because of the dusty white colouring on its top leaves, resembling flour. My plant is now in a big pot in a sunny spot on the patio.

Last week I attended President’s Choice Lawn and Garden Sneak-Peek at the Toronto Botanical Garden. New plant introductions and old favourites were featured  to give garden writers and others a look at what President’s Choice will be offering in their garden centres this year. Here are some highlights from the event (true to form, mostly edibles caught my eye).

• My imagination was captured by a miniature grape plant developed by Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Vineland, Ont. These edible grapes are pretty, hardy and grow up to four feet (1.2 m). I’ve got the perfect sunny spot on my patio for it, and I’m already anticipating the first homegrown grape I get to eat.

• Grafted tomatoes were big news and showcased at the veggie tasting at Stokes’ trial gardens last summer, and they’ll be for sale at President’s Choice garden centres this year. Different tomato varieties, including the popular heirloom ‘Brandywine’, are grafted onto the rootstock of a more vigorous and disease-resistant tomato variety, thus giving home gardeners a plant that produces delicious fruit and lots of it. The important difference with the grafted tomatoes is that you don’t bury or hill up the stem like you normally do when planting a tomato. You only want the bottom plant, below the graft, to root.

shrimp plant braid
The shrimp braid is an eye-catcher.

• As you may know from reading Steven Biggs’ article on growing figs in Garden Making’s Winter 2012/13 issue, fig plants can thrive in many parts of Canada. President’s Choice is making them widely accessible by selling a variety that’s hardy to Zone 4. It grows eight to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 m) tall and fruits in its first year.

• This year, haskaps will be sold two to a pot to ensure cross-pollination. The two compatible varieties are ‘Borealis’ and ‘Honeybee’. This eliminates the need to get two separate plants, which are required for fruiting.

• You may have seen shrimp plants down south (they’re native to Mexico and often found in Florida) or in public greenhouses. They’re neat plants, with white flowers emerging from shrimp-shaped bracts of different colours. In this case, the plant has been formed into a topiary of sorts — a “shrimp braid” — and will be available for your own potted garden. Shrimp plants are tender here, but could be overwintered indoors.

• Two great options for containers this year are Voodoo Star Red verbena, with red-and-white candy striping, and Star Dust Super Flash euphorbia, a fluffy white flower that will look great mixed in with other plants.

star dust euphorbia and voodoo star red verbena
Star Dust Super Flash euphorbia and Voodoo Star Red verbena are bright, cheerful options for containers this year.


  1. Kimanda Fernandes says

    I am just saw a Shrimp Braid tree and would like it for my garden. Can I keep it outside during Toronto winters if I plant it in a burlap sack and cover it with burlap? I am really loving it but don’t want the hassle of digging it up and bringing it inside for winter. Thank you for any advice you can offer.


  2. Kat Fox says

    Hello K

    Unfortunately, the shrimp plant just isn’t hardy enough to survive our winters, even with burlap. It’s hardy to Zone 9, so it really is a tropical plant. When temperatures get near freezing, you’ll have to bring it indoors to a sunny window. Because it’s a tropical plant, it won’t go dormant. Plus side, though, is you’ll get to enjoy it inside all winter! It would be best to plant it in a container, and then it will be easy (easier!) to move inside in the fall, and out in the spring. Hopefully this doesn’t deter you from getting the shrimp braid, because it really is a cool plant.


  3. Sam says

    Last year I bought 2 Pixie grapes for outdoor plants. After winter they just started to grow from the root, now only an inch tall. I don’t know if they will come back or not! It is growing very slow and the leaves just started. Now it’s the end of May already. GOOD LUCK!

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