The new plants for 2014 in the President’s Choice Lawn and Garden collection pop with vivid colours. The PC plant unveiling is annual event, displaying selections made by Peter Cantley, vice-president of floral and garden at Loblaw Companies Ltd., and his staff. Guests are also invited to take plants home to try in their own gardens, so it gets a little frenzied at the end of the preview, although everyone tries to refrain from being too acquisitive. (But what can you expect from a group of winter-weary garden writers in a room full of beautiful plants?)
At the preview, the Canadian growers for the company’s garden centres describe their plants’ strengths and attributes, as well as answer our questions. Here are a few of the plants that attracted attention at this year’s preview, as well as those Peter and the growers are especially excited about.
Expect to find lots of richly coloured dahlias, geraniums, calibrachoas and begonias. The Calliope series of geraniums, with huge heads of eye-popping colour on husky, spreading plants, took centre stage. The petals on the new Calliope Crimson Flame are a vivid crimson with slightly lighter-coloured hot-pink edges; it’s dramatic with golden bidens or purple trailing verbena in hanging baskets.
There’s been a concerted effort to give gardeners who rely on impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) alternative choices for shady beds, as downy mildew continues to devastate these popular annuals. Pan American Seeds, breeders of seed-grown impatiens for the past 25 years, is introducing a new series of New Guinea impatiens, called the Divine series. It’s bulkier than I. walleriana, meaning two plants per square foot (30 cm) will fill in nicely; several colours available. New Guinea impatiens isn’t troubled by downy mildew.
Everyone exclaimed over the collection of fancy-leaf Rex begonias on display — especially Shadow King Cool White. Like impatiens, Rex begonias thrive in shade.
Interestingly, after the past few years of seeing myriad new coleuses, only one was highlighted — Stained Glassworks Eruption. I’ll make no comment about the name, but will say it’s a striking variety with rich red, gold and green variegation; the label says plants will reach 36 inches (90 cm) and grow in either sun or shade.
Another crowd favourite, also suitable for either sun or shade, was the Solenia series of begonias, a cross between a fibrous and tuberous begonia, available in red, dark pink and orange. The frilly, double flowers are set off by large, thick, glossy leaves.
Although the various begonias, dahlias and geraniums were eye-catching, I was drawn to the ‘Blue Jays’ petunias. I’m not a baseball fan, but I liked the plants’ rich, royal blue colour, compact growth habit and fragrance.
A new-to-me annual that also caught my eye was creeping gloxinia (Lophospermum erubescens), a trailing annual with trumpet-shaped flowers, available in magenta or creamy white. I’ve since read that the flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies—a definite plus.
Edibles from Martin Farms Limited included bowls of kale — a mix of colours and textures in an attractive container, perfect for snipping off a few leaves for salads. There was also a selection of grafted tomatoes, hot peppers and an emphasis on non-traditional vegetables, such as bitter melons and Asian gourds. I’m looking forward to harvesting long purple Asian eggplants later I brought home.
Rounding out the new offerings is a collection of perennials, including three noteworthy ornamental grasses: ‘Northwind’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’); ‘Gold Bar’ maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gold Bar’); and variegated Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’). I scooped up a new border phlox — Phlox paniculata ‘Glamour Girl’. Blooms are hot coral-pink and foliage is mildew-resistant.
For more information about other plants in the collection, visit mypcgarden.ca.