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Dreaming of gardens to come

Now is a good time to plan and dream about the 2019 garden

Big Betony, an AAS winner, is a hardy, dependable perennial for a Prairie garden.

At this time of year we begin to dream about the summer gardens, and as seed catalogues arrive in the mail, we study them, looking with interest at the new varieties.

Many horticultural organizations publish annual plant pick lists, the Perennial Plant Association being one of them. For 2019 it has chosen a perennial commonly called Big Betony; it is a relative of lamb’s ears — officially named Stachys monieri “Hummelo.”

Growing about 60 cm tall and having puckered green foliage and multiple spikes of mauve-pink flowers, Big Betony is a showstopper in the early to midsummer garden. It is an easy-maintenance plant, hardy in our area, and forms large clumps with self-supporting flower stalks. It likes full sun to mainly sun and isn’t fussy about soil type. The plant is drought tolerant and its scalloped foliage is attractive right through until freeze-up. Deadheading improves the plant’s appearance and encourages a longer bloom period.

The Hosta Growers Association chooses a hosta of the year, and its 2019 pick is a smaller hosta with unusual foliage. “Lakeside Paisley Print” has foliage markings that live up to its name; the thick fleshy leaves have an intricate patterning of lime green, white and dark green that resembles the paisley pattern on fabric. Because it only grows about 25 cm tall it is smaller than many varieties so will fit into spaces too small for many of the larger ones.

All America Selections (AAS) is almost 100 years old and has over 40 trial gardens in the U.S. and Canada. One of its trial gardens is located at the Peace Garden just south of Boissevain and it is interesting for gardeners to view it in the summer and do their own evaluation of how the plants are doing. The plants are all identified with signage and you can get up close with every variety to see how it is performing.

AAS has chosen three small tomato plants as winners for 2019 and these new varieties are listed in many seed catalogues. All three are indeterminate so they do take up some space in the garden and require staking. One called “Red Torch” is a striped tomato — red with white stripes on the skin. The oblong fruit is about four cm long and is the largest of the three winners. “Sparky” has smaller round fruit that is only about 2-1/2 cm in diameter, and is reputed to produce early fruit. “Fire Fly” is a yellow variety said to be super sweet with very thin skin so gardeners who do not like the tough skin that some miniature tomatoes have will like this one.

Several flower varieties were also chosen by AAS. Nasturtium “Baby Rose” was one of them, sporting an unusual nasturtium flower colour and also claiming to produce bushy plants that hold the flowers aloft on sturdy stems. A marigold called “Big Duck Gold” promises to produce large full flowers on its 40-cm-tall plants which also have lovely dark-green foliage. “South Pacific Orange,” a canna that is grown from seed was also chosen. “South Pacific Scarlet” canna claimed a 2013 AAS win and this is simply another colour in the series. A new colour in the Wave petunia series also was awarded an AAS nod. The flowers of “Wave Carmine Velour” add yet another eye-popping colour to this popular series.

Like many gardeners, I will continue to look through seed catalogues until I finally draw up a shopping list of new plants to try in the 2019 garden. Some I will look for in garden centres this spring (early, as they will likely be in short supply and sell out quickly) and some I will grow myself by ordering seeds from the catalogues. What a wonderful winter pastime to peruse catalogues and dream of gardens to come.

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