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Hydrangea ' Little Honey'

Weigela florida 'Verweig' MY MONET™ close-up.

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Mindia' COPPERTINA™

Weigela florida 'Verweig' MY MONET™

Hibiscus syriaus 'America Irene Scott' SUGAR TIP™

Abelia mosanensis

The top 10 flowering shrubs 2008

Stroy by Mark Denee

Each year, nurseries put out their catalogues, often consisting of several old favourites, and a few new varieties. In recent years, new selections and increased competition have blurred the lines between traditional plant groups, and now provide gardeners with useful, colourful plants, whether they are annuals, vegetables, perennials, or flowering shrubs.

With a focus on relative hardiness, ease of care, and a mix of new and not so new, here on my top ten flowering shrubs for 2008:

1. Abelia mosanensis (fragrant abelia). Most abelia are tender at best, but this species is hardy to Zone 4, and considered to be more fragrant than a lilac! Pink-red buds open to wonderfully fragrant white flowers in May and June. The glossy dark green foliage turns a wonderful orange-red in autumn. It is hardy to Zone 4, grows to approximately five feet in height, and prefers a position in full sun to partial shade.

2. Cornus alternifolia ‘Wstackman’ GOLDEN SHADOWS® (pagoda dogwood). This new and improved variegated form of a native species is bound to be winner in Ontario. The large, heart-shaped leaves consist of a bright yellow, irregular margin surrounding an emerald-green center. As an additional bonus, the new growth is often flushed with hues of red and orange. The usual lacy white flowers in spring add to this plant’s charm. Hardy to Zone 3, and eventually growing to over 10 feet, this plant prefers a position in partial shade.

3. Fothergilla major ‘Blue Shadow’ (bottlebrush). This outstanding blue-leafed selection, should have all the designers in a flush this year. The honey-scented bottlebrush spring flowers kick off this plant’s annual performance, and then by autumn, the dusty blue leaves begin to take on shades of red, orange and yellow. It is hardy to Zone 4, grows to a little over three feet, and prefers a position in full sun to partial shade.

4. Hibiscus syriacus ‘America Irene Scott’ SUGAR TIP™ (rose of Sharon). This new variegated rose of Sharon has pearly-pink double blooms, and unlike the old ‘Purpureus Variegatus’, it actually flowers! This plant is hardy to Zone 5, eventually growing to over 10 feet in height, and prefers a position in full sun. Prune as little or as much as you like in late fall or early spring – but be sure to remove any stems with all-green leaves.

5. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’ (oakleaf hydrangea). The foliage of this beauty emerges gold, and then changes to a pleasant chartreuse as the summer progresses, and by autumn, it turns to brilliant red. It is hardy to Zone 5, growing to a little over three feet in height, and prefers a position in partial shade with a couple hours of direct sunlight in the early morning or late afternoon. It even has its own website:

6. Itea virginica ‘Morton’ SCARLET BEAUTY™ (sweetspire). This particularly hardy selection has the usual fragrant lax spires of white flowers in early to mid summer, and the dark green foliage that turns a wonderful blend of reddish purple in the fall. It is hardy to Zone 4, ultimately reaching a height of approximately four feet, and is very easy to grow in full sun to full shade.

7. Philadelphus ‘Snowbelle’ (mock orange). This great plant, developed in Canada, is a dwarf form, covered with fragrant, double, pure white flowers in late spring and early summer. It is hardy to Zone 4, growing to approximately three feet in height, and prefers a position in full sun.

8. Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Mindia’ COPPERTINA™ (ninebark). This relatively new introduction to the Proven Winners line should also prove to be a valuable asset to designers desiring metallic colours and warm browns. It flushes wonderful copper foliage in spring that transforms to warm red by summer. It is hardy to Zone 3, grows to approximately seven feet in height, and prefers a position in full sun.

9. Viburnum trilobum ‘J.N. Select’ REDWING™ (cranberrybush viburnum). From Johnson’s Nursery comes this selection of a native plant with persistent, bright red fruit that follows clusters of white flowers in spring. The fall foliage colour ranges from bright red to a deep, wine red. This plant is hardy to Zone 2, grows to approximately eight feet in height, and prefers a position in full sun to partial shade.

10. Weigela florida ‘Verweig’ MY MONET™ (weigela). This exciting new plant was creating quite a storm already last year. Its availability should no doubt be much wider this year. It has dramatic, very wide white margins often strongly over-laid with pink, surrounding a green centre. The bright pink flowers in late spring are considered “icing on the cake”. It is hardy to Zone 4, grows to approximately 18 inches in height, and prefers a position in full sun to partial shade.

Here’s to dirt under your nails and plenty of success in your garden this year, as you try one or more of these flowering shrubs for 2008.

Mark Denee was the Horticulturist at the Epic Plant Company, a wholesale nursery located in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Epic closed last year, but Mark’s expertise lives on.

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1. Heavy feathers.
Feathers weigh as much as two to three times the weight of the body of a baby bird. When ducks moult, the new feathers are filled with blood, making them so heavy that the duck can’t fly. The blood leaves the feather as it matures.
2. Efficiency food.
Grebes ingest their own feathers and feed them to their young. Well, why not? Feathers are pretty well pure protein in the form of keratin. Some dog foods contain feathers to help treat allergies.

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