Everyone needs an occasional bit of sunlight to chase away the winter blues. I’m no exception. So when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, I bask in the warm glow of Pinus densiflora ‘Burke’s Variegated’. Endowed with green needles banded in gold, this dwarf conifer resembles one of my long-time favorites, Pinus wallichiana ‘Zebrina’, but when its foliage matures and turns a luminous pale yellow, there’s none can match it in the winter landscape. My own burst of sunshine.
Whenever I see a plant with dazzling trumpet-like flowers I’m breathless with longing. It’s a case of lust at first sight. (See “Hot Tips: Great New Plant”). British Dame Penelope Lively understands. “For me,” she said, “gardening is a sequence of obsessions — the tingle of discovery, the love affair with the latest acquisition.” And so it was with me and Begonia ‘Bonfire.’ I filled three containers with this glorious annual and was rewarded all summer with a sea of vibrant orange flowers. They made me happy. Bonfire is a keeper.
Ditto for Rhododendron ‘Mrs Furnivall’, an oldie introduced in 1920 but new to my garden. No demure Mrs this one. More like a Las Vegas showgirl flaunting her stuff: a luscious display of saucy pink flowers splashed with red. She doesn’t need trumpets to be irresistible. (The bees agree).
This year I’m after Fuchsia ‘Pour Menneke’, an annual with captivating, long, slender, soft orange trumpet flowers. (Yup, those trumpets again). An ideal plant for a container, Pour Menneke will be available this year in England, but as far as I can tell, not available here. More’s the pity, but it takes time (Drat!) before their best newbies reach us. (Yeah, yeah, I know. HAVE PATIENCE).
NEWSFLASH: Just read an alert about the Fuchsia gall mite from Andrew Halstead, Principal Entomologist with the Royal Horticultural Society in England. He warns that this predatory insect is a “devastating microscopic pest of fuchsias that will probably eventually spread throughout Britain. Because the damage cannot be controlled, it may lead to a decline in the popularity of this valuable garden plant.” (He’s right about that. ‘Pour (Poor?) Menneke’ is no longer on my wish list.)
No problem whatever with the fabulous shade plant, Heuchera ‘Stainless Steel’, from the breeding program of Charles and Martha Oliver of The Primrose Path, Pennsylvania. With silver foliage (flipside reddish-purple) and lush sprays of white bell flowers on chocolate stems in May, this unique beauty is nothing short of sensational. Grab it while you can.
And thank goodness for Dan Hinkley, plantsman-explorer extraordinaire, who teamed up with Monrovia to offer a select group of his plant hunting finds, The Dan Hinkley Plant Collection, which will be available in nurseries and garden centers this Spring. Topping my wish-list is the lovely and rare Golden Crane Hydrangea, H. angustipetala ‘MonLongShou’. Not only does it flaunt showy white and chartreuse lacecap flowers with scalloped-edged petals, this hydrangea is intensely fragrant.
Finally, I can’t wait for my Genie to arrive. While this one doesn’t live in a bottle, she is magical. Magnolia ‘Genie’ has reddish black buds and masses of plum-red (dare I say magenta?) flowers in the spring with repeat bloom in the summer. She flowers at a young age, only grows to about ten feet, and is already an award winner. As the song goes: ” Who could ask for anything more?”