Sixteen years ago it started with a meager strip of garden against the side of the garage. Mine is a house where the garage juts out from the front, in the left corner of the overall structure. Gardening wasn’t exactly the obsession/career that it is today. A wild Vitis riparia was positioned in the centre of the bed, in hopes that in time it might cover the brick of the garage. Anything to soften a rather boring expanse of brick.
New the the community, most of the plants came from, and here I shudder with dismay, the local supermarket as well as Zellers and Canadian Tire. I hadn’t yet been introduced to the two local garden centres. In time I made my way to both, and a somewhat more comprehensive selection of plants were gradually introduced. The bed is roughly fifteen feet long, and at the time of its creation had a scalloped edge. Some of the initial plantings included Clematis ‘Blue Boy’ which is there to this day, and other shade tolerant plantings since the border only sees sun until about eleven thirty in the morning. Digitalis and ferns stick out in memory and I remember a year when a rather robust Digitalis grandiflora ‘Alba’ was the talk of the neighborhood. It stood close to five feet and was covered with the largest, most pristine flowers imaginable.
As horticulture permeated into my retail addled brain, I began searching out more rare and unusual plant selections, including what has since then become my ‘signature plant’ – Corydalis flexuosa ‘Blue Panda’ with its fabulous shoal of icy blue sea horses that float above a tumultuous sea of blue grey foliage! [Interesting that as one delves deeper into the fascinating depths of horticulture, their vocabulary seems to develop exponentially as well!]
Slowly these rare and unusual plants began to culminate in this same bed. Granted, I would eventually have to construct what is now known as the Shaded Walk – an expanse of space in between my house and the neighbors, but for the time being, I wanted them to be front and centre! Braggarts rights so to speak!
I spent most of the years between then and now seeking out some of horticultures most beguiling and under-appreciated plants. It was here that I planted my beloved Cypripedium reginae, only to wait for three years before she graced me with one of her pristine pink and white blooms. The tomentose heart shaped foliage of Saruma henryi was assured of eliciting questions by garden visitors as were two Aconitum, both featuring whipped buttery yellow flowers that were nothing like the traditional helmet shaped blooms that one associates with the blue, purple or bicoloured varieites. These, if anything, looked like miniature smurf hats! My recently departed friend ‘M’ said, ‘it looks like the hat that the Pope wears!’ I have since learned the term is ‘mitre.’
An ensuing tenure at Lost Horizons, Ontario’s leading woodland plant nursery, ensured that I would be able to continue my dream of creating what I now began referring to as, ‘the rare and unusual’ border.
My current obsession is what is without a doubt, my second favourite genera ever! – Gentiana! Oh how those delightful alpine beauties seduce with their true blue trumpet shaped flowers, ranging from the powdery blue of Gentiana makinoi ‘Blue Magic’ [pictured above] to the seductive blooms of Gentiana asclepidea [Willow Gentian] and Gentiana septempida var. Lagodochiana Select: [respectively pictured below]
This past week witnessed a return visit to Lost Horizons which netted eight new rare and unusual beauties for the border of the same name – but there was one small [well, not so small to be honest!] problem: [lets all say it together shall we!] ‘Where the hell are you going to fit them in!?! Perhaps a photo montage might allow you a better visualization: This series shows the Rare and Unusual Border, all fifteen feet long by three feet deep, from far left to where it ends and the veranda begins!
I trust I’m not the only one who has trouble saying ‘NO’ when it comes to rescuing what can best be described as ‘plant orphans’ – you know the ones, the last lonely selection at the end of a season, the one sitting so forlornly by itself….. how can you conscionably pass it by? Trouble is quite frankly, I cannot help myself!
Rest assured, I was able to find the space. In some of the photos of the border, you can actually see bare soil – so now the bed is actually four foot deep in some places – and the fancy scalloped edge? One day soon the border will end at the walkway, which itself is much wider than it need be! I’m sounding like a true addict on the prowl for space, aren’t I? Some of the, and how shall I word this and not offend any of the ‘children’? Simply put, some of the more easily recognizable selections have taken up residence along the length of the Shaded Walk. Its time to reintroduce the ‘WOW!’ factor to the Rare and Unusual Border! Two delightful new selections of Gentiana, a delightful climbing Aconitum austroyunnanense, the fabulously chartreuseness that is Aralia cordata ‘Sun King,’ the enchanting Epimedium Sakura Maru, and last but not least, a second Paeonia mlokosewitschii will all ensure that come next Spring, Rare and Unusual will be back where it belongs…. front and centre here at Teza’s Garden! And what do you know…. we’re back to where we started! Sweet Jesus, but I’m totally enamored with the combination of Gentiana scabra ‘True Blue’ when combined with the fabulously chartreuse foliage of Pinellia tripartita ‘Golden Dragons!’ A partnership made in hort heaven!