Garden trends from C to C

The ribboned hats and dappled light here remind me of this Renoir


Before our preview of this weekend’s  Through the Garden Gate (BTW, there are tickets if you hurry), Plant World co-owner Paul Reeves (seen at left) outlined some garden trends, which I thought were interesting. Plant World has been one of Toronto’s independent garden centres for six generations, so has seen trends come and go. By lucky chance, or cunning plan on my part, these all start with the letter C. [Commentary in brackets, mine]:

Choices: Today’s gardener has more choices than ever: annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, herbs, vegetables, mosses, water plants… and the many ways you can mix and match. It’s an exciting time to be a gardener. [It can also be a bit bewildering. With so many new plants, how do you choose? In my experience, with some of the newest (and often sexiest) choices, let them test before you invest. Newer is not always better. Unless you have an infinite budget, there’s a lot to be said for waiting till the tried proves to be true.]


Containers: Container gardening is gigantic. As a writer at the event pointed out, 40% of Toronto’s population now lives in highrise condos or apartments. Add that to the megatrend of growing your own veggies and what you get is a whole lotta containers. This has led to many more and nicer container options, too. Plant World has one of the largest container selections I’ve seen at a nursery.


Hosta ‘Designer Genes’ is one of the new-generation hostas with red petioles. Are red-leafed hostas far behind?

Colour and contrast: Foliage colour, particularly. We saw this with the proliferation of coral bells (Heuchera spp.) a few years ago. [In fact, some think this explosion (along with their cousins foam flower or Tiarella and offspring Heucherella), has grown a little out of hand.] Japanese maples are huge at Plant World; they stock over 100 varieties, with a wide diversity of size and form, leaf colour, variegation and shape. The choice of Hostas is widely different from when I began gardening. A sexy plant I succumbed to – not to my regret, I hope – is a red-stemmed chartreuse Hosta ‘Designer Genes.’

Collections: All these possibilities has led to the trend of collecting different varieties and cultivars of plants. [This makes practical sense. If a plant does well in your garden, its cousins might, too. Without setting out to be “a collector,” I somehow collected 20 types of hostas in my small garden. Not all have equal vigor, though (we’ll see about H. ‘Designer Genes’).] Some like to collect just for the joy of it. [So now you are free to say: pardonnez-moi, I am not a plantaholic; I am a collector.]

Physocarpus ‘Coppertina’ offers interesting foliage, flowers (on last year’s wood), seed heads and peeling bark

Care (as in easy-care): While there’s no such thing as a no-maintenance garden, many new choices do make life easier for gardeners. Flowering shrubs, for example, have a larger footprint, so they fill space quickly, and many offer long-term foliage interest as well as flowers. Hydrangeas, for instance, come in many new forms and colours. Increasingly, availability of dwarf varieties means that the shrub is less likely to outgrow its space, or do the floppy thing that is the main (perhaps the only) disadvantage of an old reliable like Hydrangea ‘Annabelle.’ Ninebark (Physocarpus spp.) is another shrub with more and more colours to choose from, such as P. ‘Diablo’ (almost black) or ‘Coppertina’ (coppery).

And now I have to go and garden!


  1. Hi, Jean, 'Designer Genes' is the subject of the first large photo in the post… you can just see the red creeping into the leaf from the petiole.

  2. Fascinating to see a hosta with red in the petiole! It would be exciting to see that transition into full red leaves. Container gardening is HUGE! That's how I am growing vegetables this year. Thanks for the information.

  3. A few more Hostas to look out for are 'Katsuragawa-Beni' and 'Red October' which have the same red petiole but on a green leaf, 'Blueberry Muffin' is a new one that's somewhat similar with a pink petiole with a blue leaf, though I don't remember the pink coming up onto the leaf to any degree the way the red does on these other varieties.

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