THESE RED RHODOS survive with religious watering.

Duchess of Dirt talks ‘tough plants’

Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora' — It absolutely thrives in shade and does not mind competing for water...

Left you all hanging last column, huh?

Probably a few readers who were disappointed I did not actually identify any of my tough plants. Despair not.

I saved this column for this very purpose. Had to. There are a few plants to mention … too many to squeeze into the last column and do them justice.

Starting off….

• Rhododendrons. I have five and sorry, I do not know their names. They were already in place in the garden and the tags are long gone … if they ever had tags. I have to water them religiously in the heat of the summer but the rewards are worth it.

Other shrubs worth their salt in my garden….

• Kerria japonica ‘Pleniflora’. This is the deciduous, yellow double-flowered, or pom-pom, kerria.

It absolutely thrives in shade and does not mind competing for water. Sterile, it will not throw seeds all over but it is does produce new branches from the root crown every year so an annual thinning of one-third of the branches overall is beneficial. The tall, green, bamboo-like stems give great winter interest.

• Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’. (Dog hobble, drooping laurel or switch ivy.)

I actually have a love/hate relationship with this evergreen shrub but this is because it is crammed in between the kerria and a viburnum and cleaning out the fallen maple leaves in the fall is a nightmare. They refer to leucothoe as an erect shrub but it better suits its “drooping” common name.

The varied colours on the leaves are a bonus, plus it is evergreen. And it also effectively shades out weeds.

• Viburnum x burkwoodii. Third shrub in this close grouping beside my Acer saccharinum (silver leaf maple). Another evergreen, it helps hold interest through the winter, albeit its shape has been described as “lax”.

While it may prefer full sun, it is highly tolerant of almost complete shade, although at the expense of more blooms. I can attest this particular species of viburnum is resistant to the dreaded viburnum leaf beetle.

• Weigela. I have five because they do well in my tough conditions.

The old-fashioned Weigela florida with its red tubular flowers performs the best, which is not surprising. Specially bred cultivars do tend to be a little less robust than their parents.

But still, W. f. ‘Variegata’ is doing quite well, especially since I moved it into a sunnier locale. Weigelas do prefer more sun.

Also moved my dark-leaved W. f. ‘Alexandra’ (trademark name —Wine and Roses) for the same reason. Those chestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanum) branches refuse to stop growing outwards and into what was once sun-filled garden space.

My last two weigelas … I absolutely love the dwarf version of Wine and Roses, ‘Elvera’ (Midnight Wine), which also has the luscious dark leaves. Great to tuck into a small space as it only grows to a maximum height and spread of two feet.

And finally, my pride and joy … Weigela florida ‘Briant Rubidor’, a yellow-leaved weigela with deep red flowers. Absolutely shines in a dark area where it only gets a brief caress of morning sun.

Want roses?

I can attest that Rosa glauca, a species rose, can handle tough. It will not quite attain its full lusciousness but does well enough to be an asset in a hard-to-grow-in garden bed with the requisite six to eight hours of sun … like in my street-side border in front of the chestnut and silver-leaf maple.

Rugosa roses also do well … particularly those in the Pavement series which were specially bred for along the median of the Autobahn in Europe.

Running out of space, so will just briefly mention the spireas. I have three: ‘Goldmound’, ‘Goldflame’ and cutleaf spirea. All worth their salt.

You will have to wait until my next column to find out what perennials are “making it” in my tough garden.

If you would like to visit our garden, we are open every Friday and Saturday or by appointment. For our hours and more details, check out www.duchessofdirt.ca, e-mail duchessofdirt@telus.net or phone 250-337-8051.

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