Plant of the Month

August Plant of the Month

Aronia melanocarpa “Autumn Magic” Black Chokeberry

'Autumn Magic' Black Chokeberries

‘Autumn Magic’ Black Chokeberries

The “Autumn Magic” Black Chokeberry is one of my favorite backyard plants. This picture of the berries was taken today – August 24th, 2015, after one of the worst droughts Vancouver has seen. The leaves are still dark green and the berries plump and black. Birds don’t rush to eat these berries, probably because the berries aren’t sweet. In late September and early October, however, the robins and thrushes flock to these shrubs and gobble up the berries in large quantities.  Add the berries to your smoothie or mix them with sweeter fruit.

You might be more inclined to eat the berries if you knew how good they are for your health. Chokeberries are among the “super-berries” that have extremely high antioxidant properties. They are also full of Vitamin C. Use the berries to make black chokeberry jam, juice, tea, muffins, smoothies, cookies, or even wine.

Shrubs grow about 2 meters high and wide. They may sucker slightly. In May, bushes are covered with lovely white flowers. The fall foliage is spectacular in shades of purple and red (the reason for the name ‘Autumn Magic’). Plant in sun to part shade. This shrub is very adaptable to different soil types. My shrubs are planted in clay soil that often floods after heavy rains.

These are wonderful three-season, low-maintenance, wildlife-friendly, inexpensive and easily-propagated shrubs. Highly recommended!

Black Chokeberry Fall Color

‘Autumn Magic’ Black Chokeberry Fall Color

March Plant of the Month

Cornus Mas ‘Golden Glory’ (Golden Glory Cornelian Cherry Dogwood)

Cornus Mas Golden Glory

Cornus Mas Golden Glory

This Cornus Mas cultivar is a bushy deciduous shrub that shines in late winter to early spring. Tiny yellow flowers appear from the bare branches when little else is blooming. These fluffy flowers look like little yellow umbrellas. This shrub looks spectacular when  covered with blossoms.  The green leaves appear as the flowers fade. Early to mid-summer sees the arrival of edible red berries that are good for making into jam.

This is a two season shrub as the fall colours are not spectacular and the many branches can look messy in the winter (although there can be some attractive peeling bark on larger branches). It is a good choice for a low-maintenance hedge or screen. Cornus Mas is attractive to wildlife as it provides both shelter and food.

It has a moderate growth rate and should live about 40 years. The shrub can be trained into a tree-form by removing low branches and suckers. Cornus Mas does well in a variety of soil and light conditions. It can thrive in full sun through to full shade and it will do well in both dry and wet soils. It is hardy to Zone 4. It generally grows about 7-8 meters high and 3-4 meters wide.

Cornus Mas 'Golden Glory'

Cornus Mas ‘Golden Glory’

February Plant of the Month

Magnolia Stellata (Star Magnolia)

Magnolia Stellata has delicate, white, fragrant flowers that bloom in early spring. The tree looks lovely even before the  blossoms arrive because mid-February sees the development of large fuzzy buds. These buds are exceptionally soft and look very much like giant Pussy willow (Salix) catkins. Stroking is like stroking rabbit fur.

The bright leaves (that arrive after the flowers) are light-green and  turn a lovely yellow-green in the fall. The Magnolia Stellata is slow-growing and bushy. It will reach about 2.5 meters high and 4 meters wide after 10 years. It is a great tree for a small yard. Plant in full sun to part shade and ensure the soil is moist but well-drained.

Magnolia Stellata February Buds

Magnolia Stellata February Buds

Here is the same tree just a couple of weeks later…

Magnolia Stellata in early March

Magnolia Stellata in early March

December Plant of the Month

‘Red Beauty’ Holly

Christmas season is upon us and what plant better represents Christmas than the holly? The dark green leaves and bright red berries bring cheer to the desolate and cold garden when other colours are difficult to find. Hollies come in all shapes and sizes. You can choose an evergreen or a deciduous holly. Although most holly berries are red, you can also find hollies with orange or yellow berries. The berries look lovely in Christmas wreaths and other holiday decorations.

My favorite holly is ‘Red Beauty’. It will pollinize with any Meserveae holly planted in the general area. One characteristic of this holly that I appreciate is it will not outgrow its location. It will grow 7-10′ (about 3m) high and 4-5′ (about 2m) wide and retain a nice dense conical shape. The berries are profuse and a deep red colour. In December, trim as many twigs as you need for your decorating projects but keep the shape tidy.

This holly performs best in full sun but will also thrive in part sun. Visit my post ‘Holly Trees and Shrubs’ for more great hollies for your garden.

'Red Beauty' Holly Berries

‘Red Beauty’ Holly Berries


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