An Echinacea for Montreal’s Anniversary

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20170517A Plant Select

Echinacea ‘De Montréal’. Photo: Plant Select

Montreal, the New World’s largest French-speaking city, is celebrating a milestone anniversary this year: its 375th. And for the occasion, the City of Montreal has chosen a floral emblem: the ‘De Montréal’ purple coneflower (Echinacea ‘De Montréal’).

The new cultivar was developed by Quebec plant hybridizer Serge Fafard of Jardins Osiris. It’s an upright, robust and long-lived echinacea, about 2 ½ to 3 feet (75–90 cm) tall and 2 feet (60 cm) wide. The large blooms have a triple row of ray flowers and change in color through the season, starting orange, then turning more and more pink over time, although often retaining an orange halo around the central orange disc.

Flowering begins in July and continues until September. The flowers attract bees and butterflies throughout the summer and, if you leave the flowers left standing after the bloom, seed-eating birds in winter.

Echinacea ‘De Montreal’ will grow best full sun in any well-drained soil. It is solidly hardy in zone 4 and worth trying in zone 3.

Where to Find It

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Great Gardening Weekend at the Montreal Botanical Garden. Photo: Espace pour la vie

Well, if you want to see it in person, go to Montreal this summer: it will be everywhere. Some 8,000 plants of this new echinacea were produced for the 2017 season and the City of Montreal has planted them in parks and public places throughout its territory as well as in the Montreal Botanical Garden.

The official unveiling of the new emblem, in the presence of ‘De Montréal’ echinaceas specially forced for early bloom, will take place on the first day of the Great Gardening Weekend at the Montreal Botanical Garden, that is on Friday, May 26, 2017. Please note that to mark the 20th anniversary of the Great Gardening Weekend and Montreal’s 375th anniversary, access to the event will be free for all visitors that day. The activity will continue on May 27 and 28 at the usual rate.

Plants will be on sale at the Botanical Garden boutique for the occasion. Some garden centers already offer them, especially those in the Montreal area.

When will it reach nurseries where you live? That may take a few years. But do be on the lookout for this new hardy perennial!

Happy birthday, Montreal!20170517A Plant Select

Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

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Winter? What Winter?

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Allen Gardens

When snow starts to pile up and you can’t step outside without wrapping yourself in three layers of clothing, what’s a northern gardener to do? Head south, you say? But that requires a lot of cash and free time. I have a better, cheaper solution: why not visit the nearest greenhouse?

I first started doing this when I was a student at the University of Toronto. It’s within walking distance of Allan Gardens (http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=b2a9dada600f0410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD), Toronto’s grand Victorian greenhouse, but I’d only ever been there as a child. Then one day particularly blustery winter day, when I just had to take my mind off my studies and get outdoors, but couldn’t bear the thought of trudging endlessly through Toronto’s grey slush, an image suddenly popped into my head. That beautiful palm house, with its giant tropical plants: I wonder if it’s open in the winter?

Of course it was (it’s open 7 days a week all year and admission is free, which certainly met my student budget!) and in a few minutes, I was standing in a tropical paradise. You could see ice crystals on the curving glass panels and the park outside was white with snow, but so what? Inside it was warm and humid and smelled just like a forest after a rain. I wandered about, soaking up the heat and atmosphere, admiring the gorgeous blooms on the cactus and orchids. I really felt like I had physically absorbed part of it, as if some of that exotic beauty was now part of me. Then I went back to my studies, totally reinvigorated.

For as long as I remained in Toronto, that was my winter energizer.

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Montreal Botanical Gardens

Where I live now, in Quebec City, there is no public greenhouse nearby. There is, of course, the extraordinary greenhouse complex at the Montreal Botanical Gardens (http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/botanical-garden) – by far the largest in North America! – but that’s a 5 hour drive there and back. I do manage to get there once or twice a winter, but most of the time, I steal that much-needed tropical ambiance… from a local garden center.

The larger ones near here have fairly vast greenhouses where I can get just the shot of tropical warmth and humidity I need to carry me through the endless months of snow. A trip a month or so and I’m really feeling good. Plus I usually need something from the garden center anyway: potting soil, seeds, etc.

So, bye-bye winter time blues, hello greenery, warmth and exotic scents. You too can charge up your winter batteries with glorious tropical sunshine today: just visit a greenhouse today!