Rodney Davey Marbled Hellebores

helpippasHelleborus x ‘Pippa’s Purple’ – This sister plant to ‘Anna’s Red’ bear pinkish-purple blooms accented with a huge boss of pale yellow stamens. These are produced from February to April on contrasting reddish flower stalks. The deep green foliage is heavily marbled with creamy-white veining – adding to the overall aesthetic appeal. Prefers a partial sun exposure. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

helpennysHelleborus x ‘Penny’s Pink’ – One of the first introductions by breeders Rodney Davey and Lynda Windsor, the blooms are stunning when backlit by the rising sun. It is named after plantswoman Penelope Hobhouse and bears pale mauve-pink flowers averaging 3″ in diameter. The attractive foliage is marbled in white and pink, making it a desirable foliage plant. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

helmollysHelleborus x ‘Molly’s White’ – One of the newer Rodney Davey introductions which is a complex hybrid of Helleborus lividus x Helleborus niger and Helleborus x hybridus. It features abundant white (often tinged in green) outward facing blooms in late winter. These are nicely accented by heavily marbled foliage with silvery-white veining. Reliably evergreen through winter. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

heldanasHelleborus x ‘Dana’s Dulcet’ – Another newer introduction bearing pinkish-purple (somewhat similar to Pippa’s Purple) to violet-purple blooms from February to April. It is a sterile hybrid that presents itself well in containers with its upright flowers and beautifully marbled foliage draping over the pot. At times the edge of the flowers are occasionally darker in colour. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. USDA zone 5.

helannasHelleborus x ‘Anna’s Red’ – This dazzling hybrid was twelve years in the making and features large (3″ wide) reddish-purple single blooms nicely contrasted by pale yellow stamens. These are held well above the marbled foliage which eventually develops magenta veining. ‘Anna’s Red’ was named after journalist Anna Pavord and is sterile, so there is no self-seeding. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. USDA zone 5.

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Novelty Vegetables

straw2Chenopodium capitatum (syn. Blitum capitatum) – Strawberry Spinach may look quite exotic but is native to much of North America and parts of Europe – where it has been eaten since the 1600’s. The leaves are a potherb that are cooked like spinach but can be eaten raw in moderation. It produces bright red edible berries that are mildly sweet with a faint mulberry flavour. Grows 18″ tall by 12″ wide. Annual.

Cucumelon4Melothria scabra – The Cucamelon or Mexican Sour Gherkin is an easy-to-grow vine that is native to Mexico and Central America. The plants have both male and female flowers with the latter producing an abundance of grape-sized fruits that look just like tiny watermelons but with the taste of a slightly sour cucumber. They adapt well to container culture and are a delicious addition to salads. Grows 3-5′ tall. Annual.

Ipomoeabatatas'Marguerite' (2)Ipomoea batatas – Even the Sweet Potatoes we grow as ornamental trailers in our baskets and containers produce edible tuberous roots, but rarely as large as the one shown – which came from a cultivar called ‘Marguerite’. So once the frosts have gotten the best of your potato vines, carefully dig them up, looking for the purple tubers. Then simply slice and deep fry for a delicious snack. Grows 6″ tall by 3′. Annual.

chenopodiumgiganteum (2)Chenopodium giganteum – Tree Spinach is a native of India but can be easily grown in our temperate climates. As the name implies, it is a tall leafy vegetable with pink-tinged new growth that really catches the eye. The young tender leaves have a spinach-like flavour (with a hint of asparagus) once cooked but should be eaten in moderation when raw in salads. Grows 6 to 8′ tall. Annual.

P1110907 (2)Oxalis tuberosa – Oca is a relative of many ornamental shamrocks and has been grown as a root crop in South America for centuries. It was introduced to Europe and New Zealand in 1830 and 1860, respectively. Also know as New Zealand Yam, the tubers come in many colours and have a citrus flavour raw (expose to sun for a few days to sweeten) or nutty when cooked. 18″ tall. Perennial in USDA zone 7.

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Unconventional Teas

camelliasinensis'blushingmaiden' (2)Camellia sinensis f. rosea ‘Blushing Maiden’ – This tea camellia is a hardier form of Camellia sinensis ‘Rosea’ introduced by Piroche Plants back in 1992. It features pale pink flowers (as opposed to the traditional white) which appear from late autumn into winter. I have a friend who grows many tea cultivars and he considers this the best for green tea. Grows 7-10′ tall. Hardy to USDA zone 7.

JasmineTea1Jasminum officinale – Common jasmine is well-known as it has been naturalized across many warmer regions of the world where it proves hardy. It is a semi-evergreen vine here in Canada with potently fragrant white blooms borne in summer and several foliar forms. Jasmine tea is made by infusing tea leaves with fresh jasmine flowers and can be enjoyed by adding fresh flowers to green tea. 9-12′ tall. Zone 7.

IlexParaguariensisIlex paraguariensis – Yerba Mate tea is made from the foliage of this holly species which is native to parts of South America. Given its intolerance to frost, it must be grown as a houseplant in northern latitudes but it definitely thrives in warmer, brightly lit rooms. The rather chunky tea (use a bombilla straw) is high in antioxidants and has a green tea-herbal flavour with grassy overtones. 3-6′ tall in pots. Zone 10.

WhitePineTea5Pinus strobus – Our Eastern White Pine bears bundles of five needles which are relatively soft to the touch, as well as long pendulous cones. Indigenous peoples taught early Canadian settlers about this flavourful tea made from steeped needles which is high in vitamins A and C. This tonic for the common cold is not as ‘piney’ in taste as one would expect and should not be used by pregnant women. 45-70′ tall. Zone 3.

Ledumgroenlandicum (2)Ledum groenlandicum – Labrador tea is now botanically classified as Rhododendron groenlandicum, although it is often sold under its old name. This native of northern North America and Greenland features slender dark green leaves with a rusty-brown reverse and white flowers borne in late spring. Trapper’s tea is made by steeping dried or fresh leaves and should be enjoyed in moderation. 2-4′ tall. Zone 2.

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Herbs That Repel Vegetable Pests

Basil'AfricanBlue'blooms (2)Ocimum kilimandsharicum x basilicum ‘Dark Opal’ – African Blue Basil is a sterile hybrid which has a high camphor fragrance which is useful for making spicy pestos. It is an attractive herb with purple-tinted new growth and showy terminal flower spikes. This basil repels many insect pests including mites, tomato hornworm and asparagus beetle. Grows 30″ tall. Annual in regions with frost.

SalviaofficinalisFlowers (2)Salvia officinalis – Common culinary sage is an evergreen perennial that comes in many foliage colours, including purple (‘Purpurascens’), ‘Tricolor’, gold variegated (‘Icterina’) and green (‘Berggarten’) – with the latter being an excellent culinary form. The summer blooms range from blue to a pinkish-purple or white, and are also edible. Sage will repel both cabbage moth and carrot rust fly. 30″. Zone 5.

ThymusvulgarisinBloom (2)Thymus vulgaris – English thyme is a stalwart of the herb garden and a native of southern Europe, so good drainage is a necessity. It is evergreen in mild climates and comes in several variegated forms, with ‘Silver Posie’ being one of the best. It bears white to pale lavender-pink blooms midsummer and repels cabbage looper, whitefly, tomato hornworm and corn earworm. Grows 12″ tall. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

Rosmarinusofficinalis'Rex'inflower (3)Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Rex’ – This upright form of rosemary has thicker leaves with much more essential oil, giving it a strong flavour. It bears blue flowers in early spring and is not as hardy as other cultivars, such as ‘Arp’. That said, the stronger fragrance makes it an effective repellent for cabbage moths, carrot rust flies and Mexican bean beetles. Grows 2 to 4′ tall when grown outdoors. Hardy to USDA zone 7-8.

Chivesinbloom1 (2)Allium shoenoprasum – Common chives are found in most residential vegetable gardens and are close relatives to garlic, leeks and scallions. It is a bulbous perennial whose chopped leaves are used for their mild onion flavour. The pale purple flowers are also edible and make an excellent salad garnish. Chives will repel many insects including aphids, carrot rust fly and Japanese beetles. Grows 18″ high. USDA zone 4.

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More Rare Fruits

Vasconellaxheilbornii'Babaco' (3)Vasconcellea x heilbornii – The Babaco or Mountain Papaya is a naturally-occurring hybrid that hails out of Ecuador. It grows in high elevations, making it cold tolerant but it cannot be grown outdoors anywhere in Canada, so treat as a houseplant and bring indoors for winter (tolerates light shade). The elongated yellow fruits with creamy-white flesh taste of papaya-pineapple-strawberry. Self-fertile. Grows 5-10′ tall. Zone 9 hardy.

PodophyllumMayappleFruitRipe (2)Podophyllum peltatum – Mayapple is a native of eastern North America in shaded woodlands. It is an herbaceous perennial with palmate leaves, fragrant white blooms and a solitary fruit (per stem) with pulp (skin and seeds not edible) which tastes of melon and green apple when fully ripe. All parts of this plant (also known as American Mandrake) are poisonous except the ripened fruit. Grows 18″ tall. Hardy to USDA zone 3.

LoquatFruit (2)Eriobotrya japonica – Loquat is an extremely rare fruit in Canada and can probably only be grown outdoors in southern coastal British Columbia. This specimen was thriving at Fruit Trees and More on Vancouver Island and the juicy yellow fruits tasted of peach-mango, with a citrus tang. These small evergreen trees flower into winter with fruits ripening late spring, so a sheltered site is required. 9-12′. Zone 8.

Passifloraincarnatafruit (3)Passiflora incarnata – This particular species of Passionflower is one of the hardiest but is generally herbaceous in nature, meaning it dies back to the ground for winter. Maypop requires good drainage and a sunny spring exposure but rewards with fragrant pink flowers and goose egg-sized green fruits with edible pulp tasting of lemon-apricot. It can be grown in a large container with support. 5-9′ tall. Zone 6.

JujubeMassandra3 (2)Ziziphus jujube MASSANDRA – Chinese Red Date is a native of southern Asia and forms a small deciduous tree in temperate climates. MASSANDRA is an early ripening cultivar from Ukraine but as with all varieties, cross-pollination increases fruit size and yield. The fruits can be eaten green (green apple flavour) or when fully ripe (reddish-brown) when they taste of apple-date (fruit can also be dried). 8-12′ tall. USDA zone 6.

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European Plums

plumgreengage (2)Prunus domestica subsp. italica ‘Greengage’ (syn. ‘Green Gage’) – The green gage plums were first bred in France from a green-fruited Turkish species. The freestone fruit is round to oval in shape with greenish-yellow skin and sweet yellow flesh. While considered self-fertile, it produces larger crops with cross-pollination. Ripens in September. Grows 12-18′ tall depending on rootstock. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

PrunusDomestica'Stanley'2 (2)Prunus domestica ‘Stanley’ – A reliable prune plum which produces dark purple fruits with sweet yellow flesh. It is freestone and has a high sugar content, which allows them to be sun-dried into prunes. Abundant white flowers are borne in early spring with plums generally ripening in early September. This cultivar is self-fertile. ‘Stanley’ grows 12-18′ tall depending on rootstock. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

plumyellow (2)Prunus domestica ‘Yellow Egg’ – An extremely sweet cultivar of European plum with abundant bright yellow freestone fruits that are generally egg-shaped, but can be roundish. The plums are quite juicy with a honey-like flavour and are produced from late August to September. This English variety has been known since the late 1600’s and is good for canning or fresh eating. Self-fertile. Grows 12-18′ tall. USDA zone 5.

PrunusPlum'Czar'2 (2)Prunus domestica ‘Czar’ – An old English cultivar (circa 1874) which can be hard to find these days. The purple fruits are round to oval and are generally freestone in nature. The plums can be picked a bit early for a tart taste which some prefer or left to fully ripen on the tree for maximum sweetness. ‘Czar’ is an RHS Award of Garden Merit winner. Self-fertile. Grows 12-18′ tall. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

Prunusdomestica'Victoria' (3)Prunus domestica ‘Victoria’ – A tried and true variety which was first discovered in an Alderton, Sussex garden back in 1840. It produces abundant crops of large plums with reddish skin and delicious greenish-yellow to golden flesh. ‘Victoria’ is an RHS Award of Garden Merit winner and generally ripens from late August to September. Self-fertile. Grows 12-18′ tall depending on rootstock. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

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Unusual Edible Nuts

Pinusparvifloranuts (2)Pinus parviflora – Pine nuts are usually found in the gourmet section of urban supermarkets but many ornamental Pinus species also produce edible (albeit smaller) pine nuts. One of these is Japanese White Pine which comes in many varieties including dwarf or variegated cultivars. They are wind pollinated with the cones taking about one year to mature and yield nuts. Grows up to 30′ tall. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

GinkgoNut1Ginkgo biloba – Ginkgo trees are beautiful ornamentals with fishtail-shaped leaves which turn to a distinct butter yellow in the fall. You will need both male (most cultivars are male) and female trees for the latter to produce their yellow plum-like fruits (smell like cat pee, harvest with gloves) which house an inner white nut. These are delicious once roasted but eat in moderation. Grows 50’+ depending on cultivar. Zone 3.

FagussylvaticanutsFagus sylvatica – European Beech was a common street tree back when larger properties were common, but older specimens can often be found in parks or established neighborhoods. The nuts from these mature trees can be gathered, roasted and made into nut butter or used as a substitute in pecan pie. These have a mild natural toxin, so eat in moderation. Grows 50-60′. Hardy to USDA zone 4.

CorylusRed MajesticNutsCorylus avellana ‘Red Majestic’ – This purple-leaved contorted hazelnut or filbert is often referred to as Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick. Although often considered strictly ornamental, with cross-pollination from a different cultivar it will produce a small crop of tasty nuts. Unfortunately this variety is susceptible to Eastern Filbert Blight, so plant ‘Red Dragon’ if available. Grows 8′ tall and wide. Hardy to USDA zone 3.

CastaneaSativaNuts3Castanea sativa – Sweet Chestnut is a native of southern Europe and North Africa that often finds its way further afield through the efforts of Italian or Portuguese immigrants. They are large, handsome deciduous trees with deep green serrated leaves and spiny-shelled clusters that yield tasty sweet potato and pecan-flavoured nuts. Cross-pollination increases yield and nut size. Grows to 45’+.  Hardy to USDA zone 5.

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