Repotting 1

Repotting Large Containers

By Susan

Occasionally Japanese maples, roses, bamboo (especially bamboo!) and other large container plants need to be re-potted. How can you tell if it’s time? If you feel that a particular plant didn’t do so well last year, or that water ran right through the pot without being absorbed, then it probably is. Repotting doesn’t always mean going to a bigger pot. It could just be a case of trimming the roots and replanting into the same pot using fresh soil.

Handling big pots is easier than it looks if you know a few tricks and have someone to help. A day or two ahead of time check the moisture in the containers. It’s easiest to do if the soil is damp right through, but not soggy.

Before you start, you will need some fresh soil. We regularly recommend one of three options:

  1. The easiest is premixed potting soil that has a soil base – avoid light weight peat- based mixes. (We like Growell Sterilized Potting Soil).
  2. Alternatively, you can use a bagged soil like Grower’s Delight Garden Soil mixed 50/50 with bark.
  3. If you prefer to mix your own soi, a blend of equal parts finished compost, bark mulch and good garden soil is ideal.

N.B. Its best to always use sterilized soil for Japanese Maples, as garden soil can harbour harmful fungal spores.

Time to get started! Make clean-up easy by spreading out a tarp to work on.

Run a long, sharp knife, like a bread knife, around the sides of the pot. When it seems loosened, lay the pot on its side and carefully pull the plant out. This is easiest if the container has straight sides, but will take much more effort if the sides are curved inwards (a good thing to remember if you are buying new pots). You don’t have to be too gentle at this stage, especially if the plant is dormant. Plants are tougher than you think.

Tease the soil away from the roots with a small hand fork and trim long circling roots. If the root mass is solid, use an old knife, pruning saw or even a Saws All, to cut away a couple of inches from the sides and bottom.

Clean out the container and check that the drainage holes aren’t plugged. Cover them with some screening to keep them open. Mesh dry wall tape or old window screen work well.
Add fresh soil mix to the pot and reposition the plant so that the top of the root ball is at the same level it was before you started- not too deep or too high.
Fill in with the soil mix, to about two inches from the top. Tamp the soil down gently around the roots so there are no air pockets.

Return the pot to its permanent position. Top dress with a slow release fertilizer and water well. Lastly, prune for shape and to remove any damaged or inward growing branches.

If your containers are too big to move, scrape away what you can of the old soil and top up with some fresh soil mix instead. .


The oldest known potted tree

It’s possible to re-pot anything if you have enough help!

It took nine gardeners, a crane and three months of meticulous planning to place a one-tonne tree, believed to be the oldest potted plant in the world, into a new container.
The ancient cycad, a palm-like tree, was collected from South Africa on one of Captain Cook’s voyages and has been at Kew Gardens since 1775.
It has grown outwards and upwards at an inch a year and now reaches almost 15’. It grows at an angle and is propped up by stilts.

From The Daily Mail


Hakonecloa Aureola

Simple Containers

 by Susan Tice

Colourful containers sprouted up everywhere when we moved to our current home and we suddenly had lots of sun. My long pent up desire for pots overflowing with petunias and other summer beauties could be indulged almost endlessly. A few years later, the novelty wore off a little – it was a lot of work to plant up all those pots every year; time to look at alternatives. Perhaps a single, perfect specimen instead of a riot of colour…

Hydrangea 'Paris'

Hydrangea ‘Paris’

A single specimen plant in a beautiful container has an elegance and grace all its own. For a single plant to shine it should have more than one ornamental feature and look great over more than one season. The size of the plant should be in proportion to the size of the container.   The shape of the plant, whether it be tall and upright, softly weeping or a formal round ball, should complement the shape of the container.

Hydrangea 'Bombshell'

Hydrangea ‘Bombshell’

Among other things, grasses, ferns and hydrangeas are particularly well suited to container growing and look more spectacular with each passing year.   Any of the new easy care, long blooming hydrangeas would look great in a nice pot. Try ’Limelight’, Little Lime’, ‘Bombshell’, ‘Pistachio’ or ‘Adria for example.

Hakonecloa 'Aureola'

Hakonecloa ‘Aureola’

Many grasses show well in containers with Japanese forest grass (Hakonecloa), fountain grass (Pennisetum) and feather reed grass (Calamagrostis) being particular favourites.   Evergreen ferns like sword ferns and Japanese Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum) take time to fill in, but are worth the wait.

Hosta 'Empress Wu'

Hosta ‘Empress Wu’

Consider perennials like Crocosmia or Kniphofia which have spiky foliage all season and showy flowers in mid-summer. I’ve always had hostas in pots and they look stunning when elevated and a small grouping can make quite a statement.

Specimen plants in containers can adorn a porch or patio or define an entry way. When placed around the garden or tucked into a bed, they become instant focal points.   Plus, you can move them around to cover up bare patches. A well-placed container looks like art and can hide all manner of problems!

There will always be petunias in my summer garden, but the pots filled with special plants will be there year after year, like reliable old friends.

Hellebore Tutu 400x

Irresistible Hellebores

By Susan

Hellebore 'Tutu'

Hellebore ‘Tutu’

It’s hard to resist the siren call of hellebores.  Winter blooming, in a wide variety of colour and form, they are long lived and don’t even need dividing. All that and they are both drought tolerant and deer resistant! No wonder we love them.  They are the most collectible of plants.

Helleborus niger aka Christmas Rose and H. orientalis aka Lenten Rose are the species we are most familiar with.  Hellebores seed themselves freely and are notoriously variable.  That variability has long fascinated plant breeders, who had to grow their different coloured plants miles apart from each other in order to have some control over pollination.  Growing hellebores was always a bit like hosting a pot luck dinner, they never knew what they were going to get.

The real challenge though, comes in duplicating hellebores.   It’s only relatively recently, thanks to new techniques like tissue culture, that hellebores have been readily available commercially.  Hellebore varieties are still often sold as ‘seed strains’, meaning that one will be similar to others in the group, but rarely the same.  They have become complex hybrids, known botanically as Helleborus x hybridus.

Separating Seedpods

Seedpods are individually bagged and collected by colour strain.

Hellebores have come a long way from their original murky shades of pink and white, thanks to breeders like Marietta O’Byrne from Oregon’s NorthWest Garden Nursery.  Her ‘Winter Jewels Collection’ features doubles and singles, rich colours and intricate patterns which result from hand pollination and careful selection.  Even their names are irresistible – ‘Berry Swirl’, ‘Onyx Odyssey’, ‘Golden Lotus’,  ‘Apricot Blush’ to name a few; they even sound enticing.  The colour and form of each plant will be similar to others in the strain, but again, rarely identical.
Through successive generations the colours become more stable, and the strains improve.  Hellebores can be expensive, but considering the amount of work that goes into producing them and the fact that they will live for years, they can be considered an excellent investment!

The Same But Different:

Onyx Odssey

Onyx Odyssey

Hellebore 'Berry Swirl'

Hellebore ‘Berry Swirl’


How to Grow Hellebores
We think of hellebores as woodland plants, but in their native Eastern Europe they are found growing in open sunny meadows in alkaline soil.   They are very adaptable though, and will thrive in a lightly shaded acidic woodland.  Although they are drought tolerant, hellebores are at their best in moist, rich, well-drained soils.  At planting time, dig in plenty of leaf mould, garden compost or mushroom manure.   Additional feeding is not usually needed, but an occasional application of a balanced slow release fertilizer won’t hurt.  Mulch occasionally in spring with compost.

It’s a good idea to cut off all the old foliage just as the flowers are starting to emerge.  For one thing, the flowers will show better when the foliage is cut away, but the main reason is to keep the plants healthy.  By spring the old foliage is ratty looking and buggy.  Removing it will allow the new foliage to stay clean.  Put the old foliage in the garbage, not the compost.

Warning: Buying hellebores can be habit forming and can lead to obsession!

If you are interesting in exploring the world of hellebores the Plant Delights website is a great place to start


Pteridophyllum racemosum

Specialty Plants

Are you a plant collector? Do you seek out rare and unusual specimens? Plants are like people, there are some rare gems among the crowd, and they are worth the effort to find. We have often been considered a source of unique items, making it worth the drive to North Saanich to find us. We are now stocking a select grouping of plants from a specialty grower on the Lower Mainland, many woodland treasures from Japan in particular. Yes, they are expensive! Quantities are limited.

Photos and plant information provided by: HarkAway Botanicals 
Actaea pachypoda ‘Misty Blue’
Supernal native woodland perennial (Eastern NA) with a mounding habit and lacy blue-green foliage. Tall stems of fluffy white panicles in spring;  striking, pure white berries with contrasting red pedicels in fall.Tolerates most soil types but requires even moisture in light to medium shade.
Height: 60-90cm   Spread:  60-90cm  Zone:  3
Anemonella thalictroides ‘Betty Blake’
An unexpected wonder,  ‘Betty Blake’ has fully double flowers of pale apple green.  Flowering begins in early spring lasting into summer.  A very showy addition to the woodland garden; makes an excellent container specimen.  Prefers a gritty well-drained soil in open to partial shade.
Height: 20cm   Spread:  30cm  Zone:  4
Beesia calthifolia
A beautiful clumping evergreen perennial from China, having glossy heart-shaped leaves with that gasoline sheen; new growth is bronze-red.  Tall spikes of small white flowers through spring and summer.  Slow to establish. Superb, groundcover for shade.
Prefers humus rich soils.
Height: 30cm   Spread:  30+cm  Zone:  6
Calanthe sieboldii
Robust terrestrial orchid with bright green, pleated leaves.  Tall scapes (50cm) of brilliant yellow flowers in spring.  A very exotic addition to the woodland. Flowers are among the largest of the hardy Calanthe. Evergreen during mild winters; easy to grow.
Best in partial sheade in moist, humus-rich soil.
Height: 15-30   Spread:  30-45  Zone:  6
Convallaria majalis ‘Albostriata’
Highly prized by gardeners this coveted perennial has green leaves that are vertically striped with pale gold.  Slow to establish, but worth the wait! Short scapes of fragrant white bells in early spring. Likes average well drained soil in part shade.
Height: 15-20   Spread:  30cm  Zone:
Daphne odora ‘Rebecca’
Found in Devon England this impressive sport of  ‘Aureomarginata’ has long narrow dark green leaves with a broad gold margin; evergreen.  Deep purple buds open to very fragrant pink flowers; early spring. Best grown in partial shade in very well-drained soil.
Height: 1.25-1.5m   Spread:  1.5m  Zone:  7
Leucosceptrum japonicum ‘Gold Angel’
Outstanding herbaceous perennail from Japan with foliage reminiscent of a stunning golden salvia.  Plants have a clumping shrub-like growth habit.  Soft yellow bottlebrush flower spikes late summer into fall.
Full sun (maintain moisture levels) to partial shade in average, moist soil.
Height: 90cm   Spread:  90-120cm  Zone:  4
Pteridophyllum racemosum
Unique perennial endemic to the mountains of Japan. Plants form rosettes of dark green, fern-like leaves which are topped by short (30cm) spikes of pendulous clean white flowers; spring into summer.
Prefers moist, humus rich, well drained soil in cool shade.
Height: 15-30cm   Spread:  30+  Zone:  5
Sciadopitys verticillata
Japanese Umbrella Pine
Compact, slow growing conifer with umbrella-like whorls of soft, narrow, dark green needles.  Plants form a dense conical to pyramidal shape that will become more open with age.  A most eye-catching specimen or container plant.
Full sun to light shade in moist, acidic, well drained soil.
Height: 4-6m   Spread:  2-3m  Zone:  5
succ pot 200px

Container Gardening with Succulents

by Faye

4 parts sterilized potting soil (not peat-based soilless blend)
1 part coarse sand (available at Trio, Gravel Mart, Peninsula Landscape Supply, etc)
1 part Vermiculite (available in small bags at the nursery.

succ pots on wagon 200pxHARDY SUCCULENTS (best selection available at the nursery from April onwards)

These are the familiar, rosette forming “hens and chicks”, very easy to propagate using the chicks as starts for new plants. Just a few of the many varieties available:
Sempervivum arachnoideum; with a spidery web covering the rosette,
S. calcareum; green with red tips ‘Sir William Lawrence’ especially attractive,
S. marmoreum; rich, mahogany red leaves,
S. atroviolaceum; muted colour with soft metallic sheen.

succ pot w:wood 200pxSEDUMS
These are usually more mat-like, excellent ground covers for containers and small garden areas, and easy to propagate using stem cuttings.
Sedum pachyclados; heavily toothed, closely packed rosettes on wandering green stems,
S. spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’; grey to almost white carpet of textured small rosettes.
S. makinoi ‘Ogon’; yellow foliage, tiny leaves but very easy to grow, forming a lovely cascading ground cover, very pretty in a blue pot. It tolerates shade well.
S. repestre ‘Angelina’ is a striking, lime green mass of shaggy foliage. It tends to be a bit robust in a pot, but is easy to cut back, and make new plants from the cuttings.
S. rubrotinctum; the “jelly bean” plant, one of the many good Stonecrop Sedums

Sedum sieboldii ‘Mediovariegatum’; variegated leaves on stems up to 14”,
S. spurium ‘John Creech’; very tough, can even take dry shade under a conifer tree.

NON HARDY SUCCULENTS (available mid spring, throughout summer)
The Echeverias that grow here are usually pale blue/green rosettes, but sometimes we see the ruffled, larger leafed varieties, which are even more tender than the rosettes. I have sometimes kept rosette-type Echeverias outside during the winter, as long as they are very dry, and protected from the elements; usually tucked up against the warm house in a sheltered spot. For best results, a cool greenhouse, bright shed or garage is the safest place, as long as they are kept above freezing. Light is important.

Designing with Succulents – Debra Lee Baldwin
Hardy Succulents – Gwen Moore Kelaidis
The Jewel Box Garden – Thomas Hobbs