Here is a link to an article I wrote last week for the Calgary Herald (about the perennial trials, of course!).

A meander down our garden path.

Note: Since the link no longer works, here’s the article as it was published:

A meander down our garden path

Ann Van De Reep, For The Calgary Herald
Published: Friday, July 02, 2010

There’s a little-known hidden gem on the south side of the Dorothy Harvie Gardens at the Calgary Zoo. A curving flagstone path flanked by beautiful perennial borders is one of three regional sites for the Alberta Perennial Trials. It’s a wonderful place to discover perennials that thrive in Calgary’s unique climate. Come take a walk with me along the garden path to see what’s in bloom this week.

The first bed is hot and dry; it’s backed by several huge Colorado spruce trees, so the plants here have to be tough. Compact Doronicum “Little Leo” is just coming to the end of its peak bloom period. It looks great next to the dwarf rock cress Aubrieta gracilis, a tidy mound of wiry foliage covered in purple blooms. Little Leo pairs equally with one of my current favourites, the dark burgundy spurge Euphorbia polychroma “Bonfire.”

On the other side of the path is a lovely strawberry, Fragaria “Lipstick,” sporting dark pink flowers. The berries are edible, which I will confirm if I ever get to them before the squirrels. One caution, though: this plant has incredibly vigorous runners.

Peony “Jan van Leeuwen” is about to burst into bloom any day now with spectacular single or semi-double white flowers with yellow stamens. Unlike many peonies, it does not need staking.

There are three varieties of itoh, or intersectional, peonies in the trials: “Bartzella,” “Cora Louise” and “Yellow Crown.” These peonies are a cross between tree peonies and lactiflora peonies. The flowers resemble those of the tree peony parent, but the plants die back to the ground in winter, making them more likely to survive in Alberta. All three varieties have flower buds for the first time this year. Keep your fingers crossed that they will bloom.

Up ahead, edging the pathway, is a gorgeous golden-leaved candytuft, Iberis “Golden Candy.” Behind the candytuft are three butterfly bushes: Buddleia davidii “Black Knight,” back again for their third season in the garden. Further along, Geranium “Philippe Vappelle” is looking gorgeous this year. “Phil,” as he is affectionately known, is a longtime graduate of the trials.

Ligularia dentata “Osiris Fantaisie” is a new variety of elephant ears from Les Jardins Osiris in Quebec. This shade-lover is worth growing for the purple stems and dark green leaves, but this year we are hoping to also see the yellow daisy-like flowers.

Your eyes will be drawn irresistibly to the amazing double salmon-pink oriental poppies, Papaver orientale “Double Pleasure.” But don’t miss the beautiful Iris “Clarence” on your right, and Sedum “Angelina,” which has formed a spectacular bright gold ground cover. Further down, the glossy green and gold leaves of Vinca “Blue and Gold” complement the gold of the sedum and the blue flowers provide a stunning contrast.

Calgarians with shady gardens have often resorted to planting the attractive, but invasive goutweed, Aegopodium podagraria. A possible new substitute in the trial garden is variegated peuce masterwort, Peucedanum ostruthius “Daphnis.” With green leaves edged in cream and lacy white flowers, it looks like goutweed, but so far has not run amok in the bed. This plant definitely needs a shady spot; we have discovered the leaves burn in the sun.

As we come to the end of the garden path, Astrantia major “Ruby Wedding” is just beginning to bloom and a new perennial geranium planted last year, Geranium “Espresso,” is impressing everyone with unusual coffeecoloured foliage and pink flowers.

From now until late fall, there will be a succession of flowers in the garden. Discover what’s in bloom in our blog (albertaperennialtrials. wordpress. com) or come and stroll along with us.

Ann Van de Reep is the project co-ordinator, Alberta Perennial Trials. For more info, visit calgaryzoo. org.