Can you grow that here?

I took these pictures while touring the UBC Botanical Garden several years ago.  Of course, that area of British Columbia is considered to be several zones warmer than what we enjoy here in Ottawa (Zone 4B-5A). 

Everyone always believes that the climate of the Pacific Northwest is charmed (well, it actually is!) and that much of what they grow can’t be grown here in Ottawa. 

Well, I thought I’d do a post on what we CAN grow here in our ‘zone-compromised’ gardens!


Primula sp. – Candlestick or bog primrose

There are about 25 species of primrose (Primula sp.) that are known as the ‘candlestick’ variety.  These primrose all have a basal rosette of crinkled, light green leaves and tall spikes of inflorescences, resembling candles, showcasing flowers in a wide colour range, including white, pink, yellow and red.  They originate in boggy environments in southwest China and Japan. 

Many species are hardy to at least Zone 4-5; look for the yellow-flowering Primula bulleyana or the pink-flowering Primula japonica for Ottawa gardens, but ensure they are planted in a shady location.  They should be grown in an organically fertile soil that is kept consistently moist (so stream or pond-side).  Flowering spikes can reach 18-24″ (12-36″ for P. japonica) above the ground and blooming takes place for 4-6 weeks from late spring to mid summer.


Thalictrum rochebrunianum – Lavender mist meadow  rue

This gorgeous hardy perennial is a must-have for any garden.   Hardy to Zone 4, it is perhaps the most ornamental of several species of meadowrue with its frothy lavender purple blooms.  It requires moist soil in a slightly shaded location and can reach heights of up to 6′.  It is the kind of perennial that is best placed in the middle of a border or bed so that it’s delicate flowers aren’t lost visually.  With its fine foliage and see-through flowering stems, this plant has an  almost ethereal presence in the garden.  Give it about four feet square in which to flourish. 

Psych!  NO!  :c(

Caridocrinum giganteum var. giganteum – Giant Himalayan lily

This spectacular plant is another Asian import that grows very slowly from a bulb but, as you can see, can be very rewarding for the gardener as it matures.  Its flowering stems can reach 10′ in height so this stand in the UBC gardens is nothing short of spectacular.  The plant, however, is native to areas characterized as Zone 7 to 9; it loves a maritime climate so is grown well, if you’re patient and attentive, in coastal B.C. gardens.   Our only consolation to not being able to grow it here is that it can be the victim of slugs.


Kirengeshoma palmata:  Yellow wax-bells

Kirengeshoma in flower with other moisture-loving perennials: photo from Loomis Creek website

This Asian woodland perennial is a perfect foil for other shade plants, acting like a shrub in the background or middle ground.  It can reach 4′ tall in our climate (the literature says it is hardy to Zone 5; I suspect it’s 4) but is slow to establish into a large clump.  Requiring consistent moisture to stay happy and vigorous, its’ leaves will flag if the soil is too dry.  It has large, maple-shaped leaves held aloft by purple-black stems and shows off attractive tubular flowers with black sheaths that dangle above the foliage.  This is one of the few shade-loving perennials that flowers in the late summer, along with Hosta plantaginea and Chelone.

So go out this spring and grab these gorgeous plants!  You can try picking them up at places like:  Whitehouse Perennials just outside Almonte, Ontario and Kiwi Gardens near Perth, Ontario.

2 thoughts on “Can you grow that here?”

  1. I found your blog via Zemanta and have just started exploring it. I realize this post is over a year old, so hope you don’t mind my commenting!
    I’d never heard of (nor seen) a Giant Himalaya Lily but now I’m on the hunt to find it for my garden! I’m zone 10 and think it should grow here!
    great blog all around…so thrilled I randomly found it!

    1. Thank you Karen! Of course I don’t mind you commenting on my old post – I love it. You should definitely be able to grow Himalayan Lily at your big garden ;c) If you do, please take a pic and send it back along. I am so envious of your climate – would love to be able to grow so many desert plants year round!
      Thanks for your compliment :c)

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