New plant picks to look out for at garden centres this year

'Date Night Electric Love Weigela' and other beauties we're coveting, with names to match.

'Date Night Electric Love Weigela' and other beauties we're coveting, with names to match.

(Source: bloomineasyplants.com)

It seemed as though planting season would never come, but now that it has finally arrived, garden centres are bustling with both newbie and experienced gardeners looking to fill their gardens, balconies, patios and other empty outdoor canvases with both food and flowers. If you don't know where to start, gather a few garden centre tips to help make your visit less overwhelming, and make a list of the holes you hope to fill, grab your cart and start shopping!

Ornamental plant picks

Perennials will come back year after year, while annuals are great for pots, hanging baskets and blank spaces that need a burst of colour (flowers or foliage). Ask about native varieties that will flourish where you live and don't forget about the pollinators! Be sure to include lots of flowers for the bees, butterflies and birds in your garden, even if you're mostly interested in growing vegetables.

Coreopsis UpTick Gold & Bronze

2018 is the Year of the Coreopsis, according to the National Garden Bureau, and this variety from Darwin Perennials is a stunner. The petals have these lovely serrated edges and they bloom from summer through the fall. Place them in a perennial bed to enjoy every year in the garden — and in vases (that's what I do with the yellow ones I currently have in my garden).

Hardy roses

I think roses are overcoming their fussy reputation as hardy varieties replace the finicky ones of yore. These roses are disease resistant, hardy down to zones 4 and 5, and drought tolerant. It was a treat last year to test out the At Last Rose, offered at Sheridan Nurseries this season. The flowers are a lovely peach hue and the bush survived the winter. Also keep an eye out for the Knock Out Family of Roses.

Supertunia Bordeaux Petunia

For a lush plant, full of flowers — no deadheading required — look for supertunias. I plant these every year, because they have prolific blooms and last well into the fall. They are both heat and drought tolerant, and are perfect for containers and hanging baskets. Proven Winners has declared its Supertunia Bordeaux Petunia hybrid variety as its annual of the year.

Date Night Electric Love Weigela

If you're looking for a perennial that will produce a riot of blooms and fantastic foliage, check out this Weigela from Bloomin' Easy. The plant has dark leaves and red flowers; it blooms in spring, but may bloom again in the summer, is hardy down to about zone 5 and enjoys full sun. Place it in an empty space where you want high-impact colour or create a hedge out of a few shrubs.

Chick Charms' Gold Nugget

Chick Charms is a fun brand offering a variety of Hens & Chicks in fun colours. Despite its name, Gold Nugget isn't all yellow. This perennial has lime green accents and the tips darken from reddish orange to a lovely deep red. Though it looks tropical, the plant is hardy down to about zone 4 and it's drought tolerant. Place a group of Chick Charms in pots or in a super-sunny spot of the garden.

Edible plant picks

Whether you have a raised bed in a backyard or a teeny tiny patio full of pots, now's the time to shop for vegetables and herbs to grow. Just keep an eye on the forecast in case the temperatures are headed for a deep dip. If you are gardening in a small space, look for compact varieties that won't take over.

Mad Hatter Pepper

I spotted these in a couple of trial gardens last year and had the opportunity to taste this fun-looking variety in the Stokes Trial Garden in St. Catharines, Ontario. You can eat them when they're a lemony green colour, or when they ripen to this rich, vibrant red. Either way, they're delish.

Tomato Gladiator

This was my favourite tomato from last year. My Tomato Gladiator plants from Burpee didn't succumb to late blight as many other tomatoes did, and they produced these huge, gorgeous paste tomatoes that were perfect for soup and sauce (which I made and freezed).


These are not new to market, but they may be new to a lot of gardeners. Also called Mexican Sour Gherkins and Mouse Melons, these grape-sized melons taste like a tart cucumber, are fun to grow and need lots of space to climb — so give them a good sturdy trellis.

Tara Nolan is a freelance writer who covers gardening, décor, travel, and cycling, mountain biking and other outdoor adventures for a variety of publications. She is also one quarter of the popular gardening website Savvy Gardening.