Plant picks to look out for when you hit the garden centres

New varieties and winners to inspire you this weekend!
(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Planting season is officially upon us. Nurseries and garden centres are bursting with tables and racks full of plants – some with buds that will open into colourful flowers, others that will flower into delicious fruit or veggies. If you're yearning to dig in the dirt and "grow your own," you don't need a huge space. Whether you have a balcony, a small patio or rooftop terrace, or a big garden or postage-stamp-sized yard, you can pretty much garden anywhere, provided you have the right growing conditions for the plants you choose.

Plant tags are your friends. Read them carefully to determine where your plants should go and what they need to survive – i.e. full sun. Of course walking into a garden centre can be overwhelming when you don't know what you want to grow. Lists are good, but so is the occasional impulse buy.

Here are a few fun plant suggestions. Let's start with flowers.

For borders and lush containers

You may have noticed that impatiens aren't as prevalent at garden centres as they used to be. That's because of a virus called downy mildew. If you're looking for that lush and full look of impatiens in a garden or container, keep an eye out for a brand called Sunpatiens®. The plants have tougher petals and foliage, and are downy mildew resistant. Also, they thrive in the heat and you can plant them in sun and shade.

Create your own colourful container arrangements...

(Source: Proven Winners)

When you're putting together your pots, do you choose a colour theme or do you like a riot of hues? When choosing spillers and fillers, this Tropical Sunrise Calibrachoa yellow and fuchsia hybrid could check both boxes. It blooms all summer, doesn't mind the heat and attracts hummingbirds. Of course there are other interesting colours to choose from, too!

...Or make it easy with mixes

If you're new to getting creative with your containers, look to some of the mixes that different garden centres carry. Often they've chosen an interesting colour palette and combined a few different annuals to pull together one flourishing container.

Not your grandmother's rosebush

Roses can be an intimidating option to gardeners – historically they are known to be quite finicky. However, Vineland Research and Innovations Centre in the Niagara region has introduced a new line of roses called the 49th Parallel Collection. The first one, Canadian Shield, launched this spring, in time for Canada's 150th birthday. It's hardy to zone 3 and was bred to be low-maintenance – it is self-cleaning and disease resistant. Go to 49throses.com/buy to find out which nurseries carry it.

And now for some food recommendations: Plant what's on your grocery list!

Choose a new-to-you tomato

(Source: All-America Selections)

You can't really go wrong with tomatoes, but it's fun to taste the subtle flavour differences between different varieties. All America Selections is a North American non-profit organization that tests new garden varieties for consumers. Their 2017 winner is "Tomato Midnight Snack F1" – considered an indigo-type cherry tomato which, because of its pigment, contains the same antioxidants as blueberries.

Urban berries

Growing fruit may seem unattainable if you garden in a small space, but there are some fantastic patio varieties available now. Bushel and Berry has a line of self-pollinating plants that are easy to grow in containers. The blueberries, raspberries and blackberries have delicious names, like Jelly Bean, Raspberry Shortcake and Peach Sorbet.

Speaking of berries, keep an eye out for three-packs of framberries, pineberries and strawberries in one pot. The pineberries are white and are said to taste like pineapple.

Celebrate the Year of the Brassica

The National Garden Bureau, a non-profit organization that seeks to educate and inspire home gardeners, has designated 2017 as the Year of the Brassica and kale happens to belong to that family of edibles. Plunk it in among a pot of flowers to add nice foliage and texture – kale comes in a variety of hues – and pull young leaves for summer meals as you need them.