In the garden: plants love rainy weather

This summer has been one of the coolest, rainiest summers I can remember. Weeds love it. Despite the mulched flower beds, they continue to appear, but the moist soil makes it easy to pull them out.

The weather, especially in June when the precipitation was well above average, favored good growth on everything. Trees and shrubs love it, and conifers are teeming with cones. It should also help with the recovery of any trees that have been ravaged by LDD – formerly known as gypsy moth, a name considered insensitive to ethnicity.

Plants and gardens adapt as conditions change, and no year is alike. Plants grow best when the weather is particularly convenient for them, others less. I made the mistake of moving the plants to the back of the border when they got too tall, only to find they didn’t grow as well the following year.

I am currently tempted to move my globe thistle, Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue.’ It is next to a path where it normally only reaches waist level; this summer, its thorny flower heads are at eye level. It’s a plant that’s supposed to grow best in a warm, sunny place, right where mine is. I guess he appreciates a little more humidity after all.

The rainy weather brought other surprises. I am particularly pleased with a perennial that, according to my notes, I planted in 2017. The plant is Veratrum nigrum, or false black hellebore. I had forgotten about it until it finally bloomed this year for the first time, no doubt thanks to more rain. Although it grows in full sun, it is a plant that prefers partial shade and moist soil.

Despite the common name of false black hellebore, it is not closely related to true hellebores and bears no resemblance to them. It produces tall branching spears, tightly covered with small, star-shaped, purple-black flowers.

The botanical name refers to both the flower and the color of the black rhizome from which it grows. The leaves are large, around 30 centimeters (12 inches) long, much like those of a hosta, but with parallel lines giving them a wrinkled appearance. When conditions are right, it blooms in early summer for several weeks, but can go dormant during prolonged periods of intense heat. Another plus is the purple pods which add interest to the winter garden.

Veratrum nigrum is native to Eurasia and was widely known in ancient times for its medicinal value as an emetic and for its toxicity, no doubt used to take care of an enemy. Although all parts are extremely poisonous if eaten, it has been used in European gardens at least as early as 1773. Even Charles Darwin is said to have grown it in his garden in the 1840s, and the Royal Horticultural Society has it so. liked that they gave it is the Award of Merit of the Garden.

I will also give it my merit award, even though I have waited centuries to see it flourish.

If you are interested in seeing other plants of merit, the University of Guelph is proud to host scheduled tours of the Test Garden sites in Milton on August 12 and Guelph on August 13 for the Garden of Guelph Open House. test this year. This is where you can see many new varieties of annuals and perennials. For more information and to register (COVID requirement), visit the website at

Another particularly rare plant that I must mention is Audrey Bailey, mainstay of the Galt Horticultural Society. This Saturday, August 7, it will be in full bloom for 95 years. Happy Birthday Audrey!