Two new shrubs for prairie gardens

Compared to more temperate areas of Canada, the palette of woody ornamentals is slim in Saskatchewan. So when new hardy shrubs become available, it’s exciting times for prairie gardeners. The two of note here are improved cultivars of Amur maple and elderberry. And for those on acreages, both tolerate browsing deer.

If you covet the deep red fall colour of some of the recent Amur maple cultivars but lack the space for a small tree, Atomic (Acer ginnala ‘Durglobe’) is your answer. Compact and globe-shaped, it has a mature size of only 10 tall x 10 wide. Its amazing symmetry is due to its multiple growing points. It’s slow growing and may take up to 20 years to reach its ultimate size. While it’s not for those who want instant gratification, it’s ideal for a smaller urban condo-type landscape, a low hedge, an accent plant or a rock garden.

Atomic has early and outstanding deep blood red fall colour, is hardy to zone 2 and has excellent pest resistance. In mid-summer, the samaras (double-winged seeds) turn bright red, giving a hint what’s to come in the fall. Plant in full to partial sun in well-drained soil. Once established, it is quite drought-tolerant.

Lemon Lace™ elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) was selected for its distinctive foliage, smaller size, and pleasing form. Only 3 – 5 ft. tall and wide, it matures to form an attractive, irregular, but compact shaggy mound.

Its unique foliage is golden yellow and deeply cut and almost threadlike with a red tinge in early spring. Its foliage and mound-like shape are similar to Les Kerr’s ‘Goldenlocks’ of the early 1970s, but Lemon Lace™ is an altogether tougher plant. Rated hardy to zone 3, it is worth trialing in protected gardens in zone 2.

Expect white spring flowers that develop on last year’s growth. Although the foliage is deer-resistant, the red fall fruit makes it a good edition to a wildlife garden attracting birds.

Suited to partial shade to full sun in well-drained soil, Lemon Lace™ can be used in a mixed or shrub border, as an accent plant, or as the focal point in a large container (to overwinter, place it in the soil prior to freeze-up.)

Sara will be hosting a garden tour to England this May. You are cordially invited to attend her presentation, “Great Gardens of Great Britain” at McNally Robinson’s Book Store on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7 pm. For more information, contact Ruth at 1-888-778-2378 or

This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Peren­nial Society (www.sask;; NEW Check out our Bulletin Board or Calendar for upcoming garden information sessions, workshops and tours:

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