For almost 40 years we’ve been
denied the use of the beautiful barberry shrubs!
Barberry situation in Canada and particularly the ban on its
inter-provincial movement seems to be one of the most talked about
subjects among nurserymen these days.” That’s the first sentence from
an article I wrote on the topic of banning deciduous barberries in Canada,
a way back in June of 1966!
was a memo from the then Plant Protection Division of the Canada
Department of Agriculture, dated February 16, 1966 (yes, 34 years ago!),
that was the beginning of the ban. At that time too, Plant Protection
warned: “We now intend not only to check inter-provincial movement of
all deciduous varieties of barberry but also to require removal and
destruction of . . .” all ornamental and landscape plantings of certain
varieties including the then very popular ‘Sheridan Red’.
popular were the cultivars of Japanese barberry when the ban was imposed
(though announced in 1966, nurseries were allowed to continue to sell
existing stocks until early in the 70s) they were the number one selling
deciduous shrubs at the time. And since then none has been allowed to be
sold or propagated in Canada ostensibly because, for example to quote the
February 16/66 memo: “Stem rusts are in a highly mutant state of
evolution and it is logical to assume that a rust race might
develop in Canada which could attack B. thunbergii.” The
emphasis on “might” was mine then and is now.
the U.S. no such ban was ever imposed by their highly protective
agricultural community generally, or the wheat and grain industry
stakeholders specifically, Even in 1966 I wrote “The Plant Protection
Division in Ottawa admits it has not requested the ban on barberry. Rather
it seems, consistently strong pressure from Cereal growers has lead the
division to this course of action. It would seem about time that Canadian
Horticulturists banded together to make themselves heard in defence of
ornamental plants and their value to our landscape.”
since the imposition of the ban, the Canadian Nursery Trades Association
has fought to have it revoked on a number of grounds. Only in the last
decade since Chris Andrews, the association’s executive director, has
actively led a campaign to sit down with the stakeholders, have we
gradually reached the present position, where it would appear that in the
foreseeable future it will once again be lawful to propagate and sell
certain varieties of B. thunbergii. It must be emphasized,
however, only “certain varieties” will be allowed. None of the old
ones sold in Canada that were so popular, such as ‘Crimson Pygmy’ and
‘Sheridan Red’ will be allowed to be propagated or sold. What will be
allowed are certain new cultivars approved by various agencies in the U.S.
But that is exciting news! These are significant new cultivars, including B.
thunbergii ‘Monry’ (Sunsation™ Japanese barberry) illustrated
here. This plant is a compact grower of bright golden foliage in spring
and an orange cast most of the season. Obviously it makes an excellent
foliage contrast with nearly all other shrubs. It is a slow grower that
prefers full sun locations, and spreads to 90-120 cm tall and up to 120 cm
new cultivars that will gradually become available to us are: B.t. ‘Monlers’
Golden Nugget™, similar to the foregoing but not exceeding 30 cm tall
and 45 cm wide; B.t. ‘Rose Glow’ which has a deep rose-red
glow over mottled white and green foliage in spring, a slow grower to 1.5
m; B.t. ‘Monomb; and Cherry Bomb®, that has deep crimson-coloured
foliage all season and grows to a height of about 1 m. All of the
foregoing, initially at least, will come from the Monrovia company in
Oregon. There will be other equally interesting cultivars from other U.S.
wholesalers (including Bailey Nursery in Minnesota and Spring Meadow
Nursery in Michigan).
don’t be rushing out to your favourite garden centre this spring,
seeking these plants! Chris Andrews tells me that a bill must yet
be passed by the House of Commons (although some think the Minister can
sign the necessary order), and Chris has been told that all the necessary
paper work etc. will be in place by July 31. Chris makes no guarantee on
this--with our House, who would? Then, nurseries will be able to begin
importing these new plants in varying sizes. But, there is still an
additional hurdle. Once the approvals are in place, and nurseries do
import the approved plants, there is still a three-month waiting period
before any can be sold at retail. That means the earliest these new plants
would be available in Canada is early November this year.
written that, I am aware that there are some smaller plant nurseries
selling some of these newer plants even now. This is strictly illegal, but
it is happening!
Art C. Drysdale
6 Nesbitt Drive
Toronto, ON M4W 2G3