Is it finally warming up enough to think about what we’re going to plant this year? For those interested in the plants selected this year by gardening organizations as new, unusual, or particularly tough selections, here are a few of the highlights:
The National Garden Bureau Perennial Plant Association picked the Variegated Solomon’s Seal as the “Perennial of the Year”, botanical name Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’. It is hardy for our area and needs part to full shade. It has 24” arching stems with green and white leaves and small white bell-shaped flowers in mid to late spring, lending a bright spot to woodland or natural gardens, as the clumps spread by rhizomes, creating large colonies. It makes a great companion to bolder leaved hostas, delicate ferns, and astilbes, and provides fall color, turning warm yellow with cool weather. It needs adequate moisture, so supplemental watering may be needed if your shady site tends to be dry.
For those with sun and less moisture, consider the All America Selections winner Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’. This perennial coneflower blooms the first year, blooming in mid-summer in colors ranging from purples, pinks and reds to oranges and even yellows, creams and whites. This sturdy plant is prized for its ability to take weather. Even if you forget to deadhead, this tall border perennial will bloom right into fall, where it is a great attraction for migrating butterflies.
The ‘Profusion’ series of Mexican zinnias offers some new colors. ‘Double Deep Salmon’ and ‘Double Hot Cherry’ are two new winners in this series. Mexican zinnias are compact mounding plants, loaded with flowers from summer through fall, and are without the disease problems that tall garden zinnias have. This zinnia thrives in drier climates, rarely displays mildew problems, and is attractive to butterflies.
Speaking of attracting butterflies, the Proven Winners selection in the ‘Lo & Behold’ series of butterfly bushes is worth a look. ‘Lilac Chip’ is a 24” sterile bush that works well in the perennial garden or large containers. Being sterile, there is no worry about it seeding throughout the garden. Its slightly larger cousin ‘Blue Chip’ is a winner from a previous year. These miniature butterfly bushes pack a wallop when it comes to attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, and are often deer resistant.
Or, if you’re just looking for a 2’-4’ evergreen hedge or “bones” for your garden, take a look at the new boxwood hybrid ‘Sprinter’, another Proven Winner. It is an improved version of ‘Winter Gem’ with a more upright habit and glossy evergreen leaves. This deer resistant workhorse grows faster than the old English boxwood and makes an excellent replacement plant or stands well on its own.