29 December 2007
top ten plants--perennials
To go along with my column in Sunday's edition of the Chronicle Herald (which you can read here for one week), I'm expanding on that discussion with a top ten roundup of each of my favourite annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs. I'll ask for your patience in getting the remaining posts up, as I'm down with another nasty bout of my recurring illness, and am having a hard time getting things done. That said, I've managed to create a post of top ten perennials; as I see them right now.
Yes, that's right. Our tastes change, and we might be very fond of a plant for years on end, then see something new and different (or something old and different) that changes our opinions. Take astilbes, for example. Until a couple of years ago, I wasn't impressed by them particularly, although I liked their foliage well enough. Then I saw them grown really well, saw the many variants in flower colour AND foliage colour, and realized they'd do well in my damp, shady areas. Now I just love them, although I don't have them listed in this top-ten list.
In fact, making a top ten list of perennials is really hard, because in order to be accurate, it would have to be the top twenty three or so. I did one top-ten list (which was thirteen) back in March, which focused only on genera (Euphorbia, Eryngium, etc). This time, I'm going to mention specific cultivars where possible.
But just one thing before we start: please don't ask me where to get them! I often get email from readers wondering where to get X plant; and while I do try to note where I bought such and such a plant, it doesn't always happen. I sometimes forget, or lose the label or note. Plus nurseries do run out of stock. And I don't have a Rolodex in my head of every nursery's inventory. The advice I give to gardeners is to make requests of your local nursery, if there's a specific plant you have your heart set on growing and you need to see brought in.
Now, without further ado...this year's top ten perennials are:
Of course, those of you who read bloomingwriter regularly EXPECTED this, didn't you? Echinacea 'Green Envy' incited envy in most of us this past year, and hopefully it will be much more available next year. I never met a coneflower (be it Echinacea, Rudbeckia, or Ratibida) that I didn't love, but this one just knocked my socks off. It flowered until late October, too.
Daylilies are workhorses in the garden, able to take just about any sort of growing conditions. This beauty is Hemerocallis 'Destined to See', and I like it so much I bought three plants of it!
There are a number of wonderful sea hollies that grow well in Nova Scotia, but one of the most elegant is Erygium alpinum. Where some of its relatives are quite prickly, the bracts of this one are soft, and a lovely true-blue rather than purple.
Foliage is as important in our garden as are flowers, and a star performer this year was 'Frosted Violet' heuchera. It's not the newest or the fanciest, but it grew to an impressive size in our "chocolate and wine" garden, and was still looking handsome in late October, when this closeup photo was taken.
Yes, I admit it. I have a fixation for blue flowers, from hepatica and scilla in spring until the last flower of the autumn flowering gentians. I was inspired to try growing these by an extremely talented alpine gardener who lives on the South mountain, across the Valley. This is Gentiana septemfida.
Are you sensing a blue theme here? (and I avoided including Meconopsis in this list because it's such a challenge for many gardeners). This is Aconitum 'Stainless Steel' monkshood, a handsome perennial for the back of a border. It grows to nearly 5 feet tall in our garden, and covers itself in these cool blue flowers. One caveat; monkshood IS toxic in all its parts, so don't let children or dogs get at it. Cats seem to know better.
Masterworts, or Astrantia, are another of those plants I came to adore only a couple of years ago. Once they settle in, they are consistant performers, flowering well into autumn, and there's something about these complex yet dainty flowers that just exudes peacefulness. There are numerous colour variants available, with flowers in shades of white through rose to wine, as well as at least one cultivar with variegated foliage. Ours are all planted in shade to part shade, but they'll take a sunny spot too (and probably have even more flowers. )
Another foliage star! This is 'Bonfire' euphorbia, a new polychroma type spurge. It's well named, because its golden flowers and bracts light up especially well against the deep burgundy foliage. Readers know I'm a bit of a spurge nut (or euphoric about euphorbia, as this past post indicates) so it's my happy duty to test out new spurges whenever possible.
This is a must-have perennial for anyone who loves blue; it's Corydalis elata, rather than the more finicky Corydalis flexuosa. The electric blue flowers last for weeks on end, and while it doesn't bloom forever like C. lutea, its a great plant for the front or mid area of the border. And it's fragrant, bringing butterflies, hummingbirds and bees to it like crazy.
Lastly, (and number 11, if we count the Monarda 'Raspberry Wine' at the beginning of this post) is Asclepias incarnata, or rosy butterfly weed. And no explanation as to why I love it is necessary, is it?