23 November 2010

Perennial All-stars: New and Nice in 2010

Working on an assignment over the past couple of days took me through recent 'events' in my iPhoto libraries, which as you can imagine are chock-a-block with photos of plants. The outburst of colour did my heart glad, especially as we continue with the drearies (interspersed with light snowfalls that are indicative of what is to come). Naturally, I thought, why wait til the end of the year to do a retrospective? Let's have at it now! So here, gentle readers, are some of the best and brightest of perennials from my gardening season of 2010.

No one who hangs out here regularly will be surprised to see 'Hot Papaya' echinacea leading the pack. Echinaceas are one of my favourite flowers, hands down, and I've been fascinated by the rainbow of colours we've seen over the past few years. Of course, no one has yet developed a blue echinacea, despite the rumour to that effect back in April.

For the purists among us, some of the plants I show here aren't brand new, but they're decidedly new to my garden. I last tried Stokesia, or Stokes' aster, about ten years ago, and couldn't get it to overwinter because it kept being taken out by soggy clay. This year, I had the brainwave to plant it near the echinaceas, and it settled in and thrived. I'm highly optimistic that it will reappear next year--I have it well marked so I don't inadvertantly try to weed it.

Heaths and heathers are fabulous for their foliage as well as for their flowers, but this is a new and particular favourite of mine, Erica 'Irish Lemon', bought at Bunchberry Nurseries in Upper Clements. The name charms me, as do the huge flowers (for an erica) and the foliage is decidedly handsome.

I regularly sing the praises of heleniums, those stars of the late-season garden. It's been gratifying to see more and more nurseries carrying these plants, and carrying new and interesting cultivars, such as this petite charmer, 'Ruby Tuesday', purchased at Ouest-Ville Perennials in Ouest Pubnico. (That would be West Pubnico for the Anglais among us).

Vernonia or ironweed is a lateseason delight, and is beloved of pollinators, so those two facts make it a must-have in my garden. This is V. crinita 'Purple Bowl', which I found for the first time this year at Briar Patch Farm and Nursery in Berwick.

You know what it's like when you spy a plant and you stop dead in your tracks and absolutely have to have it? That's what happened when I saw astilbe 'Color Flash Lime' this past spring. I bought two of them, I liked it that much, for its foliage more than for its pale pink blossoms. The foliage gradually turns more lime green as summer advances, but it's a delight, just like its relative, 'Color Flash'.

Thanks in no small part to the tutelage of Frances at Faire Garden, I've gotten sort of confident (not too confident as that might cause hubris) with hellebores, and have added some new cultivars since the initial successes with 'Ivory Prince' and H. purpurascens. This year, I fell under the spell of 'Golden Sunrise' hellebore. Can you see why?

I looked for a photo of the foliage of Eryngium 'Jade Frost', showing its bluegreen, cream, and pink early growth, but couldn't find it. Given to me to trial by Dugald Cameron of GardenImport in 2009, it came into its own this year with fabulous clusters of silvercream flowers and bracts, which gradually enrich to metallic blue. Fabulous, fabulous plant. It seems to be acting perennial so far (touch wood) so I'm hoping it returns as vigourously next year.

Amsonia, or bluestar, is a highly underutilized perennial, at least in my neck of the woods. I've had A. tabernaemontana for at least a decade, and find it an excellent and no-maintenance perennial. I've never divided it, moved it, or done anything else to it except plant it and enjoy it. This year, I got my hands on the cultivar 'Blue Ice', which has somewhat broader-petaled flowers (seen here), and am happy to have it too. Next year, I'm hoping for a big flush of interest in amsonias, as the Perennial Plant Association have named Amsonia hubrichtii their plant of the year for 2011.

This is a completely new-to-me perennial this year, given to me by plantsman extraordinaire Lloyd Mapplebeck of Hillendale Perennials in Truro. This is Patrinia, a tall, later flowering perennial that works well with vernonia and eupatorium (ironweed and joe-pye weed).

Lloyd also insisted I try this delicately yellow anemone, Anemone palmata 'Luteum'. It bloomed for a long time, and was a big hit with the bees.

The veronicas and salvias are also a big hit with pollinators, and I was delighted to find this interestingly coloured variety, 'Purplicious', at Briar Patch. Veronicas are such fabulous plants, with such a delightful range of heights, flower types and colours. You can't have just one or two. I think I have upwards of a dozen.

My friend Lorraine Beswick gave me the remarkable yellow scabious, Cephalaria gigantea, back in the spring after I went gaga over it last year in her garden. It did marvelously for me this year, and I'm hoping for seedlings to share with others.

Rounding out today's lovefest, a cool little geum that swept me off my feet in midsummer when I saw it at a nursery somewhere in the province. This is 'Eos', the first geum I've seen with lime-green foliage, which makes a spectacular foil for the brilliant scarlet orange flowers. I'm going to nurture this one over winter, and hope that it will be as stalwart a performer as are 'Mango Lassy' and 'Cooky'.

Have you grown any of these plants? How have you done with them?


  1. I love that 'color flash lime' and for the same reason you do, texture and foliage color. I love helenium but do not have that ruby one. Making a list, Jodi, makin' a list....

  2. I WANT a hot papaya now - it's quite yummy and HOT! Every time I visit here you remind me that our next house must have SUN for I miss the flowers, bees and butterflies. Thanks, chicka.

  3. Now that the snow has come I've found myself sitting in an evening with garden drawings and lists in hand. Your top picks have certainly given me lots to think about for planting next year! The only plant we have in common is veronica (mine being a small variety, I'd love to add more larger ones) but there's a number of other plants that have me intrigued.

  4. What beautiful blooms you have had in your garden this year. I don't know which would be my favorite - they are all so lovely. I haven't grown any of them, and am not sure how they would do down here in Texas, but I certainly enjoyed your retrospective. (BTW, my iPhoto library is full of plant photos too!)

  5. Nice! I haven't grown any of the above plants (coneflowers but not the same variety) but wouldn't mind trying that helenium. We enjoy the wild Iron weed every fall and I've been tempted to add it to the garden several times but never have gathered seed.

  6. Enjoyed your post and I love all the different blooms. 'Color Flash Lime' and yellow scabious look unique and beautiful.

  7. I'm wondering if Ruby Tuesday would grow here. I'm charmed by the look of it and delighted by its name.


  8. Just what I needed today! Your flower photos are a lovely thing to see on such a dull and dreary day. There are a couple here I'm going to hunt for next year...Patrinia,'Hot Papaya' echinacea (love coneflowers! and love this colour) and Vernonia.

    Do you ever host garden tours through your garden?

  9. Jodi:
    A wonderful round up posting. I am always curious to see what tantalizing plants attracted the attention of fellow plantaholics. I can see why Helleborus 'Golden Sunrise' tweaked your radar.... gorgeous! I grow the Amsonia, and while not the cultivar that you mention, I too love Vernonia [ you must try V. lettermanii 'Iron Butterfly'] I tried E. 'Jade Tiger' but found that it wanted to spread everywhere and then some, and with the small garden that I have, I had to transplant it in the dispaly garden at work. It was a big hit there and on the benches. I have been scouring the catalogues for 2011 and there are some delightful selections headed our way..... start pinching the pennies now Jodi, a veritable treasure trove of new and delightful is on the horizon! Great posting.

  10. Oh, I love that "hot papaya". It looks a bit like the Echinacea "secret passion" which I just bought at the end of summer - except hotter!

  11. 'Hot Papaya', come spring, here I come! A stellar roundup, jodi, and can't wait to see my hellebores show their lovely faces. I hope winter is kind and many of my fun newfound friends will be comfy in my garden.

  12. Fabulous article, Jodi. Worth bookmarking and coming back to at garden-planning time. And congratulations on your nomination for the Canadian Weblog Awards. You've been a leading light for all of us for many a season.

  13. What a collection of gorgeous flowers! Love all the colors.

  14. Dear Jodi, you make such a good case for each of these, beauties one and all. Thanks for the linkage, my friend, I am thrilled you are having success. The new one looks quite enchanting. I did not know about Amsonia, it's about time people got to know more about it, what a fine garden citizen. We have had some self sowing of the thread leaf one too, bonus plants! :-)

  15. I'm always enticed by the description and photos of new plants in catalogs, but reading recommendations like yours, Jodi, are much more valuable. Not every plant turns out quite the way the nurseries describe:) You've reminded me of two plants I'd like to add next spring--the heleniums and Eryngium. 'Ruby Tuesday' is a great name! I was given a division of Amsonia 'Blue Star' last spring, and though it didn't flower, it has grown by leaps and bounds. I'm really looking forward to seeing those blue blooms next spring.

  16. What a wonderful list of plants you've had in your garden. I'll have to make some notes so I'll remember to look for them next spring for our garden.

  17. Loved the post, Jodi.
    Amsonia is starting to look better and better with every posting that I read.

  18. I've had 1 Eryngium 'Jade Frost' for a couple of years. Just 1. I planted them in 2009. The second plant died & the 3rd was mismarked. This year, I got 2 more of them to make 3. The 2 new ones also died. I bought an Eryngium 'Sunny Jackpot' then instead & planted it elsewhere.


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