Plant of the Month

March

Snowdrops! (Galanthus nivalus)

After the incredibly long and snowy winter we have had, the appearance of the first snowdrops is welcome indeed.  Designed by nature to withstand the ups and downs of early spring, snowdrops will bloom for a relatively long period in adverse conditions.  The whole plant will lie on the ground one day when the temperatures drop below freezing and rebound the next when the temperatures rise.  Some collectors look for the unusual, double, green or dotted flowers.  I am happy with the plain, garden variety snowdrop, as long as it comes up early and blooms it heart out!

June

Ornamental Kale

Now is the time to begin thinking about planting ornamental kale and cabbage for the fall garden.  Vegetable gardens have become beautiful as well as productive, and most gardeners seem to have a few dahlias, sunflowers or gladiolas planted around the edges.  The kales and cabbages are kind of incredible, though.  I was found this one planted in someone’s fall garden last year in Columbus, along with what looked like radicchio.  A web search found www.landcraftenvironment.com who had a really spicy list of ornamental brassicas.

Ornamental Kale

Ornamental Kale

May 2011

Sasa vetchii

Sasa vetchii

Sasa vetchii

This is a wonderful, fairly short and controllable bamboo with great winter interest.  This is a planting I put in a number of years ago – only two small plants to start.  It was slow to get going, but now it has filled in really well.  The great thing about this bamboo is the winter coloration.  The leaves are a deep green all summer, and then in the Fall, the color withdraws from the edge, leaving a white margin around each leaf.  The leaves stay this way all winter.  In the spring, its not a bad idea to cut the plant in half to keep it more compact.  I have seen this bamboo nearly waist high, and I assume it was not cut back.  This owner maintains it with a simple haircut each spring before the growth begins.

April

Anemonella 'Shoaf's Double Pink'

Anemonella 'Shoaf's Double Pink'

Anemonella ‘Shoaf’s Double Pink’ What a treasure!  This lovely cultivar of a ephemeral wildflower always surprises me when it comes up and starts blooming in the spring.  I assume that is sterile, unfortunately! but is developing a nice little clump.  I got it a number of years ago from the original Heronswood Nursery.  Don’t I miss it!

 

 

August

Heuchera ‘Redstone Falls’

heucherella-redstone-falls-terra-nova1In July I attended the Perennial Plant Association’s Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon.  There were several days of seminars, but also days of tours, and visits to nurseries and gardens all over the Portland / Willamette Valley region.  One of the bus tours took us to Terra Nova’s facility.  Here they do breeding, tissue culture and production.  The display gardens were kind of unbelievable.  Every new cultivar was planted en masse,  most of which are not yet being grown widely.  Coreopsis in crazy colors, an universe of echinaceas,  heuchera, tiarella, mukdenia…. beautiful plants grown and displayed beautifully.  This plant I’ve pictured was my favorite: Heucherella ‘Redstone Falls’ .  It is a trailing form and they had potted it to display its charms.  Most heuchera do fine in my Pennsylvania garden, but I have always struggled with Tiarella.  Heucherella have the delicacy of Tiarella and the persistence of Heuchera for me.  I hope to find this in commerce sometime soon so I can plant it in my garden.  Some think that Terra Nova is flooding the market with so many new plants that its hard for any one plant to stand out.  This is a real winner.

July 2010

Lobelia tupa

Lobelia tupa

Lobelia tupa.   I saw this plant in a dry Oregon garden this summer.  Wow!  This is a four-foot tall evergreen perennial native to Chile, so it has a hardiness range of 8-10, not Pittsburgh.    It is partial to dry, well drained soils, too, also not Pittsburgh.  The leaves are light green and felted, and the tall spike of hooked red flowers are, understandably, favorites of hummingbirds.   The gardens in Oregon were amazingly varied, with a seemingly endless selection of plants, but I’ve got to say, this was my favorite.

June

Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’ One of the nicest new heucheras to come on the market – and I think there are way too many- is this one, Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’.  Its coloration is similar to Caramel, but with more variations of gold, red, and green.  The leaves are huge, and I suspect like many of the best new ones, it has Heuchera villosa genes.  It is durable and ok in sun or shade, but I like it better in more shade.

Heuchera 'Southern Comfort'

Heuchera 'Southern Comfort'

May

I spotted this unknown Epimedium cultivar in my garden this spring.  I am sure I bought it, but its name and label have long vanished.  It illustrates one of the great qualities of epimediums, the leaf shape and coloration in the spring.  The flowers are relatively tiny, and you have to be an aficionado to really go wild over them, but the leaves are really hard to beat.  I particularly like the long narrow leaf on this cultivar.  If anyone can identify it, please email me!

Unknown epimedium

Unknown epimedium

April

Ranunculus 'Brazen Hussy'

Ranunculus 'Brazen Hussy'

Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussy’ I always felt this plant was well-named.  She does spread like any good hussy, and her bronze to black leaves are a spectacular background for the golden buttercup flowers.   Unlike some buttercups (ie R. repens ‘Buttered Popcorn’), the species of this plant is ficaria, which spreads slowly and doesn’t run.  ‘Brazen Hussy’ does go dormant in the summer, so  plant her where later plants will cover up a a hole.

March

Helleborus x hybridus

Helleborus x hybridus

These are the first hellebores I ever planted,  probably 16 years ago.  It would be a bigger patch by now, but I was looking for plants that would survive under the canopy of a mature Norway Maple!  Despite the root competition, these are wonderful every year, and I can enjoy them thorough my kitchen window when the early spring weather is frightful.  I have since planted all kinds of named varieties and doubles, but none give me the pleasure of these first plantings.

February

lathyrus-vernus-home

Lathyrus vernus (Spring Vetchling)  is a beautiful, early spring-blooming perennial in my garden.  Dan Hinkley used to promote this plant  in his former life as head of Heronswood Nursery in the following manner:  ” A wonderful plant for the shade garden, with deep pink pea flowers, fading to blue, produced amid a still-dormant landscape, February to April, superb when paired with Pulmonarias and Primula, which thrive under the same conditions.  Too seldom seen in gardens everywhere.”  I took up the challenge!  Can I mention here how much I miss the old Heronswood catalog and nursery?!!!

January

Corydalis solida 'George Baker'

Corydalis solida 'George Baker'

Corydalis solida is an amazing plant that I had admired in pictures for years.    One winter I searched and found listings at Odyessy Bulbs ( www.odysseybulbs.com ) and ordered a few that seemed suitable for my climate (in their descriptions, ‘continental’ seemed appropriate for Pennsylvania).  The Climate designation mostly referred to whether or not it was dry in the winter (not in Pennsylvania).   The tubers came in September ( I had forgotten all about them) and I planted the pea-sized tubers without much hope.  Lo and behold in very early spring, clusters of pretty leaves popped out of the ground and bloomed prolifically. ‘ George Baker’, pictured here, blooms a week or so later than my others.  The picture below, ‘Purple Gem’, was a day or so past its prime when this picture was taken, due to unseasonably warm temperatures.

Corydalis solida 'Purple Gem'

Corydalis solida 'Purple Gem'

December

Kniphofia 'Toffee Nosed'

Kniphofia 'Toffee Nosed'

I love the kniphofias, long-despised flowers seen in our mother’s gardens.    they have undergone a resurgence in popularity with the introduction of new and interesting cultivars like this one, ‘Toffee-nosed’.  Gone is the brilliant yellow and red-hot poker (lovely colors, but sometimes hard to place in a garden).  Instead, more pastel and single colors are becoming available, like ‘Shining Scepter’ and ‘Primrose Beauty’.  For an interesting pictoral listing of species and cultivar, check out the Knipofia page on the  www.bulbsociety.org.

November

In the fall when things are looking tattered, its lovely to see the fresh

Arum Italicum 'Marmoratum',  Convallaria m. 'Albostriata', Hosta tokudama 'Aureonebulosa' and Asarum europeaum

Arum Italicum 'Marmoratum', Convallaria m. 'Albostriata', Hosta tokudama 'Aureonebulosa' and Asarum europeaum

new foliage of Arum italicum popping out of the ground from its summer dormancy.   It looks great all winter (when not covered with snow) thru the spring, when this picture was taken.  By the end of June Arum italicum has all but disapeared, retreating below ground for the summer.  This cultivar, ‘Marmoratum’, is distinguished by theprominent  marbled variegation on the leaves.  Here it is combined with other three slow increasers, each with thier own individual variegations.  The european ginger is a beast in comparison, and I pull it out by handfulls each spring so it doesnt smother the lily of the valley.

October

Begonia grandis 'Heron's Pirouette'

Begonia grandis 'Heron's Pirouette'

One of the great late summer flowers  in my garden are the hardy begonias.  They come up late in the spring and bloom for an incredibly long time once they get started.  Among my favorites is this one, Begonia grandis ‘Heron’s Pirouette’.  I got it from the old Heronswood Nursery originally, and now it has naturalized all along my driveway.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Royal Purple'

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Royal Purple'

September

I have been searching many years for a hydrangea like this one.  It blooms profusely with large heads of intensely colored flowers on sturdy stems – no flop with this plant!  I got ‘Royal Purple’ from Losely’s and Sons Nursery,  a really nice wholesale nursery in northeastern Ohio.   It was a smallish plant  that I bought for its name, hoping for the intense purple blue.  This is its third year in my garden, and I am completely blown away by these flowers.  I hope that this plant will only get bigger and better, and I am interested to see how its buds stand up to cold winters.   The flowers age really well, too, to a sea green color with reddish highlights.  Wow!

Echinacea 'Coral Reef'

Echinacea 'Coral Reef'

August

Well, just one more echinacea.   This one is Echinacea ‘Coral Reef’.  As you can see from the picture, this is one of the pom-pom types.  For me, it is a short one, like ‘Meringue’, with the color of  ‘Sundown’.  Definitely more pink than Tiki Torch, which is an intense (unfading) orange.  ‘Coral Reef’ does not fade out, though the centers get some black in them as they age.  Great plant, I am looking forward to seeing how it does next year.

Echinacea 'Virgin'

July 2009

Those wonderful Echinaceas!  I have been buying one of each of the new ones that have been released, and love them all!   ‘Virgin’ from Terra Nova has double the number of petals of ‘White

Echinacea 'Meringue'

Swan’, and a really neat green cone.  I like ‘Sundown’ best of the new oranges so far, and it does not seem make a million pink seedlings.   Echinacea ‘Tiki Torch’  is an intense color, and has really taken off vigorously.  It does not fade. My ‘Harvest Moon’  is producing a lot of flowers with few petals – cone only, what fun is that?  I really like  last year’s  Echinacea ‘Coconut Lime’ – very floriferous, and a very pretty greenish white.  This year’s ‘Meringue’ seems fluffier and shorter, too.  ‘Pink Poodle’ is another one I am evaluating this year -rather nice fluffy flowers made up of petaloids, with no cones.  The color is true purple coneflower, but that is the only resemblance to others in the family.    My plants of ‘Tomato Soup’, another Terra Nova introduction, bloom with a nice intense orange red, but sadly fade.

Tovara 'Painter's Palette'

June

Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Pallete’. During the recent garden tour sponsored by the Botanic Garden of Western Pennsylvania, this plant was one of the most asked about in my garden.  It is at its best in June, once the leaves have fully enlarged and are still fresh.  Later in the summer it is covered with sprays of tiny red flowers and bead-like seeds that sprout all over the garden in the spring.  The variegated leaves are a clean mixture of greens and cream, with dark red chevrons.   The newer cultivars ‘Red Dragon’ and ‘Silver Dragon’  have narrower but colorful leaves, but fade by late summer.

Peonia suffructosa 'Harvest'

May

Paeonia suffructosa ‘Harvest’. Tree peonies are the grand dames of the mid-spring garden.  Blooming earlier that herbaceous peonies, their woody stems support blossoms of extraordinary size and splendor.   This particular plant, ‘Harvest’ illustrates the unusual colors unavailable from regular peonies which are always in shades from white to dark fuchsia red.  ‘Harvest’ has been in my garden for 16 years.  The plant is 6 feet tall and wide, and has really beautiful, clean foliage all summer long.  The best source for named varieties is Klehms’ Song Sparrow Nursery, www.songsparrow.com.

Helleborus x hybridus 'Golden Lotus'

Helleborus x hybridus 'Golden Lotus'

April

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Golden Lotus’ Look at this new submission into the most beautiful Hellebore sweepstakes by Terra Nova!   This great new strain of doubles takes my breath away.

Amsonia 'Blue Ice'

Amsonia 'Blue Ice'

March

Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ is a newer cultivar of Amsonia tabernaemontana, a very hardy and attractive native plant.  ‘Blue Ice’ is a smaller, more refined version that will only grow to 18″ tall, 24″ wide.  Its flowers are a deeper, more intense blue than the silvery blue of the species.  ‘Blue Ice’ blooms for a long period in late may-june, and is a neat and attractive mound of green leaves thereafter.  Like most of the Amsonias, ‘Blue Ice’ will develop nice apricot-gold fall color.  Good for sun to part shade.  Seen here in combination with the Siberian Iris ‘Chilled Wine’.