Dear Friend and Gardener

Summer Blooming Bulbs and Tubers



I missed my chance to plant spring blooming bulbs in the fall, but I am ready for those summer blooming bulbs.

Last spring my husband and I travelled down to Texas to be present when our grandson Anthony was presented with his Boy Scout Eagle Award. There was an impressive ceremony and we were so proud of this whole Eagle family who had jointly done so much for the community.

Besides our family celebration, daughter Kate and I went to a wonderful nursery, the EnchantedForest, and bought some new plants including a caladium that Kate wanted to plant in a handsome blue pot she had just acquired. Caladiums are wonderful plants known for their large dramatic foliage. That foliage can be green and white like Aaron with neat white centers or White Cap which has a more free form pattern of white, or Moonlight which is almost all white. There are green and red cultivars like Scarlet Flame which is mostly scarlet, or Red Flash which has a lighter red with dark red veins and scattered pink and white flecks. There are also paler white and pink caladiums like Summer Pink and Summer Splash that have just a bit of green edging. All of them will light up the shade garden.

There are two main types of caladiums, fancy leaved and strap leaved. Fancy leaved caladiums have large heart shaped leaves on long petioles that can be up to 30 inches wide. Strap leaved caladiums have narrower, thicker leaves with shorter petioles making them more compact growers, like Rosalie with its red leaf and veins, and green margins.

Caladiums are native to South and Central America. The tender tubers are not hardy in our area, but they can be overwintered in a basement if the temperature will remain over 50 degrees. Tubers can be ordered in the spring and started in pots indoors about four weeks before setting out. They will not be happy and will rot in soil that is cooler than 70 degrees. Do you have a soil thermometer in your trug?  It’s time to think about that because soil temperatures are very important in deciding when some plants can be set out.

Caladiums need partial or high dappled shade, and a moist but well drained soil. The phrase ‘moist but well-drained soil’ always seems like an oxymoron to me, but the point is that the soil should never be waterlogged. Dig a generous helping of compost into the bed before planting, adding a little lime to keep the pH between 6 and 6.5. The tubers should be planted about two inches deep and then given a two or three inch layer of mulch. They must be kept moist, and they should get a helping of a balanced 8-8-8 or 6-6-6 fertilizer every six weeks or so.



Caladiums are all about gorgeous foliage. Crocosmias, native to southern Africa, are all about tall dramatic red flowers in mid to late summer. They make a real statement on the Bridge of Flowers and visitors always comment on the tall graceful wands of flame.  I used to think that crocosmia were too tender for our area, but with the change in the weather over the last few years, and I don’t mean this very unusual winter, I think there is a good chance of keeping them from year to year. I have talked to several gardeners who already say they cut the plant down in the fall, cover them with a deep layer of mulch to get them safely through winter.

Crocosmia needs full sun in well drained soil. The corms should be planted two to four inches deep and six to eight inches apart by mid April. It is best to plant five to ten corms per square foot. They will multiply and should be divided every two or three years. A healthy clump of crocosmia with sword shaped foliage will add texture and form to the garden even when it is not in bloom.

I have never tried to grow kniphofia (nee-FOF-ee-a), better known as red hot poker, because I thought it was too tender for Heath. However, they are such stunning exotic looking plants that I hope to give them a try in a carefully chosen spot in my new garden. Kniphofia  have a reputation for being easy to grow, needing only lots of sun and well-drained rich soil.

Kniphofia grows from rhizomes that must be planted two to three inches deep. Any deeper and it may not grow well. It will tolerate some drought, but dependable watering will bring those two to four foot spikes into strong brilliant red/orange/yellow bloom. If planting more than one at a time leave 18 to 24 inches between plants because they will achieve substantial size.

A final brilliant tuber that I have already ordered is the Gloriosa superba Rothschildiana, sometimes called the climbing lily. This lily with its sharply recurved blossoms in shades of yellow and red, depending on the soil, has tendrils that can climb up to six feet on arbors or trellises. I will grow it in a pot, with a trellis, so that I can be sure of keeping it out of harm’s way this summer while we have some exterior work done on our new house.

You may find these plants in garden centers in the spring, but you can also find them at American Meadows, 223 Avenue D Suite 30, Williston, VT05495; or Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, 7900 Daffodil Lane, Gloucester, VA23061.


I’ll give my talk at the Shelburne Grange on The Making of a New Garden on Wednesday, February 17 at Fellowship Hall, 17 Little Mohawk Rd, Shelburne at 7 p.m. The public is invited and I’ll be selling my book The Roses at the End of the Road.

Between the Rows   February 6, 2016


Special Events Coming Soon

The ground is covered with snow, but we gardeners can feel our hearts beating faster as we sense spring and the special events that will remind us of the delights and work waiting for us. Here are the dates for some enjoyable and instructional special events.

February 17, Wednesday 7 pm – The first event is my own talk on The Making of a New Garden at the Shelburne Grange, Fellowship Hall, 17 Little Mohawk Rd, Shelburne. I’ll be showing photos of the beginnings of my new garden in Greenfield and talk about the decision to leave the house and garden in Heath where we lived for 36 years. The public is welcome and refreshments will be served.

February 20, Saturday 10am – 1 pm – The first spring workshop from Mass Aggie Seminars on Growing and Pruning Grapes, a Hands-on worksop given in Belchertown. Cost $50. Click here for full information about this series of programs.

March 5 – March 20 10am -4 pm – The annual Spring Flower Show at Mount Holyoke College at Talcott Greenhouse has chosen the theme “Emerald Isle.” It is free to the public and wheelchair accessible. Groups welcome with advance notice; call 413-538-2116.

March 5 – March 20  10-4 pm daily – The Annual Smith College Bulb Show. The theme this year is “The Evil Garden”  inspired by a book illustrated and written by Massachusetts resident the late Edward Gorey.  A donation of $5 is recommended. The free opening lecture at the Campus Center Carroll Room on Friday, March 4 at 7:30 pm will feature a talk by Thomas J. Campanella, PhD, FAAR, author of A Great Green Cloud: The Rise and Fall of the City of Elms.

March 19, Saturday  8:45 am – 2:15 am – The Annual Spring Gardening Symposium at Frontier Regional High school in South Deerfield presented by the Western Mass Master Gardeners Association will feature Keynote Speaker Karen Bussolini talking about Survival in the Darwinian Garden: Planting the Fittest. There will also be 14 different other presentations on topics from compost, soil building, hydrangeas, raised bed and container gardening and much more. $35. This program is the first of three symposia, others follow on April 2 and April 9 in the Lower Valley and then the Berkshires.

Augustine Henry – Plant Hunter

With all the attention being given to the importance of native plants in our domestic landscape, one can only wonder where all the non-natives, otherwise known as exotics, came from. If you look at plant names, sometimes including the full scientific name, you will get a hint. Many of the plants discovered in countries like China will have the name of the plant hunter included.

Those who are familiar with Kerria with its sprays of golden pompoms may not realize that it is named for the Scottish plant collector William Kerr (1879-1914) or that the Sargent crabapple (Malus sargentii) was named for Charles Sprague Sargent, the  first director of the Arnold Arboretum (1872-1927).

Sargent also sponsored many plant hunters like the British Ernest H. Wilson, soon known as Chinese Wilson, who travelled around the world to find new plants and send seeds and cuttings back to the Arnold Arboretum.

Lilium henryi

Lilium henryi

A number of years ago a friend gave us a large white clematis named Clematis henryi. The gift was in honor of my husband Henry. I subsequently planted two lilies, the golden Lilium henryi, and a White henryi, both with gracefully recurved petals.  It did not occur to me until recently to wonder who was the henryi.

Augustine Henry was Irish (1857-1930) and after earning a medical degree from Queens College in Galway, a friend suggested he go to work for British Customs in China. He passed the necessary exams and studied to gain a working knowledge of Chinese. An impressive accomplishment in itself. He left for China in 1881. For nearly 20 years he worked in Yunnan, Hubei, Shanghai and Formosa, banishing the hours of isolation and boredom by exploring the local landscape and woodlands.

Lilium white henryi

Lilium white henryi

What began as a time filling hobby became a passion. Though not a botanist he realized there were many unusual plants he had never seen before. In 1884 he sent a letter to the director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew offering to send specimens back if he thought they would be useful. By 1885 he was thoroughly engrossed in finding new plants, and finding out as much about them as possible, their Chinese names and local uses, especially of plants used medicinally.

He was aided in the beginnings of his studies and plant collecting with advice from Henry Hance, a leading expert on Chinese flora and British vice-consul in Canton.

Some plant hunting had been done in China earlier, but with very little that resulted in getting plants or seeds back to England. Augustine Henry could only collect plants when he was not working but between November 1884 and February 1889 he discovered about 500 species that were new to scientists in the western world. This included 25 new genera.  I can only imagine the trouble he would have had trying to reconcile European scientific names with the Chinese names for plants.

In a letter to a friend from student days, Evelyn Gleeson, he confesses to trouble collecting colorful flowering plants, because his own interest was in the variety of foliage forms. He particularly disliked chrysanthemums because he found the foliage so ugly, but he did love all the roses. His rose discoveries are particularly important to me because it is the China rose that gave ever-blooming genes to the west.

One of the great botanical searches in China was for Davidia involucrata, the dove tree or handkerchief tree. Henry had found a single tree but was not able to collect seed. When E.H. Wilson arrived Henry gave him as much information as he had. Wilson did eventually find the site of Henry’s Davidia, but it has been cut down. Fortunately he found other Davidia trees nearby and was able to send seeds back to England. Actually, Henry did find a different form of the handkerchief tree: D. involucrata var. vilmoriniana, which has grayer leaves than the tree first described by Father Armand David in 1871.  Although D. involucrata is more widely available, Henry’s tree is more likely to be found as a mature specimen in Britain, owing to its greater hardiness.

Of course, out of the over 15,000 specimens of over 5,000 species that Augustine Henry collected, only a few are propagated for garden use today. There are the very popular henryi lilies, but there is also Lonicera henryi, clematis henryi and the blue flowered rhododendron augustinii. This rhododendron is notable because it is lime-tolerant, and has been used to hybridize new blue rhodies.

During his years in China Henry met many other men who were botantists like Chinese Wilson, as well as those who were, like him, intelligent and skilled amateurs. Like gardeners everywhere they shared information and plants.

Perhaps, remembering his love of foliage, it is not surprising that when Henry returned to England he decided to begin a career in forestry. He went to study at the FrenchSchool of Forestry at Nancy but left to work with Henry J. Elwes to work on a book about trees cultivated in Ireland and Great Britain. Then in 1907 he began teaching at the University of Cambridge, leaving in 1913 for the Royal College of Science in Dublin to become their first professor of forestry.

Henry’s first wife died of tuberculosis in 1894. He married Alice Brunton in 1908. It was she who organized the 10,000 tree specimens in his private collection which became the Augustine Henry Forestry Herbarium in the National Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin.

I like thinking about Augustine Henry launching himself into a life in a totally different country and culture, finding discovery, excitement and pleasure in a new passion that brought so many new plants to our notice, and made us all so much richer.

Between the Rows   January 30, 2016

Ernest Henry Wilson – Chinese Wilson – Plant Hunter


Photo courtesy of Arnold Arboretum © President and Fellows of Harvard College. Arnold Arboretum Archives.

Photo courtesy of Arnold Arboretum © President and Fellows of Harvard College. Arnold Arboretum Archives.

Ernest Henry Wilson (1876-1930) later known as Chinese Wilson, was British and as a young man he worked in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. In 1898 James Veitch of the Veitch and Sons nursery asked Kew for a likely young man to send to China to find and bring back plants for the nursery. Wilson was recommended and chosen. For his first trip to China his assignment was to find and bring home seeds of the dove tree, Davidia involucrata. On his way to China he stopped at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston with a letter of introduction to Director Charles Sprague Sargent to learn the best ways to ship plants and seeds safely.

That meeting was the beginning of a long relationship with Sargent and the Arnold Arboretum. Sargent insisted that Wilson carry with him a large format field camera. The Arboretum now owns thousands of the photographs Wilson took in China.

On that first trip to China he met Augustine Henry who found the location of the dove tree as first described by Father Armand David in 1871. Henry described the location to Wilson as best he could, but the tree Henry had found had been chopped down. Fortunately, during the third year of  this trip Wilson was able to return to that area and found other younger dove trees and was able to send seeds back to Veitch. By the time he returned to England  two years collecting hundreds of species of plants, as well as hundreds of herbarium samples which he brought back to England in 1902.

He continued to work for Veitch and made a second trip to China under their auspices. In 1906 he made his third trip to China under the auspices of the Arnold Arboretum. It was on this trip that there was a landslide that crushed his leg. He made a splint out of his camera tripod and was carried for three days to a hospital. He recovered, but ever after had a limp that he called his lily limp because the Lilium regale, the Easter lily, was his great find on that trip.

By his own count Wilson brought back 25 rose species from China. This is particular interest to rose gardeners today because native Chinese roses have the ever blooming. gene.

He made a fourth trip for the Arboretum and later, in 1914 he began a study of Japanese plants including conifers, Kurume azaleas and Japanese cherries.

Wilson went on other travels, but in 1927, after Sargent’s death, he became Keeper of the Arnold Arboretum. His career was cut short when he and his wife were killed in an automobile accident in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Without plant hunters like these over the centuries, and continuing today, the flowers and plants available to us would be greatly limited. We are fortunate to be able to reap the benefits of their adventure and their passion.

Groundhog Day, Candlemas or Cross Quarter Day

February 2, 2016

February 2, 2016

February 2 is best known in the U.S. as Groundhog Day, the day Punxatawny Phil comes out of his burrow to see if he has a shadow and let us know if spring will be early. No shadow today! An early spring!  Of course, here in western Massachusetts we haven’t had much of a winter.  I have been worring that  winter will arrive in April but I will trust in Punxatawny Phil.

Candlemas is also a Christian holiday celebrating the presentation of the baby Jesus at the Temple 40 days after his birth, as decreed by Mosaic law. There he was recognized as the Messiah by Simeon and Anna. Traditionally the day has come to be the day that church candles for the year were blessed.

February 2 is also a cross quarter day. We are all familiar with the spring and  fall equinoxes when day and night are of equal length, about March 21, and September 21. We also know of the summer and winter solstices about June 21 and December 21, when we have the longest and shortest days. However at one time there was a system that named June 21 as Midsummer, which would mean summer arriving in May. We have a new system now.  Cross quarter days are evenly spaced between the fundamental Quarter Days of the Solstices and Equinoxes. The Cross-Quarter Days thus mark the middle of each season under our current system, or seasonal boundries under the old system.  If you read English novels as I do, you may occasionally run into mention of quarter days when characters’ annuities or other monies are paid, or when tenants on farms must pay their rents. You can learn a lot by reading English novels!

Here, at 10 am, with temperatures at 40 degrees and brilliant sun shining I am celebrating the day. I hope you all find a reason for celebrating this day.


Plentiful Primroses



Primroses from Fosters

Earlier this week I entered Foster’s Market and the first thing I saw was a bank of primroses. I could not have been happier. Many years ago I bought a pot of Foster’s primroses and after the blossoms had gone by I saved the plant until spring tip toed in. I planted it at the edge of a wooded spot in our Heath backyard. I didn’t do much in the way of preparation, just digging with a trowel and adding a couple of handfuls of compost. The primroses did increase with no help from me and were still blooming last spring. Those pale primroses were not my last. I bought more primroses at Fosters, adding richer and more brilliant red, and purple varieties.

Of course, having seen the new array I had to buy four pots (two pots for $7) in shades of primrose cream, yellow and gold. They made a lovely centerpiece on the dining table for a luncheon with friends. There are over 500 species of primula, but I believe the species on my table is P. vulgaris, sometimes called the English primrose. They will also go into the garden when the time comes.

Another primrose for the wild garden is P. veris. The flowers are very similar to the English primrose but they form pendulous clusters on slightly taller stems, up to 10 or 12 inches. This is the primrose that is referred to as cowslips in Shakespeare’s plays like The Tempest. Ariel sings his  song, “Where the bee sucks, there suck I. In a cowslip’s bell I lie.”

Over the years I have admired other primroses. I visited a friend one wet spring and she showed me the pale pink Japanese primroses growing in a shallow stream. Most P. japonica primroses bloom in shades of pink and white. These are a candelabra type with tiers of blossoms held high on a stem that can be two feet tall. They obviously like water and reseed freely making a lovely wild planting in the shade. This seems like a perfect plant for my very wet Greenfield garden.

While the P. japonica have a candelabra form, there are other types in this large candelabra family. P. bulleyana is tall with apricot/orange blooms bringing color later in the season. It also likes the wet and will naturalize quickly. P. beesiana is another candelabra variety, about two feet tall, with pinky/purple blossoms blooming from spring into summer. These primroses, like most that have enough of a stem, are good cutting flowers for bouquets.

Primula tommasinii You and Me Blue is a very unusual primrose that has a double blossom, but it does not have double the number of petals, it has a second blossom growing up from the first blossom on an 8 to 12 inch stem. It is called a hose-in-hose flower named after a type of hose that men wore in the 1500s. Blue is an unusual color in primroses, so this is a fascinating flower on at least two levels.

Many primulas are hardy to zone 5 and are not difficult to grow given rich soil, moisture and some shade. But there are other varieties that have very different requirements.

The auriculas are a group of primroses that are ideal for a partly shady spot with neutral or slightly alkaline soil. They are alpine plants and do well in a rock garden that can be top dressed with fine gravel. Auriculas have a more dramatic form comprised of richly colored petals surrounding a white or pale center. Most also have a pale coating that is called ‘farina’ and is considered desirable, especially if you are entering your auricula in a flower show. Unlike the candelabra primroses they do not come true from seed, nor do they reseed themselves as freely.


Primroses in the garden

I never attempted to divide my primroses, leaving them to their own devices, and gave them no attention after planting. They did increase in size, but not to the extent that is possible.

Dividing primroses can be done after blooming after deadheading, or in the early fall. A clump can be dug up and the corms can be seen and pulled apart gently. The new planting spot should be enriched with rotted manure or good compost. Then the leaves can be cut back to three inches, as well as the roots. Cutting back in this way will encourage the division to make new strong roots without needing to feed lush foliage. They can be fertilized again after replanting with non-nitrogen fertilizers. We want to concentrate on building new roots, not new foliage.

Aside from Foster’s Market which sells primroses for a brief period I don’t know where you can buy plants locally. Portland Nursery and Garden Center in Portland, Washington sells a selection of primula varieties (, and I did find Primula tomasinii You and Me Blue at Bluestone Perennials ( among their selection of single and frilly double primulas.

I don’t often see primroses in gardens so I am especially looking forward to having my own bank of P. japonica, luxuriating in my wet garden. Even though I am now living in town I am trying to create a woodland garden, a garden unlike my sunny hill garden. This woodland garden will be a response to my very different site, to my desire for more native plants that will support birds and pollinators, and (I hope) it will be less labor intensive.



Between the Rows  January 23, 2016

Tulips on the Bridge of Flowers

Tulips on the Bridge of Flowers

Tulips on the Bridge of Flowers

Tulips are not currently blooming on the Bridge of Flowers, but the BOF committee has already been planning the Annual Plant Sale which will be held on Saturday, May 14, the weekend after Mother’s Day. Tulips will not be for sale, but I think you can count on lots of other desirable and healthy plants that will waiting for you to make up your mind.

Forget me nots

Forget me nots

Don’t forget the date! Saturday, May 14, 2016.  I really enjoy thinking about spring flowers at this grey time of year.

Zinnias in Space

zinnia in Space

Zinnia in Space – photo from The Daily Telegraph newspaper UK

While browsing the web for information about plant hunter Augustine Henry I found a Daily Telegraph story about zinnias in space - space horticulture!  Major Tim Peake, the UK’s first astronaut has coaxed a zinnia into bloom in a micro-gravity environment. The seeds were planted by NASA’s Scott Kelly as part of VEG-O1 to see what plants might grow in this environment.  Lettuce was planted – harvested and eaten by the crew of the International Space Station earlier this year.

“Plants can indeed enhance long-duration missions in isolated, confined and extreme environments – environments that are artificial and deprived of nature,” Alexandra Whitmire, of the NASA Human Research Programme, said.

“While not all crew members may enjoy taking care of plants, for many, having this option is beneficial. . . . Studies from other isolated and confined environments, such as Antarctic stations, demonstrate the importance of plants in confinement, and how much more salient fresh food becomes psychologically, when there is little stimuli around.”

Hooray for appreciation of the different benefits of green and growing  things!

Perennials For Pollinators

Bee Balm

Monarda, bee balm

The first surprising thing I learned about perennials was that they do not bloom all summer. Some may bloom for as long as four weeks, and others may send up a second flush of bloom if you remember to cut them back after the first flush. This means that to keep a swath of perennial blooms for the whole garden season you will have to choose a variety of perennials that  will make timely appearances all season long. When I consider perennials for my new garden I am not only thinking about what I find beautiful, but about which will thrive in the conditions of my garden, and which will most benefit birds and pollinators.

So, to begin in the spring I am considering Veronica Crater Lake Blue, one of the few true blues in the garden. This dependable veronica produces 16 inch spikes of blue in the spring. A mass planting of that blue in sun or part shade will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. To go with that vivid blue, I am considering golden Alexanders, Zizia aurea, a native plant and member of the carrot family that doesn’t mind periodic wet and produces its lacy golden blooms from May into June. It usually doesn’t grow more than two feet.

White windflowers, Anemone sylvestris, are perfect for the wild garden. They are usually less than a foot tall and can take sun and shade. They are vigorous growers and will spread, but they also go dormant in the summer and can share their space with other perennials like epimediums or cranesbills. They like moist, but well drained soil, and I can arrange a spot like that. I also want to mention Anemone Honorine Jobert which blooms in late summer and well into the fall. This is an old white anemone with two to three inch golden eyed blossoms held on strong wiry three foot stems. It has been named the plant of the year 2016 by the Perennial Plant Association because it is beautiful, dependable, low maintenance and disease resistant. We must remember that this fragile looking beauty has real stamina.

Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea purpurea

As the season slips towards summer Echinacea, coneflower, and Monarda, bee balm come into bloom. Echinacea has become such a popular flower that there are now many cultivars. Several have fluffy moppy flowers; I don’t believe these are as useful in attracting bees and other pollinators as the simpler flower forms. However, there is a new series of coneflowers in bright colors that would liven up any summer garden. Echinacea Sombrero comes in a rainbow of bright colors, including Baja Burgundy that would catch the eye of any passing bee. I brought my own basic native Echinacea purpurea to Greenfield and will be happy to add some new excitement with bright new colors.

My Colrain Red, and a nameless wine-red bee balm in Heath attracted uncounted bees and their friends, as well as flocks of hummingbirds. A new monarda has caught my eye because it is billed as wet site tolerant. Cranberry Lace is a frilly, petite bee balm only a foot tall so is suitable for containers as well as the front of the border. It can also take a fair amount of the shade which moves across my new garden, but I can give it the necessary six hours of full sun.

Another small version of a popular perennial is Achillea Little Moonshine.  Many of us are familiar with the standard Moonshine yarrow which has such gentle yellow blossoms. Little Moonshine has the same richness, but it is no more than 12 inches tall and wide with a graceful mounding habit. Little Moonshine begins blooming at the beginning of summer and goes right through until September. If you cut it back after the first flush you will get even more blooms.

Woods Blue asters

Woods Blue asters

By the middle of August the fall bloomers begin. There are asters, like the tall, popular deep pink Alma Potschke, and classic lavender-blue Aster frikartii. An aster that is new to me is September Ruby a deep plumy pink with the familiar golden eye. It will grow four feet tall, and importantly for me, will tolerate a wet site. Equally important, asters attract butterflies with their nectar, but their foliage will also feed their larvae. Rabbit resistant. This is more important than I imagined. Even Greenfield has wild life that doesn’t mind nipping into the local gardens. I did bring a few roots of low growing Wood’s Blue aster with me from Heath because I like the way it acts as a flowery ground cover in the fall. It spreads vigorously and there are very few weeds to contend with in a patch of Wood’s Blue.

Rudbeckia hirta Prairie Sun doesn’t have the black or brown eye like the black eyed Susans, but the gold petals shading yellow are as bright as the autumn sun. They do need that sun to shine on them, but they like adequate water. I think I have that. Rudbeckias attract bees, butterflies and birds, but they are deer resistant. Chosen as an All America Selection winner in 2003 Prairie Sun is a sure winner for new gardeners. Annuals and perennials, old and new varieties, all have a place in every garden. Enjoy them both.

Between the Rows  January 16, 2016

Applause for Annuals


Cosmos 'Xanthos'

Cosmos ‘Xanthos’

Every year new annuals show up in the catalogs and garden centers. These new plants may get us thinking about ways we can design our plantings, help us find flowers that will thrive in challenging situations, or help support pollinators. I will list a few of these new annual flower varieties that I found particularly appealing. The first place I check to see what is new is the All America Plant Selections website. Many of us have noticed the little red, white and blue logo on some seed packets denoting that they are AAS Selections, plant varieties that have been tested in gardens across the country to find flowers and vegetables that can be grown in home gardens successfully.

Geranium 'Brocade Fire'

All America Selection Geranium ‘Brocade Fire’

Geraniums are a common and beloved flower that blooms in pots and hanging baskets all summer long. A new geranium (or more properly pelargonium) varieties is Brocade Fire. The AAS has named this mounding plant with its splotched lime green foliage and unusual bright orange blossoms a national winner which means it will thrive anywhere in the US. Geraniums love the sun but Brocade Fire is tolerant of less than full sun and promises to take a fair amount of shade. Although I always think of geraniums as container plants, they can certainly be planted in the ground where you can worry less about watering. The secret to growing container plants successfully is a good schedule of generous watering and fertilizing. You will still need to remove spent blossoms of the geraniums.

Salvia 'Summer Jewel Lavender'

All America Selections Salvia ‘Summer Jewel Lavender’

The Salvia Summer Jewel Series has been winning the AAS award every time the series comes out with a new color, Summer Jewel Red in 2011, Summer Jewel Pink in 2012, Summer Jewel White in 2015 and now Summer Jewel Lavender. What all of these Summer Jewels have in common is their appeal to bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. They are about 20 inches high and need full sun. Perfect for bedding borders, or containers.

Cosmos are one of those wonderful annuals that will bloom all summer long and into the fall requiring no particular care. There are several varieties in shades of pink and white with various petal forms. This year a new cosmos is Casanova, a dwarf that blooms in white, red, pink and pale violet with very compact growth for a very long season from spring to frost. Another new dwarf cosmos is Xanthos which is unusual because of its creamy yellow color. Both of these varieties will not be more than about 20 inches tall, are happy in containers, and like all cosmos will attract bees and butterflies to your garden

. Gardeners who have shade will be very familiar with wild impatiens with white blossoms or shades of pink and white. Now there is the Sunpatiens , a cross between the wild New Guinea impatiens and the wild variety. Sunpatiens do not need shade and thrive in full sun, even in hot and humid climates. They come in three growth habits: Compact which is 18-24 inches tall; Spreading with a mounding habit about 30 inches tall; and Vigorous which has a vase shape up to about 3 feet tall. The new Sunpatiens Spreading Clear Orange has striking color for three season bloom in all kinds of weather until frost. They have good resistance to downy mildew which has recently been a problem for the more familiar pastel impatiens.

Ipomea 'Split Second'

Ipomea ‘Split Second’

I love morning glories like the classic Heavenly Blue. My old Grandpa Ott with its deep purple blossoms self seeded itself for years and gladdened my heart well into the fall. This year Ipomea Split Second has come on the scene with her “peony-like blooms” of a heavenly pink and I don’t think I can resist.  I never even knew there were double morning glories. I am planning to order my seeds right away because these luscious flowers are expected to be very popular. Split Second has the vining habit you expect, climbing up to six feet and while it welcomes a good well drained soil, it can tolerate some drought and some damp. Its name, Split Second, is a hint that this is a very early blooming variety. It can be planted in a container or hanging basket, as well as in the ground. Wherever you plant it be sure to give it sufficient support.

When I was at a garden writers conference at the end of the summer in California we got to see some of the new plants that would be available in the spring. Everyone was asking “What is that flower cascading over the hanging pots?” It was Begonia boliviensis with graceful blossom-laden stems overflowing their pots. These bell-like begonia blossoms are quite simple, unlike lush tuberous begonias or even the delicate shade-loving wax begonias. Bees and hummingbirds love it. It will bloom all summer and into the fall, but a touch of frost means the end. Although begonias generally prefer shade, B. boliviensis San Francisco is a great plant for hanging baskets because it is more tolerant of sunnier spots, although some shade would be ideal. Hanging on my front porch perhaps?

Annuals are an important element in almost every garden providing masses of color over a long season. Many of these no longer need constant deadheading to keep blooming.

Between the Rows   January 9, 2016