New and Interesting Perennials This Spring

  • Post published:05/04/2018
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Allium Millenium
Allium ‘Millenium’ or ‘Milenium’ one of the truly dependable perennials

What new perennials will you plant in your garden this year? I don’t mean brand new on the market, but new to you. Last fall I planted more than 100 crocus bulbs: white, yellow and purple. These are not new varieties, but I have never planted crocus before. In my new garden I can’t plant many bulbs because the garden is wet and bulbs would rot. But the bit of lawn in front of the house allows a small number of crocus to make an spritely spring show.

Now I am thinking of what new perennials I will put in one of the main garden beds. The clumping Allium ‘Millenium’ is my choice. ‘Millenium; is the Perennial Plant of the Year, awarded because it is beautiful with its many rosy-purple globe flowers on 12-18 inch stems. It also has the virtue of being a low maintenance plant that is pest and disease resistant. It needs good soil and at least 6 hours of sun. It is available online and at garden centers. I recently learned that many NEW! Introductions are in so little supply that they are very hard to get in spite of all their publicity.

The Perennial Plant of the Year website lists all the plants chosen since the organization was formed in 1990. You will probably recognize many of the award winning plants in your own garden like last year’s Aesclepius tuberosa. My own garden includes the delicate pink Japanese anemone ‘Honorine Joubert,’ the rich blue Salvia ‘May Night,’ the Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’ with it’s wine-red foliage, and Perovskia, also known as Russian sage, with its lavender flowers that vigorously attract honeybees.

Echinacea tenneesseensis
Echinacea tenneesseensis

There seem to be more echinaceas on the market every year. This family of dependable perennials shows off with more colors, more multicolors and more petaled with wild mop heads. One reason they have become so popular is because Echinacea, coneflower, is a wonderful pollinator plant attracting bees and butterflies. If your desire is to have a flower that is especially attractive the familiar pink variety, Echinacea purpurea, is an excellent choice. The petals act as a runway for the bee or butterfly to land on and get to the source of nectar and pollen. I found an unusual variety, Echinacea tennesseenis, with unique up-facing petals that give the flower a cup-like shape. I can’t wait to try this one. These are available at American Meadows.

Naturally I want to encourage people to plant roses, especially those who are still under the misconception that roses are really finicky and a lot of work. Many people who have tip-toed into the world of roses have discovered Knock Out roses. ‘Peachy’ Knock Out is a fairly new rose, but it has been in production long enough to have been tested in the several trial gardens of the American Rose Trials for Sustainability (A.R.T.S.) organization. Gardeners may remember the All America Rose Trials which gave their approval – or not – to new roses as they came on the market, but they are no longer in existence. Now we have A.R.T.S. and they are devoted to letting us know which roses are not only beautiful, but are disease resistant and must thrive in many areas of our country.

‘Peachy’ blooms over a long season and is highly resistant to black spot, powdery mildew, downy mildew and rust. It has been trialed and received awards in four regions of our country and has been named an A.R.T.S Master Rose.

Knock Out 'Peachy' rose
Knock Out ‘Peachy’ rose

Two summers ago I was on a garden tour in Minneapolis and environs. We went to wonderful public and private gardens. We also went to a display garden with a variety of fairly new cultivars. One was the ‘Delft Lace’ Astilbe which has tall, airy blossoms in shades of pink with red stems, which I just loved. It was this plant that made me pay attention to astilbes which come in a surprising number of forms. There is‘Purple Candles’ with its ‘statuesque’ plumes in a rich shade of purple, and ‘Red Charm’ which is the reddist  astilbe  and is equally statuesque but has arching plumes that make it unusual.

Sometimes we find a plant that just speaks to us, even if we have to splurge to have it. I have never been a devotee of hostas, but, expensive as it is, I was enchanted by Hosta ‘Floramora’ ($50) a 2018 Plant Delights Nursery introduction this year. Plant Delights is a wonderful nursery in North Carolina with excellent and unusual plants.  ‘Floramora’ is a cross involving the Japanese Hosta longipes and the Chinese Hosta plantaginea. The result is a 30 inch wide clump of glossy foliage and 20 inch spikes of deliciously fragrant wide white flowers that will bloom in September.

Hosta ‘Floramora’

Like all good hostas, this is a hardy plant and enjoys some sun and some light shade. Before planting the soil should be well prepared by digging at least 12 inches or more, and improving the soil with a generous helping of compost and some slow acting fertilizer.  Hostas originated where there was a lot of rain, and they have large leaves that transpire more moisture than other perennials so they need regular watering.

We all have favorites to grow every year, and we have limited space, but it is always fun, to grow new perennials that will return spring after spring.


Between the Rows  April 28, 2018

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