Friday, January 18, 2013

Snowdrops are here -- Oops, no they're not!

So here is what I found by my front door on Tuesday.  I have seen some bulb foliage inching up, but I didn't think any had gotten this far.  Snow drops in January is not uncommon -- January 15th is a tad early.





Here is what they looked like on Thursday after a little thawing.  They are tough, will hide under the snow and keep flowering when it 'warms' up again.  Crocus and Rock Iris next...





I am a huge fan of bulbs in the garden.  They add months of flowers and color, and when planted in masses their impact can be stunning, especially at a time when there is little else to catch the eye.  Following are two posts on bulbs from this past summer.




While it is too late to plant for the spring here in New England, put a reminder in your calendar for next August to place your orders.

I hesitate to say that spring is around the corner since we haven't really been hit with winter yet, but I love seeing the hope of spring. 







Friday, January 11, 2013

New Flowering Plants for 2013 from Bluestone Perennials

Coreopsis "Gold Nugget"
@ Bluestone Nursery
What makes perennial gardening so challenging and fun (and sometimes expensive), is the process of culling down all the choices available to the ones you want to include in your garden.  Inevitably, the season after you buy a new plant some grower or hybridizer comes out with a new version that flowers longer, doesn't require staking or deadheading, holds its color better, shifts into different colors, is fragrant, resists mildew, deters bees, cures cancer and doubles the value of your home.

Delphinium cultorum "Sky
Blue" @ Bluestone Perennials

In the industry there are groups on both sides of the argument about whether it is right to modify plants and adapt them to our wants and needs.  My only problem with this craze to produce 'frankenplants' is that growers often will come out with new plants that haven't been fully tested in the garden and they fail when brought to the general market.  This happened a number of years ago with new cultivars of Echinacea that were not vigorous and failed to hold their colors when introduced to the mass market.


Echinacea "Flame Thrower"
@ Bluestone Nursery
Bluestone Perennials, a mail-order nursery in Ohio, specializes in perennials but also provides some interesting shrubs as well.  They have 192 new plants for sale in 2013, and while some are not new plants in the trade, you won't find many of these at your local nursery.  

Below, I have highlighted some plants that I find interesting.  Some I am familiar with, while others are new to me and I look forward to trying them out.  

I think that trying out new plants and taking risks is part of the fun in gardening.  Try something new from a reputable grower or retailer and see what happens.


Delphinium
Delphinium cultorum
"Lavender" @ Bluestone
Nursery
These are the classic, old school, cottage plants that produce some of the most outrageous flowers on stems that can grow to seven feet.  The major problems with these plants is the stems are very fragile and require staking right to the top because rain and wind can easily break the stems just as they are beginning to flower.  

The species, elatum,  from a hybridizer in New Zealand are a few feet shorter and have stronger stems, but they still need to be staked.  Delphinium elatum "Pink Punch", elatum "Morning Lights" and elatum "Blushing Brides" are several of the nine elatum species that are new at the nursery this year.

The species, cultorum, are even shorter and are very floriferous.  All Delphs are short-lived and will perform best if the stems are removed after flowering so the plants don't spend all their energy producing seed. Delphinium cultorum "Lavender", cultorum "Sky Blue", cultorum "Dark Blue Dark Bee" and  cultorum "White Dark Bee" are the new dwarf offerings from the nursery.  People say these don't need to be staked, and for the most part it is true, but I still will sometimes support with a small piece of bamboo.

This is a plant you must try in your garden if you have lots of sun, they need lots of food and organic material but will reward you with a stunning display in early summer.


Echinacea
Echinacea "Cheyenne Spirit"
@ Bluestone
You can't swing a dead cat in a nursery without hitting an Echinacea these days.  They are the promiscuous family being crossed and selectively bred for color, size and flower type.  Bluestone has over 40 cultivars listed and this is far from what is available in the trade.  

Echinacea "Now Cheesier"
@ Bluestone
Why so many?  Because it is a carefree and long-lived plant that flowers from early summer to frost and requires little in return.  They do best in full sun but can tolerate and flower well in partial shade.  Nowadays they come in red, yellow, orange, pink, magenta, white and just about any shade in between.

"Now Cheesier", "Cheyenne Spirit", a deep red "Firebird", a crazy double pink "Secret Passion", a true dwarf Magenta "Lilliput" and many others are available.

Some people and designers shy away from these common plants, but how can you not like a daisy flower that goes all season and whose flower heads provide valuable seed for finches and other birds.  Admittedly, some of the double flowers are a little crazy, but go with your heart and what appeals to you, and I am a big believer in flowers that work really hard and can produce for more than just a few weeks a year, and with Echinaceas you can get 3 to 4 good months.  I think they are most impactful in groups rather than individual plants.  Pick up 6 or 60.


Syringa
Syringa "Bloomerang Purple"
@ Bluestone
Lilac is such a wonderful shrub, and with several different species it is easy to find one that will fit your garden, and with a range of different bloom times a variety of lilacs can give your flowers from early spring into the middle of summer.  But, until recently, there were no lilacs that would rebloom throughout the year.  Syringa "Bloomerang Purple" will rebloom until the frost.  While not necessary, a light pruning after the spring flush will bring on more blooms in the summer and fall.

Pruning all lilacs right after they flower allows you to keep them in shape and ensures you will have flowers in the following year.  Pruning in the summer and fall is the most common reason for lilacs not flowering the next season.  That is not the case with this repeat bloomer that grows aggressively but is still considered a dwarf plant.

People in the horticultural field can be crazy and when this was introduced several years ago, many people objected to a lilac that bloomed out of its traditional season.  I say, if you can have the fragrance of lilac in your garden for several more months of the year then it is a good thing.  Sorry didn't mean to channel Martha there.  A new "Bloomerang" is out this year but not yet available at Bluestone.


Coreopsis
Coreopsis "Autumn Blush"
@ Bluestone
Another great plant genus that has had lots of improvements and new additions in recent years.  Traditionally a yellow flower, they have expanded into the reds and come in many shades of red and yellow with some carrying both colors.  Many of the newer cultivars I like for they are hard working and produce for most of the year.

Coreopsis "Red Shift"
@ Bluestone
"Autumn Blush", and "Gold Nugget" are new introductions at Bluestone this year and are wonderful long blooming varieties.  They follow on the heels of "Red Shift" a fantastic cultivar that has been available and is part of the Big Bang series of Coreopsis.  This is my favorite Coreopsis in that it flowers forever and is constantly changing its colors with the heat and seasons.

Like Echinacea they require little maintenance but they will benefit from some deadheading or the occasional shearing to rejuvenate.  They provide color in the perennial bed all season and have such a simple and bright daisy-like flower because like the Echinacea they are part of the Aster family, which is a huge family of plants that have similar daisy flowers.


There are so many other new plants they are growing including some nice Sedum, Hellebore, Astilbe, Heuchera, Salvia and more.  Take a look and brighten your cold and gray January day.

Start thinking about Spring!