Plant Picks for 2007
During spring, garden centers overflow with flowers and foliage all vying for a spot in our gardens. To help with the selection I have once again partnered with my friends at Proven Winners' and developed a list of must have plants for the coming growing season.
Angelface® Blue Angelonia
I found this plant to be an outstanding performer and think everyone should try it. Spires of super saturated blue flowers held high on extra sturdy stems give Angelface® Blue a larkspur-like appearance, but with continuous blooms from early summer to the first fall frost. Its concord grape scented foliage adds to its appeal. With a vase life of 10 days, this is a great choice for cut flower gardens. Sometimes called the summer snapdragon, this Angelonia is not only heat and drought tolerant, but also thrives with wet feet. Grows to 18 - 24 inches tall.
Annual, Full Sun to Partial Shade, Upright
Bluebird is not a new Nemesia, but it is worth listing because it is still one of the best on the market. Although it can stand up to the heat better than some varieties, the quality that I rely on is its frost tolerance, so it is ideal for the early spring garden. Bluebird has snapdragon shaped, blue-purple flowers that mix beautifully with other cool season favorites such as violas, ornamental kale, and pansies.
Annual, Full Sun, Upright
Broadway Lights™ Leucanthemum
Large lemon-yellow flowers are unique for a Shasta daisy making Broadway Lights™ a sunny face in the garden. But that's just the beginning of the show. The flowers transform to a buttery cream color and finally turn pure white. Flowering begins in early summer and continues into the fall. Depending on how the plant was produced, flowering the first year may be sporadic because normal flowering usually begins the second summer after the plant has received winter vernalization or exposure to cold.
Perennial, Full Sun to Partial Shade, Mounding, Zones 5 - 11
Cabana™ Trailing Blue Sutera
In addition to the periwinkle blue color, I am smitten with Cabana™ Trailing Blue Sutera because of the fiery orange stamens that accent the center of the bloom. It is an electric color combination that sets this variety apart from others. Although the flowers are dainty, Cabana™ is extremely floriferous with a very dense habit. This plant will hold its own in any garden.
Annual, Full Sun, Cascading
Charmed™ Wine Oxalis
Oxalis is an old-fashioned plant that I remember as a kid. We called the plant 'big clover' because it looked like a shamrock. My grandmother used it to line the shady paths in her garden, so I am delighted to see it make a comeback in such a dramatic way. The vibrant leaves of Charmed™ Wine are a brilliant burgundy and they are even more eye-catching when contrasted with the plant's white and chartreuse flowers. Although this plant looks great in combinations, I think I prefer it as a single specimen packed into a container.
Perennial, Full Sun to Full Shade, Mounding, Zones 7b - 10
Diamond Frost® Euphorbia
Of all the plants that I saw this past year and used extensively in my garden, this one really turned my head. It is so delicate and ethereal looking that I was surprised to discover what a toughie it can be. Both heat and drought tolerant Diamond Frost® blooms constantly throughout the summer and into fall. Initially I planted it in a mixed container using it as a filler like gypsophila or Baby's Breath. Then I grouped several plants together in mixed borders and found they added a lively presence. The flowers appeared to hover over the ground in a cloud of dainty white flowers. Mature garden height is 12 to 18 inches.
Tender perennial, full sun to partial shade, cascading, zone 10
Dolce™ Key Lime Pie Heuchera
The bright lime green foliage of this Heuchera helps to enliven darkened areas of the garden. It is a hardy perennial that looks great planted in a generous sweep with the coppery purple leaves of Catlin's Giant Ajuga. I also like to use it as a replacement for coleus in small combination planters. Without constant pruning, coleus can become a container thug, taking over the display. Dolce™ Key Lime Pie has better manners, staying as a compact mound of foliage while adding an electrifying accent without overwhelming its neighbors. In spring abundant spires of peach bell-shaped flowers appear making the plant even more charming.
Perennial, Full Sun to Partial Shade to Full Shade, Mounding, Zones 5 - 11
Intensia® phlox is an offspring of a phlox that is native to southwestern United States. With a parent like that you know that this plant is tough and can really take the heat and humidity. It is an annual phlox that produces the same hefty blooms as its perennial cousins, but with much more gusto. Not only will this phlox hold up during the dog days of summer, it can also handle a light frost so it will be one of the last blooms to fade in your fall garden. Now that's one long lasting flower! Intensia® has won awards in areas across the country, proving that this little plant will perform in a variety of growing conditions. All of the varieties in this series stay between 10 to 16 inches and have an upright, willowy form reminiscent of wildflowers. Although diminutive in stature, the blooms are large, often up to 1-inch across. I?m partial to Intensia® Cabernet, a deep magenta, and Intensia® Neon Pink, which is hot pink.
Annual, full sun to partial shade, mounding
Laguna™ Sky Blue Lobelia
Although I have other favorite colors, I am a sucker for blue. This lobelia produces the most charming blue flowers. Billowing masses of blooms cascade over the edges of hanging baskets and containers. I planted Laguna™ Sky Blue in my garden last spring and was delighted to see it still flowering heavily in mid-July. Unlike other lobelias I have grown, the summer heat had little impact on this variety.
Annual, Full Sun to Partial Shade, Mounding
Lemon Symphony Osteospermum
What strikes me about Osteospermum is that the flowers are perfect brushes of color. It is as if they are made of painted china. Lemon Symphony has clear yellow petals and the indigo blue eye that is characteristic of the entire Symphony Series. Combined with white, gray, blue and variegated foliage, this dainty bloom is a knock out from early spring to late fall. This plant's heat tolerance makes it a particularly good choice for hot climates.
Annual, Full Sun, Upright
English Butterfly™ Peacock™ Buddleia
Limited space has kept me from planting buddleia, but with the introduction of this petite grower that is no longer a problem. Because its form is much more compact, it is better behaved than its long and lanky cousins. It's about one-third the size; perfect for smaller spaces and even containers. Peacock doesn't compromise on flower production. Huge 12- to 14-inch long, deep lavender-pink blooms are present from early summer to late fall.
Perennial, Full Sun to Partial Shade, Upright, Zones 5 - 9
Scaevola or fan flower took the gardening world by storm back in the 1990s and for good reason. It's a pretty bloom with a tough disposition. A native of Australia, it's a plant that I always recommend for gardeners interested in drought tolerance and low maintenance. New Wonder® produces blue-purple fan shaped flowers with a bright yellow eye on trailing stems. Whirlwind White™ has long trailing branches ideal for containers and hanging baskets. The bright white flowers are clustered together on the stems to heighten their visual appeal.
Annual, Full Sun, Cascading
Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® Sutera
Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® Sutera is an improved variety that retains its flowers even after being drought stressed. This is an important quality to look for in this plant because it is lack of water, not high temperatures that cause it to stop flowering. Since Suteras are very slow to wilt you may not realize they are very thirsty. Without consistent moisture the flowers and buds drop and it takes about 2 weeks for the plants to begin flowering again. If the plant is repeatedly stressed it won't flower all summer. The new Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® maintains its buds under dry conditions so it is back in flower within days rather than weeks. The low growing (6-8 inch) plant is beautiful in hanging baskets, containers and window boxes.
Annual, Full Sun to Partial Shade, Cascading
Spirit™ Frost Cleome
Cleomes add a delightful sense of whimsy to the garden. The blooms explode out of the top of the stem in a beautiful burst of color and also have the desirable quality of being deer resistant. In addition to distinctive blooms, these new varieties have great looking foliage that is very textural and lush. The stalks are also less thorny or sticky and have a more compact form with a strong upright habit which means less staking.
Annual, Full Sun, Upright, 24 - 36 Inches Tall
Sunshine Blue® Caryopteris
Everything slows down in my mid-South garden during August. This is often the hottest and driest time of the year. I think of it as the quiet before autumn's flourish of bright colored flowers and foliage. To keep this transition period interesting I'm always on the look out for plants that shine during the later months of the growing season, but don't require much care. Caryopteris fits that description. This carefree, shrub-like perennial produces wands of blue flowers in late summer. This will be the first time I've grown the variety Sunshine Blue®, but I've seen it in action at the Proven Winners display garden. The combination of the bright yellow foliage and deep blue flowers is amazing. It's a plant that is sure to add interest to my garden all growing season. Plus the butterflies and bees love it.
Perennial, Full Sun, Upright/Fountain, 3 feet tall x 2 feet wide, Zones 5 - 9
Calibrachoa are often described as mini petunias. The two plants are closely related and both were introduced in Europe in the early 19th century. In 1988 wild samples were collected from South America, developed and then released four years later as the Million Bells® cultivar. They were an instant hit. Superbells® is an improved series that is a disease tolerant, self-cleaning and with a self-branching form. For gardeners, this means the low growing, compact plant stays vigorous, blooms profusely without deadheading and doesn't need to be pinched back to keep it from becoming leggy. Calibrachoa is especially suited for containers because it prefers soil a little on the dry side and doesn't need much fertilizer to bloom continuously. This makes it a must have for busy gardeners who want plants that aren't fussy. Superbells® Red is covered in deep red flowers that look great in combinations with orange, purple and golden yellow and are also ideal for patriotic containers. Superbells® Plum is a light plum with dark purple veining and a yellow throat.
Annual, Full Sun to Partial Shade, Cascading
If petunias have been a risky venture for you in the past there's a new variety in the garden that is sure to change your mind. Instead of fading or growing leggy through the summer, Supertunia® petunias are disease resistant, self-cleaning and floriferous with sturdy stems so they remain attractive from spring until the first frost. The plants grow upright, yet they also cascade. It's an interesting combination that has the look of a tub brimming over with bubbles that will keep your garden popping with color. Whether you plant them as a specimen in a container or as a bedding plant in a border, you'll be delighted with all the varieties in this collection. Supertunia® Royal Velvet is a deep purple that looks great in combination with orange, hot pink and chartreuse. Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum was a cold knock out in my garden last year. It produced medium pink blooms all summer, even during the heat and drought that hit in August.