As I plan for the 2011 gardening season I’m looking through my notes and photos from the previous season and remembering those plants that performed especially well. There were many, but the following seven stand out as the stars in my gardens for 2010.
This year I have three annuals, two perennials, a shrub and a biennial on my list of outstanding plants. Of the three annuals, two were new to my gardens last year. Mecardonia GoldDust is a low growing Mecardonia hybrid that was sent to me by the Proven Winners folks.
In general, when I try any new annual I treat it as most of my customers/audiences will: I plant it with some time-release fertilizer and, with the exception of watering if there isn’t enough rain, I ignore the plant. Given this minimal care, GoldDust thrived in my sunny front garden and was covered with small yellow flowers all summer.
I will definitely plant this Mecardonia again; it will be a great annual for under-planting around taller perennials, or cascading over the sides of pots and boxes. Even those who tend to shy away from yellow flowers might like this annual because the blossoms are small and will compliment other colors without stealing the show.
The second annual that was new to me was a coleus sent to me by Ball Horticultural. Redhead coleus (Solenostemon hybrid) is part of their Simply Beautiful line and it is just that: easy and lovely. Once again I planted this annual with some time-release fertilizer and then left it to do its thing. I did not pinch it, and it grew in full sun without fading or burning.
I planted the Redhead coleus in my fragrance garden even though it doesn’t have a scent, and ended up being so glad of this spur-of-the-moment decision. Redhead gave this entire area some drama and excitement and it was the most asked about annual when I had visitors come to my gardens. Normally, I haven’t gone out of my way to find coleus for my gardens, but I certainly will now!
The third annual on my list of faves for 2010 is Supertunia Royal Velvet. This purple petunia has been offered by Proven Winners for several years, and I’ve always loved it for the fragrance of the flowers. This past summer I came to admire this plant because in what was a hot, dry, excessively sunny season this petunia grew and bloomed all summer without complaint. It was the definition of stalwart, not to mention beautiful and fragrant.
Since I love Verbascums in general, I frequently buy seeds for varieties that I’m not familiar with. Two years ago I ordered some ‘Banana Custard’ and like most Verbascum seeds, they germinated easily. Being biennials, I didn’t see what these plants would do until the following year.
Wow! ‘Banana Custard’ grew six feet tall and stayed straight without support and it bloomed from early-June through July without deadheading. The bright yellow flowers were larger than most Verbascum blooms. Before the summer was over I was ordering seeds to start in 2011.
Growing as tall as ‘Banana Custard’ is the most asked-about plant in my garden: giant fleece flower, or Persicaria polymorpha. This plant is like an Astilbe on steroids, and it blooms from late-May through most of July here on Cape Cod. A word of warning if you want this in your garden: it gets big. My third-year plant grew six feet tall and eight feet wide this year, and I’m thinking that this coming spring I’ll either need to divide it or pop it out of the ground and put it back in place, just to slow its growth.
The second perennial that made this year’s list of favorites is Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’. I loved this plant for the season-long foliage colors, which changed from spring through summer and into fall. I have ‘Southern Comfort growing happily in part-shade: it gets morning and late-afternoon sun, but is shaded during the hottest part of the day.
And as surely as there is likely to be a Heuchera on my list every year, there will probably always be a Hydrangea there too. This year the shrub I was delighted with was Forever & Ever Peppermint. This bicolor hydrangea blooms on new and old wood, so although the flowering will be heaviest in warmer climates and when it’s given little pruning, it will produce some flowers on plants that are cut or freeze to the ground. If you’re in a warm zone 6 through zone 9, however, the only pruning you should do to this plant is to remove dead wood.
In my acidic soils this plant has blue and white flowers. If I added lime in the fall and spring I could change the flowers to better suit the plant’s name. But be the blossoms blue and white or pink and white, they are a knockout! Wishing you many favorite plants in the year to come, C.L.