If gardeners can’t plunge their green thumbs into the soil in winter, we keep them happy by thinking about it. We plan; we sketch; we picture plant combinations in our dreams. Our plant wish lists fill up with the names of perennials we can’t wait to try. Here is a sampling of some of the new perennials I will be searching for this spring.
I am a huge fan of false blue indigo (Baptisia australis) and its cultivars. Their stems look like asparagus as they emerge from the soil in spring. Tall, sturdy stems present beautiful lupine-like flowers in spring that give way to black seed pods in summer. Their deep, deep roots make them incredibly drought tolerant. What’s not to love?
This year, I’ll be on the lookout for Baptisia Decadence® ‘Dutch Chocolate’. Decadent chocolate-purple spikes of flowers bloom from late spring into early summer. It is a bit more compact than the species – up to 3 feet tall and wide. While waiting to find a permanent home in my garden for Baptisia ‘Dutch Chocolate’, I am going to use it as the height in a container. Even though the flowers are fleeting, the charming blue-green leaves will be a beautiful, zero-maintenance backdrop to the annuals planted around it. I wish I had enough space to plant about 7 of these in a large group. In mass, I think they would be spectacular.
I am typically not a fan of red flowers in my garden, but Dianthus ‘Rockin’ Red’ just might find its way into my rock garden where perennials of all colors party on. Glowing, deep red, lacy flowers begin blooming in spring and bloom and bloom and bloom well into fall. Growing 18 to 24 inches tall and just a foot wide, it is easy to squeeze into sunny gardens.
I can’t imagine a new year without introductions of more coneflowers. There are a few that caught my attention – Sombrero® Granada Gold, Green Twister and Kismet Red. Butterflies, bees and other pollinators love them in summer. Hungry birds love them in winter if seed heads are left standing.
Echinacea Sombrero® Granada Gold shows off golden-yellow petals surrounding prominent golden cones from July to September. This compact coneflower – 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide – belongs towards the front of a sun-drenched perennial border. I am picturing its rich, strong color partnered with the indigo-blue flower spikes of another 2018 introduction, Nepeta ‘Cat’s Pajamas’. (More on this catmint in a moment.)
The unique flowers of Echinacea purpurea ‘Green Twister’ steal the show! Flower petals unfurl lemony-green and the centers of flowers turn either light pink or purplish-red, increasing over time. Unlike other coneflowers with drooping petals, the petals of Green Twister flip up at the ends. Tall and strong, 40-inch stems hold these traffic-stopping blooms up high so you can get a good look at them. Check them out.
Echinacea ‘Kismet Red’ is another red-flowering perennial that may make its way into my landscape this year. Small in size – 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide – but mighty in impact, huge flowers feature red petals circling around orange cones. A high bud count ensures the plant is covered in flowers all summer and into fall. Imagine the fabulous contrast of both flowers and foliage created if Kismet Red coneflower is planted with Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’.
Just when you think there can’t be another Heuchera that is different enough from others to get excited about, there is! Heuchera Primo™ ‘Peachberry Ice’ boasts large silvery leaves with bronzed-apricot veining. Their ruffled edges allow a peek at their bright pink undersides.
The plants grow just 8 to 10 inches tall but spread out more than 2 feet wide. Small cream-colored flowers bloom on 2-foot burgundy scapes in mid-summer. Site Primo™ ‘Peachberry Ice’ coral bells in a garden or container with filtered light all day or in a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade.
Nepeta ‘Cat’s Pajamas’ is a dwarf catmint that gardeners will love as much as the bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Heat- and drought-tolerant, it blooms from late spring to mid-summer. If it is sheared after the first act, it will deliver an encore of indigo-blue blooms from late summer to early fall.
Plants grow just 14 inches tall and bit wider, perfect for the front of sun-scorched borders.
A couple of new ornamental grasses – Bandwidth Japanese silver grass and Totem Pole switch grass – caught my eye at industry events.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Bandwidth’ flaunts broad and bright, horizontal, gold bands across rich green leaf blades. More compact than other Japanese silver grasses, it grows 30 inches tall and 18 inches wide. This grass is tough. It’s drought tolerant, deer and rabbit resistant, and rarely bothered by rust. Another plus: it is sterile so it will not spread seedlings across the garden.
Bandwidth Japanese silver grass will be beautiful planted with asters, black-eyed Susan and sedum. Or picture it planted in a container with red zinnias, coleus and yellow lantana.
The steel blue leaves of Panicum virgatum Prairie Winds® ‘Totem Pole’ form a straight-as-a-soldier, 6-foot tall by 30-inch wide pillar of foliage. Clouds of golden seed panicles add to its appeal in early fall.
A sun worshiper, Totem Pole switch grass is perfect for narrow spaces, screening to hide undesirable views, or as a vertical accent in large perennial gardens.
These are just a few of the perennial introductions coming in 2018. How many of them ended up on your plant wish list? Garden with me!