Terra Nova Nurseries

Best Drought Tolerant Perennials & Annuals – that are Deer Resistant Too!

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A corner of my fall garden featuring reliable deer resistant and drought tolerant selections

Still stinging from your last water bill? Good news! As promised in my last post on drought tolerant trees and shrubs, here is my report on those annuals and perennials that came through our crazy 2017 PNW summer with style. That means they coped with:

  • three months without rain
  • no irrigation or hand watering (although annuals received water every few days for the first month after they were planted)
  • clay soil that bakes dry like a river bed in summer
  • many weeks with 80′ – 90′ temperatures and several days over 100′
  • daily visits from hungry, inquisitive deer
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My front garden features a broad selection of drought tolerant, deer resistant plants including many of those recommended here

All the plants listed were planted in the ground – not containers.

Perennials

Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrichtii)

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Mingling with Petite Licorice (Helichysum petiolare ‘Petite Licorice’)

What can I say? It is outstanding. if you see it – buy it. Buy lots. At least three – or thirty. Plant, stand back and wait for three years. Then thank me. Details and lots of great photos here. Combination ideas in our latest book Gardening with Foliage First.

Kudos Mandarin hyssop (Agastache ‘Kudos Mandarin’)

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I have grown many varieties of hyssop over the years (Agastache sp.) but few survive my  clay soil that bakes in summer and becomes a sticky goo in winter, so I consider them  annuals in my garden. Kudos Mandarin hyssop surprised me – all of last years plants returned with vigor! The hummingbirds and I were most impressed. You will be too.

Tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis)

Love, love, love this perennial that self seeds politely in gravel or soil and creates a magical scrim effect in the garden. Looks fabulous no matter where it lands but I especially love it in combination with orange flowers. The photos above depict it combined with butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Flasher daylilies (Hemerocallis ‘Flasher’). In another part of the garden I have it with an orange blooming cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa ‘Bella Sol’).

Details for this fabulous perennial here and check out the combination called Golden Threads in Gardening with Foliage First for  ideas too. WARNING: This has been listed as invasive in some areas – check before planting.

Zagreb tickseed (Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’)

IMG_4503 I have several varieties of tickseed in the garden but Zagreb is my favorite for its feathery green foliage that turns gold in fall and its sunny yellow daisies.

Sea holly (Eryngium sp.)

I need more of these! Of those shown I currently have all but the last two in my garden. Here’s the rundown: Sapphire Blue (Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’) is my favorite for color and its gentle self-seeding which gives me free plants (- have to love that)! I do like Neptune’s Gold (Eryngium xzabelli ‘Neptune’s Gold’) for the chartreuse foliage but the leaves seems to get a fungal disease mid-summer and I have to cut them back which is disappointing. I wonder if other gardeners/areas fare better? Jade Frost (Eryngium planum ‘Jade Frost’) has lovely variegated foliage but I am noticing some reversion. The delicate flowers are attractive though. Rattlesnake master is a different species (Eryngium yuccifolium) and looks stunning! Best for the middle of a border as it is taller and the lower leaves can get significant slug damage if not controlled. Wonderful architectural plant.

On my serious wish list is Silver Ghost (Eryngium giganteum ‘Silver Ghost’), seen in Portland and totally lust-worthy! Also shown is one that I suspect is Miss. Wilmott’s Ghost -(Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’) the classic I first grew in England. (Feel free to correct my ID though if you recognize nuances I’ve missed).

Overall the beauty of this species to me is that although they would be happier in sandier soil, they  thrive in my clay garden with minimal care – even in half day rather than all day sun. Drier climates can enjoy the seed heads well into winter too (Hint: there are two fabulous combinations in our book Gardening with Foliage First that showcase Sapphire Blue and our book cover shot/combination includes Neptune’s Gold!).

Blanket flower (Gaillardia sp.)

These have surprised me. I grew the first two varieties (Arizona Sun and Arizona Apricot)   from seed last year and enjoyed them in my vegetable garden where they went from seed to gallon sized, blooming plants in less than six months. You can read about them and get design ideas here. This year I transplanted most of them to other areas of the landscape where they were subject to tough love i.e. no water and lots of deer. A few didn’t like being transplanted but most did just fine and looked fabulous despite benign neglect – and clay soil! (We’ll see what happens this winter in the clay soil though – that may be the kiss of death) I don’t have Fanfare Blaze (the last photo) in my garden but included it as it is just so darn pretty!! A friend had this in her container last year and both the color and petal form was really eye catching – another one for my wish list!

Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimerii ‘Whirling Butterflies’)

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A haze of blooming Whirling Butterflies surrounds a glass birdbath created by Seattle artist Jesse Kelly

For sheer flower power and pure romance in the garden you can’t beat Whirling Butterflies. The slender stalks of blooms dance in the slightest breeze, forming an enchanting scrim effect that is utterly feminine. They would prefer sandier soil but cope with mine. In fall I trim lightly to about 24″ then put up with the less than attractive stalks all winter. In spring when I’m sure there are no more frosts likely I cut down to the uppermost bud – or about 12″ if I want to manage the mature size (which can be at least 4′ tall in my garden). Blooming starts late May and the plants still have lots of flowers even now in early October.

Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’)

A ‘must have’ for every shade garden – you NEED Jack Frost! And yes there is a fabulous combination idea in Gardening with Foliage First.

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

Silvery stems, fragrant leaves and blue flowers. Lots of named varieties of Russian sage to choose from with varying heights to suit every site. I treat pruning the same way as my whirling butterflies (Gaura sp. )above.

Other honorable mentions:

Variegated lemon thyme, hardy succulents, sedges (Carex sp.), Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Annuals

Spider Flower (Cleome sp.)

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Taller varieties of spider flower are great for filling a gap at the back of a border during summer. Shorter varieties work well for the front of the border. Attract bees and butterflies and make great cut flowers too.

Licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare)

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Seen here with Lime Glow barberry (in its remarkable rosy fall color)

I rely on this inexpensive annual for a rabbit resistant, deer resistant, drought tolerant summer groundcover in my large garden. One 4″ plant can quickly fill a space at least 3′ x 3′. Several varieties including a soft lemon-yellow and a mini-leaved form. There is a great idea for this in our book Gardening with Foliage First too! Details of this annual here

Rockin’ Playin’ the Blues sage (Salvia longispicata x farinacea ‘Rockin’ Playin’ the Blues’)

I haven’t grown a sage yet that isn’t drought tolerant and deer resistant, but this annual from Proven Winners was a new variety for me to test this year and I give it full marks for appearance, bloom power and low maintenance. At a glance it is similar to the well known Victoria Blue, but it’s stature is greater and color deeper. Looking at the hardiness rating this may be a perennial for many – but an annual for me. Loved it as part of an informal floral meadow effect in the front garden this year (second photo above).

Honorable mention

Jasmine alata, Jasmine tobacco (Nicotiana alata ) – an heirloom variety with unforgettable jasmine-type perfume in the evening.

Save money on your water bill next year by replacing your thirstier plants with these~

Resources

You may have noticed our book Gardening with Foliage First mentioned a few times….. Seriously if you haven’t got this yet, why not? There are 127 great ideas in there! Buy one for your BFF for Christmas while you’re at it!

For more ideas on drought tolerant plants do refer back to my last blog post which includes links to several other outstanding books that cover different parts of the country.

For more ideas on deer resistant plants, Ruth’s book is a great start:

You’ll have to wait for MY next book on Deer Resistant Drama (working title only) for inspirational deer resistant gardens from across the country (Timber Press, 2019). Be sure you sign up for my newsletters to hear when it is released.

Note: These Amazon affiliate links save YOU money – and earn me a few pennies

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Beyond Geraniums….

Mix it up a little! Here a golden elderberry (shrub) mingles with a colorful annual (for me) Coprosma and a vivid perennial Gaillardia

Mix it up a little! Here a golden elderberry (shrub) mingles with a colorful annual  Coprosma and a vibrant perennial  ‘Celebration’ blanket flower

Are you struggling to do something different with your sunny container gardens this year? Do you always seem to start off with a geranium, add  some pretty million bells (Calibrachoa) and then tuck in some trailing vbacopa to finish it off? Cheerful but not very imaginative is it?Yet this early in the season these are the plants most likely to be in full bloom at the nursery.

But look more closely at some of the other annuals sitting quietly in the sidelines. They may be mostly foliage and just a few buds right now but there are some really interesting options that will bloom their little flowery hearts out once you take them home. Here are some of my favorites

Top 4 flowering annuals for sun

Fan flower (Scaevola)

Scaevola 'Pink Wonder' is a delightful soft pink with lavender overtones

‘Pink Wonder’ fan flower (Scaevola) is a delightful soft pink with lavender overtones

Whether you choose pink, white or blue you won’t be sorry you took a chance on that unassuming pot of leaves in May! Before you know it this vigorous annual will weave its way through its container partners, tumbling, spilling and clambering at will. You’ll never plant containers without it again! Deer resistant and thrives in partial shade as well as full sun

Samantha lantana

The variegated leaf and yellow flower of Samantha lantana adds citrus flavors to a blue Scaevola and Apricot Punch million bells

The variegated leaf and yellow flower of Samantha lantana adds citrus flavors to a blue Scaevola and Apricot Punch million bells (Calibrachoa)

Samantha lantana can be tricky to find but worth looking for as this variety has lovely variegated leaves that set off the lemon flowers perfectly. The pretty foliage helps keep the color interest going when the lantana is still gearing up to full bloom.

Don’t ignore the PERENNIALS either, especially those with colorful foliage. Several of these make great contenders for container gardens. Unlike annuals these make good investments for your garden too as they can be transplanted into the landscape at the end of the season.

Diamond Delight Euphorbia

Diamond Delight Euphorbia and Royale Cherryburst verbena - two new introductions from Proven Winners that I trialed

Diamond Delight Euphorbia and Royale Cherryburst verbena – two new introductions from Proven Winners that I trialed

Its hard to imagine  how much impact this delicate plant will have – so just trust me! The sparse stems and tiny white flowers will explode into a flowering frenzy reminiscent of baby’s breath (Gypsophila) but this annual will bloom continually ’til frost. There are also some varieties with darker foliage and a slight pink tinge to the blooms.  Wonderful fine texture – it will become a favorite.

Centradenia

Unexpected drama as Centradenia 'Cascade' meets the bold golden yellow Forever Goldie conifer.

Unexpected drama as Centradenia ‘Cascade’ meets the bold golden yellow Forever Goldie conifer.

Centradenia is often sold as a 2″ basket stuffer and can languish on the table in May. Yet just a few weeks later and you’ll be glad you tucked it into the pot as it quickly fills out and blooms all season. A couple of different varieties are usually available but I have only seen them with flowers in various shades of pink. However I love the vivid red stems and bronze flushed green leaves . Plant this at the edge of the container to tumble over the edge

Top 4 perennials for sunny pots

Hyssop (Agastache) varieties

Kudos Mandarin hyssop (Agastache) - associates beautifully with grasses

Kudos Mandarin hyssop (Agastache) – associates beautifully with grasses

Shorter forms such as Apricot Sprite generally look better in containers than the taller forms. Drought tolerant, deer resistant, long blooming – they add a wonderful splash of color and herbal fragrance to sunny baskets and pots and attracts hummingbirds too! The variety shown here is Kudos Mandarin: a new one to me – I bought EIGHT!! Yes I was rather enamored……

Gaura varieties

In the landscape or in containers Gaura will always produce an abundance of delicate flowers over many months

In the landscape or in containers Gaura will always produce an abundance of delicate flowers over many months

Even the simple white flowering form of Gaura works well in a container, sending up dozens of dancing wands all summer long. However there are also several with pink or variegated foliage which can help fill the color gap early in the season. A few varieties are short enough to even be suitable to add to hanging baskets! Use as the thriller in smaller pots or a filler in larger containers.

Coneflower (Echinacea)

Add sizzle to late season combos with coneflowers

Add sizzle to late season combos with coneflowers

Since these bloom mid-late season it can be a bit tricky incorporating them early in the season simply because the nurseries aren’t well stocked. However for procrastinators – or really clever planners – they add  a mega watt color blast since these are available in every color from white and yellow to magenta, orange and red.

Here’s a trick if you want to plan ahead. Plant an empty 6″ (gallon) pot into your mixed container garden to hold the space available for the coneflower. Then when you find the perfect plant just take the empty pot out and slip the coneflowers in. Voila!

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)

One of many Gaillardia varieties

One of many blanket flower varieties available

There have been several new varieties of these sturdy  perennials introduced in recent years. Deer resistant, drought tolerant and long blooming you may find one of them is the perfect addition to your design. Deadhead to keep them blooming all summer long – although truthfully the fuzzy seed heads are pretty cool too! Lots to choose from including bi-colors. Look for Celebration, Arizona Sun and more!

Got you thinking? Great then go shopping! Post a photo of your creation to my Facebook page – I’d love to see what you do this year.

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Top Perennials for Summer Pots

A shade loving Tiarella offers pretty foliage as well as white flowers

A shade loving Tiarella offers pretty evergreen foliage as well as white flowers

When I design container gardens nothing is safe! I explore everything from dwarf trees and slow growing shrubs to groundcovers, annuals and even houseplants (although I wait until night temperatures are stable at 55′ or above for those). I also include a lot of perennials in my designs; both evergreen and herbaceous types as they lend a sense of maturity and are also a good investment since they can be kept in the container for several years before eventually being transplanted into the garden.

I look for perennials that have great foliage to help establish a framework for summer annuals that won’t get into their stride for a few more weeks. I also seek out perennials that have a long bloom time but if I am including them for the flowers I also need to make sure that the leaves won’t overpower the container.

Here are some of my favorites.

Thunder and Lightning field scabious (Knautia macedonica ‘Thunder and Lightning’)

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Fun color, pretty flowers, drought tolerant, deer resistant, great foliage – why haven’t you used Thunder and Lightning field scabious before?

The distinctive jagged mid-green foliage has a cream margin that really make this perennial stand out from the crowd. Magenta pincushion-type flowers bloom for months and stand tall above the foliage cushion.

 

Deer be Damned

We featured this perennial in a combination called Deer Be Damned! in our book Fine Foliage (p10) and we hear it’s one of your favorites.

Apricot Sprite hyssop (Agastache aurantiaca ‘Apricot Sprite’)

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This drought tolerant perennial deserves to be used more in your designs. Apricot Sprite has soft orange tubular flowers that are a favorite of hummingbirds while the fragrant grey-green leaves are attractive and tidy. Combine with other drought tolerant plants such as lavender, grasses and succulents for an easy care design. 15″ tall

Trailing stonecrops (Sedum)

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Angelina and Blaze of Fulda sedums mingle with the glossy variegated foliage of a mirror plant (Coprosma) and a dwarf conifer

 

There are many to choose from but these are my top three. Blaze of Fulda stonecrop has  wonderful burgundy rosettes and hot pink flowers while the leaves of October Daphne (Sedum sieboldii) are grey blue,tipped with pink and the late summer flowers are a clear pink. Angelina stonecrop (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’) is a beautiful evergreen golden-yellow succulent with yellow flowers. The foliage is reminiscent in appearance  of rosemary. All are beautiful tucked at the edge of pots.

Spurge (Euphorbia)

Design by Stacie Crooks, Crooks Garden Design

Design by Stacie Crooks, Crooks Garden Design

Donkey spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) works well as a trailer in sunny pots. In the rustic teal container above it is elegantly paired with black mondo grass. The pink ‘flowers’ are usually trimmed away but this image shows just how beautiful they can be as they age.

The brightly variegated Ascot Rainbow spurge works well with purple and magenat

The brightly variegated Ascot Rainbow spurge works well with purple and magenta

Taller varieties of spurge work well as fillers in mixed designs. My top three are Ascot Rainbow which has variegated leaves of yellow, green and rose, Ruby Glow in deep purple and Silver Swan which has a pretty teal and white variegation.

Note; The sap is a significant skin irritant so always wear gloves when handling. Some varieties of spurge are invasive in some areas so check with your local County extension office before planting.

Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri)

Love the gauzy effect of so many flowers

Love the gauzy effect of so many flowers

You can base your selection on flower color ( pink or white), foliage color (green, burgundy, striped or speckled), height (from 2′ to 5′) or hardiness but all will reward you with dancing flowers all summer long. The leaves are dainty enough to be a design element themselves while the prolific flowers make this a reliable thriller for your container or basket.

A hummingbird buffet! Pink spikes of Gaura explode from the top of this basket

A hummingbird buffet! Pink spikes of Gaura explode from the top of this basket

Named varieties include Passionate Blush (compact plants, pink flowers), Passionate Rainbow (mid-size plant, pink flowers, variegated leaves) So White (pure white flowers on a compact plant) and Whirling Butterflies (taller plants for large pots, white flowers suffused with pink).

Arkansas Blue Star (Amsonia hubrichtii)

 

Dare to be different!

Dare to be different!

Use this where a soft fern-like foliage is needed in a sunny pot. Elegant and tall you can rely on this as a thriller and the interest begins with blue flowers in spring and continues until a hard freeze when the leaves turn burnt orange.

Fall color begins in late September

Fall color begins in late September

 

This is deer resistant and drought tolerant too!

Tip; if adding this to your landscape be sure to plant it in well drained soil and full sun. Mine never gets watered unless it rains and is thriving! Plant in broad sweeps for the best effect

Trailing Heucherella

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Redstone Falls heucherella tumbles down the side of a tall pot

 

Heuchera, Tiarella and Heucherella are mainstays in my designs, with varieties available for sun or shade and in many different colors and patterns. Look out for the trailing heucherella though. They can be hard to spot in a display so look for named varieties such as Redstone Falls and Yellowstone Falls. These will spill over the edges of containers for up to 2′ and look stunning!

 

Yellowstone Falls Heucherella - such lovely foliage

Yellowstone Falls Heucherella – such lovely foliage

 

They are also evergreen making these a great choice for year round interest

More ideas?

Karen Chapman container gardening instructor

If you live in the Seattle area come and join one of my Spring Container Workshops this month. Thee are a few spaces left and we have LOTS of fun. Find out more and register here.

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Top 10 Healthy Heuchera

 

As delicious as a summer dessert ' Sugar Berry' is a sweet treat for any garden

As delicious as a summer dessert ‘ Sugar Berry’ is a sweet treat for any garden

In the gardener’s world there are two mortal enemies – deer and disease.  Or at least they are mine – if I ignore my parsnip-munching voles, Amazon-sized mosquitoes and steroidal slugs.

When my show stopping Heuchera (coral bells) were cut down in their prime by rust, a fungal infection, it was almost enough to make me hang up my trowel. Rust causes nasty raised, purple bumps on the undersides of the leaves which spreads rapidly and can quickly destroy the plant. Although not seen in drier parts of the country it is a major problem here in the Pacific Northwest.

Rust can be detected by raised pustules on the undersides of the leaves and sunken areas above. Photo credit Maryna Sedani, PNW Plant Disease Management Handbook

Rust can be detected by raised pustules on the undersides of the leaves and sunken areas above. Photo credit; Maryna Sedani, PNW Plant Disease Management Handbook

Having tossed far too many of these pricey treasures into the yard waste (NEVER compost diseased plants) I asked Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.  for some ideas on what I could do to save those that I have and ask about the new disease resistant hybrids his nursery is breeding.

As a breeding company, Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc. is the leading innovator for new Heuchera and Heucherella introductions. It can take seven years of breeding and another three of testing to have a breakthrough but that dedication is what ensures that their plants are strong and healthy.

Mahogany in its summer glory

Mahogany in its summer glory

 

 

 

So what exactly is rust and what can we do to prevent it?

It is a fungal disease that usually travels on the plant itself or is airborne. In our soggy Seattle climate we provide the perfect conditions for it to thrive so the key to control is managing the environment.

 

Dan’s tips for healthy Heuchera

  1. Water in the early morning so foliage can dry
  2. Use drip irrigation rather than overhead sprinklers
  3. Space plants so as to allow for good air circulation
  4. Do not plant new Heuchera where diseased ones have been grown
  5. Remove diseased Heuchera immediately and dispose of in the yard waste (do not compost)
  6. The organic fungicide ‘Serenade’ may help prevent rust. (My personal experience has been that if you cut a mildly infected plant down hard and spray every two weeks (or as allowed on the label) until it is fully re-grown you have a reasonable chance of success; I may have been too hasty in disposing of a few).
Paris - as elegant as its name

Paris – as elegant as its name

Why are some Heuchera more susceptible than others?

The key word here is genetics or “it’s all the parents fault”. Now I did ask Dan to elaborate and share which species he was focusing on as showing the most promising disease resistant traits. His answer?

“I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you…Nothing personal…   ”

Great.

What he was able to tell me was that the breeders noticed that the lighter colored Heuchera were particularly susceptible, so they were selecting for thicker leaves. They were also committed to evaluating potential introductions under multiple conditions over many years and anything that showed signs of rust was eliminated. In other words he wasn’t giving much away but that’s OK, especially when you read about some of  these success stories.

Breeder’s top 5 (or 6, or 10)

Spellbound lives up to my expectations with truly captivating foliage year round. Photo and design credit; Le jardinet

Spellbound lives up to my expectations with truly captivating foliage year round. Photo and design credit; Le jardinet

Spellbound – you’ve heard me salivate over this beauty before. Shimmery shades of purple and silver on impossibly oversized leaves. Mine looks as magical now as it did in fall and has made a loose mound approx. 18” across. Fabulous in my orange container!

Blondie – this one is on my wish list for sure. Part of the ‘Little Cutie’ series, Blondie is just 8” wide but is a flowering powerhouse pushing out oodles of creamy-yellow spikes. Foliage color is in the caramel family. A good choice for containers

Sugar Berry – from hot raspberry to deepest blackberry, this one is positively delicious. Also part of the Little Cutie series this tops out at 6” tall and 10” wide with short, fat spikes of white flowers

Fireworks – ruffled bronze foliage on a mid-sized plant with plenty of soft colored flowers

Blondie - makes me think of a gingersnap cookie!

Blondie – makes me think of a gingersnap cookie!

Mahogany – this promises to be a good alternative to my beloved ‘Peach Flambé’ which succumbed to both deer AND disease last year! The foliage looks like burnished copper-colored leather and transitions through shades of red and orange as the season progresses. I’d love to see this with some bright lime green

Paris – another one that is high on my wish list, I love the silver veining on this green foliage and those hot pink flowers are just plain FUN. A mid-sized, compact plant at 14” wide.

Other favorites; Obsidian, Sugar Plum, Root Beer, Ebony and Ivory.

All are hardy in zones 4-9, evergreen and do best if allowed to dry slightly between watering. Hummingbirds love them!

Where can we buy them?

They are widely available at both  nurseries and online retailers; Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc. has provided these links to help you find your favorites.

Deep chocolaty tones of Mahogany

What can we look forward to in the future?

Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc. is breeding some fabulous new Heucherella (foamy bells) which are rust resistant (yes you did read that correctly; all Heucherella are rust resistant for reasons which they undoubtedly know but will once again put my life in jeopardy if I ask) as well as continuing their Heuchera breeding program selecting plants which are healthy, have great foliage color and are vigorous.

They also have an exciting collection of heat-tolerant Heuchera , seeking out those with H. villosa in their parentage (apparently I was allowed to know that tidbit without death threats). Look for those with Southern sounding names as a clue e.g. Midnight Bayou, Southern Comfort and Georgia Peach.

And finally…

Be sure to check out their website at www.terranovanurseries.com to get more tips and ideas as well as to drool over their luscious photographs.

And of course you are invited to ‘like’ their Facebook page

In the absence of a LOVE button, like will have to do.

 

My sincere thanks to Dan Heims (aka Mr. Heuchera) and the Terra Nova Breeding Team for finding time to answer my barrage of questions. Dan refers to himself as the ‘man on the road’  – I mainly see him at airports.

All photos courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc. except where noted

UPDATE: there are some fabulous combination ideas using various Heuchera in book my books Fine Foliage (St. Lynn’s Press, 2013) and Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017). In addition Dan Heims wrote a helpful table called Heuchera Hot List in Gardening with Foliage First, giving recommendations to help readers substitute varieties as needed to suit their climate. (These affiliate links will save YOU money and earn me a few pennies towards my next Heuchera!)

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A New Leaf

How can you resist such temptation? Why even try! Photo credit; Terra Nova Nurseries

 

Forget the resolutions to eat less and exercise more. Good ideas but hardly enough to get excited about. Now if we’re talking finding the hottest plants for 2013 THEN I get excited, especially if we’re talking great foliage.

Here are some of the best new leafy introductions to watch out for and there’s not a single calorie to worry about.

Yes the flowers are zingy but look at those leaves on 'Sparks Will Fly' begonia! Photo credit; Ball Horticultural

 

Begonia ‘Sparks will fly’

Now if this beauty had a flavor it would be rich bittersweet chocolate with hints of zesty orange  (can you gain weight if you just think about chocolate?) Those lickalicious deep blackish-green leaves set off firecracker flowers perfectly. Imagine this in a bright blue container. Not for the faint of heart but definitely top of my wish list for  shady spot this summer. Yum.

Wake up your containers with 'Sunrise Falls' trailing Heucherella. Photo credit; Terra Nova Nurseries

 

Heucherella ‘Sunrise Falls’

Does the world need any more Heucherella (or Heuchera come to that)? Well apparently we do because propagators like Terra Nova Nurseries keep growing them and we keep buying them ! So what has caught my eye this time? Sunrise Falls. Is that a yawn I hear? Well wake up because this is a trailing variety. I’ve used Redstone Falls and Yellowstone Falls in containers for the last two years and clients love them yet they can languish in the nurseries simply because their star status is unrealized. Plant these at the edge of a container and the large maple shaped leaves will tumble downwards for 2’ or so adding a bright splash of gold to a shady spot. Each leaf has dark red veins and  takes on burgundy tints in colder weather. Hardy in zones 4-9

Compact and curly, this new Leucothoe is on my wish list. Photo credit; www.thepottedgarden.co.uk

 

Leucothoe ‘Curly Red’. (Leucothoe axillaris)

I’ll let you into a secret. The coolest plants don’t even make it into the nursery. Seriously. When deliveries arrive you may notice the conspicuous absence of nursery staff. That isn’t because they all rush out to help the driver unload out of thoughtfulness. Oh no. They all want to see what goodies have just arrived and anything really new and unusual gets snagged before you even know it’s there! How do I know this? I’ve worked in a nursery. And this was why when I saw this new leucothoe in a container I was told they were  ‘sold out’. Yeah right. So go and hunt down this one, currently available from Monrovia. The twisted leathery leaves open orange-red and mature to dark green before turning purple-red in fall. Evergreen, deer resistant, great for the garden or pots and white spring flowers.  See why they were ‘sold out’? Part sun/part shade and hardy in zones 6-9.

Doubly fabulous - a great new Solomon's seal. Photo credit; Terra Nova Nurseries

 

Solomon’s seal ‘Double Stuff’ (Polygonatum odoratum)

It can be dangerous driving with a plant geek. Cars can make abrupt turns or screech to a halt at the merest hint of a nursery. Walking isn’t much better. One minute you’re chatting away to your friend and the next you realize you are completely alone. Your companion has disappeared like Alice down the rabbit hole but in this case they are likely to be found on hands and knees peering at something leafy. Beware shady encounters with Double Stuff – it will grab your attention like a giant bar of Toblerone. At 2′ tall at least you can stay standing up to appreciate this fabulous new foliage plant. Its cousin – the regular variegated Solomon’s seal, pales in comparison with this bold form. Arching red stems hold pairs of green and white variegated leaves joined in spring by dangling white bells. This perennial thrives in moist woodland locations where it will slowly spread by rhizomes. Hardy in zones 3-8

Check out the blog at www.fine-foliage.com

If you’d like to join me in a healthy diet of low calorie leaves this year I have good news for you. Starting today you can enjoy a new blog; Fine Foliage! Yes this is the companion blog to my new book, coauthored with Christina Salwitz. Consider it an appetizer. We’ll post a new recipe each week to inspire you to put foliage together in new ways. Tempted?

Meet you at the buffet table; www.fine-foliage.com

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